Apostles and Prophets Today
Do we have Apostles and Prophets today?
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Why Did Jesus HAVE To Die? "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22).
Why won't God simply forgive someone who comes to Him and says sorry? Why can't God just say, “That's OK,” and keep on saying it even if we sin, day in and day out? Why do we HAVE to go through Jesus for the forgiveness of sin?
The first thing we need to know is that when we sin, we are rebelling against God. When David sinned with Bathsheba he said to the Lord, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psa 51:4). The reason sin is rebellion against God is because He made us in His image and wrote His laws on our conscience. Even before we are saved, our conscience tells us if something is sinful but we love our sin and we usually just do it anyway, in direct defiance of our Holy Maker. We do whatever we think we can get away with. In this way we rebel against God and reject His authority. So, how does God look upon our rebellion?
He hates it! Rev. 21:27 says that nothing impure will enter heaven because God is absolutely Holy and Righteous, and evil cannot exist in His presence. Psa. 5:4 says, “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell” and Hab. 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look upon evil”. In His hatred of sin, God has said, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) so the whole human race is under a death sentence because "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23). Because our sin condemns us, God, in His great love, sent Jesus to die in our place so that through Jesus we can be forgiven and enter into His presence.
God's own law says that death is the penalty for sin so He cannot simply forgive as "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). So, to make a way to forgive us, God put the sins of the world on Jesus who shed His blood as though He was the guilty one. So now, when anyone repents of their sins, God forgives them and accepts Jesus' death as punishment for their sin. In this way, God has satisfied His own law which says that sin must be punished by death.
Regarding forgiveness, when we first repent and are saved, God forgives all the sins of our past and He sends the Holy Spirit into our life to give us the power we need to resist future sin (Rom. 8:2-4). When we sin, after being saved, God will continue to forgive us - IF we confess and repent of the sin.1 John 1:9 tells Christians, “IF we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. There is not a verse in the Bible which tells us that our future sins are forgiven. All future sin must be brought under the blood of Jesus. If we fail to confess new sin then that sin remains under the death penalty and will keep us out of God's presence. Psa. 66:18 says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened".
So, to make it possible for us to enter into God's presence, Jesus had to die to pay the penalty of death for sin. Jesus' death satisfied God's law and allows Him, as our just Judge, to forgive us when we repent and accept Jesus as our Saviour.
Suicide Do those who suicide go to hell? There are a few points to consider -
1) The 6th Commandment, "You shall not murder" (Exod. 20:13) is cited as proof that suicide victims will go to hell. Regarding the Ten Commandments, the first four are about our relationship to God while the other six are about our relationship to others. None are talking about what we do to ourself. No one would consider saying that the Commandments are telling us not to have adultery with ourself or steal from ourself or lie to ourself so it is safe to assume that the 6th Commandment is not telling us that we should not murder ourself. Also, the natural connotation of murder is what one person does to another and suicide does not fit that meaning. It is a stretch to say that killing oneself is included in the 6th Commandment.
Other important points to consider are ...
2) We are saved by repentance and believing in the Lord Jesus. A person who suicides has certainly given up on life but has not necessarily given up on the Lord. Who can understand the depths of depression and say that suicide victims renounce the Lord? The Lord's promise is never to forsake us, unless we first forsake Him ... Heb. 13:5 & 2 Tim 2:12.
3) There is an unforgivable sin and that sin is apostasy as outlined in Heb. 10:26-29. The once off, sinful act of suicide is not apostasy (Also, it is a sin that cannot be repent of).
4) If it was clear that suicide victims go to hell then we would be bound to say so. However, it is not clear and the result of telling people that suiciders do go to hell can be devastating to the victim's relatives and friends. They would, perhaps, even be driven to say that they want nothing to do with God because He has sent their son/daughter/etc, whom they loved, to hell and that they would rather be in hell with them than with such a God.
All effort should be made to prevent suicide and we should never advise a potential suicider that they will not go to hell. Saying that suicide victims are in eternal hell is unwise as it has the potential to dishonour God's name and may well steer people away from Him. Go to top of page
Love One Another! "A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34).
Jesus gave us a new command to love one another. If we honestly look at how we react to some people at times we will find that we fall short of this command, to say the least. Loving others is Jesus' number one command yet we can think of it as being just too hard to do or something that is done only by people we read about. In our blindness, we can put love at the end of our list of things to do and still believe that we are a good Christian. The fact is, love is not an option but a command and if we want to be obedient to the Lord then we must make every effort to love as He loved.
What is love? The Bible never describes love as a dizzy headed, love at first sight feeling but rather as caring and doing for others and real love is usually at our own expense. Jesus became the perfect example of love when He gave up the comforts of heaven to become the greatest servant ever by denying Himself to the point of willingly dying on the cross. He set aside every personal desire as He went to the cross and put His love for God ahead of all else. Rom. 5:8-10 say that Jesus showed His love and died for us when we were His enemies and now He wants us to follow His example by loving our enemies. But, as we all know, loving those who hate us does not come naturally. How can we love our enemies? When Jesus said, “as I have loved you, so you must love one another”, He knew very well that there was no way, in our natural state, that we could love those who hate us. It's far more natural for us to curse an enemy than it is to love him but God gives us His Spirit so that we have the power to do what He commands. 2 Pet. 1:3-4 say that “His divine power [the Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness … so that you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”. Through the Holy Spirit, every believer has the power to escape the corruption of sin and to love those who hate and persecute him. But because we are inclined to follow our sinful nature, rather than the Spirit within us, the following often occurs -
1) We get angry just because others are not doing things our way.
2) We become jealous when another person is in first place.
3) We are envious when someone gets the glory that we believe should be ours.
4) We lose peace over little things and say, “I have every right to be upset because he /she … etc”.
5) We make cruel remarks that deeply scar people.
6) We judge hypocritically or without knowing the truth.
7) We refuse to apologise when we know we are wrong or won't accept someone else's apology.
8) We can callously tell people they are going to hell when they disagree with our doctrine.
9) We get bitter saying, “I can't help getting angry over these things. It's part of my nature”.
10) ... plus anything else that puts barriers between us.
The fact is, our sinful nature prompts us to do all of the above but God has given us the Holy Spirit so that we have His divine power to resist and be holy. Jesus has not given us a command that cannot be obeyed yet, instead of striving to be obedient, we make excuses saying things like, "Oh, I know I should try more but it's just too hard to change". We should take the command to love much more seriously as Gal. 5:19-21 make it clear that anyone caught up in lasting hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy will not get to heaven. This includes brothers and sisters in our churches as 1 John 4:20, 3:15 say, “If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar ... anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him”. Most of us would know brothers or sisters caught up in hateful relationships. The best advice we can give them is in Luke 13:3 where Jesus says, "unless you repent, you too will all perish".
To finish off, God commands us to make every effort to love one another and to be at peace with all men. It goes against our nature to love those who hate us but if we repent of our hatred then God will change our heart of stone into a heart of flesh and we will come to love those we once hated.
Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Tithing The Wesleyan Methodist church makes the following statement:
When we become a Christian we recognize that "you are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The Old Testament required one tenth (a tithe) as part of one's duty to God and indicates that failure to give this was robbing God. “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. 10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it" Mal. 3:8-10. The New Testament gives no reason to think that this is changed or that God requires any less but adds the principle that when giving assistance to other Christians, we should do so "not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). The principle of proportionate giving with the tithe as a guide is clearly taught in the Old and New Testament. The real danger for God's people is that we should lapse into thinking that having given a tithe the rest is ours. It is quite clear that we will be called to account before God for what He has entrusted to us. This is clearly the central thrust of such parables as Luke 19:11-27. Wesleyans believe that the support of the Lord's work is the responsibility of His people. They do not hold "Stewardship Programmes" or such activities. End of Wesleyan statement.
Tithing was part of the Law of Moses and since the Law has been abolished believers have been set free from those laws and are not compelled to tithe. 2 Cor. 9:7 tells us that "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver". This verse makes it quite clear that each believer is to make his own decision on giving. How much a person gives is between them and God and no one should be made to feel guilty by those who wrongly preach compulsory tithing. When considering giving, we need to focus on those in need and Scriptures such as: "each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income"; "God loves a cheerful giver"; "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly"; "greed is idolatry"; "do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth" and "we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1 Cor. 16:2, 2 Cor. 9:7, 2 Cor.9:6, Matt. 6:19, Col 3:5, 1 Tim. 6:7). Talk to God about your giving.
Personally, I believe that 10% is a good starting point for giving, simply because God set the standard initially. Many can afford considerably more. All that we have should be at the Lord's disposal as Jesus said in Luk. 14.33, "any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple".We should be content with having little as 1 Tim. 6:8 says, "if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that". I also believe that God would honour poor believers who give 10% even when, by man's logic, they cannot afford it. God can make $9 go a lot further than $10. I don't believe that it is possible to give to the Lord and be neglected by Him as He has said, "Those who honour me, I will honour" (1 Sam. 2:30) and the Psalmist said in Psa. 37:25, "I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread". Go to top of page.
Women In Leadership
After Eve was deceived, in Gen. 3:16, God said to her, "Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you". This headship authority of man has never been rescinded anywhere in Scripture but rather it has been clearly confirmed in the New Testament. 1 Tim 2:11-14 say, "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." In these verses, God has again declared man's authority and by connecting it with Gen. 3:16 He confirmed its continuance since the Fall. By linking 1 Tim. 2:12 back to the Garden, God has made it abundantly clear that the authority of man in this verse is not referring to a local church, special circumstance or a cultural situation but that the authority of man continues from the Fall to today.
1 Tim. 3:2 says "the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife ..." A woman cannot be an overseer because she cannot be a husband.
Neither can a woman be a deacon, as "A deacon must be the husband of but one wife" 1 Tim. 3:12.
1 Cor. 11:3 makes a categorical and unambiguous statement where it says that "the head of woman is man".
There simply isn't a verse in the Bible which allows a woman to have authority over spiritually mature men. The only conceivable possibility is in a situation where there is no man willing or capable of doing the job. Man's position as head of the household further emphasises that women are to be submitted to the authority of man. Eph. 5:22-24 say "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."
In an attempt to justify women in leadership, verses which have either unclear meaning, debatable interpretation or are once off situations are stretched or interpreted in a biased manner. At the same time, without an ounce of biblical warrant, clear speaking verses are dismissed as cultural. Unless unclear verses are interpreted in the light of clear ones, we will end up with an unclear doctrine and the certainty of contradictions.
The authority of man is also evident before the fall:
1) Adam was created first and this fact is stated as a reason for the headship of man in 1 Tim. 2:12-13.
2) Eve was created "out of man" (Gen 2:22-23) as a helper for Adam - Gen. 2:18.
3) The entire human race is called 'man' after Adam - Gen. 5:2.
4) Although Eve was enticed to initiate the fall, God called Adam to account first - Gen. 3:8-9.
Sin entered the world through Adam even though Eve was deceived and sinned first - Rom. 5:12 & 1 Cor. 15:22. God did not take the first woman's act lightly. He punished her by making woman subject to the authority of man because Eve's weakness led to the Fall which required the death of His Son to reconcile man back to Him. God's lament in Isaiah 3:12 is, “Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path”.
The following is almost word for word of a letter I received from a friend who asked me what I thought of secular psychology. I wasn't aware that she was doing a counselling course when I said, “telling people that the answer to their problems is within them etc does not give a solid foundation to fall back on when trouble comes again. I think that a good Christian counsellor would always lead the person to look to the Lord for help knowing that the Lord will be there for their next bout of trouble”. The following is her reply:
Thank you for your letter. It came at a very precise time. I had been sitting up much of the night wondering what to do about my counselling course. It's a Diploma of Counselling. I am only a quarter of the way through. Every time I go to pick up my study book it fills me with dread. In fact I haven't done a page in two months.
What bothers me is that it offers people no hope. As you mentioned, secular psychology is a case of “finding the answer within.” There is no coming before Christ. And as the Counsellor you are taught to step back from the person, observe and give no advice. It's too clinical for me.
In one of my training seminars we had to watch an actual interview on TV of a man being counselled after the tragic accidental drowning of his son (3 years old) in his backyard pool. It was incredibly heart wrenching. The trouble was, in my view, that the counsellor was so distant, so removed it was chilling. And he repeated things like “You're sad because you know you'll never see that little boy again” ... “You're hurting because you'll never touch him again”. It was awful to watch. I wanted to scream “No, the dead in Christ shall rise! Give your heart to God and you WILL see him and cuddle him again”. That poor man, he had no hope. Oh how that grieved me, it hurt me to the core. And that is when it dawned on me, “I cannot be a worldly counsellor, I can't do it, it's not who I am in Christ”.
As I was contemplating this my husband came and said he'd forgotten to give me your letter. When I read it I was glad. It confirmed what I had wanted to do in my heart. So I cancelled the course. I am seeking a Theology Course and eventually I would like to be a Christian Counsellor.
If I had counselled that poor man I would have been on my knees with him bringing him before God. It still hurts me to think of it. It was an old interview that they use for training purposes. I wonder how his life went, his marriage was struggling, did he take his own life? And that counsellor, how useless were his words and how “incredibly professional”. I have often observed those with the professional edge – cool, calm, aloof, reserved, organised, precise, detached. I wanted so much to be like them and I've never been able to. I care about people. I don't want to treat them as clients or case-works. So I thought I'd failed. Even in college I struggled to be just like the “elite” ones. I couldn't, I wasn't meant to.
Strange how now, in later life, I've finally figured out that who I am is who I am supposed to be. I am good enough. I realise only God is good but I mean good enough that I don't have to strive to be aloof and detached. I'm a person who will cry with you, laugh with you and pray with you. So thanks for unknowingly helping me to make my decision. I'm actually excited now that I'm beginning the right career for me ... end of letter.
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15 to “mourn with those who mourn”. In 2 Cor 1:3-5 we are told of “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”.
Faith and Works "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead" James 2:26.
