Monday, August 15, 2016

Separated to Preach the Gospel


Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Separated to Preach the Gospel

There is nothing more foreign to New Testament Christianity than a “born again” believer who is not burdened for the souls of lost people.  Reaching the lost is the main purpose of God in our salvation and discipleship. 

In other words, the purpose of God in creating local churches is to create a Spirit-filled army of soldiers who are theologically trained and spiritually armed to bring the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  Every Christian’s life should be preoccupied with this goal.  This is what defines biblical discipleship. 

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).

The word “separated” in Romans 1:1 is from the Greek word aphorizo (af-or-id’-zo).  The basic meaning is to set apart by a boundary.  The intent is that every Christian’s purpose in life is set apart from all worldly ambitions and pursuits after worldly pleasures by a God ordained motivation to reach the lost of this world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This mission should be among our first thoughts as we arise from bed in the morning and among our last thoughts and prayers before we retire at night.  This missional vision will not happen by accident.  We will need to do everything in our power to keep it at the forefront of our lives.  We will soon discover that the forces of evil in the world, along with our own fallen and corrupt nature, will soon relegate this priority to the bottom of life’s demands upon our time. 
         
There is a great deal of difference between ambition and mission.  Ambition wants what it wants for our own purposes.  Mission wants what it wants for God’s purposes.  Mission is the major priority of the Christian life because mission is a direct command of the commission of Jesus Christ given to ALL believers. 

“16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth {refers to Jesus as the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; I Timothy 6:17}. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations {enroll people of all nations and ethnicities to become scholars of the Bible and followers of the teachings of Jesus}, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen {so be it or so let it be}” (Matthew 28:16-20).
         
Every Christian’s ministry is to enroll people in their own discipleship training once someone is “born again.”  In other words, leading people to repent of sin and “dead works” and understand and believe/trust/rest in the finished work of redemption through the shed Blood of Christ are just the first two decisions in a faith decision to be “born again.”  Then the believer must confess Jesus to be Jehovah incarnate with Sovereign authority over the believer’s life.  The believer must then call upon the Name of Jesus requesting the gift of justification and receive the impartation of the indwelling Spirit of God.  These five verbs constitute what the Bible defines as a faith decision to be “born again” into the New Genesis.  Nothing else needs to be done to be saved. 

However, a believer’s decisions for Christ do not end with these five verbs.  Water baptism is another decision having to do primarily with a believer’s enrollment in a local church with a commitment to be a student of the teachings of Jesus so as to learn to live those teachings.  Water baptism that is disconnected to local church membership and enrollment in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is not baptism at all.  If there is no commitment to “walk in the newness of life,” water baptism has no purpose.  This disconnection in teaching water baptism is a great corruption of the Great Commission, thereby corrupting the doctrine and purpose of the assembling of the local church.  A local church is primarily an academic institution training disciples to win souls and make disciples.
         
Recently, I received a call from a lady who had found one of my tracks on Saving Faith in a medical clinic waiting room.  She proceeded to tell me the tract was all wrong.  She said, “God is a God of love and when lost people die they just cease to exist.”  She said, “There is no such thing as an eternal place of torment.”  I listened to her ramble on without a breath for about five minutes.  Then I simply asked her, “Are you born again?”  Then there was a moment of silence.  Without really answering my question, she just started where she left off repeating the same things over again.  Then I asked her, “Mam, are you a Jehovah Witness?”  She said she was.  I told her if she wanted to have a Bible study with me, I would gladly show her the many Scriptures that teach on an eternal Hell and how she could be “born again.”  Ignoring my offer and everything I said, she began again with her diatribe against the Bible tract.  She had been deceived by the lies of the father of lies and was simply repeating the lies she had believed.  This is a truth common to almost every person that we will encounter in evangelism. 
         
Paul was not only a man “called” of God, He was man separated from the world for a specific task.  He was called to tell the whole world the good news of God’s wondrous gift of salvation and how “whosoever will” can be saved.  This is the calling and mission of every person professing Jesus as Savior and Lord.  There are only two categories of true Christians in the world. 

1. Those who are doing what they have been separated to do
2. Those who are not doing what they have been separated to do

Paul was “separated unto the gospel of God” before he was ever born.  This is known as the doctrine of predestination.  Paul even tells us the exact details in Galatians 1:15 of when God separated him “unto the gospel.”
         
Paul traveled extensively during his second and third missionary journeys planting churches in Galatia.  Galatia was a Roman province in the middle of what is today modern Turkey.  There were four main churches in Galatia - Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra.  Disciples of Christ were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26).  The province of Galatia was populated by Gauls.  The Gauls were ignorant barbarians with little to no knowledge of the one true God.  When they were “born again,” they began to be influenced by some early corruptions of Christianity.  Judaizers had entered into the churches of Galatia and began teaching a mixture of Law keeping with salvation in justification by grace through faith. 

The second corruption was that Christian maturity (perfection) came through the sacrifices and moral laws of the Mosaic Covenant.  Paul condemns both of these false doctrines as corruptions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This was all going on within the first thirty years after the beginning of Christianity and probably about twenty years after these local churches in Galatia had been founded. 

What we must learn from Paul’s Epistle to the local churches of Galatia is that we must all be dedicated to maintaining the purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This includes both the message of the Gospel in what Christ has accomplished on behalf of sinners to be justified before God AND what defines a biblical faith response to the objective facts of that message. 

“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 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. 9 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. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men {pleasing or placating men to avoid division in the churches}? for if I yet pleased men {just to be agreeable, but compromise the Gospel}, I should not be the servant of Christ. 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man {finds no source of origin in human philosophies}. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my conversation {the way I lived} in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews’ religion {was famous, privileged, and wealthy} above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (Galatians 1:6-17).

Before we were ever born, God foreknew those who would trust in Christ and incorporated them into His plan to bring the message of redemption to a lost world.  Even before we were saved, God began working in our lives to prepare us for the ministry that He would call us to do.  Many people think that it is only men like Paul, John the Baptist, Jacob, Samson, Moses, Samuel, and Jeremiah that are unique in this way.  Actually this is a common truth for all believers.  Every believer is separated from the womb unto the “gospel of God.”

“29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren {the ‘church of the firstborn’- Hebrews 12:23}. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called {‘them’ here refers corporately to the priesthood of all believers known as ‘the church’}: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

          What Christ said about the Apostle Paul is true of every believer born again of the Spirit of God.  All who have accepted God’s free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ also have a vocational calling to take that good news to everyone with which they come in contact according to the threefold plan of evangelism defined in the Great Commission. 

“13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:13-16).

The “gospel of God” is broad in the scope of its intended audience.  The word translated “gospel” is from the Greek word euaggelion (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on).  It refers to the good news for humanity regarding the kingdom of God soon to be established on earth.  The good news revolves around the finished work of Jesus the Messiah and how His life, death, and resurrection opens the door to the New Genesis “in Christ” for “whosoever will.” 
         
However, the “gospel of God” does not end with the good news regarding deliverance from condemnation.  The Gospel message continues the good news for those who accept God’s free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus by teaching that the resurrected Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God in heaven.  From here, He will return in glory and majesty with His redeemed to establish the kingdom of God on earth.  

Therefore, the Gospel of God to which we must be committed to proclaim is much more than a fire escape message of salvation.  The “gospel of God” is a proclamation of victory and restoration of the lost dominion of humanity over this world given to humanity by God and stolen by the deception of Satan (Genesis 1:26-28; Revelation 5:1-13).  The “gospel of God” is a proclamation of a complete salvation and an already accomplished victory over sin and Satan.  The battle is already won.

