Monday, October 8, 2018

The GREATEST OF THESE . . . PART 3 of 3: LOVE

1 CORINTHIANS 13:12-13 
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Let's go over this basic outline that we developed in Part One one last time.
The three pillars of Christian virtue, derived from the Holy Spirit that brings such fruit into and through our lives are faith, hope and love ("charity" in KJV).

This has been a three part series in which we've examined two of the three primary virtues: faith, hope and now love. All three words and their meanings are as follows:

Faith - (Greek word is pistis), means - "persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly, constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity."
See also Vine's Expository Notes on faith.

Hope - (Greek word is elpis) means - from a primary ἔλπω élpō to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation (abstractly or concretely) or confidence:—faith, hope.
See also Vine's Expository Notes on hope.

Love - (Greek word is agape) means - affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love, a purely Biblical and ecclesiastical word. The attitude expressed by God towards His Son, the human race in general, and particularly to believers on the LORD Jesus Christ. His expressed desire is for this same attitude to be expressed by believers among themselves. An exercise of Divine will in deliberate choice made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself.
See also Vine's Expository Notes on love.

To examine the Christian virtues in greater detail, including these three, check out this link from Bible.org.

As disciples of Christ we cannot live in the Spirit, nor can we possibly please God without faith:

HEB 11:6
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
(See also HEB 6:1; ACTS 20:21).


Likewise we cannot live in the faith of the Gospel without hope, specifically the hope of the resurrection, which is foundational and central to the faith (1 COR 15:13-23):

1 PET 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
(See also: ACTS 23:6; 24:15).

These are absolutely essential to the disciple of Christ, and yet as vital as these are, what we read in 1 CORINTHIANS 13 puts things in their proper perspective and priority:

GOTTA LOVE IT

1 CORINTHIANS 13:13
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Regarding this "glass" (vs. 12) that we look into, this mirror:
We perceive the reality of God through the Word - the Holy Scriptures, as well as by the very Spirit of Christ that dwells within us. Yet for all of this revelation, our understanding and perception is not yet complete (but sufficient for all that we have need of in this temporal life; 2 PET 1:3). 

We still see "through a glass darkly" today but not forever; we shall one day see face to Face, we shall on that BLESSED DAY know God even as we ourselves are known by God. This is one of the most startling and awesome verses of all Scripture to me! To know God just as He knows us! Absolutely astounding!

Faith and hope are those things that we as Christians relate to God: we have faith in God, we have hope towards God. We direct these spiritual virtues towards God Who has equipped us with them whereby we may exercise our spirituality in biblical fashion. 

Love is something somewhat different: certainly we express our love to God, but this love is of no human manufacture. As mentioned above in our definitions of 'the Big 3' this love is something that emanates from God, but also is integral to the very nature of God Himself:


1 JOHN 4:7-8
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

EPHESIANS 2:4 
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Scripture here tells us of the kind of quality that God has loved us with; the love that is Himself, descriptive of His nature (See the fruit of the Spirit which is love, and the aspects of this love: GAL 5:22-23; 1 COR 13:4-8). 

This brings clarity to what the "new commandment" means from Jesus our LORD, concerning the quality of love we disciples are to have for one another:

JOHN 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

HOW could we possibly love as CHRIST loves us?? ONLY by the Spirit of God - because it's by the Spirit the agapeo of God can be manifest in us!

As you consider the aspects of this love, you can easily see these as a 'character profile' of the LORD Jesus Christ Himself. Which leads me to the next point:

1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-3
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Considering these spiritual gifts as described in 1 CORINTHIANS Chapters 12 and 14, Paul says to "covet earnestly the best gifts" such as here mentioned: the gift of tongues and especially prophecy (1 COR 12:31) but in the same breath he says, "yet I show you a more excellent way."

If one could understand all the spiritual "mysteries" contained and described in Scripture, and possess all knowledge - that would be powerful! Or what about the kind of faith that could literally remove a mountain . . . this is something never seen in Scripture - the closest thing we see to this would be the parting of the Red Sea (EXOD 14).