What is the connection between faith and works? Is there a conflict between what Paul and James say? In Eph. 2:8-9, Paul tells us that we are saved by faith and not by works, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast". But then James 2:26 says that “faith without deeds is dead”. It appears that Paul and James contradict each other but, in fact, they don't. Paul is saying that doing good things before we are saved will not save us (Eph. 2:8-9) but James is saying that after we are saved our faith will lead us to do good works (James 2:14-26). They are stating separate truths which together tell us that
GOOD WORKS will not result in SALVATION but
SALVATION will result in GOOD WORKS.
James 2:18 says, "I will show you my faith by what I do". James was saying that his deeds were a result of his faith. That is, he was already saved and his faith led him to do good works. The following three examples show that Paul, like James, also said that salvation will result in good works:
1) In Eph. 2:10 Paul said, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". There are two things to note about this verse:
Firstly, it is 'in Christ' (when we are saved) that we do good works and
Secondly, this verse follows Eph. 2:8-9 which say that works will not save us.
So, combined, Eph. 2:8-10 say that good works won't save us but we are saved to do good works.
2) In Acts 26:20 Paul said, "I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds". So, deeds follow and prove our salvation.
3) In Rom. 7:4 Paul said, "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God". Again, the deeds follow salvation.
From these examples we can see that Paul and James don't contradict each other at all. They both tell us that good deeds are part of a sincere faith. John the Baptist also put deeds after salvation when he said, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt. 3:8).
Summing this up, we can do nothing to earn our salvation but, once saved, our deeds will bear witness to our salvation. A couple more verses in James also say this. Regarding Abraham, James 2:22 says, "his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did", and James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: "to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world". So, we can't work for our salvation but salvation should result in good works and being kept from the sinful pollution of the world.
Miscellaneous Click here for my YouTube
videos on salvation.
Divorce As the gospel is spread, it is common for just one partner in an existing marriage to be saved. So, marriages can exist between two believers or a believer and a non believer.
Concerning marriages in which both parties are Christian:
1 Cor. 7:10-11 is to Christian couples and says, "But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife". These verses make it clear that Christian couples should not divorce and remarry. However, Jesus said that there was one exception. In Matt. 19:9 He said, "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits [present tense] adultery." We can see from this verse that a person is not guilty of adultery if they remarry after divorcing an adulterous spouse. In this verse, and Matt. 5:32, Jesus established that divorce and remarriage were permitted in the case of adultery.
Also, Lev. 20:10 states, "If a man commits adultery with another man's wife--with the wife of his neighbor--both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death." When these souls were put to death, their partners were free to remarry. God still hates adultery but under the New Covenant God's people no longer stone adulterers, however, Jesus gives us permission to remarry after divorcing an adulterer or adulteress.
Marriages in which only one is saved:
1 Cor. 7:12 begins a passage that addresses marriages in which only one partner is Christian: 1 Cor. 7:12-17 starts out, "to the rest ..." and 'the rest' refers to mixed marriages in which only one person is saved. This would have been common when the Gospel initially went out and it is still common today. When unsaved couples hear the gospel and only one party responds, the result is the mixed marriages spoken of in this passage. The same would occur if a Christian married a non-Christian despite the command of 2 Cor. 6:14.
1 Cor. 7:15 says, "But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace". The meaning of the word 'bound' ('under bondage' - KJV) is the key as to whether or not remarriage is allowed. I can't see the word having a meaning other than 'bound by marriage vows' so I feel that we are being told that remarriage is permitted in this case. I believe God would want us to have a Christian spouse, if we are inclined to be married, to release us from sexual frustration and lust. I think this conclusion is fair as Jesus said in Matt. 5:28 "that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" and 1 Cor. 7:2 tells us that " ... since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband."
Also, 1 Cor. 7:27-28 NIV say, "Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned ...". The word 'unmarried' in v.27 is better translated 'divorced'. The NASB, KJV and AMP support this. The NASB uses the word 'released' in 1 Cor 7:27 NASB and reads "Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife." So it seems that v.27 is better translated, "Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you divorced? Do not look for a wife". Then v.28 goes on to say, "But if you do marry [after being divorced], you have not sinned". Looking closer at v.28a, it says that "if you do marry, you have not sinned." Because we know that getting married for the first time has never been a sin (note v.28b) then this can only be referring to a second marriage not being a sin, under the circumstances given. Also note that the question of death and remarriage is not being considered in this passage.
The Holy Spirit
Why do we have the Holy Spirit?
What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?
First, what does it mean to be saved? Matt. 1:21 says that Jesus would "save His people from their sins". Note that it says "from their sins", not IN their sins or WITH their sins but FROM their sins. Before we are saved, we are "dead in transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1) but when we are saved we have "crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24). A person must be saved FROM their sin to avoid death, because "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
Now to the reason why God gives believers His Holy Spirit. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that a person is able to be delivered from sin and be saved from death. Rom. 8:7 tells us that our "sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so". This means that our sinful nature is such that, in our own strength, we are unable to keep from sin. It is for this reason that God sends the Spirit into our life. Rom. 8:2-4 tells us that what we are not able to do, God will do for us, if we allow the Spirit to lead us. These verses tell us that a believer can FULLY meet God's righteous requirements, if he lives according to the Spirit. So, how does the Spirit lead us and keep us from continuing in a sinful lifestyle? ...
Well, we all know that when we sin our conscience convicts us, making us feel guilty and without peace. This conviction comes from the Spirit. John 16:8 says, "When He [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin". It is our response to this conviction which determines whether or not we are "led by the Spirit". We can respond to the conviction or we can ignore it. If we respond and repent we will be forgiven as "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This is the process of sanctification and with it comes the peace of God. However, if we ignore the Spirit's leading and, rather than repent, choose to continue to deliberately sin then we will face judgment. Heb. 10:26-27 tells us, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God".
So, the choice is ours. Whenever we sin, we can follow the Spirit's conviction and repent or ignore it and perish. Jesus said in Luke 13:3, "unless you repent, you too will all perish".
Summing this up: God's gift of the Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome sin so that we are able to walk in holiness and be saved from sin and death. Remember, "Without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb.12:14). Jesus' death alone, without the outpouring of His Spirit, would have been fruitless as we would all remain in our sin.
Walking in the Spirit, abiding in Jesus, walking with Jesus, being led by the Spirit, walking in holiness and sanctification are all one and the same thing.
The Calvary Road, by Roy Hession, is a wonderful little book which very simply outlines how we can come into a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus. It is free to download from this site.
Why do you seek Jesus?
What does He require of us?
When you pray, what is it that you ask of Jesus? Do you "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33) or do you go to Him with a shopping list? Do you ask Him to work through you or work for you? Do you seek signs, wonders and miracles to puff yourself up or do you seek to be a humble servant as the Lord requests? ... “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8). How do we become the humble servant the Lord asks us to be, rather than be self-seeking?
In Luke 14:33, Jesus said, "any of you who does not give up EVERYTHING he has cannot be my disciple". Then in Phil 3:8-14, Paul, who had enormous spiritual power, said that he considered EVERYTHING he had to be loss ... that it was all rubbish, compared to knowing Jesus and becoming like Him in death. In life and death, Jesus gave up all His rights in order to do His Father's will and said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). So, to be a servant like Jesus, we also have to die to self by giving up ALL our rights and becoming an empty vessel, fit for the Master's use. Does this mean we give up our rights to our time?- Yes; our money? - Yes; our ambitions? - Yes; our friends? - Yes; our reputation? - Yes; our rights to all things including our very life.
