Archive

Fundamentals

Mercy Triumphs over Judgment

“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

A recent article in the Washington Post caught my attention.  It was entitled, “Jury convicted maid for stealing.  Then they paid her fine.” The story went something like this: a young, 19 year old maid stole a lady’s rings while cleaning her house.  The value of the rings was about $5,000.  She later, after initially denying it to the police, felt bad and admitted to the crime and returned the rings. She was charged with felony grand larceny.  At the trial the jury felt that justice had to be done but also felt compassion for the young women who was also pregnant with her second child.  Their solution was to put forth a guilty decision on her case, but to also take up a collection among themselves to pay for her fine.  This was quite amazing and unprecedented.

The amazement here centers on the fact that they were able to maintain justice in the case and to still be merciful.  In other words, although the jury sympathized with her situation, they couldn’t rightfully say that she was not guilty; they couldn’t because they knew that she was in fact guilty by her own admittance.  Since she was guilty, then she had to be convicted and a price had to be paid for the crime.  The mercy was shown by the jurors by paying the price for her penalty, to redeem her.  The price was paid and justice was upheld.

To Christians this should sound familiar.  In fact, this is the first time in my life that I have seen a real world example of the mercy and justice that has been conveyed to us through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His death paid the penalty for our sins, much like these jurors paid the penalty for this woman’s crime.  Similarly, our conviction could not have been removed, because we are in fact guilty.

Our guilt is twofold.  In part we have inherited guilt from the sin of Adam and Eve which brought death to the entire human race, as well as a curse to our world.  We entered into an evil, corrupt and selfish world system at birth.  The second part of our guilt is our own choices of disobeying and dishonoring the God who created us and who is the source of our very life and breath and all that sustains us.  Yes, our sins are a serious crime against God, in fact, they are deserving of death.  We all, at some point in our lives, have disobeyed His commandments and regulations, and we have not honored Him as our creator and God, thus we all have been guilty.  Yet because we have been born into this sinful situation, inheriting our condition from the fall of our original parents, and because much of our crimes of our past have been done in ignorance of God’s laws and requirements, God has been compassionate towards us, sending His Messiah to pay the penalty for us.  Thus God is able to retain justice and yet be merciful to us.

We can see also that God, like the jurors, couldn’t just remove the penalty.  No, the conviction had to stand firm and be applied or justice would have been perverted.  In our case though, the penalty was much, much higher than in the case of the young woman thief.

“You were dead through the trespasses and sins  in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:1-7

Another lesson here to be absorbed is the fact that justice can coexist with mercy, and mercy doesn’t need to cause justice to be overturned.  We can mistakenly use the need for justice to override the feelings of compassion and to halt the application of mercy, but this need not be, and rather should not be.

The mercy that we show towards others will affect the mercy that will be shown to us as well as the judgment that will be applied to us in the future.  God is very clear about this:

“Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.” Proverbs 12: 13

And this from the teachings of Jesus:

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5

Somehow we get the idea that it is our job to fix people, to correct them and straighten them out.  Many times the motive is really selfish, not wanting to have to encounter their issues because it bothers us, or may cause us some discomfort or pain.  Unfortunately, most times our execution of judgment towards others either verbally or physically, does little to actually change them.  Love and mercy, on the other hand, can do much to bring about a change in the inner heart of a person, where the change is really needed.  It also opens the door to allow God’s Spirit to work in their hearts, softening them and their guilt.  It’s much like when we love our enemies, and it is like “heaping burning coals upon their head.”

In the story about the maid, noted above, it was also mentioned that the owner of the rings was very upset and “appalled” when she learned of the actions of the jurors.  It seems that although she had her rings returned and the maid was legally found guilty, she wanted more of a penalty enforced upon the woman (showing no compassion for the maid’s poverty and situation).  I wonder what was motivating this wealthy woman to feel this way.  Was it out of love for the maid, and a desire to really help her (maybe a tough love)?  Did she think that justice was not really upheld?  Or was it that she wanted revenge for being compromised?  I would think it most likely that the need for revenge motivated her to feel this way, but God knows her heart and will deal with her appropriately.  For us, we should be certain that revenge doesn’t motivate our actions.

Love is our ultimate goal, but the ability to love can only come when we are transformed in our inner man by the power of God.  It can only come when we become spiritual with our mind and heart set on spiritual things above, rather than on the things of this world.  When we love this world it equates to loving ourselves and we are then unable to love God and love others as we must.

“Make love your aim….” 1 Corinthians 14: 1

The final question that arises about the story of the maid and the compassionate jury is how the maid will react when she is offended in the future, perhaps by a crime committed against her.  Will she also show compassion as was shown to her?  It is obvious to us that the compassion shown to her should then cause her to also show compassion to others.

Remember that this applies to us also.  As God has shown mercy to us, we also need to show mercy towards other, besides being immensely grateful to God for what He has done for us.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  ‘Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.’ “ 1 Peter 2: 9-10

Amen

Advertisements

As Christians, How Should We Now Live?

“Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you should do so more and more.” 1 Thess. 4: 1

This message is for Christians, and more specifically, for the subset of Bible believing Christians who adhere to the directives of the Holy Scriptures and see them as the source of truth and as an authoritative revelation from God to all Christians throughout the ages.  I personally believe that the Bible is the revealed Word of God and that all true Christians must hold to it as the sole authority and standard to measure all other proposed truths against. If you don’t agree with this or if you have some other source of truth that takes precedence over the authority of the Bible, then this message will most likely not be a benefit to you.

The Bible is more than a historical record, and its relevance is as applicable today as it was centuries ago.  Its verses were written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, the divine Holy Spirit of God was able to cause what was written to have relevance from the time it was written until the end of this age, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at His second coming.

I am stressing these points about the authority and relevance of the Scriptures because I want to look closely at the instructions that were written in the 4th chapter of 1 Thessalonians and were established by the author, the apostle Paul, as instructions for how the Thessalonians should live as converted Christian.  Again I say it – these instructions are applicable to us today also.

Paul lays out 3 areas or categories of instruction as follows: 1) holiness, 2) love of the brethren, 3) hope.  I would like to drill down into each of these areas, looking more closely at the verses and discussing their relevance for us today.  I see in these exhortations a practical direction for us to follow that will help us to live out the remainder of our Christian lives in a way that is pleasing to God, as Paul suggests.

“For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus” 1 Thess. 4: 2

Notice first that Paul had previously instructed them on these topics, possibly even multiple times. Notice also that Paul states that these instructions were given “through the Lord Jesus” meaning that they have been revealed to him by God, and have divine authority, therefore they should not be taken lightly.  Also, note that under each of these 3 categories, Paul mentions specific topics of instruction that encompass the guidelines for Christians to live their lives.   We must recognize that there are more topics that could be included than these that are mentioned, but these were the ones that Paul thought were important and relevant to the Thessalonians, and also that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write and include, so we must also see them as relevant for guidance to us today.

