Who are these creatures called human beings and how are they to live life?
SAID THE LORD TO HIS CREATURES:
“EMBRACE CHRIST FOR WHO HE IS,
OR SUFFER ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES”
As is the case with most of my studies, this study was written to inspire be- lievers to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Due to the fact that there is so much confusion and erroneous thinking in the Christian world, I felt it was necessary to essentially address the most perplexing issues of the Christian life. When believers insist on rectifying divine truth with fallen human thinking, ultimately they will let it be an integral part of their faith. Now in order to understand what God has revealed to us in His Word, it is important that one have a contextual understanding of Divine Truth — without it, one can easily misinterpret what Scripture says. This ha been the main problem for the believing world all the way back to the time of Moses — which essentially was about 3500 years ago.
I would like to dedicate this study to all those people I had the privilege of ministering to and sharing life down through ages… many of them became very significant people in my life. The reality is, God uses Christian friends to encourage us in our walk with Him. With that in mind, let me express my gratitude to those of you who have become very close friends of mine. As the Lord said to Aaron through His brother Moses — “May the Lord bless and keep you and be gracious to you, and lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace now and forever” (Num 6:24-26; Ps 29:11).
Now before we launch into this study, let me give reference to those pro-fessors, colleagues, mentors & friends who have significantly contributed to my life… not only through their writings, but through their personal friendships as well. Obviously, God has blessed me down through the ages with some wonderful Christian believers. Following is a list of more than forty individuals I had the privilege of knowing, and conversing with, and serving at different points in my life… since many of them were very close friends, they all influenced my life and ministry in numerous ways; without them, life would not have been nearly as wonderful for me.
Dr. Charles Feinberg Dr. Francis Schaeffer
Dr. John R. W. Stott Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. W. A. Criswell Dr. Jerry Bridges
Dr. R. C. Sproul Dr. Earl Radmacher
Dr. James M. Boice Dr. John MacArthur
Dr. Steve Brown Dr. Mark Bailey
Dr. James Rosscup Dr. Daniel Baumann
Dr. Ronald Youngblood Dr. David Walls
Dr. J. Vernon McGee Dr. Frank & Janet Anderson
Dr. Warren Wiersbe Dr. Josh McDowell
Dr. Luis Palau Dr. Billy Graham
Guy & Martha Davidson Franklin Graham
Warren Thompson Kent Marshall
Sandy Hucul Scott & Shari Wilson
Ron & Carol Miller Steve & Maggie Barduson
Jeff Hubbell Dan Jackson
Carlton Katon Ken Koch
Helmut Strauss Paul Metcalf
Lord willing, many of the individuals I listed above have had a positive impact upon your life as well. As we begin this study, let me first draw your attention to the fact that numerous words, phrases and statements have been italicized, underlined and emboldened, and as I’ve stated in numerous other studies, this was done to give greater emphasis to those words, phrases & sentences… thus accentuating that which is stated, so read those words and phrases accordingly. You also need to know, I list a number of biblical references after certain statements that help give definition to what has just been stated; since this is a “theological study on some extremely important doctrines,” don’t just make this study a casual read, but take the time to reflect upon the various passages that have also been listed. If you must make it a two or three month study, then by all means do so, but do study it, don’t simply read it. By the way, you might humbly begin your study each day with the words of the psalmists: “Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being… Teach me Thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in Thy truth… Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law” (cf. Ps 51:6; 86:11;119:18). On the next page you will find a Table of Contents to help give definition to the various topics that are covered in this study. Beloved, biblical studies must be fully understood and embraced for them to impact one’s life as God has so willed. Incidentally, the three most significant topics that I wrote were “How Believers Define Trials and Tribulation”… “How Believers Live By Faith and Overcome Sin”… “How Flesh and Sin Works in our Lives. Since these three things are extremely important topics, give them a great deal of consideration. Again, you will see these three topics in the middle of the Table of Contents… my prayer is that God will bless you tremen-dously as you read and study them.
Beloved, the TRIALS and TRIBULATIONS that God subjects us to in life are monumental issues that every believer whoever lived had an extremely difficult time tolerating; so of all the subjects that are covered in this study, give extreme attention to the three studies I just shared with you in the previous chapter; again, for your information, I high-lighted them in the “Table of Contents” that is stated on the next page. So regarding all of the subjects that this particular study addresses, they are as follows — again, notice the three emboldened words “How” on the Table of Contents; those are the three issues you need to carefully study.
Table of Contents
*Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 7
*The Creation of Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 10
*The Fallenness of Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 12
*The Incomprehensibility of God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 19
*The Life of the Believer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 22
*The Diabolical Thinking of Unbelievers . . . . . . . . . . p. 37
*The Incredible Nature of God’s Word . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 42
*God’s Eternal Purpose for Humanity . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 50
*God has ordained Trials and Tribulations . . . . . . . . . . p. 56
*How Believers Respond to Trials and Tribulation . . . p. 63
*How Believers Live By Faith and Overcome Sin . . . . p. 69
*How God has Worked in and through My Life . . . . . . p. 83
*Trials, Tribulation and Frustration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 93
*Issues Every Believer Must Embrace . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 98
*Genuine Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 111
*Man’s Innate Flesh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 115
*How Flesh and Sin Works in Our Lives . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 118
*Spiritual Assurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 132
*The Issue of Unbelief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 135
*This Thing Called Temptation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 141
*The Essence of Salvation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 145
*The Issue of Christian Persecution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 147
Before launching into the study, let me tell you that “this particular study is probably going to be the last study I will ever right again,” due to the fact that I’m suffering from some issues that I simply can’t overcome… so with all of that in mind, let me encourage you to give great attention to everything I have written in this study; incidentally, this particular study has taken me about one year to write. Obviously, the words of the psalmists that I quoted (cf. Ps 51:6; 86:11; 119:18) are very poignant words, because that is precisely what God’s Word teaches! So either we embrace reality for what it really is, or we will suffer for all eternity. The truth is, every person in existence makes a choice of either submitting to the God of creation, or insisting on being his own self-governing autonomous creature who rules over his own life — beloved, that choice is yours. What is of absolute significance, is the fact that GOD has revealed His existence to the minds & hearts of every human being… so it is not as if human beings are completely ignorant of this person called GOD. Just as Satan knew full-well who GOD was and turned away from Him, so human beings also know full-well who GOD is; despite the fact that the majority of them turn away from Him. Con-versely, every human being knows what is right and what is wrong, yet they often choose to embrace what is wrong — and Scripture defines that as “sin;” i.e., not aligning oneself with God’s will. Did you hear that? Sin literally means “not aligning oneself with what God has so willed.” Again, please take the time to prayerfully & humbly contemplate all that is written in this study. Now with the foregoing in mind, take the time to contemplate the Word of God to the believing world in Rome in the first chapter of the Book of Romans — “The righteous man lives by faith” (i.e., by believing in what God’s Word says)… “the wrath of God is revealed against those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness; because what is known about GOD is evident within them, because God has made it evident to them; thus they are without excuse. Even though they know God, they do not honor Him as GOD!… thus their foolish heart has been darkened; professing to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for corruptible man! In so doing, God gave them over to impurity, because they exchanged the truth of God for a ‘lie,’ and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” (Rom 1:17-25). Beloved, take the time to read that passage twice in order to get a good grasp of what it says.
To expand upon this thing called “sin,” Billy Simmons expanded upon it in Hoffman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary… in it he said sin is actions by which humans rebel against God, miss the purpose for their life, and surrender to the power of evil rather than to God… so sin is humanity’s estrangement from God; as such, it is rebellion against God. Since Adam and Eve rebelled against the clear command of God (cf. Gen 2:15-17; 5:5), sin has infected humanity like a dread malignancy. Remember, “in Adam all die, because we are all born sinful creatures (cf. 1 Cor 15:22; Rom 5:12, 17). As the book of Hebrews states, ”it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). Since all human beings are born sinful creatures and possess a sinful nature, they must see themselves for who they really are, and not align themselves with demonic thinking, be-cause therein is man’s problem! He simply must see reality for what it really is — since God has made it clear to all human brings, they must humble themselves before God and seek His forgiveness. That should be obvious to every human being — when we do something wrong, we must humbly acknowledge it and seek God’s forgiveness… you will notice, “HUMILITY” is absolutely essential, because it is only then that we see reality for what it really is; all God asks of us is that we let truth reign in our hearts & minds, yet without humbling ourselves untruth reigns in us!
Now, since the Devil is “anti-God,” and has a strong presence in our world, all human beings have to deal with this thing called “sin” — every human being has to fight against it and reject it, because sin is “morally wrong” — such is simply the will of God for all fallen creatures: The question is, are you going to seek your own autonomy in life; i.e., are you going to do as you please in life? or are you going to seek God’s auton-omy in life? Remember, only God’s autonomy is morally righteous… man’s self-centered autonomy is morally unrighteous, because his very nature is sinful (cf. Rom 1:16-20; Eph 5:16). Now if God never made it clear to man that he is a sinful creature, that would be one thing, but God has clearly given definition to man regarding his sinful nature, so he is with-out excuse. Incidentally, not a single person will claim anything to the contrary when he stands before the Lord in judgment at the end of the age; remember, “morality” exists in the mind of every human being! So no man will ever claim “ignorance” when he stands before God in judg-ment (again, read Romans chapter one). Keep in mind, because we are all fallen sinful creatures, we are all going to “die” — death is a sober abso-lute that is going to occur in all of our lives. Early on in man’s existence (i.e., prior to the worldwide flood that occurred with Noah about 5,000 years ago), man back then lived upwards of 900 years (cf. Gen 5:5; 9:28); however, following God’s judgment against humanity because of his re-fusal to obey God and embrace His will, God made some changes in this world — He destroyed the world with a flood and kept Noah & his family and all of the animals in the world in an Ark of the covenant… and after He restored the world He ultimately reduced man’s life to about three-score and ten years (i.e., between 70 & 80 years; which is now the norm for the human race; cf. Ps 90:10), and that essentially is what occurred in this world when God reduced a significant amount of water in the air by destroying the world with a flood. Remember, prior to the flood there was about three-feet of water in the air that kept the entire world temper-ature at about 70-75 degrees. So in contrast to today, there is only about three inches of water in the air (12 times less than what existed prior to the flood); thus the world’s temperature today changes drastically in comparison to the temperature that existed during the early years of crea-tion — whereas there is now a significant degree of “ice” in the north and south polls today, which did not exist prior to Noah’s flood; the entire world back then was a very livable world, but when the flood came the
world underwent a drastic change (incidentally, the world of science has discovered the remains of millions & millions of elements under the north and south polls… such has been discovered under the ice that now covers the north and south polls; by the way, that is a very frustrating reality to the diabolical evolutionary world, because it gives tremendous credence to what the Bible teaches!
THE CREATION OF MAN
In short, God created MAN in His image (cf. Gen 1:26-31; 5:1; 9:6; Jam 3:9), and when man sinned, he was separated from God (cf. Gen 6:3-7, 13-17; 7:23; Is 59:2), and he was removed him from the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen 3:23)… and because he disobeyed God, he ultimately died as God had foretold him (cf. Gen 2:17; Rom 6:23; Jam 1:15). As R. C. Sproul states in his popular book “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith,” “When man fell, some-thing drastically happened — the image of God was severely tarnished, and our ability to mirror His holiness was greatly affected and removed from us.” He then went on to say, “Though man’s body dies at death, the soul of both the believer and the unbeliever continues to live. Wher-eas believers await the redemption of their bodies, unbelievers await their eternal condemnation. Never does fallen man (i.e., unbelievers) cease to exist.” Though God’s Sprit dwells in the life of those who believe in God, His sinful flesh remains in Him and wars against the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:17; Rom 7:18; 8:5-23). Remember, every believer is Spirit-filled; i.e., the Holy Spirit dwells in the life of every Christian. When we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and become new creatures in Christ, the power of our fallen flesh is conquered but not destroyed. Because sanctification is a lifelong process, Christians are daily engaged in warfare with their old sinful nature as they seek to grow in the Spirit and God’s grace. Though our conversion liberates us from the total control of the flesh, it does not completely perfect us — the struggle between our old sinful nature (i.e., the flesh) and the Spirit continues until we die & are fully glorified in God’s heavenly realm; beloved, it is then that our flesh is completely removed from our lives and is put to death (read Rom 8:5-23; Eph 2:1-3; 1 Pet 2:11).
Dr. Lewis Chafer, one of America’s greatest Bible Professors & Theo-logians, and the first President of “Dallas Seminary,” stated in his book, “Major Bible Themes” — “Man’s creation is clearly taught in Scripture (cf. Gen 1:1-2:25; John 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 11:3; etc.) — essentially, God made man in His Image (Gen 1:26), and that He breathed into him the breath of life (Gen 2:7)… though man can kill the body, he cannot kill the soul” (Matt 10:28). Chafer went on to say, that when Adam and Eve sinned they were subjected to both Spiritual and Physical Death (Gen 2:17) — so fallen man not only experienced physical death (which is separation of the soul from the body), but spiritual death (which is the separation of the soul from God (cf. Eph 2:1; 4:18-19). Man’s second death is the eternal separation of the soul from God; i.e., he is banished from God’s presence for all of eter-nity (cf. Rev 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).
One of the problems even in the Christian world is that some of them actually believe that man in some sense is “inherently good,” that he is “not totally evil,” yet such thinking does not at all correspond with what Scripture (i.e., God’s Word) teaches. Said the Apostle Paul, “I know that nothing good dwells in my flesh” (Rom 7:18). As Paul told the believers in Ephesus, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (cf. Eph 2:1; Col 2:13). Remember, “there is none righteous, no not one… there is none who seeks after God… there is none who does good, no not one” (cf. Rom 3:10-12; also Ps 14:1-3; 53:1-3). Remember, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). We can’t fully experience the joy of new life in Christ unless we properly understand this teaching. If we minimize Christ’s incarnation and death, we will somehow think that Christ simply went to the cross to wipe away “a small smudge” from the surface of man’s soul… that His mission was simply that of bringing the dead back to life. The reality is, man is “totally depraved,” and bears the stain of sin in every part of his being — thus, his only hope is in the redeeming grace of God. Remember, when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and turned away from God, they brought “sin” into the world and ended up turning the whole human race away from God (cf. Rom 5: 12-21; 1 Cor 15:22). Regarding this thing called “sin,” the underlying idea of sin is that of a Law & a Law Giver (who is GOD); with that in mind, sin is contrary to the expressed will of God (cf. Rom 3:20; 4:1; 7:7; Jam 4:12, 17).
THE FALLENNESS OF MAN
As the theologian Preston Pearce stated in “Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary” — “The sin of Adam and Eve caused a profound change in humanity and their relationship with God” (Rom 5:12). Though the image of God remained, it was marred and distorted. Though man remained body and soul, as previously stated, his inmost being was particularly im-pacted by sin (cf. Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Mark 7:20-23), and his mind was darkened (Eph 4:17-19). The reality is, man’s will is now in bondage to sin (Rom 3:10- 11; 2 Tim 2:25-26); his conscience is defiled (Titus 1:15), and his desires are twisted (Eph 2:3; Titus 3:3); thus man is universally dead in sin (Eph 2:11), and in a state of hostility toward God (Rom 5:10), and is subject to physical death and eternal judgment (Rom 5:12-21; 8:10; 14:12; Heb 9:7). Nevertheless, in spite of the foregoing, God did not leave humanity to perish eternally, but provided redemption for him when he places faith in Jesus Christ who died for his sins, and enabled sinful humanity to believe and experience complete transformation (cf.Eph 2:4-9; 1 Tim 1:14; Titus 3:5; Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:28-29). In so doing, man’s salvation will be completely fulfilled at the end of the age, and he will enter into the eternal state and reign with God forever (cf. 1 Cor 15:50-57; Matt 19:27-30; Rom 8:15-17; Rev 2:25; 2 Tim 2:12).
It’s also important to remember, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” (cf. 2 Th 2:13; Eph 1:4; 2:10; 2 Tim 2:19)… and such had absolutely nothing to do with our being worthy, because all of us as fallen creatures are not worthy; hence, it is by God’s grace (i.e., His unmerited favor) whereby we became His children (cf. Eph 2:8-9; Acts 15:11). Our pro-blem as fallen creatures is that we cannot fully understand all that God subjects us to in life. The painful realities frequently frustrate us and even cause us to become angry and extremely discouraged… it is here where we must remember God’s Word to the greatest apostle in world history (Isaiah) — “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways… for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9).
Dr. R. C. Sproul, one of the greatest theologians and pastors here in our country during the 20th century (who also served as the chairman of the board for Ligonier Ministries), said, “I cannot understand who or what I am without understanding who or what God is, so there is a mutual dependence between knowing ourselves and knowing God; i.e., I cannot fully understand the meaning of myself until I understand myself in re-lationship to God” (this is what Sproul expressed in his book, “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith”)… thus anthropology (i.e., the study of mankind) is a subdivision of theology (i.e., the study of God). So when the study of ourselves is divorced from the story of God, then it simply becomes a tale, completely illogical, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. As the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre stated, “If we are considered without reference to God, we become a useless passion that includes love, hate, fear, guilt, ambition, lust, envy, jealousy & numerous other things.” As Sproul states, “If we are not creatures made by and related to God, we are cosmic accidents; as such, our origin & our destiny are completely insignificant,” So both our origin and our destiny are tied to God; thus the only ultimate meaning we can have must be theological. To deny divine reality is to see ourselves as completely independent of God and as crea-tures without any purpose whatsoever — the reality is, with God we have dignity, without God we are absolutely nothing (cf. Psalm 8:3-5). As Sproul states, “We cannot know God without first being aware of ourselves, and we cannot accurately know ourselves without first knowing God.” Be-loved, that is an incredible statement, because to deny divine reality is to see ourselves as completely independent of God and as creatures without purpose (cf. Gen 1:27; Ps 51; Acts 14:8-18; 17:22-31; Rom 1:18-23). So the questions human beings need to answer are these — How can we know ourselves when we don’t even know Who made us? Why he made us? and How he made us? The reality is, human beings are so complex and complicated, they do not come close to understanding how incredibly complex they are; the truth is, they vastly and constantly exceed human understanding! Remember, God made man in “the image of God!” Yet here he is, often acting like an absolute jerk! The reality is, human beings must humbly see themselves for Who they are? Why they are who they are? and How they came into existence? Keep in mind, mankind is far and away the greatest creature in existence; again, we were made in the image of God! No other creature in the entire universe was made in God’s image! So start embracing divine truth as God states it! With that in mind, do we as believers simply ignore that reality, or do we give careful consideration to it? Again, without humility man will never see things for what they really are — it is only when man humbles himself that GOD (the Creator of all things) opens his heart & mind to understand reality as He has so designed it. Remember God’s Word: “By grace you have been saved; it is not the work of man, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8); keep in mind, “God only gives grace to the humble; He is completely opposed to the proud” (i.e., the self-centered individual – cf. Jam 4:6). As the premiere protestant movement man, Martin Luther, said, “Unless man is humble, truth will pass him by!” How’s that? Because humility is essential for man to exper-ience God’s grace and faith — remember GOD is the Creator, and the one who dictates reality!
It’s important to remember, Satan’s proud heart caused him to be REJECTED BY GOD! One cannot let his proud sinful fallen nature (i.e., his proud heart) dictate reality, and somehow think he understands reality — such, simply is absolute nonsense! The truth is, reality is what it is, and only GOD can communicate it to man’s heart & mind. The premiere saint for the Christian world back in the 5th century was Augustine, and He said, “If you ask me what is the first precept of the Christian religion I will answer that, first, second, and third – Humility!” Remember, Augustine called humility the first precept of the Christian faith… conversely, one one of the world’s greatest protestant reformers back in the 16th century, Calvin, said, “humility includes the abandonment of self-confidence, and that constitutes faith; remember, in God’s sight we have no merit what-soever. The reality is, Jesus requires that man humble himself if he is going to become one of God’s children; thus true Christians know they possess absolutely nothing that they did not receive; the fact is, it is all the grace of God. Though the world despises humility, God Himself insists on it. The truth is, man is often humbled before God because he has absolutely nothing to be proud of and boast over (cf. Rom 7:18 and Gal 6:3); regarding Abraham, Moses and the apostle John (cf. Gen 18:27; Num 12:3; and John 3:26-30). The reality is, “God dwells with the humble” (cf. Is 57:15; Mic 6:8)… and then there are the words of the Apostle Paul, “Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought” (Rom 12:3) – why is that? because arrogance is a deadend street! As Calvin stated, “Humility alone exalts God as sovereign” (i.e., as the one who is in absolute con- trol of everything); so for man to deny God or mock God, he will ulti-mately suffer for all eternity as a result (read Rom 1:18-25; Eph 5:6 and Rev 20: 11-15). Beloved, it is the arrogant world that eventually will be going to hell forever. So it is the humble heart that GOD honors, and extends grace to him… in so doing, the humble person sees a level of reality that the proud unbelieving world does not see; though the unbelieving world thinks it is the wisest element in the world, the truth is, it is the most fool-ish element in the world (cf. Rom 1:21-22; Ps 14:1; Prov 12:15; 14:16). It is amaz-ing at how proud diabolical people are. The reality is, human-beings must humble themselves and ask themselves the following questions — Who am I? Who made me? Why do I exist? Why are human-beings vastly super-ior to all other creatures? What is it that should govern my life? What is expected of me in life? What is right and what is wrong in life? How can I learn these things? How can I let reality rule in my heart and mind? And how can I be sure that I am embracing reality? Obviously, GOD is the source whereby we come to know reality & learn to accept it for what it really is. The wonderful truth is, GOD affirms it to our hearts and minds when we humble ourselves before Him. The truth is, there is a Creator and a reason why He made us, and there is a way we can come to know Him and His will for our lives. Remember, when we as believers humble ourselves before God and seek to embrace His self-revelation (i.e., what is Word says), He gives us the grace to understand precisely what it says. Again, no humility? no grace! Keep in mind, I’m not the grace giver, God is! For a believer to think that He can’t have great confidence in what God’s Word says, is foolishness, because God is the one who gives us great confidence regarding what His Word says.
When God created Adam (i.e., human beings), He said, “Let Us make man in Our image; according to Our likeness… let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26). Being made in the image of God is usually understood to point to the sense in which we are like God. Though God is the Creator and we are creatures, and though God transcends us in being, power, and glory, nevertheless there is some since in which we are like Him. Just as God is an intelligent and moral being, He created us as moral agents, equipped with a mind, a heart, and a will… and these faculties make it possible for us to mirror God’s holiness, which was our original vocation. However, in the fall of mankind, something ghastly happened — as Sproul states, “The image of God was severely tarnished; i.e., our ability to mirror His holiness was completely affected so that now the mirror is fogged.” The fall however did not completely destroy our humanity… though our ability to reflect God’s holiness was lost in the Fall, we are still human… we still have a mind, a heart, and a will… and we still bear the mark of our Creator upon ourselves. Keep in mind, the restoration of the fullness God’s image in human beings is accomplished by Christ, who is the perfect image of God, and He is restoring us to the fullness of God’s image. As Sproul states it, “Human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, arecreatures made out of a material body and a non-material soul,” which is sometimes referred to as “spirit,” It is important to remember that at death, though the body dies, the soul of both the believer & unbeliever continues to live — because God preserves the soul from death, human beings have a continuity of conscious personal existence beyond the grave.
One of the theologians on the International Mission Board, Dr. Preston Pearce, states in the ‘Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary” that “humanity is a designation for all creatures who are made and created in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:26-31; 9:6; James 3:9), by which they are distinguished from all other creatures and God Himself. Man was created directly by God (Gen 1:26); he did not evolve from lower forms of life. The image of God is the foundation of the sanctity of human life (cf. Gen 9:6). The sin of Adam and Eve caused a profound change in humanity and his relationship with God (cf. Rom 5:12) — though the image of God remained, it was marred and distorted. Though man remained body and soul, his inmost being was particularly impacted by sin (cf. Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Mk 7:20-23); as such his mind was darkened (cf. Eph 4:17-19) — thus, man’s will is in bondage to sin (cf. Rom 3:10-11; 2 Tim 2:25-26)…his conscience is defiled (Titus 1:15)… and his desires are twisted (cf. Eph 2:3; Titus 3:3). Therefore man is universally dead in sin (Eph 2:11)… is in a state of hostility toward God (Rom 5:10)… and is subject to physical death & eternal judgment (cf. Rom 5:12-21; 8:10; Heb 9:7; Rom 14:12). Yet God did not leave humanity to perish eternally, but provided redemp-tion for him, when he places faith in Jesus Christ who died for his sins and enabled sinful humanity to believe (cf. Eph 2:4-9; 1 Tim 1:14; Titus 3:5). In so do-ing, man’s salvation will be completely fulfilled at the end of the age, and He will enter into the eternal state and reign with God forever (cf. 1 Cor 15: 50-57; Matt 19:27-30; Rev 22:5; 2 Tim 2:12; Rom 8:15-17).
One of my favorite authors in the Christian world is James Montgomery Boice, and his book “Foundation of the Christian Faith” is one of the most popular one’s in the Christian world. In it he states the following —according to humanity in the agent Greco-Roman world, the highest ele-ment of human beings was their reason-ing faculty. According to Plato and Aristotle and other Greek thinkers, human beings think and reason, which is what sets them apart from the rest of the visible world. In the modern world, there is another perspective that now rules — it simply views man as essentially flesh and matter, rather than mind or spirit… that is to say, the entire universe (including us) is mechanistic — there is no universal mind or higher reason with which we are linked and which gives form and direction to human life. So life is simply the inevitable working out of basic impersonal laws. Thus man is simply viewed as an animal that is exceedingly complex. Hence the truth is, nothing in modernity explains man’s nature except the truths of Christianity — we have been made in God’s image and are far more than matter… yet we are aware that we have lost much of our image because of our sinful nature. It is God’s Word (Scripture) that reveals our true condition. Boice goes on to say that the Bible teaches that “God created man in His own image” (cf. Gen 1:26-27); thus man possesses attributes that God Himself possesses, and that plants, animals & matter do not. Thus man possesses a personality that God possesses, as well as morality and spirituality; so man exists for communion with God who is Spirit (Jn 4:24). Nevertheless, man is also a physical being (though God does not have a physical body, human beings do). Redeemed men and women should see that their bodies are “God’s temples” (1 Cor 6:19). Now, though men and women were made in the image of God, their image was greatly marred and shattered as a result of their sin. Though vestiges of the image remain, we are no longer what God initially intended; instead we are fallen creatures and the effects of the fall are seen on each level of our being — Body, Soul & Spirit. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit they died; i.e., their spirits died instantly and their souls began to die; as such, they began to love a sense of their own identity — as the apostle Paul said, “Having rejected God, people inevitably became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they be-came fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a lie, and worshipped the creatures rather than the Creator” (cf. Rom 1:20-25).
The professor, writer and author of the book, “Teaching the World of Truth,” is Donald Grey Barnhouse. In his book he said, “Adam’s body was the dwelling of his soul and his spirit, and when he fell his soul was ruined, his spirit was entirely destroyed, and his body was destined to final collapse and ruin. However, the fullness of the Christian gospel saves the whole person, beginning with the spirit, continuing with the soul, and finishing with the body. The salvation of the spirit comes first, then God begins with the soul to do the sanctification work, and finally there is the resurrection of the body. So God ultimately makes a new creation of the redeemed person (cf. 2 Cor 5:17) — He creates a new spirit, a new soul, and a new body. It is only at the future moment of the resur-rection that the redemption that God has begun in this life will be com-pleted, and we will then stand perfect before our God and Savior, and rule with Him forever.
THE INCOMPREHENSIBILITY OF GOD
Though God is incomprehensible, He is not completely unknowable… the truth is, none of us can fully comprehend God. Since we as human beings are finite creatures, we don’t have the capacity to fully understand that which is infinite, and God alone is infinite… everything else is temporal in nature; only God is eternal in nature. Since human beings are finite creatures, their minds work from a finite perspective… whereas God lives, moves, and has His being in infinity, our finite minds are not capable of understanding that which is infinite. So in that sense, God isn’t fully com-prehensible to finite creatures… our human minds can only go so far in understanding God… thus to know God we need to believer what His self-revelation states, which is not at all nonsensical; God has revealed Himself verbally and truthfully in Scripture — it is a special revelation that God has given to us that we could never figure out on our own. Now God remains incomprehensible because He reveals Himself without revealing every-thing there is to know about Him; as the prophet Moses said to the Jewish world before they entered into the holy land, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us” (Deut 29: 29); remember, the will of God had been revealed in the Law; if God’s revelations were acted upon, the people would be greatly blessed by God. The reality is, God has given us His working knowledge that is useful and crucial for our lives. One of the main problems among theologians, is that many of them have the tendency to embrace skepticism & pantheism, which are false assumptions of God — skepticism is an attitude of doubt, and pantheism is a doctrine that equates God with all the forces and laws of the universe. We see these two errors in Protestant liberalism and neo-orthodoxy (which objected to identifying God with creation). The Bible tells us that God created us in His image (cf. Gen 1:26-28), so in some sense human beings are like God, thus making it possible for communication to occur. God built this capacity for communication into creation — we are not God, but we are like Him because we bear His image and are made in His likeness. Therefore, God can reveal Himself to us in a sufficient way, and can communicate to us in a manner that we can understand; though not exhaustively, truly and meaningfully.
So Scripture teaches that we can have a true and personal knowledge of God, but this doesn’t mean we will ever understand Him exhaustively. Again, the Bible is clear that God is ultimately incomprehensible to us; i.e., that we can never fully comprehend His whole being (numerous pas-sages affirm this truth). The psalmist said, “Great is the Lord & greatly to be praised… His greatness is unsearchable” (Ps 145:3). Said Job, “Who can understand God’s mighty thunder?” (Job 26:14). Said the Lord to the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55: 8-9). Said the apostle Paul, “Of, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” (cf. Rom 11:33-34; and Job 42:1-6; Ps 139:6, 17, 18; 147:5; Is 57:15; 1 Cor 2:10-11; 1 Tim 6:13-16). These verses teach that not only is God’s whole being incomprehensible but each of His attributes – his greatness, power, thoughts, ways, wisdom, and judgment – are well beyond human ability to fathom fully. Again, the main reason for God’s incomprehensi-bility is the fact that God is infinite and His creatures are finite (i.e., God is without limitations in every things He possesses). Furthermore, the effects of sin on the minds of fallen creatures also greatly inhibits their ability to know God — the tendency for us as fallen creatures is to distort, pervert, and confuse & abuse truth; thus they embrace selfish ends rather than God’s glory (cf. Rom 1:18-26). A final reason God can never be fully known is that in His sovereign wisdom God has chosen not to reveal some things; again, “the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29). In heaven, God’s incomprehensibility will no doubt be lessened, yet He will always transcend human ability to fully know Him; the truth is, no creature who ever lives will ever fully know the incredible nature of God (be they angels or human beings). Keep in mind, the triune nature and His sovereignty is mysterious and beyond human understanding. Though God’s incomprehensibility could lead to despair, the Bible also teaches that God is knowable… though God can never be fully known, He reveals Himself to us so that He can be truly known (cf. 2 Pet 1:2-3), and be the people that He wants us to be. As Dr. Erik Thoennes, a professor and department chair of biblical & theo-logical studies at Biola University, and a pastor at Grace Evangelical Free Church in La Mirada, California, stated: “Knowledge of God in Christ should be the believer’s greatest delight (cf. Jer 9:23-24; 1 Cor 2:2 & Gal 6:14), because it is the basis of attaining eternal life (cf. Jn 17:3), and is the heart of life in the new covenant (cf. Heb 8:11-12). Such was Paul’s primary goal, and it leads to godly love” (cf. Phil 3:10; 1 Jn 4:7-8); beloved, though we cannot know God fully, we can know things about Him that are absolutely true & experience His love for us that we might be faith- ful, fruitful, and live a godly life. Beloved, if you aren’t putting forth an effort to live a godly life, you are letting your flesh govern your life; thus your faith will be seriously lacking, and your joy will be minimal. The wonderful truth is, we need not live in ambiguity and uncertainty about who God is and what He demands of His people; again, though God is incomprehensible, He is not unknowable. Because of His gracious rev-elation, God can be known. His knowability should lead us to eagerly study God’s Word so that we can understand Him as He has revealed Himself, because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Jn 2:27). Beloved, please contemplate everything this par-ticular chapter teaches.