Or what about displaying self-sacrificial acts that included offering oneself up to be burned to death? There are some saints who endured such persecution by burning. Here is an account of two more:
On October 16, 1555, after spending eighteen months in a tower cell, Latimer and Ridley met at an Oxford stake. With Latimer in a frock and cap, and Ridley in his bishop’s gown, the two men talked and prayed together before a smith lashed them to the wood.Ridley was the first to strengthen his friend. 'Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.' As the bundle of sticks caught fire beneath them, Latimer had his turn. Raising his voice so Ridley could hear, he cried, 'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out. Three years later, Mary I died and passed the kingdom to her half-sister Elizabeth, a Protestant queen. And Latimer and Ridley’s candle burst into a torch.
Yet in each of these cases of seemingly heroic feats of operating in gifts, in understanding and knowledge, and by sacrifices, the apostle declares: if done without love, then it is vain "it profits me nothing"! This is how vital it is that everything we say and do is accomplished by the Spirit of God, in the spirit of agapeo love.

Any work done, any ministry engaged in, if not done by the sole motivator of agapeo love, will result in wood, hay and stubble. Conversely what ever we have done by the love of God moving and empowering us will result in gold, silver, precious stones. 

At the Bema seat of Christ, we saints will be judged, not for our sin, but for our conduct in Christ, the works we have accomplished, whether they are born of God's will and love or not. 
Those founded upon God and His Spirit, when tested in the fire will prove to be gold, silver and precious jewels. 
Those manufactured by anything other than the Spirit of the LORD will also be tested in the fire and prove to be wood, hay and stubble - burned to ashes and worthless (See 1 COR 3:11-14; 2 COR 5:10).

We are laborers together with the LORD; He is the husbandman (farmer) and we His field, by which He seeks to grow the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives (GAL 5:22-23):

1 CORINTHIANS 3:9-15
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

The foundation of this building (our lives) is Christ Jesus; Love Incarnate. Therefore anything built on this foundation must likewise be based on this foundation of agapeo love. If that building is constructed with such marvelous material as God's own love, in accordance to the will of God, this shall be "gold, silver and precious stones".

Obedience to God could be mechanical and without heart, and yet is hardly honoring to the LORD. But true obedience is out of a heart of genuine faith, and as we noted before, faith works (operates) by love (GAL 5:6). 

If we allow the love of God to flow through our lives, the very nature and Spirit of God - how can we ever go wrong in life? Where will we stumble in our walk?

Let's take a look at the nature of God's love one aspect at a time:

1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-8
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; Love suffers long and is kind - what can we say about this?
Christ is the Supreme example for us. In His greatest suffering, The Passion of the Cross, He remained kind, and sought for the care of His mother after His passing (JOHN 19:26). It is by the love and grace of God that we also can express the same while we endure suffering in all its forms: physical illness, the strongest distresses of life, persecution, tribulation, etc.

charity envieth not
Envy is wanting for oneself what was granted to another - it is selfishness. Yet when we are operating in the love of God, we rejoice with those who have cause to rejoice. We are blessed to see others blessed, with no regard to our own lack. The LORD Jesus is ever and always Who rejoices when there is a soul saved, bringing that lost one Home, resting on His Holy Shoulders.

charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own
Love is about seeing God exalted, and others edified, without considerations for oneself - therefore to exalt oneself does not even come into mind for those who function in accordance to agapeo. The LORD Jesus was all about seeing God the Father exalted, and others blessed - most often at His own expense. May we be yielded vessels, emptied of our selfish desires and wounds and surrender to God to be used by Him to bless others, and He Himself thereby exalted!

is not easily provoked
When the saint is governed by the love of God, we overflow with compassion and tenderness towards others; thus we aren't rankled when others try to provoke us. This does not mean we are never provoked, but love will guide us in being provoked for righteousness' sake, just as with our LORD in the Temple, overturning money tables of those who were ripping people off in God's name.

thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity
Those who are ruled by God's love will likewise adopt godly thinking, which will exclude evil thoughts and desires. We know that wickedness, lawlessness and sin are grievous to the LORD and for us who reflect His love - these things are also grievous to us. This is a substantial reason for our longing for the LORD to return - upon His arrival, evil will be reined in and squelched in militant fashion.

but rejoiceth in the truth
Truth is the greatest blessing and always beneficial as opposed to lies and deceptions. Truth and its associative virtues of justice, equity, knowledge and understanding are foundational building blocks for any society. Thus we rejoice in truth, because in possessing and promoting it we express God's loving benefits it brings, for God Himself is Truth.

