Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | December 1, 2016

The Spirit of Our Minds

 

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

It is a truism that our minds are a major battlefield on which satan attacks. It cannot be emphasised enough, I don’t believe, just how important it is for us to have our minds focused and set upon the Word of God. It is the Word which allows us to cleanse our ways and it is the Word which will turn us from sin (Psalm 119:9,11). Having our minds changed to conformity with the Word of God, from which every aspect of His will for us derives, is a necessity, but also an on-going process. And this is what the aforementioned passages illustrates so succinctly. Just a couple of verses before, in v. 20, Paul tells us, in contrast to the lost who are alienated from the life that is in God, who are past feeling, who have given themselves over to work all uncleanness with lascivious, that *we* have not so LEARNED Christ. “Learned” Christ. That word is translated from manthano, a prolonged form of the more common matheo, which denotes a pupil, one who learns and understands from a teacher. In this case, we are told that we have learned from the Master. What and how did we learn? Well, the doctrine of God from the Word of God. It is from the Word of God that we learn how to think rightly so that we might live rightly.

The truth is in Jesus, whose Spirit inspired the Words of Scripture which have been preserved for us to this present day (and without preservation, we might as well not even talk about inspiration). So, it is from these words that we learned to put off our former ways, the customs and conversation we had before we were saved and taught. It is from the Word that our minds are RENEWED so as to allow us to even be able to grow in grace and knowledge. In Titus 3:5, Paul writes that with and as part of the act of salvation, the Holy Ghost washed, regenerates, and RENEWS us. The first step to a renewed mind is salvation.

But that’s not the end of the story. In v. 24, the Word tells us that not only are we to put off the old man, but we are also to put on the new man. Now, here’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, for Scripture indicates that we ourselves have a role to play in the process of sanctification – not that we are able to sanctify ourselves, but rather we YIELD ourselves to sanctification.

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

He doesn’t say work FOR, mind you, but work OUT your own salvation. This is translated from a word that means to bring something to fruition or completion which has already been started. It is talking about our sanctification, that process which started with our justification by grace, and which will be consummated by our eventual glorification and changing to be like Him which will occur at the rapture of the saints of God. Notice, however, that the reason we can be sanctified is because it is God who works in us both to be willing and able to grow in grace and knowledge. The process of sanctification is still God’s work, but requires our submissive acquiescence to Him (which, incidentally, seems to put a kink in the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace, does it not?)

This then is why, in Ephesians 4:24, we are told to “put on” the new man, a command which we are to follow. The purpose for following this command is that we might be made more like unto our Lord in righteousness and holiness. God is a holy God, and wants His born-again, blood-bought children to be holy like as He is (I Peter 1:15-16). And this comes from applying the Scriptures to our lives, by putting things that are displeasing and contrary to His Word from us, and by embracing those things which are in line with Scripture. And that, in turn, requires the renewing of our minds so that our thinking will be straightened out. We have to allow God’s Word to change us and mold us and remake us into what He wants us to be. This won’t happen until our minds and hearts are submitted to Him and open to His tender proddings and calling.

Our minds are under attack from every side by satan. Our culture is one which offers distractions, enticements, temptations, pitfalls, ensnaring traps which can destroy our testimonies and the work God is trying to accomplish in us. But, greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world, so if we’re faithful to allow God to freely work to renew our minds day by day, we CAN have the victory!

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | November 10, 2016

There Is No Neutrality With God

The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.  He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.” (Psalm 36:3-4)

These verses appear within a larger body passage in which David is considering within himself the observations that he has made about the wicked.  He says (v. 1) that the transgression of the wicked “sayeth within my heart,” followed by a number of things he sees from dealing with the wicked men of this world.  The psalmist is wisely considering and contemplating what he sees so as to avoid the errors and pitfalls of those who hate the Lord.

In the verses above, we notice something very interesting.  David observes several things which are overtly wicked about the things these men do.  They speak iniquity and deceit (v. 3), i.e. they are liars who seek to encourage and involve others in their sinful and iniquitous behaviour.  Likewise, they (v. 4) meditate upon that which is evil and invent news ways in which to perpetrate sinful things, patterning their whole lives after the pursuit of sin and folly.