“9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete {perfect tense and passive voice} in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” (Colossians 2:9-10).

“55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:55-58).

The “gospel of God” is doctrinally definitive.

The “gospel of God” to which Paul refers is the whole book of Romans detailing every aspect of Christ’s work on mankind’s behalf.  The “gospel of God” details the doctrine of condemnation, the propitiation of God, the availability of justification by grace through faith, positional and practical sanctification, consecration, and the believer’s ultimate and final glorification with Christ.  It is this complete body of doctrine that Paul calls “the gospel.”  It is this complete body of doctrine that we are commanded to go into all the world proclaiming (Matthew 28:19-20).  Therefore, to preach/teach the “gospel of God” moves far beyond winning a soul to Christ in salvation into discipleship in “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). 
         
There is such a superficial understanding of the “gospel of God” that the good news is reduced to little more than a few facts regarding Jesus Christ.  This reduction of the good news is often so shallow it is dubious that anyone could even make an intelligent faith decision.  For instance, the statement of Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-4 is merely an abbreviation of this whole body of doctrine.  The work of salvation is just an introduction to the “gospel of God.”  We must remember that the first four verses of I Corinthians chapter fifteen are merely and introduction to the balance of doctrine regarding the resurrection and glorification of all believers.  The first part of the “gospel” involves what Christ accomplished in His death burial, and resurrection.  However, these truths are just the foundation for the “good news,” not is entirety. 

“1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:1-4).

Additional aspects of the “gospel” are detailed in the balance of I Corinthians chapter fifteen.  The whole of the “gospel of God” is the most thoroughly presented in the whole epistle to the Romans.
         
Paul clearly states in Galatians 1:6-9, that any person adding to, or subtracting from, the “gospel of God” regarding salvation retains the curse of condemnation upon himself.  However, when a person strays from any doctrine presented in the epistle to the Romans, he preaches “another gospel which is not another.”  The Gospel provides details about salvation that are much more than mere deliverance from condemnation.  The Gospel gives details about the New Genesis and the eternal life that is ours presently and in the hereafter.  The epistle to the Galatians is divided into two sections dealing with two aspects of the Gospel.  The salvation of the soul is dealt with in chapters one and two.  The salvation of one’s life from ruin and waste in chapter three. 

“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 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. 9 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 1:6-9).

“1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” (Galatians 3:1-5)?

Central to the Gospel message is what Christ has done to save our souls from Hell and to give us a new life.  Any admixture of religious ceremony, Ritualism, or works of self-righteousness (Moralism) for salvation perverts (Galatians 1:7) the Gospel of grace.

“15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16).

“10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:10-11).

“1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from {out away from} grace” (Galatians 5:1-4).

How much “works” is too much?  To what degree can a person trust in religious ritual, ceremony or self-righteousness before the “gospel of God” is perverted and he remains under the curse of condemnation?

“5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. 7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:5-9).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Called of God


Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Called of God

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God . . . (Romans 1:1).

Paul was a man “called” of God for a specific task.  He reminds all Christians that they are called to minister the truth and evangelize the lost.  “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” (Ephesians 4:1).
         
This concept of calling to service or ministry is a universal truth taught throughout Scripture.  Abram was called of God.  “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy Father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1).  Moses was called of God.  “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).  To be called means simply to be given specific directions by God for a particular ministry.  Therefore, all believers have a vocational calling in the Great Commission as believer-priests before God.
         
Paul was specifically called of God and given specific instructions from God to do the work of the ministry.  “But rise, and stand upon thy feet:  for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16).  Every Christian has a calling or “vocation” in the body of Christ. 
         
As individual Christians within a local church fulfill their vocational calling in the “work of the ministry” a synergy is created.  A synergy is defined as the working together of two or more things, people, or organizations, especially when the result is greater than the sum of their individual effects or capabilities.  However, the central factor defining a biblical synergy is when individual Christians are divinely empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  When all the members of a local church habitually live in this state of empowerment, a spiritual synergism is created and true spiritual revival takes place. 
         
Synergism is absolutely worthless if it is not the direct outcome of fellowship with God.  In other words, a local church can experience an outward show of unity with everyone getting along, and not experience a truly spiritual synergism where all the members of the local body are living Spirit-filled lives.  Therefore, “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) is not the same as everyone in a local church just getting along with one another and tolerating each other. 

“Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) is supernaturally produced through the filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).  Such unity includes unity in doctrine (right doctrine), unity in a missional vision (purpose), and unity in biblical methodology (practice).  Therefore, a biblical calling is a calling is intended to create a spiritual synergism with other believers within the context of a local church of like-minded believers (the Body Principle). 
         
No one is being called by God today as was Paul or Moses, where God spoke directly to the person called.  When God called me to preach, I did not hear a voice in my head telling what to do or where to do it.  God burdened me to reach souls and teach/explain the Word of God to them.  In order to do that well, God burdened me to in-depth study of His Word.  Reaching souls and leading Bible studies became the preoccupation of most of my free time.  It became very obvious to me very early in my ministry that new believers did not survive long if they did not learn the Word of God and did not align themselves with a faithful accountability group that the Bible calls a local church. 
         
We often hear Christians make statements such as God told me to do this or to do that.  God communicates to us through His Word and through the leading of the Spirit today.  The leading of the Spirit is usually through opened doors of ministry opportunity.  However, every opened door of ministry opportunity will also be accompanied by a person meeting the qualifications for that ministry opportunity.  If God leads a person into a ministry of which a person is not prepared to do, God is actually leading that person to first to get prepared.  Novices do not belong in leadership positions in and through a local church until they have been tested and proven both capable and faithful (I Timothy 3:1-13).  Faithful in most case simply means knowledgeable, teachable, consistent, and dependable.  These things defined themselves as Christian character with convictions.

We have two major Scripture texts teaching the synergism of the “body of Christ” (local church).  When we learn the Body Principle of Scripture, we learn that every believer was formally united to a local body of believers through the ordinance of water baptism.  It would have been foreign to early New Testament Christians not to be united together with a formal assembly of believers through which they were being perfected for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). 

The purpose of all ministry was to grow the body.  The word “edifying” in Ephesians 4:12 is from the Greek word oikodome (oy-kod-om-ay’), which means to build a home or family.  The building blocks of this spiritual structure are born again Christians, who are “living stones” have been shaped by discipleship.  I Peter 2:5 speaks of this with the words “are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”  Therefore, this “holy priesthood” calling is common to all believers and is the ministry of all believers.  Every believer is called to be involved in building the “spiritual house” of his local assembly. 

“12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body {dealing with positions that seem less important and are given little acknowledgement}, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts {the parts of the body that are concealed rather than exposed} more abundant comeliness {these parts are extremely important to the body’s functions}. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:12-31).

The “more excellent way” of which Paul speaks is elaborated upon in great detail in I Corinthians chapter thirteen in the principle of biblical love defined by extreme self-sacrifice to the benefit of others.  The general purpose of the argument of I Corinthians chapter twelve in the Body Principle is that most people want to be in charge.  They do not consider the enormous responsibilities of being a leader of people who often do not want to do what God commands.  These wannabes are simply enamored with being looked up to by others.  This reveals a great ignorance about leadership.  Leaders are often mistrusted, criticized, abused, slandered, and maligned for no other reason than someone does not want to be a follower.  The point of I Corinthians chapter twelve is do not covet leadership.  Covet love!

“1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being m any, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).

Paul pleads with believers in Ephesians 4:1 to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”

“1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-4).

When we read what Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-3 in conjunction with what he says in Romans 12:1-8, we know that all believers have a vocational calling according to the gifts of ministry that God has given them.  It is their responsibility to perfect those gifts as they begin to minister.  Every believer is a priest before God and each person as a priest before God is expected to evangelize and make disciples. 
         