Beareth all things, endureth all things
God is Love and the paragon of patience: the fact that this wicked world is still spinning, it's people provided for with food, water, air and everything else - rather than being burned down to a tiny smoldering cinder afloat in space - ably demonstrates His patience and endurance in His tolerance of unrepentant sinners who enjoy His blessings all the while thumb their noses at the Almighty. We likewise must bless those who curse us, pray for those who spitefully use us. That is love.

Even within the church, acknowledging that while we are saints, we still retain a sinful nature which can rouse its ugly head and cause havoc among us, causing offense, hurt, sorrows and wounds - even here, in the love of God we are called to longsuffering and forbearance.

believeth all things, hopeth all things,
We know that God knows all things - we don't however. There are persons and situations that we stand in doubt of, but again, mirroring the love of God, we hope for the best for others as well as in troubling circumstances. This is pleasing to the LORD, particularly when these things are reflected in our prayer lives.

Charity never faileth:
God's love never fails us: may we go likewise in the Spirit of grace and remain faithful in our love of the saints as well as the sinners, remembering that so once were we all before the LORD apprehended us in His love and grace, having redeemed us by His own shed blood.

1 JOHN 4:10
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins
.


The following video presentation is by: 


D.A. Carson on - The Love of God


HOT OFF THE PRESS From the October article of The BEREAN CALL:

Have You Left Your First Love - by T.A. McMahon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The GREATEST OF THESE . . . PART 2 of 3: HOPE

1 CORINTHIANS 13:12-13 
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Let's go over this basic outline that we developed in Part One once again.
The three pillars of Christian virtue, derived from the Holy Spirit that brings such fruit into and through our lives are faith, hope and love ("charity" in KJV).

This is a three part series in which we will examine each of these three primary virtues: faith, hope and love. We will first review all three words and their meanings in general, and then each article will treat them individually.

Let's examine what these words mean in the original Greek:

Faith - (Greek word is pistis), means - "persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly, constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity."
See also Vine's Expository Notes on faith.

Hope - (Greek word is elpis) means - from a primary ἔλπω élpō to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation (abstractly or concretely) or confidence:—faith, hope.
See also Vine's Expository Notes on hope.

Love - (Greek word is agape) means - affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love, a purely Biblical and ecclesiastical word. The attitude expressed by God towards His Son, the human race in general, and particularly to believers on the LORD Jesus Christ. His expressed desire is for this same attitude to be expressed by believers among themselves. An exercise of Divine will in deliberate choice made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself.
See also Vine's Expository Notes on love.

To examine the Christian virtues in greater detail, including these three, check out this link from Bible.org.

LET'S HOPE FOR THE BEST

The Christian hope is worlds apart from the idea the world has about hope.
"I hope I get that job."

"I hope I win Power Ball this month!"
Or even more significantly:
"I hope I go to heaven when I die."

As seen above, our hope as believers in Jesus Christ is a confidence in God and His Word - it is a conviction that directs our hearts in expectation of what the LORD promised us in the Scriptures.
The hope of the (believing) Jews is the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel (ACTS 1:6; 15:16; ROM 11:26).
What is the hope of the Christian?
It is the BLESSED hope that this world is not the only life we will experience, what with it's ruinous and destructive curse of sin that lays heavily upon it, wreaking God's creation and order with its terrible corruption.

TITUS 2:12-14 
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (1 TIM 1:1).
And let us not forget, the hope of His return brings a purity to our lives as we look for Him in the clouds (1 JOHN 3:3).


We look for a kingdom yet to come, whose founder and builder is God Himself:

HEBREWS 12:23-24,28
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

The life and the kingdom we as saints will enjoy is based upon the arrival of the King Himself Who shall inaugurate His reign on Earth once He returns here (HOS 5:15) with His church (MATT 24:30-31; 1 THESS 3:13; JUDE 1:14).