Holiness

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification (or being made holy)….” 1 Thess. 4: 3

The dictionary.com definition of the word sanctify is “to make holy; to set apart as sacred; to consecrate” and “to purify or free from sin”.  The original Greek word used here is hagiasmos meaning “purification, i.e. the state of purity” and also refers to the effect of this purification, that is, “the sanctification of heart and life.”  The word is translated as holiness, sanctification or consecration in today’s English versions of the Bible.

There are two ways of looking at sanctification, the first being that it requires a setting apart or separation.  For Christians, we need to be separated from the world.   Looking deeper, we must realize that the world is focused on the things of the flesh, or more specifically, focused on satisfying the strong desires and longings of our physical bodies.  As Christians we need to shift our focus from physical things offered by this world to spiritual things that have been promised to us from God through His Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to approach life with an attitude that our physical life here on earth is temporary, but our future life in the kingdom of God is permanent.  We need to store up our treasures for the future life in heaven.  We are to be like pilgrims, aliens, and strangers here on earth, just passing through on our journey to our true future home.

This shift of focus is internal and changes the way that we think, resulting in a definitive, distinct difference between us and the world.  This is the separation that Paul is speaking of.  Christians are not instructed to remove themselves physically from this world but rather to recognize that they are not “of this world” and that they must not love the things of this world.

Prayer of Jesus to the Father: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17: 13-17

“Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2: 15-16

People who are in the world have their minds and hearts set on the things that this world has to offer them and this is what consumes them, demanding all of their attention and energy.   Sadly, many Christians allow their physical desires to take over their attention and focus, maybe not in their words, but in their deeds and thoughts.  A good test for this is the amount of anxiety that is in our lives – high anxiety and stress would indicate that our hearts are set on the things of this world rather than on heaven.  Examine yourself to see if you are walking in the faith with your heart set on heaven.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8: 5-6

The second way of looking at sanctification is from the idea of purity and holiness.  We need to recognize that the Lord has instructed us to be pure in our thoughts and actions.  This requires that we put to death the deeds of the flesh that we once practiced before our conversion, when we were in the world with our hearts set on pleasing ourselves and advancing our position in this world, looking for the praises of men and the pleasures and riches that this world has to offer.

Paul mentions a specific topic in his reminder to the Thessalonians:

“…that you abstain from unchastity; that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God;”  1 Thess. 4:3-5

Paul specifically addresses here the issue of having sex outside of marriage (i.e. unchastity).  The strong physical desires that are associated with sexual activity have made sexual immorality an issue throughout the ages, and it is especially relevant today.

Consider our western culture here in America and the sexual attitude that prevails.  Almost every TV program and movie has a message that promotes sexual promiscuity or a segment that exposes sexual immorality either explicitly shown or implied.  Even some commercials are sexually explicit and promote immoral sexual activity.  Pornography is easily accessible for even the young pre-teens of our society.  Our children are being raised to think that fulfilling our sexual passions (and even in some cases sexual perversions) is normal and acceptable, and certainly not restricted to marriage.

The sexual standard set forth by our western culture is that as long as you are having sexual relations (i.e. intercourse) with one person that you “love”, your actions are acceptable; only when people have casual sex with multiple partners are they looked down.  In fact, I would say that for men the standard is even lower than for women, where multiple partners is okay as long as they are not in a “committed” relationship or married, and as long as the partners they choose are not prostitutes.

Currently there is much in the news about politicians and Hollywood celebrities who are being accused of sexual abuse.  We wonder why there are so many situations that result in rape and/or unwanted/non-consenting sexual encounters, especially where drugs and alcohol are involved – these are symptoms of the deeper problem of promoting sexual activity outside of God’s instructions. Rather than treating the symptoms, we should deal with the root of the problem by going back to God’s instructions regarding chastity, training our children in this truth.  Unfortunately, it may be too late for our society to change in this area, but we as individuals can make the necessary changes in our life and set an example for others and pass on these truths to our children (or train them in this if they are young).

As Christians we need to have a different attitude towards sexual activity.  We need to follow God’s direction and view sexual relations as something that should be limited to a married couple.  Also, as was instructed by the Lord Jesus, we must not only change our external, physical actions, but also our internal thoughts; Jesus said that lusting after a man’s wife is the same as committing adultery with her.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5: 27-28

Paul continues in Thessalonians 4 with more instructions:

“…that no man transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we have solemnly forewarned you.”   1 Thess. 4: 6

Some versions include the following translation:

“…that no man defraud his brother in business,”  1 Thess. 4:6 (alternative translation)

In the first, original translation, the key is to consider what is meant by “this matter”.  It could either mean the matter of holiness and sanctification in general, or more specifically, the matter of sexual unchastity.  In the alternate translation, we can assume that Paul intended to specifically warn against defrauding other Christians in business transactions, adding a new topic to his discussion.

Included in both translations is the idea that defrauding people is ungodly and should never be found among Christians.  We must be aware that it is very easy to clean up our external, visible actions but to leave the internal or hidden things of the heart and through-life unchecked.

The type of defraud that Paul was warning against would apply to people nowadays who attend gatherings with other Christians, but continue in sexually immoral activity (like viewing pornography, lusting in their thought life, or even worse, having secretive sexual activity like adultery or fornication).

Being dishonest in our business dealings would apply today to the many types of businesses that knowingly defraud their customers by promising things that are not delivered, or similar deceptions.  Christians should never be involved in questionable business ventures, even if they are “legal” according to the government laws, but underhanded in reality.

Notice also, that in these verses Paul exhorts his Christian brothers in the area of finding a Christian mate for marriage:

“… each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the heathen who do not know God;” 1 Thess. 4: 4-5

On this topic I must admit that I have much to learn and have been seeking the Lord to show me how this selection of a wife should occur.  I believe that our society and culture in America has moved so far from the proper view of dating, courtship, and marriage that we must get God’s redirection on this completely, removing all of our previous understanding.

Taking a wife in “holiness and honor” I believe means that we should look for a Godly character, humility, and a heart that loves the Lord as the guiding factor in our selection of our mate, and not be completely focused on sexual attraction.  Please, if you are single looking for a mate, seek God for direction and instruction in this most important decision that will impact greatly the remainder of your days.

Paul’s final warning on this topic of holiness:

“For God has not called us for uncleanness but in holiness.  Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” 1 Thess. 4: 7-8

Love

Our purpose for reading and studying the Scriptures is not so that we can claim to be Biblical scholars or to be able to quote verses from any part of the Bible, but rather, we read and study so that the Word of God will transform us; we read so that we can become lovers – lovers of God and lovers of our neighbors.

Love is the ultimate goal of the Christian and all things that we endeavor to accomplish should be related to love.  God is not interested in quantity but He wants quality.  Christian quality is measures by our ability to walk in true love as God defines it in His Word.

Paul encouragement in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 includes growing and continuing in love for the brethren (fellow Christian believers).  Again I would remind you that loving our fellow Christians is not the only area of love that is important.  The Bible instructs us that we need to love God, our neighbors, and even to love our enemies.  Paul is encouraging and supporting their existing good attributes of loving their brothers and sisters in the Lord and he exhorts them to do so even more.