Some vocational callings, like Abram, Moses, and Paul, were special callings for specific purposes.  Other specific callings, like those of a Pastor\teacher or Evangelist (Ephesians 4:11), are defined by a specific function and qualifications.  These callings do not come because a person wants them or because he has some special personality.  They do not come because they might be a good profession or because someone enjoys working with people.  These people hold their positions for one reason, they have been called of God and they know they have been called.
         
Gideon was such a man.  “And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee” (Judges 6:14).  Isaiah was such a man.  “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
         
Paul was called of God to be an Apostle as defined by Romans 1:1.  In other words, Paul’s calling was defined by the word “servant” with a specific ministry.  He was “separated unto the gospel of God.”  The only higher authority over him in the whole world was God, yet he was called and commissioned to be a servant.  Every person called to leadership in a local church understands this critical definition of ministry– SERVANTHOOD.  Paul considered being an ambassador for Christ the highest honor in this world (II Corinthians 5:17-21).  Being an ambassador for Christ is common to all believer-priests in the New Covenant. 

“17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made {to cause to be; to generate} the righteousness of God in him {in the New Creation}” (II Corinthians 5:17-21).

Paul demanded obedience to the Word of God for all believer-priests.  He commanded (by apostolic authority) that believers follow the leadership of the pastor God that calls to shepherd them.

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Men like Moses and Gideon were remarkable men of God.  They were not remarkable because of their abilities, but because of what God did with them in spite of their weaknesses.  God used them so that God could be magnified through the weaknesses of men.  God wants to magnify Himself through the life of every Christian in this way.  These men were not great in themselves.  They both tried to argue with God because they both had disabilities and weaknesses of which they thought God must have overlooked when He chose them.  These are the kinds of people God delights in using. 

Most people have aspirations of being great in the eyes of men.  True Christians are people who understand their overwhelming spiritual weaknesses and frailties and who simply what to be used by God to help others see the greatness of God and His grace.  Any Christian that can escape the foolishness of his own ambitions for a greatness in the eyes of men can be used of God.  This quality of character is the primary qualification for anyone to be used of God.  This character quality has the attitude, I cannot do what God asks of me.  If a Christian has this character quality, he will never take credit for what God has done through him.

“26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:26-31).

Most Christians are not called to be a Pastor\Teacher or an itinerant Evangelist.  However, every Christian is called to be a servant of God with two primary purposes – to minister and bring forth fruit to God’s glory.

Ministry or Servanthood

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).

Here is where everyone’s Christianity either succeeds or fails.  Individual Christians must accept their calling of God in Jesus Christ and then do it.

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves.  And he said, Be that shewed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10: 36-37).

The whole significance in becoming a servant means giving yourself to meet another person’s needs without expecting anything in return.  Such a desire is a complete sociological abstract.  Yet it was how God intended His children to function in His society.  This attitude defines a biblical local church both when it is present and when it is absent.  Great spiritual church leaders are capable in modeling servanthood and in teaching others to have the spirit of servanthood. 

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ {law of love}” (Galatians 6:2).

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

The second primary purpose of every servant of God is to bring forth fruit.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you {vocational calling as believer-priests}, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:  that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give if you” (John 15:16).

“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans. 7:4).

Our individual vocational calling of God as believer-priests should be taken very seriously (whatever our spiritual gifts might be).  To be a believer-priest is to be the voice of God in this world.  Believer-priests represent God to the world.  This is the emphasis in the word “ambassador” in II Corinthians 5:17-21.  All believer-priests are commissioned to speak the Word of God.  In other words, we are to be the voice of righteousness and the voice of appeal in calling the world to repent.  

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure:  for if ye do these things, ye shall never fail” (II Peter 1:10).

II Peter 1:10 is not referring to salvation, but to ministry.  Your “calling” is God’s invitation to minister on His behalf.  Your “election” is God choosing you to do that ministry.  When God commands us “give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” He is telling us to hurry up in our efforts to insure that our ministry has good footings, or solid theological foundations.  The insurance of never failing as God’s ambassador is making sure we speak to others what God has spoken in His Word.  We must sow the right spiritual seed if we are to reap the spiritual fruit that God wants produced. 

“12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out {work on to the finish} your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you {through the indwelling Holy Spirit} both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights {as stars in outer space} in the world {the greater the darkness, the greater the need for light}; 16 Holding forth the word of life {as a lamp; this is what creates the light}; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Philippians 2:12-16).
         
The eternal destinies of millions of souls depend upon our faithfulness to our calling as priestly ambassadors of Jesus Christ.  Messengers are useless if they never proclaim the Message that they are sent to give.  People cannot respond to a message that is never delivered.  Even God cannot bless something you never do.  The central reason so few are coming to Christ to be saved is because very few invitations are being given.  We cannot wait for the lost to come to us.  The whole purpose in sending ambassadors is for us to GO to the lost with God’s invitation of redemption. 

“13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:13-15)!

All believers serve as priests before God and have a priestly ministry under the direction of our High Priest Jesus Christ.  Our calling (like Paul’s) separates us from living for the things of this world and separates unto preaching the good news of God’s salvation in Christ. 

Perhaps one of the greatest perversions of Christianity was the early development of the division of the church into clergy and laity.  The word laity simply refers to all people who are not priests or ministers.  The very use of the term laity is misleading.  No one who understands the priesthood of the believer should ever use the term.  This misunderstanding results in an ungodly outcome where only certain special people in local churches are supposed to do the “work of the ministry.”  This is an absolute aberration and corruption of the doctrine of the Church.  God expects every believer-priest to be equipped doctrinally and matured spiritually so as to be able to do the “work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). 

“18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:18-19).

“24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matthew 16:24-26)?

“4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God” (I Peter 2:4-16).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, July 25, 2016

What is your World View?


What is your World View?
Our Protector and Preserver

The greatest ambition of every generation of Christians should be the desire to be known to God as His faithful remnant.  God is the Protector and Preserver of His faithful remnant.  The promise of God to the faithful remnant of Israel, as represented by Habakkuk, is His protection and intervention.  He will not allow true Israel to be destroyed as a nation.  The purpose of these statements is for Habakkuk to confront his fear of the annihilation of Israel, himself included, by reminding himself that God must maintain a surviving remnant.  God is faithful.  His promises are sure.  He is worthy of trust. 

“14 Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly. 15 Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters” (Habakkuk 3:14-15).

In Joshua 10:5, we read of the five Amorite kings that plotted together to annihilate the children of Israel under Joshua’s leadership.  The point of the text is that the Amorite kings plotted in secret to overtake what they saw in Israel as merely a beggarly element of defenseless vagabonds.  They were unable to see the invisible power of God that protected the children of Israel.  They could not see that God stood with them as their Protector and Defender.  Joshua simply asked God to stop the rotation of the Earth to extend daylight so the fleeing Amorite armies could be completely destroyed.  God destroyed most of the Amorites by simply dropping huge hail stones of them.  The point is, how can anyone defend themselves against God (Joshua 10:6-13)?

Habakkuk 3:14-15 reads as if God is speaking in the place of His redeemed.  The emphasis is that those that attack God’s visible redeemed will be met with the power of the Person of the invisible God of the redeem.  Just as the Amorite kings of Joshua chapter ten thought they would simply overrun the children of Israel with little resistance from anyone.  Instead, they ran into the defenses that God had established.  Therefore, the Amorites ran to their own destruction.  This is a reality for all those that oppose God.  They think they are winning while they are running to their own destruction and condemnation. 
         