Contrary to what we often get accused of by nay-sayers, skeptics and unbelievers (even in the professing church!), this is not some pie-in-the-sky-in-the-great-by-and-by sort of wishful thinking. The LORD Jesus emphatically taught us that He is going to return (JOHN 14:1-3) and this is declared plainly in the Old Testament as well (ISAIAH 40:5,9; DAN 2:34-35; HOS 5:15). 

We are doing an exhaustive series, treating the biblical subject of the Millennial Reign of Christ, where we are examining Old and New Testament Scriptures that point to the physical, literal return of Jesus Christ upon the Earth. This is indeed "the blessed hope" in which the LORD will break reign of the Antichrist and Satan, bring peace and rest, healing and life to this (at that point in time) ravaged world.

We saints long - and even groan (ROM 8:22-23) to be released from this sphere of sin that lays its curse on every facet of this world. We anticipate joyously for the arrival of the LORD Who will complete His work of salvation in His bride, beautifying her with glorification (ROM 8:30), utterly liberated from the sin nature, from physical infirmities, from the burdens and sorrows that souls are prone to in this life.

We await with expectant confidence for that time when the LORD will make all things new!
But our hope covers far more than our blessed and expectant future - we employ the use of biblical hope in each and every day of our lives!

PSALM 16:9
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope
.


PSALM 31:24
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord
.


The hope in God, expressed from the Psalms

We also have the hope of the resurrection! The very foundation and heart of the Christian faith (ACTS 23:6; 24:15;1 COR 15:1-8)! And the hope of the Gospel - without which there can BE no hope of the resurrection (COL 1:23; 1 PET 1:3,21).

When things seem impossible and desperate, when "all hope is gone" we, like Abraham hold fast our hope in GOD!
ROMANS 4:17-21
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Hope is the fruit of enduring trials - trials grows patience (or endurance)in us as we wait upon God; in the waiting, we see the LORD move and operate through the trial, and this experience strengthens our faith, and because of these experiences which bring about wisdom - we develop this confidence towards God in the midst of our suffering. We acknowledge that just as the LORD brought us through trials before, He will do so again, proving His faithfulness!

ROMANS 5:3-5 
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

5 And hope maketh not ashamed [does not disappoint]; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

We hope for the coming transformation of our carnal, sinful bodies when the LORD comes to take His bride, the church, away to heaven! This is not a hope that observes the observable, but by faithful waiting expects to one day, witness this marvel!

ROMANS 8:23-25

23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (COL 1:5,27).

Just as we gain hope by our experiences with the LORD in our trials, we also gain hope by learning of what transpired before, as recorded in Holy Scripture; Jesus Christ the same yesterday (in biblical times), today (in the midst of your life) and forever (eternally faithful throughout the entirety of heaven's reign):

ROMANS 15:4
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope
.


Just as faith operates by love (GAL 5:6), love also hopes all things (1 COR 13:7).

We as Christians are not wandering aimlessly, having no certain purpose or goal, lacking vision and direction. We know by faith that the LORD has ordained our lives in fulfilling good works which He has in mind for each of us (EPH 2:10), and we have that confidence, and expectation for His calling on our lives, as well as the rewards for faithful service in completing these good works by His Holy Spirit:


EPHESIANS 1:18
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints
,


The very fact that we have believed the Gospel by faith will bring that steadfast hope and assurance of the precious possession of eternal life through Jesus our LORD!

TITUS 3:7
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life
 (1 JOHN 5:13).


The LORD God gave every reason for us to remain steadfast in our hope because He made a promise and also pronounced an oath - and so our hope is the greatest, weightiest anchor ever!

HEBREWS 6:13-20
13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

As we live (still, at least for now!) in this fallen world, let's be prepared by both our conduct and our words to provide the reason for the hope we have - in the midst of this hopeless and forlorn world - in Christ and His Holy Word!

1 PETER 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear
:


For more on this, consider this article from CHRISTIAN CRIERWhat Is The Biblical or Christian Definition of Hope?