THE LIFE OF THE BELIEVER
Now, knowing that all of us as Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, does not mean that we are “happy sinless people”… the truth is, this is where Christians really struggle with their faith in life; though they have embraced Christ as their Savior, difficulties, trials, tribulation and sin are often very troubling & discouraging to them. The reality is, “there is war going on in our lives between our flesh and the Holy Spirit” (cf. Gal 5:17; Eph 2:1-3; Mt 26:36-41; Rom 7:13-8:17; 1 Pet 2:11). Though many believers think that God intended the Christian life to be a wonderful positive life, that does not define the life God has so willed for us as His children — negatives are not at all unusual for God’s people; though my life as a believer early on was a fairly pleasant life, such has not been the case now for almost 22-23 years. The question is, are you of the opinion that the life God has so willed for you was to be a wonderful happy life? If so, why do you make that claim? Keep in mind, the life Jesus lived here on earth was not at all a happy problem-free life — He suffered greatly in life, as did His disciples (all but one of them was executed for his faith). Though the “future life” God has so willed for us is going to be an incredibly wonderful life, that does not define the life God has called us to here in this demonic sinful world; as such, He has called us to “war” against our innate sinfulness (i.e., our flesh), as well as Satan & his fellow co-horts. Keep in mind, our flesh has a very strong presence in our lives, and constantly expresses itself numerous times every day! So for some Christians to “tell us that their flesh is not that big of a problem to them is absolute nonsense!” Beloved, not even the great saint “Paul” lived a wonderful, pain-free life; after several years of trying to get to the top, he finally recognized that his flesh had a very strong presence in his life (cf. Rom 7:14-25; also 2 Cor 12:7-10). S
Said Paul to the Galatians: “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Gal 5:16-17). Keep in mind, walking by the Spirit is no easy little ride, because it involves fighting against your flesh, which is constantly arguing against the Spirit, and such is no joy-ride, because oftentimes we align our thinking with what our flesh has to say. Remember, we were all born with fallen sinful flesh, and its presence has a powerful voice in our lives; it never stops arguing with the Spirit (i.e., the will of God). By the way, just because we don’t capitulate and cave in to what the flesh desires, that doesn’t mean we are experiencing great joy — the negative impact of our flesh is not at all plea-sant; though we don’t always cave into it, the war can be very painful and frustrating. My arguing against Satan’s seeming presence is oftentimes very frustrating to me, because it appears as though God has allowed him to negatively impact my life (just as he did Job and Paul and other saints); the truth is, I’d love to crush his head and completely destroy his body! The sad thing is, God won’t let me do it (at least not at this point). The truth is, I hate the fact that Satan & his agents are often able to war against me. Sense Satan has caused a lot of pain in my body numerous times, as well as a lot of trouble in my life… I can’t put my hands on his head and destroy it! The truth is, God is still giving him opportunities to hurt people (just as he did Job, Paul and others), so we must do our best to embrace Christ and the Holy Spirit, and walk in the light. Though we will never do it perfectly, we must do our best to let the Holy Spirit rule in our hearts and minds. Keep in mind the words of James (the brother of Jesus), “We all stumble in many ways” (cf. Jam 3:2; Ecc 7:20; Prv 24:16; Ps 73:26); that is simply what it means to be a fallen human being (though we are saved creatures, we are still fallen creatures none the less; thus we are saved fallen creatures). Beloved, when we define the Christian life as a life that is simply a wonderful positive little life, we are completely fooling ourselves; such does not at all define the life God has given to believers. Let me share one more thought on this thing called “temptation” — the word itself means “there is a desire in us to cave in to certain tempta-tions;” by the way, not everything is a temptation to us… for instance, I am not at all tempted to eat rats, get drunk, or go naked in public (those things simply do not at all identify who I am); though there are tempta-tions that do define me and affect me, those three little goofy things do not. Regarding this thing called “temptation,” reflect upon the words of James (one of the brothers of Jesus): “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil… each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust… when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (Jam 1:13-15).
Remember, “SIN” first occurred in heaven by Satan and his cohorts in antiquity past, and that is the reason for man’s existence… incidentally, “SIN” is the reason why God operates the way He does in our world; were it not for sin in the ancient heavenly realm, human beings would not exist! When God created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, it is important to remember He also placed Satan in the Garden as well, and “Satan ended up causing finite man to fall” (cf. Gen 1:1-3); it is not as if God was ignorant of all that was going to transpire in the world (as some peo-ple foolishly think). Remember, there is absolutely nothing that God does not know — He knows the past, the present, and the future, because He is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God, who declared the end from the beginning; thus He accomplishes all His good pleasure… as God has planned things, so they exist (cf. Is 46:10-11). As the apostle Paul said, “God works all things after the counsel of His will” (cf. Eph 1:11); how could He not? There is no other God but GOD! To make God out to be less than then He is (the Eternal Infinite One) is to be completely mindless of God’s divine essence. Again, God made EVERYTHING that exists… NOTHING exists that He did not make! Beloved, please don’t make God out to be less then He is! Regarding Satan, he ultimately succeeded in transferring a third of the angelic realm and all of God’s human creatures into his domain (cf. Rev 12:4; Jude 1:6); as such, the earth then became a pro-vince of Satan’s kingdom — thus the earth’s government changed from a theocracy to a satanocracy; hence, Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” (cf. Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), who had the authority to offer all the king-doms of this world to Jesus (cf. Lk 4:5-6); remember, Adam was transferred from membership in the kingdom of God to membership in the kingdom of Satan (Eph 2:1), from the kingdom of Light to the kingdom of Darkness. Though Satan is going to be fully executed, the execution of his sentence is still in the future since he has not yet been subjected to the Great White Throne Judgment, and cast into the Lake of Fire (cf. Rev 20:10-15; Is 24:21-22). Now, although God had the power to destroy Satan with a breath, He chose not to do so until He accomplished all of His own work. In short, God’s creation of MAN is meant as a response to Satan’s rebellion, a living refutation of the devil’s slanderous lies against the character of God. Human beings who choose to reject God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ, will share the fate of the devil and his followers in the lake of fire (cf. Rev 20:11-15)… and every creature in existence, whether rebellious or regen-erate, will eventually bow before the God of all creation and acknow-ledge His majesty and righteousness, and confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father (cf. Rom 14:11; Phil 2:9-11). With the foregoing in mind, the trial of evil is the ultimate reason for man’s existence. Furthermore, the story of man’s creation and fall, and his subsequent redemption, was the plan of God from the beginning of all creation (read these verses – Is 46:9-11; 55:11; Jn 1:13; 7:30; Acts 2:23; Eph 1:4-6; Rev 22:13); remember, “Christ was slain from the foundation of the world” (cf. Rev 13:8). God planned the end from the beginning! there are absolutely no surprises with God. God has multiple purposes for including sin in His plan — sin causes us to turn to Christ (2 Cor 7:9)… it causes us to see how ut-terly sinful we really are, thus keeping us humble before God… it causes us to trust God more… it helps us see how great and wonderful and loving and forgiving God really is — beloved, how would we ever come to know the unfathomable riches of His grace and love were it not for our repeated sinning and His repeated forgiveness? By continually experiencing the forgiveness of God we learn that He loves us with an everlasting love – there is absolutely no end to it!!! (read Ps 100:5; 106:1; 118:1-4; 136:1-26; Jer 33: 11; Mt 18:22). Though sin is a big issue in the sight of God (He sent His Son to the cross for it!), the fact is “God’s love and grace are far bigger issues to Him then they are to us!” (cf. Rom 5:20; 8:35-39). Beloved, if there is any paragraph that you may need to read and study and contemplate several times, it is those just listed!
Now with regard to the flesh and the Spirit that exist in our lives, both the flesh and the Spirit will continue in our lives as Christians until we die and are glorified and enter into the heavenly realm. Naturally as Christians we all want to experience a “happy life,” but that frequently does not occur in our lives. Remember, every believer must live with his or her fallen flesh in this life, and “it is the comrades of Satan and fleshly thinking that often causes great consternation in our soul.” Keep in mind, God frequently lets Satan and his cohorts cause negatives to enter into our lives (cf. Job 2:3-8; 3:1-4; Jer 20:14-18; 1 Cor 4:9-13; 2 Cor 12:7-10; 1 Th 2:18). Said Peter to the Christian world, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert, your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to destroy. But resist him firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eter-nal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (cf. 1 Pet 5:8-10 and 1 Pet 4:13). Said Paul, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The most important thing for human beings is that they feel good, enjoy life, and are happy... con-versely, the worst things in life for human beings are feeling bad, not enjoying life, and not being happy; so people essentially do all they can to live a happy life. Remember, the word “happy” is not found in Scripture; the English word happy comes from the old Norse word “happ,” from which we get our English words happy & happen; thus the issue is this: when that which “happens” to us is a positive, it makes us “happy;” how-ever, when what happens to us is a negative, it makes us unhappy… so happiness results in our lives when we experience positive circumstances, but that is not the common way in which God works in our lives; often-times the Christian life contains a lot of negatives, and it is then that we as believers “must fight against our flesh,” which is God’s premiere goal for us in this life. Yet when “negatives” come into our lives, most of us “pray” that God would remove them, but more often than not He does not do that; it is not as though God is mad at us or disgusted with our faith, He is simply working at growing our faith! and such does not occur with positives! Though positives make us feel good and happy, positives do not help us grow our faith! Let me share some very significant spiritual realities that few believers (including pastors) seem to understand and embrace, and it is these realities that believer’s must embrace:
1. God lets us experience sin in life so that we may see ourselves for who se really are — fallen creatures, saved yes, but fallen none the less. If you do not agree with the fact that you are still a sinful fallen creature, you are completely deceiving yourself.
2. If we did not sin now that we are God’s children, we would naturally think far more highly of ourselves then we ought, and such thinking would cause us to think not nearly as much of God as we should, and exceedingly more of ourselves then we should (as if we are somewhat glorious creatures, which we are not!).
3. Since we sin often, we often don’t see God as a God who loves us unconditionally. Why’s that? Because it is only natural for fallen human beings to think that they must be somewhat worthy of God’s love. I listed a number of passages on that truth in previous chapters. Beloved, if we indeed were glorious creatures, we would naturally accept the fact that God loves us unconditionally, but the reality is, God loves unconditionally in spite of the fact that we are not glorious creatures! Though we have experienced God’s redemption, and are now in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ, we are nowhere close to being the creatures we will ultimately become — we are still sinful creatures, saved yes, but fallen sinful creatures none the less.
4. If we did not sin in life, we would not grow our faith, because we would not see the need to grow it; as such we would be prone to think that we are men and women of great faith! Beloved, none of us as believer walk on water! Why’s that? Because none of us possess that kind of faith! The wonderful news is, when we get to heaven we will possess it, but that will not occur until we exit the earthly realm!
5. Again, none of us are great saints; we are all fallen sinful creatures whom God chose to save. Remember, God is the answer to every pro-blem we have in life, including our innate sinfulness. The reality is, we often diminish God’s incredible love for us because of our sinful-ness (i.e., we don’t see ourselves as being worthy of His love, and therein is the problem (by the way, none of us are worthy of His love) — interestingly enough, as human beings we naturally assume that we must possess a degree of worthiness, or God will not love us… now since we see ourselves as being too sinful, we question God’s love for us; for some reason, most Christians think that God completely transformed our lives when we became His children; though that did happen in a very limited degree, God did not remove our innate sinful-ness from our lives; the wonderful news is, God is going to completely remove it from our lives when we enter into His heavenly state, but not until then. Beloved, self-worthiness is an extremely common construct, not only for fallen creatures, but for believers as well.
6. Our sinfulness as believers often causes great consternation in our soul; as such, it is often very difficult for most Christians to believe that God loves them unconditionally (because they know they’ve made a mess of things; that they haven’t been wonderful God-honoring creatures). Never forget, though we are saved creatures, we are still fallen crea-tures, because our fallenness has never been removed from our lives; hence sin is still a mind-boggling issue for us. Like most of you, I hate the fact that “sin” still reigns in my life, just as it did in the apostle Paul’s life; though it wasn’t easy for him to ultimately accept that fact, that is precisely what he did! Take the time to reflect upon the words of Paul in the following paragraphs —
Said the apostle Paul, “We know that God’s Laws are spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not under-stand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate!.... So I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that noting good wells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not…as such, I practice the very evil that I do not wish… thus I am no longer one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (Rom 7:14-20). Obviously, that is a very pro-found statement that all of you should be able to identify with, therefore, lets define precisely what Paul has stated — he began by saying that the Law comes from God, and that his own problem is that he is carnal; i.e., a slave of sin. Even though Paul was a Christian dedicated to serving God, he continued to fall short of God’s moral standards. The conflict indicates that there is a battle between the two elements in the believer’s life… though there is something in the believer’s life that acknowledges that God’s divine Law is good, the innate sinfulness that exists in fallen man produces evil (though none of us as believers like the fact that sin does exist in us, there is nothing we can do to completely remove it from our lives and destroy it! The conflict indicates that there is an ongoing battle between the two elements that exist within the believer (cf. Gal 5:17). As Paul stated, “the problem is his flesh, in which nothing good dwells,”
Though the desire to do good was present in Paul’s life (just as it is in your and my life), as believers we simply lack the ability to live absolutely Holy Sinless Lives. Since none of us as believers have the ability to mani-fest absolute purity, our sinful nature causes us to draw away from the new nature that God imparted to us. So Paul concluded that the problem was not God’s Law, but his own flesh. With the foregoing in mind, Paul moved into the solution that our salvation is found completely in Jesus Christ, thus delivering us from self-occupation. So with the foregoing in mind, it is im-portant that we as believers keep our focus on “CHRIST ALONE” and not ourselves, because focusing on ourselves is a deadend street. Obviously, if we as believers have a difficult time believing that God loves us uncon-ditionally, our focus is on ourselves rather than our Savior, Jesus Christ. All Paul was trying to do was get us to take our eyes off of ourselves, and put them on Christ! Beloved, our salvation is completely the work of God!
The incredible news of God’s Salvation for us as sinful creatures, is that He has made us “CO-HEIRS WITH CHRIST” — that God should make sinful creatures Co-heirs with Christ is completely unfathomable! If one simply makes God out to be a remedial human being, that would be one thing, but God is an absolutely pure and righteous being that no other creature possesses… and here He is making sinful creatures “Co-heirs with His Son?” How can that be, when we don’t possess anything that is good! NOTHING whatsoever! The premiere problem with fallen man, is that he does not see himself for who he truly is — an absolutely fallen sinful creature who is a child of the devil! Unbelievable as it may sound, God’s Spirit now resides in those of us whom God has made His children (cf. Rom 8:9; 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13-14); keep in mind, “God chose us in Christ before the foun-dation of the world, that we may be holy and blameless before Him… in love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intension of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. Keep in mind, God chose to make a few million people His own children, long before He ever brought them into existence… so it was not as if we were a bunch of good self-made creatures that He liked… we never existed until He created us after His own desire (cf. Ps 100:3; 139:13-16); as such, we became the people He desired us to be according to His will — remember, God is completely transforming us in to His image; He is not leaving us in our sinful nature! (cf. Rom 8:29; Col 3:9-10; Rev 21:4-7). Keep in mind, “In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him… In Him we have also obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of “His will…to the praise of His glory” (cf. Eph 1:4-14). Now if those verses do not define ultimate reality to you, you are actually making your faith a very disingenuine faith; since God’s Word clearly defines reality, it is import-ant that you fully embrace it and not reject it… beloved, if you do reject it, how do you determine reality? With your fallen mind? With this dia-bolical world? With what the vast majority of fallen creatures believe? How can you go down that road, when God in the ancient world 5,000 years ago, destroyed the entire world with a flood (only Noah and his family were spared death); by the way, the Scientific world has finally proven that years ago this world indeed was completely destroyed with a flood – I have quoted numerous scientists in several studies, from scien-tists all over the world who now embrace it… essentially it is only the diabolical left here in America who denies its existence… not only that, they deny this thing called creation which has stunning evidence! Keep in mind, everything that has design, order and function has been proven to have been made; nothing that possesses these qualities simply evolved! Yet here is the diabolical left here in America refusing to embrace creation — why is that? Because creation means a CREATOR brought everything into existence! That is even what Albert Einstein (one of the greatest scientists in world history) said: “The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation… His religious feeling takes the form of a raptur-ous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelli-
gence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” Yet with all that in mind, the diabolical left still insists on believing in evolution, which has no evidence whatsoever! Keep in mind, only the diabolical left here in America believes in evolution, in spite of the fact that numerous scientists in Europe have confronted the nonsensical think-ing of leftists numerous times!
Again, everything that has order, design & function was made; nothing that possesses these qualities simply evolved. Keep in mind, that is a “Law” that science not embraces; the reason being, there is not a single piece of evidence to the contrary! Not one! Hence, creation is now a Law. In order to appreciate that statement, place an automobile in front of you & give careful consideration to everything in it (look at the motor and everything else that it possesses); in so doing, now answer this ques-tion: Was it created (i.e., made) by someone, or did it simply evolve? For anyone to conclude that it simply evolved is about as mindless as one can be! Though the diabolical left agrees that automobiles are created (i.e., made by people), they conclude that “the makers and creators of all items simply evolved”… which is rather silly, because now they are saying that people (who possess far greater ability and wisdom than all of the wonderful little items that human beings have made) simply evolved — think about it, if you can say that various things like automobiles did not evolve, then how can you say that human beings, who are far greater & far more brilliant than automobiles, simply evolved? Remember, the makers possess far greater ability and wisdom than any-thing that is made! Beloved, can you imagine making something and then having people say that which you made was far greater than you are? In spite of the fact that you made it? Obviously, we live in a pretty stupid world… there isn’t much that human beings will not say to satisfy their diabolical minds.
The big thing every believer must understand is this – since none of us as fallen creatures live “sinless lives,” we must understand that God often disciplines us. Said the Lord to us through the writer of Hebrews — “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” Remember the words of the Lord that were addressed to you as sons: ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord… for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.’ It is for discipline that you endure: God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not dis-cipline? If you are without discipline, then you are an illegitimate child. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? — remember, God disciplines us for our good, that we might share His holiness… Though all discipline for the moment does not seem to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (cf. Heb 12:4-11; Prov 3:11-12; 13:24). And then there are the words of the apostle John: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar and the truth is not in us” (cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10). Obviously, this thing called “SIN” is a major issue in believers lives; the problem is most believers do not fully understand its significance in their lives; keep in mind, we were born sinners (i.e., we were children of the devil, not God), yet God ultimately ministered truth to our soul, and opened our hearts and minds that we might become His children — beloved, all of that was the work of God on our behalf; it was not a matter of us taking the initiative to align ourselves with God… it was a matter of God opening our hearts and minds to Him that we might embrace Him as Lord & Savior; remem-ber, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world! (Eph 1:3-4). Obviously “SIN” is a dominant issue in all of our lives; it always has been, and it always will be until we enter into the heavenly realm and are com-pletely transformed into the image of Christ. As the apostle John stated, “It has not yet appeared what we shall be, yet when Christ appears we shall be made like Him!” (cf. 1 Jn3:2). Now why man’s sinfulness and his ultimate transformation isn’t clearly taught in very many churches is act-ually mind-boggling, because our sinfulness is a very poignant reality in our lives… because of its prominence in our lives, we are always being confronted with it; yet most believers have a difficult time reconciling exactly what is going on in their lives.
The reality is, when we live to the praise of God’s glory, “we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… we must focus on Jesus so that we won’t grow weary and lose heart. Though you haven’t resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, for whom the Lord loves He disciplines … after which it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:2-6, 11). Making Christ the center of our lives involves all of our thinking, and giving praise to Him — the reality is, we must not let our sinfulness and waywardness rule in our hearts and minds, in spite of the fact that it will have a strong presence in our lives. Though it is not easy for believers to live with their eyes on Christ, that must be the goal for believers — “so we must continually ‘WAR’ against our flesh because our flesh has a very strong presence in our lives. Beloved, though sin is a very perplexing reality in our lives, we must learn to WAR against it, and focus on God’s unconditional love for us; obviously, those are two dynamic realities that we must learn to embrace… though our flesh constantly argues against God, we must fight against our flesh & completely embrace our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who loves us unconditionally! Remember, CHRIST DIED FOR US WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS!!! So how can you reject the fact that He still loves you? By the way, that is the premiere reality of God’s eternal redemption for us — He is actually going to transform us into His likeness, and wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there shall no longer be any morning, or crying, or pain, because the first things shall all pass away (cf. Rev 21:4; 1 Jn 3:2). As Paul said, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is there where Christ is going to transform our body into conformity with the bodey of His glory” (Phil 3:20-21). Beloved, if God doesn’t love us unconditionally, we have got a horrible life ahead of us, because everyone of us possesses a sinful inner-core (i.e., sinful flesh), and such is not just a little remedial element; it is a very diabolical element.
The most wonderful news for us as believers, is the fact that God loves us unconditionally, in spite of the fact that “SIN” often reigns in our lives. Though every believer fights against sin to some degree, no believer fully succeeds in warring against it. Now if a believer should actually refuse to war against his own innate sinfulness, God will severely discipline him, and should that not cause him to walk in the light, God will remove him from this world (i.e., bring his life to an end in this world); though that’s not a common response for many believers, some believers simply do not put forth an effort to walk in the light. Keep in mind, God is always doing His work to get us to fight the good fight. Even with the foregoing in mind, it is important to remember that no believer simply lives a fleshly life, that is what unbelievers do — every true born again believer places his trust in God to a degree, because he experienced God’s transformation in his heart and mind when He em-braced Christ as his Savior. Remember, the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our lives to move us in a godly direction; the problem with some believers is that they don’t make abiding in Christ the premiere aspect of their life (cf. Jn 15:1-11; and Jn 8:31; 4:16), “thus when Christ appears in this world at the end of the age, they will shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 Jn 2:28); though such individuals will experience the full-ness of salvation and ultimately enter into the eternal realm, they will first experience significant shame for not living a life that was pleasing to God — when such individuals enter into heaven, they will be so embarrassed they will not be able to look Christ in the eye when He looks at them; thus they will turn away from Christ extremely embarrassed for the life they lived; thus they will suffer great shame for a period of time before God completely transforms them into His likeness. Beloved, though many believers are not well acquainted with what Scripture actually teaches, my prayer is that you will seriously embrace Christ as your savior, thus doing your best to live for Him — keep in mind, though none of us will ever live a perfect life in this world, we can all put forth a greater effort to walk in the light, and make Christ the central reason for our existence.
Beloved, since our sinfulness and fallenness, and God’s presence in our lives, are issues that we must deal with as God’s people, we must do everything we can to fully understand them… we cannot just make an assumption without fully understanding what Scripture says. Beloved, Scripture is referred as “GOD’S WORD,” so it must be treated as such; to somehow think it is simply the product of some human beings, is absolute foolishness; though that is what the unbelieving world believes, that is not what God asks His people to believe. Though God used certain individuals to communicate divine revelation to the world, those people were the not the authors of God’s Word — they simply wrote as God so directed them. As Scripture states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, and equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Scripture goes on to say, “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:20-21). Incidentally, if you don’t believe what Scripture teaches, why is that the case? What are you believing instead? What evidence do you have that you are believing absolute truth? Incidentally, if you took the time to humbly study what Scripture teaches, God will open your heart and mind to divine truth; obviously without God affirming reality in the hearts & minds of people, they will not embrace divine truth, because God only gives divine truth to the humble. Why’s that? Because if they do not humble themselves before God, they are arrogantly insisting on human logic over divine truth; as such, God does not give grace to the arrogant (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5; Is 66:2). Beloved, the foregoing are issues that all of us as believers must deal with in life.
THE DIABOLICAL THINKING OF UNBELIEVERS
As stated in the previous section, diabolical thinking often rules in the hearts and minds of the unbelieving world, yet at times it even rules in the lives of believers; thus I felt the need to address the issue. The problem with the Radioactive Dating Methods (of which Carbon-14 Dating and Radioisotope are two of them), is that they make the assumption that the context in which everything is being tested is the same today as it was thousands or millions of years ago, but that’s not at all the case as science itself continually proves. Now if everything was the same down through the ages, such deductions would be meritorious, but since things have radically changed over time, such dating methods are completely inaccur-ate; by the way, this isn’t something that only the religious world believes; the vast majority of scientists in our world embrace this reality. For ex-ample, we know what the content level of “salt” is in the ocean, so if we add up all the possible ways salt can be added or removed from the ocean, we can determine its age. By doing so, scientists have calculated that the ocean cannot possibly be more than 62 mill-ion years old; yet it is interes-ting to note that evolutionary theories assume that the oceans have been “salty” for at least 3 billion years (which is nearly 50 times longer!). How-ever, if the oceans are actually 3 billion years old, and have continued to increase in salt at the present rate, they would contain so much salt “no life whatsoever would be able to survive in them!” Therefore the oceans simply cannot be that old. By the way, the world of science also conducts dating studies on the atmosphere, by measuring how much of the light-weight gas (helium) exists in our atmosphere; they measure its present level as well as the rate at which it enters the atmosphere from the crust of the earth. In addition to that, they also know how much helium is leaving the atmosphere and is drifting into space. At the present rate of accumu-lation, all of the helium that is now in the atmosphere would have gotten there in less than 2 million years. Now, if a major flood occurred at some point (as Scripture clearly states (Gen 6-9) an extremely large amount of helium would have been released from the earth’s crust, reducing the maximum age significantly (Dr. John D. Morris: author of The Geology Book; 2000). Now in addition to the foregoing studies, numerous other studies have been done by the scientific world. So all of the methods that have been used to estimate the age of the earth, 90 percent of all the studies point to an age far less than the billions of years asserted by evolutionists.
Another scientific issue that is also interesting in one that involves our moon… the moon is slowly distancing itself from the earth at about one inch per year, and most scientists believe that this rate would have been even greater in the past. Nevertheless, if the moon has receded one inch a year, it would have only taken 1.37 billion years to reach its present distance from the earth (i.e., if it had actually been in contact with the earth when it was first formed). Thus the maximum age for the moon is far too young for the evolutionary model, which claims the moon is 4.6 billion years old. The reality is, “all science is tentative,” be it creation-science or evolutionary-science, because it does not possess all the data necessary to be certain of its assertions, especially when dealing with events of the past. The reality is this: since the atmosphere was radically different prior to the flood, it is simply not possible to accurately date things prior to the flood, and since the flood only occurred 5,000-7,000 years ago, the world that existed prior to the flood is simply not known by the scientific world. So all dating methods, including those that point to a young earth, rely on unprovable assumptions. Therefore it is of vital importance that the scientific world be intellectually honest (though many scientists are; many are not) and not draw absolute conclusions from evi-dence arrived at by using such methods. Wanting something to be true, and proving something to be true, are two completely different things.
What is important to remember is this: “One must be able to give credence to what he believes, and identify all of the evidence for what he believes” (both the pros and the cons), and not just let his innate bias dictate reality (which to man’s discredit is extremely common in our world; that’s how self-centered and arrogant it is). Now, because man is a fallen creature, he is inclined to embrace “untruth” — not “truth;” i.e., his temporal mind simply cannot and will not defer to that which is eternal and transcends human thinking; so his proud inner core governs his thinking. It is man’s self-pride that keeps him in the dark; he just will not accept the fact that he indeed is a person with a corrupt mind and in need of salvation (i.e., deliverance from his corrupt sinful inner core). It is his innate sinfulness that keeps him in the dark (cf. Jn 3:19; and Jn 1:4-5; 7:7; 8:12; 12:46). The know-ledge of God is important for several reasons: it not only tells us who God is, but who we are (men & women spend billions of dollars annually in an attempt to know themselves; but this is not at all adequate because it does not bring the individual into a knowledge of God, and thus see ones-self for who he truly is. Remember, God is holy & we are not holy; conversely God is good & we are not good (i.e., from God’s perspective; because we are not genuinely holy creatures, we naturally interpret things with fallen human thinking). The reality is, to know God is to see ourselves as Isaiah did: “Wow is me! I am a mess! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Is 6:5). Beloved, if you have lived 40-50 years, this shouldn’t be a difficult construct for any of you to agree with, because over time everyone of us have reflected upon our innate sinful-ness, which is simply the work of the Holy Spirit within us; the reality is, the older we get the more this is evidenced in our lives, just as it was in Paul’s life (Rom 7:18). The apostle Peter expressed it this way: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). It is interesting to note, the “wisdom” of the ancient Greek world was summed up in these words: “know thyself;” so these words embody the deeply held conviction that “the proper study of mankind is man himself” (i.e., our wisdom consists in the accuracy and depth of self-knowledge). The problem with human thinking is that it is not grounded in divine thinking… therefore its very foundation is radically deficient, thus causing him to embrace things that are not true (remember, God is the full essence of truth; so without embracing Him, one’s thinking will be erroneous and seriously lacking in integrity. Keep in mind, when man humbles himself before God, God enlightens his heart to what is true; the reality is, such cannot be acquired by human reason; the truth is, God ministers truth to people when they humble themselves before Him, even though they may not be know-ledgeable of God’s presence in the moment.
Dr. James Montgomery Boice (one of my favorite authors in the 20th century) stated in his book “Foundations of the Christian Faith” (Inter-Varsity Press, page 189), “On one level Christianity has no quarrel with the thinking of the ancient Greek world, so long as it is remembered that knowledge of oneself always involves a corresponding and personal knowledge of the God who made us… knowledge of God will always involve knowledge of our personal need & the salvation that He alone brings.” The reality is, one cannot know man as he really is in himself, without knowing God. That’s why Reinhold Niebuhr, the Reformed Theologian & professor at Union Theological Seminary in NY for more than 30 years, states in his work “The Nature and Destiny of Man” — “Man has always been his own most vexing problem.” Incidentally, Reinhold Niebuhr was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and Time Magazine posthumously called him “the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards.” Tragic- ally, arrogant modern man has not only rejected divine thinking, he has even rejected the qualitative thinking of Greek reasoning. The reality is, our world today is about as “dumb a world” as has ever existed — remember, the world was extremely diabolical & ruled by Satan about 5,000 years ago, thus God chose to completely destroy the entire world with a flood (cf. Gen 6-9). Georg Friedrich Hegel’s theory of historical development, and Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism, and Charles Darwin’s biological evolution, each assumes unending & inevitable progression; however, the aftermath of the two world wars & current international unrest has since demonstrated that there is enormous difficulty in maintaining a high level of optimism. As the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Under the perpetual smile of modernity there is a grimace of disillusion and cynicism” (p. 121); how can there not be? This world is a diabolical mess; it makes one wonder if the world has ever been as diabolically corrupt as it is today; there is so much lying and cheating going on in our world, there is no way our world will ever end in peace, which is precisely what God’s Word teaches: there is go- ing to be a worldwide war at the end of the age that is going to result in “billions” of people being killed! As has been commonly stated, history seems to be one long inglorious record of man’s inhumanity to man. According to Scripture, when God placed Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them maximum freedom, authority & dominion over every created thing, yet they rebelled against Him and violated His command “to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17). As Emil Brunner says in his book, “The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption” — “The conception of sin in Greek philosophy, is based upon the fact that sense instincts paralyze the will, or at least hinder or suppress it… thus evil is due to the dual nature of man.” When one con-siders all that transpired in the Garden of Eden, it is easy to see that “pride” ultimately ruled in their hearts: Eve thought she knew what was better for herself… and Adam determined to go his own way (compare that with what Isaiah 14:14 says). So pride lies at the heart of the human race. As the renowned philosophical British theologian C. S. Lewis states in his book “Mere Christianity” — “Pride makes us want to be more than we are or can be, and consequently causes us to fall short of the great destiny for which we were created” (p. 94).
When we admit our sinful condition and embrace Christ as our Savior, we experience His love and grace in our lives, and rejoice in the God of our salvation. Aside from the knowledge of God telling us who we are, it is also important to remember that the knowledge of God gives us knowledge of this world…when we understand the world for what it really is, we understand God’s purposes in this world, and what is ulti-mately going to happen to this world. Lastly, it is by the knowledge of God whereby the Church becomes a dynamic institution in our lives because of God’s presence in it. It is the community of believers where in we are encouraged in our faith, and experience God’s love through them; remember the Church is “the pillar and support of the truth” (cf. 1 Tim 3:15; Heb 10:23-25)… it is in the Church where we glory in the God of our faith, and where we encourage other believers to walk in the Spirit. Remember the words of Jesus, “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (cf. Mt 11:28-29). When we go to God, His dynamic presence in our lives transforms our thinking and changes our heart. The problem with our world is that few people seek to substantiate their thinking with divine truth and the laws of logic and all the evidence that is available to them… instead, they just jump to conclusions, and end up embracing that which simply satisfies their hearts and corresponds with what they want to believe — not what is really true. Remember, divine truth only rules in the mind of the humble; i.e., in the mind of him who turns from his fallen sinful inner-core.
