Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | April 10, 2017

Guarding our Fellowship

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3)

Now, isn’t that interesting? John states that the purpose for declaring what has been seen and heard about Christ was so that those being taught might “have fellowship” with the brethren. What does this mean? It is so that there might be a basis of common faith between John and the recipients of his letter. John teaches so that the instructees might be able to share in the same like precious hope, with the joy that it brings (v.4), as that held by the apostles. In a sense, John’s teaching to the recipients serves as a preparation for fellowship – once those being taught learn and understand the truths of the faith as taught in Scripture, there can be that much closer fellowship between these saints and the others who are with John, including the apostle himself. Having right doctrine – the things believed about Christ, the Bible, Christian living, etc. – enables Spirit-filled Christians to have unhindered fellowship in Christ. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)

What this chapter really does is to some parameters that define our spiritual fellowship as Christians. We hear a lot about separation in fundamentalism, mostly in reference to II Corinthians 6:14-71, Romans 16:17-18, Ephesians 5:11, and so forth. Many people have the impression that separation, especially for doctrinal reasons (you know, “doctrine divides!,” said as if it were a bad thing), is “unloving,” “un-Christian” or even “unscriptural.” But, the Bible clearly tells God’s children to maintain doctrinal and personal purity. And perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, it is separation which actually MAINTAINS unity among true believers in a local church.

Fellowship is a word – koinonia – that goes beyond mere sociableness. It entails ideas of partnership, cooperation, intimate social intercourse, and benevolence in joint activity. To have fellowship doesn’t merely mean to sit around a table, eating and gabbing about the weather. Fellowship, in the sense the Bible indicates that members of a local church should have, is cooperative and binds the various members in a unity of structure that directs behaviour and group activity. By extension, this unity is between Christ and His church.

And all this is predicated on having right doctrine. Without that right doctrine, no true unity can exist. If you have believers and unbelievers in a religious body, or perhaps believers with right doctrine and those with doctrine that has gone askew, you don’t, you CAN’T, have true “fellowship” as the Biblical usage defines it. They will often, perhaps always, be working at cross purposes to each other on everything having to do with the Lord’s work. This is because doctrine does not exist in a vacuum. A person’s doctrine will lead to the concomitant practice in their lives. Orthodoxy should begat orthopraxy, and heterodoxy certainly WILL cause heteropraxy. John tells us that in his letter. After having given his stated intention of imparting correct doctrine so that there can be fellowship, John proceeds to point out that there is no darkness in Him, in the light of the truth of Scripture, no wrong action can escape unnoticed, and certainly no wrong action will be caused by properly-understood biblical truth. Implicit in this, then, is the assertion that failure to properly understand and/or hold to right doctrine will lead to darkness, something which is made explicit later on in this letter (2:4,19; 4:3, etc.) And we cannot properly say that we have fellowship with Him if we walk in darkness, if we’re in some way deviating from the truth of Scripture (v.6). Conversely, if we walk in the light, if our steps are guided by the truth of Scripture rightly understood, rather than twisted or taken out of context, then we DO have fellowship – both with Him, and with one another.

The fellowship of the saints, predicated upon right doctrine, then becomes practicable only when our PRACTICE, as guided by our doctrine, is in line with Scripture. Paul told Titus to teach those “things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), i.e. are fitting and true in light of Scriptural teaching. Immediately after come a whole list of behaviours that Titus was to try to inculcate into his church members as their pastor. In I John 5:2, we see,

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.”

We really are being loving brethren to other children of God only when our lives are first centered upon Christ in active loyalty demonstrated by submission to His Word. When we allow sin into our lives, we break both types of fellowship. And if a professing Christian (who may not actually even be saved) leads a life more or less characterised by sin, then there cannot really ever be fellowship between him or her and faithful brethren in a church – since they walk not together in unity of purpose, and also the faithful brethren are required by Scripture to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness…” (Ephesians 5:11)

Hence, the doctrinal separation and separation from sin (which are in many ways two sides of the same coin), instead of being the horrible, un-Christian act of intolerance and mean-spiritedness which most Evangelicals make it out to be, is actually a lubricant to true Christian fellowship. It enables and strengthens the bonds of real fellowship in the body of Christ, the local church, as well as among like-minded brethren across churches, and it does so by dispensing with the false and friction-filled “fellowship” that gives many people warm and fuzzy feelings, but which hinders them from truly serving the Lord because it yokes them to those who are working against them in purpose and plan.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | February 1, 2017

Being Able to Use Our Gifts

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (I Corinthians 4:7)

Now, we know that this verse is telling us that the gifts that we have from God are not of our derivation. The abilities we are given are just that – given. We therefore have no reason to pride ourselves in some gift or ability or calling that God has bestowed upon us, certainly not in a way that lords it over some brother or sister who might not have the same talent. But let’s also consider this verse in another way.