However, what we see here that is interesting is that David doesn’t just mark out the overt sinful things that they do, but also observes the things that they do not do.  He notes what is lacking in their lives – the lack of these things contributing to their overall wickedness and sin.  In verse 3, they leave off being wise and doing good.  In verse 4, they abhor not evil.  These wicked men turn away from the path of knowledge and judgment, and are not disgusted with and repulsed by evil and wickedness, either in their own lives or in the lives of others.

Hating evil is a cardinal trait of the godly man who is intent upon living for the Lord,

Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 97:10)

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)

“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:104)

“Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15)

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Romans 12:9)

The one who claims to be a Christian and who yet tolerates evil is one who is not letting the mind of Christ be in them.  God hates evil.  So should we.  We should always hate and oppose sin and wickedness, in our personal lives, in the lives of others, in our nation, and wherever else.  We cannot allow the spirit of sentimentality that pervades our modern culture to blind us to the necessity of hating evil and sin.  We often hear “love the sinner while hating the sin.”  This is true, in a technical sense, but unfortunately is often used as a cover for tolerating sin.  Why, if we condemned someone’s sin or called them on it, then we’re not “loving the sinner”!  Instead, we’re big, legalistic meanies who just aren’t loving!  We use sentimentality and an unspiritual, unscriptural definition of “love” as an excuse to be neutral with regard to sin.  When we do this, we’re not really abhorring evil, and indeed, are not even really being wise or doing good.  If we allow someone to go on in sin without warning them, then we are really hating that person (Lev. 19:17, Ezek. 33:5).

The wicked omit these things in vv. 3-4 from their lives.  Those who know the Lord should not emulate them in this.  When we do so, we’re taking a neutral attitude toward the things of God – perhaps taking positive steps to refrain from overt sin, but not really abhorring that which God hates or seeking to incorporate wisdom proactively into our lives and walks.

Yet, we cannot be neutral in our attitudes toward the things which God Himself is not neutral about.  Jesus said of those who try to sit the fence on matters of sin and righteousness,

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)

We’re either on God’s side or we’re not.  We can’t take a “middle course” designed to try to hang onto Jesus while conciliating a God-hating world.  Either we’re all in for Jesus, or we’re really not in for Him at all.  This presents us each with a choice – hate what God hates or else tolerate (and thereby tacitly love) what God hates.  Hot or cold, there can be no lukewarmness as so many modern churches and Christians seek to hold onto.  Be on fire for God and avoid the “net of neutrality” that would ensnare your testimony and keep you from being the witness and warner that you ought to be!

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | October 4, 2016

Overcoming the Enemies of our Walk

It would do us all well to meditate again on the fact that what we see of the children of Israel as they occupied and dwelt in Ha-aretz ha-tov, the good land which God gave to them is in many ways paralleled in our own entrance into the Christian life upon salvation. Our journey as Christians through this life, with its struggles, trials, tribulations but also its victories, joy, peace, and times of blessing is not unlike the nation of Israel’s encounters in the Promised Land. In particular, we should see this in Psalm 44:5-8,

Through thee will we push down our enemies; through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.”

At the risk of sounding too allegorical, I would suggest that that the *enemies* we face today in our walks are the sins that seem to beset on all sides. And just as Israel was required to be faithful and trusting in the Lord to gain the victory over the enemies they faced, likewise must we. Our sins are like those nations that God commanded Israel to extirpate from the Promised Land. Our reaction to the presence of sin in our lives can take one of two forms:

1) Tolerance which will eventually lead to consortium with that sin

2) Diligent vigilance to drive sin out

At various times, Israel did both. When they were faithful, God gave them the victory, often against exceeding overwhelming odds. When they failed, tolerated the presence of those whom God said to do away with, they began to be polluted by the idols of Canaan and their other pagan neighbours, and brought God’s chastisement down upon themselves.

As vv. 5-8 above indicate, merely being opposed to sin in our lives is not enough, however. Faithfulness is founded in loyalty to Christ, which entails far more than taking a proper and correct mental attitude (though that is the obvious first step to gaining victory over any certain sin that besets). It requires a full-fledged commitment to hate that sin which tempts and tries – “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13a) and “..I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104). And most of all, it requires the Christian to loose themselves completely from any attachment, however tenuous, to that sin. God hates that sin, and we must as well, and be willing to forsake it completely, which is the only true and complete repentance. Once this is done, the decision made, then the act of humility of calling upon the Lord and diligently seeking Him to gain the victory is made. If Israel was to gain the victory in some battle in the Promised Land, they needed to repent and call upon the Lord, not sit back and rest on their place as God’s Chosen and think that this would win them the day.