“But concerning love of the brethren you have no need to have any one write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by Got to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brethren throughout Macedonia.  But we exhort you, brethren, to do so more and more,….” 1 Thess. 4: 9-10

It is interesting that Paul follows this encouragement to continue loving one another with practical instructions about their conduct.  This may at first seem unrelated to loving one another but in fact it is directly related since our actions and conduct can greatly impact other people.  Paul makes it clear in other verses of Scriptures (e.g. Romans 12) that adhering to the commandments of God’s law is equivalent to walking in love.  Therefore, our actions are an important part of walking in love.  Here’s is what follows verse 10:

“….to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you; so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody.”  1 Thess. 4: 11-12

Clearly, Paul is showing that loving others is more than just feeling emotional warmth towards them.  It’s even more than helping them when in need, or more than forgiving them or feeling compassion for them.  Love also involves being fair towards others and not taking advantage of their kindness towards us.  It involves carrying our own weight and doing our part to provide for our own needs, never presuming upon the generosity of others.  True love means that we are maturing and growing as Christians, becoming strong and independent. It means that we are able to not only take care of ourselves but also to be used by the Lord to help others in need.  This too should be our goal; it should be our understanding about how to truly walk in love.

Hope

The last part to be included in Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians is his encouragement regarding our future hope in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and how we don’t need to view death like people in the world do (those without hope).

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.   For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.  For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thess. 4: 13-18

Christians need to live their lives with the understanding that death is not the end for us, and that those who die are not lost and gone forever.  Rather, there is a day that will surely come when Jesus will return and we will be transformed with new resurrected bodies, and meet with Him up in the air.  Halleluiah!

May the Lord continue to make clear to us how we should walk and to live our lives until He returns.  May He show us how to be sanctified, how to walk in love. May He make the reality of His future return even more real to us.  This is my prayer for all who read this.  Amen.

True Wisdom is found in Christ

“….that their hearts may be encouraged as they are knit together in love, to have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2: 2

There is a difference between someone who is intelligent and someone who is wise, and wisdom and intelligence don’t necessarily go hand in hand.  A person is considered intelligent when they have accumulated knowledge about various subjects or topics and are able to present and communicate this knowledge and information well.  Wisdom requires having knowledge, but it also requires being able to understand and discern circumstances and situations, making proper decisions, and taking appropriate actions.

People can accumulate knowledge by reading, watching and listening.  An increase in knowledge comes from information that is aggregated and associated appropriately.  Knowledge can be linked and networked, and then built upon.  For example, we learn the decimal number system, and then we learn simple arithmetic and mathematics, then building on that we learn algebra.  Once we master these fields of knowledge we can then move on to learn a more in-depth field such as calculus.  We see then that knowledge is accumulative and has dependencies.

Most of us are somewhat limited by our ability to remember large amounts of information. Some people, though, are blessed with the ability to retain a large amount of knowledge in their memory (e.g. a photographic memory) and therefore are more adept at academic studies.

In some cases, for one’s knowledge to increase on a certain topic it requires one to think in the abstract, beyond the physical, concrete things that we are used to encountering.  We must use our imagination, picturing things that are not physical.  This is a special talent that comes easy for some and difficult for others.

We put this knowledge to use to solve problems and to create new things to help us in various ways, like making life easier for us, or saving us time, or even helping to protect us or heal our bodies.  Engineers, for example, use their combined knowledge of physics, math, materials, etc., to solve problems and help create things.

Wisdom is different than knowledge in that it is not attained by simply taking in information, but one must also have understanding, discernment, and the ability to act appropriately.  To have these qualities requires effort.  Wisdom must be sought after, and often can only be gained through experience. Additionally, we must be humble and open to learning and gaining understanding from those who have gone before us.

Here is the definition of wisdom from dictionary.com: “Wisdom – the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.”  Sagacity is defined as “foresight, discernment, or keen perception; ability to make good judgments.”  (Interestingly, the root of the word sagacity is “sag” which means to seek or track down.)

Wisdom usually involves making decisions in a way that the outcome produces the best possible result and is aligned with what is proper and fair for all involved.  Notice from the definition above that in order to be wise we must first understand what is true and what is right, and then we must determine what is just and fair in our situations, making the correct decisions.

Wisdom requires action.  A person can either act wisely or act foolishly.  Wise actions are beneficial to us whereas foolish actions are detrimental.  All of our actions have consequences, but if we can act wisely than we can cause these consequences to work for our good.

And now we get to the core of the matter: How does one acquire wisdom?  How do we gain this ability to act wisely rather than foolishly?  How do we even know the difference?

Acquiring knowledge is rather simple and straight forward since we can choose a topic and then gather information about it by buying books, or going to the library, or maybe taking a course at a local school or college.  There is now tons of information available online, even in video form, about almost any topic you can imagine.

Here is some advice and direction on how to obtain wisdom for your life:

Establish the Lordship of Jesus Christ in your Life

We must make God our God and recognize that we are His servants who aim to please Him.  All of our decisions should be influenced by this truth.  We need to live daily in the light of this reality.  We need to know our place, not as an autonomous person doing as we please, but rather as a bond servant of the Lord Jesus, doing only what pleases Him.  Knowing our place in this life and walking in this knowledge is the beginning of wisdom.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 (see also Psalm 111:10)

Seek God for Wisdom

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1: 3

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding;  He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.” Proverbs 2: 6-7

God controls the circumstances and events in our lives and He can order them in such a way that we can observe and experience what is needed to gain wisdom for our lives.  We must be open to His leading and continue to humbly seek after wisdom.  As the Lord leads us into various situations, we must then recognize the wisdom that He is showing us.

Very often the difficulties that we encounter in our lives are God’s way of trying to open our eyes to things we need to learn and understand.  If we fail to learn these things than our difficulties will continue.  God, as a loving father, desires what is best for us and wants us to grow and mature.  He knows that the difficulties, trials, and troubles of our lives are great times for growth and learning in many areas, including increasing our wisdom.

Our experiences should be coupled with our study of His word, giving us examples of other people’s experiences to learn from.  The books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon in the Bible contains the wisdom from King Solomon and there are many examples throughout the Bible where wisdom can be found if we seek after it and apply it to our lives and circumstances.

Wisdom is found in the least likely places

Remember that God’s ways are different than the ways of the world, and His wisdom is different than the wisdom of the world.  As such, the places where God’s wisdom is found, and therefore the circumstances and experiences that we find ourselves in when seeking wisdom, will be different than what we would expect based on our secular influences.  Consider this portion of Scripture from Ecclesiastes:

“Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting.  For that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart.  Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sad countenance the heart is made better.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth (gaiety with laughter).” Ecclesiastes 7: 2-4

In other words we would be most likely to obtain wisdom at a funeral, and not likely to find it at a birthday or holiday celebration.  Times of laughter can be good and actually healthy for us, but many of us tend to fill our life with laughter and joking, possibly using it as an escape from the painful reality that we face, or maybe as a way of passing time quickly.  We must realize that it is in the times of pain and sorrow that we are most likely open to seeing the truth and opening our hearts to the deeper spiritual truths that surround us.  If all is going well and life is pleasant we simply continue on in our bubble of false reality, blocking out the important truths that we need to face up to, and the important lessons that we need to learn to bring about internal changes.