Friday, September 28, 2018

The GREATEST OF THESE . . . PART 1 of 3: FAITH

1 CORINTHIANS 13:12-13 
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

The three pillars of Christian virtue, derived from the Holy Spirit that brings such fruit into and through our lives are faith, hope and love ("charity" in KJV).

This is a three part series in which we will examine each of these three primary virtues: faith, hope and love. We will first review all three words and their meanings in general, and then each article will treat them individually.

Let's examine what these words mean in the original Greek:

Faith - (Greek word is pistis), means - "persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly, constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity."

See also Vine's Expository Notes on faith.

Hope - (Greek word is elpis) means - from a primary ἔλπω élpō to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation (abstractly or concretely) or confidence:—faith, hope.
See also Vine's Expository Notes on hope.

Love - (Greek word is agape) means - affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love, a purely Biblical and ecclesiastical word. The attitude expressed by God towards His Son, the human race in general, and particularly to believers on the LORD Jesus Christ. His expressed desire is for this same attitude to be expressed by believers among themselves. An exercise of Divine will in deliberate choice made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself.
See also Vine's Expository Notes on love.

To examine the Christian virtues in greater detail, including these three, check out this link from Bible.org.

JUST GOTTA HAVE FAITH

We know Scripture states that without faith it is simply impossible to please God:

HEBREWS 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him
.


Faith is not only believing that God "is", that is, that He exists (even demons believe God "is" and yet they are not credited for such belief as anything commendable, any more than those human beings that give intellectual assent to His existence; JAMES 2:19), but that He is a "rewarder of those who diligently seek Him". 

The word rewarder is associated with a person who is obligated to pay wages due. In regards to genuine faith expressed in God, the LORD obligates Himself to reward such faith with that which is sought, but provided the thing sought for is in accordance to His will.

Faith is the 'spiritual muscle' by which we exercise our trust in God and His Word. In the physical, we are all born with muscle - but it's what we do with it (or not) that determines if we grow stronger or weaker. The old adage, "Use it or lose it" applies here (and apparently those who don't exercise faith do in fact lose it; see 2 THESS 3:2), as well as "no pain, no gain".

Everyone is given a measure of faith by God (ROM 12:3) by which, if exercised, we may apprehend the promises and truth of God as found in His Word, and grow strong in "the faith" - the body of doctrinal truth found in the Scriptures. 

How do we as Christians exercise our faith? To "diligently seek" means to "inquire, (even) demand, crave" - those are strong words that intimate a persistent and powerful motivation; a determination to seek God no matter the obstacles, discouragements, doubts and overwhelming odds.


It reminds me of Elisha's inquiry of God when once his master Elijah was caught up to heaven in the chariot of fire. He leaves there and as he approaches the Jordan river, he smites the water with Elijah's mantle and asks, "Where is the LORD God of Elijah?" (2 KINGS 2:13-15).

The tone is not one of distress or doubt, but of certainty, as one who is diligently seeking out and expecting an answer, and an answer the prophet certainly received, for the Jordan parted miraculously and he crossed over!

Back to Hebrews on the definition of faith:

HEBREWS 1:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
.


Faith is in itself a thing immaterial, and yet here this verse speaks of "substance" and "evidence" - as if the things of faith were concrete, tangible, observable. To see with "the eyes of faith" is what I believe is spoken of here. Some would say, "Seeing is believing" but in spiritual matters of Christian faith it's the other way around: "Believing is seeing."

Recall what Abraham expressed when he demonstrated behemoth faith, believing God in his willingness to obey His Word by offering his own beloved son as a burnt offering:

GENESIS 22:14
And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen

What was it that would be seen? That which I believe God revealed to Abraham on that mount - that there would come a day when another Father would offer up His Son as a sacrifice (JOHN 3:16; 8:56).

The blessedness of believing without natural evidence was stated plainly by the LORD Jesus Christ:

JOHN 20:29
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed
.


Obviously salvation by grace is obtained through faith:

EPHESIANS 2:8-9
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:


9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Faith expressed without obedience is a vain faith; when we believe the Gospel by faith and obey God by repenting, confessing our sin, surrendering ourselves to God and believe in the finished work of Christ's atonement on the cross, that is a genuine faith. That salvation as itself something genuine and further demonstrated by good works and fruit that verifies that salvation experience (JAMES 2:14-26).