THE INCREDIBLE NATURE OF GOD’S WORD
Now regarding “GOD’S WORD” — three hundred years before Christ came into our world, He made the Greek Language the language of the entire Mediterranean world… and this He did for a reason, that He might communicate divine truth to the entire world! Keep in mind, the Greek language became the language of the entire Mediterranean world when Alexander the Great conquered it back in 4th century BC… by the way, Alexander has been viewed by historians as one of the most outstanding military and organized geniuses in human history; by the time of his death in 323 BC he had conquered an empire that spanned the Middle East all the way to the western reaches of India, as well as Syria, Egypt and Palestine. Wherever he went he dispensed the Greek language and culture, which was known as “Hellenism” (a derivative of the Greek word “hellas”); incidentally, Hellenism is often associated with Greek philoso-phy, as well as the philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle — keep in mind, Greek philosophers were essentially religious people, providing explanations of the universe & offering salvation through human reason (Holman Bible Dictionary; p. 746). Now since Rome had been conquered by the Greek culture, when Rome took over the Mediterranean world 200 years later, it became known as the Greco-Roman world. Thus when Christi-anity arose in the first century AD when Jesus Christ came into the world, Greek was the common language, and according to the Holman Bible Dictionary… many linguists call it “the most flexible language ever devised” – hence it was used by God’s servants to share the Gospel Message with the entire Greco-Roman world… remember, all of this was the work and plan of GOD in our world; this was not mere human happenstance! According to theologians, the Greek influence on divine truth is immeasurable. Remember, back in the 3rd century BC, seventy-two Jewish scholars went to Alexandria, Egypt, to translate the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Old Testament) into Greek, because the nation of Israel like all other Mediterranean nations had been speaking Greek for over a humdred years (remember, the vast majority of the Jewish world back then did not speak Hebrew), so in order for Jewish people to know what Scripture says, they needed to read a Greek version of it… because very few Jews understood Hebrew; so Scripture was translated into Greek so that Greek-speaking Jews could read and understand it — again, this was the work of GOD, not man! The problem with many believers is that they don’t believe stuff like this, because they do not have an accur-ate understanding of God; they simply see Him as a distant reality that is half human, not as the eternal reality of everything in the universe. By the way, this particular version of Scripture was known as the Septuagint (a derivative of the word “seventy” in Greek; instead of using the word 72 they rounded it off and simply used the word 70). By the way, Jesus Himself often quoted the Greek Septuagint in his preaching, so the Greek language was highly esteemed; remember, it was a God-given dynamic for the Mediterranean world! Keep in mind, God is the one who created all languages, and Greek was the most profound language that ever existed.
It is also important to remember that the city of Alexandria on the north shore of Egypt became the premiere city in the Greco-Roman world, and was named after Alexander the Great. Now with the foregoing in mind, the Greek word that was appropriated by the Jews to define Christ when He entered into the world was “Theos,” which literally means “the one true God.” Wrote the apostle John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GOD” (Jn 1:1); that word “God” is “Theos” in Greek — remember, the entire New Testament was written in GREEK, which is the most defining language in the history of the world, no other language is as definitive as the ancient Greek language; again, God knew exactly what He was doing when He made GREEK the premiere language of the world. By the way ancient Greek is not a coequivalent of modern-day Greek, because like all other languages that exist, they all go through a lot of changes over time (including our English language). So “Hellenistic Greek” was the language that was spoken in the Greco-Roman world back in the first century; it later became known as Koine Greek, which was the language that God employed in the writ-ing of the New Testament. Since the vast majority of people back in the first century spoke Koine Greek (only 15-20 percent of the population back then was literate & educated and understood Classical & Atticizing Greek, so the most scholarly version of Greek was not used by the mas-ses; and since everyone “spoke Koine Greek,” Jesus & His disciples used it when preaching and writing Scripture). That should not be a difficult construct for any of you to accept if you understand how “words” change over time; thus the theological world interprets things exactly how they were stated in Scripture nearly 2,000 years ago; so they don’t use modern-day Greek to define what Scripture says. Remember, our English language has made numerous changes with its language down through the centur-ies; that is simply the way language has always worked in our world.. yet God has kept the ancient Greek language from being destroyed and no longer understandable — numerous philosophers and writers have been using it since it came into existence over 2,000 years ago.
The existence of God is the great presupposition of theology; according to divine revelation, there is an eternal, self-existent, personal being who is the origin of all things, and such transcends the entire created order. The truth of God’s existence is accepted by people when they humble themselves before God; in so doing they will accept it by faith, because God gives grace to the humble (remember, “grace” literally means “unde-served favor;” the fact that GOD IS A GRACIOUS GOD is the most stun-ing reality of God… said the apostle Paul: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a re-sult of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” – keep in mind, the emboldened words in those verses are emphatic in Greek! (cf. Eph 2:8-10 – also read Eph 2:5; Rom 3:23-24; 11:6; 1 Pet 4:10; Jam 4:6; Rev 22:21). So man can be fully convinced & believe in divine truth — the reality is, proud, self-centered, arrogant people will never believe in God. Said Jesus, “Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil (i.e., their deeds do not correspond with God’s will. “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest their deeds be exposed” (cf. John 3:19-20). The truth is, God does not simply permit fallen man to logically embrace divine truth — beloved, humility of heart is essential for man to embrace divine truth. So divine truth is not simply the result of human logic, because it vastly transcends finite human thinking; did you hear that? that’s a very critical statement! Thus to make divine truth some simplistic reality is absolute nonsense, because man is a fallen creature; remember, God only gives grace to the humble! So the true born-again Christian fully accepts the existence of God by faith (i.e., by believing what God says), because God has revealed it to his heart by the Holy Spirit; unless God opens one’s heart and mind to divine truth, man will simply not believe and embrace it; so faith ulti-mately is a gift of God – cf. Eph 2:8). Let me state it again, define truth is the resultant effect of GOD opening one’s heart & mind to what is true; so this thing called “faith” is not the byproduct of man, it is a “gift” that God gives to those who humble themselves before Him (cf. Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 1:9; Acts 16:14; Rom 6:23; Jam 4:6). Remember, God does not cast His pearls before swine (cf. Matt 7:6). Sheer arrogance is completely unacceptable to God; therefore, if you insist on believing in divine reality simply with human thinking and human logic, you won’t truly believe in the God of Creation or the God of the Bible (again, give that careful consideration). Remember the words of Paul, “Hath God not made foolish the wisdom (thinking) of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God by his own wisdom… God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who be-lieve” (1 Cor 1:20f); remember, those who humbled themselves before God when Jesus or His disciples spoke to them, those people believed the mes-sage, which is simply what faith is; by the way, those emboldened words in that last verse are emphatic in Greek (since no other language has that capacity, read it accordingly). Now according to the psalmist David, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God” (cf. Ps 14:1) — keep in mind, theoretical atheists attempt to justify that there is no God by rational argumentation that there is no valid proof that there is a God (that is simply the way they state it). Therefore, finite human thinking cannot conceive of that which is infinite (i.e., God); and that should be about as logical a statement as anyone could possibly say.
Now interestingly enough, over time rational arguments for the existence of God developed all over the world — men like Socrates, Plato & Aristotle and numerous other philosophers argued for the existence of God; obvi-ously, they were not nearly as arrogant as the diabolical left is here in our country — essentially the vast majority of the world argued that since man-kind has an idea of an absolutely perfect being, one must exist; yet the fact that the idea of God exists in the minds of men does not prove His existence… yet God has revealed Himself to every human being who has ever lived, so no man can make a legitimate claim that there is no God! Said the apostle Paul: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident with-in them; for GOD made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (cf. Rom 1:18-20; and Ecc 3:11; Rom 2:15; Ps 19:1-6). Paul went on to say, “Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God… instead they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man… Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity… to degrading passions… and to a depraved mind… for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…. Paul goes on to say, because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, for God will render to every man according to His deeds” (cf. Rom 1:21-28; 2:5-6). So little does fallen man know that God has revealed Himself to the minds of men that they might believe in Him and live life accordingly. It is man’s self-centered nature that causes him to question God’s existence & live a self-centered life (cf. Rom 1:18-32; 2:15; Ecc 3:11; Acts 17: 22-31); interestingly enough, nearly ninety percent of all the people in the world embrace some kind of religion; essentially, it is only the arrogant people in the western world who are atheistic, ungodly and irreligious. So the idea of an infinite God has char-acterized the thinking of most people in our world since the worldwide flood, yet most of them saw themselves as being good self-righteous peo-ple whom God accepts (by the way, that characterizes numerous religious groups all over the world, including several biblical churches here in the United States).
It should be noted, arrogance (i.e., self-centered thinking) has influenced several churches here in America; due to the fact humility is not common for fallen man, some churches actually possess a significant degree of unrighteousness; thus pride rules in their souls. For instance, Mormonism has rejected historic Christianity, because Christianity believes that the Bible alone is the final source of divine truth and authority. Yet even with that in mind, many Christian churches today actually let human thinking define their theology. Again, Mormonism denies most of the teachings of the Christian faith, including the spirituality of God, claim-ing that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. Furthermore, they believe there are numerous gods in addition to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; they believe some are in a more advanced stage then others. Mormonism also teaches that every god in existence was once a man, and that men may become gods. Mormons believe if they faithfully observe all of the precepts of their religion, that they may advance to godhood in the life to come. One of the early presi-dents of the Mormon Church, Lorenzo Snow, summed it up this way — “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” So Mormon-ism teaches that all men existed as spirits before entering into this world. Though Christ is called divine in Mormon teaching, his divinity is not seen as unique since it is the same as that which any human being may attain; thus Mormonism does not believe that Christ’s incarnation is unique. Though Christ is said to have made atonement for our sins, what this means however is that Christ earned for all men the right to be raised from the dead. Though Mormon’s believe men are saved through faith in Christ, they believe they are especially saved through “works” — by the works one does in this life, he merits his salvation. The doctrine of justification by faith is rejected in Mormon theology in favor of salvation by works as the basis of determining one’s future mode of existence; thus the purpose of Christ’s atonement is then said to be the assurance that human beings will be raised from the dead. With the foregoing in mind, the Mormon Church believes the Christian Church had become apostate until 1830; i.e., that it had not embraced their previous loyalty, at which time it was restored under the leadership of Joseph Smith; thus Mormon-ism claimed to be the only true church, because its leaders continued to “receive revelation from God” (that is the claim they make). Beloved, the foregoing was simply fallen humanistic thinking that corresponded with certain people’s desires… the reality is, Mormon thinking does not at all equate with what God’s Word teaches. The truth is, unless we as believers fully embrace God’s Word, fleshly thinking will rule in our hearts and minds, which is not at all unusual for fallen human beings. Keep in mind, “humility” is absolutely essential for one to believe in divine truth; remember, God only conveys divine truth to the humble! He does not convey it to the proud! (read Jam 4:6; I Pet 5:5); keep in mind, humility means being free from arrogance and pride and having an accurate assessment of one’s worth; incidentally, both the Old & New Testaments affirm that God will exalt those who are humble and bring low those who are proud (cf. Luke 1:52; Jam 4:10; 1 Pet 5:6).
The problem with the Mormons is that they think far more highly of them-selves then they should… they actually berate and mock Christians — the reality is, they are embracing diabolical thinking! Remember, all human beings are fallen creatures & where there is no humility, truth is seriously lacking in their inner-core. Therefore, what the Mormon world believes does not at all correspond with divine truth, which God’s Word clearly teaches. Incredible as it may seem to some of you, they do not believe in the GOD of creation, and that GOD has a triune nature (Father, Son and Spirit), and that GOD is the only infinite eternal reality, and that GOD is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and that God is working all things after the counsel of His will; such things are completely unaccept-able to the Mormon world; they simply glorify and elevate themselves and make God out to be far less than He really is. Though it is not possible for human beings to fully understand that God has a triune nature, which He does, the believing world believes in His triune nature, in spite of the fact that he does not fully understand it… obviously, God’s triune nature tran-scends human thinking, but that does not mean human beings should deny it; remember, we as human beings are finite creatures, whereas God is an infinite creature; i.e., man is very limited in his thinking, whereas God is completely unlimited in His thinking; keep in mind, God is the only eternal one… the source of all that is… the ruler of all that exists… the only one who who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; incidentally, all of those realities transcend human thinking, because there is no end to all that God knows & does; it goes on and on adinfinitum, and transcends everything that is finite. The problem with most people is that when they hear what they want to hear, they will embrace it and believe it; in spite of the fact that it completely transcends divine truth. Incidentally, a couple of other so-called Christian religions that have distorted divine truth are Jehovah’s Witnesses & Christian Scientists; just because they identify with this thing called “Christianity,” does not mean that they believe in the fullness of what Scripture teaches. Remember, GOD’S WORD (i.e, Scripture) is God’s Self-revelation to mankind, and only proud people struggle with believing & understanding it; thus they interpret reality with their fleshly thinking. Much to our chagrin as true believers in this world, is the fact that there are a number of churches in the Christian world that embrace a humanistic theology rather then what Scripture teaches. Beloved, the reason I stated the foregoing is to remind you of the inability of human thinking to make itself the ultimate determinant as to what is true and what is false. To expand upon what has been stated, read Romans chapter one.
GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE FOR HUMANITY
Remember, “SIN” first occurred in heaven by Satan and all of his co-horts in antiquity past, and that is the reason for man’s existence, and the reason why God essentially does everything He does in our world… so give very careful attention to what that says: SIN is the reason why God operates the way He does in our world… remember, if sin never existed in the heavenly realm in the ancient past, human beings would not exist! As previously stated, when God created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, it is important to remember He also placed Satan in the Garden as well, and Satan ended up “causing Adam & Eve to fall” — it is not as if God was ignorant of all that was going to transpire in the new world (as some people foolishly think); remember, “God planned the end from the beginning!” (cf. Is 46:8-11; 43:13). The problem for many people even in the Christian world is that they minimize GOD & actually make Him out to be a creature who does not possess eternality, omniscience, or omnipo-tence. Remember, there is absolutely nothing that God doesn’t know —past, present or future; no other creature has such knowledge. The reality is, God knew full-well all that was going to happen in our world long before it even came into existence! As Scripture says, “God declared the end from the beginning; thus He accomplishes all His good pleasure; as God has planned things, so they exist” (cf. Is 46:10-11); the truth is, “God works all things after the council of His will” (cf. Eph 1:11) — keep in mind, Christianity is not the product of human thinking… it is precisely what God has so willed! Though we as temporal finite creatures don’t know anything that is of future origin, God knows everything. Remember, the reason why God knows all things is that He is the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent One who created everything!
The issue most believers struggle with is how God could include “SIN” in His divine economy for the universe — after all, how could a “perfectly holy God who admittedly cannot look upon sin,” incorporate it into His plan? Perhaps the key to answering this issue is to understand that “God did not create sin or authorize it,” though He did create the potentiality for sin and permit its existence in His divine plan; obviously sin has a purpose in God’s economy. Keep in mind, “the worst sin ever committed was the crucifixion of Christ,” which purchased our salvation and brought the greatest glory possible to our Savior in heaven (cf. Phil 2:5-11; Heb 2:9; Eph 1:18-23). That in itself is an astounding thought. Consider this: every time we sin as His children, we turn toward our heavenly Father and tell Him “we fully agree with Him regarding our sin;” in so doing we denounce our sinful behavior, and glory in the blood of His Son’s cross… in addition to that, all of the angelic hosts “rejoice when we denounce our sins!” God obviously has some incredible purposes for including sin in His plan. Remember, sin causes us to turn to Christ… to see how utterly sinful we really are…to humble ourselves before the Lord… and to trust God more (in so doing, our faith in Christ is built up and strengthened). Further-more, sin causes us to see how great & wonderful & loving & forgiving God really is. By continually experiencing the forgiveness of God, we learn that He loves us with an everlasting love — there is absolutely no end to it! (cf. Ps 100:5; 106:1; 118:1-4; 136:1-26; Jer 33:11; Mt 18:22). Though “sin” is a big issue in the sight of God, He sent His Son to the cross to atone for it! The fact is “God’s love and grace are far bigger issues to Him then is sin!” (cf. Rom 5:20; 8:35-39).
By the way, Satan’s case and that of his followers, has already been adjudicated and his ultimate fate pronounced. At the conclusion of human history, Satan will face the execution of his sentence (Rev 20:10; Is 24:21-22), a verdict adjudged before human history began. Until the fires of hell receive Satan and his followers, God has chosen to grant them a degree of freedom, and during this interlude of time, God is permitting Satan to go about the earth in search of believers whose defenses are down, seeking to destroy them (cf. 1 Pet 5:8). The creation of “MAN” was a response to “SATAN’S” rebellion — a living refutation of the devil’s slanderous lies against the character of God. Now when all is said and done, God’s righteousness will have been affirmed before all creation, and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt through the merciful salvation of believing mankind. Human beings who choose to reject God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ, will share the fate of the devil and his followers in the lake of fire (cf. Rev 20:11-15); and everyone, whether rebellious or regenerate, will eventually bow before the God of all crea-tion and acknowledge His majesty and righteousness, and confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father (Rom 14:11; Phil 2:9-11). Every creature who has ever existed will be present on that day. So the TRIAL of EVIL is the ultimate reason for MAN’S EXISTENCE — the story of man’s creation & fall, and his subsequent redemption, was the plan of God from all creation (cf. Is 46:9-11; 55:11; Jn 1:13; 7:30; Acts 2:23; Eph 1: 4-6; Rev 22:13). Remember, “Christ was slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8); as stated earlier, God planned the end from the begin-ning. There are no surprises with God – He is in absolute control of all things; nothing happens outside of His divine providence. Now as un-believable as it may sound, God Himself (i.e., His Spirit) now resides in those of us who are His children (cf. Rom 8:9; 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13-14), and is now transforming us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor 3:18). Keep in mind, this work is assured and guaranteed! no matter how lousy you may be performing, or how much you may doubt it – God says, “He will complete the work He has started in you!” (cf. Phil 1:6).
To be upfront and honest with you, I have experienced a lot of negatives in life as a Christian, and oftentimes they have been very disconcerting to me… though I have pleaded with God numerous times (like many of you may have), yet more often than not God did not remove them from my life. Now due to the fact I didn’t fully understand why that was the case early on in my faith, I was experiencing a lot of negatives, and such were often very disconcerting. Obviously, I’m no great saint (none of us are), so I often struggle with some things I experience in life. The truth is, for years I questioned God as to why He kept subjecting me to ugly nega-tives; after all, am I such an evil person that You must subject me to great pain & suffering? Since God oftentimes does not respond with wonderful positives (though at times He does), life can be very difficult at times. I’m reminded of all of the great saints and profits in Scripture — most of them experienced a lot of difficulties in life, and often asked God to “end their lives” or radically change their lives, because what they were experiencing was too painful to them — it might be best for all of you to take the time to study Job, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, as well as numerous profits and the disciples of Christ). Do I wish the Christian life was extremely positive? Of course, we all do. The reality is, God never intended life to be a “happy joyride;” the truth is, life is often a very sober reality that ultimately comes to an end. One of the greatest verses in all of Scripture is this: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose” (cf. Rom 8:28). The problem is, most believers do not interpret that verse properly; they make the assump-tion that only those believers who “love God in the moment will experience His goodness,” but that is not at all what that verse teaches. As Dr. Warren Wiersbe, the author of more than eighty books, states in his book, “The Bible Exposition Commentary” — “The believer never need faint in times of suffering and trials because he knows that God is at work in the world, and that He has a perfect plan (cf. Rom 8:28-29). God has two purposes in that plan — our good and His glory; ultimately, He will make us like Jesus Christ! The most wonderful news is the fact that, God’s plan is going to succeed! Keep in mind, it started in eternity past when He chose us in Christ (Eph 1:4-5) — He predetermined that one day we would be like His Son!” So for believers to make the assumption that they must be incredi-bly glorious creatures if they are to experience God’s full redemption, is completely unbiblical! To embrace some kind of argument like that is to do the same thing that the ancient Jews did; they made their own obed-ience to the Law as that which is pleasing and acceptable to God; yet Jesus told them that that was never the purpose of the Law; the Law was given to show man how sinful he is; it wasn’t given to man to live a perfect life, because fallen man is not capable of living a perfect life! (cf. Rom 3:10-28; Eph 2:8-10). Incidentally, William MacDonald, a former professor and author, and the former President of Emmaus Bible College, stated in one of his popular books, “Believer’s Bible Commentary” — “Sometimes when we are suffering heartbreak, tragedy, disappointment, frustration & bereave-ment, we wonder what possible good can come out of it. But the following verse by the apostle Paul gives the answer: “Whatever God permits to come into our lives is designed to conform us to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29). When we see this, it takes the question mark out of our prayers; our lives are not controlled by things such as change, luck or fate, but by our wonderful personal Lord, who is too loving to be unkind and far too wise to err.” Now with all of the foregoing in mind, remember the words of the author of the book of Hebrews, “It is appointed for man once to die and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27; 2 Cor 5:10). So life in this world ultimately comes to a close and ceases to exist, and it is then that man must give an account for all he did in life. Obviously death is a very sober-ing moment for human beings; it generally contains a number of negatives that God places in their lives; remember, nothing happens in life without a purpose; the truth is, life is not a joy-ride as most people want to believe; God has so willed that every person in this world (be they believers or un-believers) experiences death. Beloved, it is the negative moments in life where we as believers actually grow our faith… though those can be very difficult moments, it is there where we actually grow our faith & walk in the light.
Now in summation to what the foregoing paragraph stated, believers must learn to “affirm divine truths” so that they may grow in their faith; without affirming divine truth, people will have a tendency to distort their faith. Remember, spiritual reality doesn’t automatically continue to rule in our hearts and minds; so ignoring divine truth can be extremely problematic — though believers are God’s children, many of them oftentimes start living a more fleshly life; hence they begin to live and walk in the dark, not the light); keep in mind, one can’t ignore divine truth and grow in their faith; the truth is, they must embrace it and walk in it. So what are we talking about? Well, first and foremost, we must believe that God loves us unconditionally, in spite of the wrongs we may have done. Remember, God is not in heaven saying things like this, “I love you when you obey Me” but “I do not love you when you sin” (cf. Rom 5:8; 1 Jn 4:16). If God’s love for you isn’t the foundation of your faith, your life is being ruled by humanistic thinking, not divine truth (cf. Ps 100:5; 106:1; 118:1-4; 136:1-26; John 3:16; Heb 12:6; Prov 3:12 & 13:24). Though human beings love those who love them, very few love those who do not love them; hence, it is easy for man to question God’s love for him, such is simply the result of fleshly think-ing…and if there is anything we must disagree with it is fleshly thinking! By the way, read the entire 136th Psalm — 26 times it tells us that God’s love is everlasting!!! (i.e., it never ends!). The reality is, many Christians have a difficult time knowing that God loves them, because they know they are not worthy of God’s love… so remember, our God is a God of grace, and this thing called “GRACE” literally means “undeserved favor!” As Scripture clearly states, we do not deserve God’s favor! Said the apostle Paul, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (cf. Rom 3:23-24). By the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek — thus you must give great emphasis to them! The reality is this, without grace there is no salvation! Take the time to read the following verses (cf. Eph 2:5, 8-10; Rom 4:16; 5:1-2; 5:20-21; 11:6; 1 Cor 15:10; Jam 4:6). Now though human thinking oftentimes governs man-kinds thinking, it does not govern God’s thinking!
GOD HAS ORDAINED TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS
To expand upon what was just stated in the previous chapter, lets look at what Dr. James Mongomery Boice, one of America’s greatest theologians and professors, who was the president of “Evangelical Ministries,” and the author of the theological book, “Foundations of the Christian Faith,” had to say in that book: “Scripture clearly teaches that as believers we are not our own… we are God’s!” (cf. 1 Cor 6:19; 3:16; 2 Cor 6:16; Rom 14:7-8). Remem-ber God’s first words of the Ten Commandments that were shared with the Jewish world back during the days of Moses: “You shall have no other God before Me!” (Ex 20:3). Thus, as believers, “we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ” (Lk 9:23). Said Jesus, “He who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:38). Though Jesus offered salvation as a free gift (cf. Jn 1:12; 3:16-18; Eph 2:8-9)… He also warned that following Him would involve suffering & hardship (read Matt 5:10-12; Rom 8:17; 2 Th 1:5; Jam 1:2-4). Remember, we must say “no” to every- thing that is not the will of God for us… obviously “there are two wills battling within us,” one old & one new, one carnal & one spiritual — “such are in constant opposition to each other, so we can’t simply do as we please in life” (Gal 5:27); remember, the Christian life is not about us, it is about God and His will for our lives; the reality is, we are to take up our cross and follow Christ…keep in mind, we cannot give ourselves fully to this earthly life, and yet be committed to Christ and the life to come. As Boice stated, “To follow Christ means to follow His example of self-sacrifice” (cf. Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23; Jn 13:15; Phil 2:5-8); keep in mind, the cross is God’s will in life.
When we take up the cross we deny ourselves our own fleshly desires, and embrace godly desires and follow Christ… keep in mind, following Christ means keeping our eyes on Him, rather than on our own innate desires (Heb 12:1-2). Remember the words of Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who lives, but Christ in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20) — beloved, when we live by faith, we live by continual depen-dence on Christ… by yielding to Him and His will… and allowing Him to live His life in us. If one is not conscious of God’s presence in his life, he will be walking in the flesh and not the Spirit. Beloved, we must follow Jesus and constantly keep our eyes on Him; remember, He is the supreme example of self-denial. The night before Jesus went to the cross He said to His Father, “If Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done” ( Lk 22:42; Mt 26:39). When we give up trying to run our own life, or when we give up what seems so precious and indispens-able to us, it is only then that we experience the joy of being a Christian (i.e., a Christ follower) and enter into a life that is pleasing to God. This is the primary difference between a joyless and a joyful Christian, as well as a defeated and a victorious one. Beloved, joyful Christians find satis-faction in whatever God gives them and are truly satisfied — they say “no” to anything that keeps them from God’s own blessing, and embrace a life that fully honors God. It should be very obvious to every believer, one must have a significant degree of “God consciousness” — now for one to simply be God-conscious on Sunday while attending church does not at all correspond with living a life that continually involves God consciousness.
Regarding God’s will. the most common question believers ask are these: What is God’s plan for my life? How can I know it? And how can I be sure that I know it? Remember, the Bible teaches that “God warns us to know His will and embrace it greatly.” Said the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2 — “I appeal to you brethren by the mercy of God that you present your body a living sacrifice, Holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (cf. Rom 12:1-2). Obviously, the foregoing requires some serious reflection; don’t just read it without reflecting upon its significance. Incidentally, the Psalms are also filled with this theme: said David, “Make me to know Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths; lead me in Thy truth and teach me” (Psalm 25:4-5). Then he declared, “Good & upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way, and leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the Humble His way” (Ps 25:8-9). Said David, “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel” (Ps 16:7). The psalmist Asaph said, “I’m continually with Thee; Thou dost hold my right hand, and thou dost guide me with Thy counsel” (Ps 73:23-24). The reality is, God has a plan for us, and promises to lead us in it, reveal-ing the steps that are necessary for us to know as we go forward in life. Though God does not reveal His secret of hidden purposes (Deut 29:29), He does reveal the life of character which pleases Him.
As James Montgomery Boice stated, “How do we know what pleases God in the specific circumstances of our lives?” How do we know what kind of job we should have? Whom we should marry? What church we should attend? What we should do with our free time? And what kind of Christian activities we should participate in? Obviously, there are numerous questions we can ask; while some of them may concern God’s hidden purposes, not all of them do. Whatever the situation may be, we need to pray about what we’re being confronted with, and seek God’s purpose (whatever it may be), and strive to serve the Lord and not men. As the apostle Paul said, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, what-ever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, let your mind dwell on these things, and the things you have learned and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil 4:8-9). The reality is, when you pursue the highest things in life, both
spiritual & secular, the God of peace will be with you. Above everything, we must simply be willing to do the will of God. As the Lord told David, “I will instruct you & teach in the way you should go; and I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Ps 32:8). Beloved, keep in mind, prayer is more than mere conversation, prayer is the converse of the soul with God. In it we express our reverence & our trust for God and His will.
Now due to the fact that we often experience trials and tribulations in life, we’ve still got some pretty heavy issues to cover. As the Holman Bible Dictionary says, “The Bible declares that God often frustrates the plans of those who trust in their own agenda and will” (cf. Job 5:12; Ps 33:10; Is 44:25) — pretty much anytime something runs contrary to our own desire in life, we often become frustrated and disappointed, because we are not fans of negatives… as such, we can actually become angry & discouraged with what we are experiencing. Thus the question we often ask is this: “Why can’t we experience far more positives in life than negatives, be-cause negatives only seem to remove our joy and cause us to grumble?” Incidentally, the term frustration is primarily used in Scripture to describe God’s response to the negative plans of people. It should also be under-stood that those who strive to follow God in life often experience frustra-tion and dissatisfaction that results from unmet expectations. The OT psalmist David cried out in frustration over God’s apparent inactivity on his behalf (cf. Ps 22:1-2; 38:1-22; 39:1-13). Likewise, the apostle Paul expressed frustration over the lack of faith among Galatian believers (cf. Gal 3:1-5); yet he ultimately stated that everything eventually works together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:2). So God’s promises of comfort extends to those who are experiencing frustration (cf. Is 40:1; 1 Cor 1:3-7); therefore it is important to remember that spiritual maturity enables believers to overcome frustration; such arises from trust in God in the midst of trials (cf. Ps 22:5; Prov 3;:5-6; Phil 1:6; Jam 1:21-4). By the way, this thing called anxiety is a state of mind wherein one is con-cerned about something; thus he may experience strong feelings of dis-pleasure, genuine concern for something (cf. Phil 2:20, 28; 2 Corinth 11:28), or obsessions that originate from a distorted perspective of life (cf. Matt 6:25-34; Mark 4:19; Luke 12:22-31). Jesus taught that we should keep things in their proper perspective, and make God’s kingdom our first priority; in so do- ing, everything else will fall in line after we do that (Matt 6:33). Regarding this thing called “anxiety,” Dr. Dale Simpson, a Christian professor at Georgia State University, said: “Modern psychology provides evidence that worry and anxiety have disastrous effects ranging from ulcers to significant feelings of unhappiness. Remember, since we are fallen crea-tures, we don’t have the ability to completely overrule our diabolical flesh and walk on water — that is simply what it means to be creatures with a fleshly, sinful inner-core… though our flesh doesn’t always rule in our lives, there are times when it does rule (cf. Jam 3:2; Ecc 7:20; Prov 24:16; Ps 38: 1-22; 40:121; 73:26).
Now since our flesh has a very significant presence in our lives, we should all glory in God’s love for us; remember, God’s love for us far transcends our waywardness. Though all of us as believers would love to live com-pletely to the praise of God’s glory, we don’t have the capacity to do so because of our innate sinfulness; in spite of the fact that we are God’s children and have been forgiven, our old sin nature still exists in our inner-core… though most believers hate the fact that “sin” reins in their inner-core, that doesn’t mean they will completely rule over it in this life. The good news is, God is going to completely remove it from our lives when we enter into the heavenly realm at the end of the age, and from that point on no child of God will ever sin again. It should be clear, no person will proudly stand in God’s presence when he enters into heaven, because no man throughout the history of the world has lived an absolutely glorious life. Now is God extremely disappointed in us? Not according to Scrip-ture — as the author of Hebrews states, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (cf. Heb 4:15-16; also read Heb 2:17-18; 2 Cor 5:21).
With the foregoing passage in mind, it’s important for believers to focus on God’s unconditional love for them… yes, we do sin a lot, but that is simply the byproduct of the innate sinfulness that every one of us was born with! We will cover that issue in detail at the end of this section. Beloved, God alone is our glorious entity… though He will make us glorious creatures when we enter the heavenly realm, that will totally be the work of God’s hands, not ours. Regarding this thing called “anxiety,” the apostle Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every-thing by prayer & supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus” (cf. Phil 4:6-7). Now since God oftentimes does not instantly respond to our prayers, often He does respond, but He frequently waits because He wants us to give serious con-sideration as to what we are experiencing. In Second Timothy we are told that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim 1:7), and it’s precisely that that He wants us to exercise. Reducing worry is a process rooted in a relationship with the Spirit and not simply a matter of human willpower… obviously, when negatives, frustration, discouragement, discontent, and anger reign in our soul (i.e., our flesh), we need to commune with the Spirit, and poor out our heart to Him, and seek His will for our lives.