“For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool.” Ecclesiastes 7:6

One important truth that we must face is the fact that we will all die, which is why the funeral gathering can be beneficial to our pursuit of wisdom, as it will help to make this truth of death a reality rather than just a disconnected thought.   Our decisions and judgments will be greatly impacted if we allow the reality of our future death to sink deep into our minds and hearts.  Wisdom would call for us to recognize that none of the world’s goods can be taken with us when we depart from this life.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Mark 8: 36

Recognize Christ as the Key to our Future

The most important truths that we need to understand and live in alignment with are the truths regarding the darkened condition of mankind and this world, the solution to this condition that has been offered by God by sending His Son Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  This world has been cursed due to the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve.  Darkness and evil have a controlling position on this planet, but the light has come to us in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We can be delivered from the darkness if we embrace and live in the light.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ “ John 14: 6

Paul said in the letter to the Colossians that there are treasures of wisdom hidden in Christ.  Paul stated this immediately after declaring some amazing facts about what Jesus did and who He was.  It is very important that we establish these truths about Jesus in our lives, and that we seek these hidden treasures of wisdom.

Here’s is Paul’s declaration about the Lord Jesus Colossians:

“He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption , the forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning , the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 2: 13 – 20

Summary

Wisdom and Knowledge are different.  Whereas knowledge is a collection of information and facts about a subject, wisdom requires decision making and actions based on truth, righteousness, justice and fairness, resulting in consequential results that should be beneficial to the wise person who exercises this wisdom.  Wisdom will protect us from evil and from being deceived.  Wisdom must be sought after and is often only truly gained by experience, which is why wisdom is usually associated with old age.

True wisdom comes from God.  We must seek Him for it and also look to His word as a source and guide.  The focus of God’s wisdom is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah and savior of the world.  Our understanding of Him and our ability to walk in the light of this understanding will lead to true wisdom.  The most important wisdom for us to exercise is the wisdom that is not only beneficial in this life but also gains us eternal life.  This important, true wisdom is only found in God’s Messiah, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

”My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths; to deliver you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words, who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God.  For her house leads down to death, and her paths to the dead; none who go to her return, nor do they regain the paths of life— so you may walk in the way of goodness, and keep to the paths of righteousness. For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the earth, and the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.” Proverbs 2

Amen.

Why wait until you are married to have Sex?

I recently watched a YouTube video about empires that are in decline.  It was a historical lesson that listed all of the characteristics that were present immediately before the collapse of the large empires of the past.  I had heard similar discussions before and many of the same characteristics were mentioned: loss of value in a debased currency, extreme government debt, large disparity between the poor and the rich, etc., but this time they mentioned something I hadn’t heard before that was somewhat surprising: people have an obsession with sex.  Of course, the point they were making was that the United States had all of the characteristics that were historically present just before an empire went into severe decline or collapse.

Would you agree that the United States has an obsession with sex?  Maybe you haven’t thought about it.  Maybe we all have become so programmed and brainwashed by the constant bombardment of sexually explicit television, movies, music, advertisements, education, and the activities that surround us every day that we are unaware of how obsessed we have become.  Our hearts have become hardened and our consciences have been scarred.

My observation has been that the decline of morality with regards to sex is happening rapidly at an exponential rate.  Perverse things that were unheard of a decade ago are common place now.  For example, displays of homosexual or lesbian sexual encounters are becoming common in the mainstream shows and movies, and are presented as being cool and chic.

I was very saddened and upset when I recently read an account of a young lady who was brave enough to disclose in her public blog that she was a virgin, but that it was a cause for her to be insecure and shamed.  She felt that some of her friends and acquaintances would shame her because of her choice to be a virgin.  She also felt that when she would finally meet her soul mate, that he could possibly be taken back or upset because she was a virgin.

It is completely absurd to me and I can’t even imagine that a man would be disappointed to find out that the woman that he has fallen in love with is a virgin.  When I was a young man and had fallen in love with a young lady, I wished that she was a virgin, and also wished that I was a virgin!  How sad it is that for someone who has chosen to follow God’s plan and do what is righteous and correct, that they would be made to feel like an outcast or an oddball.  It is very sad that the moral integrity of our society has deteriorated so greatly.  Truly the Scripture has been fulfilled that states that good will be seen as evil and evil will be seen as good.

The special intimacy that is associated with sexual intercourse should be preserved for you and your spouse only.  It should be cherished and held in high esteem by you both for as long as you live.  It is most valued when marriage is entered into with both bride and groom being virgins!

My mother was born in 1930, so she was a teenager in the mid to late 1940’s.  She has told me that she and every female friend that she knew at that time were virgins.  To this day (she is now 86 years old), the only man that she has ever had sexual relations with was my father, her husband.  I see this as very honorable and righteous, and I know that she has absolutely no regrets about this!  How far we have come in the last 70 years or so!

There is a direct correlation between our society’s obsession with sex with the accompanying sexual promiscuity, and the destruction of the family unit.  There have been countless teenage pregnancies resulting in single parent families and the problems that accompany that situation.  There has been a dramatic rise in the divorce rate that I believe is in large part due to sex related issues such as infidelity, the use of pornography, or a poor sexual relationship between spouses.  There have been millions and millions of abortions, that I believe to be the murder of innocent unborn humans, and that they have caused psychological damage to millions of women that have impacted their view of sex and therefore their marriage relationship.

God’s directions and His guidance are for our own good.  He knows what is best for us, and His laws have a purpose.  Disregarding His laws will have consequences as we will reap what we have sown.

I am writing this so that my Christian brothers and sisters, especially if you are young, can clearly see the value of God’s way to wait until marriage before having any sexual activity.  As difficult as this may be in our current society, it will be a worthwhile investment in your future and more specifically in your future life together with your spouse.

As Biblical Christians, although we are deeply saddened and disappointed by the moral demise of our culture here in the west, it is not unexpected, since the Scriptures warn us of these things occurring in the last days:

“Bu know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

As Christians we must also stand for what we know to be right and pleasing to God, no matter what the rest of the world thinks or no matter what pressure our peers put upon us.  This may require facing persecution in many forms, but we must remain strong.

Let’s look closer at the major reasons why waiting is best.

The first and most obvious reason is that all sexual encounters between a male and a female have the potential to end in a pregnancy.  There is no such thing as a 100% fool-proof birth control method. Once sexual activity begins with a couple, it is likely to continue and become more frequent, increasing the potential for a pregnancy to occur.  The high percentage of teenage pregnancies and abortions in our society is a confirmation that birth control isn’t a guaranteed prevention of pregnancy.