If anyone wants to be the Lord's servant, then he must deny himself entirely to allow the Spirit to work through him, just as Jesus denied Himself (Phil. 2:5-8) and allowed His Father to work mightily through Him. Our goal should be to give our all to Jesus and expect nothing in return (Luke 17:7-10). If we give in order to get something back, then we are not giving with pure motives, and looking for personal highs is merely seeking to fulfil our own lusts.
To be empty of self and filled with the Spirit, we cannot be leading a sinful lifestyle as the Lord will only fill a clean vessel (2 Tim. 2:19-21). So, whenever the Spirit convicts us of sin we must immediately repent and ask for cleansing (1 John 1:9). It is only when we are walking in holiness that we can present ourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, and be the Lord's instrument. Paul was surrendered such that he could say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Crucifying our pride-filled, sinful nature does not come easily but humility should be our goal as the Lord “opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Through ongoing surrender a soul becomes more and more of an instrument for the Lord's use as well as coming into an ever-deepening knowledge of His love, peace and presence. What greater goal could we have? The Calvary Road, by Roy Hession, is a wonderful little, practical book which deals with this matter in much more depth. It reveals, in the simplest of terms, the road to a close relationship with Jesus. It is free on this site.
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48 ).
What does perfect mean? Once a person repents of all sin they are justified (saved) and the process of sanctification (perfection) begins. Sanctification is the cleansing of all outward and inward sin. We all know that no one will be sinlessly perfect while on this earth so what does Jesus mean when He tells us to be perfect? The word perfect in this verse does not mean sinless perfection but rather it means “mature” or “complete”. In Matt. 5:43-48, Jesus tells us that, as well as loving our neighbours, we are to to love our enemies also and in the last verse He says, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect". The perfection Jesus is talking about is being perfect in love, mature in our faith, and it is achieved by loving everyone, even our enemies.
What is love? There is no gift, no service, nothing at all which comes near to love. To stress the importance of love, Jesus gave a new command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Then Rom. 13:9 tells us that that all the commandments “are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbour as yourself', and v.10 continues on to explain what love is - “Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law”. So we can see that love, which is the fulfilment of the Law, is doing no harm to our neighbour. If we lie or steal or hate or lust or covet etc. then we are not loving our neighbour but rather we are harming him. So, Jesus' command to be perfect means that we should be striving to love God and all mankind by not sinning against them and, of course, to do good as we are able.
Some other passages urging us to perfection Jesus' command to be perfect in love is not isolated. The Bible continually urges us to perfection, holiness and sanctification. Here are some examples -
1) The definition of a perfect Christian is one who strives to obey the two great commandments to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength [and] love your neighbour as yourself”, (Mark 12:30-31).
2) 1 Pet. 1:16 says, “Be holy, because I am holy”. This verse speaks for itself.
3) 1Thess. 5:23 says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Paul's prayer clearly tells us that God wants to sanctify our entire being so that we are blameless at the coming of Jesus.
4) Eph. 5:25-27 tell us that Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might present it to Himself as a glorious church, not having stain, wrinkle or blemish, but that it might be holy and blameless.
From these examples we can see that perfection, being holy and blameless, is God's desire for everyone in Christ, so we should pursue it with all our might.
Considering our sinful nature, how do reach this state of perfection? Loving all people does not come naturally to anyone. If we are to "love one another deeply, from the heart", (1 Pet. 1:22), then we need a new heart, and that is exactly what God provides. In Ezek. 36:25-27 God says, "I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh and I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws". God renews our stony hearts and sends His Holy Spirit to guide and empower us to follow His decrees … decrees such as “Be holy, because I am holy”.
The following two passages explain how the Spirit perfects us -
2 Pet. 1:3-4 say, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness [so that] you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world [which is sin] caused by evil desires”.
Rom 8:4 tells us that “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit”.
From these two passages, we see that the Spirit guides and empowers us to escape the corruption of sin so that we can FULLY meet God's righteous requirements. So, it is through the God's Divine Power, the Holy Spirit, that we are able to be perfected.
The process of perfection (sanctification) There is no doubt that being perfect in love is possible because Jesus commanded it and the Bible continually urges us toward it. The process of being sanctified “through and through” is a tough road but nothing is impossible for God. How close you or I come to perfection is entirely our choice. If we say, “Ahh, it's rubbish! No one can be perfect in love”, then we can be sure that we will never reach the goal ourself. However, if others are seeking it then we shouldn't be so unwise as to ridicule them as they are simply being obedient. What grounds can anyone have for objecting to someone seeking to be motivated by the love of God in all he says and does?
So, how do we achieve this goal? The answer is given in the likes of 2 Pet. 1:3-4 and Rom. 8:4, previously quoted. In these verses, it is God's promise that, through the Holy Spirit, we can fully meet His righteous requirements and escape the corruption of sin. This is done by humbly confessing our sins as soon as the Spirit convicts us. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. The promise in this verse is that once we confess, we are forgiven and will be purified from all unrighteousness – that is, we will be perfected. This takes time and determination.
Even though we are bound to stumble from time to time and may feel that we are wasting our time, let's immediately get up and persevere because the Lord is able to bring us to the goal He has set for us. James 1:4 says, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.
We are told that “perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Christian perfection is God's love filling our entire being and governing all our words and actions and it results in “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). There is no greater goal in Christianity than perfect love ... and seeking anything else is missing the mark.
Are You A Living Sacrifice? "Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom. 12:1).
During Jesus' time on the earth He sacrificed His entire life for service to God, right up to the point where, on the cross, He literally became a living sacrifice. He left the peace and perfection of heaven to become an entirely selfless servant in our chaotic and sin-filled world. Phil. 2:7-8 say that He, “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” His entire life was dedicated to doing God's will which was to provide a way of forgiveness for mankind by dying the death we deserve. During His ministry He had no place to lay His head, no money, no time, no plans, and no will of His own. He spent those years loving and teaching mankind, all the time knowing about the fearful agony that awaited Him. What a God we have! What does this really mean for us?
It means a lot more than many think. After His resurrection, in John 20:21, Jesus said, “as the Father has sent me, I am sending you”. In other words, Jesus wants us to be to Him, what He was to His Father ... fully surrendered and denying self even to the point of death. Jesus' absolute loyalty to His Father was carried out on the cross after His blood-soaked prayer in the Garden, “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus had no desire except to do His Father's will and Romans 12 urges us to do the same by offering our bodies as living sacrifices. How is this done?