Israel had many historical accounts that demonstrated the ability and desire of God to protect and preserve His faithful remnant.  If there was to be a Messiah, the house of David must be preserved.  If there was going to be a Kingdom, the nation of Israel would need to be preserved in a remnant and restored as a nation.  The faithful of Israel could live in hope regardless of the circumstances existing “under the Sun.”  God’s covenant promises will always prevail.
         
God is able to turn the enemies’ strengths against them (Habakkuk 3:14).  In Judges chapters six and seven, we read of the account of Gideon.  The story of Gideon is remarkable in that its purpose is to expose the potential that lays within a faith that can trust God apart from human strength or abilities. 

“1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. 3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. 5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. 6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. 7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, 8 That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; 9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; 10 And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice. 11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angeql of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. 13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. 14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? 15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. 16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man {all by yourself}” (Judges 6:1-16).

God wanted to reveal Himself and His ability to protect and preserve Israel through the faith of “one man.”  This is something God wants to do with every believer, including you.  In order to do so, God needed to reduce the number of men fighting with Gideon to insure no one would think that a victory would result from the abilities of men or the strength of numbers.  Once God had reduced the numbers of the army of Gideon to the place where there could be no doubt that it was God Who delivered Israel, then God intervened.  This is a great faith truth!  Learn this truth.  With God at your side, you are always a majority!

“20 And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. 21 And they stood every man in his place {they did not move, but God did} round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. 22 And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath” (Judges 7:20-22).

The Satanic forces of this world are intent upon the annihilation of the Saints, but God’s promises will persevere.  Faith in God’s promises sees the battle already won.  Genuine faith in God’s promises is a vision that sees an invisible and seemingly impossible future.  Faith sees hope in the midst of hopelessness. 

Christians should expect Satanic opposition.  They should expect Satanic opposition even more so just prior to the second coming of Christ.  God says it will happen.  God tells us this is a normal part of true Christian life when we engage the enemy with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Just trying to live godly in this world will bring conviction upon the lost of this world.  They will hate you for the guilt that your desire for righteousness will bring upon their consciences.  Speak out against any sin, or just sin in general, and you will be labeled as self-righteous, judgmental, and legalistic.  Beyond that, you will be ostracized, ridiculed, segregated, and persecuted.  The more a society accepts sin as normal, the more biblical Christianity will be persecuted.  Good will be called evil and evil will be called good.

“12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:12).

To persecute those seeking to be righteous before God is an attack against God Himself.  Remember that the next time someone persecutes you for righteousness’s sake.  Pity them for they have chosen a destiny that is without mercy. 

“18 Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope: 19 That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it! 20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:18-20)!

Psalm chapter two is a prophetic Psalm referring to a time just prior to the second coming of Messiah.  The leaders of the nations of the world during the last years prior to the second coming of Christ are revealed as plotting against the plan and purposes of God in His redemption of the lost.  The truths proclaimed in this Psalm regarding the attitude of the “heathen” to the commands of God are extremely sobering truths. 

“1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:1-12).

Just as in Habakkuk 3:14, the forces of evil appear as unstoppable as a whirlwind.  “Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.”  When our world view fails to enter the God-factor into the equation of world events, that world view comes up considerably short.
         
The truth of Psalm 2:2-3 should be a major aspect of your world view.  “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” This is the attitude of both political and religious liberalism towards the absolutes of God and toward God’s people.  Expect this, but don’t become preoccupied with it.  You will not change this kind of attitude through debate or political activism.  The only way to change it is through evangelism.

When God’s people become preoccupied with the forces of evil, they tend to forget God (Psalm 2:1-3).  When Christians become preoccupied with things happening in this world, they become unoccupied with doing the Lord’s work (rescuing souls).  This world does not want the restraints of moral absolutes (Psalm 2:3).  The society described in Psalm 2:1-3 will progressively reap the corruption they have sown in their rejection of the absolutes of God.  God laughs at their proclaimed victories (Psalm 2:4).
         
The God-haters think they are being victorious over God and the archaic commands of an outdated book (referring to the Bible).  When a society bans the Word of God as a determinant factor in the establishment of values and law, that society is sealing its own tomb. They are not being victorious in any way.  The next time you hear someone proclaim a political victory for liberalism, understand they have advanced their agenda, but also understand they are one step closer to Psalm 2:5 and you are one step closer to going home to be with the Lord.

A Biblical world view cannot exist without maintaining the perspective of Psalm 2:6-9.  God has already established the King of the Kingdom (vs. 6).  The liberal’s destiny is already sealed (vs. 8a).  The Christian will inherit the earth (vs. 8b).  If we want to remain effective for the Lord, remain focused on the Lord’s business and let Him take care of the world’s politics.

“7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. 9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD {to fulfill His covenant promises}, they shall inherit the earth. 10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. 12 The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. 13 The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. 14 The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. 15 Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. 16 A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous. 18 The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. 19 They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. 20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away” (Psalm 37:7-20).

In establishing a world view, the question of faith is a simple one:  Can God be trusted with the circumstances of the world?  The answer is also one of faith and it is yes or no answer. 

The second question in establishing a world view is this:  Is the Christian’s mission in the world the preservation of a society or is this world’s destiny already sealed?  If the destiny of this world is sealed, then the Christian’s mission and world view must transcend this world.  That is the message of Habakkuk 3:14-15.
         
God is above and beyond (transcendent) everything of this world.  When you became one of His anointed, your existence also became transcendent.  A Biblical world view never allows that truth to be forgotten.  It remains at the forefront of every trial or tribulation.

“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops” (Habakkuk 3:16).

When prophetic knowledge gives us information of pending doom, it creates similar responses in everyone.  Habakkuk knew the Chaldeans would be an instrument of God’s judgement on the unfaithful nation of Israel of which Habakkuk was part.  The coming of Babylonian conquest was only a matter of time.  Habakkuk also knew of the barbaric horrors of Assyrian warriors.  When they would finally come to conquer Israel, death for the Jews would be the easy way out.  The real horrors of captivity would just begin for those taken captive.
         
It is within similar inner workings of Habakkuk’s heart where we also find ourselves in Habakkuk 3:16. It is this inner struggle between fear and faith that we see here that reveals our own personal struggles with the times in which we live.  Most of us have been at this same dilemma of faith as Habakkuk at some point in time to one degree or another.  It is in this arena that the struggle of life takes place.  Man’s self-concept (faith in his own abilities) wrestles with his God-concept (God’s abilities).  When his knowledge of God is weak, his faith is weak and fear wins.  When his knowledge of God is what it should be, his faith overcomes fear. 

The first part of Habakkuk 3:16 centers on the self-concept.  Notice the number of times “I” and “my” are used.  “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself.”  It is almost as if an announcer is saying: “In this corner we have fear.  He is an 89-pound weakling who has never won anything.  We will be fortunate to get him to come out of the corner when the bell rings.”  Fear will always bring focus upon the self-concept and the weak frailty of humanity when forced to face the inevitable judgment of a righteous God.

When weak faith faces an inevitable and insurmountable problem, it naturally seeks a solution from within itself.  Weak faith begins to raise the common questions of the I concept.

1. “What can I do about this?” 
2. “What can I do to prevent this from happening to me?”
3. “How can I lessen the effect of this upon myself and my loved ones?”

Fear will increase exponentially according to the degree of the hopelessness of the human ability to resolve the situation.  When the I can find any solution within himself, that solution is tried before turning in faith to God.  When the I can find no solution, he is overcome with fear and hopelessness.
         
Habakkuk’s answer to all the questions was correct.  There was nothing he could do personally to change the inevitable.  God’s judgment was inevitable.  The only answer to his predicament was to trust God’s covenant promises.  Wouldn’t it be best if that was always our first answer to every predicament of life?