The foregoing issues can be very perplexing to us as well, because most believers think the Christian life should simply consist in a bunch of posi-tives, with very few negatives, but it is the negatives that God uses to build our faith. Keep in mind, the word “faith” means to believe & trust in God; i.e., living by divine truth and resting on God’s promises (cf. Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11 5:6; Phil 4:8-9; 1 Tim 5:8; Heb 10:38; Heb 11:1; Jam 2:14-26). Remember, God often subjects us to discipline, that we might grow our faith and share in His holiness; remember, “Whom the Lord loves He disciplines (cf. Heb 12:4-10; Prov 3:11-12; 6:23; 12:1; 13:1, 24; Job 5:17); “though discipline doesn’t seem to be joyful, but sorrowful, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteous-ness” (cf. Heb 12:11). Stated the apostle Peter, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Pet 5:10) — keep in mind, the emboldened words in those two verses are emphatic in Greek! Now though all of us in life strive to make things work (whatever those things may be), oftentimes they don’t work, and if you are a worker-bee, that often causes one to become frustrated and angry… after all, we are doing our best to get there, but we are not able to do so; keep in mind, God is always at work in our lives, and essentially is the cause of all we experience in life. When all is said and done, all we must do is submit to God’s will (i.e., accept what God has subjected us to & walk in the light & embrace His will in the moment & ask Him for the grace to accept what He is subjecting us to. What is often diffi-cult for believers is what God permits or causes them to experience in life… because painful negatives are very difficult for any of us to accept; as such, it is common for us as believers to question God: “Why are you subjecting me to this? Why do you hurt me? Why can’t you help me? Why can’t you subject me to positives rather than negatives?” Beloved, since God doesn’t verbally answer such questions, we must study Scrip-ture to find answers to such things; though everything we experience in life doesn’t correspond with human thinking, “we must learn to accept God’s will for our lives” (whatever it may be). Said the Lord to the pro-phet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways… as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts… by the way, My word which goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire” (cf. Is 55:8-11). Obviously, the triune nature of God transcends human thinking, because we are finite creatures, whereas God is an infinite creature; if the difference between us and God isn’t radically different, then we are drastically minimizing Him and almost making Him nothing but a smart human being, just like Mormonism does… so we must be careful, and let God be the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent person that He really is. Let me expand upon a few more thoughts on this subject — none of us as human beings live a glorious life… though we all want to as believers, our flesh is simply too problematic. Though Jesus lived a glorious life when He was here on earth, we don’t have that ability! That is simply how dominant & power-ful our flesh is! To say our flesh is not a problem to us is complete non-sense; as the apostle Paul said: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (cf. Rom 7:18). So the road that we as believers must travel is this — we must constantly walk with Christ in the world and constantly affirm divine truth… though those two issues do not fully define any be-liever who ever lived, that is the road we as believers must do all we can to walk on, in spite of the fact that our flesh has a very strong presence in our lives. We’ll be covering the foregoing in far more detail in the next few sections, so prayerfully contemplate what is being stated.
OUR RESPONSE TO TRIALS & TRIBULATION
One of the most poignant issues of our fleshly nature is this thing called “frustration.” Since life is not always encouraging and pleasant (even when we seek to do our best in life), our lives can actually become very unpleasant and frustrating… the reality is, when we put forth our best efforts and our goals are not accomplished, that can be very discouraging. Remember, God doesn’t always allow us to accomplish all of our goals in life; sometimes He causes them to fail. The reality is this: God is the GOD of our lives; i.e., He is the one who controls all that we ultimately experience in life, contrary to what some believers think. As the psalmist David said, “Thou didst form my inward parts… I give thanks to you God, for I am fearfully & wonderfully made… Though hast seen my unformed substance, and in Thy book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (cf. Ps 139:13-16; Ps 56:8; Ps 100:3; Ecc 11:5; Is 44:224). Now for believers to think that God did not make them and have significant input into all they experienced in life is foolish; how can believers ignore the One who created them, as if He had little or no input into their lives? Remember, everything that exists was made by GOD and approved by God; the reality is, He created all things and has ruled over all things! To assume that God made everything & then simply let the creatures dictate reality from that point on, is completely contrary to what Scripture teaches; yet that seems to be what the majority of people believe. Beloved, there is no such thing as mere happenstance in the universe; God is the GOD of all creation, not simply a little part of creation! Think about it, why would God make something and then have no input into it to accomplish His own desires and His own goals? The rationality of such thinking is complete nonsense, yet that is precisely what many people believe in this world. Now though people often act according to their own will (which is the norm for human beings), only what is approved of by God actually happens; though we as human beings are given a lot of freedom in life (i.e., God gives us the freedom to make a lot of our own choices), God determines many of our choices & dictates the resultant affect of those choices. It is important to remember, God’s creatures are finite creatures (i.e., they are extremely limited creatures), whereas God is an infinite creature (i.e., an eternal, omniscient, omnipo-tent, omnipresent creature, who knows everything, be it past, present or future); the reality is, there is no limitation to God whatsoever. With that in mind, finite creatures can only do what God permits them to do! Again, for people to say that God is not in control of His universe is simply com-plete nonsense. The reality is, God often subjects believers to a lot of trials and tribulations in life (cf. Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22; Heb 12:4-11)… though He can deal hard with us when we sin, God’s Word teaches that He frustrates the plans of those who trust in their own devices or who operate according to their own agendas (cf. Job 5:12; Ps 33:10; Is 44:25). So the reality is, we as believers often experience frustration, because of the dissatisfaction that arises over unmet expectations. The psalmist David cried out in frustra-tion over God’s apparent inactiveness on his behalf (cf. Ps 22:1-2; 38:1-21; 39: 1-13); incidentally, that is not at all uncommon for believers.
Now with all of the foregoing in mind, remember, everything that exists serves God’s higher purposes. Never forget, contrary to what the vast majority of people think, our eternal, omniscient, omnipotent God rules over all things. The problem with people in this world, is that they do not see God as being GOD! They simply see Him as a humanistic creature, which essentially is the way Mormonism and the Islamic world sees Him. For some reason humanity makes God out to be far less than He is. Though God’s eternal nature may be a difficult construct for some people to accept, because it may be a somewhat troubling issue to them, that is really a won-derful issue, because God does what is best for His children, not what is worst for them (the reality is, God doesn’t operate like satanic creatures do). Now with the foregoing in mind, it is important to remember that “God does not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we are able to endure (even though it can be frustrating to us), but with the temptation He provides a way of escape for us, that we may be able to endure it” (cf. 1 Cor 10:13). Though some of you may argue to the contrary because sin has such a dominant presence in your life, that doesn’t mean you are not able to endure temptation. The reason we as believers cave into sin is that our flesh still has a very strong presence in our lives, just as it did prior to our becoming one of God’s children. Remember, one of the premiere aspects of us as believers, is that “we are to war against our flesh” — it is not as if the issue of temptation is not a significant issue to us as believers, it is a very significant issue for us, because our flesh has a very significant pre-sence in our lives; thus there is “the need for us to war against our flesh.” Keep in mind, if you give careful attention to your flesh’s response to temptation, you will find yourself falling into temptation. Just because we are believers doesn’t mean we can reflect upon the fullness of our innate sinful-desires (i.e., our flesh) and not cave into it… keep in mind, if you give great consideration to your flesh’s desires you are going to stumble and fall, because its demands far exceed our ability to treat it lightly — as human beings we can’t play games with our flesh, because it will rule in the moment!
Now as a worker-bee (i.e., as someone who works very diligently & hard), I often put forth a great deal of effort to accomplish things in life, yet God oftentimes does not let me accomplish them; as such, I often get discour-aged, frustrated and angry; after all, when we put forth great efforts in life, we do so with the understanding that we will accomplish our goals (what-ever they are); that is simply what it means to be a worker-bee — we put forth great efforts to accomplish things… nevertheless, we often fail to accomplish what we set out to accomplish, which can be very frustrating. By the way, as stated earlier, I did not make myself the person I am — God is the one who made me! And at times He keeps me from fulfilling the goals that have a significant presence in my life. Regardless of the fact that many of us work hard to accomplish our goals (be it attending to daily issues, helping others, fixing something, tending to problems, cleaning something, studying something, meeting family needs, shopping, writing, etc; obviously, there are hundreds of issues that we are all involved-in in life, and when they don’t work-out the way we want them to, frustration and anger then begins to rule in our lives — though I don’t like being frus-trated and angry, I can’t fully control it because I am a fleshly creature like everyone else); the truth is, none of us like it when our efforts are destroyed. Keep in mind, when our flesh rules in the moment, frustration and anger are only inches away; remember, our flesh plays a dominant roll in our lives, so the reality is, either we war against our flesh or it will express itself and rule in the moment; that is simply the way our flesh operates in us (cf. Jam 3:2; Ecc 7:20; Prov 24:16; Ps 73:26). Remember Jesus’ words of the Lord’s prayer that He shared with His people in the Sermon on the Mount: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive others” (cf. Mt 6:9-13). Beloved, that is a wonderful prayer, thus we need to embrace it as believers, so take the time to reflect upon the dynamic reality of that prayer. The reality is, though God can deal hard with us when we do sin, that is often not the case; said the author of Hebrew, “We do not have a high-priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (cf. Heb 4:15). Thus remember, God fully understands our fleshly nature and the significance of our weaknesses. Now for believers to somehow claim that their flesh is not a problem to them, and that it does not possess desirable issues, is complete nonsense; the truth is, our flesh possesses issues that we all find very difficult to reject; they are not just simplistic little issues that we have no desire to accept. Remember, sin began in the ancient past by Satan and his cohorts when they sought their own will in life — by the way, such will continue to exist in every persons life until the end of the age (cf. Jn 1:29; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 2:17-18; 4:15; Heb 7:26)… the reality is, we all possess numerous sinful desires that affect our lives.
Scripture also teaches that God often frustrates the plans of those who trust in their own devices and operate according to their own agendas (cf. Job 5:12; Ps 33:10; Is 44:25). With that in mind, Christians often experience frustration because of dissatisfaction that arises over unmet expectations. Remember the words of the psalmist David who cried out in frustration over God’s apparent inactiveness on his behalf (take the time to read the words of David; don’t simply ignore what he said – cf. Ps 22:1-2; 38:1-21; 39: 1-13). By the way, the foregoing is not at all an uncommon issue for be-lievers. Remember the words of Job who was the greatest of all the men of the east: “Job cursed the day of his birth, and said, Let the day perish on which I was born”… he also questioned as to “why he did not die at birth” (cf. Job 3:1, 3, 11). Job went on to say, “God has exhausted me, and shriveled me up, and shattered me… my spirit is broken… my days are extinguished, and my plans are torn apart” (cf. Job 16:7, 8, 12; 17:1, 11); be-loved, give careful consideration as to what Job said… obviously his life wasn’t a pleasant one, so don’t make it one. Then there are the words of Jeremiah, one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament; likewise he said: “Cursed be the day I was born… why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow” (Jer 20:14-18). Beloved, if there is one thing trials, tribulation & negatives do, is that they cause us as believers to focus on divine truth & our faith — keep in mind, if we do not experi-ence trials and negatives in life, then positives will reign in our lives and our flesh will not manifest itself nearly as much... as such,we will not be warring against our flesh and growing our faith. Remember, God is the one who has declared the need for us as believers to grow our faith & that happens when we war against our flesh. Keep in mind, without being subjected to difficulties and trials and negatives, we won’t grow our faith, because a life of positive circumstances & happiness simply causes us to enjoy what we are going through in life; thus it has absolutely no impact upon our faith; when our life is nothing but a joy-ride, our faith won’t be problematic to us; instead it will simply be a pleasant reality in our life. Though God does let us experience a degree of happiness in life, that does not define the fullness of our lives as believers.
Now regarding the next two chapters… of all the chapters in this book, these two chapters were by far the most significant for me… as such, I spent a couple of months wrestling through their contents; since they contain some very poignant issues, let me encourage you to give great consideration to what is written. You’ll notice I darkened the first word on each of these three studies on the Table of Contents that I listed at the beginning of this study… thus the title for these particular studies are as follows:
How We Live By Faith and Overcome Sin
How God has Worked in and through My Life
How Flesh and Sin Works in Our Lives
(by the way, this study is located on page 118)
HOW WE LIVE BY FAITH and OVERCOME SIN
Beloved. the next two Chapter are Extremely
Critical for Believers to Understand, so Give
Great Consideration to What is Stated!
Regarding the two previous chapters, I wrote them to give you the grace to understand how God works in our lives as believers, and why He subjects us to the things that He does. Let me be very upfront with you, after committing my life to Christ about 50 years ago, God blessed me with a very pleasant and encouraging life for almost 25 years… yet after that 25 year period came to a close, God started subjecting me to a number of very difficult circumstances, so over the last 22-23 years life has become very difficult for me, and due to the fact I didn’t fully understand why I was experiencing such things, at times I started feeling very discouraged, dis-appointed & frustrated with what I was going through in life, in spite of the fact that I communicated with God over and over again, and pleaded with Him to help me; though there were a few times when some of the negatives were removed from my life, that was not the norm for me… some things actually got worse. Hence, like many of God’s prophets in the OT, I told God several times that if He didn’t want to remove a lot of these painful negatives from my life, I no longer wanted to live the life He was subject-ting me to (by the way, that was a very common response by several Old Testament prophets); again, no matter how often I prayed and asked God for the grace to overcome the negatives in my life, that seldom occurred. Keep in mind, uncontrollable pain & the negative things we experience in life can be very difficult for us as human beings, because oftentimes “our feelings” simply dominate much of what we experience in life; beloved, it’s important to remember, nearly all of our feelings are “grounded in our flesh” (carefully reflect upon what I’m saying); the truth is, our flesh
is the premiere source of nearly all of our feelings (that simply defines reality). On the other hand, it is “our thinking” that often causes us to become distressed and frustrated; again, it is “our flesh” that determines most of what we think in life; that is simply how significant it is in our lives; keep in mind, our flesh influences our thinking more than anything else (take the time to read what Paul, James and Peter had to say; hope-fully that will help you identify with what was just stated; cf. Rom 7:18-20; Gal 5:16-17; Jam 1:12-18; 1 Pet 4:1-3). Again, all of the physical and mental things I was experiencing were not at all pleasant; as such my life the became very discouraging and disappointing to me. Now since a lot of what I was experiencing was causing me to become very frustrated because God wasn’t removing those things from my life, the negatives started dominating what was going on in my life; and it was then that I began to look at God & question what He was doing in my life, and why He was subjecting me to so many frustrating issues. Remember, I’m not a great saint – no body is! Remember the words of the Lord to mankind, “There is none righteous, not even one, there is none who understands… there is none who seeks for God… there is none who does good… there is not even one! Thus by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in God’s sight” (cf. Rom 3:10-20; Ps 14:1-3; 53:1-3).
The problem with many people in the Christian world is that the majority of them actually think they are good righteous people; thus most of the liberal churches in the Christian world change what Scripture actually teaches. The reality is, all of us as human beings are fallen creatures with an inner-core that is completely corrupt; as Paul stated, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom 7:18). The problem with all of us as human being is that “we have no idea how profound our fallenness really is.” Remember, every human being was born a “children of the devil,” in which absolutely nothing good existed… thus there is not a man in existence whose flesh possesses any goodness in him. The reality is, every human being is a “self-oriented creature,” not a “God-oriented creature;” thus our flesh is extremely poignant; i.e., it is not simply a
sloppy little item with a degree of goodness in it; the inner-core of the children of the devil is nothing but demonic nonsense! The problem with the vast majority of believers is that they have a very juvenile under-standding of their own sinful inner-core… as well as a juvenile under-standing of God’s goodness; to minimize our fallenness and exaggerate our goodness, does not at all correspond with what God’s Word clearly teaches; thus we must listen to what His Word says and believe it. The truth is, the reason why God subjects us to some of the things that He does in life, “almost always transcends human understanding.” Remember the words of the Lord to the prophet Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways… and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9). By the way, there is no point in moaning and groaning over our flesh & our sinfulness, because that is simply who we are as fallen creatures (once again read what Paul had to say in Rom 7:18ff). Beloved, if there is one thing that our innate sinfulness must cause us to do, is that we become very humble creatures! Remem-ber, God gives grace to those who are humble, but not to those who are proud (i.e., self-oriented – cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 3:8; 5:5-7); the reason humility is a difficult issue for believers, is that their flesh often overrides much of what God’s Word teaches; hence, they see themselves as far better than they are! Keep in mind, when you humble yourself before God, He will pour grace into your heart & mind, that you might walk in the light to the praise of His glory. Remember the words of the author of Hebrews: “We do not have a high priest who cannot smpathize with our weaknesses!” (cf. Heb 4:15; 2:17-18; 2 Cor 5:21); so for us to go bonkers over our sinful inner-core is completely foolish (remember. that is how we were born!)… so rather than make us mad, it should simply humble us, because that essentially is who all of us really are… fallen sinful creatures, saved yes, but fallen nonetheless!
Remember, that is precisely why God sent His Son into the world — to redeem us of our sins. Keep in mind, redemption denotes the means by
which salvation was achieved for us… it was achieved through the payment Christ made for all of us on the cross; now though we were redeemed because of the death of Christ on the cross, that doesn’t mean sin is no longer present in our lives… the wonderful truth is, God is ultimately going to remove our sinful flesh from us at the end of the age when we enter into the eternal realm. One of the premiere problems with the Christian world is that many believers claim to be good people who hardly ever sin, which does not at all define reality (cf. Rom 3:10ff; Ps14:1-3; 53:1-3). To pretend to be what we are not is simply diabolical foolishness. Remember, sin literally means to rebel against God and His will and miss His purpose for our lives; so anything we do that is contrary to God’s will is sin, be it something one thinks or something one does. Beloved, I obvi- ously don’t like the fact that I’m a sinner, but that’s who I am; I’m just glad that God loves me and is doing a transforming work in my life — again, God doesn’t love me because I am a wonderful creature, He loves me because He has “chosen” to love me! Incidentally, just like you, “God chose me before the foundation of the world!!!” (cf. Eph 1:4); keep in mind, not a single one of us merited His choice! Again, God chose us before He ever created us & made us according to His will (read Ps 139:13- 16; 100:3) — God planned everything in eternity past, and it was all a part of His will! So don’t change the discourse. Again, God’s love for us is not something that we have earned, because we simply do not have the capacity to merit His love (cf. Jn 3:16; Rom 2:4; 5:8; 8:28-39; Eph 2:4-5;2 Th 2:16-17; 1 Jn 4:10). The wonderful news, as previously stated, is that God is going to move us into His heavenly realm at the end of the age and completely remove our sinfulness from our lives! Obviously, an incredible reality awaits us! Praise God that He is ultimately going to make us completely sinless, joyful creatures! Remember, that is not at all who we are now! The wonderful truth at this point is, “God is right now transforming us completely into His image!” Though He has not yet completed it, He is going to complete it at the end of the age when we enter into His heavenly realm… incidentally, when we enter into God’s heavenly realm He is going to have us rule with His Son in the heavenly realm forever & ever & ever!
(cf. Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 12:6; 15:10; Eph 1:5; Phil 1:6; 2:13; Rev 21:1-8); which actually seems completely nonsensical because we are sinful creatures! not glorious ones! Why God would have us be equal rulers with His Son forever in the eternal realm, and rule over all of the heavenly angels who have never sinned, is absolutely stunning! By the way, it is im- portant to remember that God made human beings in His image, but never made any other creature in His image! Though that may sound a little strange to some of you, remember what God said to ‘Isaiah,” the greatest prophet whoever lived: “My ways and My thoughts are not your ways and your thoughts; as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways & My thoughts higher than yours!” (cf. Is 55:8-9). Obviously, that was stunning information that God declared to Isaiah & His people; so by all means don’t change it and make it something it is not!
Beloved, I am not playing games with you and trying to deceive you… I am simply sharing divine truth with you. Again, it is not important that you understand everything that God subjected me to, or what He has subjected you to, therefore I won’t expand upon that issue; furthermore, I am not at all asking you to pity me! That’s the last thing I would ask of anyone, because that kind of response is completely insignificant to me. The reality is, when I become emotionally frustrated because things don’t go the way I want them to go, my heart and soul can both become dis-appointed; as such, reality for me can become too painful and too much for me to endure & embrace. Keep in mind, this thing called “happiness” is not an issue in Scripture; did you hear that? Happiness does not appear one time in Scripture; hence, it is not one of the primary issues of the Christian life; the primary issues in Scripture are not enjoying life, but walking in the Spirit, warring against the flesh and embracing divine truth as God’s Word so states it (read Rom 8:4; 8:13; Gal 5:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2; Acts 17:11; Rom 6:16; 2 Tim 2:15). Now the reality is this, none of us as believers always get angry when God subjects us to some negatives; usually we simply tolerate them and ask Him to remove them from our lives; yet sometimes we lose control and do not tolerate them… thus reality can
oftentimes transcend our human desires; that is, what we experience can oftentimes rule in our hearts & minds. Remember, since God is not
a physical creature like we are, He doesn’t have a physical presence in our lives; thus we must believe & embrace what His Self-revelation says (i.e., what His Word says), in spite of the fact that we can neither see or hear Him. Thus faith is to rule in our hearts & minds; so we must study His Word and believe what it says (cf. Jer 15:16; Acts 17:11; 2 Tim 2:15; I Pet 2:2). Though the vast majority of us as human beings end up falling in love and marrying a physical person, and livinga life with that person… yet physicality does not define the GOD of creation, because He is an invisible sprit, not a physical person (cf. Jn 4:24; Gen 1:2; Is 40:13; 61:1); con-versely, God is omniscient (i.e., all knowing), and omnipresent (every-where present); so God is not at all like us as human beings. Thus in comparison with God, human beings are extremely limited creatures! Now the problem with us as fallen creatures is that we all tend to give definition to the majority of what we experience in life… so instead of looking at God and listening to Him, and sharing our hearts and minds with Him, we must embrace Him as the eternal reality through Hume we exist, and through Hume we were redeemed by Christ on the cross, and through Hume we must grow in our relationship with Him by hum- bling ourselves before Him, and studying His Word, and repenting of our sinfulness, and embracing divine truth, and growing in His grace.
Now with the foregoing in mind, it’s important to remember, that since we are physical creatures, our physical nature essentially influences nearly everything that we experience in life; it was not until we became believers that God placed His Spirit in our lives & asked us to believe divine truth (i.e., believe what His Word says). Remember, God’s Word is His self-revelation to us as His creatures. Now because God made it very clear to Isaiah in the Jewish world that His ways and His thoughts were not at all our ways or our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9), we must not assume that our humanistic thinking is a co-equivalent of God’s thinking…keep in mind, the incredible eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent God of
all creation lives a life that is exceedingly more complex then the lives of human beings; yet most believers have a tendency to impose finite human logic on our infinite God, thus making Him out to be what He is not (which is nothing but humanistic nonsense). Now since GOD is the one who defines reality, we must learn to “embrace divine truth,” regardless of the fact that it does not fully coincide with our human thinking (remember, it’s human thinking that gets us in trouble). Again, God’s goal for us as His children is that we let divine thinking rule in our hearts and minds; obviously if we aren’t convinced that God is doing a transforming work in our lives, the negatives we experience in life will not at all be an encouragement to us, which is precisely the road I had to learn to travel. When the things that God subjects us to do not mesh with human thinking, then anger, discouragement and frustration will often reign in our lives. Beloved, hopefully what was just stated makes sense to you; I can only encourage you to read it several times if it doesn’t.
Again, what is important for every believer to understand is that they are now in a constant state of decline; i.e., as believers we are now radically changing how we live our lives; if that doesn’t define a believer, then that person is really not a believer, because all believers are fighting against their flesh and moving in a godly direction to some degree; though some believers are more godly than others, “every single believer embraces godliness to a degree!” (cf. Rom 6:1-2; 8:12-17; 12:1-3; Gal 2:20; 5:16-24; Eph 2:8-10; Phil 1:6; 2:12-13; 4:6; Col 3:15-17). The reality is, believers are constantly fight-ing against their sinful inner-core and doing all they can to destroy it; though no believer has the capacity to fully destroy it and fully reject it, they do have the ability to make radical changes in how they live their lives (cf. Rom 8:6, 13; Gal 5:16-25; Col 3:6-11; Heb 12:1-11). The truth is, all of us as believers are constantly fighting against our fleshly inner-core because it is constantly expressing its diabolical will to us, which can obviously be very frustrating at times; as such genuine believers keep attacking their flesh to do all they can to destroy it and deny its desires… the reason being is that the Holy Spirit is present in our lives “transforming us”
into the image of Christ and “moving us in a godly direction!” (cf. Jn 14:26; 16:13; Rom 8:6-30; 15:13; Gal 5:16-24). The reality is, if the Holy Sprit is not present in our lives, then He is not actively involved in transforming our lives into the image of Christ; as such, we would not be believers, because God is working in every believer’s life through His Spirit.
Now with regard to the negatives we experience in life, they don’t all make us angry & frustrate us; oftentimes they simply discourage us and hurt us, yet there are some things that really do frustrate us and make us angry (which is simply what it means to be a fallen creature — so don’t change the discourse). Regarding the negatives I was subjected to over the last 22 years, they are as follows: my wife and I lost two houses, two ministries in which we were abused, two businesses, two automobiles, and a tremendous amount of money three times during the last 21 years. As most of you probably remember, our Scottsdale house was destroyed with lightning almost three years ago, and due to the fact that both the Insurance Company and the Contracting Company abused each other as well as me and my wife, we ended up taking everything to an attorney that a couple of believers had recommended to us. Lord willing he will end up being a positive individual for us, rather than a negative one; though there is no guarantee that will happen. Now in addition to the foregoing, I also had to endure several painful surgeries on my body, as well as a number of cancer surgeries. In addition to that, I lost a dozen teeth and am still having a problem with them, because some of them were not properly dealt with. In addition to the foregoing, I lost my left eye a little over ten months ago and just recently underwent another surgery on it; obviously losing eyesight is not a joy-ride (hopefully my surgeon will be able to restore some sight for me, though that remains to be seen). In addition to the foregoing, I also have hearing problems, leg problems, and a couple of other body problems. Remember, like most of you, when I became a Christian about 50 years ago & committed my life to Christ, I naturally assumed that I would not only experience God’s forgiveness, but a very pleasant God-centered life… not an unpleasant life; the truth is, no one
ever told me back then that the Christian life was not a pleasant joy-ride, so living an unpleasant life was never an issue for me years ago (which essentially is the same for most of you). Again, I had no idea that much of what I was ultimately going to experience in life was a lot of difficulties and numerous negatives; though initially that did not occur, over the last 21 years that has become a very significant part of my life. Though most of what I experienced didn’t frustrate me and make me angry, some of it did; in particular numerous painful physical problems that I have had to deal with; sometimes the pain and the negatives I was experiencing were simply too much for me. Remember, I’m a fleshly creature like everyone else; as such it often caused great consternation in my soul… just like it does in the lives of other believers; remember, all of us as human beings are made of the same stuff.
Furthermore, it has always been somewhat surprising to me that God never immediately removed the pain from my life when I pleaded with Him; incidentally, that’s how God normally responds to His people; seldom does he respond instantly to them when they call out to Him — obviously God has a reason for doing things the way that He does them… by the way, you’ll notice God almost always responds to us, but He almost always waits for a while before doing so. It’s also important to remember, when we grow older in life, God starts subjecting us to far more difficult issues; keep in mind, God’s transforming work is extremely significant in the last years of our lives; the reality is, most older people experience the deaths of many friends & many of them experience the death of their husband or wife. In addition to that they end up having a lot of cancer problems and physical problems with their bodies. That is simply how God has so designed life in the present age. Keep in mind, prior to the “Worldwide Flood” that took place with Noah about 5,000 years ago (i.e., in the year 3,000 BC), most human beings back then lived upwards of 600-800 years; Methuselah was the oldest man whoever lived, and he lived 969 years (Gen 5:27)… yet after God completed the Universal Flood, He changed man’s life-span to about 80 years (no longer to hundreds
of years)… thus it is God’s will that human beings no longer live long lives anymore; as such, human beings now only live about 60 years after becoming adults, and when adults get older, God then subjects most of them to some painful realities. Obviously our life-spans are now very limited in comparison to what they were 5,000 years ago. It might be helpful to remember, that due to all of the diabolical thinking & ungodly behavior that existed in the ancient world 5,000 years ago, God has vastly reduced the length of time that human beings live; which is probably why far more human beings today are more religious oriented and Christian oriented then they were in the ancient past during the era of the world-wide flood… now though Christ didn’t come into the world 5,000 years ago, yet He ruled in the world as He always has… and back during the Worldwide Flood nearly every human-being rejected God’s divine will and simply lived a self-centered life… only Noah and His family back then had placed their faith in God. Now with the foregoing in mind, God wants us to fully focus on HIM and not focus on OURSELVES — keep in mind, God rewards such humility of thought; remember, He gives grace to the humble. The problem with many believers is that they make the deduction that God is angry with them, because He is not removing the negatives from their lives; but that is not how God operates in the lives of His children. Remember, we are only a few years away from entering into God’s eternal presence; as such we need to stop focusing on ourselves and focus on Christ — incidentally, why would you insist on focusing on your self and let your flesh rule in your life? Keep in mind, God loves us with an “everlasting love!” (cf. Ps 136:1-26; 100:5; 106:1; 107:1); so if God’s love for us is not extremely significant to us, we are vastly misinterpreting what His Word says — remember, none of us merit God’s love, or merit being one of His children… we simply are who we are now “because of God alone and His love for us!” (cf. Eph 1:4-8; 2:8-10; Ps 130:1-26).
Let me expand upon that — said the apostle Paul: “By grace you have been saved through faith (i.e., by believing God), and that not of your-selves, it is a gift of God, not a result of works that anyone should boast.
We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them… Though we were formerly far off, we were brought near by the blood of Christ!” (cf. Eph 2:8-13). Keep in mind, “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified… for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin… being justified is a gift of God’s grace!” (cf. Rom 3:20, 24, 28). Said Paul to the Galatians, “We are not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus… for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified!” (cf. Gal 2:16). Beloved, I quoted the foregoing verses, because many believers actually think that they have merited God’s forgiveness; yet nothing can be further from the truth; beloved, how can sinful fallen creatures merit God’s forgiveness? Scripture emphatically denounces our ability to merit His forgiveness; we became God’s children because He so willed it, and that choice was made in eternity past before the foundation of the world! (Eph 1:4). Though that is beyond human under-standing, that is reality. Beloved, I simply stated the foregoing because so many believers are not well-grounded in their faith; Lord willing the the verses listed above will be a great inspiration to you… so give great emphasis to all of the emboldened words in those verses.
“Now since we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (cf. Heb 4:15-16 & Heb 2:17-18). Keep in mind, Christ was tempted in every way like we are, yet He committed no sin; the reality is there is no sin in Him (cf. 1 Pet 2:22; 1 Jn 3:5), yet He fully understands how difficult it is for us as fallen crea-tures to deny our flesh and walk in the light. Remember the words of the Lord to the world, “There is none righteous, not even one… there is none of seeks for God… there is none who does good… there is no fear of God before their eyes… and by the work of the Law no one will be justified” (Rom 3:10-20). Obviously, God fully understands our sinful flesh and our weaknesses, and the road He wants us to travel on in life. The truth is, God knows everything about us as fallen creatures, and none of it is
disturbing to Him! Remember, He knows what a diabolical wreck all of us are & how difficult it is for us as fallen creatures to live a God-centered life — why is that? Because our fallen flesh has an extremely strong pre-sence in our lives (that simply defines reality). Again, remember the words of the Hebrew author: “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in all was as we are… Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Beloved, fix your eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. Thus give great consideration to Him so that you may not grow weary & lose heart” (cf. Heb 4:15-16; 12:2-3). The problem with the vast majority of human beings is that they do not see themselves as complete fallen creatures… keep in mind, that was the case with the ancient Jewish world, and is also the case today with about two-thirds of the Christian world today; though a third of the world today claims to be Christians, only about 35% of those individuals are genuine Christians; “so genuine Christians amount to about one billion people;” yet only about half of them at the most are well-grounded in their faith. To add a bit more to what was just stated, most of the Christian Churches in the world today do not fully embrace divine truth as God’s Word so defines it (remember, that was precisely what characterized the ancient Jewish world when Christ entered the world in the first century). The problem with all such people is that they gave a different definition to what God’s Word states… as such the vast majority of the Jewish world back then saw themselves as wonderful creatures who were meeting the demands of God; yet Jesus told them that no human being comes close to pleasing God! As the apostle Paul stated, “Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; there is none righteous, not even one! And none who does good, not even one!” (cf. Rom 3:9-12; Ps 14:1-3; 53:1-3). Again, fallen mans problem is that he simply does not understand “who he really is” – i.e., he doesn’t see himself as a fallen creature and a child of the devil. Keep in mind, God is not angry with us because we are fallen creatures — He died for us to ultimately change us into “His Image” — the reality is, He
will not be completing it until we enter into the heavenly realm with Him at the end of the age. What is important here is that we stop thinking that God is very disappointed with us because of our sinfulness & our fallen-ness. Beloved, we are fallen sinful creatures, because that is precisely the way God made us.