Rom. 12:1-2 tell us that becoming a living sacrifice is a spiritual act in which we no longer conform to the world but have our mind renewed so that we can know and do God's will. Becoming a living sacrifice requires two things: 1) Prayer and
Jesus' garden prayer was acted out on the cross. He first prayed to do His Father's will and then performed it on the cross next day. Surrendering to do God's will requires deliberate, solemn, determined action, not just prayer. For example, if we pray for someone's salvation and don't follow up by giving them the Gospel then we haven't performed God's will which was what got us praying in the first place. Jesus followed up His prayer by going to the cross. To become a living sacrifice, we must choose to surrender all our rights and actively take up our cross. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). To follow Jesus we must first die to self with all its prideful and worldly desires. James 4:4 tells us that “friendship with the world is hatred toward God”. For more on dying to self, please go to www.christianissues.biz/baptism.html
To know Jesus' will we must hear and follow His voice. He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Someone once said to a famous evangelist, “I have not heard God's call on my life”. He replied, “You haven't been listening”(see John 8:47). Do you hear the Lord's voice and follow Him? Ask yourself, “Am I a living sacrifice or am I just living?” Remember, we only have one life in which to serve the One who loved us so much that He willingly died for us. So, for His sake, die to self and seek His will for your life. Don't seek martyrdom, however, “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed” (Rev. 13:10). Never fear the Lord's calling on your life as He equips and strengthens us for His service.
May the Lord bless you as you surrender all to do His will.
The Calvary Road is a wonderful little book which, in clear and simple terms, shows the way to hear and follow Jesus' voice. It's free to download from www.christianissues.biz/revival.html
Click here for an article on baptism which is closely tied to this discussion. Click here for my YouTube videos on salvation.
Sinless Perfection "Be holy, because I am holy".
(1 Pet. 1:16)
There are two extreme beliefs regarding salvation.
1) The belief that saved people are sinlessly perfect.
2) The belief that once saved, sin is no longer an issue regarding salvation.
In this article, I would like to show that we are not expected to live a sinless life to get to heaven but we must live a holy life.
Sinless perfection Even the Apostle John did not consider himself to be sinless and in fact he said that he would have been deceived to think that he was. In 1 John 1:8 he said, “If we [any Christian including himself] claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”. A few verses later, in 1 John 2:1, he said that he was writing to us so that we would not sin and said, “But if anybody does sin, we [again including himself] have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One”. So, we can see that saying we must be sinless to be saved is not scriptural.
Regarding heaven, Rev. 21:27 does say that “nothing impure will ever enter it” but this does not mean that we have to live a perfectly sinless life to be pure. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins then we will be forgiven and 1 John 1:7 says, “if we walk in the light … the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”. So, as we confess our sins and walk in the light the blood of Jesus makes us pure and fit for heaven.
Once Saved Always Saved The Once Saved doctrine says that if a truly saved person enters into an unholy lifestyle and does not repent then he will still get to heaven. This can't be true as Heb. 12:14 tells us that “without holiness no one will see the Lord”. We are only holy, righteous, as we practice righteousness. Righteousness is not something we can hold on to or save up like money in the bank. 1 John 3:7-8 (NASB) say, “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil ...”. John is telling us not to be deceived into thinking that we can get away with sinful living because we are only righteous if we practice righteousness; those who practice sin are of the devil. Living righteously is simply walking in the light and confessing our sins whenever the Holy Spirit convicts us.
Repentance Many people say that if we have to do anything to be saved then we are working for our salvation and I'm sure we all agree. However, repenting of sin is not works, it is a command and the very heart of salvation. To get saved, a person must be willing to repent and no one considers that to be works. So, because it is not works to repent to get saved then it can't be works to repent after we are saved. No verse says that our future sins are forgiven so if we don't confess and repent of the sins we commit after being saved then we won't be forgiven those sins.
Struggling with sin A point to note is that there is a very clear distinction between occasional sin and a wilfully sinful lifestyle. As shown earlier, Christians are not perfect. They may sin occasionally, perhaps out of weakness, but confession brings forgiveness. However, living in an unrepentant lifestyle of habitual sin puts a believer's salvation at stake. Some believers struggle with sin, even for a long period. The fact that they are struggling shows God that they have a repentant heart but don't yet have the self control to stop because they don't hate the sin enough. God will strengthen them to resist when they hate their sin like He does. This struggle can’t be compared with being comfortable in a sinful lifestyle and saying, “Well, that’s me. I’m just human”. This is denying the Divine Power of the Holy Spirit to deliver us from sin and such an attitude can have a fatal result.
Summing it up, salvation lies between the two extremes of sinless perfection and once saved always saved. Sinless perfection is not the standard for getting to heaven and refusing to repent of sin is a sure ticket to hell. To be holy and righteous in God's eyes we need to walk in the light and humbly repent whenever we sin. When we sin, we lose God's peace but when we repent, God returns His peace. Living a holy, repentant life brings God's peace and an absolute assurance of heaven.
Click here to download this article as a PDF. Click here for my YouTube videos on the Once Saved doctrine.
The Peace Of God How is God's peace different from the world's peace?
Why is it that New Agers and other religions can look a Christian in the eye and say that they have peace? There is no doubt that they are sincere but how can they say this when they are on the Broad Road to destruction? The Bible gives us a clear answer where it says that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers” as “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (2 Cor. 4:4, 1 John 5.19). Until their eyes are opened to their sinfulness, and God's coming judgment, the unsaved will remain comfortable as they bathe in self interest and strive to fulfill their lusts with ever increasingly creative ideas. As time goes by they tire of their circumstances and look for new activities to amuse themselves. The degree of their creativity depends on what they can afford and what they think they can get away with and the world is lowering its moral and ethical standards to allow greater decadence (calling it tolerance) in the hope that it will satisfy. This is not peace, but merely personal gratification and it is totally dependent on circumstances. When things get rough (and they will as death is inevitable) they will be shaken. So then, what is the peace of God?
God's peace sets us on a Rock and nothing in creation can knock us off that Rock. God's peace doesn't come from present circumstances but from a right standing with Him and the certain knowledge of His love and presence. A perfect example of this is found in Acts 16:16-34 where Paul and Silas were singing hymns in prison after receiving a severe flogging. God's peace and love shone through them further still when, after the earthquake, rather than escape, they led the jailer and his family to the Lord. That's the peace of God. How does a believer come into that peace?
God's peace comes from being right with Him. The guilt of sin kills this peace because God hates sin, and He always lets us know when we go wrong. Rom. 8:1 tells us that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus", however, if a believer has sin in his life then the Holy Spirit will convict him of that sin, until he repents of it (John 16:8, 1 John 1:9). Whenever we lack peace, there is sin in our life. When we take the matter to God, He is ever faithful to show us why He is not pleased with us. When we repent, we are back in God's will and our peace returns as Jesus takes the burden of our sin.
When we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and repent of our sins, we remain in a right relationship with God and abide in His peace. There is no comparison between the unstable peace which the world gives and "the peace of God which transcends all understanding" (Phil 4:7). Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). Peace built on the Rock Jesus can't be swept away by the storms of life, whereas the peace which comes from "the god of this age" is terribly deceptive and leads to destruction (Matt. 7:24-27). You can be sure that if you have a lack of peace then it is the result of sin in your life ... ask God.
Grieving The Spirit "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" Eph. 4:30.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is God's seal of approval for anyone who repents of their sins and puts their trust in Jesus but what is the full purpose of the Spirit and how can we grieve the Spirit of God?