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (ROM 10:17).

The LORD Jesus stated that those who obey God's Word by faith are those who are solidly placed on the ROCK which is Himself:

MATTHEW 7:24-27
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine [His Word], and doeth [obeys] them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Let us be certain that our faith is genuine, active and leads to obedience to God's Word by examining our lives in the light of Scripture (2 COR 13:5).

One last thing about faith before we move on to the next of the 'BIG 3'.

There is a misconception about biblical faith that has borrowed heavily from the world of the occult. Yes, that's right - the occult!
There are those that teach that faith is a power, released by the spoken word of the believer (because, they say, God spoke His Word and creation manifested in reality; since we are God's children, "sons of God" we too have this power). This pronouncement is further strengthened if they visualize the thing sought for. They say that this power is the same that God used to create all things and will often quote HEB 11:3 to substantiate this belief. Speaking words of power and visualizing are common practices among New Age/Spiritualist adherents and witches - ever hear of an incantation or a spell? 


The idea is that if one can muster up and determine to believe something to happen that the end result of such belief is the manifestation of the thing sought for. This is something that came into the church through the Word-Faith movement, but is based on occult teaching and something called Mind Science (or Science of Mind or Religious Science). 
You will sometimes hear Christians complain of getting a cold or some other misfortune and another will say, "Don't claim it!" That idea of 'claiming' through the spoken word is part of this same unbiblical ideology.

Can we obtain what we want simply by exercising the 'power of faith'? If this is what faith is about, what then is there a need for believing Christ or believing God's Word? Should not we Christians base our faith upon the LORD and not mere exercise of some 'power'?


The faith may be small, as small as a mustard seed even; but that is inconsequential, for even such small faith that's placed in our Almighty God is effective enough to move mountains (MATT 17:20). The focus is not on our faith, but in the One we place our faith in! The LORD Jesus Christ!

And what is the motive that energizes our faith in God? It is a heart of love for the LORD!
As the apostle Paul expressed it:


GALATIANS 5:6
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love
.


Faith is simple trust, reliance upon, dependence in the Word of God and the truth expressed there. Anyone who ever exercised faith in the Bible did so as a result of God's Word of truth and was never 'a shot in the dark' or 'a blind leap of faith'. I've known so many Christians who attempt to express faith about some good fortune or event happening to them, but without any justification found in the Word of God, and tried to convince themselves to "just have faith it will happen".

There is much more than can be said about biblical faith, but I want to keep these articles short and to the point. For those who want to pursue this more, may I suggest the following:

The BEREAN CALL (www.thebereancall.org): Does Having Faith Give You Power?

Also from TBC: Word Faith and Mind Science and What's Happening To The Faith?

And from CROSS EXAMINED (www.crossexamined.org):

BIBLICAL FAITH vs, BLIND FAITH

Until next time when we examine what biblical hope is, beloved of the LORD, remain steadfast in the grace of the LORD, stand fast in the power of His might! 




Wednesday, September 26, 2018

JEWELS From The GOSPEL of JOHN: Religious Restrictions - JOHN 5:8-16

The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. 

I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.

JOHN 5:8-16
8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

Religion and the religious versus true biblical spiritual life and saints of God will always be opposed to each other. The greatest force of persecution against the saints of God will be  and always has been the religious. Cain killed Abel because his religious persuasion was rejected, while Abel obeyed God's directive for true worship and was accepted.
Needless to say the greatest human persecutors of the LORD Jesus was the religious establishment known as the Sanhedrin.

And we see here in our text that this is certainly the case regarding the LORD's miraculous work on this poor man who was crippled for thirty-eight years. The LORD speaks His Word, miraculous power is released, and this man who didn't take a single step in nearly four decades found that he could walk! As he carried his bed (a stretcher really) that Levitically constituted 'a burden' (which was unlawful to carry on the Sabbath; vs. 10), the religious leaders rebuked him for his violation.

What's astounding is that this man informed these leaders that a certain man healed him and told him to take up his bed and walk. And when they learned that it was Jesus Who did this, they persecuted Him and even determined to kill Him because He healed on the Sabbath! How blind religion can make us, so that when we see a genuine work of God, we don't even acknowledge it!