God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises is a surety of which faith can grab hold and hang onto through the storm.  When the God-factor is not entered into every equation of every predicament of life, the more that predicament will seem hopeless.  The end product of that hopelessness is fear - quaking, trembling, cold sweat fear.
         
Although the prophet Daniel was a man of great faith, even he experienced the same kind of fear that Habakkuk experienced because he eventually understood the prophecy God had given him.  Prophets did not automatically understand every prophecy given them.  Daniel had been given a series of visions of the future.  He was confused by them in that he could not reconcile them altogether in order to achieve some kind mental coherence of meaning.  Some of the visions applied to his immediate future, while others were far in the future at the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom ruled by Christ.  Daniel 8:16 tells us that God sent the angel Gabriel, who had been given a human form, to explain the visions to Daniel and to give mental coherence to the timeline of these many visions. 
         
The point in all of this is that even though Daniel would be given understanding of the future events of history, Daniel had to live within the human predicament of his own history.  So must we!  However, we need not be consumed with fear of the present.  Daniel did not understand that he would be promoted to become one of the most trustworthy servants of Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel’s prophetic ministry of explanation, along with the miraculous testimony of the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the midst of a serious fiery trial, would be instrumental in bringing Nebuchadnezzar to believe in the One True God of Israel (Daniel 3:28). 

“15 And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. 17 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. 18 Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright. 19 And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be. 20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. 23 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance {the Antichrist of the last days}, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. 24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. 25 And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. 26 And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. 27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it” (Daniel 8:15-27).

As Daniel understood the full scope of God’s pending wrath upon the world and the judgment that would cause the death of billions of lives, he was physically sickened by it.  The point is that there will be genuine discomfort in understanding future events revealed to us by God.  Although we need not fear those future events for ourselves, if we genuinely understand the eternal consequences of God’s end time judgments, we will fear for the lives of those we love.  Many of those people will be direct offspring of our own descendants – perhaps our own children grandchildren, and great grandchildren. 
         
Daniel had another similar vision about twenty years later recorded in Daniel 10:1-19.  Daniel was involved in a three week long fast where he was mourning the spiritual obstructions to the reestablishing of the Temple in Israel and the oppositions to the reestablishment of the righteousness of God.  These obstructions were often by his own people and their coming to repentance before God. 

“1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision. 2 In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. 3 I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. 4 And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; 5 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: 6 His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. 7 And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. 8 Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. 9 Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground. 10 And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. 11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. 12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days. 15 And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb. 16 And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. 17 For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. 18 Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, 19 And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me” (Daniel 10:1-19).
         
Bible knowledge that does not move us emotionally and physically to act is nothing more that intellectual knowledge to us.  Real faith demands action upon that knowledge.  Fear is the normal and healthy response to the helplessness of the self-concept solution to the world’s problems.  Every generation is hopelessly helpless to do anything about the prophecies of pending judgment.  However, we can act by rescuing as many as possible.  Both Habakkuk’s and Daniel’s fear came from both a proper concept of self and a proper concept of God.  Both men honestly reverenced the Lord.  That reverence prompted them to be faithful. 

Modern Christianity has brought with it a familiarity with God, but often at the sacrifice of the reverence of God.  The person truly familiar with God knows Him well enough to fear Him.  Reverential fear of God comes from the proper understanding of God’s ability and character in two areas of involvement with His creation.

1. God is Almighty.  He has unlimited power and is able to take away individual autonomy whether it be of people or nations.  No one or nothing exists outside of God’s ability to intervene.
2. God’s judgment on evil is impendent.  God’s power to punish, judge, discipline or take life is always impendent.

A good example of faith that seems blind to God’s presence and sure judgment of God is Ananias and Sapphira of Acts 5:1-11.  Apparently Ananias and Sapphira did not believe these two things about God.  The very fact that they thought they could get by with a lie until God revealed the artificial nature of their faith.  Ananias’ and Sapphira’s pursuit of a high opinion of themselves before men revealed God’s low opinion of their hypocrisy before Him.  The faithful Christian should be greatly motivated to holiness if he knows and understands the power of God and the impendency of judgment.  It is not a matter of if.  It is a matter of when.
         
Habakkuk’s problem was more complex than the problem of individual sin.  In fact, Habakkuk was not even guilty of the sins that had brought God’s judgment upon national Israel.  Habakkuk was confronted with the problem of the apostasy of a nation of which he was a part.  His nation had forgotten God.  They had forgotten He was almighty and they had forgotten the impendency of judgment. 

The world-view of modern day Christians needs to be considered from the same perspective Habakkuk gives us in Habakkuk 3:16. Habakkuk had but one thing that could soothe his trembling belly.  His faith was able to transcend his predicament.  He trusted in God’s promises and God’s faithfulness and he was determined to “rest in the day of trouble.”  His faith overcame his fear.

“24 Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: 25 And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: 26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. 27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. 28 And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed. 29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired {pagan places of licentious worship}, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. 30 For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. 31 And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them” (Isaiah 40:24-31).

To overcome fear with faith, the believer must learn to center his attention on God’s promises and His power to fulfill them (Almighty), not upon our human weaknesses.  He must learn to wait on the Lord.  It is good and correct to know we can’t, but is better and superior knowledge to know God can.
         
“When He cometh . . . He will invade” (Habakkuk 3:16). 

God is Almighty and His judgment is impendent.  What He says He will do, He will do.  Is He your God?  The only way to overcome fear with faith is to know Him personally.  Hear Him speak to your heart by reading His Word.  Speak to Him often in prayer.  Walk with Him in a ministry partnership in spiritual warfare and trust Him for victories.  Tell Him your concern for souls, for in doing so you will join your heart with His heart.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to saved their souls.

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Living Grace


Living Grace

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God was a mystery to the prophets.  In John chapter fourteen Jesus said, “15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” 

There would be a radical change in the operations of the Holy Spirit of God after His indwelling of the believer after the Day of Pentecost.  Because of this radical change in the operations of the Holy Spirit of God, God has much higher expectations of His “born again children than He did in the Old Covenant (the Law).  These two different operations of the Holy Spirit of God in these two different dispensations and two different covenants are to which God refers in Scripture as being “under the Law” and “under grace” (Romans 6:14 and 15). 

“12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:12-16)?

The word “under,” as used in Romans 6:14 and 15, communicates the idea of subservience or submission to authority.  Subservience to the Law could not, and did not, empower the believer to obey.  Subservience to grace is subservience to the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Subservience to the indwelling Holy Spirit is communicated by the word “yield.”  Subservience to the indwelling Holy Spirit provides supernatural empowering to the believer as the Spirit works in synergism with the believer’s Spirit to produce God-kind righteousness through the believer’s life (II Corinthians 5:17-21). 

These two phrases, “under the Law” and “under grace,” give us the context of the “wherefore” of I Peter 1:13.  God has higher expectations of the believer for holiness and strict obedience to His commands “under grace” than “under the Law” (see the “ye have heard” statements in Matthew 5:21-48).  “Under grace” in the New Covenant, the believer has the inward supernatural empowering to overcome the desires of his fallen nature.  The believer “under grace” can receive this supernatural enabling by simply fully surrendering his will to the indwelling Spirit of God Who will then work in synergism with the believer’s spirit to overcome the desires of the “flesh.”  This synergism with the believer’s spirit is referred to elsewhere in Scripture as the filling of the Spirit, which is also referred to as fellowship with God. 

“13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Peter 1:13-23).