Firstly, what is the Spirit's purpose in our life? The Holy Spirit:
1) Brings glory to Jesus by revealing Him to us and through us (John 16:14).
2) Witnesses to us that we are children of God so that we know we are saved (Rom. 8:16).
3) Wills us to act according to God's good purpose (Phil. 2:13).
4) Empowers us to be witnesses for Jesus as we are powerless to convict sinners (Acts 1:8).
5) Guides us into all truth so that the world won't deceive us (John 16:13).
6) Convicts us of sin so that we will repent and live a holy life (John 16:8).
7) Empowers us to escape the corruption of sin and live a godly life (2 Pet. 1:3-4).
The Holy Spirit works within us and empowers us to live a godly life. The Bible tells us that “His divine power [the Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness” and “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:3-4; Rom. 8:4). Our sinful nature will always prompt us to sin but if we live according to the Spirit then we will have the power to overcome the world and no longer be slaves to sin. So, God's purpose in giving us His Spirit is so that we can live a Spirit-led, godly life.
How can we grieve the Spirit? If we live according to the Spirit then we will please God. However, if we follow our sinful nature and refuse to respond to the Spirit's conviction then we will grieve the Spirit who strives to guide us into holy living. 1 Thess. 4:7-8 say, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction [to be holy] does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit”. From these verses we can see that ignoring the Spirit is nothing less than rejecting God and this grieves His Spirit.
Eph. 4:30-5:4 say that we will grieve the Spirit if we don’t get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger etc... We should not be obscene, talk foolishly or joke coarsely. All of these things grieve the Spirit because they are improper for God's holy people. Instead we are to be kind, compassionate and forgiving. We should live a life of love and there should not be even a hint of immorality, impurity or greed among us because these things can have a fearful result.
What is the result of grieving the Spirit?
The result of grieving the Spirit is given plainly in Eph. 5:3-7, “But among you [Christians] there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. ... For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them”. These are strong words telling us, as God's holy people, not to allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that we can get away with being immoral, impure or greedy because God's wrath, hell, will be the outcome. This is why Eph. 4:30 tells us not to grieve the Spirit with whom we are sealed for the day of redemption. (The day of redemption is the day Jesus returns and fully redeems us from our sinful nature by changing us into His likeness - Heb. 9:28; Phil. 3:21).
Eph. 1:13-14. These verses say that we are sealed with the Spirit “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption”.
1) Regarding this guarantee: The deposit of the Spirit in our life is our guarantee that we are saved. If did not have the Spirit then we would not be born again but would still be in our old life of sin. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we are able to live a holy life and have this guarantee that we are on our way to receiving our heavenly inheritance.
2) Next, saying that we are sealed “until the redemption” gives the impression that we will be fully redeemed when Jesus returns, regardless of what we do. However, the following examples show several other more meaningful translations of the word translated “until”:
We are sealed with the Holy Spirit: looking unto the final and complete redemption (PNT commentary) for the purpose of and against the accomplishment of the redemption (JFB commentary) in anticipation of its full redemption (AMP Bible) with a view to the redemption (NASB Bible).
From this it can be seen that it is more accurate to say that we have the deposit of the Holy Spirit with a view to, or in anticipation of, our full redemption.
So, the deposit of the Spirit in our life is not a guarantee of our final and full redemption but, rather, it is a guarantee that we are saved and looking forward to being fully redeemed. When a deposit is paid to buy something like a house, conditions are put in place. If these conditions are not met then the final purchase can fall through. The conditions of our final redemption are given in Rom. 8:13 which says, “if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live”.
To finish off, in His love, God has sealed us with His Spirit so that we have Divine Power to live according to His will and to be holy as He is holy. So, let's not grieve the Spirit but humbly repent whenever convicted and ask the Lord to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. In doing this we will be at peace with God and can confidently look forward to receiving a rich welcome into His presence.
Prayer "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Col. 4:2).
This article is to impress upon your soul the vital need for private prayer, both for yourself and for your leaders. At the end there is a list of free books on prayer by E. M. Bounds about whom it was said that “there is no man that has lived since the days of the apostles that has surpassed him in the depths of his marvelous research into the Life of Prayer”.
Those who have been greatly used by God testify that God moves heaven and earth in response to prayer. The Bible greatly encourages us to pray - “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph. 6:18). "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Col. 4:2). “Pray continually” (1Thess. 5:17). “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20).
The following are quotes from the book 'Men Of Prayer Needed'. “The holier a man is, the more does he estimate prayer; the clearer does he see that God gives to the praying ones, and that the measure of God’s revelation to the soul is the measure of the soul’s longing, importunate prayer for God … The Holy Spirit never abides in a prayerless spirit … The gospel cannot be projected by a prayerless preacher. Gifts, talents, education, eloquence, God’s call, cannot abate the demand of prayer, but only intensify the necessity for the preacher to pray and to be prayed for”.
What is said in the following books, regarding the prayer life of leaders, applies equally to the prayer life of all Christians. Prayer empowers each of us for service to the Lord, to walk in holiness and to glorify God through our witness. God appoints His best from their prayer closets.
The Calvary Road Download a free book on how the Spirit works in us, holiness and the peace of God.
Many, possibly most, Christians struggle with various issues (sins) which results in a lack of peace dominating their life. Relief may come from time to time but overall they live a defeated Christian life rather than a victorious one. Masks are put on to give the appearance of being strong in the Lord but the fact is, they are not. Are you in this category? Even if you are not, reading The Calvary Road will most likely bring to light issues that are holding you back from an intimate walk with Jesus. Lack of peace is a sure sign of sin but there is no sin that cannot be overcome … if you are first willing to face it.
The Calvary Road (1950) is far from being another off-the-shelf, self-help book. It is an extremely powerful little book which reveals how the Holy Spirit witnesses to us. In 2 Thess. 2:13, we are told that we are "saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit" and The Calvary Road, in simple terms, shows how the Spirit “works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13), to guide you in holiness. Anyone who applies the principles of this book soon learns that holiness and peace go hand in hand.
Sanctification is rarely preached and it is not a well understood doctrine. The Calvary Road lays out the pathway to holiness which is painful at times as Heb. 12:11 says, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it". I urge you to read this little book many times, as I have, because it contains a life-changing message; a message that can bring you to KNOW the living presence of Jesus (John 14:21). Once you "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psa. 34:8) you will never want to go back to your old ways but will desire to "die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31).
May your walk with Jesus come to be such that hearing and following His voice is second nature to you.
Paul's Thorn In The Flesh "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations,
there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me".
2 Cor. 12:7.
Why was Paul given the thorn and what was it?