For ultimately, it is only God who even CAN cause us to have victory over our sin. We have not within ourselves the means by which to succeed spiritually under our own power or goodness or self-discipline. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18) If Paul wasn’t good enough to win the battle under his own strength and goodness, then friend, I certainly am not!

So, like vv. 5-8 say, my sword nor my bow shall deliver me, for it is HE, the Lord God, who is able to save us out of the hand of our enemies, the sins with which the great enemy of all God’s children, satan, seeks to snare us with as he walks about seeking whom he may devour. God will push down our enemies, these sins, and it is HE in whom we, at the end of the day when all is said and done, must make our boast. A verse I’ve always tried to hold onto comes to mind,

“He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)

The word translated as “subdue” is the Hebrew kabash, which means to subjugate or tread down violently, to overcome and bring something under control by force. It can also carry with it the idea of disregarding something, presumably because it is of so little worth that it is inconsequential. The use of this word here, coupled with the allusion to God casting our sins into the depths of the sea indicates that, when we are faithful and call upon the Lord, and when He extends His compassion to us, He will work to remove and subjugate the power and presence of sin in our lives (i.e. the process of sanctification will go forward). He treads it down, subdues it from our lives, and by removing it completely as though it were cast into the ocean deep, deems our iniquities once they are forgiven and defeated, to be inconsequential, He remembers them not. We can and will have that freedom from sin that Jesus promised in John 8:31-36!

By remaining faithful, seeking the Lord, walking with Him daily, reading and meditating upon His Word, fellowshipping with Him in prayer, relying upon Him in witnessing, and every other thing that we ought to do to stick close to our great Friend, we can and will have victory over whatever sins plague us and shame us. We can get victory over the Canaanite of alcoholic drink, or the Jebusite of lust, or the Perizzite of thievery, whatever the specific enemy may be.

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | September 18, 2016

For Which We Did Not Labour

Recently I was reading again through Joshua 24, and dwelt a bit on these passages in Joshua’s address to Israel,

And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.” (Joshua 24:12-13)

We know (I Corinthians 10:11) that the events which happened to the children of Israel as they wandered the desert and entered the promised land are applicable to our own lives today as Christians in a typological sense. We know that it was Moses, representative of the Law, who led Israel out of Egypt (a type of the world). But it was Joshua, same name in Hebrew (Yeshua) as that of Jesus, who led the children of Israel into the promised land. So also it is the Law which reveals our sin to us and which God uses to draw us out of the world and unto Him, but it is the grace of God through Jesus Christ which leads us into the good land. Now, the promised land is NOT a type of heaven or of the kingdom of God in its eternal state. Rather, it is a type of the present Christian life. Remember that even for the faithful among the children of Israel, there remaineth yet a rest for the people of God which Joshua (called Jesus) did not give (Hebrews 4:8-9).

So, the entry into the promised land is typological of the entrance into the Christian life, with its ups and its downs. Looking at the passage above, then, a very salient point comes into focus – the absolute necessity of depending upon God to sanctify us if we are to in any wise grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.

So many Christians it seems have this idea that sanctification is something gotten by our own effort. While we are told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), let us not forget that the very next verse (v.13) says that it is God that works in us to both desire to do, and then be able to do, His good pleasure. Sanctification requires our active participation, just as the taking of the land required Israel to actually get out there and fight. But, sanctification is not obtainable by our own ability, power, spirituality, or efforts apart from the sanctifying and strengthening ministry of God’s holy Spirit. God drove out the Canaanites from before Israel. Some commentators consider the “hornets” to be real, others consider the reference to be figurative, describing the terror of Israel which God put into the hearts of their enemies. I tend to think the literal interpretation is correct – there’s no real need or contextual clues to indicate it as figurative as far as I can see. But either way, the work of driving out the inhabitants was mostly God’s. The Israelites came in and mopped up. The work was God’s, the Israelites the beneficiaries of His grace in opening up and preparing the land for them. Likewise, we are the blessed recipients of God’s mercy to us in opening up the fruits of Christian growth and expansion of our ministry of service before him.

Similarly, the Israelites dwelt in houses and cities and enjoyed vineyards and olive stands which they had not laboured to create themselves. In our lives as Christians, we receive the blessing of God’s preparation and provision of His abundance for us, something which is of Him and which we have not produced ourselves.