We know that God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t show partiality to one Christian over another as far as His willingness to use and encourage us is concerned. Our ability to be used of the Lord, for whatever the specific purposes He might have for us, is limited only by our own faithfulness to be obedient and submissive to Him to be used, to the extent that we are willing to allow ourselves to be made into vessels meet for the Master’s use. Truly, any of us could be just as faithful as a Paul, an Abraham, a David, if we would really take that step of faith to trust Him as completely as they did. There was nothing inherently special about any of those men over and above anyone else. They were used not because God showed a preferential partiality to them, but because they were willing to submit to the Lord in a way that most of the rest of us rarely ever do. They were used for great things in the Lord’s service because they were willing to give to God great command and control over their lives. The reason they differed from most of the rest of God’s children was because they opened themselves up to God as ready containers to RECEIVE what He had for them.

But, if we really got serious about serving the Lord, couldn’t we see our own lives used the same way? Why not? The gifts we receive are from Him, not of ourselves. Their use then is because of Him, not ourselves. He has given them to us, not on partiality, but on the expectation that we would fulfill the particular roles He desires for us to perform in our particular lives as particular Christians. And these gifts CAN be used by us, turned to a good account, when we allow Him access to ourselves as His douloi, His servants. Paul had nothing wherein to glory, save the cross of Christ. So it is with us, but the God who makes us to differ one from another can glorify Himself THROUGH us, through the use of the gifts He gives us.

But how can we be able to be used to the extent God would have us to be used? Well, this requires us to be clean vessels, channels through which His power can be exercised,

“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (II Timothy 2:21)

We must get and stay clean before the Lord if we’re going to see Him even touch us, much less use us as His tools to accomplish His will,

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8)

We’re told to cleanse our hands of outward manifestations of unrighteous living, and to purify our hearts of inward defilement caused by sin. We’re to cry out to God in repentance for forgiveness and the cleansing application of the blood of Christ to our hearts. That act of drawing close to God is then met with God’s own response of drawing close to us. It is a truism throughout Scripture that, just as God is no respecter of persons, so also are the intimacy of His dealings with man determined by the extent to which the individual believer is willing to really submit, obey, and walk in the Lord’s way and keep themselves from defilement and sin. The Christian who is faithful to really put away the flesh and the world will be used accordingly, even if their ministry is “small” in man’s eyes (remember, God’s perspective on all that is different from man’s, however). Conversely, the Christian who doesn’t trouble themselves to keep from the world, who consorts with its music or its movies or its fashions, who has trouble accepting Biblical standards and who won’t abide with Biblical doctrines, will not be used of the Lord, or at least not much.

So, how can you and I be used greatly? By putting from our lives those things that ought not be there anywise. And by doing so QUICKLY. We see that in the Scriptures, often we are told to be patient, not to be hasty. But when repentance is concerned, being quick about it is the ONLY way to be. Don’t delay, get right today. We’ll see, I believe, that if we would just make the decision to get right with God, not to dawdle or drag our feet, that the change it will work in our lives and the blessings the Lord will give to us through opportunities to serve will come quickly as well. Repentance is not a “process” that needs to be dragged out over a length of time. Look at Gideon’s father in Judges 6:30-31. This man went from being an idolator worshiping Baal to being a man standing up for the Lord to a hostile crowd of pagans – in a single morning. His son’s act of righteousness in throwing down the altar of Baal provoked this man to repentance of his own idolatry, and he was almost immediately used of the Lord to DEFEND his son’s action, at great personal cost and danger, not knowing whether the angry crowd of Baalites might just quickly turn on him and try to kill him, as they were demanding to have done to Gideon. He went from worshiping a false god to being a staunch and steady defender of the true God in the space of a few hours’ time.

At the risk of sounding in a rush, I urge us all (myself included) to repent of our sins, whatever the Lord points out to us, whenever He does it, and to be QUICK about it, because the time draws short, and soon the darkness will come when no man can work.


Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | January 10, 2017

A Faithful Witness

A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.” (Proverbs 14:5)

A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.” (Proverbs 14:25)

As I was reading through Proverbs 14 recently, I came across both of these verses in succession, and got to meditating on them a bit. Both are pretty much straightforward, declarative statements, much like many of the rest of the proverbs. But simple as they may be, they pertain greatly to some important truths about certain of today’s popular views on evangelism.