A similar event happened where a man with a withered (paralyzed) hand was involved (MATT 12:9-14) and on that occasion the LORD said:

MATTHEW 12:11-12
11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?

12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

Absolutely it's lawful to do well on the Sabbath, because man was not created for the purpose of keeping the Sabbath, but rather the Sabbath was created for the rest, blessing of man, and most of all, to sanctify a day in which his focus would be towards the LORD (MARK 2:27).

Religion will insist on rules, regulations, restrictions, abstaining and disallowing things all in a vain attempt to create a self-generated form of righteousness. I often refer to 'religion' in it's general meaning as "artificial righteousness" - and this sort of erection is built on a foundation of pride and false beliefs/doctrines - what the Bible calls "leaven". Something we should be adamant about getting rid of in our lives!

Religion and legalism goes hand in hand and both are the product of human effort to prove and justify one's own inherent goodness. So, quite naturally, religion will squawk and scream, object to and oppress the truth of God's Word which testifies to the truth regarding the human heart and nature (JER 17:9; ROM 3:10,20-23).

We can be sure that where the LORD is doing a work, religion will be there to oppose it, and in this sense, religion serves the enemy of the church quite well. In fact, we know what the religion of the last days will be like - it will be globally unified into what we see in REVELATION Ch. 17 & 18: "The Whore of Babylon" and in the worshipful employ of the anti-Christ

But how does the Bible describe "true religion"?

JAMES 1:27 

27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

It's about ministering to the needy and humble, not about self-serving aggrandizement via religious pride. It's about keeping oneself separate and clean from the foulness of this world's religious and philosophical ideologies (One of the seven churches of REVELATION failed miserably at this: Pergamos). 
It's about being sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit for a love relationship with our Father, based upon the atoning work of grace accomplished by Christ's sacrifice on the cross of Calvary!

Just as this cripple was healed so that he could walk, we who were sinners by nature were spiritually crippled, unable to walk with the LORD in truth and righteousness. Yet the LORD touched us, raised us up and by the spiritual rebirth enabled us by the Life-giving Spirit to walk in the Spirit (GAL 5:25).

And what the LORD told this man, He tells us as well (vs. 14): to refrain from the awful power of sin and resist all temptation ("lest a worse thing happen"). Sanctification will always strengthen our walk with the LORD, while sin will always weaken it. Sin is the most destructive force in all creation - it took no one less than God Incarnate to ruin its power!

Let us as children of God strip away any veneer of religious show and hypocrisy; let us leave off any self-efforts to prove our own worthiness and lay before our LORD in complete submission and gratitude for the salvation that He alone afforded us!

HEBREWS 9:12
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us
. AMEN!


THERE ARE JUST TWO RELIGIONS IN THE WORLD
JOHN MacARTHUR



Saturday, August 18, 2018

JEWELS From The GOSPEL of JOHN: Standing On The Commandment of Christ - JOHN 5:1-9

The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. 

I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.

JOHN 5:1-9
After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

STIRRED NOT SHAKEN – 2 PETER 1:1-10 And Other Passages


Any one who has seen a James Bond movie – that’s “Bond, James Bond” – knows how he likes his vodka martinis: “shaken, not stirred”.
We are going to look at two spiritual truths for the Christian disciple: How we are to be ‘stirred, not shaken’. That is, that we are to be stirred up in the things of God, not settled, stale, stodgy, complacent – but stirred up, alive, having love, zeal and fervency for the LORD and His people!

Likewise, we are not to be shaken – we are not to be influenced or infiltrated, compromised or corrupted, distracted or diverted by this fallen world, by our carnal flesh, by the enemy of the church – Satan, but firmly established by the LORD, on the firm foundation of the ROCK that is Himself.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

FAITHFULNESS


The LORD is ever and always faithful to His saints. So much so, that we in turn desire to be faithful to Him, which is the reason we are sorrowful when we prove ourselves faithless from time to time.
What are the words that every Christian longs to hear when we will see the LORD face to Face on that day He brings us Home?

MATTHEW 25:21
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord
.