Understanding the doctrine of grace enabling comes with great moral responsibilities.  We should not see the indwelling Holy Spirit as a spiritual resource that gets us the things we want.  We should see the indwelling Holy Spirit as a spiritual resource for Him to empower us, and enable us, to accomplish the things He wants.  The difference is between the Holy Spirit becoming Someone we use to seeing ourselves as someone the Holy Spirit can use in any way He sees fit.  On some occasions, this later scenario can put the believer into some very uncomfortable situations of life as it did the Apostle Paul.  The fear of these potential situations is the most common reason most Christians refuse to fully surrender to Christ.  The fear of these potential situations is also the reason few Christians are ever really used of God. 

“22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (II Corinthians 11:22-27).
         
The phrase “gird up the loins of your mind” in I Peter 1:13 can be difficult for those outside of the culture of the Mideast to understand.  The point of the phrase is to have the mind ready for opportunities for ministry.  The intent of the phrase is to be prepared.  In the Mideast, men wear long robes with a belt or sash tied at the waist.  This belt or sash was often called a girdle in that it held the garment in place.  When a man needed to work, he would use the sash to essentially tie up his robe into a pair of pants that looked like a baggy diaper hanging down to the knees.  Doing so would allow him to work freely without being hampered by his clothing. 
         
The phrase “gird up the loins of your mind” in I Peter 1:13 is not about insuring that our clothing does not interfere with our manual labor.  The phrase “gird up the loins of your mind” in I Peter 1:13 is about our thinking not interfering with our spiritual labors.  The mind gives the body permission to do the things it does.  A person’s thinking must be changed and under God’s control if he wants to be spiritually successful and used of God. 
         
For instance, modern day GENDER CONFUSION can be directly connected to a cocaine addict who thought it was normal to want to have sex with his mother. He believed all sexual fantasy was normal and the unwillingness to seek to fulfill those fantasies was the mechanism of religious repression creating a neurosis of guilt, which guilt psychoanalysis should seek to remove.  Biblically, we understand that guilt is produced by a properly prepared conscience in conjunction with a properly prepared heart through the knowledge of God’s will.  Take away belief and knowledge of God’s Word and the conscience can no longer work the way it is designed and created to work.  The person with a Bible understanding of the will of God will “gird up the loins” of his “mind” with Bible convictions that allow the conscience to guide and direct in a supernatural enabling way.  Therefore, Peter is really just saying, be filled with the Spirit as does Paul in Ephesians 5:18 and as John says in I John chapter one about living in “fellowship” with God. 
         
The words “be sober” in I Peter 1:13 can be misleading in that many see the words as merely directed towards abstaining from alcoholic beverages.  The emphasis is upon the clarity of mind that is able to be on watch, or guard, against the “wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). 

The girded mind is always a sober mind. 

The vices and lusts of this life should never be allowed to interfere with the Spirit-filled believer’s ministry to serve the Lord.  The admonition is to be constantly prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus and the Judgment Seat of Christ that will follow shortly thereafter.  The point is that there is culpability for the resource given to the believer in the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ and His supernatural enabling of the Spirit-filled believer.  Culpability means accountability.  Simple stated, we will give account for what we have done with this supernaturally enabled life given us in “the regeneration.”  Jesus gave an extreme example of this to His disciples in Luke chapter twelve. 

“33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth {what you give to the Lord’s service, you keep for eternity}. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also {make souls your treasure}. 35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching {in expectation}: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Luke 12:33-40).

I Peter 1:13-16 is one continuous statement that involves some very serious expectations of us by Jesus Christ.  We should look at these expectations carefully and examine our lives regarding how we are doing with these Bible commands. 

“13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:13-16).

The “hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13) refers to the resurrection/translation/glorification of all Church Age believers at the rapture of the Church.  This is to what is commonly referred as “the blessed hope.”  Notice the similarities of what Paul says in Titus 2:11-14 to what Peter says in I Peter 1:13-16.

“11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

Therefore, the consummation of the grace of God in the salvation of all believers is their glorification to perfect holiness and an incorruptible new glorified body.  The “revelation of Jesus Christ” is when believers will “see Him as He is.”  Notice that the Apostle John defines the same culpable responsibilities for believers as do Peter and Paul.

“1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:1-3).

What we see in all of these texts is God’s expectations of what defines Biblical Christianity.  Although Biblical Christianity begins with the five Bible verbs (repent, believe, confess, call, and receive) that bring a soul to being “born again,” this is merely the beginning of a believer’s new life “in Christ.’  In other words, salvation from the penalty of sin does not automatically deliver the believer from power of his own sinful nature.  Deliverance from the penalty of sin is justification.  Deliverance from the power of sin is sanctification.  Justification is a gift of God offered by Grace and received through faith.  Sanctification is also a gift of God offered by grace to the “born again” believer through yielding (full surrender) to the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  Justification saves the soul from eternal damnation in Hell.  Sanctification saves the saved believer’s life from ruin and waste.  These are radically different aspects of salvation.  Justification is once for all based upon the once for all propitiation of God (satisfaction of His wrath upon sin in the Substitute). 

Sanctification is accomplished through the moment by moment partnership with the Holy Spirit as the believer fully yields his will to the will of God.  Justification makes it possible for a believer to live the Christ-life, or be a Christian.  It is the moment by moment sanctification of the believer’s life that actually defines him as a Christian.  Sanctification is the supernatural empowering of the believer to live separate from sin, apostasy, worldliness and to live separated to serving the Lord. 

The reality of a genuine conversion in the heart is the after effects of conversion in the operations of the indwelling Holy Spirit defined by 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.”  This progressive transfiguration of a newly “born again” believer should be evident.  We call this after effect spiritual growth.  Spiritual growth is the progressive abandonment of the things of this world (worldliness) to progressively become more like Christ (godliness; Mark 8:27-38).

“27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? 28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. 29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. 30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. 31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. 34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life {for his selfish use} shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it {this refers to escaping a life wasted on worldliness}. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation {such an attitude is a contradiction against a profession and confession of Jesus as Lord}; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed {this is not talking about salvation, but Jesus’ shame for failure to live for Him, which is a disgrace to genuine faith}, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels {second coming in both the pretribulation rapture of Church Age believers and His post-tribulation second coming to reign during the Kingdom Age}” (Mark 8:27-38).

What are the identificational distinctives that define true, Biblical Christians given to us in these many texts?  We would be wise to carefully look at them.  Then, we would be equally wise to carefully look for them in our personal lives.  As we do so, it is critically important to understand that the Scriptures are redundant with statements regarding these distinctives.  In other words, what we see in these few portions of Scripture are general and not exhaustive.  Paul refers to these same principles as putting off the “old man” and the “flesh” while putting on Christ in Ephesians 4:20-32 and Colossians 3:8-17.  Nonetheless, they are distinctive expectations for which we are culpable.  Putting off the sins of the flesh, without putting on the power of Christ in us to transform our lives, is what most professing Christians define as Christianity.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  This is the main reason modern Christianity is so weak and powerless. 
Seven Characteristics of Genuine Christianity

1. Obedience to the will of God as revealed by the Word of God (I Peter 1:14)
2. “Not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts” (I Peter 1:14), which is shaping our thinking, emotions, and living in a way that reflects the character of Christ rather than the character of the world
3. Being as holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:15-16), which means being distinctively unworldly and completely godly
4. We are to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12); the intent being we are not to allow “ungodliness and worldly lusts” access to our heart, mind, and walk.
5. We are expected to “live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12).
6. We should live every moment of our lives in the imminent (any moment) expectation of the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13-14), at which time we will stand before Him and give account of how we used our lives.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10).
7. We must purify ourselves of all types of worldliness; “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3).