Specifically, I got to thinking about the wicked “evangelistic” methodology of easy-believism which has unfortunately even penetrated into some segments of fundamentalism, especially through the influence of Jack Hyles’ teaching. These two verses above help us to discern the truth about easy-believism, that “pray-this-prayer-and-you’re-saved” mentality that has done so much harm to American Christianity, and which has sorrowfully served to condemn many souls to hell.

To begin, what are some common arguments from those who defend easy-believism?

  • 1) God loves aggressive soul-winners. Criticising the easy-believism style of soul-winning is tantamount to criticising soul-winning in general.
  • 2) Jesus said to “compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23), and that is what we’re doing when we urge them to pray to get saved.
  • 3) Salvation is easy, so when Christians argue that easy-believism is, well, too easy, they are denying the power of God’s grace, or are even adding to grace for salvation!
  • 4) It is not our place to judge the sincerity of a person’s profession of faith. All we can do is preach and bring them in and get them to the place where they will accept Jesus into their hearts.

All this is well and good, but it misses the real point to the criticism of easy-believism – the lack of preaching and teaching on REPENTANCE. When I was saved, it was because I was drawn by God (John 8:44), placed my faith in God’s grace through Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), AND repented of my sins (Acts 3:19). I wasn’t saved just because God loved me, or Jesus wanted to be in my heart, or whatever. I was saved because God loved me, AND gave me the faith to REPENT and trust on Him, grace which I freely responded to while yet being also drawn. Without repentance, the soul is not converted, and sin is not blotted out – there is no salvation without repentance. Repentance of sin is an integral part of the fact of faith. If one does not repent of one’s sins, then one is completely ignoring the whole reason why a soul needs to be saved in the first place, which is the fact of spiritual death caused by our sin, which can only be remedied by the spiritual life given by Christ. Repentance is not a work, it is part and parcel of the gift of grace and faith. Repentance is an evidentiary outflowing of the inwardly placed belief and trust. And as the Lord said,

“…this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 8:29b)

If a person prays a prayer, but has not really repented of their sins, then they have not really put their faith and trust in Christ, because they are sidestepping the whole reason for Christ’s coming, His death, and His resurrection. They are attempting to have the benefits of grace and eternal life without trading in the dust and ashes of their former ways.

It is this lack of emphasis on (or even teaching against) repentance that negates the real validity of the supposedly pious arguments listed above as being typical of those who promote easy-believism. Yes, God DOES love aggressive soul-winners. But He loves aggressive soul-winners who preach the WHOLE Gospel, including the need for repentance on the part of the lost sinner, not a half-truth (which is a full lie). Yes, Jesus told us to compel them to come in, but He didn’t want us to do so with a smooth and easy false gospel that ignored the fact of sin. Yes, salvation IS easy, but the Scriptures indicate that repentance is a part of that salvation for which we cannot work, but only believe. And while we cannot make the judgment that someone is saved or not, let us remember what this means. It means that we cannot DECIDE that someone is saved or not – that sort of definitive judgment rightly belongs to the Lord alone. But, we CAN see the outwardly manifested evidences of a person’s life, and have a good idea of whether someone is saved or not. If a person lives in sin with no evidence of repentance or brokenness for sin or a desire to put it away, then “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).

And this brings us back to the verses given at the start of this post. The witness that is being given, far too often, in the easy-believism camp is not a true witness. It is a witness that speaketh lies, it is deceitful, and it does not truly deliver souls from the judgment of God against sin. It means nothing to fill out your card with the 600 names of people you got to pray a prayer last month if none of them start coming to church, stop getting drunk at the bars every weekend, stop fornicating with their boyfriend or girlfriend, etc. etc. Indeed, it is often worse than meaning nothing. Leading a person in a rote prayer after telling them God loves them, but never addressing their sin or need for repentance, is giving a false assurance to that person. Telling them they’re saved because they prayed a prayer, even though no fruit ever becomes evident in their life and they evince no desire for the things of God, only served in reality to harden that soul even more. For the next time a soul-winner knocks on their door, they’ll just say, “Oh, hey, I already did that, I’m set”, as they dangle the beer bottle from their fingers and hide their live-in girlfriend behind the door. I’ve seen it happen on visitation, so it does happen.

Hence, easy-believism, while portraying itself as a zeal for souls, is a soul-killer. It is a false gospel that leaves out a very, very necessary part of the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ – repentance. That makes it another gospel from the one given us in the Bible, and is thus accursed,

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

Let us be careful that in our presentation of the Gospel witness, we are diligent to present the FULL Gospel of Jesus Christ, repentance included!

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | 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: Meditate in thy Precepts | 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: Meditate in thy Precepts | 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: Meditate in thy Precepts | 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: Meditate in thy Precepts | 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: Meditate in thy Precepts | 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: Meditate in thy Precepts | 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.

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