Beloved, if God hated you because of your fallenness, He never would have died for you! The amazing thing is, many genuine Christians (i.e., believers) oftentimes have a very difficult time believing that God really does love them; the reason being is that the difficulties & the negatives of the life they are experiencing, causes them to actually question God’s love for them; thus they insist on not being subjected to numerous negatives, because negatives often cause believers to question God’s love for them. Though the vast majority of people down thru the ages often redefined what Scripture states (that God might see them as wonderful creatures whom He admires), that doesn’t correspond with divine truth! Beloved, remember, it is when we place our trust in GOD that we please Him; it is not our human behavior that pleases Him. The problem with many people is that they change what Scripture says, because they believe it is absolutely essential that their lives are pleasing to God, but fallen man’s life does not please God. Now with all of the foregoing in mind, remember, “it is not our righteousness” that makes us wonderful crea-tures, “it is God’s righteousness” that has been allocated to us, thus our righteousness is not at all something we achieved; it is totally the work of Christ! Now though we all stumble and often fall in life, which is the norm for human beings (cf. Jam 3:2; Ps 33:1-22; 40:12; Ecc 7:20), It is God who is perfecting us through His own work (Phil 1:6). Remember, Christ died for us when we were sinful creatures & children of the devil & He is now transforming us into His image by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, as well as all that He is subjecting us to in life. Beloved, I’m em-emboldening numerous words and statements that you must give careful attention to (that’s why I am emboldening them). Now contrary to what many people in the believing world actually think, God loves us with an everlasting love & is constantly at work in us transforming us into His image! (cf. Ps 107:1; 136:1-26; Phil 1:6; Heb 4:15-16); in so doing, all of us as His creatures are “constantly being moved in a godly-direction,” wherein we honor Him with our lives — keep in mind, such is simply the resultant affect of God working in us… if God isn’t doing a transforming work in our lives, we wouldn’t be living for Him at all; remember, we are not the product of our own doing, we are the product of God’s doing.
The fact is, our entire lives as Christians is not at all the product of our own doing, but the resultant affect of “God’s work in our lives.” Keep in mind, “God is at work in us, both to will and do His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13; and Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 12:6; 15:10; Eph 1:5; Heb 13:20-21). With the forego-ing in mind, remember everything that God subjects us to in life, essen-tially is transforming us into His image… so God has been transforming us as His children our entire life… with that in mind, everything we are experiencing is moving us in a godly direction. So for us to change the discourse is absolute foolishness, because it minimizes the work of God and gives greater emphasis to our own work (which is absolutely foolish). Now because we as human beings are inclined to maximize our own work and minimize God’s work, we are completely changing God’s divine dis-course. If our salvation and our transformation into the image of Christ isn’t completely the work of Christ, then none of us will ever become co-heirs with Christ in the heavenly realm; remember the words of Paul to the Romans: “The Holy Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and heirs of God & fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (cf. Rom 8:16-17). Beloved, keep in mind, if we do not experience suf-fering in this life, we will not be glorified at the end of the age; suffering is simply something God uses to transform our life into the image of Christ; without suffering in life, our transformation would be very minimum! Such is just the way God has planned things for us as His children. Now though all of us as believers don’t experience all of the same things in life, we all experience some very “transformational things.”
HOW GOD WORKED IN & THROUGH MY LIFE
In the previous section I gave definition as to how God has worked in my life over the last 17-18 years — though He has subjected me to numerous negatives in life, He not only did so that He might transform me into His image, He did so that He might minister through me to others… though that is not the norm for most people, it is not uncommon for individuals who have been serving God & wrestling with various aspects of divine truth down through the ages. Beloved, I simply want you to understand how God has worked in my life. Remember, God is transforming every believer into “His Image”… in so doing, He implements His own will to accomplish His goal. Keep in mind, God’s will for my life is not identical to God’s will for your life — such has been the case for all of God’s people from the beginning — each of us have been given a life that corresponds with “God’s purpose for us,” which differs for all of us as human beings. Remember, all of us as human beings were raised by different parents, in different countries, in different times, and each of us were all subjected to different things in life; the truth is, God implemented a plan that He had for each of us. Remember the words of the psalmist David: “Thou didst form my inward parts, and weave me in my mother’s womb, and in Thy book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Ps 139:13-16); he also said, “Know that the Lord Himself is GOD; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (cf. Ps 100:3; also Is 45:5-7; 46:8-11). Now regardless of what you may think, God is the author of your life as well as the author of my life. Remember, God is the GOD of all creation, not just the God of a few things.
Now with all of the foregoing in mind, remember, nearly all I have done for the past 17-18 years is study what Scripture says and give definition to what it says, and explain why it says what it says, and then put everything in writing. By the way, when we as God’s people search for divine truth, oftentimes it takes awhile because it involves a lot of studying and com- munication with God; so to make light of divine truth and just simplify it is foolish; however to the regret of many believers, that is precisely what they do. Remember, when we humble ourselves before God, and strive to know what His Word says, God will give us the grace to understand divine truth; yet to simply talk a little bit, and spend a few minutes read-ing something, isn’t sufficient, because without humbly and prayerfully studying what God’s Word teaches, we will never fully understand much of it, because God is the one who conveys it to the hearts and minds of His people; it is not simply the by-product of human thinking. As the apostle Paul told his friend Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved, as a workman who need not be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (cf. 2 Tim 2:15); again, though humility is essential, one must study God’s Word. Remember as God’s children, we all need to give great emphasis to divine truth, and not minimize its importance. Regarding the book I wrote for my Doctorate Degree about 20 years ago, I titled it, “Christianity: The Pursuit of Divine Truth” (that particular book not only influenced my thinking on Divine Truth, but God’s work in our world since He created it. Now since then I have written 70 to 75 other books (some of which are fairly large & some of which are not), yet most of them have been placed on my website that my nephew Paul Ekstrand made for me; the “internet service” that he owns in Southern California is referred to as “Enthusiast Inc.” Incidentally, my world-wide website is now getting about 1700 hits a day; so if you would like to go online to read some of the things I have written, simply go on my website —
Though I never new that my website would actually be used by people outside of the United States, it became very apparent that God ultimately had a significant number of people in numerous countries read what He had me right. Remember what King David had to say — “I will cry out to God most high, who accomplishes all things for me” (Ps 57:2). The reality is, GOD is the one who accomplishes His will in and through the lives of His people… such is not just the work of human beings. Later on David said, “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me” (Ps 138:8; 1 Th 5:24; also read Is 46:9-11). The reality is, God is GOD! and everything that ultimately occurs in this world is “HIS WILL!” Though that is a difficult construct for many people to embrace, that defines GOD! So don’t make Him out to be what He is not — to make God out to be less than He is, means you are embracing untruth rather than truth; that is, you are believing what you want to believe, rather than what God says… by the way, God isn’t going to tolerate it, so you better rethink what you are doing. Said the apostle Paul, “I will not speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (Rom 15:18). Beloved, I quoted the foregoing verses to clarify the thinking of individuals who don’t see God for who He really is. Keep in mind, contrary to what some people may think, everything that has ever occurred in the world ultimately served God’s higher purposes; be it the work of Satan himself or anyone else; though no human being fully under-stands everything that has taken place in our world, we must remember that God is the GOD of this world, thus nothing ever happened in this world that ultimately did not coincide with His approval; again, be it a negative or a positive, God is the author of all that has transpired in our world. Keep in mind, I enlarge the name GOD to accentuate it, so that you won’t minimize it. Though all of us at times may question what God is doing in this world, it’s important for believers to know that God has a reason for everything that transpires in this world (not just His own personal actions). Perhaps one of the best issues that conveys this truth, is Satan’s involvement with “Job” in the ancient world; remember, Job suffered more than any human being in history because God let Satan nearly destroy him (keep in mind, Job was the most righteous person in the world in ancient history – cf. Job 1:8, 12); now because Job hated and grieved over everything that he was subjected to by Satan, “he cursed the day of his birth, and wished he had never been born!” (cf. Job 3:1-2). Keep in mind, there are a number of similar things in Scripture that co-incide with what Job had experienced & the resultant affect essentially was the same; they all simply wished they had never been born — read the following verses regarding the prophet Jeremiah (cf, Jer 1:5; 20:7, 14, 18). Obviously, none of us as human beings have the capacity to tolerate extremely painful negatives; that is simply what it means to be fallen creatures.
Now though God has subjected me to a number of negatives in life, He also continues to inspire me to expand upon numerous subjects that He places in my heart. The truth is, God is constantly present in my life, and is controlling everything that takes place in my life; as such, He is accomplishing everything that concerns me (as was the case with King David – read Ps 57:2; 138:8). Again, God has a very active presence in my life… thus the foregoing essentially is what I have been experiencing full-time now for the past 18 years. Though I don’t know what the next subject is that God will have me address, I simply pray and ask Him to guide my thinking, and in a short period of time He makes it evident to me… hence I never stop studying and writing. The truth is, I never anticipated that God-himself would ever use me to share divine truth with thousands of people all around the world; as previously stated, I never knew my website was going to be used by numerous people all around the world; by the way, the most common countries have been Africa, Asia, Europe, Mexico and several areas here in North & South America; interestingly enough, over 1,000 copies of one of my books was printed in Mexico a couple of years ago, and several pastors down there are now preaching on some of what I wrote. Beloved, I shared that with you that you might understand how God has used me to accomplish some of His work in this world… keep in mind, God works through thou-sands of people all over the world, provided they humble themselves be-fore Him and desire to serve Him and accomplish His will. The reality is, I am simply one of these individuals. Keep in mind, none of us initiate the work God does through us, anymore than we initiated our salvation. Keep in mind, everything that is divinely oriented is simply the work of God Himself; remember, if you have not humbled yourself before God, the work that you do is not the product of God; it is simply the product of your own doing.
Now though it is easy for many people to make claims that they are the one’s who initiated some spiritual issue, that is not the case, because all of God’s work is initiated by Him. The truth is, everything man does to glorify God ultimately is initiated by God; though some believers at this point don’t understand that, when they enter into the eternal realm, they will then see things for what they really were. Remember, there is not a believer in existence who fully understands all divine truth; though all of us can grow in our understanding of it, none of us will ever fully under-stand it, because our God is eternal, omniscient and omnipotent, and not at all a remedial person; thus His knowledge transcends the thinking of all creatures (cf. Is 55:8-9) — look at it this way, we as human beings have maximum IQ’s of about 150, yet God has an IQ that is trillions upon trillions of times greater then that of every creature in the entire universe; the reality is, God’s IQ is endless; i.e., there is no end to it whatsoever — if you have a difficult time believing that, look at it this way: since you all have knowledge of “numbers,” it ought to be obvious to every one of you that “there is no end to numbers” — remember, regardless of how many numbers you think there are, one can always multiply those numbers by trillions, regardless of how many numbers there are. Thus every creature in existence does not even come close to fully understanding the incredi-ble nature of God; since there is no end to God, none of us will ever fully understand Him and equate with Him; yet in the eternal realm we will live to the praise of His glory, and respect Him for who He truly is! Again, the reason no creature fully understands God is that we are all extremely limited creatures in comparison to God; thus to make God out to be less than He is, is absolute nonsense; therefore let us rejoice in His greatness! Keep in mind, when human beings give primary focus to themselves, they are drastically minimizing the God who made them. The problem with the majority of believers is that they don’t take the initiative to grow in their faith and their understanding of divine truth and what Scripture states. Beloved, God is the author of all divine truth and the determinant of all reality. So with the foregoing in mind, all I do is pray and ask God for the grace to understand what He is asking of me and sharing with me, as well as the grace to study and write what He wants me to. Again, GOD is the one who has placed me in this position, and has subjected me to numerous difficulties that I needed to study, explain, and address — again, in so doing, God has subjected me to numerous negatives and dif-ficulties in life; hence He has made me study the fullness of the subjects He has placed in my heart & soul. Beloved, these last three paragraphs were not the easiest one’s to write, yet I hope they were not that difficult to understand.
Now rather then expand upon a lot of what God subjected me to in life, which was numerous physical problems, let’s now focus on what God’s Word has to say, because that is by far the most important issue for us as believers; nothing comes close to what GOD has to say. William G. T. Shedd, who wrote a critical commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, stated the following in the “Believer’s Bible Commentary:” In Romans chapter seven, Paul describes the impossibility of believers being com-pletely delivered from the presence & power of indwelling sin through their own strength, that we as fallen creatures are slaves to sin, in spite of the fact that we are now God’s children… he goes on to say that there is a conflict between the two natures that dwell within us as believers; that we are not able to fully conquer sin and live a completely holy life. Thus the apostle Paul found himself indulging in things that he didn’t want to do and doing things that he absolutely hated! (read Rom 7:14-25). So Paul concluded that the culprit is not the new man in Christ, but the sinful corrupt nature that has always dwelled within him (which is his flesh). Beloved, though our flesh often rules in the moment, we still must not excuse sinful behavior… i.e., we must always humble ourselves and confess our sinfulness to God; again, the reason we sinned is that we capit-ulated and caved in to our flesh… the reason being, is that we are not the glorious creatures that God is going to fully make us when we enter into
His heavenly realm; so we must constantly own up to our sinfulness. With the foregoing in mind, it is important to remember that “sin” does not always rule in the moment, because we as believers often reject it and walk in the light. For arguments sake, let’s say that all of us essentially let our flesh rule in our lives a third of the time… though some believers let sin reign in their lives half of the time, some believers let sin reign only a fourth of the time. Now with that in mind, it ought to be obvious to every believer that sin often rules in their lives. Though it is true that every be-liever humbly fights the good fight to some degree, nevertheless, none of us should be satisfied with a remedial degree of righteous living. There-fore as believers we must do all we can to let God and His Spirit rule in our lives… again, to simply live a remedial life is not fully pleasing to God; should one simply please himself by living a remedial life, God’s judgment against him at the end of the age is not going to be a wonderful one for some believers; the truth is, some believers will walk in shame because they don’t give great emphasis to living a righteous life. Remem-ber the words of John (Christ’s best friend among the disciples): “Abide in Christ so that when He appears, you may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 Jn 2:28). Beloved, give careful attention to what was just stated; do all you can to walk in the light to the praise of God’s glory; don’t simply make it a remedial issue. Beloved, do all you can to live to the praise of God’s glory… though perfection is not at all possible, fighting the good fight is possible! Remember the words of the hymn, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” — “I am weak but Thou art strong; Jesus keep me from all wrong; I’ll be satisfied as long as I walk, let me walk close to Thee. Just a closer walk with Thee, grant it Jesus is my plea, daily walking close to Thee, let it be dear Lord, let it be.” You will notice, it did not say “a perfect walk,” it said “a closer walk!” Thus as believers, keep in mind, “the choice is ours!”
Now with the foregoing in mind, remember with a renewed mind belie-vers serve the Law of God, but with the Flesh they serve the Law of sin. Again remember, as believers our Faith isn’t that strong, so our Flesh oftentimes rules in the moment; which is often very frustrating for us as believers (cf. Rom 7:18; Gal 5:16-17; Jam 3:2). Remember, none of us as belie-vers “walk on water;” we simply don’t possess that kind of faith; again, no human being does (cf. Matt 8:26; 14:25-31; 16:8; 17:7; Lk 12:28). So keep in mind, God knows our entire condition as fallen creatures and all of our weaknesses (read Heb 4:15-16; Jam 3:2; Ps 38:1-22; 40:12; Ecc 7:20). Remember, God wants us as believers to “war against our flesh;” though Christ died for our sins, He wants us to do the same (i.e., die to our flesh!); now due to the fact that God has chosen to leave our flesh in our lives until we enter into the heavenly realm, every day we must war against it; though that is not a little joy-ride or a simple little issue, that’s the life God has called us to live… in so doing we must “fight the good fight of faith” (cf. 1 Tim 6:12). Why most believers make light of their sinful inner-core is foolishness, because it is present in every believer’s life! Again, there is no point in moaning over our sinful flesh, because God has chosen to make it a significant part of every believers life; Lord willing the foregoing makes since to you. The wonderful news is, God paid the price for our sins and simply asks us to wage war against our sins. Though we will all stumble over and over again in life (cf. Jam 3:2; Ps 38; Ecc 7:20), we will all gradually grow and increase in warring against our flesh (Heb 12:1, 2, 4).
Due to the fact that many believers struggle with what has just been stated, let me expand upon it a little more. Dr. Lawrence Richards, a seminary professor and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, stated the following in His book “Teachers Commentary” — the apostle Paul said, “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under Law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14). Early on in the book of Romans we are told that “the believer has two natures” — “a sin nature” & “a new nature.” The reality is, those who believe in Christ are made alive in Christ with a new capacity for goodness, which they did not possess before; as such, we as believers now have the desire and the capacity to respond to God; yet these two natures (the old & the new) are at ‘war’ within us (Gal 5:17). Keep in mind, the challenge of the Christian life is that we learn to live as the new people we now are, and increasingly reject the old person we once were. Remember, even with the foregoing in mind, no matter how hard the apostle Paul tried, sin kept on expressing itself in him; the reality is, you and I will have the same experience; though we both want to do good, and try to do good, oftentimes we end up doing the very thing we hate; again, it is the sinful force that exists within us that often causes us to stumble. As Dr. Richards said, “Our sin nature is so warped that we often stumble even when we desire to do good.” Again, it can happen so quickly that we often simply cannot stop it. Said the apostle Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who’ll set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God, there is now ‘no condemnation’ to those of us in Christ Jesus! For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death; for what the Law could not do, God did, sending His own Son into the world as an offering for sin” (read Rom 7:24 thru 8:3). Thanks be to God that our God is a gracious God with un-merited favor! (cf. Rom 4:15-16; 8:28-31; 12:1-2; Heb 4:15-16; 12:1-3; Jam 4:6-8).
Remember, the life that God has called believers to live is “two fold” — it involves walking in the Spirit and warring against our Flesh. Keep in mind, prior to our being sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit, we were all fallen sinful creatures, and children of the devil… yet when we became God’s children, He proposed that we walk in the Spirit and war against the Flesh. Since our flesh has an extremely strong presence in our lives (as it has always been), God asks us to war against it! Since this is not a remedial little issue, we aren’t going to completely dominate our flesh; hence, the need to fight and war against it! Though none of us as believers will live completely holy lives… none of us as believers will live completely sinful lives! Remember, man is called upon to “sanctify himself,” that is, separate himself from everything that defiles him (read Lev 11:44; Josh 7:13; Rom 4:7-8; 6:3-23; 1 Pet 1:16-17; 3:15). It is also important to remember that Christ prayed to His Father that He sanctify us in the truth (Jn 17:17, 19); keep in mind, it is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us (Rom 15:16). Remember, “the Spirit’s Law of life in Christ has set us free from the Law of sin and death”… again, the Holy Spirit was given to us to empower us to live a holy life & free us from the Law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). Now as I bring this section to a close, let me share some of my exper-iences with you — since sin was such a major issue to me as a child (it was always an issue that I needed to address); as a child I simply felt that God had not chosen me to be one of His children, because sin always had a significant presence in my life. Since I saw sin as a deplorable issue that I needed to reject and say “no” to, no matter how hard I tried however, I just kept on sinning, and had no idea why I could not stop sinning — thus sin was an extremely disturbing issue in my life; thought I didn’t want to sin, there was simply nothing I could do to completely refrain from sin-ning. Therefore I walked away from the church during my teenage years. Though I had prayed to God numerous times as a child, never did He seem to accept me as one of His children, so during my teenage years I walked away from the church and simply tried to live a decent life on my own. Obviously sin was a major issue for me as a child; it wasn’t until the professional Hockey Coach here in Phoenix back in 1972 spoke at a Father-Son Banquet and shared his testimony, that I finally came to understand divine truth regarding the issue of sin…here was a man who had wrestled with sin nearly his entire life & finally came to understand it’s significance in the lives of every human being, and that God had for-given Him of all His sin, and that He had continued to war against His flesh to the praise of Christ his savior. The reality is, God had used this coach to open my heart and mind to God’s wonderful grace. Since sin was a very significant issue in my life as a child, it has always been an issue that I have expanded upon in various writings. My prayer is that those of you who have read the foregoing and have properly interpreted everything that was stated…if for some reason you are questioning some of what was stated, let me encourage you to take the time to prayerfully read it over and over again if you need to. Now with that in mind, let’s focus on what God’s Word has to say; because that is of critical import-ance. Keep in mind, the Lord asks us as His children to do as follows…
1. Study His Word Daily — cf. 2 Tim 2:15; Acts 17:11; Ezra 7:10; Neh 8:1-10; Jer 15:16; and 1 Pet 2:2.
2. Worship God Every Sunday — cf. Deut 6:13; Mt 4:10; Jn 4:24; Heb 10:23-25; Rom 12:1-2; Acts 2:41-42; and 20:7.
3. Serve the Lord Daily — cf. Ps 100:2; 103:21; Dan 6:16; Matt 4:10; 6:24; Col 3:24; Heb 9:14; and Heb 12:2.
4. Serve & Help Other People — cf. Mk 10:45; 1 Tim 3:13; 1 Pet 4:11; Heb 10: 23-25; Matt 5:19; 7:12; Rom 13:9; 1 Cor 13:4; and 16:14.
5. Pray Daily & Confess Your Sins Daily — cf. Matt 6:6; 6:9-13; Rom 8: 26-30; Eph 6:18; Jam 5:13-16; 1 Th 5:17; 2 Th 3:1; Phil 2:11; 1 Jn 1:9; Ps 32:5; and Heb 4:14-16.
Lord willing, you gave great considereation to
everything that was stated in this particular section.
TRIALS, TRIBULATION AND FRUSTRATION
Remember, the apostle Paul expressed frustration over the lack of faith that was evident in the Galatian church (Gal 3:1-5); yet he ultimately learned to be content in every situation (cf. Phil 4:11-13)… thus he counseled “that everything eventually works for ‘GOOD’ for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (cf. Rom 8:28). Are you listening? God causes everything to “work together for our good;” though we can exper-ience some very painful things in life, they are not meaningless things, they are things that God subjects us to that we might spiritually benefit from them — just because they may frustrate us in the moment, ultimately they will have a positive impact upon our lives. Though we all have a tendency to argue to the contrary when we are experiencing negatives, we have to understand that God knows full-well what He is doing in and through our lives, and that His actions will ultimately have a positive impact upon our lives… again, though God’s actions don’t immediately
impact our lives, ultimately they do impact our lives. Furthermore, though we as believers “don’t like” experiencing some of the negatives God sub-jects us to in life, every one of us as believers will “gain” from them because God is doing a “transforming work” in our lives. Interestingly enough, God’s promises of comfort actually extend to those who are frustrated (cf. Is 40:1; 1 Cor 1:3-7). Keep in mind, spiritual maturity enables us as believers to overcome frustration when we trust in God in the midst of trials (cf. Ps 22:5; Prov 3:5-6; Phil 1:6; Jam 1:2-4). With that in mind, it’s import-ant to remember that God often subjects us to a lot of trials & tribulations in life (cf. Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22; Heb 12:4-11); remember, God doesn’t subject us to trials and tribulation without a reason. Beloved, it is important to remember that it often takes awhile fo believers to grow in their under-standing of what God is doing in their lives. Though God miraculously meets our demands at various points, there are times when He does not. Again, God knows what He is doing and has a reason for doing what He is doing; as such He lets His Spirit minister to our hearts.
In order to address the fullness of this issue, it is important to remember that tribulation is viewed in Scripture as being the will of God serving to promote purity and godly character (cf. Rom 5:3-4)… so tribulation serves as a test of the believer’s faith and leading to great stability and maturity. By the way, the word “tribulation” literally means affliction… distress… trouble… and trials (following is a list of Old & New Testament passages: OT = Deut 4:30; Job 15:24; Ps 32:7; Is 63:9; Jonah 2:2… NT = Mark 4:17; 13:19; Mt 24:9; Jn 16:33; 2 Th 1:4, 6; Acts 14:22; 20:19; Rom 2:9; 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; 2 Cor 1:4; 7:4; 8:2; Eph 3:13; Jam 1:2; 1 Pet 1:6-7). The apostle Paul said that trials and tribulations are common to everyone, and that God is faithful and doesn’t subject us to things we are unable to endure (1 Cor 10:13). So the reality is, God in His love and grace subjects all of His children to difficulties, negatives and problems in life, that He might transform them into “His image”. The problem with the vast majority of believers is that they place far too much emphasis on “living a pleasant joyful life,” because it is very difficult for most believers to tolerate negatives and problems… as such they have a
difficult time growing their faith. Remember, when life does not go the way believers want it to go, that can be very frustrating to them (I’m not going to argue to the contrary, because I’ve experienced a great deal of frustration in my life); incidentally that is simply the norm for the vast majority of people in the believing world. Obviously, feelings are extremely critical for all fallen human beings (be they believers or unbe-lievers); remember, the vast majority of all the feelings we experience in life are rooted in our flesh; incidentally, “feelings are the premiere root of our flesh;” as such, “feelings” often play a very significant role in our lives, and when our feelings are negative rather than positive, that can actually cause us to momentarily become very frustrated & discouraged. Regarding what God subjects His children to in life, William MacDonald states in his “Believer’s Bible Commentary”— “God’s Chastening is not for wrong doing, but to ultimately mold His people into His image.” As numerous other authors state, God disciplines us for our good; in so doing, He is actually fashioning us into a righteous Holy People. Remember the words of the Lord to His people:
“Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord… for those He loves, He disciplines. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with us as with sons; what son is there whom his father did not discipline?.... Keep in mind, God disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. Though all of our disci-pline does not seem to be joyful, but sorrowful… afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteous” (Heb 12:5-11); keep in mind, the emboldened words in those verses are emphatic in Greek… so give very careful consideration to what that entire passage said.
To expand more on the foregoing, a common question that a lot of belie-vers ask is this: “Why does persecution, trials, sickness, pain, sorrow and trouble enter into our lives as believers?” Do these things simply happen to believers by chance? No they don’t; not at all! Such things are a part of God’s educative process for His children. Remember, as we have stated numerous times, “Nothing happens by chance to God’s people… the reality is, all we are subjected to in lilfe as God’s people conforms us to the image of Christ” — contrary to what many well-known Christians have stated, nothing is mere happenstance for us as God’s children… the problem with many believers is that they don’t associate any negatives with God (though there is some logic to their thinking, it does not coin-cide with what Scripture states). The question is, were these well-known Christians truly born-again believers? Well, some may have been, but others may not have been… it is not as if every Christian believes and embraces everything that Scripture teaches. Remember, many believers have not spent a significant amount of time studying Scripture, nor do they attend a church where God’s Word is fully taught by their pastor, thus certain aspects of their theology oftentimes doesn’t mesh with what Scripture actually teaches. So the question is, are such individuals truly believers, or have they been duped? The truth is, only God really knows whether semi-believers are truly His people; the reality is, some are gen-uine believers and some are not. Again, only God knows that. The truth is, many believers have a lot to learn, and many preachers have to own up to their responsibility in the pulpit — remember what Jesus’ brother James said: “Let not many of you be teachers, because you will incur a stricter judgment” (cf. Jam 3:1). Incidentally, erroneous theology was the problem in the ancient Jewish world & the Roman Catholic world back during the Protestant Reformation in the 15th century; both of these groups had completely misinterpreted what Scripture taught. Again, the problem with many people in the so-called “believing world” down through the ages, is that they had not embraced divine truth as God had clearly stated it in His Word. When Jesus looked at the multitude, “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast and like sheep with-out a shepherd” (cf. Mt 9:36). As such, Jesus condemned the leaders of the Jewish world when He entered into it. Remember, the two premiere groups that existed in Israel when Christ entered into the world, were the Pharisees & the Sadducees — as “Holman’s Bible Dictionary” states, the Pharisees essentially were the largest and most important group in Israel back in the first century — basically they amounted to about 6,000 people, and they appear in the Gospels as opponents of Jesus Christ. Remember, the apostle Paul was a Pharisee back then (Phil 3;5), and the Pharisees controlled the synagogues & exercised great control over much of the population. Keep in mind, the Pharisees were respon-sible for the transformation of Judaism from a religion of sacrifice to oneof law; thus they saw the way to God as being through obedience to the law. They firmly believed in life beyond the grave and a resurrect-tion of the body. With that in mind, the Pharisees had opposed Jesus because He refused to accept their interpretation of the oral law. Now on the other hand, the Sadducees were social conservatives who opposed the oral law; as such, they did not believe in life after death or rewards or punishment beyond the grave, thus they did not believe that God was concerned with what people did, because the Sadducees believed people were totally free to live the life they wanted to live. Since they tolerated no threats to their position, they strongly opposed Jesus. Now due to the fact the Pharisees were the premiere group that ended up crucifying Jesus on the Cross, let me encourage you to read the various passages that I have listed here — keep in mind, there are numerous passages in the gospels that are identical to those found in the gospel of Matthew — cf. Matt 9:9-13; 12:1-7; 12:9-14; 15:11-14; 16:1-6; 19:3-12; 21:42-46; as well as a lot of the 23rd chap-ter – cf. Matt 23:2, 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29; as well as a few verses in John’s gospel: cf. Jn 7:32-36; 8:3-11; 18:1-12. When you read these passages you’ll notice that the Pharisees were a very significant element in the four gospels. If you will take the time to read these particular passages, you’ll have a much better understanding of what brought about the crucifixion of Christ.
Regarding “man’s innate goodness and the law,” the apostle Paul stated the following in the book of Romans — “Both Jews & Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who seeks for God… there is not a single person who does good… there is no fear of God before their eyes.’ We know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the word of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight… for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteous-ness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ… re-member, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; thus all boasting is excluded, because we are justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Remember, if Abraham was justified by works, he would have had something to boast about, but Scripture states, ‘Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ As is the case for all people, it is their faith that is reckoned as righteousness; remember, faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness” (cf. Rom 3:9-4:9). Keep in mind, the 32 verses that have just been stated, and all the verses that were listed in the previous para-graph are extremely important verses for believers to read, because they give definition to what the Jewish world was believing when Christ entered the world 2,000 years ago. Remember the words of Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians — “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that anyone should boast” (cf. Eph 2:8-9; also cf. Jn 3:16-21; 5:39-47; 8:42:47).
ISSUES EVERY BELIEVER MUST EMBRACE
In order to give a understanding to what was stated in the previous chap-ters, picture yourself as an athlete who is learning how to improve his game; without being committed to making himself a better player, he won’t become one… on the other hand, by working diligently to become a better player, he will become one. As a former athlete, I new full-well what was required of me, and the price I needed to pay to become a good athlete (incidentally, that’s what happens to you when you have a great coach)… though many of the players on my team were very disciplined and worked hard, yet not all of them did that; only those who paid a big price ended up being really good athletes. Though the foregoing may be a little questionable to some of you, essentially that’s what defines the best athletes; proud loud-mouthed jokers don’t become difference-makers, be-cause they simply don’t discipline themselves as much as they need to. For those of you who are familiar with athleticism, you know how important it is for athletes to pay the big price if they are going to significantly impact their team; mere wishful thinking is absolutely meaningless. Even in pro-fessional sports, not all players work hard at meeting the demands of the team… as such, some players are removed from their team because they simply aren’t willing to pay the price. Now as God’s children, we have to do all we can to improve our walk with Christ…and do so with the under-standing that it is not easily accomplished; instead it is something that requires a tremendous amount of discipline and commitment. So as be-lievers in Christ, we must embrace the following twelve things that are stated — give careful consideration to each of the issues; don’t just read them lightly.
A. First, the motivation to become the people God wants you to be, involves learning, serving, worshipping, giving, reading & praying; incidentally, such results in loving God & loving people; remember, those are the greatest commandments in all of Scripture (read Mt 22:36- 40; Gal 5:13-14; 1 Jn 4:20). By the way, this thing called worship literally means “to ascribe worth to God;” so when we worship in our churches, we don’t simply focus on ourselves but on God, because HE is the One we worship! Yet many Christian Churches throughout the world do not make God the premiere focus of their ministry. Beloved, please listen carefully to what is stated.