It should be the privilege of every newborn human being to come into this world with an established family in place, with two loving parents who are committed to one another for the rest of their lives and who are committed to raising and nurturing their children through childhood into adulthood.  A child’s home should be like an earthly heaven for them.  Following God’s plan of refraining from sex until the family nucleus is established is the best way to guarantee this loving environment will exist for all newborns.

The second major reason is a spiritual one and therefore non-tangible, yet very real non-the-less. The Bible reveals that there is a special, spiritual union between a man and women that occurs during sexual intercourse, where the “two become one flesh”.  The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warns the Corinthian Christians that as members of Christ (i.e. spiritually united with Christ) they should not then be united with a harlot or prostitute.  Here is the full context:

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?  Certainly not!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her?  For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’  But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.  Flee sexual immorality.  Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” 1 Corinthians 6: 15-18

The union that occurs during sexual relations is very real and very deep.  Therefore, when this union happens outside of marriage, the inevitable separation is extremely painful.  Those who feel that they are not impacted have only made themselves impenetrable because they have hardened their hearts into an unhealthy state.  Some, as a result of experiencing the pain of this separation after their being sexually united, vow to never allow themselves to enter into the same deep love again, so they harden their heart.  Sadly, this callous-hearted approach to relationships is unhealthy and causes damage, even when they eventually enter into a marriage.  Let me spell this out clearly:  if you choose to enter into a lifestyle that includes casual sexual intercourse outside of marriage, you will be forced to harden your heart.  This hardening of your heart is unhealthy and abnormal, and not what God intended for us.

My final reason is very simple and straight forward:  God requires of His children to refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage. Period!  If you are a child of God, then you must be obedient to His commands.  The Scriptures are very clear that fornication (sex outside of marriage) is forbidden and is a serious transgression.  Here are some supporting Scriptures from the New Testament:

“Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication…” Acts 15: 19-20

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1: 24-32

“Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10: 6-11

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness…” Galatians 5: 19

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;” Ephesians 5:3

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;” 1 Thessalonians 4:3

“..as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 1:7

For those of us who have already stumbled on this (including myself), we are thankful that there is forgiveness and restoration through Jesus. It is never too late to turn from sin and God is able to give you what is needed to be victorious, and to restore what has been damaged.  Remember also that the root of the problem is in our thoughts, in our minds, and in our desires.  We must deal with our inner man and control our strong desires.

I hope that this information has strengthened the resolve of those who have chosen to remain pure until marriage, and maybe the Lord would even use this to convince some to choose the better path of remaining a virgin.  If even one person is encouraged or convinced, it would be well worth it to me, even though I realize that this topic is unpopular and may turn many readers off because of its “political incorrectness”.

For parents, maybe this will give you some information to share with your children as they must also decide on their lifestyle.  There is a great challenge in abstinence from sex since all current forces and influences in our society are contrary to righteousness in this area.

Remain strong and steadfast and be encouraged that Jesus will come and bring His reward with Him for those who are faithful.  This world will get worse and worse and I will not be surprised if we get closer and closer to the state of Sodom and Gomorrah, resulting in an increase in persecution for those who are faithful to the truth.

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12

Amen.

Seek the Truth

“Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.” John 17:17 (prayer of Jesus to God the Father)

Idol Worship

Does idol worship exist today in our culture?  You may think that it exists in some foreign country where uncivilized or uninformed people still create statues or carved images that they consider to be an image of a god and they pray to it, present sacrifices to it and fall down prostrate before it to worship the image.  Certainly though, most would say that idol worship does not exist in today’s western culture.

I would propose to you that idol worship is rampant today in our western culture, but rather than a physical carved image we have invisible, mental images that we worship, and rather than falling down to worship in front of physical images, we worship and serve them in different ways, but serve them none the less.

An idol is anything that becomes a substitute for the true, living God.

In biblical days the people made physical carved idols of metal or wood that they considered to be a god, but in truth, they had no power:

“He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied.  He even warms himself and says, ‘Ah, I am warm, I have seen the fire.’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’ “  Isaiah 44: 16-17

These people believed a lie.  They somehow were deceived into thinking that this inanimate block of wood or metal had some power.  It was self-deception and foolishness.

“They do not know or understand; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.  And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination?  Shall I fall down before a block of wood? He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside; and cannot deliver his soul, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’ “ Isaiah 44: 18-20

This very same deception exists for us today!  Rather than a physical carved block of wood or molten shaped metal, we have the lie and deception in the form of a mental concept, a false theory or false view of reality that causes us to shift our attention, our affections, and our service away from the true living God.  The result is the same: God is not honored.  God is not given the proper place in our hearts.  Our thankfulness is not directed towards Him.  And just like worshiping a physical idol, it is an abomination to Him.

Truth vs. Lies

At the core of this is the difference between truth and lies.  The root problem is that a lie has been substituted for the truth. (Is there not a lie in my right hand?)  This deception results in bondage, and we must purge out the lie and replace it with the truth in order to be freed.

I want to draw your attention back to the Scripture verse quoted above from the Gospel of John, from the prayer that Jesus prayed for His disciples:

“Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.” John 17:17

The word “sanctify” in the original Greek is “hagiazo” meaning in this usage “to purify” and more specifically, the context suggests this version: “to purify internally by renewing of the soul”, and the renewing of our soul suggests that we change the way that we think or change our internal views and understandings of the truth.

The way in which we establish truth in our life is foundational.  All of our actions and decisions are based on this foundation of truth.  If what we have accepted as truth is perverted or compromised in any way, all that is built upon it will not stand firm.  As such, we need to be very much aware and cautious about what we have established as truth in our life.

Recently while riding my bicycle around my city by local fairgrounds I came across a fenced in area with a large banner over the main entrance gate entitled “Pagan Pride”. In curiosity I stopped and asked a man at the gate what it was about.  We got into a conversation during which, in an attempt to get to the root of the issue, I asked him how he determined the truth.  He replied, “Truth is what you make it to be.  You create the truth.”   Hopefully it is clear that a person’s method of determining truth is critical to their way of life.  As long as people continue to believe in lies they will continue to be in bondage to their lifestyle resulting in pain and suffering that is a product of their sin.

I want to take some time to explain my definition of truth in this context.  In general, I am not referring to the truth that men have established about our current physical surroundings like the mathematical truths (1+1=2) or laws of physics (Newton’s laws of gravity). The truth that I am referring to is what we use to establish reality; the truth that we believe and accept about our surroundings, especially about the past that has led up to and has influenced the present, and also what we believe about the future.  The truth that I am referring to has a major impact on our lives. It has an influence on who we are, on how we feel, on how we think and make decisions.

For example, if we have accepted as truth that man has corrupted the earth’s ozone layer and has caused global warming and/or severe climate change that could potentially cause catastrophic and irreversible damage in the future, than we will behave, make decisions, be happy or sad in certain circumstances as a result of accepting this truth.