“As Obedient Children”

“14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:14-16).

There are so many simple truths for living the Christ-life in Scripture that they are often missed due to a cursory reading of the text.  I Peter 1:14 is such a text in the use of the phrase “as obedient children.”  There are two main types of obedience.  There is fear obedience and there is love obedience.  Fear obedience obeys because of fear of punishment or chastisement for disobedient.  Fear obedience really wants to disobey, but does not because of fear of the loss of privileges or rewards.  Fear obedience is juvenile/immature obedience.  Most people never spiritually grow beyond fear obedience, because they are never taught love obedience. 

Love obedience is mature obedience.  Love obedience is a transition in spiritual growth to the place where doing what is right becomes the most important character trait of a person.  Love obedience wants to live righteously and holy because this is what God wants.  If we love God, we want what He wants for us.  What is important to God becomes equally important to us.  This is the meaning of the phrase “as obedient children.” 

Secondly, we must understand that what God commands in I Peter 1:14-16 is impossible for us to do without the transforming grace of God available to us through yielding to His indwelling Spirit. 

“4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

God measures our love for Him by our willingness to submit our will to His will.  This submission to God’s will is called obedience.  This submission, and the resulting obedience, is the major defining factor of a broken will.  However, apart from loving God, obedience is merely a fear response to the threat of God’s judgment. 
         
Exodus 20:3 says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  Putting God first is an ATTITUDE that must govern our lives.  Do you think you were successful in putting God first in everything you did this last week?  Before you answer this question, let me define the parameters for you.  Everything you knew you should do, you did every time, and you did it in the enabling power and control of the Holy Spirit.  Everything you knew you shouldn’t do (or think), you did not do, and you obeyed in the enabling power and control of the Holy Spirit.  From that perspective, do you think you were successful in putting God first in everything you did this last week?
         
Our love motivated desire to put God first in our lives is measured by the effort we make to maintain our fellowship with Him.  This effort is how we measure our love for Him.  We do not do it just to express our love for Him, but because we love Him.  Our love for the Lord is what motivates us to maintain unbroken fellowship with Him.  God measures our love for Him by our ACTIONS and ATTITUDE in response to His truth.  The greatest difficulty in teaching our children love motivated obedience is due to the fact it is often not something that is part of the lives of parents.  Love motivation is an attitude resulting in an action of submission of the will to God a becoming obedience from the heart. 

“For this is the love of God, that we keep (action) his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (attitude)” (I John 5:3).
         
On the other hand, rebellion is defined as the unwillingness to submit our will to the authority of another.  This is the major defining factor of an unbroken will.  Therefore, rebellion is an expression of attitude by action.  It begins with an attitude that results in wrong action.  Colossians chapters three and four reveal some of the basic relationships of life.
         
We see there the constant use of the words “submit” and “obey” in regard to these relationships.  Every willful act of disobedience is also an act of rebellion.  Each act of rebellion manifests our lack of love for our Lord at any given moment in time.  Attitude + Action = (reveals) our love for God (A+A=L).
         
Learn the principle of the broken will (submission)!  Loving God is work.  Loving anyone is work.  Loving someone is spiritual warfare.  Loving anyone is a battle with SIN (temptation - satanic outside forces of evil) and SELF (internal - carnal desires to sin).

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:22-24).

The “fruit of the Spirit” comes through loving the Lord (putting Him first).  The “fruit of the Spirit” comes from yielding ourselves, body, soul and spirit into the control of God’s Holy Spirit where we partner with Him in doing what God commands.  Putting God first, and self last, in the priorities of our desires must go hand in hand.  The New Man in Christ (Galatians 5:24) and the Old Man are a contradiction against one another (Galatians 5:17).

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

People who come to me for counseling are frequently asked if they (in their opinion) love the Lord.  Almost always, regardless of improper attitudes or actions, they answer, yes!  The following principle applies:  anytime we continue to habitually have a problem with a particular area of sin in our lives, the PROBLEM is that we love ourselves more than we love God.
        
In any such area of our lives, God is not put first.  God measures our love for Him by our willingness to submit our will to His will.  If we love Him, submit our will to His will is not a great burden for us. 

The Bible concept of love is “Right Action + Right Attitude = Loving God.”  If the action is right but the attitude is wrong, the action of obedience does not qualify as loving God.

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). 

The Shema of the Old Testament was repeated twice daily; every morning and every evening.  The expectation of God in the Shema is the total commitment of all that we are to Him, body (might or physical strength), soul (will and personality) and spirit (desires and attitudes).  Loving God (sacrificially putting Him first) involves this kind of commitment.

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6).

Truth and the desire to obey must be in the heart, not just in the head.  Imprinting absolutes on the psyche refers to convictions of truth that are heart motivated that stimulate our conscience to act upon what we believe to be right and wrong.  This means we accept that there is reality to what we claim to believe.  That reality is evident by our moment by moment attitude about truth.  Our love for God is also evident by our work at integrating God’s truth into our lives and into our relationships with others.  We cannot honestly claim to love others if we fail to work at integrating God’s truths into our lives and into theirs.  We cannot love others and at the same time compromise truth through disobedience or neglect.

“7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9).

These three verses detail the transfer of our love for God into the three other areas of relationships (husband/wife relationship, family relationship, and career or non-intimate relationships).  God’s emphasis regarding loving Him seems to be centrally concerned with our attitude and actions in obeying truth.  God’s emphasis in loving others seems to be centrally concerned with the integration and implementation of truth into their lives. 
         
Deuteronomy 6:7 shows the integration of truth into our children’s lives (Action + Attitude = Loving God).  The emphasis is upon the INCREMENTAL IMPLEMENTATION of truth as it is INTEGRATED into every aspect of living (not just memorization).  Incremental means piece by piece by piece by piece - a little here, a little there.  A fortress of Biblical convictions is built one brick at a time.  Each brick of truth must be carefully laid in place so that when the next truth is built upon it, the underlying structure is solid enough to support the additional stress of that new truth.

“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10).

Building truth and love motivated obedience into the lives of our children is the predominant factor in their education.  Like the weaving of a basket, Biblical truth must be interwoven into the everyday education of our children.  It is not something that can be done as an add-on to their education.  Neither is it something that can be done separately from their education.  It must be integrated within their education.
 
We must learn to use every opportunity in life (successes and failures) to incrementally integrate love motivated obedience to truth into the lives of our children.  The surest way to accomplish this is through the continual application of truth in our own lives and in the lives of our children.  There must be consistency.  The surest way to destroy this is through duplicity in our lives.  Duplicity is the erasure of absolutes imprinted upon the psyche.
         
According to Deuteronomy 6:8, the best way to incrementally integrate truth into the lives of our children is to live truth before them (by example).  Can we honestly, or even intelligently, expect our children to love the Lord any more than we do?  If God’s truth is not important enough for you to work at translating it into the language of living, do not expect your children to make the effort.   The spiritual REALITY that is evident in your life will become evident reality in theirs.
         
Deuteronomy 6:8 is referring to being a living testimony to a reality that God’s truths are important enough to you that you will make every effort to live those truths (not just an exhibition of spiritual piety).  When our lives are a living testimony of God’s truths, it brings glory to God.  When our lives are just an exhibition of personal piety, it only brings glory to us.  Our goal is to have our children’s lives bring glory to God by restoring God’s image in their lives.
         
According to Deuteronomy 6:9, God’s truths need to be integrated into our external relationships.  There is a lesser degree of influence and control in external relationships.  Again the emphasis is about a testimony of a living example.  The intent of living truth as a public testimony is to show a testimony to what you hold valuable by what you are willing to stand for, with, or against.  Your whole world is watching your attitude and actions.  You are a living testimony to the reality of Christianity.  Our public testimony is what we have established as a public standard.  It is defined by the priorities of our lives and the truths we have determined to live by.
         
