Category Archives: Bible Study

Blessing and Cursing

Why is it so hard for us Christians to accept both?  We freely reach out our hands to God to accept the many blessings He bestows upon us, but let the first storm hit and we’re always quick to cry out, “Why me God!” or “How could God let this happen to me?”  How is it that we can receive the good and not the bad?  Well that’s the exact question Job asked his wife during his many trials in response to her comment of “Curse God and die”.  Job 2:10, “He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”  Picture it, this is Job, the man after whom we all look to as an example when facing various trials and tribulations.  In the midst of his great storm, perhaps the most fierce of all time, he responds with how can we accept blessings and not adversity.  What power and truth in that passage.  Actually what a wake-up call to us Christians who have become spoiled expecting only good, when truthfully what we need is adversity.  Because the adversities in our lives mold us and help strengthen us, faith-builders if you will.  Are you most likely to trust God when things are going great, when you may not feel like you need Him as much?  Or are you more likely to trust Him when the waves are crashing all around and you feel like hope is lost, then you refocus your eyes on Him.

The apostle Paul speaks on this very point in his second epistle to the church at Corinth.  He begins our passage with a sarcastic tone directed toward those false apostles of the church, but leads into a description of adversity and trials that is nearly breathtaking.  We begin in II Corinthians 11:23 NKJV, “Are they ministers of Christ?-I speak as a fool-I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.”  Here Paul is just beginning his description of what he’s faced all for his passion of sharing Jesus Christ with people.  He labors more, been beaten more, imprisoned more, faced death more.  But he continues:

From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness- 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.  II Corinthians 11:24-30

If I will boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.  All that he faced and he was still willing to boast that he had faced each and every trial because it glorified the Lord.  It magnified the power of God in his life and in his ministry.  With each trial, each brutal beating (even stoning), each shipwreck he became stronger, increased his faith in God.  But with all this God still sent him a “thorn” in his flesh that he might not boast of the things which God had allowed him to see.  After pleading with God three times to remove it God told him, “”My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  II Corinthians 12:9 NKJV God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, because it shows just how much we need him.  It shows how little we can do on our own and how reliant we must be on the strength of God.  Paul continues on in verse 9 leading to one of my favorite verses, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  For when we are weak, then we are strong in Christ Jesus.

Too often we think of adversity, trials, or tragedy’s as curses when in fact if we change our perspective from one of selfishness to one of focus on God as our center, then we can see that these too our blessings because of how they strengthen us.  Just as I alluded to in TRIAL BY FIRE, in nature fire is capable of bringing growth, so too is it capable of bringing growth in our life through the strength of Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Whatever you’re facing in life Christian, God knows what you’re going through.  He knows your pains, your fears, your trials and tribulations.  But He also uses those to bring our focus back to Him, I’m testament to that.  It’s not within us to rejoice and welcome actual pain, but we can rejoice in the power of Christ that is revealed through us during these times and know that through it all God’s grace is sufficient.

Choose you this day: The Impacts of John 8:11 – Part II

In Part I of this study we looked at the amazing impacts of the Grace & Truth presented by Jesus to the adulteress brought before Him by the scribes and Pharisees.  As we learned, this passage can be applied to each of our lives if we will only fall before Jesus seeking mercy, receiving grace and going forward to live in truth.  In Part II, let’s dig deeper and examine the decision Jesus made when presented with the “trick” by the “religious” leaders.  Just as we previously discussed the men came to Jesus to set Him up and present a “catch-22” scenario hoping He would either decry the Law of Moses or the Roman law.  Interesting situation isn’t it?  Choose to follow the laws of God or follow the laws of man.  Now we know Jesus’ response provided a new path, one that only He can present, that laid the foundation for all who would follow Him.  But let’s look closely at a group of friends from the Old Testament, who were also presented with choices to follow God or the laws of man.

The examples I’d like to look at all occurred in the Book of Daniel.  With Daniel we get multiple examples of how the Law of God supersedes the laws of man.  First we have Daniel and his friends refusing to eat the prepared delicacies of the king in order to maintain their convictions and religious beliefs.  Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Daniel presented a challenge of “fitness” to those who partook of the kings foods verses Daniel and his friends who maintained their covenant.  Daniel and his friends placed their faith in God, but were prepared for the consequences. The second example is a familiar one, those same friends of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s image.  They held fast to their faith in God and were prepared for the consequences of the fiery furnace.  Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  As a result of their courage and conviction the men were thrown into the furnace, but through their faith God protected them and they exited unharmed.  Daniel 3:24-30 The final example of choosing to follow God rather than the law of man occurred again with Daniel.  This time working under a different king, King Darius, legislation was passed prohibiting anyone from praying to any other god or man for 30 days except the king.  “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10 Daniel was subsequently thrown into the lion’s den, but just like his friends in the furnace, God brought him out unharmed.  We see here in our third example that the Law of God once again superseded the law of man, but it’s important to note that in all three examples none of the men rallied supporters, protested against their governing body, or in any way tried to usurp the authority of government by their own doing.  In each instance they relied on God through their faith to deliver them from the circumstances in which they were placed.