So, how should we go about possessing the land and enjoying it? By submitting wholly to God in every area. Following His lead as He directs our efforts against sin and error in our lives. Going where He commands as He takes us in new directions in our lives and opens up new areas for growth and commitment. And foremost, trusting Him faithfully to be willing to go and do where and what He leads. Israel wouldn’t have enjoyed the fruit of God’s provision and protection if they hadn’t been willing to follow Him in faith and obedience into the promised land. Indeed, they didn’t do so the first time around, and got to spend 40 years enjoying the sumptious life of desert nomads. Though I must again emphasise that the work is God’s and the blessings His to give, we also have a part to play – that of active obedience. God directs, but it is our hands, feet, and mouths that perform the labour,

“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3:9)

Our labour is to acquiesce to God and to do as He directs. It is then that we truly become God’s building, i.e. that which God builds up into the spiritual houses (I Peter 2:5) that God desires us as individuals and our churches as corporate bodies of Christians to be. God has prepared and is preparing the land for us. God prepares this land for us a portion at a time, just as He told Israel he would do for them with the physical promised land (Exodus 23:29-30). As we grow into what we know to do, He opens up more for us. So let us keep growing and being obedient to take possession of that which He leads us to, until we come into the fullness of the blessing at His return.

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | September 7, 2016

Confession Means Submission to God

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

The verse above is probably one of the most well-known verses in American Christianity.  It forms an integral part of the “Romans Road,” a particular evangelistic approach designed to elicit a prayer from lost sinners in the hopes that they will be convicted and genuinely pray to the Lord for forgiveness of their sins.  However, I believe that in the process of using it for this purpose, much of the deeper importance of the verse is lost.  This, in turn, is because I believe our society has lost an understanding of the deeper sense of what “confession” is, and what it signifies.

We tend to think of “confession” as “admitting our sins” to God, as if He didn’t know about them and we had to inform Him of them so that He’s now enlightened as to what to do with us.  I realise that most folks wouldn’t actually believe that way, but it nevertheless does seem to be what would follow naturally from the way “confession” of our sins to God is approached.  However, confession is much more than just “admitting to God that I’ve sinned.”  The term as it is used in the Bible, carries with it a definitive overtone of submission to the authority and lordship of God.

That so many in modern Christianity do not recognise this is much of the reason why we see so much confusion about what even constitutes “salvation” in modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  We’re told that salvation comes from “praying this prayer” and that we merely admit that we’re sinners (in a general sense), rather than having to be broken over our specific sins and rebellion against God and His Law and desiring to turn from them and to Him.  Repentance is naysayed, called “works based salvation,” even though the Scripture repeatedly and emphatically declares that without repentance there is no salvation (Acts 3:19), that faith and repentance are two aspects of the same thing (Acts 20:21), and that repentance is a gift of God like faith (II Timothy 2:25).   This modern easy-believism makes man the arbiter of salvation, not God.  By it, man “prays the prayer” and makes God give him eternal life, even if the man praying has no conviction or brokenness over sin and no desire to repent and turn from it.  In essence, through easy believism, man is “saved” even though he doesn’t go about coming to God on God’s terms or in God’s way.  Man becomes the authority, not God.

This is a complete, total, and wicked inversion.

When the Bible talks about “confession” in the context that it is meant in Romans 10:9, what it is talking about is not merely “telling God about our sins.”  In fact, it even goes further than merely “agreeing with God about our sin,” because we all know that you can agree with someone about something, and yet do nothing about it.  Rather, “confession” is the willingness to accept the authority and lordship of God, to yield your life over to Him and to release any claims to sovereignty over your own life.

Hence, when a lost sinner confesses the Lord Jesus Christ, they are expressing the willingness to give themselves over to Him and to the Father completely.  Let us remember what sin really is – it is rebellion against God.  Not just in a general sense that we’ve inherited a sin nature from Adam, but also in the very specific sense that we have ALL sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23, when it makes that statement, is saying that because we have all sinned, we have all put ourselves outside of the presence of God – His glory, the place where we can approach until Him in all His honour and majesty – and are separated from Him and condemned by Him for our sin.  Our sins (plural) have done this, and since all have sinned since we were little children once we were able to understand right from wrong.  Whenever we sin, we are rebelling against God, we are essentially claiming a sovereignty at that particular point where WE, rather than God and His Word, get to decide that something is right and acceptable.