B. Second, we must believe that God loves us unconditionally — God is not in heaven saying, “I love you when you obey Me, but I don’t love you when you sin” (read the following verses – Ps 107:1; 118:1-4; 136:1-26; Rom 5:8; Eph 2:8-10; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Jn 4:16). To somehow conclude that we must be worthy of God’s love, is to completely misinterpret what Scripture says… the reality is, none of us are lovely glorious creatures! We are all fallen sinful creatures who often sin in life! Remember, it was the grace of God alone whereby we became His children; keep in mind, the word “grace” literally means “undeserved favor” The reality is, not a single person in the history of the world has ever merited a single ounce of God’s love and grace; yet many people argue to the contrary! Again, read the foregoing verses. Beloved, if you don’t give great cre-dence as to what Scripture says, you are destroying your faith… not building it; remember, “Scripture is GOD’S WORD, not mans!” so read it accordingly (cf. 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20-21).
C. Third, as Christians, we are not only saved by grace, we grow by grace; i.e., by God’s unmerited favor (cf. Eph 2:8; Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5; 2 Pet 3:18). Thus we need to be consciously aware that God extends grace to us when we humble ourselves before Him. Keep in mind, humility sees oneself for who he really is; as such he is free from arrogance & pride. Jesus often taught about the need to “be humble” (cf. Mt 23:12; Mk 9:35; Lk 14:11; 18:14). While God resists those who are proud, He provides grace for the hum-ble (cf. Jam 4:10; Lk 1:52; 1 Pet 5:6). The problem with many believers is that they think their unworthiness disqualifies them from satisfying God and growing their faith. Obviously that is a difficult construct, because sin is a difficult issue for believers to accept; so for them, it becomes an unqualifying issue for believers; as such, they feel defeated in their walk with God — the truth is, they simply need to humbly confess their sins to God.
D. Fourth, as believers we must walk in the Spirit, not the flesh — as the apostle Paul said, “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (cf. Rom 8:5). Obviously, there are two ways to live life — either we can live according to our fleshly desires & feelings, or we can live according to divine truth & the Holy Spirit who lives in us (i.e., placing our faith in the most high God and what His Word says). Remember the words of Jesus to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He went to the cross: “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41); time after time Jesus found them sleeping rather than praying; why was that? Because their flesh had a very strong presence in their lives (just like it does in our lives; oftentimes our flesh simply rules in the moment; incidentally, that happens far more often then most believers think). Remember the words of Paul: “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (read Gal 5:16-17). Beloved, we can’t simply let our innate desires rule in our lives, as if that is accept-able to God; we must have a God-consciousness as we walk through life, and not let fleshly thinking prominently rule in our hearts & minds. Take the time to reflect upon the foregoing paragraph — your flesh is just as problematic as anyone else’s, so you must learn to fight the good fight of faith (cf. 1 Tim 6:12; 4:7-8; Phil 3:12-14; Col 3:15-17).
E. Fifth, the Church is the spiritual family of God, through which the Lord brings and keeps His people in covenant relationship with Him-self by His Spirit and His Word (cf. Is 59:21), so the Holy Spirit is the one who unites worshiping souls to Christ. Furthermore, the existence of the Church is the gracious work of God for His children. Stated the author of Hebrews to the Christian world: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some” (cf. Heb 10: 24-25; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). For the believing world to minimize the impor-tance of divine worship and ministering to their brothers and sisters in Christ, is completely antithetical to the will of God. Remember, the Church is literally referred to as “the people of God,” and “the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:12-31). Keep in mind, the New Testament refers to the church of the living God as “the pillar & support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Incidentally, the first century church was holding to the truth of
Christ by His prophets and apostles (Eph 2:20). The reality is, the lead- ers of the church are to guard the doctrinal fidelity of the congregation by faithfully preaching exactly what Scripture says (cf. Acts 20:25-30; 1 Tim 4:1-11; 2 Tim 3:13-17); the problem with many churches in the world today is that their leaders & pastors are not fully convinced as to what Scrip-ture actually teaches — oftentimes they will respond with words like this: “Well, there are many opinions on that subject, so we’re not really sure as to what it really means.” Beloved, the problem with such think- ing, is that those individuals simply have not spent the time studying what Scripture teaches, nor did they attend a good biblical seminary that fully understands & teaches divine truth. Remember the words of Jesus’ brother James: “Let not many of you be teachers, because you will incur a stricter judgment” (cf. Jam 3:1). Likewise, the apostle Paul said to his friend Timothy who had just started serving in ministry, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (read 2 Tim 2:15; Acts 17:11 and 1 Pet 1:10). Because many Christian leaders and pastors have not properly studied God’s word, they oftentimes can be misleading in their preaching; to simply let humanistic thinking deter-mine what is divinely true, they will often mislead their congregation. Again, listen carefully; God is not going to treat that lightly at the end of the age (Jam 3:1). Beloved, this precept is precisely the one that led me to attend Talbot Theological Seminary, after experiencing about two years of ministry to junior highers — when I was teaching the book of James, a very significant verse caused me to give very careful con-sideration to the ministry God had called me to; let me quote that pass-age again: “Let not many of you become teachers, because you will experience stricter judgment” (cf. Jam 3:1). Keep in mind, pastors are called to lead the congregation by teaching the truth of Scripture… by setting a godly example… and by shepherding the flock (Heb 13:7). Beloved, one of the most important things we as believers must do, is strongly embrace a church that gives great consideration to what Scripture teaches, and serve in that church in some capacity; remem-ber, other believers need you in their life and you need them in your life! Though none of us are perfect great saints, we can all graciously serve other people and let them graciously serve us. Keep in mind, when we let God rule in the moment, He not only ministers to us, He ministers through us.
F. Sixth, faith in God is the foundation of our relationship with God; the reality is, without having faith in God (i.e., believing in God and what His word says) we have no relationship with Him. Faith essen-tially means to believe and to trust in God; because this thing called “faith” can be somewhat perplexing to some believers, take the time to confirm what the following verses say (cf. Rom 1:16-17; 5:1; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:11, 26; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:9; 1 Tim 6: 12; Heb 11:1; 12:2; 1 Pet 2:2). Obviously, I’m not fully explaining everything in this study, so you need to take the time to READ all of the passages that are listed; don’t simply ignore then. So faith in God involves right belief about God, and rests on God’s divine testimony, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2). To believe God’s word is to certify that He is true (Jn 3:33); to reject His word is to say that He’s a liar (1 Jn 5:10). Keep in mind, God is the author of all saving faith (cf. Eph 2:8; Phil 1:29). Christianity does not rest on myths & fables, but on divine testimony. Said the author of Hebrews, “Faith is the sub-stance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Beloved, there is every reason to believe that God will be as faithful to His promises in the future just as He has been in the past… so there is a substantive reason for the hope that is within us. To believe God and trust God with our lives, is the essence of the Christian faith… keep in mind, God is the One who opens the minds & hearts of people that they may believe in Him and place their trust in Him, and such results in our becoming one of His children (cf. Acts 16:14; 1 Th 1:5), and this He does to the humble, not the proud (i.e., not those who think more highly of themselves then they ought – cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). It is also important to remember that living faith produces good works — remember, we were created in Christ Jesus for good works (cf. 2 Cor 5:16-21; Eph 2:8-10; 1 Tim 6:18).
Though our entrance into the kingdom of God is by faith alone, our reward in the kingdom will be according to our good works. It is a sad commentary that a large number of Christians do not minister to people in this world — remember, God has not kept us in this world to simply “live for ourselves,” He has kept us here to “live for Him and others!” It should be very clear — “we all have need to grow in our faith and serve God and serve othrs” (none of us can walk on water; our faith is simply not that great; nevertheless, genuine faith does af-fect our lives, and other people’s lives). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Do not be anxious about what you shall eat and drink, and what clothes you shall wear… the Lord knows that you need all those things, so simply seek God’s kingdom & His righteousness and all these things shall be given to you” (cf. Mt 6:31-33). In effect Jesus said, “If you’ll put God’s interests first in your life, He’ll see that you never lack the necessities of life.” Conversely, the apostle Peter said, “Long for the pure milk of the word, that you may grow in respect to salva-tion” (1 Pet 2:2). Keep in mind, it is not as if God is disappointed with the faith that we have (remember, “He sympapathizes with our weak-nesses” (Heb 4:15)… He simply wants us to keep increasing & building our faith by studying His Word. Beloved, please don’t change the didactic; take a moment and reflect upon the following verses (cf. Rom 10:9; Lk 12:8; Jn 20:30-31; 1 Jn 5:13).
G. Seventh, discipline yourself for the purpose of “godliness” because it is profitable for all things, both in this life & the life to come; are you listening? Your life in the heavenly realm is being determined by the life you are living here in the earthly realm! (1 Tim 4:7-8). Said the apostle Paul, “It is for this that we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God; prescribe and teach these things… and show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10-12). Incidentally, the word discipline literally refers to training that corrects and per-fects our spirituality; without disciplining ourselves, we will be far less spiritual and far less godly than we should be. Obviously with-out studying Scripture and embracing divine truth, we will not grow in our faith or in godliness; remember, when you properly study God’s Word, you “affirm and embrace” precisely what it says; it’s not just a matter of reading it — many people read Scripture, but only a few of them study, affirm and embrace it.
H. Eighth, focus on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith (cf. Heb 12:2; 1 Cor 1:18, 23). God is to be “the Lord of our lives” (i.e., the Master of our lives); incidentally, the word “Lord” refers to God’s active power over the world & man; remember, God is the creator and ruler and giver of life and death; thus He is the sovereign authority of the Most High, and the Lord of heaven and earth (cf. Mt 11:25; 9:38; Acts 17:24; Rev 4:11); thus we are to worship Him and ascribe all worth to Him. Keep in mind, by His resurrection and ascension, Jesus is our Savior and Lord (cf. Phil 2:5-11; Acts 2:36; Mt 28:18; Rom 1:4). Incidentally, His Lordship denotes the active exercise of His power over the world and men. So our Savior is the Creator and Ruler over all creation, as well as the giver of life and death. As such, the term “Lord” expresses the sovereign authority of the Most High God of heaven & earth (cf. Mt 11:25; 9:38; Acts 17:24; Rev 4:11).
I. Ninth, God is concerned about your whole life, not just your spiritual life; i.e., God is not just concerned about your soul and your spirit (as many believer’s think), He cares about everything in your life, because everything affects your life (cf. Heb 12:4-11; Phil 1:29; 1 Pet 5:10); as such, He wants to be the Lord & Master of your life (be it that which is personal, emotional, social, familial, financial, physical, vocational, sexual and intellectual). Though some of His discipline is painful and sorrowful, yet there comes a time when He removes such things from our lives and we experience the peaceful fruit of righteousness (cf. Heb 12:4-11). Though God doesn’t remove discipline from our lives in just a couple of days, He doesn’t let it go on for an indefinite period of time; yes, it can be difficult at times, nevertheless it doesn’t go on & on adinfinitum. Keep in mind, God is the one who restores our health & heals our wounds, and makes it clear that He is the one who initiates and com-pletes our healing (cf. Ex 15:26; Ps 103:3; Jer 30:17; Is 53:5). Now our healing, whether it be physical or spiritual, begins with Christ. Keep in mind, no matter what is causing disease in your life, God is the one who does the healing; as such, He does whatever He needs to do to get us back on our feet. Said the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes” (cf. Ps 119:71). Let’s say God never afflicts you with some painful issue… if that is the case, you will never experience His deliverance from it. The truth is, it is greatly encouraging once you are delivered from something, in spite of the fact that you experienced some very difficult issues in your life. Incidentally, that is something I have experienced numerous times over the last ten years… though I began to doubt I would ever be delivered from what I was experi-encing, ultimately He entered into my life and removed most of those issues; needless to say I was a little shocked when things began to dis-appear… obviously, He got my attention. Beloved, difficulties are no easier for me then they are for you; I’m a fallen human being just like you are.
J. Tenth, as believers, we are to lead people to Jesus by loving people to Jesus (1 Cor 13:1-3)… if they ask you why you live the way you do, humbly share with them who Jesus is & why you put your hope in Him. If they will humbly embrace your humility, God will open their hearts to divine truth (Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5); remember, GOD is the one who opens peoples hearts to the truth (cf. Acts 16:14; 1 Cor 12:3; 1 Th 1:5); though God may use one of His children to share divine truth with others, it is GOD HIMSELF who opens the minds and hearts of people that they might believe divine truth when it is shared with them.
K. Eleventh, God is the author of “peace” in our hearts and minds; said the Lord to the prophet Isaiah: “Though mountains and hills may be removed, My loving-kindness will not be removed from your life, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken” (Is 54:10). Incidentally, contentment & happiness is included in the concept of peace (Is 32:17- 18) — peace is present in the minds and hearts of God’s people who are trusting in Him in the moment (cf. Job 22:21; Is 26:3); remember, to not trust in God is to let one’s flesh rule in the moment, and that can be very disconcerting to believers, because they will not be experienc- ing peace… peace is a condition of being free from strife, and exper-iencing a calm heart when we are trusting God (again – Job 22:21; Is 26:3). The reality is, we experience peace with God when we have fellowship with Him (cf. Gal 5:22; Phil 4:7); so we only experience spiritual peace when we are in harmony with God (cf. Is 9:6-7; 26:3; Ps 119:165; Lk 2:14; Jn 14: 27; Jn 16:1-33; Acts 10:36; Rom 1:7; 5:1; Gal 5:22). Obviously when we are not in harmony with God, we won’t be experiencing His peace. Being as so many believers do not experience much peace in their heart & mind, it is important that they embrace Christ and His love for them — it is critical that we as believers “abide in Christ” (cf. John 15:1-17), and not simply rule in our own lives. To give definition to this thing called “peace”, frustration rules in the hearts and minds of believers who simply let their flesh rule in their lives. Remember, God is the author of peace and gives it to those who humble themselves before Him and embrace His will and His love for them; so those who are walking in the flesh will not experience peace. Beloved, keep in mind, anytime things don’t go the way our flesh wants them to go, frustration reigns rather than peace. Again, if this thing called peace is a difficult issue for you to fully embrace, prayerfully seek God’s will for your life every day; remember, He is the author of peace, so seek His will. Now the final issue that believers must embrace is the following one — by the way, it is not just a short little paragraph, it is a long paragraph, so take the time to read the twelfth issue carefully.
L. Twelfth, prayerfully study God’s Word that He might open your heart to the foundational truths that need to rule in your heart and mind. Though we are able to commune with God as His children through prayer, God verbally speaks to us through His Word (i.e., through His self-revelation to mankind, which is Scripture). Keep in mind, God not only ordains the means whereby we are to communicate with Him (i.e.,
prayer), God uses the Holy Spirit to bring His sovereign will into our hearts and minds. Remember, when we pray we are to approach God with sincerity, reverence & humility – beloved, to change the discourse is to greatly reduce the effectiveness of prayer. Not only must we re-member who God is, we must remember who and what we are — we are His adopted children who are still sinful creatures. Though many people possess a fairly nice personality, every single person in exis-tence (be they believers or unbelievers) possesses a self-centered, fal-len sinful nature (obviously, “self-centeredness” should not be a diffi-cult construct for any of us to accept; that is just what all of us are as human being — self-centered creatures). The wonderful news for us as believers is this. in the not too distant future, God is going to complete- ly remove our sinful self-centered nature from us when we enter into His heavenly realm… yet until that occurs we must live with our sinful inner-core and constantly fight against it; that is simply the work God has called us to (cf. Rom 7:18; 8:6, 13; 13:14; Gal 5:16-17; 1 Jn 2:16); remember, man’s creation was determined in eternity past when Satan and his cohorts committed the first sin that was ever committed; keep in mind, that sin occurred in the heavenly realm prior to God’s creating the world in which we live; so it took place prior to the first chapter of the book of Genesis, which is known as God’s creation (cf. Is 46:8-11; 14:24; Ps 33:11; Eph 1:4; 2:10; 2 Th 2:13; Acts 13:48; Is 43:10-13; 45:5-7). Well once Satan sinned prior to this thing called creation, it was then that God removed Satan and his cohorts from the heavenly realm. Thus God decided to make a large group of people in “His image” and place them in some-thing known as the Garden of Eden in a brand new world that He had just created (Gen 2:7-17). It is also important to remember that God also placed Satan in the Garden of Eden, and it was Satan who ultimately ended up destroying Adam and Eve and the entire human race (Gen 3:1-24). Remember, God new everything that occurred in the Garden of Eden before it ever occurred, so God was now simply accomplishing His own will! In so doing, He ultimately “chose” to make millions of people in His image. Remember, this was something He planned in eternity past (read all of the passages listed above).
As Paul stated in the book of Ephesians, “God chose us in Christ be-fore the foundation of the world” (cf. Eph 1:4); in addition to that, the King James Bible says, “Christ was slain before the foundation of the world” (cf. Rev 13:8); i.e., everything that ultimately happened was either approved of by God or predetermined by God in eternity past… as such, God had planned the end from the beginning (cf. Is 14:24; 46:9-11), and that plan defines reality. So the death of Christ on the Cross was a part of God’s plan in eternity past when Satan sinned. By the way, it should not come as a surprise that God knew Satan was going to sin in heaven prior to him ever being created — “Absolutely nothing” is a surprise to God! Remember, He is an omniscient God! There is absolutely nothing He doesn’t know & nothing occurs that He ultimately didn’t approved of or cause to occur! The reason God approves of things is that they ultimately accomplish His will and purpose (though none of us as finite creatures fully understand everything, God does! (read the following passages – Is 55:8-9; also Is 43:10-13; Is 45:5-7; Is 46:8-11). Thus keep in mind, God is accomplishing “HIS WILL” in this world; not a single thing is mere happenstance, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of people do not believe that; the reason is, they simply see God as a person who is somewhat human (thus they make some very radical assumptions).
Interestingly enough, at the end of the age, God is going to let His new creatures rule forever with Him in the heavenly realm… and He is going to let them “JUDGE the world & the angelic realm, including Satan & his cohorts” (1 Cor 6:2-3). Remember, God made us as human beings in “HIS IMAGE” (cf. Gen 1:26), but He did not make the angels in His image; thus God is going to let us rule with Him “forever” in the heavenly realm — once again, this is the resultant affect of Satan’s sin in eternity past; as such, this is why God has chosen what He’s chosen. Again, it is not mere happenstance; instead, it is the resultant affect of satanic sins that occurred in the ancient past. Since sin is evil and rebellion against God, and possesses absolutely nothing good, God has willed to “destroy it!” Now in order for us to successfully align ourselves with God, we must embrace Christ as our Savior and Lord, and enter into His presence every day as we live in this world & seek His will for our lives. Beloved, God is not at all surprised that we are fallen sinful creatures; such is precisely how every one of us was born! Remember, due to the fact that you are a fallen sinful creature, God died for you that He might transform you into His image & likeness (which won’t fully occur until the end of the age when all of us as be-lievers enter into the Heavenly realm); meanwhile, as believers are to war against your sinful flesh, and do all you can to overcome its influence on our lives (cf. 1 Tim 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7). Keep in mind, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with “our weaknesses” (which are many!), so draw near with confidence to God’s throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need” (cf. Heb 4:15-16).
Regarding man’s corrupt fallen sinful nature, Eugene Peterson, one of the great scholars, theologians, pastors and American authors, said the following: “All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters & uneven performers. As believers, we are secure not because we are sure of ourselves, but because we trust that God is sure of us” — that is what Peterson stated in his tremendously popular book, “A Long Obedience In the Same Direction.” By the way, the faith we bring to prayer must believe that God is able to hear our prayer and that He is disposed to answering them…yet when He says no to our requests, our faith must also trust in His wisdom and His will for us. So regard-ing this thing called prayer, read the following passages (cf. Ps 5:1-3; Jn 14:13-14; Rom 8:26-27; Phil 4:4-7; 1 Jn 5:14-15). Obviously a lot of things were stated in this paragraph, so you may want to take the time and read it again.
Now with regard to this thing called “faith,” it is important that it is accurately understood. So let’s look at how Dr. Mark Parks defines it in “Holman Illlustrated Bible Dictionary.” In it he says, “Faith means trusting God’s self-revelation; i.e., God’s Word” (Ps 119:86) — remember, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequately equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17); so all Scripture is God-breathed and written for our instruction! (cf. 1 Cor 10:11; Rom 15:4; 2 Pet 1:20); read the foregoing verses and do not change the discourse; what it says is absolutely true; if it is not, then we are giving more credence to fallen man than we are to God! So either Scripture is GOD’S WORD, or we are making it the product of humanity! Again, read all of the verses listed above. Now the reality is, God wants people to trust Him, but those who refuse to humble themselves (because of self-pride) will not place their trust in Him; they simply aren’t interested in Him. Keep in mind, fail-ure to trust God essentially was the first sin (cf. Gen 3:17). Since the fall of man, God nurtures & inspires trust in Him through what He says and does for the benefit of people who need Him. Remember, God enables people to believe and be faithful (cf. Josh 24:14; Is 7:9). To fear God is to maintain a firm conviction that the Lord’s directives are reliable (Ps 119:89-91), pro-tective (Ps 33:18-19), and beneficial to the believer (Ps 31:19). An element of human responsibility is this: “Choose for yourself whom you will serve” (cf. Josh 24:15)… as Scripture says, we are to serve God with sincerity and truth (Josh 24:14). Keep in mind, God does not force people to believe and trust Him (cf. Deut 30:19); so when people refuse to believe in Him, He often hardens their hearts (cf. Ex 10:26; Rom 1:18-32). Now with all of the foregoing in mind, remember, the righteous live by faith in God’s Word (cf. Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38; 1 Pet 3:12).
Dr. David Lanier, a New Testament Professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated the following in “Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary” — “Temptation is the enticement to do evil, and Satan is the tempter” (cf. Matt 4:3; 1 Thes 3:5). Beginning with Eve, Satan successfully tempted Adam, Cain, Abraham and David to sin. Conversely, “Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin” (cf. Heb 4:15). James explains that God cannot be tempted by evil (in the sense that He would cave into sin), nor does He tempt anyone (Jam 1:13). However, God does allow testing for the purpose of bringing forth Faith, which is what honors God. James goes on to say that “a blessing awaits those who endure temptation” (Jam 1:12), and that “each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own desires” (cf. Jam 1:14). The origin of temptation is attributed to our fallen human nature (i.e., our flesh – cf. Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22; Col 3:9; 2 Cor 5:17). The reality is, God wants His children to “overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21); as children of God, we must live on the highest level, returning good for evil; the truth is, if we return evil for evil in life, we will only add fuel to the fire and let sin rule in the moment. Though our enemy may not be converted, we will experience more of God’s love in our own hearts, and grow more in grace. The issue is this — once a person is drawn away by his own fleshly desires, it gives birth to sin. Though temptation in itself is not sin, yielding to temptation is sin. The reality is, sin in the unbeliever’s life results in spiritual death from God forever in the lake of fire (cf. Rev 20:10, 15)… on the other hand, the believer can sin to the point that God disciplines and causes him to die earlier then He so desires (cf. Acts 5:1-5; 1 Jn 5:16; Gal 6:8); such individuals essentially just walk in the dark in life and let their flesh govern their lives (though it is not something that is common in the Christian world, there are some true Christians in the world who simply let their flesh rule in their lives; in other words, they put very little emphasis on their relationship with God).
Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “No temptation has over taken you but such as is common to man, and God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to endure, and with the temptation, He will provide a way of escape that we may be able to endure it” (cf. 1 Cor 10:13). The reality is, God desires us to withstand temptation and glorify Him in our bodies, which were purchased by His blood (cf. 1 Cor 6:20). As Dr. Carl Kromminga, a popular professor at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, states in the following two books “Evangelical Dic-tionary of Theology” & “Baker’s Dictionary of Theology” — “Deception plays an important role in Satanic temptation… he sows the seeds of doubt, unbelief, and rebellion… so Satan tempts to test the veracity, goodness & justice of God” (cf. Gen 3:1-13; 2 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 2:14). Remember, Paul’s thorn in the flesh was “a messenger of Satan” (2 Cor 12:7-9). The reality is, enticement to sin and rebellion oftentimes is the work of Satan (cf. 1 Pet 5:8-9; 1 Thes 3:5). As James, the brother of Jesus said, “Everyone is tempted when they are carried away and enticed by their own lust, and when lust has conceived it gives birth to sin and brings forth death” (cf. Jam 1:14-15). Despite the fact that we are believers, we are still fleshly creatures, and that is what we are to war against — take the time to read and study all of the following verses: cf. Rom 7:14-25; 8:5-6, 13; 13:14; Gal 5:16-17, 24; Eph 2:3-7; Heb 12:4-11 Jam 1:14-15; 1 Jn 2:15-17; 5:4, 13). Also keep in mind the words of Peter: “Long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (cf. 1 Pet 2:2). Beloved, it is God’s Word that teaches us who we are, who God is, and how we can become the people He wants us to be. It is when we are lacking in divine knowledge that we often stumble with our faith & question it & end up walking in the dark.
Literally, the Biblical word translated faith means “to believe God’s Word;” so faith is a trustful human response to God’s self-revelation (i.e., Scripture). Now though our knowledge of divine truth is limited, it is completely sufficient for God’s children. As the Apostle Paul stated, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (cf. Rom 10:17; Col 3:16; 1 Th 1:8). Said Peter, “Long for the pure milk of the Word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet 2:2). Said Paul, “The righteous man shall live by faith” (cf. Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38).
Remember, the Epistles depict faith as knowing, believing & obeying (cf. Titus 1:1; 2 Thes 2:13; 1 Pet 1:22). The Bible views faith’s convictions as certainties & equates them with knowledge (cf. 1 Jn 3:2; 5:18-20); remember, “God cannot lie;” thus He is completely trust-worthy (cf. Titus 1:2; 2 Tim 2:13; Heb 6:18). Said John, “He who received Christ’s witness has set his soul to this, that God is true” (Jn 3:33); incidentally, that emboldened word “true” is emphatic in Greek! Now to reject God’s Word is to make Him a liar (1 Jn 5:10). Again, remember the message of Paul, “The righteous live by Faith” (cf. Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38), not by sight and the lusts of the flesh (cf. 2 Cor 5:7; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:3; 1 Jn 2:16). Said Paul, “If you walk by the Spirit, you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit & the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please”… So if we live by the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:16, 17, 25). Now since we as Christians all possess a sinful nature that we inherited from fallen Adam… and a new nature when we became participants in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet 1:4) — both natures have desires — one desires evil, and one desires holiness; thus they are in conflict with each other (Gal 5:17). When a believer yields to the Spirit’s control, he won’t gratify the desires of his sinful nature (i.e., his flesh). To walk in the Spirit is to be consciously occupied with Christ; one cannot ignore Christ and expect to walk in the Spirit; one must be occupied with Christ. Incidentally, if you really love Him and want to please Him, you will read and study His Word… pray to Him daily… seek His will… worship Him every week… and love and serve His people. If God’s call upon your life isn’t highly significant to your heart & mind, your flesh will frequently be embraced by you. Keep in mind, as we strive to walk in the Light and have fellowship with God, we will reject the work of our flesh, and embrace the work of the Spirit in our lives. Beloved, this paragraph is a very poignant one, so give ser-ious consideration to what it says. Though all of us as God’s children struggle with our flesh, we must learn to “war against it” and not simply cave into it — again, read Romans chapters 6 and 7.
MAN’S INNATE FLESH
Though the term “flesh” often refers to “man’s physicality and the skin of the human body” (cf. Lev 14:9; Ps 119:120; Mt 19:5-6; 1 Cor 15: 39), more often than not the term literally refers to “man’s fallenness;” i.e., to his fallen sinful nature (cf. Rom 8:3, 4, 9; Gal 3:3; 5:16-17). Again, though the term “flesh” fre-quently refers to “the skin of the human body” (cf. Lev 14:9; Ps 119:120), it is also often used in contrast to the term “soul,” thus it distinguishes a per-son’s physical existence from his spiritual existence (cf. Is 10:18; Ps 63:1; 84:3). So the term flesh is often used to distinguish the body from the mind, the will, and man’s emotions (cf. Ps 16:9; Prov 14:30). As previously stated, the word flesh can also stress the weakness and sinfulness of humanity, in contrast to the power & holiness of God (cf. Ps 56:5; 78:39; 2 Chron 32:8). In the NT, it is man’s flesh that offers sin a foothold in a believer’s life (cf. Rom 8:3, 4, 9; Gal 3:3; 5:16-17). The apostle Paul explains that man’s flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with each other (cf. Rom 8:13; Gal 2:19-21; Col 3:5), which can be very troubling & overwhelming to us when we succumb to the flesh. Though all flesh movements aren’t extremely painful to us, some of them are, and God often leaves the pain in our soul for awhile; and in so doing He disciplines us and makes us deal with our sinfulness (cf. Heb 11:4-11). Keep in mind, it is not as though our bodies are inherently evil; remember, man’s body is God’s creation; as such, it is good in and of itself (1 Tim 4:4). What is important is that fallen man sees himself for who he really is — that human reasoning does not at all coincide with divine reasoning; i.e., how we perceive of things is drastically different from how God perceives of things… remember God’s word to the pro-phet Isaiah (the greatest OT prophet) – “My ways are not your ways… neither are your ways My ways. Likewise, My thoughts are not your thoughts… as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways and My thoughts higher than yours” (Is 55:8-9). Keep in mind, that which is eternal and omniscient differs greatly from that which is temporal and extremely limited. Though we often get angry and discouraged in life because of negatives that we don’t like or fully understand, we must know that GOD is the one who determines what we experience in life, be it something difficult, painful or wonderful; so He fully understands everything we all go through in life, and why we are subjected to these things n life. To somehow think that God has nothing to do with what we are going through in life is silly; remember, God is the God of all crea-tion & everything accomplishes His will (cf. Eph 1:4, 5, 11; Is 40:6-8; 43:10-13; 45:5-7; 46:9-11). To make God out to be less than He is, could not be more foolish; why one would do so is mind-boggling — remember, man’s IQ is only 150 at best! Yet here are fallen finite creatures making claims that couldn’t be more limited… remember, God is infinite, there’s no limit to Him whatsoever! Absolutely none! Beloved, it is bad enough that un-believers make God out to be a silly reality, yet even believers some-times make Him out to be far less than He is (again, read Is 46:9-11; 55:8-9).
The doctrine of Spiritual Assurance is widely taught in the NT. Paul teaches that the Spirit of adoption (i.e., the Holy Spirit) produces in the Christian the assurance of adoption (cf. Rom 8:15-17; Gal 4:6). Paul is con-vinced that nothing earthly or heavenly can separate the believer from God’s love (Rom 8:38-39). So Christians essentially possess full certainty of God’s ability to bring to completion the salvation that He has begun (cf. Phil 1:6; 2 Tim 1:12; Col 2:2; 1 Th 1:5; Jn 5:24; 1 Jn 5:13; 4:13; 5:10; 3:18-19; Heb 6:11; 10:22). Nevertheless, God’s Word makes it very plain that one may be genuinely saved but lack full assurance of salvation (cf. 1 Jn 5:13) — as Dr. Demarest states in the book, “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology,” “Religious certainty may be weakened by sinful habits… by neglecting God’s Word… by quenching the Holy Spirit… and by physical or mental exhaustion.” The normal experience of assurance is achieved by faith, obedience and service to God and His people. Incidentally, the doctrine of assurance was given full treatment by the Protestant Reformers back in the 17th century (i.e., by Martin Luther, John Calvin & John Wesley). Because Roman Catholicism back then rejected much of what Scripture teaches, they simply embraced something several ungodly Popes said;
which oftentimes was nothing but humanistic thinking… thus it was extremely erroneous… so the Reformers studied the fullness of what Scripture teaches and discovered that Roman Catholicism back then had not at all given credence to what Scripture emphatically states. Remember, “The believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (cf. 1 Cor 6:19-20); therefore, because of God’s divine presence in our lives, when we obey Him and walk with Him in life He affirms our salvation and the fact that we indeed are His children. Keep in mind the words of the apostle Paul, “With my mind I am a slave to the Law of God, but with my flesh, to the Law of sin” (Rom 7:25). Paul encouraged believers “to live by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit, so that they may avoid carrying out the desires of their flesh” (cf. Gal 5:16).