In examples such as these, a choice had to be made, either follow the law as God presents it or follow that of the governing body, but be prepared to face the consequences.  It’s a pattern we find throughout the Bible and one we should be keenly aware of as we begin to observe those changes taking place in our own government.  I want to mention briefly one of these changes that will soon present a choice for us as Christians.  Will we follow God or the laws of man?  The law of man NEVER supersedes the law of God.

In a story covered by the Christian Post  a couple of weeks ago, entitled Government-Run Churches, we begin to get a glimpse of the choices we may soon be forced to make, to follow God or the laws of man.  The author, Chuck Colson, points out that Christians in China are forced to join a constantly monitored, government-run church or join an underground church.  In Britain, Colson points out, British government will soon “begin forcing churches and other religious institutions to hire open, practicing homosexuals” under the provision of the “Equity Bill”.  Mr. Colson continues by asking, “What’s next-regulating the content of sermons?” and offers the conjecture of if America were to follow this legislature, “what will happen to the Church? Will we put our congregations under the authority of Caesar? Or will we resist and, if need be, abandon our elegant buildings and, like our faithful brethren in China, form underground churches?”

If you were to read that article when it was printed on June 24, 2009, you might’ve thought this would never happen in America.  We’ve been given freedom and rights that allow us to worship God how we please.  Really Christian?  Are we to be so arrogant that we think our “Christian” standing in the U.S. is higher in order than those who are persecuted in China, Great Britain, or other countries?  Here is your wakeup call: Last week details were released from testimony given by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee.  According to an article by WND, “U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says a homosexual activist who is attacked following a Christian minister’s sermon about homosexuality would be protected by a proposed new federal law, but a minister attacked by a homosexual wouldn’t be.”  Mr. Holder took questions regarding definitions of “hate crimes” one of which came from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) where he presented the hypothetical scenario of a minister giving a sermon, quoting the Bible about homosexuality and is subsequently attacked by a gay activist.  Mr. Sessions asks would that minister be protected by the “hate crimes” law.  Secretary Holder offered this response, “”Well, the statute would not – would not necessarily cover that. We’re talking about crimes that have a historic basis. Groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, that is what this statute tends – is designed to cover. We don’t have the indication that the attack was motivated by a person’s desire to strike at somebody who was in one of these protected groups. That would not be covered by the statute.”

You might have followed that story, or read the synopsis above and thought that it’s a stretch for something like that to happen.  Or what direct application does this have to John 8 above.  The threat is very real and the implications are clear.  Just as those men in Daniel were placed in situations where they needed to choose between serving God or the laws of man and just as Jesus was deliberatly placed in a situation to choose between upholding the law as God presented to Moses or the Roman law, we may soon find ourselves at the same crossroad.   The stage is being set where sermons on homosexual behavior will no longer be lawful.  Where ministers will no longer be allowed to call homosexuality a sin, in fact merely reading those passages from the Bible could soon be declared a hate crime.  Think it can’t happen?  Just monitor the happenings in Great Britain to see the potential “progress” the U.S. could soon make.

Will you be ready to stand for God and accept the consequences?

Joshua 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Mark 13:3-13 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” 5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 6 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. 7 But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles.  These are the beginnings of sorrows. 9 “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

A License to Sin? – Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

In concluding this series, we’ve answered the question that Salvation does not offer a license to sin, that the saving grace of Jesus requires a heartfelt repentance of sin, promotes a desire and awareness for the avoidance of sin, and a Christ-like living that produces fruits of the Spirit.  For this final installment, let’s bring everything full circle in defining the process of a Christians walk and maturity.

While recently listening to a sermon of Dr. John MacArthur, an outline of personal Christian development was impressed upon me.  Below are the steps as they were inspired to me.  Perhaps you can identify with the step that you are on and through the working of the Holy Spirit in your life, you can move forward to the next step.

Phase I

Sin

The first phase in everyone’s life, those who are now Christians or those who are non-believers, is sin.  Everyone since Adam and Eve, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has been born into sin.  Just as we learned yesterday, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the Truth is not in us.” I John 1:8 In keeping with this, the Bible teaches us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 You, me, all of us have sinned.  Because of this sin we are separated from God.  We are unable to experience His Glory because of our disgusting sins.  As Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If we were to continue on our current path in this phase, eternal death and separation from God would be our outcome.  Nothing else, no amount of good works, no attempt to live right, no other religion, spirituality, oneness, or going to church, can save you from this death, nothing except for the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Through His death on the cross and resurrection we have all been afforded a second chance, the helping hand of a Savior to lift us out of sinfulness.  Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Are you lost? Discouraged, mired in sin, drowning in a pit of despair?  Sin will choke you out.  There is not one person who is strong enough to fight this battle alone.  We need a Savior.  We need a Rock of Refuge.