I want to be very clear about this.  We must understand that the truths that we accept and believe will establish our view of reality, and this view of reality is not neutral concerning God.  Either He is included in this view or He is not. Either He is the creator of this reality or He is not.  Either He is in complete control of this reality or He is not.  Either His revealed details of the history of this reality are true or they are not.  Either His plans for the future of this reality are true or they are not.  All of God’s truth, in its entirety, must be in place, otherwise we have created a mental falsehood that is an idol and an abomination, and it will cause bondage.

God’s word is truth

How then is this truth established?  The answer to this is also found in the quoted verse from John 17: God’s word is truth.  I would add to this an adjective: God’s word is absolute truth, upon which we can build a sure foundation that will ensure freedom.

God’s word comes in two forms.  There is the word of God as has been revealed in the Bible, the Scriptures, and then there is the word of God that He speaks to us directly through His Spirit.  In the context of the truth that determines our way of life, the absolute truth of the Scriptures is by far the most critical source.  In fact, the spoken word of God from His Spirit should always be compared and weighed against the Scripture and if a conflict exists, than the Scriptures always override the direct word.

The problem with the direct communication of God’s word by His Spirit is that we are vulnerable to our own thoughts, prompted by our carnal mind or by our flesh, causing a great potential for deception.  I am not saying that we should abandon our attention to the voice of the Spirit. On the contrary, I believe that the Holy Spirit was sent to lead us into the truth and to show us clearly the truth.  I am saying that the Holy Spirit’s voice should not be a substitute for the Word of God, but rather should work in conjunction with it.

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13

The voice of the Holy Spirit will not cover the entirety of the truths that we need to establish our view of reality.  We need to seek truth from the Scriptures in order to get the full picture of reality from God’s perspective.

It is not sufficient for us to simply say that we believe that God’s word, the Bible, is the absolute truth.  We need to know and understand the content of the truth that was revealed and apply those truths to our life. We need to purge out the old lies from our past and replace them with the truth in all areas of our belief system. This process takes time and effort; it requires study and persistence.  We need to prayerfully read and study the Scriptures, under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.  Our attitude, our attention, our affections, our decisions, our goals, our happiness, all of our life should be based on the truth that we have established from the revealed Word of God. This is our spiritual worship and service to Him.

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12: 1-2

Sadly, many Christians today do not give the needed attention to the Word of God.  They instead depend on other men to garner truth.  They read books, listen to sermons, talk to other Christians, watch documentaries, none of which are bad, but they cannot replace the Holy Scriptures as the primary means of establishing the truth.

I say this of myself.  My role is to exhort you, to encourage you to continue in the truth, and to direct you to seek Him.  I don’t have the specific answers to your problems but I can direct you to the one who does – the living, all powerful and all knowing God!  No man, including myself, should be the one you look to as a source of truth.  Look to God and His Word.

I find it sad also that some would want to pick and choose what truths they want to accept from the Bible and mix them with other “truths” from various sources to establish their view of reality.  The foolishness of this, as I see it, is that we don’t fully comprehend the limits of man’s understanding of our world or the limits of our knowledge of the past.

What is reality?

The gap between what we think we know and what is the actual truth is much wider than we can perceive or what we will allow ourselves to accept. In other words, we don’t know how much we don’t know, and in many cases we don’t want to know because we want to believe what we think is true. We can’t even know the truth about the reality that is happening in the present let alone the reality that happened in the near past and especially in the distant past. We all know that when an event occurs and is witnessed by many people we get a different version of the event from each person, all of which vary greatly.  And yet we read accounts of past history as if they are completely accurate and true without the bias or misconception of the author.

Teachers teach subjects strongly influenced by their opinions and biases.  New reporters report the news interlaced with their opinions and influenced by their biases, politics and world view. Scientists publish their discoveries and research finding with strong biases.  History is written from the viewpoint of the author, whether it is from the country that they are from or from the side of the war that they fought on.  Yet we take these opinions as truth and establish our view of reality based on these views.  Do we also not see that there is a lie in our right hand?

If man is the source, it cannot be considered “absolute” truth.  Only God’s truth is absolute and unchanging.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Luke 21:33

God has revealed His word at first by using Abraham and his descendants, speaking to them through the prophets and having them meticulously record and preserve their history and writing.  He then revealed himself through His Son Jesus, the Messiah, as was witnessed by the apostles and disciples of that time and recorded in the Gospels, Luke’s record of the early church called the Book of Acts, and then the letters to the early churches, the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of men, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1: 20-21

“So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” 2 Peter 2:15-16

This is God’s revelation to mankind.  We must understand that He has preserved and protected His word.  The entire Bible is under His protection and must all be considered as authoritative.  If we can remove any part of it, then all of it becomes invalid.  In other words, if we can disqualify any single portion of the Bible from being the authoritative inspired word of God, then it opens the door for any other part of it to be disqualified. It is an all or nothing proposition. No but rather we must trust that God is all powerful and able to protect and guide the formation of His revelation to mankind, and to keep it intact throughout the ages.

We must also examine our motive for not accepting some parts of God’s revelation.  Is it because it conflicts with the desires of our flesh?  Does it cause us some pain or discomfort to implement the truths that were revealed?  Sometimes the truth hurts, but in the long run it is well worth the pain.

Years ago I overheard people talking about their plans for the future. They didn’t realize that I could hear them.  Their plans had a strong influence on my future and my happiness. Upon hearing this I was greatly upset and discouraged.  As I looked to the Lord, His Spirit spoke to me (I wrote this down) saying, “Don’t be discouraged. What you see and hear is not the reality of things. What you think in your mind is not reality. What you suppose is going to happen is not reality; only what I ordain to happen is reality. I know reality for tomorrow today. Trust in me and lean not on your own understanding.”  I can now testify that the things that I feared did not happen and in fact the opposite occurred.

Seek the Truth and Establish Reality from it

My point is that we are too quick to establish our view of reality, whether it be the overview of our world or the view of specific circumstances.  The truth is that only God really knows what is real.  Much of this reality has been revealed in His Scriptures and is available for us to use for our own lives.  How great a privilege it is to have this opportunity to access these truths that He has taken the time to establish through His prophets of old and through the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Don’t neglect this privilege.  Don’t neglect the study of His Word.  Don’t reject parts of His Word because you don’t understand them or because you find them to be a source of pain or discomfort.

Truth is invaluable and essential to our Christian walk.  We must vehemently seek after this truth and use it to purify our inner thoughts and view of reality.  Don’t take this lightly but be committed to the pursuit of truth through the Holy Scriptures.

Once the truth is established, having applied our faith to this truth, we then attain the assurance of hope, the result of which is true love in our inner nature.  We become a new spiritual creation with love written on our heart, and able to generate the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

I leave you with these thoughts about truth from the Scriptures:

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ “ John 14:6

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth,” Ephesians 6:14

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” 3 John 1:4

 

This World is Absurd and Futile

“Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity.  What profit has a man from all his labor in which he labors under the sun?”  Ecclesiastes 1: 2-3

“All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” Ecclesiastes 1: 8

“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1: 14

According to the footnote in the New King James translation of the Bible, the word used here for “vanity” can also be translated as “absurdity, futility, frustration, nonsense, and so throughout the book [of Ecclesiastes]”.  The word is used 28 times in the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes.  In the original Hebrew, the word is “hebel”, and it means “vapor, breath, emptiness”.