So when a lost sinner trusts on Christ, calls upon Him for forgiveness and confesses the Lord Jesus, they are essentially agreeing that God is right and they are wrong, AND they are yielding to Him in a willingness to give up their own claims to independence and self-sovereignty and to accept Him as their sovereign instead.  Whereas before they lived in sin because they rejected the claims of God’s Word and Law, now they accept those claims and voluntarily give themselves over to a willingness to be obedient to God’s claims upon them.

We see this in Proverbs 28:13,

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

Confession doesn’t merely involve agreeing – contextually, it also involves turning from those sins, and yielding to God in obedience.

A similar situation takes place when a Christian who has sinned returns to God,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

This situation involves a Christian who has sought to reclaim sovereignty over some area of his or her life from God – they’ve fallen into some sin and chosen to do what their flesh wanted to do instead of what God wanted them to do.  In such cases, we must be willing, again, not just to “tell God about it,” but to resubmit to Him, agreeing that our sin and rebellion was wrong, and desiring to repent of it and turn away from it and back to God.  We must be willing to yield once again that area or areas of life to Him.

Ultimately, what this means is that God is the final authority.  We come to Him on His terms – we do not make Him come to us on ours.  Now, He gives us the free choice – either accept His authority and His Word and yield to Him in obedience to be saved HIS way, or reject all of this and remain in rebellion – and we will be judged on the basis of what decision.  One day, the lost who have rejected Him will still yield to His authority as they confess Him to the glory of the Father,

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

But then, it will be too late for them to change their minds about His claims to sovereignty over their lives.

This is why it is so important that when we deal with a lost soul about salvation, we present them with a clear picture of their lost condition, of their being under judgment for their sin, and of their need to repent of that sin and turn to Him, along with the message of love and grace.  It ALL has to be there, or else it will be of no genuine effect.  Simply telling them, “God loves you and something good is gonna happen to you today!” is not the Gospel.  It is not God’s way.  It is not what they need to hear to be able to respond to God as He says they should, for the salvation He promises to give.  Our evangelism needs to reflect a right understanding of God’s authority if it is to be effectively used of Him.

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | September 2, 2016

Being Subject

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:1-8)

This, along with Romans 13:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-17 form a trifecta of scriptural injunctions to Christians to obedience to earthly authority. And in all three of these passages, we are given an earthly reason why we should do so – which is that our testimonies demand it! We’re to be subject for conscience sake (Romans 13:5), so that we can put to silence the ignorant slanders of foolish opponents of the Gospel (I Peter 2:15), and so that we can maintain good works (v.8, above). Of course, we all realise that this has its limits – our ultimate authority is the Word of God, and when man’s law crosses the boundary of what is right according to the Word, then we must follow the Word and not man’s law, though we must also be prepared to endure the consequences of such stand for conscience’s sake.

But what I got to meditating on is that obedience to earthly authority really says something about our obedience to GOD’S authority. After all, as we see in Romans 13, there is no power but of God (which, yes, includes even those wicked regimes and wicked men in positions of power). There are many, many professing Christians out there who seem to think their profession gives them a license to disobey government when it strikes their fancy. Some even go so far as to think they have leave to not pay their taxes and so forth (which is, obviously, explicitly contrary to the commands of Scripture – Romans 13:6-7, Matthew 22:21, etc.) What this really shows, I believe, is a dangerous and unscriptural tendency towards libertinism on their part, just another manifestation of the spirit of unbiblical Christian “liberty.” It seems natural, of course, that those who would view scriptural doctrines and standards as something to be “liberated from,” would likewise hold a low view of earthly governmental authority, and vice versa.