Phase II

Repentance

Every sin needs repentance.  Just as we discussed in yesterdays post, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” II Corinthians 7:10 If you remember, we used the example of Saul vs. David.  Saul’s repentance was mere words, the “worldly sorrow” that the Apostle Paul was speaking of in the previous verse.  But David had Godly sorrow as he declared his sin to God.  This is the type of repentance that leads to Salvation, it must be heartfelt remorse.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 NKJV God wants us to recognize that we are a sinner and are incapable of anything without Him.  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9 Because of God’s gracious love for us, He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 He granted us mercy when we needed none, gave us grace when we deserved death and it is by His grace that we are saved through faith in His Son Jesus.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Transformation

With repentance of your sins to God, and believing that His Son Jesus died on the cross for those sins, that He was buried and raised again on the third day, a conversion will take place in your life.  “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10  As the Apostle Paul states, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4 This new life, or transformation, means we are a new creation in Christ.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  II Corinthians 5:17 As such, we are charged to turn from our old life and begin a new life, “born again”, where Jesus is now Lord of our lives.  Slaves no longer to sin, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” Romans 6:6, but now slaves to righteousness, “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:18

Justification

The third step in this phase is justification through Christ Jesus.  It occurs at the moment of repentance and transformation and is a direct result of Christ’s death on the cross.  His bloodshed paid the price for us, that instead of death and separation from God, we might have life.  “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2 NKJV There is nothing we can do to earn justification.  Nothing through works of our own, through beliefs in sacraments or infant baptism, nothing can grant us justification, or right standing with God, except our faith in Jesus.  Just as we learned in Part I of this series, not only can we not earn justification, but nothing can take it away from us. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:28 Nothing can separate us from the love of God once we are a child of His.  “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NKJV

My impression is that many of us, once we are saved stop here.  I know I’m guilty of it, perhaps you are too.  Or perhaps you’ve regressed from the next two phases and find yourself back here.  Know this, just as the Apostle Paul stated nothing can separate you from the love of God.  You can’t return back to your old self, it died with Christ.  But we must be aware that any continuance to live in sin is in direct contradiction with the Word of God.  As we pointed out earlier from Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”  The fear of the Lord is more than enough incentive to flee from sin.  “He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” I John 2:4 I think the reason we so easily fall back, or backslide as it were, is that each of us do not realize the implications of our sin once we are saved, “if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:6 NKJV  Just as the author states, why would we continue to sin, continue to repent, and continue to crucify Christ again?  Jesus died once for all and as Christians we need to realize that we need to cut ourselves off from any sin that has brought us into a backslidden state, repent of it, turn from it, and do not return to it again.

Phase III

Growth

As I can attest to, it can sometimes be difficult to move into the growth phase.  It’s so easy to get caught up in ourselves, in our lives, and selfishness that we lose sight of Who is responsible for blessings we have in life.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God wants nothing but the best for us, but in order to achieve the plans He has for us, we must continually seek to grow in Him.  As Christians, it’s not enough to go to church once a week, there needs to be a continual hunger for the Word of God, a hunger for the Truths that it contains.  As Jesus said, “…It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 Just like in physical growth, in order to grow spiritually we must be fed, but in this case by the Word of God.

We can think of ourselves with the analogy that the Bible uses.  With an introduction to the Word of God, the seed is planted in our hearts.  When we accept Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives, the seed is fertilized and begins to take root.  As we grow spiritually so does the tree within us.  The more it is fed nutrients through the Word of God, watered through daily prayer and interactions with other spiritually mature Christians, then the tree begins to bear fruit.  It’s these fruits of the Spirit that we identified in Part 2 as by-products of a Christ-like life.  The Bible says in Hebrews 6:7-8, “For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”  This is the consequence of not growing spiritually.  I don’t know about you, but I choose to grow to avoid being “rejected…cursed…and burned.”   Instead let us strive for the bearing of fruit.  Jesus states in Matthew 7:17-20, “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”  If we are recognized as children of God by our fruits, then this is really the only indicator non-believers have of knowing we are saved.

Have you reached a plateau in your growth?  Maybe you can’t even begin to grow because you’ve fallen back into your old ways and are merely satisfied with justification much like the Church of Laodicea, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16  Your secret to escaping this pit is found by walking with the Spirit, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

Phase IV

Sanctification

Sanctification is a process by which God works through the Holy Spirit in our lives once we are justified.  It’s a process through which we are to work to be Holy.  Keep in mind that these works will not affect our justification, but they are critical to sanctification.  Just as James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  Our works, or fruits, are essential evidence of a Spirit filled life and it is through these that we work to achieve sanctification or holiness.  “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” I Thessalonians 4:7 Again as we read in Colossians 1:10, “being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”

Every “born again” Christian possesses the Holy Spirit.  Jesus promised He would send us the Spirit until He returned again. John 14:16  He chooses to fulfill the promises that He’s made to us through His Holy Spirit, but this only works when we are filled by the Spirit and led by Him.  In fact, the Bible actually commands that we be filled with the Spirit, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 As I mentioned, we are filled by the Spirit by saturating ourselves with the Word of God, through prayer, and through mature Christian fellowship.  Our goal, the Lord’s goal for us, is holiness.  In achieving this, the fruits of the Spirit will be evident, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

Holiness, holiness is what I long for.
Holiness is what I need.
Holiness, holiness is what You
want from me.

So, take my heart and form it.
Take my mind and transform it.
Take my will and conform it.
To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord.

By Sonicflood

Additional Study: Hebrews 6:1 I John 1:2-29