Starting back around 2 Cor. 10:12, we see that Paul is defending himself against others who were boasting about themselves. In 2 Cor. 11:3-5 he says that the Corinthians were being led astray by these 'super apostles'. He further defends himself against those people and in 2 Cor. 11:13-15 he calls them false apostles. In 2 Cor. 11:16-33 he states that he is no fool but then goes on to boast as though he was a fool and then, in 2 Cor. 12:1-6, he continues on to boast of great revelations. In this defence of his ministry, he speaks against the false 'super apostles' and in his boasting he shows that he was indeed far superior to them. Then, in 2 Cor. 12:7, he says that the reason he was given the thorn was "to keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations". The context of receiving the thorn was that he really was a super apostle (2 Cor. 12:11-12), greatly used by God, and to keep him from becoming conceited God gave him a thorn to keep his pride in check so that he could be further used by the Lord, as it says in 2 Cor. 12:8-9.
What was the thorn? One thing that it was very unlikely to be was sin. The thorn was not given until AFTER the surpassingly great revelations as it says in 2 Cor. 12:7. It was something God introduced into Paul's life to keep him reliant on God and prevent him from getting puffed up. God does not give us sin (note James 1:13), rather He wants us rid of it; nor does He use sin to discipline us but instead uses discipline to bring us to repentance in order to cleanse us of sin. If the thorn was sin then it means that God used Paul enormously, gave him the light of great revelations and then introduced darkness into his life. It also means that Paul, who preached holiness and deliverance from sin, was himself plagued by sin and this would give us an excuse for sinning. God hates sin so to say He would put it into a person's life to check a man's pride is contrary to His desire to have men walk in the Light. He works within us to deliver us from darkness and it is unrealistic to say He would introduce it into our life for any reason. He wants sin out of, not in our life, and I am sure that He can come up with 1000 ways to discipline us without using sin which he hates and which required the death of His Son to reconcile us to Himself. Having said all this, James 1:13 denies outright the possibility that God would give someone a 'thorn of sin'. It says, "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me'. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone".
The term 'thorn in the flesh' intimates a physical malady. It makes sense to see the thorn as some problem, possibly noticable, which would cause people to look and question that such a person could be used so greatly by God when the person is seen to be in a pathetic condition. It is possible that Gal. 4:13-15 is along the lines of what the thorn was as it mentions contempt and scorn for an illness Paul had. Such contempt would temper anyone's pride. Click here to download this article as a PDF.
Born Again, What It Really Means
There is a great deal more to being born again than a simple salvation prayer.
In the simplest terms, born again means to be spiritually born into the family of God. We are all physically born into this world but when we repent and believe in Jesus He sends His Spirit into our life and in this way we are born spiritually and become children of God. When God becomes our Father, we must turn our back on the ways of the devil because "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord MUST turn away from wickedness" (2 Tim. 2:19). This is done when we "put off our old self ... and put on the new self" (Eph. 4:22-24). Old habits die hard so how exactly do we become a new person and please God?
One thing is certain, our sinful nature will not allow us to obey God's commands (Rom. 8:7). We cannot become a new creation unless God helps us and that is exactly what He does. John 1:12 says "to all who received him he gave the right ['power' in KJV] to become children of God". This power is the Holy Spirit who comes to live in all who believe (Eph. 1:13). 2 Pet. 1:3-4 sum up the work of the Spirit where it says, "His divine power [the Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness so that you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires". So, it is through the Spirit that we get the power to resist evil, to put off our old sinful ways and to become a new creation. How is this done in real terms?
As already noted, the moment someone repents, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit into their life and John 16:8 gives the reason - "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment". Whenever we sin, the Spirit convicts our conscience causing us to lose our peace and feel guilty. This is the Spirit's witness to us to repent and 1 John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness". It is through this process of conviction and confession that a child of God is forgiven and God's promise is that, as we continue in this process, He will "purify us from ALL unrighteousness". In this manner a new nature is born in us; we become new creations, resisting our sinful ways and made able to walk in love and holiness. It is a simple process to understand but a very painful ordeal to endure as our Father wants to cleanse us of things we find very hard to repent of. Things like lust, hate, anger, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfishness, drunkeness, witchcraft, idolatry etc. As we listen to the Spirit He reveals these things ... we may resist, but we will not know God's peace until we repent.
For an analogy of how God changes us, think of a mechanic fixing a car. He gets inside the car and changes things until it runs well. In the same way, God gets into our life and "works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13). Through this process, called sanctification, we are transformed into the likeness of our Lord. Repentance is lifelong, not a once off "Thank you Jesus"; it starts with a change of heart toward sin and MUST, through the power of the Spirit, lead to the forsaking of habitual sin otherwise it is a mere pretense because, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin" (1 John 3:9). That is, no child of God will deliberately, knowingly and habitually practice sin (AMP).
So, being born again is a second birth in which we receive God's Spirit, empowering us to walk in holiness. We then either choose to obey the Spirit's witness (i.e. repent) and reap eternal life or ignore it and risk losing our salvation (Rom. 8:12-13). Our salvation depends on our response to the Holy Spirit as we are told that we are "saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13). An old time preacher's dying words were, "Be sanctified or be damned!" and the power in his words deeply shook those gathered around his death bed. Slowly read Gal. 5:19-21 and note that these words are a second warning to believers. Do you see these sins in others? More to the point, do others see them in you?
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17).
Jesus said, "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned" (John 15:6).
Seek the Lord while He may be found as "without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).
Women Praying In The Church
Resolving the apparent contradiction between 1 Cor. 11:5 and 1 Cor. 14:34.
1 Cor. 14:34-35 say that women are to be silent in the church while 1 Cor. 11:5 says that women are to cover their heads while praying or prophesying. The following excerpt from the link shown resolves the apparent contradiction.
Laney writes (http://www.bible-researcher.com/women-prophesying.html):
A viewpoint that is deserving of further consideration is the possibility that Paul was addressing two different situations in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14. Could Paul have been referring in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 to women "praying and prophesying" in contexts other than the meeting of the church? If so, is it possible that his restriction in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 applies only when the church is gathered in public assembly for the preaching of the Word and observing the ordinances of communion and baptism? It has been objected that 1 Corinthians 11 addresses the issue of communion, certainly a church event. But there is a clear transition between Paul's discussion of the head covering in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 and his teaching regarding the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor. 11:17-34. Only in the second section of chapter 11 does Paul mention the believers as coming together: "you come together" (1 Cor. 11:17); "when you come together" (1 Cor. 11:18); "when you meet together" (1 Cor. 11:20); "when you come together" (1 Cor. 11:33). Paul is clearly thinking of the gathered church in1 Cor. 11:17-34. But no such allusions appear in 1 Cor. 11:2-16. One could make a strong case for the view that Paul is addressing two different contexts in chapter 11 - the first where believers are gathered in small groups for prayer, and the second where the church is gathered for teaching, preaching and communion [Churches in the house were common - 1 Cor. 16:19, Rom. 16:5, Col. 4:15, Philemon 1:2]. The ministry boundaries for one situation may differ from that of the other ... this could have significant implications for our study of 1 Cor. 14:34-35. Is it possible that Paul is giving a restriction on public speech in the church, a restriction which would not apply in the home or other informal group meetings? Paul does contrast the church and the home in 1 Cor. 14:35 where he points out that it is permissible for women to ask questions in one place but not in the other. The possibility that Paul is addressing two different contexts in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 is worth pursuing.