The apostle John instructed believers not to behave in such a way so as to fulfill the “lusts of the flesh” (cf. 1 Jn 2:16). As believers, we must learn to live godly lives and not turn the freedom we have into “an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal 5:13). Said the apostle Paul, “The goal for us as believers is that we demonstrate a life ruled by the constant presence of the Holy Spirit, characterized by the traits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Keep in mind, in this chapter Paul has distinguished between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit… by the way, the Holy Spirit produces one kind of fruit and that is “Christ-likeness;” and all of the verses listed describe the God-lived life (cf. 1 Cor 13; Jn 4:34; Lk 8:22-25; Lk 23:34; Mk 10:14; Lk 10:30-35; Jn 13: 1-17). Beloved, unless you practice walking in the Spirit you will not grow much in your faith, and at the end of the age you will experience some very painful realities. God does not ignore continual sinfulness (Rev 3:19); ultimately He will subject such individuals to some very painful disci-pline… when we as believers are judged at the end of the age, the Lord will discipline those who walked very little with Him in life, “that they may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Cor 11:32). Said the apostle Peter – “It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey
the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man & the sinner? Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pet 4:17-19). Said the apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “He who sows sparingly shall also reap spar-ingly, and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion – for God loves a cheerful giver & is able to make all grace abound to you” (2 Cor 9:6-8). Keep in mind, “Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal 6:7). Beloved, keep in mind, the premiere goal of the Christian life is to “live life with a God consciousness!” Obviously a lot was stated in this paragraph, so take the time to give careful consid-eration as to what was stated. In addition to that, give careful considera-tion to what is stated in the next section. Remember, Scripture is God’s Self-revelation to man; i.e., God’s Word to man… either you will accept it as such, or you will reject it because of some humanistic thinking.
HOW FLESH & SIN WORKS IN OUR LIVES
Regarding “our flesh and sins as believers,” reflect upon the following: Because most believers do not understand that which follows, do your best to give great attention to what is stated. After the apostle Paul struggled with sin for several years, he finally came to understand pre-cisely what had been going on in his life. Again, listen carefully as to what Paul had to say — “I hate the fact that I sin, but no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know now that nothing good dwells in me; though the wishing to do good is present in me, the doing of good is not!” (Rom 7:15-18). Obviously, that is a very poignant statement; one that deserves an awful lot of attention. Before jumping to conclusions as to what Paul said, let’s carefully reflect upon it. To begin with, some believers wrongly assume that the Christian life is something entirely spiritual, and has nothing at all to do with our bodily
existence, but that is not at all what Scripture teaches. When we become new creatures in Christ, the power of our fallen nature (i.e., our flesh) is conquered, but it is not destroyed. Because God has so willed that our sanctification is a lifelong process, every day we are engaged in warfare with our old nature as we seek to grow in the Spirit and Grace. Though the Holy Spirit who dwells in us will ultimately prevail in the warfare that we are subjected to, in the meantime struggling with temptation can be very intense. Though God liberated us from the total control of the flesh when He made us His children, He has ordained that the flesh and the Spirit war against each other until we die (take the time to read that passage again, because it is very significant). Said Dr. R. C. Sproul, the chairman of the Board of Ligonier Ministries & the author of the popular Book, “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith” — “After we as believers die we will be glorified, and our flesh will be completely put to death, and our new person will be completely purified.”
Regarding what the apostle Paul had to say in the seventh chapter of Romans, he initially confessed that he did not understand all he was experiencing; after he finally came to understand the fullness of sin in his life, he said the following: “What I want to do I do not do… what I do I hate” (cf. Rom 7:15). Obviously, that is a statement that all of us as believers can identify with, because that defines reality for us as God’s children. What is important for us as believers to understand is that our flesh has a significant presence in our lives, and is always expres- sing itself — remember, our flesh often gets angry, frustrated, discour-aged and desires many things; so it is an uncontrollable by-product that oftentimes rules in our hearts and minds… though we as believers don’t want such things to be present in our lives, they are! The apostle Paul went on to say, “I agree that God’s Law is good (i.e., that God’s will is good), therefore it is no longer I myself who is sinning; instead, it is sin that dwells in me” (Rom 7:15-17). So Paul saw the life that God gave him was different then he had thought; that his fleshly nature was completely sinful & rotten to the core. As Dr. John Walvoord, the president of Dallas Seminary for about 20 years, said in his book “Bible Knowledge Com-mentary” — “This doesn’t mean that Paul was avoiding personal respon-sibility for his actions; he was simply speaking of the conflict that existed within him; that is, between his desires and the sinful nature that dwelled in him.” Paul admitted that “nothing good lived in him (i.e., in his fleshly nature); though he desired to do good, he could not always carry it out” (Rom 7:18). As such, Paul realized that even though he was a believer, sin still had a strong presence in his life; the reality was, sin expressed itself through him and caused him to do things he did not want to do, and not simply do things that he desired to do (cf. Rom 7:18-20; 8:12-14); beloved, the foregoing issues are not at all uncommon ones. Think about it, “we were all born fallen creatures” (i.e., we were all born children of the devil; as such, divine love was not at all a part of our nature)… now when Christ expressed His love for us, we humbly placed our trust in Him, embraced Him, and became one of His children. In so doing, we started growing in our faith and our love for Him, and our relationship with Him, and started realizing the significance of our fallen nature; as such we naturally started warring against it, and doing all we could to defeat it… though we have never totally destroyed it and completely defeated it, we kept on warring against it; incidentally, that has been the case for all of us as believers.
Keep in mind, though sin has often expressed itself in all of our lives, it has not been a disastrous issue with God (Heb 4:15), nor has it destroyed us as His people… it has simply caused us to give even greater warfare to our flesh; incidentally, fighting against our flesh is greatly pleasing to God. Keep in mind, God’s Spirit and our Flesh have been in complete opposition to each other since God made us His children and placed His Spirit in our lives. Remember, warfare against our flesh is a common problem for every one of God’s children (cf. Gal 5:17). Now to expand upon the foregoing, it should be obvious to everyone of you that all of us as believers have a fleshly inner-core that is in complete opposition to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (cf. Gal 5:17). It is important to remember that God desires that all of us as His children “wage war against our flesh; i.e., don’t spend time reflecting upon what it desires… but simply turn away immediately from what it expresses. Keep in mind, if you give careful consideration to what it is your flesh is saying, it is highly unlikely that you will turn from it! Remember, as fallen creatures it is very easy for us to get discourage, frustrated and angry… so to spend time reflecting upon such things, will simply cause us to cave into them! Though that may sound a little strange to some of you, this was all a part of God’s plan in eternity past when He started dealing with the rebellion on Satan — with the foregoing in mind, let me explain what transpired in history, even before God created the universe and human beings; hope-fully it will help you define this world in which we live… though I did not quote all of what Scripture states, I did quote some of it. So take the time to read all of the seven issues, and put them in perspective; remem-ber, the seven issues essentially are listed according to when they tran-spired in our world — i.e., from the ancient past to God’s divine future.
1. Satan and the angelic world existed in the heavenly eternal realm long before God created the world and human beings. It was only after Satan and millions of angels decided to live to the praise of their own glory, that God decided to create a new world and make new creatures in His image; keep in mind, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the worle; i.e., before the world ever came into existance; God preplanned everything, including those whom He was going to make His children (Eph 1:4). Though there is a lot of information in this first statement, give careful attention to it all; remember what God said to the greatest profit Isaiah – “I am God, declaring the end from the beginning… as I have planned things, surely I will do them” (cf. Is 14:12-17; 43:10-13; 46:9-11; Ps 100:3; 139:13-16; Gen 3:1-7, 14-15; Job 1:6-12; 2:3 – 3:26; 2 Th 2:3-12; Lk 10:17-18).
2. After Satan and his angelic co-horts turned against God in heaven, God made a new universe & created human beings in His Image, and placed them and Satan in the Garden of Eden;. keep in mind, when God created the world, He put Satan in it also (Gen 1:1; 1:26-27).
3. By the way, Satan caused Adam and Eve to sin soon after God had created them and placed them in the Garden of Eden… again, God also placed Satan in the Garden of Eden, and he was the one who caused Adam and Eve to sin… and due to the fact that they did sin, God removed them from the Garden of Eden and ultimately caused them to die (cf. Gen 3:1-19).
4. Due to the fact that sin now reined in all human-beings, God asked all of His new creatures to believe in Him & turn from sin and live to the praise His glory; yet such did not occur — within a few years nearly the entire population embraced a “self-life,” and lived for themselves and their own glory. The result was, God destroyed the entire world with a flood… only Noah and his family were spared, because only Noah had believed in God (cf. Gen 6:3, 5, 7, 8, 13-18; Gen 7; Gen 8; Rom 3:22; and Rom 10:9).
5. God promised to bring every new creature into heaven who humbly believed in Him… and when He would bring them into heaven He would completely transform them into His image, and remove their sinful flesh from their lives, and give them a brand new heavenly body (cf. Is 45:17; Jer 31:3; 32:40).
6. Now after God completed all of the foregoing, He chose to let all of those who placed their trust in Him, to reign and rule with His Son in the house of the Lord forever (i.e., for all of eternity). Remember God is building a new eternal state in heaven, and in that eternal state He will reign forever and give all believers the grace to rule forever with His Son! Remember the words of the Lord to the pro-phet Isaiah, “Do you not know that saints will judge the world? i.e., that all of God’s people will judge Satan and the entire angelic world? As William MacDonald states in the ”Believers Bible Com-mentary,” – “Believers will reign with Christ over the earth when He returns in power & glory, and that matters of judgment will be committed to them; so Christians will judge angels and Satan and the entire unbelieving world (cf. Jude 1:6; 2 Pet 2:4, 9; Mt 19:28; 1 Cor 6:2-3; Ex 15:18; Ps 146:10; 73:26; 111: 3, 9; 125:1; 2 Tim 2:12a).
7. In addition to the foregoing, God has created an Eternal Fire for the Devil and his angels, as well as the unbelieving world; and they shall all be subjected to it at the end of the age; remember, as pre-viously stated, Christians (i.e., God’s children) will be the ones who judge every unbeliever in the universe (cf. Rev 20:1-15; Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 1:7; Eph 20:7-10; 20:12-15; 14:9-10; Acts 24:10).
Keep in mind, Satan’s sinfulness was not something our omniscient God wasn’t fully aware of; thus God planned to make human beings in “His image” (remember, no other creature was ever made in the image of God); in so doing God predetermined to place the “Holy Spirit” in the lives of those who placed their trust in Him. As such He said at the end of the age that He will remove their fallenness from their lives… in so doing they will serve Him forever in the heavenly realm. The most significant pro-blem that most believers have, is that they don’t fully understand their fleshly nature, and that it is at war with the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is at war with their flesh; i.e., that their flesh and the Spirit are in complete opposition to each other (cf. Gal 5:17; also 1 Pet 2:11).
Now with the foregoing in mind, Christians must remember that nothing good dwells in their flesh (cf. Rom 7:18)… so should we embrace our flesh for some reason, we will need to confess our sins, repent & turn back to God and embrace Him and His will again (that is simply what repentance is). Now should we not confess our sins and repent when we stumble in life, God will subject us to some disciplines; in so doing He will move us back in a godly direction (read Heb 12:5-11; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 5:10). The truth is, no believer whatsoever permanently sells himself back into a fleshly life again; remember, all believers humbled themselves before God when they became Christians… the truth is humility is an extremely strong characteristic of every believer who ever lived — keep in mind, humility
means not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought… it is only proud, arrogant people who are self-sentered and who refuse to align themselves with God and place their trust in Him. Keep in mind, God has NEVER extended grace to the proud; i.e., God’s undeserved favor has never been given to arrogant self-centered people – God only gives grace to the humble (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5); remember, it is by grace whereby we were saved (Eph 2:8-9). Reflect again upon the words of Jesus to those in the “Sermon on the Mount” – “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt 7:6).
Beloved, though we all struggle with sin & frequently fall because of our fleshly inner-core, no believer lets sin completely rule in his or her life; i.e., no believer completely turns away from Christ and lives a fleshly life; though some believers may do it for a short period of time, God will then discipline them and cause them to repent & turn away from evil & turn back to God again. Remember, Paul taught that our flesh and the Spirit are completely in conflict with each other in our lives (cf. Gal 5:17; Rom 5: 16-26; 8:13; Col 3:5; 1 Jn 2:16), so it is not as if the Holy Spirit is not present in our lives; as such, God’s Spirit moves all believers in a godly direction (cf. John 14:16-17; 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 17:15-17). Remember what the apostle Paul said to the Philippians — “GOD is at work in you both to will and to work HIS GOOD PLEASURE” (Phil 2:13; 1 Cor 12:6; 15:10; Eph 1:4-5). Obviously, that is an incredibly profound statement! Thank God He is at work in us, transforming us into His image… because none of us have the ability to transform our own lives; only GOD can change us!!! Remember, what God in Christ did for us is “give us a new nature;” another way of stating it is this: those who placed their trust in God “were made alive in Christ, with a new capacity for goodness which we did not possess before.” Said Dr. Lawrence Richards, the author of over 100 books that have been used in numerous colleges & seminaries all over America said, “The challenge of the Christian life is to learn to live as the new people we have become, and to increasingly reject the old person we once were.” As Dr. William Mac-Donald, the author of the book “Believer’s Bible Commentary,” said, “We must not excuse our sinning, by passing it off to indwelling sin (i.e., to our flesh), because we are responsible for what we do.” Though our flesh has a strong presence in our lives, God’s Spirit dwells within us to give us the grace to overcome our flesh. The problem with us as be-lievers is that we often capitulate and cave into our flesh, because the issues of discouragement, frustration and anger (to mention just a few things) are very common issues for us to embrace; thus we must take action immediately, and move into God’s divine presence. Remember, to focus on fleshly issues means we are going to cave into them at some level. Since God approves of everything we are subjected to in life, we must take the initiative to reject what our flesh is thinking, and embrace divine truth and God’s will for us.
Though what was stated in the previous five paragraphs is extremely important, many of you still may not fully understand exactly how your flesh functions in your life. Keep in mind, when we placed our trust in God, He redeemed us and made us one of His children; yet in so doing, He did not remove our sinful flesh from our lives… as such, there is a “war” going on in our lives between the Holy Spirit and our flesh — the truth is, they are in complete opposition to each other and constantly warming against each other (read Gal 5:17); so we are a people with two natures — a sin nature and a holy nature… we are not simply glorious creatures (though we will be when we enter into God’s presence in the heavenly realm; such will not occur until our life on earth is over). So in order to simplify the issue, picture your flesh as being a fallen human creature who constantly gets discouraged… frustrated… and angry (as previously stated). Since your flesh is fully aware of everything that is going on in your life, it will constantly express itself, and in so doing it will emphatically share it’s opinion with you without telling you that it is the flesh; it will simply “give expression” to all that is going on in your life. Now do to the fact you may not be mindful that your flesh is what is ruling in the moment, there are times when you will naturally
embrace what your flesh is saying. Beloved, like everyone, I can get discourage, frustrated & angry in life (those are not rarities that seldom occur in our lives; the truth is, they frequently occur in our lives; as such, we often embrace them). Beloved, little did I know years ago, that my flesh had that kind of a presence in my life… so I now understand the necessity to reject what my flesh is saying, and immediately turn to God and embrace His will! However, the truth is, my flesh oftentimes wins in the moment and rules in my life. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “I frequently do the very thing I do not wish to do, thus I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me… so nothing good dwells in my flesh; though I often wish to do good, oftentimes I do not; thus I end up practicing the very evil I do not wish to embrace” (Rom 7: 16-20). Paul’s message out to be very clear to all of you… we are not glorious creatures without any negatives in our lives… though the Holy Spirit is present within us, so is our fallen sinful flesh… though I wish I had the ability to never sin, that will not occur until I enter into God’s presence in heaven; meanwhile, I have to practice warring against my flesh numerous times every day! Keep in mind, God Himself so willed that all of his children possess a sinful flesh & that we all war against it! The truth is, since none of us are glorious creatures, sin oftentimes wins in the moment. Now though we all hate the fact that we often stumble in life, that simply defines reality. Remember, “Satan’s sinful behavior in the heavenly realm prior to creation, was the reason why God made human beings in “His image,” and placed them in the Garden of Eden with Satan — So God had a plan for sins presence in our lives, and the most significant part of that plan was sinful human beings killing Him on the cross. And just as “Christ died for our sins,” He has willed that “we as His children die to sin.” Lord willing, the foregoing will help you fully embrace God’s will for your life — as difficult as it really is, do your best to “fight the good fight!”
To give a little more understanding as to what was just stated, it is impor-tant to remember, “God chose us before the foundation of the world, and predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (read Eph 1:4-5).
Said Jesus to His disciples, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and those who come to Me I shall not cast out… I will lose none!” (cf. Jn 6:37-39; also Jn 18:9). Said Jesus, “No one can come to Me unless God the Father draws Him” (Jn 6:44). I mention the foregoing because many believers see a lot of things as being somewhat “self-determinant” — though that is humanistically understandable, that does not define us as God’s children; GOD is not only the creator of all things, He is the One who made all of us fallen creatures His childrent — such was not at all the work of human beings. Remember, GOD not only created all things, He has declared the end from the beginning (cf. Is 46:9-11). Remember what Jesus said to His disciples shortly before He returned to heaven — “I’m only with you a little longer & then I go back to Him who sent Me; though you may seek Me, you shall not find Me, because where I am going you cannot come… however, I will ask the Father & He will give you another Helper, and He will be with you forever… now the Helper (i.e., the Holy Spirit) will teach you all things and bring to your remem-brance all that I said to you. When the Helper comes (i.e., the Spirit of truth), He will bear witness of Me & guide you into all truth. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and when the day of Pentecost comes, all of Christ’s disciples will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (cf. Jn 7:33-34; Jn 13:33; 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:13; Acts 1:8; 2:1, 4). Said Paul to the Corinthian believers, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” (cf. 1 Cor 6:19). Paul also said, “The Holy Spirit helps our weaknesses, because we do not know how to pray as we should; thus the Spirit Himself intercedes for us… according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27) — again, the Spirit sustains us in our weaknesses… though we are often perplexed in our prayer life (because we often pray selfishly and ignorantly), the Holy Spirit comes alongside to assist us in our weaknesses and intercedes for us… the truth is, sometimes groaning can be the most spiritual prayer. Beloved, I have quoted the foregoing that you might see the significance of God’s presence in your life.
The fruit of the Spirit becomes possible when the life of Christ flows through the Christian. To be fruitful, we as believers must stay close to God through prayer, feeding on His Word, and keeping close company with other believers. Again, if we would be fruitful, we must stay close to God. As Dr. James Montgomery Boice states in his popular book “Foundations of the Christian Faith” – “there must be pruning in the believer’s life” — Said Jesus to His disciples the night before He went to the cross: “Every branch in Me that bears fruit, My Father prunes that it may bear more fruit… Beloved, abide in Me as the branch can- not bear fruit of itself unless it abides Me” (cf. Jn 15:1-4). Keep in mind, pruning can be unpleasant at times, because it means that some things we treasure must be removed from our lives, and that may even involve some suffering. Keep in mind, God has ways of moving us in a godly direction, so there is a purpose in the pruning that God subjects us to in life. Remember, the purpose of pruning is to bring forth fruit (Jn 15). Now with the foregoing in mind, remember “there is a battle going on in our lives as believers; i.e., a battle between our flesh and the Spirit” (Gal 5:17); thus life oftentimes is not at all pleasant for believers. Remem-ber, our flesh is constantly waging war and expressing itself, and due to the fact that the vast majority of believers have a difficult time with what their flesh is saying, they often question their own spirituality — think about it, when your flesh embraces that which is sinful, if you do not understand what is causing that to happen, it is very likely that you will probably attribute it to your own nature and who you really are; i.e., you will see yourself as a very unspiritual person… by the way, such is not at all uncommon for believers – they hate what is going on in their hearts & minds, but they are not knowledgeable as to the fact that their sinful inner-core is simply ruling in their mind in the moment. Beloved, it is not as if believers can completely destroy their flesh and live a glor-ious life! The reality is, we have a “WAR” to fight as God’s children, and fight it we must! (cf. Gal 5:16-17; 1 Tim 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7; 1 Pet 4:11).
BELOVED, GIVE VERY CAREFUL ATTENTION
TO WHAT SCRIPTURE AND THE FOLLOWING
Before we proceed on to other issues, let’s look again at what the Apostle Paul had to say in Romans chapter seven — said Paul, “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. So that which I do, I do not understand, because I do the very thing I hate. Since I do the very thing I do not wish to do, then I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. So I know that nothing good dwells in my flesh; the wishing to do good is in me, but the doing of good is not… thus I practice the very evil I do not wish to do. So if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me; thus the principle of evil is present in me” (Rom 7:14-21). As the professor Dr. Lawrence Richards said in his popular book, “The Teacher’s Commentary” — “No matter how hard Paul tried not to sin, sin kept on expressing itself in him… you and I have had the same experience in life; we all want to do good, but like Paul we often do the very thing we hate; thus some sinful force in us takes over & acts through our body. The reality is, sin dwells in us!” Though Paul tried to obey the Law (cf. Rom 7:14), he ultimately concluded that he could not do it; remember, the Law is of divine origin & the revealed standard of morality; keep in mind, the Law reveals God’s holiness, and helps us see our need for a Savior! As the popular Christian speaker and author of more than eighty books, Warren Wiersbe stated in his book “The Bible Exposition
Commentary” — “Three times in Romans chapter seven, Paul stated that sin dwells in us” (Rom 7:14, 18, 20); for anyone to deny that, he must be a person who only lives according to the Spirit, yet no human being does that — though all of us as believers would like to do that, we simply don’t have the wherewithal to destroy our flesh and keep it completely silent. It is also true that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and it is His presence in our lives whereby we can overcome the flesh! But due to the fact that our flesh has a very strong presence in our lives, it often rules in the moment; yet when we fully embrace the presence of the Holy Spirit, He enables us to live victoriously in the moment (cf. Gal 5:16-17 and Rom 13:14). However, since our fallen flesh has a very strong presence in our lives, it often causes us to sin. Keep in mind, the foregoing information is not that easy to fully understand, yet that is what defines our human condi- tion; though we are filled with the Spirit, we are also filled with the flesh; thus there is a war constantly going on in our lives (Gal 5:16-17). Obviously if we didn’t have the flesh warring in our soul against the Spirit, our life would be a piece of cake for us, but that doesn’t define reality in our lives as believers. Keep in mind, Biblical faith confesses that sin is inherent in the human condition, because man is born with a propensity to sin! By the way, the word “sin” refers to unbelief or hardness of heart; now since we’re all fallen human beings, we all have a hardness of heart to some degree, and it is our hardness of heart that often makes life very difficult for us as believers.
So with the foregoing in mind, the chief manifestations of sin are these –discouragement, frustration, selfishness, pride, anger, greed, self-pity, sensuality, fear and jealousy; so there are a lot of reasons why we sin in life (the ten things I listed doesn’t come close to accounting for all of them). Jesus’ brother “James” said: “Each person is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desires” (Jam 1:14); for anyone to say he doesn’t have a number of desires is absolute nonsense; so the foregoing should not be that perplexing as to why believers have such a difficult time not sinning. Beloved, remember, humanistic thinking (i.e., fleshly thinking) is always going to cause problems in our lives, and when we cave into it, sin will result. Take a moment and reflect upon numerous other issues that occur in people’s lives and minds: agitation, depression, disappointment, painfulness, negatives, being mistreated, problems, corruption, sickness, anger, being lied to, frustration, feeling
horrible, judgementalism, hatred, discouragement, suffering great loss, being cheated, being lied to, sexual immorality, losing something that is very important to you, getting sick, losing money, loosing your job, family problems, etc. Obviously there are numerous things that can go wrong in our lives, and many of these things can be very disconcerting to us, and since we are fallen sinful creatures our fleshly minds will often give full expression (don’t for one moment think that your flesh simply speaks when you permit it to speak; it speaks instantly before you even get a chance to fully identify what it is saying). By the way, even promin-ent, godly biblical people got depressed at times; read the following pass-ages: Moses (Num 11:10-16), Job (Job 3:1-26), David (Ps 31:7-14), Elijah (1 Kg 19:1-18); Jonah (Jonah 4:1-11); Peter (Mt 26:75); Paul (2 Cor 7:5-7); even Jesus (Mt 26:36-38). Obviously as emotional beings, we can often get frustrated with life; that is not just an odd experience. Though we are encouraged to turn away from fleshly thinking when it occurs, that often doesn’t happen because of our emotional involvement; thus, we justify out thinking and give reason for it. It should not be a surprise to any of you, when some poignant negatives enter into our lives, it is very common for people to give consideration to the idea, rather than just refuse to think about it… thus you have already surrendered to your flesh. Keep in mind, “it is not easy to shut the door immediately on some poignant issue;” hence, sin oftentimes is only an inch away. Though we as believers don’t have the capacity to let divine truth completely rule in our lives, God is still asking us to do so. Remember, though Paul tracked down the source of his sinful behavior, he did not excuse it; instead he confessed his sin to the Lord! The reality is, there is a battle going on in the lives of every believer (Gal 5:17); as such, we need to do our best to align ourselves with God’s will, and when we fall we need to immediately confess our sin before God & repent of it — remember, confession essentially is realigning ourselves with God’s will; now whether we have to do it fifty times a day or five times a day, we must constantly take the time to do it; i.e., we must con-stantly dialogue with Christ as we walk through life in this world! (read the following passages: Jn 15:1-11; 16:33; Rom 8:28ff; 12:1-2; Gal 5:16-25; Phil 1:6, 9; Phil
4:6-7; Heb 12:1-2) — remember, that is what God has so willed for us as His children (again, read all the passages that were just listed). Now regard-ing absolute assurance, reflect upon the following passage.
The doctrine of “Spiritual Assurance” is widely taught in the New Test-ament. Paul teaches that the Spirit of adoption produces in the Christian “the assurance of Adoption” (cf. Rom 8:15-17; Gal 4:6). Paul was convinced that nothing (earthly or heavenly) can separate the believer from God’s love (cf. Rom 8:38-39). Christians possess full certainty of God’s ability to bring to completion the salvation that He has begun in us (cf. Phil 1:6; 2 Tim 1:12; Jn 5:24; Col 2:2; 1 Th 1:5; 1 Jn 3:18-19; 4:13; 5:10; 5:13; Heb 6:11; 10:22). Dr. Bruce Demarest, a processor at Manchestor University in England, stated in Dr. Walter Elwell’s book “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology” — “Scripture makes plain that one may be genuinely saved, but still lack full assurance of salvation” (cf. 1 Jn 5:13). He goes on to say that religious certainty may be weakened by sinful habits… by neglecting God’s Word… by quenching the Spirit… and by physical or mental exhaustion. The normal experience of assurance that is achieved by faith and obedience, results in security and selfless service to God and His people. Incidentally, the doctrine of assur-ance was given full treatment by Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and others back during the Protestant Reformation about 500 years ago, because Roman Catholicism back then rejected the certainty of salvation because of man’s sinfulness — in that sense, Catholicism acted very sim-ilar to ancient Judaism… if what Scripture taught didn’t mesh with their humanistic thinking, they changed what Scripture (i.e., God’s Word) states. By the way, this is also common today among many liberal Protestant churches; if they can’t fully identify themselves with what Scripture really teaches, they will let their own humanistic thinking rule in their hearts and minds — Lord willing, that does not define any of you who are reading this study; though God’s Word can be difficult to accept sometimes (because of the presence of our flesh), as believers we must learn to accept it for what it says, or we are going to negatively affect our faith.
The believer’s security & assurance is a very significant theological issue. The Bible teaches that salvation does not depend upon human effort, be-cause God is the author of salvation (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19; Jn 3:16). God justifies sinners who receive Christ in faith (cf. Rom 3:21-26), yet God is the One who ultimately gave us the gift to believe (cf. Eph 1:4; 2:8); assurance of salvation is God’s gift to us; it does not come by human effort. God who began the good work in us (salvation) also provides the assurance to bring His work to completion in the Day of Christ (cf. Phil 1:6). Remember, God in Christ protects and keeps Christians (cf. Jn 10:27-29; 2 Thes 3:3); we do not possess the strength or the ability to secure ourselves. Remember, we are finite creatures who are extremely limited in knowledge, and fallen sinful crea-tures who do not have the capacity to completely overcome our sinfulness; again, though we are believers we are still sinful fallen creatures, because God never removed our sinful flesh from our lives (cf. Gal 5:17; Rom 7:14-25). The Biblical view of assurance is rooted in the conviction that when Jesus departed from His Disciples, He promised them that He would provide them with a companion Spirit (i.e., a Comforter and Helper) who would dwell within them and guide them and be their Helper and teach them all truth (read Jn 14:25-30; 15:26-27; 16:8-15). Now with the foregoing in mind, God expects Christians to resist temptation and the Devil (cf. 1 Cor 10:13-14; Jam 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-9). Obviously, evil has to be dealt with; said the apostle John: “If we confess our sins (i.e., fully agree with God about them, and own up to them for what they really are), God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (no matter how ugly and awful they are!) and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). Beloved, though we all stumble in life because of our fleshly nature (Rom 7:14-25), keep in mind, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (cf. Rom 8:1; 2 Cor 5:17) because the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us ‘free’ from the Law of sin and of death!” (Rom 8:1-2). Never forget, Christ died for ALL of our sins – past, present and future! (cf. Rom 6:3-14; 1 Cor 15:27-28; Col 1:13-22; 1 Pet 3:18).
To expand upon this subject a little more — believers often times have to deal with the human problem of insecurity… remember, God is the author of salvation (cf. Jn 3:16; 2 Cor 5:18-1). The great message is this: “No one can earn assurance or security with God — assurance of salvation is God’s gift!” (Phil 1:6); God in Christ protects and keeps Christians (cf. Jn 10:27-29; 2 Thes 3:3). The reality is, we do not possess the strength or the power to secure ourselves — remember, we are fallen finite sinful creatures who do not have the capacity to completely overcome our sinfulness… though we are believers we are still sinful fallen creatures — why’s that? because God never removed our sinful flesh from our lives (cf. Gal 5:17; Rom 7:14-25). Said the Christian Author Gerald Borchert in the Holman Bible Diction-ary, “When Jesus departed from His disciples, He promised them that He would provide them with another helper, and that He would be with them forever; that is the Spirit of truth who will abide in you” (Jan 14:16, 17, 26). Now with regard to our sinfulness as believers, the writers of the New Testament were convinced that Christians will take very seriously the warnings in life because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives… thus believers are expected to persevere all the way to the end (cf. 1 Pet 1:5; 1 Jn 5:18; Rev 3:10). Keep in mind, with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, God has provided the guarantee of our marvelous relationship with Him (2 Cor 1:22). Dr. B. Demarest stated in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, “The doctrine of Spiritual assurance is widely taught in the New Testament” (in particular by the apostles Paul, John and the writer of Hebrews) — Paul taught that the Spirit of adoption produces in the Christian the assurance of adoption (Rom 8:15-17; Gal 4:6). Keep in mind, the apostle Paul was convinced that “nothing can separate the believer from God’s love” (Rom 8:38-39). So by virtue of God’s work in election and justi- fication (Rom 8:29-30), Paul was convinced that nothing can separate belie-vers from God’s love (cf. Rom 8:38-39; Phil 1:6; 2 Tim 1:2; Heb 6:1; 10:27; John 5:24; 1 Jn 4:13; 4:10, 13). Conversely, the biblical professor at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Dr. Robert Boyd, said, “Assurance is often used to describe the validity of the believet’s salvation;” by the way, the Greek word translated assurance in English is “plerophoria,” which literally means “full conviction” in Greek; the term is used in such pass-ages as these in the NT (cf. Rom 4:21; 14:5; 1 Th 1:5; Col 2:2; Heb 6:11; 10:22). Thus the basis of assurance rests upon sufficient objective evidence. As Boyd said, the Bible provides the grounds of assurance: “God promises that those who come to Him in Christ will not be cast out!” (Jn 6:37-40). Keep in mind, assurance is a product of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Th 1:5; Col 2:2; Heb 6:11; 10:22; Rom 8:16; 2 Cor 1:22).