But such an attitude couldn’t be further from the plan of God for a Christian who truly desires to live godly and have a testimony before the world. See what Paul says in our text passage. First, he gives the command – let the flocks be in subjection to governmental authorities. In that same verse, he gives the reason why – so that they might be ready to every good work. It’d be hard to be able to serve the Lord, I’d imagine, when you’re in the dock for disobeying the law, or have made such a stench of yourself to the authorities that they’d view you as much a troublemaker as they would a recidivist car thief. But Paul goes further, it’s not just our ACTIONS that are to be in line, but also our HEARTS. He says to speak evil of no man, specifically governmental people in the context. How many conservatives, even Christians, have been guilty of this because Obama is President (uh oh, I just went from preachin’ to meddlin’, didn’t I??)  We are reminded that we ourselves used to live lives characterised by foolishness, disobedience, and selfishness, just like those we might be tempted to curse and denigrate, but that the offer of salvation was freely extended to us by grace. Therefore, the argument Paul is building goes, we must understand that the way we conduct ourselves with regards to respect for lawful, God-ordained authority will have an influence, for good or bad, on the people who occupy those offices, the other people who will see our behaviour and hear our speech, and may even affect our ability to freely serve the Lord through the response we engender FROM the authorities. The salvation of souls is affected by how we conduct ourselves with respect to the laws of man. As with everything else, the unsaved will have their eyes on us to see how we conduct ourselves as Christians.

But what about those of us who don’t hold to some of the weirder and wilder notions of Christian “liberty” or anti-authoritarianism? How good are we really at obeying the law? Even those little laws that we would tend to dismiss as unimportant? Do we speed? Do we charge yellow lights? Do we flip an illegal U-turn if we think nobody’ll see? Yes, even “little” laws like these are important. God didn’t tell us to obey magistrates only when we feel like it. If we make a habit of disobeying the laws of man, how good are we then at obeying the laws of GOD, which are of much greater import? Obviously, there’s at least one law of God not being kept when we don’t obey earthly laws and authority – the one discussed above. But does such a pattern then extend to other areas? I’ll be honest – traffic laws are one area where I’ve really had to submit myself to the Lord. Before I was saved, I had plumbic pedis syndrome (i.e., a lead foot). I still have to watch myself to make sure I don’t inadvertently drift way up over the speed limit. But a lot of folks don’t even care to do that. I had a former roommate, a Christian in a fundamental Baptist church, who habitually drove WAY over the speed limit. He actually got onto me one time for driving the limit, saying that it “holds people up.” I told him the Bible says to obey the law, so if people get held up, too bad for them. He didn’t like that interpretation – and it didn’t surprise me to find out that there were several other areas in his life where he wasn’t too concerned about the Scriptural path.

So let’s all just obey the law, okay?

 

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | August 21, 2016

Let Us Not Shun Good Works

I’d like to say a few things about good works – specifically as we see the revealed will of God for us in Ephesians 2:10,

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Now, the term “good works” often appears to me to have acquired among both Baptist and conservative Protestant circles a sort of stigma – this stigma arising from the misuse and misunderstanding of good works by false religious systems such as Catholicism and liberal Protestantism. The same sort of hesitancy that fundamentalists have about speaking of the Holy Spirit because the Charismatics have misused Him, or about “election,” because the Calvinists have twisted that doctrine. Works sort of get a bad rap, what with the Catholics trying to misuse the Bible (particularly James chapter 2) to support justification by works, and the liberals ignoring the Bible completely and replacing it with a doctrine of good works or “social gospel.” But this verse clearly reminds us (and many of us need reminded on this more than we’d like to think we do) that good works (which needs to be qualified here and now as service rendered TO the Lord FOR the purpose of honouring Him, else it’s not a good work) definitely do have a place in God’s economy for the lives of believers.

This verse comes right after the very well-known verses about salvation by grace through faith. But, as if to emphasis that even though works don’t save, they DO indicate salvation, Paul writes under inspiration that works MUST be in the life of a believer. And this definitely can be seen.

1) We’ve been created unto good works. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Paul reminds his readers in vv. 11-22 that they had (as Gentiles) formerly been alienated from the life that is in God, had been without any hope in the world, had indeed been at enmity with God. They had no place in the promises given by God to Israel, no standing with God as His children. This all changed with the coming of Christ and the preaching of grace to the Gentiles. They became part of the commonwealth of Israel, spiritually speaking, and shared equally in the promises and the inheritance of God. Well, they also share equally in the service and responsibility to minister before the Lord as well. Gentiles, as well as Jewish believers, are now a royal priesthood before God, tasked with offering up acceptable spiritual sacrifices to God and to shew forth His praise (I Peter 2:5,9). God saved us not only because of His love for us, but also for the purpose that through our changed lives and changed priorities, we might give glory to God the Father, just as Jesus Christ came to do through HIS work on the cross and in the resurrection (Philippians 2:5-11). This is why it is so doubly grievous when we act contrary to this calling, falling into sin and acting selfishly for our own glory or satisfaction, rather than His.