Laney's conclusion that this interpretation "is worth pursuing" would seem to be an understatement. It obviously commends itself, and it has been the opinion of many commentators in the past. In addition to the scholars quoted above we could also cite Hermann Olshausen, Carles T. Ellicott, J. Agar Beet, W. E. Vine, Frederik W. Grosheide, Gordon Clark, and Philip Bachman. (17) And Laney is right that "this could have significant implications for our study of 1 Cor. 14:34-35." The major implication is that nothing prevents us from taking 1 Cor. 14:34-35 in its plain sense as a prohibition of women speaking to the congregation at all. One cannot help but think that this unpopular implication is the main reason that so many recent writers have insisted that the "prophesying" of 1 Cor. 11:5 can only take place in a worship service.
The passage 1 Cor. 11:2-16 is about the order of headship and is stated as being God first then Christ then man then woman. In this passage God is telling us that a man SHOULD NOT have a head covering as he was made in the image of God but woman SHOULD wear a covering to show her submission to the authority of man which was established at the beginning of creation. Man's authority over women was established in Eden (Gen. 3:16) and this order of creation is restated in 1 Cor. 11:7-9 - that is, man first then woman. Also, in 1 Cor. 11:16, it is made clear that this teaching is not a cultural thing nor something peculiar to the Corinthian church but for all the churches and for all time.
After talking about head coverings, God then reminds us of the order of creation, in 1 Cor. 11:7-9, and then in 1 Cor. 11:10 He says, "For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head". Exactly what "because of the angels" means does not really matter as the fact is ministering angels (Heb. 1:14) have always been with us so women in all churches ought to wear the sign of authority because of these angels. We may not know the reason but God does and He said that women should cover their head because of it.
The remark is often made that long hair is the woman's covering spoken about in this passage. However, it doesn't make any sense for God to give us a long argument about covering and not covering heads and then tell us that He was only talking about the length of a woman's hair after all (1 Cor. 11:14-15). If we replace the word 'covering' with 'hair' then the verses make no sense at all as the following shows -
1Co 11:4 Every man who prays or prophesies with hair dishonors his head.
1Co 11:5 And every woman who prays or prophesies without hair dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved.
1Co 11:6 If a woman does not have hair, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should have hair.
1Co 11:7 A man ought not to have hair, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
As we can see from the above, hair is obviously not the covering God wants women to wear. Also, if long hair was meant to be the woman's covering then we would need a long-hair policeman at the church door to see if a woman needed an extra covering because her hair was not long enough - and what would the standard hair length be?
From http://earlychurch.com/HeadCovering.php -
The historical record reveals that the early churches all understood Paul to be talking about a cloth veil, not long hair. The only thing that wasn't clear to some of the early Christians was whether or not Paul's instructions apply to all females or only to married women. The reason is that the Greek word gyne, used by Paul, can mean "a female" or it can mean "a married woman."
From http://www.kingshouse.org/headcovering.htm -
"Many today, in mimicking what they've heard, say that the woman's hair is her covering, as it seems to imply in verse 1 Cor. 11:15. Such statements are not at all original or honest. Besides, the Greek word used for 'covering' in 1 Cor. 11:15 ("for her hair is given her for a covering") is completely different from the one translated 'covered' prior to this in Chapter 11. This Greek word (peribolaion), here in verse 15, means to 'wrap around'. Hence the meaning would be ... "for her hair is given her for 'to be wrapped around'". There is no clear idea here, nor from any early Church writer, that the 'hair' is the women's 'covering'. Furthermore, it would seem to be negating what Paul had just spent 13 verses on prior to this in chapter 11. The words translated "covering", "covered" or "cover" prior to 1 Cor. 11:15 use an entirely different Greek word (katakalupto). This one means to 'veil or cover up oneself'."
JFB Commentary: 1 Cor. 11:14 The fact that nature has provided woman, and not man, with long hair, proves that man was designed to be uncovered, and woman covered. The Nazarite, however, wore long hair lawfully, as being part of a vow sanctioned by God (Num. 6:5). Compare as to Absalom, 2 Sam. 14:26, and Act 18:18.
1 Cor. 11:15 her hair ... for a covering - Not that she does not need additional covering. Nay, her long hair shows she ought to cover her head as much as possible. The will ought to accord with nature [Bengel].
1Co 3:16-17 say, “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you. If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple”. Some Christians say that these verses mean that people who smoke tobacco will end up in hell because they are destroying God's temple. If that was true then we would have to tell a person who is fat from overeating that they are heading for hell too because being overweight is also bad for our health. When 1 Cor. 3 is examined closely it will be found that these verses are not saying that God will destroy people who destroy their bodies but rather that He will destroy people who destroy His church.
1 Cor. 1:11-13 and 1 Cor. 3:1-8 tell us that the Corinthians were fighting about which man they should follow. Paul said that they should follow Jesus rather than follow men like himself or Apollos. He goes on to say that they were just servants with God-given tasks; one man plants, another waters but God makes things grow and each man will be rewarded according to his own labour. Then in 1 Cor. 3:9-11 he says that we Christians are God's building and that he has laid a foundation as an expert builder and each of us must be careful how we build on that foundation, which is Jesus Christ.
Then 1 Cor. 3:12-15 talk about how we build the church and warn that fire will test the quality of each man's work. The verses say that we can -
a) Build with gold, silver or costly stones and receive our reward or
b) Build with wood, hay or straw and, although we will still be saved, our work will be burned up.
Building with gold, silver or costly stones represent good leadership and sound doctrine while wood, hay and straw represent poor leadership and unsound doctrine.
So far, the chapter has spoken about building the church with good or poor leadership but there can also be bad leadership which destroys a church. Back in 1 Cor. 3:9, we Christians were referred to as God's building and 1 Cor. 3:16-17 continue with that picture, calling us God's Temple - “Don't you know that you yourselvesare God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you [plural] are that temple”. God's temple is referring to the church, not individuals. When these verses are taken in the context of building the church, we see that they are saying that God will destroy bad leaders who destroy His church rather than build it up.
From this we can see that 1 Cor. 3:16-17 is not referring to destroying our body but to destroying the church. 1 Cor. 3:18 to 1 Cor. 4:6 continue on to further warn us not to follow the wisdom of men and in 1 Cor. 4:6 we are told, “Do not go beyond what is written. Then you will not take pride in one man over against another”. So, if we follow what is written and not follow men then we will build well and not be corrupted by false teaching which will destroy a church.
So, we can see that this chapter is telling us to be careful how we build and to build on the foundation of Jesus because our rewards will be according to the way we build.
If we build well then we will be rewarded.
If we build poorly then we will still be saved but lose our rewards.
If anyone destroys the church then they will be destroyed.
If we take 1 Cor. 3:16-17 out of context and tell a smoker that he is going to hell then we ourselves will be guilty of poor doctrine. Also, the smoker may have little faith and poor self-control and what we say may destroy the little faith he has. Feeling hopelessly lost, he may turn to wine, women and song … which will certainly lead him to hell.
There is no doubt that smoking is bad for our health and people are in bondage to it but nowhere does the Bible say that smokers will go to hell. When the Bible is silent on something then we should be also but of course smokers should be encouraged to quit the habit.
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