What is your testimony for Christ?  The best way to find this out is not by telling people what it is, but by asking them.  Your testimony for Christ is not what you say it is, but what others say it is.  Our children are often a living example of our testimony for Christ.
         
What changes do you need to make in the way you truthfully live before others in order to have a living, vibrant testimony for Jesus Christ?  Will you decide to begin to work at those changes today?  Every change begins with a promise, and every promise begins with a decision.  Decide today!

1. Do you love the Lord?  This is measured by your attitude (God’s commands are not a burden) and actions (you obey God’s commands).
2. What is your level of commitment to keeping God first in everything you do?
3. What efforts are you making to incrementally integrate God’s truths into your own life and the lives of others (especially your children)?

“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:” (I Peter 1:14).

This phrase is very similar to what Paul says in Romans 12:2.  The phrase “not fashioning yourselves” could read negate patterning your lives or conforming your lives to the driving desires of the flesh.  The intent is that true biblical nonconformity to worldly lusts, common to those that are ignorant of God’s expectations of holiness, will require a constant effort.  However, again this is not willpower holiness.  True holiness can only come through the divine enabling of the believer as he yields to the indwelling holy Spirit.  This is what defines living by grace.  A life of holiness, the Christ-life, is produced in the believer’s life when the believer enters into a partnership to that end with the indwelling Christ.  The Bible word for this partnership is “fellowship.”  Peter will expand upon the intent of this this verse throughout chapter four of I Peter.

“1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:” (I Peter 4:1-3).

Peter will also start his second epistle with a more detailed explanation of the doctrine of God’s enabling grace through the impartation of the divine nature – the indwelling Spirit of God.  In II Peter, the Holy Spirit is “the righteousness of God” imparted to the believer in justification continually and eternally indwelling the believer to produce God-kind righteousness through the believer’s life.  This union generates a potential for the supernatural enabling of the believer to live holy.  

“1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:1-4).

The intent of the statement in I Peter 1:14-16 is intended to reflect the heightened expectations of believers now under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood (I Corinthians 11:25).  Paul speaks of this in II Corinthians 3:6, “Who also hath made us able {equipped with adequate power to perform what is commanded} ministers of the new testament {covenant}; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”  The Law made demands of the believer, but provided no power to obey.  The indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit of God under the New Covenant Dispensation of Grace provides the power to obey the Law from the heart.  This is to what Jesus speaks in Matthew chapter five in what we know as the Beatitudes. 

Most English translations do not do a good job translating Matthew 5:17; “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”  Critical to understanding the whole of Matthew chapters five through seven is our understanding of the two Greek words translated “destroy” and “fulfill” in Matthew 5:17.  The word “destroy” is from the Greek word kataluo (kat-al-oo'-o).  It means to loosen downwardly, to take apart, disintegrate, or dissolve.  Christ said, Do not think that He came to do such a thing.  Instead, understand that He came to “fulfil” the Law.  Many have offered numerous explanations regarding Christ’s meaning of this statement.  However, I think the best meaning is simply in the context of the grammar of the statement. 
         
The word “fulfil” is translated from the Greek word pleroo (play-ro'-o).  The word means to fill to the fullest extent; to cram full.  Granted, Jesus did fulfill the Law in both the sense of living it in its fullest intent from the heart and substitutionally satisfying its sentence upon the guilty offender through His death, burial, and resurrection thereby propitiating God’s wrath upon sin (I John 2:2).  We know Jesus fulfilled the Law in this way from numerous Scriptural testimonies. 

As Romans 10:4 says, Christ came to end the false teaching of apostate Israel that Law keeping could bring them the God-kind righteousness necessary to either salvation or “fellowship” with God.  However, this is not the context of Matthew 5:17.  The context is that Jesus did not come to lessen or loosen God’s expectations of sinners regarding Law keeping.

“1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness {through legalistic Law keeping}, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God {justification by grace through faith}. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:1-4).

Jesus came to restore the extreme, fullest extent of God’s expectations in perfect Law keeping both inwardly and outwardly; i.e. from the heart.  Law and Grace do not oppose one another as enemies.  They are cooperating partners.  Neither do they exist apart from one another.  They are inseparable partners of truth that must walk hand-in-hand if mankind is to be restored both in salvation and sanctification.  An old poem by an unknown author states:

To run and work the Law commands,
Yet gives me neither feet nor hands;
But better news the gospel brings:
It bids me fly and gives me wings.

Teaching the moral obligations of the Law without teaching the doctrine of God’s supernatural enabling grace is Legalism.  Teaching the doctrine of God’s supernatural enabling grace without teaching the moral obligations defined by the Law is Liberalism.  Both abuses are spiritual aberrations of all that Christ teaches regarding the Christian life. 

The moral laws of God are not abrogated in Christ.  The moral laws of God are increased (crammed full) in Christ.  Christ’s life (the Spirit-filled life or the anointed life) became available to all believers with new definitions and increased expectations regarding the believer’s moral obligations during the Age of Grace. 
         
Christ, in Matthew chapters five through seven, is not giving a new definition of the moral laws given by Moses, but a restoration of their original intent in obedience from the heart.  Christ is correcting the false notion that the moral obligations could be fulfilled (fully obeyed from the heart) by fallen sinners.  The solution to this false notion was not a less strict interpretation of the Law, but a more intense, stricter interpretation.  The resulting conclusion in all of the five examples Christ gives is hopeless despair regarding any hope of finding acceptance before God for self-produced righteousness through externalism (Legalism).  Neither Legalism nor Liberalism, in any degree, is the solution to the problem of sin and mankind’s corrupt inward desires/lusts for sin.
         
The Law by itself brings nothing but guilt, failure, despair, hopelessness, and condemnation.  Until we understand the doctrine of Grace, there is little wonder why we hate the Law and its outcomes.  When all we see of God is the Law, we can find little about God that would cause us to love Him.  However, this scene of life is rapidly changed from a cloud of doom and despair to a rainbow of hope and blessings of God’s wondrous love, mercy, forgiveness, and eternal promises once a proper understanding of the doctrine of Grace is added to our scenario.  The Law by itself is a portrait of destruction and ruin.  Add an understanding of the doctrine of Grace to it and the portrait begins to progressively unfold into the present potentials of this life and the eternal blessings of progressive unfolding of “the regeneration.”  Grace saves us “through faith” and begins to progressively transfigure us through progressive sanctification as we actively work in partnership with the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. 
         
Secondly, this union of Law and Grace is an indestructible, eternal union.  Matthew 5:18 says, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass {referring to the final stage of God’s judgment in the dissolution of the original creation}, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”  When will this union of Law and Grace be dissolved by God in that this union will no longer be necessary.  At the end of the world!  The necessity of the marriage of Law and Grace enabling will be dissolved when the world is dissolved and redeemed mankind is glorified and delivered from the very presence of sin.

“14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:14-16).

The explanation of how these verses of Scripture are to be fleshed out is found in II Corinthians 5:16-21.  These few verses explain the radical transformation already taken place in every New Covenant believer’s spiritual new birth.

“16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things {the archaic} are passed away {historically gone by}; behold, all things are become {perfect tense} new {kainos - of a new kind}. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made {become; this is not referring to imputation, but rather the creation/production of God-kind righteousness through the believer’s life through ‘fellowship’ with the indwelling Christ} the righteousness of God in him (in Christ in ‘the regeneration’}” (II Corinthians 5:16-21).
        

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.