2) God has before ordained that we should walk in them. From eternity past, God’s ordination and will for us as believers is to walk in His will, being made into the image of His Son, and serving Him in newness of life. Paul told us that God works in us both to will and to do of His GOOD PLEASURE (Philippians 2:13) as we work out (not work FOR) our own salvation (here, sanctification) with fear and trembling. God’s good pleasure should be our own wills and the object of our actions as we submit to God’s direction, His will for our lives, His grand object for us that He had planned out from before the foundation of the world.

Good works are so important, that in another epistle, Titus, written to a young pastor, Paul includes exhortations to or speaks of the necessity of good works in the lives of believers five times in three chapters (2:7,14; 3:1,8,14). Good works glorify God, edify the saints, and provide a light of truth and purity in a world of deceit and corruption. Indeed Titus 3:8…

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”

…provides the answer to the Catholic argument that James 2 teaches that works can bring justification, asis asserted from verses such as 14, 18, and 21. Paul writes in Titus that good works are profitable UNTO MEN. This same idea is presented in James 2:21, for instance, when Abraham is said to have been justified by works or in James 2:18 where James says that he will show his faith BY his works. These works are profitable unto men. The good works which show our faith, the justification Abraham had from his works, demonstrate the reality of faith already placed. The justification, such as it is, is not justification which makes one free from sin, but is justification of the truth of a man’s profession BEFORE MEN. These works are a TESTIMONY to the world around us, showing that our faith is real and bears fruit. By their fruit ye shall know them.

The life of a professing believer that does not bear fruit is in danger of being taken away and cast into the fire (John 15:2a,6). Let us, as God’s people, make our calling and election sure by being zealous to maintain good works for necessary uses. Let us be a fruitful people.

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | August 13, 2016

Delayed Does Not Mean Denied

On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him…Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.” (Esther 6:1-3, 10-11)

This passage from Esther serves to illustrate for us a very important spiritual point, which is that a delay in the mercies of God does not mean that those mercies have been denied.

We see earlier in this book (2:21-23) that Mordecai had the opportunity to foil a plot against the life of the Persian king which was being hatched by two of his chamberlains.  The natural assumption would be that a good work like this toward a powerful sovereign would be rewarded.  Yet, this was not the case at that time.  Mordecai seemed like his good deed was simply forgotten.

Let us keep in kind that Mordecai’s action was intrinsically good.  Though Ahasuerus was a pagan king, he was still the sovereign whom God had set over Mordecai and his people.  Mordecai owed allegiance to him,

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (I Peter 2:17)

So Mordecai had done right.  Now we should grant that Mordecai did not really deserve a reward, however.  After all, just like us, he was an unprofitable servant who merely did what he was supposed to do.

Yet, God is merciful and will requite His servants when He knows the time is right for it.  In the case of Mordecai, the right time happened to be a few years later, just when the king’s “fortuitous” insomnia had kept him up and led to him discovering and resolving to rectify his oversight.  This set into motion the chain of events which led to God’s providential preservation of His people just when it was needed.  This would not have happened had Mordecai been honoured at the time of his good deed.

This ought to remind us of God’s promise to us found in the Lord’s parable of the widow and the unjust judge,

“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8)

God will avenge, do justice for, his people when the time is right for it.  This may not be when *we* would like to see it done, but it will be when is best for it.

We should also note that this same point can be made for the dispensation of God’s justice toward the wicked, too.  We often see the wicked seem to prosper and wonder what is going on,

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

Yet justice delayed is not justice denied in this sense, either.

Indeed, we see this in Esther as well.

“And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.” (Esther 7:9-10)

For a time it seemed that Haman was unstoppable – highly favoured by the king, given carte blanche to do whatever he liked – yet he ended up hanging from the gibbet he had thought to slay Mordecai with.

Let us always remember that God will requite both good and evil when it is in His good time to do so.  If we are patient, we can rest in Him without worry or hurry.

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | August 5, 2016

Avenging His Own Elect

While rereading the parable of our Lord concerning the widow and the unjust judge, I was struck by the following verse,

“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (Luke 18:7)

I got to digging a little deeper with this verse. In the Greek, the word that’s translated as “bear long” is makrothumeo, a term which denotes longsuffering, patience, and enduring something being put upon you. Now, what struck me as somewhat counterintuitive about this is that this term is applied to God. The text says that HE bears long, indicating that HE is the one who is enduring patiently, who is being longsuffering. Of what? That is the question.