The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible is a difficult one to fully grasp.  Obtaining wisdom is not a quick and easy task, but it takes time and meditation to absorb the depth of these truths. I am certain that this book leaves many readers confused and tempted to just pass it off as some meaningless, outdated, musings from the Old Testament.

I submit to you that understanding the wisdom and the view of the world that Solomon puts forth in his scriptural writings is critically important.  The book of Ecclesiastes was included as part of the Holy Scriptures for a reason; it has a purpose; this is the inspired word of God and part of His revelation to mankind.  Remember also that King Solomon was, according to the Bible, the wisest man who ever lived; based on this fact alone we can’t just write off what he is saying.

At first glance, the idea that “all is vanity” or that everything in our world is empty and futile may seem contrary to popular thinking or even foolish to most people.  We must remember, though, that as Christians we need to establish our world view based on the revealed word of God, taking into account the entire overview of the history of creation as shown to us in the Bible.  We also must put aside the previous views of this world that came from our godless past, produced by the evil world system.  Our minds and our thinking must be renewed and transformed. We must now have a spiritual mindset and viewpoint.

In our current western culture, there is a proclivity towards the positive and a rejection of anything negative.  At the root of this, people who are without the hope that has been offered through the promises of God in His Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, have difficulty finding a reason to live if they embrace the reality of an empty life that ends in death.  It is a grave danger, though, to embrace a false, fabricated view of reality, only because it feeds a need for a positive hope.  As Christians, we must hold fast to the truth, knowing that it comes from our Creator and Father in heaven.

There is a critical importance to recognizing the vanity, futility, and absurdity of this world, as Solomon observed thousands of years ago.  This viewpoint is a hard one to accept since it goes directly against the grain of the secular human philosophy and evolutionary progression that is so prevalent in our world.

Let us look for a moment at the larger picture of our situation as followers of Jesus Christ.  We are told that we must die with Christ in order to live with Him.  We are told that our old self was crucified with him.  We are told that we must die to this world and to this world system.

“We know that our old self was crucified with Him……but if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Romans 6: 6, 8

“Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations.” Colossians 2:20

How can we truly die to this world if deep down in our subconscious mind we are still embracing the false idea that this world is fruitful, satisfying, and offers hope? Unless we fully accept the reality that this world has been cursed by God and subjected to futility, we will not be able to fully die to this world and live with our hearts anchored in heaven.  Recognizing the futility of this physical world system and the vanity of all that it produces is a critical part of being transformed into a spiritual Christian.

Here is the wisdom that is contained in our need for a death to this world:  only by death to the physical can spiritual life come.  It is seemingly paradoxical but we must die to live.  We must be negative to be truly positive!

If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that deep inside we hesitate to embrace the fact that this world is absurd and futile.  It is so hard to embrace the fact that everything we do amounts to nothing in the end and is in vain.  Again I say that we must look at this in the light of God’s revelation of truth, with the eyes of faith.  We have another hope that the world does not see and requires faith to take hold of.

Let’s look closer at a portion of Scripture in the New Testament that deals with this topic.  It’s in Romans Chapter 8, after a discussion about our adoption as sons of God and the inheritance we are assured of and the glory that we will share with Him.  I want to use the Amplified version because it drives home the idea that God has purposely caused this world to be subject to futility:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the gory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!  For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him who so subjected it – [yet] with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children.” Romans 8: 18-21

In the quote above, in the phrase “For the creation was subjected to frailty, the word “frail” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “easily led into evil“. By the way, in some versions the word frailty is replaced by “vanity” or “futility”. The main point, as explicitly stated in these verses, is that it was the will of God to subject the entire creation to a condition of futility.  This was part of the curse.  We don’t really know what the original condition of the world was before the curse came upon it, but we know it was better than our current situation.

I think it is safe to say that the condition of the future heaven, with the curse removed, will be a place that is NOT futile or vain or absurd or frustrating or nonsensical.  Rather, it will be satisfying and with purpose and beyond what we can imagine, perfect for us in every way.

Continuing with the quote from Romans 8, we see that Paul too exhorts his readers to embrace the reality of this future hope:

“We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons).  For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope.  For how can one hope for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure.” Romans 8: 22 – 25

Solomon’s observation that this world is absurd and futile, and that all of man’s work is in vain, is an accurate assessment of reality.  We must reject the past lies and peel back the imaginary, fantasy view that we have painted for ourselves to override the painful truth of this world’s absurdity and futility. We must also recognize that God has subjected the world to this futility for a purpose, as part of the curse that was the result of Adam’s sin.  We must also recognize that we don’t belong here, but we have a future hope in heaven that is waiting for us.

To be clear, I am not saying that we should stop all that we are doing because it is all for nothing. I am saying that we should behave like aliens and strangers in this world, and as travelers who are just passing through with our hearts set on the treasure that is waiting for us in heaven.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6: 19-20 (the words of Jesus)

There will be no thieves in heaven and our things in heaven will not corrode or decay!

I would suggest that you read the entire book of Ecclesiastes and pray that God opens your eyes to all of the wisdom there.  I will leave you with the conclusion that Solomon ends the book with:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14

Amen.

There is Only One Gospel – It Produces Love

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1: 6-9

The apostle Paul wrote this warning to the churches of Galatia close to 2,000 years ago.  I firmly believe that this same warning also applies to Christians today, and was not just a one time warning unique to the situation that Paul was addressing at that time.  I believe that there are Christian teachers and church leaders today who “pervert the gospel of Christ” in a similar manner, to varying degrees, as was being done at that time.  Historically, there has been a tendency for Christian organizations to digress from the core elements of the gospel, focusing on “religiosity” rather than producing true Christian character and love.  Even today there are many Christian churches that would be considered spiritually dead.  This letter to the Galatians addresses the cause of this problem that leads to death.

If you read the entire letter that Paul wrote, you will see that he is essentially saying that there is no other means of restoring our relationship with God, no other way to remove the curse from Adam and Eve’s sin, no other way of salvation from this present evil age, no other way to become spiritual, no other way to be transformed to walk in love, and no other Messiah sent from God for this purpose, but only the Gospel message that Paul had previously preached to them about the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, and what He had accomplished on our behalf through His death and resurrection, and which is only attained by us through faith as a free gift from God.