THE ISSUE OF UNBELIEF
Regarding this thing called “unbelief”… this biblical term essentially refers to the turning away of individuals & groups from divine truth and the Christian faith. Though 18th century unbelief challenged the intellec-tual groups of faith, 19th century unbelief moved beyond that and assumed the falsehood of theism. Dr. D. B. Fletcher states in the book “Evangelical Dictionary of Theolgoy,” that Dr. Sigmund Freud, who was a 19th and 20th century Jewish German neurologist, argued that “man needs of a father figure” to enable him to feel at home in the world; thus man has projected the concept of God to meet this need. Fletcher then went on to say that the 19th century German philosopher and atheist, Friedrich Nietzsche, criticized Christianity for its point of pride; i.e., its moral impact on society. For Nietzsche “the ethical doctrines of Christianity were a slave morality” responsible for inhibiting the development of human excellence. The spread of unbelief in the 20th century has continued; as atheist Jean-Paul Sartre argued, “God’s existence was to be denied because it was incom-parable with human freedom.” Incidentally, in Western society the power-ful established churches of the 19th century have seen in the 20th century a drastic decline in attendance and influence. By the way, in Christianity itself, relative unbelief has made significant inroads into theology, as some have attempted to reinterpret traditional theology that it might be in accord with modern secular thinking. Keep in mind, this has not been an uncommon journey for churches down through the ages — back during the early years of Judaism many Jewish leaders changed the biblical discourse that it might mesh with their thinking, and such was also the case with the Roman Catholic World 500 years ago; that’s why there was a protestant movement back then… many liberal churches in the world today change what Scripture actually teaches; again, it is “fleshly thinking” that causes the world to misinterpret divine reality. Remember, without “humility” one will not embrace divine truth and live a life that God approves of; by the way, God despises “self-centered arrogance;” i.e., self-centered humanistic thinking. When man humbles himself before the Lord, God will open his heart & mind that he might “believe!” Unbelief refers to the turning away of individuals & groups from the traditional Christian faith and worldview. Again, while 18th century unbelief challenged the Chris-tian faith, 19th century unbelief moved beyond this & assumed the false-hood of theism; incidentally the spread of unbelief in the 20th century con-tinued even more. Even though unbelief has made significant advances here in America during the past few centuries, there is a large resurgence of Christianity around the world…large numbers are being added to the church in many other areas. Such just reveals how demonic the western world has become; keep in mind, the leftists in America are “strongly anti-Christ” — remember, this thing called “anti-Christ” is going to rule in our world just prior to God bringing it all to a close (cf. 1 Tim 4:1; Mt 24:5, 24; 1 Jn 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Jn 1:7; Rev 13:1-18; 19:19-21; 20:1-15).
Now, regarding this thing called “secularism,” essentially it is a way of life that is pursued without reference to God or religion. As D. W. Gill states in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theolgoy, “secularism has to do with ways of thinking and living away from God in this world, and such has strongly influenced science here in the western world. So secularism is guilty of having exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Having excluded the tran-scendent God as the absolute and the object of worship, the secularist inexorably makes the world of man & nature absolute and the object of worship. A correlative of secularism is “agnosticism;” a term generally used for the view that we do not know either in practice or in principle whether in fact there is a God. So agnosticism is often contrasted with atheism; though the theist asserts God’s existence, the atheist denies it, while the agnostic professes ignorance about it. According to Scripture, “atheism” refers to the deepest state of heathen misery (Rom 1:28). Since theism isn’t seen as an absolute in the atheistic world, the atheists deny God’s existence (cf. Ps 10:4; 14:1; 53:1; Is 31:1; Jer 2:13, 17-18; 5:12; 18:13-15). By the way, both the Old Testament and the New Testament begin with or assume the reality of God (cf. Gen 1 and Matt 1). With that in mind, the first-century two-thousand years ago believed in theism… yet the majority of people here in America in the twentieth century are now committed to atheism. Remember, back in the year 1925 numerous atheists became professors in the vast majority of America’s public universities, and this they did to give credence to this thing called atheism. However, to the chagrin of many in the believing world, the atheistic professors in our univer-sities claimed to give logical accounts for everything human beings experience without the need to appeal to God. Thus many atheists today serve on the faculties of America’s most prestigious universities. Keep in mind, ASU (i.e., Arizona State University) chose not to hire me because of my faith in Christ, and my commitment to divine theism throughout the world. Now though practical atheism does not deny God, it does maintain that theism is neither true nor false because it is not verifiable by public experience. Keep in mind, atheists essentially live their lives as if there is no God. Yet with all of the foregoing in mind, it is important to remember that Atheism cannot account for design, order and function that exists throughout the entire universe – thus the scientific world now believes that all that exists came into being through “creation” (i.e., through a creator), that nothing that possesses design, order & function simply evolved; again, the scien-tific world only embraces things that can be proven, and there hasn’t been one thing that gives proof to evolution; as such, the scientific world does not believe in evolution… incidentally, it is basically only the “diabolic liberal left” here in America that believes in it; keep in mind the reason why the diabolical left continues to embrace evolution, is that it refuses to believe in creationism! because that means a GOD exists in the universe! The reality is, some eternal creature brought everything into existence! So the wonderful news to the God-believing world is the truth that…
“The Creator Named ‘GOD’ Exists!”
Remember the words of one of the greatest scientists in the history of the world — Albert Einstein — “The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation… His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” Again, the wonderful news to the believing world is the reality that GOD exists!!!
Regarding this thing called “unbelief,” Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into the world” (John 9:39) — Scripture describes God as a Holy and Righteous being who will judge sin at the end of history (cf. Mt 25; Rev 20:5-7). Those who have not followed Christ (i.e., God) will be eternally con-demned to Hell (cf. Mt 25:31, 46; Jn 3:18; 2 Thes 1:7-10; Rev 20:14-15); even though Christians will not be judged for their salvation, they will be judged for their works (cf. Rom 14:10; 1 Cor 3:12-15; Matt 25:21-23; Luke 19:17). The gospels point to Christ as the agent who will judge mankind (cf. Matt 16:27; 19:28; 25:31; Luke 9:26; 17:24; 22:69). The reality is, every person throughout all of eternity will be judged. Thus every human being will stand before God and give an account of himself to God (cf. Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5); inci-dentally, every human being will know full-well exactly what he did in life — no human being will plead ignorance or say he doesn’t remember all he did in life. Though unbelievers will suffer eternal judgment (that is, damnation)… the believers depth of service will be revealed for what it really was on the day of judgment (cf. 1 Cor 3:11-15) — though some believers will have to acknowledge their self-centeredness that often ruled in their lives, every genuine believer does possess a degree of righteous living (by the way, if they didn’t possess any righteousness, they would not be be-lievers, because no believer lets sin completely rule in his or her life; such
does not occur; so no believer simply lives a sinful life); remember, God is the one who made us His children and placed His Spirit in our lives, so to say that He did not have an affect upon your life is absolute foolishness. Yet in addition to the foregoing, there are some believers who do not live very righteous lives — reflect upon the words of Jesus’ closest friend (the apostle John, who was the only disciple of Jesus who was not executed in life): “Little children, abide in Christ so that when He appears we may have confidence & not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 Jn 2:28); the reality is, if we abide in Christ we will avoid embarrassment when Christ returns; however, if we essentially live a self-centered life, we will be extremely ashamed for not living a life that gave great consid-eration to Christ; as such, we will shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 Jn 2:28); the reality is, we won’t be able to even look Him in the eye when we enter into His presence in heaven… instead, we will be so ashamed we will turn from Him because of the self-centered life we lived.
Scripture teaches that the suffering of the lost (i.e., the unbelieving world) is eternal (cf. Is 66:24; Mt 25:46; Mk 9:44-48; Rev 14:11). So it is no wonder “why it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). In Christian theology “hell” signifies the state to which the unrighteous will be placed after they undergo judgment. Those who reject God will be cast into darkness and the eternal lake of fire that God prepared for the devil and his angels and those whose names were not written in the book of life (Mt 25:30, 41; Rev 20:10-15); the punishment of “fire” is mentioned elsewhere in Matthew & Luke. Because people cannot fathom this thing called “hell,” they questions its existence, thinking that God is not that mean to unbelievers… yet all one needs to do is look at is the numerous judgments God did against numerous unbelieving nations down through the ages (be it Egypt, Babylon and numerous other countries)… and then there is the world-wide flood wherin God destroyed the entire unbeliev-ing world some 5,000 yrs ago. Remember, God had over 5,000,000 Jews destroyed in Germany in World War Two; after which he then brought the Nation of Israel back into existence! Keep in mind, God ultimately
subjects every human being to death, be they believers or unbelievers — the believers He ultimately forwards into heaven… and the unbelievers He ultimately forwards into hell. Obviously, it is not easy for us as hu-man beings to see God as being incredibly loving (cf. the cross) and ex-tremely unforgiving … yet whether one likes it or not, that defines our eternal Creator; keep in mind, human logic does not define reality…only God does! Remember, man’s temporal nature is extremely small and limited in comparison with God’s eternal nature; remember, man can’t even understand how God could create the entire universe out of abso-lutely nothing! So as long as man thinks that he has the capacity to fully understand divine reality, he’s going to make an absolute fool of himself. The problem with human beings is that they do not have the ability to understand anything beyond an IQ of 200 (which is an exaggeration in itself), let alone an IQ of billions & trillions; with that in mind, read the following verses (cf. Is 55:8-9; 40:6-8; 40:13-17; 40:28-31; 43:10-13; 45:5-7; 46:9-11); beloved, since we are human beings, don’t over emphasize anything in existence, because you don’t have the capacity to do so. Therefore, sim-ply humble yourself before God, and seek His forgiveness, and study His Word, and strive to please Him with your life… anything else is absolute nonsense. Remember what Scripture says, “Don’t think more highly of yourself then you ought… simply think to have sound judgment, because God has allotted to each of us a measure of faith” (cf. Rom 12:3; 2 Cor 10:5) — keep in mind, a renewed mind begins with thinking soberly about Christ and oneself; i.e., seeing Christ for who He really is, and seeing yourself for who you really are. When we do that “we will take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (cf. 2 Cor 10:5); as such, we will embrace divine truth and grow in our faith.
Remember, “sin means to miss the mark;” i.e., miss the mark of God’s law. God’s law expresses His own righteousness (i.e., what is right) and such is the ultimate standard God gives to human beings. When we fail to meet this standard, sin results; the truth is, we are all sinners in need of redemption… sin is simply the transgression of any of God’s laws. If God
commands us to love our neighbor, and we fail to do so, that is sin; so sin is transgression of the law, and taking actions that are prohibited by God. Traditionally speaking, the Roman Catholic Church defined a mortal sin as “a sin that kills grace in the soul” and requires renewed justification through the sacrament of penance; yet that is not what Scripture teaches. Conversely, Roman Catholicism believes venial sin is sin of a less serious sort; thus it does not destroy saving grace. Yet one of the greatest Protes-tan Reformers, John Calvin, declared that all sin against God is mortal sin in that it deserves death… yet no sin is mortal to God’s children in the sense that it destroys their justification by faith; the reality is, Protes-tantism affirms that all sin is serious… even the smallest sin is an act of rebellion against God; nevertheless, Scripture still regards some sins as more heinous than others; so there are degrees of wickedness. Remember, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for omitting the weightier matters of the law and warned the towns of Bethsaida and Chorazin that their sin was worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Matt 11:20-24). Though every sin we commit adds to our guilt and exposure to the wrath of God, the grace of God is greater than all our guilt combined! Keep in mind, the unforgiv-able sin of which Jesus warned is identified as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — if people are enlightened by the Holy Spirit to the degree that they know Jesus is truly the Christ, and then they accuse Him of being satanic, they’ve committed a sin for which there is no pardon. Those who commit such a sin are so hardened of heart, they feel no remorse for it whatsoever.
THIS THING CALLED TEMPTATION
Stated a highly acclaimed New Testament Professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, Dr. David Lanier, in “Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary” said, “Temptation broadly defined is the enticement to do evil, and Satan is the premiere tempter” (cf. Mt 4;3; 1 Th 3:5). Beginning with Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan also successfully tempted Adam, Cain, Abraham, David and others to sin. On the other hand, “Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). James, the brother of Jesus, explains that God cannot be tempted by evil… and He Himself does not tempt anyone (Jam 1:13). God allows testing for the purpose of bringing forth faith (i.e., believing and obeying God) which is what honors God. Said the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71). James tells us that “a blessing awaits those who endure temptation” (Jam 1:12). Said James, “Every person is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (i.e., his own fleshly desires – Jam 1:14); so the origin of temptation is attributed to our fallen human nature (cf. Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22; Col 3:9; 2 Cor 5:17). The reality is, God wants us to overcome evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21). The issue is this: once a person is drawn away by his own fleshly desires, it gives birth to sin. Though temptation in itself is not sin, yielding to temptation is sin. Now, though sin in the unbeliever’s life results in spiritual death from God forever in the lake of fire (Rev 20:10,15), the believer can sin to the point that God disciplines and causes him to die earlier then He so desired (cf. Acts 5:1-5; 1 Jn 5:16; Gal 6:8). Beloved, just because a person is a believer doesn’t mean he isn’t going to sin — as James said, “We all stumble in many ways” (cf. Jam 3:2; Ecc 7:20; Prov 24:16; Ps 38:1-22; 40:12; 73:26). Remember what the apostle Paul said, “No tempta-tion has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to endure, and with the temptation, He will provide a way of escape that we may be able to endure it” (cf. 1 Cor 10:13). Though that may sound a little puzzling to you, that de-fines reality — the point is, we must learn to turn away very quickly from temptation, and pour our heart out to God & seek His will. If we let our flesh dominate the moment, we will cave into temptation (be it getting angry, frustrated, or becoming extremely discouraged); obviously, when we fully cave into temptation, sin will occur, so as believers we need to “practice moving ourselves away from the issue, & not give full consent to it.” Though making adjustments is not always easy, we must learn to do so very quickly… obviously dwelling on the issue is not a positive; it is a very poignant negative. Remember, the more time we spend looking at the problem, the more impute we are going to receive from our flesh; remember, our flesh has a very strong presence in our lives… so to treat it lightly, we will cave into our flesh and sin will result.
The reality is, God desires us to withstand temptation and glorify Him in our bodies, which He purchased with His own blood (1 Cor 6:20); remember, Jesus Christ paid the cost to redeem us from our slavery to sin (cf. Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:18-19). The truth is, because Christ redeemed us of our sins, we no longer have to be totally ruled by our sin nature… as Christ-centered indi-viduals, we can walk in the light to the praise of His glory; i.e., we don’t have to let sin dominate our lives; again, we can live to the praise of God’s glory — that’s why He died for us & placed the Helper (i.e., the Holy Spirit) in our lives (cf. Jn 14:16-17, 26; 15:7, 26). Remember the prayer of the Lord Jesus to His Father the night before He went to the cross: “I am no more in the world, yet My people are in the world… Holy Father, keep them in Thy name… keep them from the evil one… Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth… I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those who will ultimately believe in Me through the words of My disciples” (cf. Jn 17:11, 15, 17, 20). Obviously, GOD is an integral part of our lives… He has not simply left us alone to walk in the light (not at all)… He dwells within us, and is constantly at work moving us in a godly direction. As the apostle Paul said, “God is at work in you, both to will & to work for His good pleasure” (cf. Phil 2:13; Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 12:6; 15:10; Heb 12:4-11; 13:21). With that in mind, follow the words of James: “Prove yourselves doers of the word & not merely hearers who delude themselves; faith without works is useless!” (cf. Jam 1:22; 2:20).
As Carl Kromminga, a professor at the University of Amsterdam, stated in the book “Baker’s Dictionary of Theology” — “Deception plays an im-portant role in Satanic temptation” (cf. Gen 3:1-13; 2 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 2:14); he sows the seeds of doubt, unbelief, and rebellion… so Satan tempts to test the veracity, goodness, and justice of God. “Remember, Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a messenger of Satan!” (2 Cor 12:7-9). Enticement to sin and rebellion oftentimes is the work of Satan (1 Pet 5:8-9; 1 Thes 3:5), not of God (Jam 1:13); though God tests us, He does not tempt us (Jam 1:13). The aim of testing is not to destroy or afflict, but to purge and refine; it is essential to accomplish Christian maturity; even Abraham’s faith had to be tested (cf. Gen 22:1-8); the important thing for believers is that they stand fast under pressure with a staying power that turns adversities into opportunities. If a believer endures a trial, he or she will have accomplished God’s goal, and they will be blessed accordingly (Jam 1:12). As James the brother of Jesus said, “Everyone is tempted when they are carried away and enticed by their own lust, and when lust has conceived it gives birth to sin and brings forth death” (i.e., when believers let lust rule in their hearts and minds, they are wasting their life; by the way, that is another common way of translating the term death that is used in Scripture (cf. Jam 1:14-15).
Keep in mind, the word “faith” means “trusting God’s Self-Revelation” (i.e., God’s Word – Ps 119:86). God expects people to trust Him and believe Him, because He has given every person in existence the knowledge of His presence; thus all are without excuse (cf. Rom 1:19ff; 2:15; Ecc 3:11). Keep in mind, those who refuse to humble themselves (because of their self-pride) will not place their trust in God, because they simply aren’t inter-ested in Him. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God nurtures and inspires trust in Himself through what He says & does for the benefit of people who need Him. Remember, God enables people to believe and be faithful (cf. Josh 24:14; Is 7:9). To fear God is to maintain a firm convic-tion that the Lord’s directives are reliable (Ps 119:89-91), protective (Ps 33: 18-19), and beneficial to the believer (Ps 31:19). An element of human re-sponsibility is this: “Choose for ourself whom you will serve” (Josh 24:15). Keep in mind, God does not force people to believe and trust in Him (cf. Deut 30:19); when people refuse to believe in Him, He often hardens their hearts (cf. Ex 10:26; Rom 1:18f). Remember, those who are truly righteous live by faith (i.e., believe what God’s Word says – cf. Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38; 1 Pet 3: 12). As genuine believers we need to serve God with sincerity and truth (cf. Deut 10:12; Josh 24:14-15; Micah 6:8; Mt 6:24; Lk 4:8; 16:13; Col 3:23-25).
THE ESSENCE OF “SALVATION”
The issue of “being saved” (i.e., salvation) is the supreme issue of the Bible. The Bible uses the term “salvation” to describe man’s redemption from sin & being reconciled to God; thus salvation involves deliverance from the ultimate calamity and the judgment of God… and this ultimate salvation is accomplished by Christ who “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thes 1:10). Remember, the Bible clearly teaches that there will be “a day of judgment” in which all human beings will be held accountable before the tribunal of God — for many “this day of the Lord” will be a day of darkness with no light in it whatsoever. It will be a day when God will pour out His wrath against the wicked and impenitent. It will be the darkest hour of human history. To be delivered from God’s wrath is ultimate salvation. The reality is, men are saved by the work of God; i.e., salvation is of the Lord, not of humanity… no human being can save him-self — salvation is a divine work that is accomplished by God Himself. It is the Lord Himself who saves us from His wrath. Remember, salvation means “deliverance by God from all kinds of evil and sin.” Jesus taught that salvation is only achieved through Him, the incarnate Son of God (cf. Jn 3:16); salvation is achieved through the death of Christ (Eph 2:13-18). In short, it is God’s solution to the whole problem of sin, and it is provided for us through Christ’s sufferings, death, and resurrection. Essentially, salvation involves the rescue from sin and death… the renewing of the spirit that man might live a life that is morally pleasing to God… and the restoration of a right relationship with God. So Scripture makes it clear that Salvation restores one’s relationship with God; as the Apostle Paul sad, “We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom 5:10). The New Testament clearly teaches it: “salvation occurs by grace alone through faith in Christ” (cf. Jn 3:16; Eph 1:3-6; 2:8-9). All New Testament wri-ters witness to the importance of the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus for salvation (cf. Rom 1:6; 1 Cor 15:3-11; 1 Pet 2:21-25; Acts 2:14-39; 3:11-26; 10:34-48). The question that is often asked is this: Can anyone know for sure that he is saved? Incidentally, the Bible calls us to make our salvation a matter of certainty. Said Peter, “Make your call and election sure” (2 Pet 1:10); it is our duty to seek assurance of our salvation. Christians who remain uncertain about the state of their salvation are subject to all sorts of questions that paralyzes their walk with Christ — thus such individuals are vulnerable to the assaults of Satan. So we must seek to be assured of our salvation. The truth is, there are some people who are saved but do not really know that they are saved; thus these people are actually in a state of grace but are uncertain of it. Perhaps they are wrestling with sin in their lives, and doubt their own salvation because they have a troubled conscience. There are also people who are saved and know that they are saved, because they have a clear and sound understanding of what sal-vation requires and know they have met the requirements; they have believed the testimony of the Holy Spirit when He witnessed to their spirits that they indeed are God’s children (Rom 8:16). And then there are people who are not saved but believe that they are saved. These people have assurance of salvation without salvation; thus their assurance is a false assurance… the reality is, they are simply embracing a false doc-trine of salvation. Many people falsely assure themselves of salvation by believing that they will get to heaven by simply trying to live a good life; i.e., they think they are living a good enough life to satisfy the demands of a Holy God. The reality is, a person might think he has a saving faith, when in fact he does not — incidentally, such self-confidence is what defined the majority of the ancient Jewish world (cf. Rom 3:10-20; 5:20; Gal 2: 16). The truth is, no man who ever lived had the capacity to save himself; only God has the capacity to save anyone! Such has always defined fallen creatures; no human being has ever merited salvation — why is that? be-cause every human being who has ever lived has been a fallen, sinful creature; hence it is by “grace alone” (i.e., God’s unmerited favor) whereby one experiences salvation, and enters into God’s eternal state (i.e., heaven). Keep in mind, without humility one will never experience salvation; so for one to proudly think that he can merit salvation himself, completely contradicts what Scripture teaches (i.e., what God teaches)… proud hearts simply don’t acknowledge their sinfulness & unworthiness. So God’s Son (i.e., Jesus Christ) is the one who earns and effectuates our salvation. Keep in mind, salvation involves repentance, which means humbly turning away from self and sin to God and holiness… it is then that God effectuates salvation. As believers we must see whether or not we have any genuine love for Christ…and we must examine the fruit of our faith. We do not need perfect fruit to have assurance (absolute per-fection is not possible for fallen creatures, not even believers), but their must be some evidence of the fruit of obedience for our profession of faith to be credible; remember, God gives grace to His people, so believers have the capacity to walk in the light…walk in the Spirit… & walk in obedience to Christ… because God gives us the grace to do so. If no fruit is present, then no faith is present… though we as believers don’t live perfect lives, neither do we as believers live absolutely demonic lives! Wherever there is saving faith, there is some divine fruit in his or her life. Finally, we seek our assurance from God’s Word through which the Holy Spirit bears wit-ness to us that we are His children. Following are several passages that affirm all that has been stated in this chapter — some of you may need to read and give careful consideration to all of the following passages that I have listed (cf. Ezek 36:26-27; Zeph 1; Mt 7:21-23; John 3:16-17; Rom 1:16-17; 1 Cor 1:26-31; 1 Thes 1:6-10; John 3:1-21; Rom 8:15-17; 2 Cor 1:12; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 5:13). For those of you who are deeply troubled regarding your faith, prayerfully read through all of these passages several times if need be, and ask God for the grace to believe; remember, God gives faith to people when they humble themselves before Him, so faith is not the product of human thinking (cf. 2 Th 2:13; Titus 1:5; Heb 12:2).
THE ISSUE OF “CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION”
Regarding this thing called “persecution,” it all started with Jesus… interestingly enough, everywhere He went He attracted huge multitudes of people who wanted to listen to Him; as such, He was profoundly pop-ular among the masses. Whereas the rulers of the Jews laid heavy bur-dens on their people, Jesus associated with people whom the Pharisees considered “rabble.” As R. C. Sproul (one of the greatest theologians and preachers in America during the 20th century) stated in an article he wrong on “Why the Pharisees Hated Jesus so Much?” — “The reality was this: the people loved Jesus and embraced Him, but what they felt from the Pharisees was judgment. Since the only thing the Pharisees looked at was the people’s sin, they had contempt for many common people; thus they saw Jesus associating with the common people & saw them cheering Him and loving Him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand it because they were envious and suspicious of Him and His popularity. Furthermore, they hated Him because He exposed them.” Before Jesus came into the world, it was the Pharisees and the Sadducees and Scribes who set the moral standard for the Jewish world; in so doing, they sat in the highest places in the synagogue. These three groups were the most honored and celebrated for their virtue, but their virtue was a pretense, as Jesus repeatedly taught and said to the Pharisees: “You’re like dead men’s tombs, whitewashed sepulchers that are painted without blemish on the surface, but inside filled with dead men’s bones… you do every-thing possible to hide that impurity & filthiness from public view… and pretend to be righteous, and you major in that pretense of being right-eous” (Mt 23:1-39). Incidentally, the Pharisees started as a group in the intertestamental period about 200 years before Christ came into the world… they were upset because the people were abandoning the purity of the covenant that they had made with God, and were seriously lack- ing in their obedience to the commandments of God; so they were the conservatives of the day who were committed to obeying God. But a lot of things happened between the day of the formation of the Pharisees and the time of Jesus’ incarnation; in a word, they were counterfeit and fake. When Jesus walked this earth, true righteousness and holiness was mani-fested by Him to the entire Jewish world. It did not take exceptional brilliance to discern the difference between the real and the counterfeit… so the Pharisees were exposed by the true & authentic holiness of Christ; thus, they hated Him, and they couldn’t wait to get rid of Him! Keep in mind, all people will be judged according to God’s perfect standard of righteousness.
Said Jesus to His disciples the night before He went to the cross: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (cf. Jn 15: 18); the truth is, the Bible is very clear that the people of God will be per-secuted. Said Jesus, “The world hates Him and will hate His followers.” Keep in mind, the term “world” represents all that is against God (be it Satan, sin and all self-oriented creatures). Remember, when people in the world come face-to-face with the real Jesus of the Bible, they come face to face with God, and that they are sinners! Thus they realize they have a sin problem. At this point, people must admit they have this sin problem and “humbly ask Jesus to help them be not of the world;” if they don’t pursue that, they will reject Jesus and continue in their sin and “be of the world.” Since the followers of Christ are commanded to point people to Him; when Christians do this, people must decide to humbly align themselves with Jesus, or be proud people of the world; in so doing they will continue to love the things of the world most of all (cf. 1 Jn 2:15-16).
Remember, harassment & suffering that people and institutions inflict upon others for believing differently in their worldview and culture, is now becoming fairly common in the western world. Keep in mind, per-secution intimidates, silences, punishes & even kills people. Jesus was persecuted and killed by the religious and political establishments of His day (cf. Mark 3:6; Luke 4:29; John 5:16; Acts 3:13-15; 7:52). Remember, Jesus criti-cized the Temple activities (Mark 11:15-18), and the Law (Matt 5:21-48). Said Jesus, “If they persecute Me, they’ll persecute you” (cf. John 15:20; Acts 4;3; 5:17-42; 8:1; 12:1). Again, sin is rebellion against God & man’s own choice (cf. Ezek 18:4, 19, 20; Rom 1:18-20; 5:12). Sin’s origin is found in Man’s rebel-lious nature. Remember, God established the Law as a standard of right-eousness — any violation of it is defined as sin (cf. Deut 6:24-25). A person who keeps the Law is righteous, one who doesn’t is sinful. Both Jewish and Greek languages refer to sin as “missing the mark that God estab-lished… and lacking fellowship with God.” Thus sin is referred to as “unbelief” (cf. John 3:18-19; 16:8-10).
So, what happened to the early Christians? — Peter, Paul and Silas were thrown in jail… James and Stephen were killed… why was this? Because they were telling people to repent & believe in Jesus Christ! Keep in mind, the Holy Spirit came to testify and show the world that Jesus Christ really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! (cf. Jn 15:27) — here we see how the Holy Sprit testifies. By the way, sharing the gospel is what followers of Jesus have been doing for 2,000 years! Incidentally, since Christianity has flourished here in America for the past 200 years, very few Christ follow-ers here have been persecuted. Since the diabolical godless left here in our country is now rising to the top, because they love darkness and their evil sins, they are now starting to express their hatred for Christ and the Christian world. Obviously, fallen people love darkness and evil rather than light and divine truth (Jn 3:19), and love their secret sins. Thus such people are in danger of eternal punishment (Rev 20:15). The problem with most people is that they love the world and do not want to let go of the things of the world. Yet once they humble themselves & admit that they actually have these problems, then they are ready to fully receive the GOOD NEWS of the gospel — that the Father loves them despite their sin! In addition to that, that there is forgiveness of their sins through faith in Jesus Christ!... and that there is a heavenly helper (the Holy Spirit) who will help them “no longer live of the world!” Those of you who are con-templating the good news of Jesus Christ, remember the Holy Spirit will HELP YOU place your trust in Christ, and experience eternal salvation.
Regarding the “persecution of Christians in our world,” it has occurred in many areas for a variety of reasons, and those persecuted have lost possessions, liberty or life because they were considered dangerous or offensive. One of the greatly respected professors, authors and theolo-gians at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, David Wells, states in the, “International Dictionary of the Christian Church,” that persecution was initiated both by Roman emperors and mobs back during the early years of the Roman Empire, and that Christians were often persecuted because they refused to worship the emperor. During the thirty-year war here in America early in the 17th century, Christianity was declared the enemy of the people… and during the Revolution in France, the land was de-christianized and a lot of suffering occurred; in 1801, however, Napoleon ended this treatment of the church by entering into a concordat with Rome. In contrast to the foregoing, in the 19th century many coun-tries sought to grant effective religious toleration to everyone, yet har-assment of the church still continued in some lands. It was not until the 20th century that carefully planned persecution was again undertaken by the state — it is impossible to fully estimate the loss of Christian life under Nazism and Communism, but it appears to be greater than at any other comparable period in history. Keep in mind, Jesus was persecuted and finally killed by the religious and political establishments of His day (cf. Mk 3:6; Lk 4:29; Jn 5:16; Acts 13:13-15; 17:52); incidentally, all of Jesus’ disci- ples (with the exception of John) were executed for their faith by the Roman government; remember the words of Jesus to His disciples the night before He went to the cross, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20).
Keep in mind, our modern day world is not a glorious world, it is filled with significant hatred all around the globe. In some countries, severe abuse of Christians takes place under authoritarian governments. In North Korea and other communist countries, authoritarian governments seek to control all religious thought and expression as part of a comprehensive plan to control all aspects of political and civic life. These governments regard some religious groups as enemies of the state because they hold religious beliefs that may challenge loyalty to the rulers. The British government addressed the current state of Christian persecution around the globe; in so doing, they stated that “Christianity is by far the most widely persecuted religion.” Remember, Christianity now essentially encompasses one-third of the world’s population. According to the British report, an estimated 80% of persecuted believers all around the world are Christians. Incidentally, a Chinese court not long ago upheld its unjust conviction of a U.S. Christian Pastor named John Cao, who dedicated his life to peacefully serving the poor & building schools in China and Myanmar (Burma) — a couple of years ago Cao was arrested and sentenced to 7 years in prison for living out his faith… incidentally Pastor Cao’s health has been very negative — he has already lost 50 lbs because he’s been lacking nutrition. The British government has been working with several of the highest levels of government to correct this injustice & obtain his freedom to return to his home in North Carolina with his wife and children. The British recently said, “If world leaders don’t come together on behalf of endangered Christians, the outlook appears to be very negative & unthinkable.” Keep in mind, the British government recently submitted a written message to the United Nations Human Rights Council through the European Center of Law & Justice, detailing the spread of religiously motivated atrocities & acts of violence against Christians around the globe. By the way, ISIS (i.e., the terrorist military group in the middle east that includes Islam and Iraq) waged a bloody campaign of genocide against Christians, leaving countless inno-cents dead and many more displaced & vulnerable. ISIS and its affiliates are spreading around the globe, promoting terror and perpetrating reli-giously based attacks; it is estimated that since May, 2011, Boko Haram has killed more than 37,500 people, displaced 2.4 million, and created 228,000 refugees. Keep in mind, Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and utilizes its tactics of mass killings and kidnappings to instill fear and intimidation. They target Christians and anyone else they see as a threat to the establishment of an Islamic State. Incidentally, the ACLJ (i.e., the American Center of Law and Justice) is fighting for endangered and dying Christians all around the world… they have stood before the U.N. several times demanding protection for Christian victims of the ISIS genocide in Syria and Iraq. Though ISIS is now on the run, the scourge of its viral, hateful rhetoric & its commitment to drive Christians to a violent extinction has infected a number of other radical jihadist groups. For more information on this subject, you can go online and read a couple of articles that are titled “Why Are Chjristians Persecuted?” and “Persecuted Church.” Though many people have a difficult time interpret-ting reality in our world, what has been stated in the last few pages helps define reality; this world is not at all a wonderful, kind, loving world! The truth is, it never has been! It is simply a significant piece of demonic trash. What has surprised me is that nearly the entire world is corrupt to the core! Keep in mind, the diabolical left here in America absolutely hates Christ-ians and Christianity; the problem with many believers is that they have been completely duped regarding reality. Remember, just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you are a man or woman who possesses great wisdom and sensibility.
Beloved, I’m praying God’s best for all of you
who have taken the time to read this book.
Your friend and everlasting cohort in Christ,
Donald W. Ekstrand
In closing, give careful consideration to the following hymn:
“JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE”
I am weak but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long,
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Just a closer walk with Thee.
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea.
Daily, walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily, walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
As the apostle Paul said, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8; 4:13). Beloved, the wonderful news is, we don’t have an “absentee” heavenly Father — He is here for us and will grant the request that the forgo-ing hymn states. Keep in mind, God is happy to walk with us, to share our burdens, and to guide us safely to the shore of His kingdom.
God’s Best to You, Donald Ekstrand