The answer is found in the contextual clues. We already know from verse 1 that the Lord gave the parable to His disciples for the purpose that they ought always to pray, and not faint. We then see that, in contrast to the widow, who has to come to one who is, essentially, uncaring towards her great need and only answers her request because she has wearied him with her continual coming, we see that the Lord will respond to His own elect. When He bears long with them, then, it is not because He is unconcerned or uncaring, but for some other reason.

That reason is His mercy. Notice in verse 7 that it says that God will avenge His own elect. That is translated from the Greek ekdikeo, which means to revenge oneself upon someone, retaliate, or punish. Verse 8 promises that this vengeance of the Lord will be speedy (which does not imply it will necessarily be soon, however). Well, we know that God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). What we see the Lord Jesus speaking of in our passage is that God bears long with His elect, and a major part of the sense of the passage is that this bearing long involves His being merciful and withholding His judging hand from those who are oppressing and persecuting His people. God is giving even these enemies of Himself and His people the opportunity to turn from their ways and repent – a classic illustration of the merciful God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

Contextually, this best fits our passage. Jesus’ whole lead-in to this verse involves one who was powerless (the widow) being requited by the one in power (the judge). The contrast is drawn between this judge and God in the sense of the nature of their response and the reason for their bearing long, not in the bearing long itself. In verse 8, Jesus asks the rhetorical question, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” That puts the primary sense of this passage into an eschatological context. The bearing long of the Lord involves His refraint from judging the world in righteousness so as to give sinners yet more time to repent. This, of course, involves the extension of the temporal sufferings of His elect upon the earth, but there is also the promise that these WILL eventually be requited. For though the Lord bears long in His return and judgment, it will come, and when it does, it will be performed speedily at the end of the tribulationary period,

“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:27)

And woe unto whosoever has not repented and turned to Him before this time!

It is common to hear and see this passage referred to as a palliative for support and strength in times of general trial in our lives. Sickness, heartache, and other trials we are told not to faint or fail because of. While this can, I believe, be justly applied in a secondary sense from this verse, I do not believe that perseverance in general trials is what is primarily mean from this parable. Rather, it is talking about the persecution, and especially the increasing persecution that God’s children will be enduring as the end draws closer and closer. Christ is urging us to remain faithful even unto death, not to fall away such that, when He returns, His question mentioned above would be answered in the negative.

Posted by: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus | July 24, 2016

The Good Conscience of Baptism

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 3:21)

A lot of folks try to point to this verse as evidence for baptismal regeneration – the idea that baptism is *necessary* for salvation. However, to understand the verse, we have to look at what it is saying in the context of the rest of God’s Word.

First of all, it is NOT saying that baptism is necessary for salvation, or that baptism, as a ritual act, “washes away sins.” The verse says as much – “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.” Baptism doesn’t “wash off” our guilt before God, the stain of sin upon a person’s fleshly nature. The idea that baptism is necessary to save also contradicts the many places where we are told that works do not save (Eph. 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, Rom. 4:1-8, Gal. 2:16, Hebr. 9:14, James 2:23, etc.).

However, the verse IS indicating that baptism IS important. It is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” Baptism is really an identification with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-5). When we are baptised by immersion, we are showing openly that we are figuratively claiming that the old man has been put to death, and the new man has risen to new life. We are identifying with Christ’s own death and resurrection, whereby the old man was slain, and the new man raised again.

When this verse talks about baptism “saving” us, it is speaking in the sense of sanctification, similarly to how the term is meant in Phil. 2:12. We are sanctified as we willingly yield to Him in obedience to identify with Him in baptism. It always bothers me when someone professes to be saved, but then doesn’t want to be baptised. They claim to have received the life changing gift of new life in Christ, yet don’t want to follow Him in obedience to make this claim openly and decisively known.

Baptism is part of the great commission (Matt. 28:19) that comes after justification, but seems to logically precede much further discipleship. While there may be the need for a brief period to measure the genuineness of a profession of faith, I am not a big fan of requiring new converts to wait through months or years of catechising before they can be baptised. I don’t believe we see that model in Scripture whenever someone was baptised after receiving Christ. Instead, new believers ought to have the opportunity to make their response of a good conscience toward God in an open profession before the brethren.

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