I thought that it would be valuable for us to look at the main underlying components that support the Gospel so that we can protect ourselves from unknowingly turning to any other proposed “different” gospel.  Paul touches on these components throughout his letter to the Galatians.  Let’s consider some of these:

The Truth

“You were running so well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  Gal. 5:7

The Gospel is based upon the truths that have been revealed in the Bible.  We must be very clear about how we establish truth in our minds or the Gospel can potentially become compromised or even abandoned.  Truth should be established through recognizing the authority of God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures.  The writings of the Bible are not mere writings of men, but are revelations inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“And we also have the more sure prophetic word, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation (or origin), for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1: 19-21

We must remember that there are very few things in this life that we can rely on as being absolute truth.  We cannot trust the teachings of men as being absolute truth, although they may perhaps contain some portion of truth that may apply to some circumstances.  At best, any truths coming from men are limited in their scope to this physical realm, as well as limited to our recent time frame; anything beyond that is guess work and unreliable.

Many of us are able to hear from God by listening to the still, small voice that speaks to us for guidance and encouragement.  Although I encourage this type of communication with God, I also must caution you that this is not the same type of anchor for our soul as the absolute, authoritative truth that comes from the Scriptures.  Our natural minds often interfere with our ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s communication and therefore we must always check our understanding of what God is speaking to our hearts against the Biblical truths which are absolute.

As a side note, I recently read a beautiful story about a Christian woman who saw a homeless man outside of her grocery store and wanted to buy some food for him.  The Holy Spirit spoke to her and said she should buy him bananas and some protein bars.  She wanted to buy him some fried chicken instead, thinking it would warm him up, but she listened to the inner spiritual voice and didn’t get the chicken.  When she gave the man the bananas and protein bars, he was very grateful.  Immediately after giving them to him, there came another woman with some fried chicken for the man, much to the original woman’s surprise and joy, bringing her to tears.  She though how great it was that God had a concern for this homeless man in this way.

It is beautiful thing to be able to hear from God directly, but we must not use it for determining the absolute truths that establish our understanding of life and that anchors our soul.  Only God’s Word, the Bible, can be the authoritative source for our truth, and the source for the Gospel message.  Be warned that following your heart or the teachings of men without the guidance of Scriptures can lead you astray into the error of false gospels.

True Faith

“Now it is evident that no person is justified (declared righteous and brought into right standing with God) through the Law, for the Scripture says, The man in right standing with God [the just, the righteous] shall live by and out of faith and he who through and by faith is declared righteous and in right standing with God shall live.  But the Law does not rest on faith [does not require faith, has nothing to do with faith], for it itself says, He who does them [the things prescribed by the Law] shall live by them [not by faith].” Gal. 3: 11 – 12 (Amplified Bible)

The situation that Paul was confronting at Galatia was about religious Jews who were attempting to recruit the Galatian Christians to Judaism and to follow the Jewish religious rituals and practices, focusing on the Mosaic laws.  The problem with this, as Paul pointed out, is that being “religious”, that is, focusing on keeping a set of regulations and adhering to ritual practices, does not require faith.  In other words, a purely “religious” person’s “life” comes from following religious regulations and practices; this is what gives them satisfaction and comfort, relieves their guilt, and makes them feel like they are accepted by God.  Unfortunately, when we focus our lives on keeping religious rules, rituals and regulations, it puts us into bondage because there is no resulting spiritual growth produced from this activity.  The bondage is a result of remaining focused on our “flesh”; only true faith can take us out of our fleshly focus.

In contrast, when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, and the promises of God, we have spiritual growth and are free from the bondage of the flesh.  Our “life” comes from the reality of being true children of God and heirs of His kingdom.  This is where our satisfaction and comfort comes from: knowing that our relationship with God has been repaired, our sins forgiven, and our future home in heaven is secured for us and waiting.  We look forward for the final return of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who will establish the final Kingdom here, including us with our resurrected, immortal bodies.  This is the true faith that causes us to be born of the spirit and sets us free from the bondage of the flesh.

Be advised that any proposed gospel message that does not require faith and that keeps our focus on this physical world, and the material things within it, is an erroneous, false gospel.  We will need discernment to recognize this because the proponents of these false messages will surely make the claim that the focus is spiritual and that faith is involved, but we must look deeper into the reality of true faith and true spirituality as defined by the Scriptures.

I believe that there are many “Christian” churches that have shifted the focus of their message to regulations and practices and have de-emphasized the need for true faith.  It may not be explicitly stated in their doctrines and preaching from the pulpit, but it is communicated by other means, requiring the congregation to focus on church attendance, donations, volunteer work, participation in church functions, etc, rather than having the main emphasis and focus on true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to be careful not to fall back into flesh based activity, but rather remain in a place that focuses our affections on spiritual things, requiring our faith to be strong.

Hope

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Gal. 3: 25-29

The truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ  has as its main focus the hope that we have in the future promise of eternal life in heaven with a resurrected body, living in the glory of the kingdom of God as His children with an inheritance waiting for us.  This hope allows us to shift our affections from this physical world, which feeds our flesh, to the spiritual world that causes our spirit to come to life.  Being in Christ means that we have removed ourselves from this physical world in our minds and hearts, having put our flesh to death by dying with Christ.  This is the true power of the Gospel message; no other message is needed since this blessed hope with its transforming power is fully available through Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Bible.

“Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.” Galatians 4: 28

Love

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” Galatians 5: 5-6

In the above two verses in chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul reaches the climax of his letter, culminating his warnings and arguments with the fact that what really matters is “faith working through love”.  So we see that if we embrace the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and place our faith in what has been promised to us as children of the living God, our hope is then established, our flesh no longer rules our lives but rather we shift to becoming spiritual beings, new creations, with the realistic power to walk in love.  Love is the goal; if we are not able to love then something is wrong – something is missing.  In that case perhaps we need to re-examine the gospel that we have accepted to make sure that it aligns with the true Gospel as revealed in the Bible.

A few verses later, Paul again reinforces the concept of love. He shows them that the essence of the law is really about love:

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Galatians 5: 14

In the amplified Bible, the word “fulfilled” is replaced with the phrase “complied with”, which I think better explains that we can’t just ignore the law completely, but rather, if we are truly walking in love we will be complying with all the precepts of the law.  Again I say that the problem with the law is that if we focus on the law by itself and pursue abiding by its precepts without true faith, then we will not, and in fact cannot, become spiritual, and therefore cannot walk in love.  Without true faith we cannot adhere to the law.

“For if a Law had been given which could confer [spiritual] life, then righteousness and right standing with God would certainly have come by Law.” Galatians 3: 21b (Amplified)

For Christians the key is to become spiritual; if we are spiritual we will be able to walk in love with the law written on our heart.  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explicitly states this need for spirituality in our battle against the desires of the flesh that hinder our ability to love.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.” Galatians 5: 16-17

When he says “doing what you would” I believe that equates to walking in love.

Be warned though that you must make sure that you have the correct biblical definition of love (not the world’s definition), and likewise, the correct biblical definition of being spiritual.  Many religions use the term spiritual and love to describe their activities, but these do not align with God’s meaning as revealed in His Scriptures.  Seek Him to help you gain the true understanding of these!

I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire book of Galatians for there are many other truths brought out in this letter that can help us in our walk with the Lord.  I hope you have found these insights helpful.  God bless!