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).
        

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 11, 2016

Rehearsing God’s Forgotten Blessings

 
Rehearsing God’s Forgotten Blessings

The Bible is a detailed and accurate history of God’s miraculous intervention within the affairs of humanity.  The intent of the Bible as a history is to record God’s dealings with people and establish what we can expect from God under various circumstances of life.  For instance, in I Corinthians chapter ten, Paul rehearses numerous historical events of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage and their later faith failures in the wilderness.  He says, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (I Corinthians 10:11).  This is what Habakkuk chapter three does for the children of Israel about to be taken into captivity due to their faith failures.  The point is that faith failures have consequences both immediately and in the future.
         
Habakkuk 3:9 presents God as ready and prepared to defend national Israel in order to insure His promises in the Abrahamic Covenant.  Habakkuk 3:10 reminds them of the severe wrath of God upon total individual unbelief and rejection of His grace.

“9 Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers. 10 The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high. 11 The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear. 12 Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. 13 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah. 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 3:9-15).

The last part of Habakkuk 3:9 and verse 10 most probably refers to the flooding of the earth at the time of Noah with the waters of the deep.  The emphasis is that God is consistent in His dealings with corruption and generations that abandon faith in Him and begin to live after the lusts of their own hearts.  The degeneration of faith in the generations of faithless men has a destiny that ends in the hands of a righteous God.  Every new generation chooses how they will live.  They therefore choose their own destiny.  The fact that God will consistently and constantly purify unrighteousness from our lives and from the earth is a historical constant within fallen creation. 

“9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:9-12).

It is important to distinguish between God’s dealings with national Israel and the individuals that make up national Israel.  The Abrahamic Covenant promises that God will preserve a nation through a remnant of faithful believers.  This criterion does not protect unfaithful and faithless individual Jews from God’s judgments. 

The reference in Genesis 7:9-12 is to the fact people were warned before God’s judgment came.  They had every opportunity to repent, but the hardness of their hearts to the righteousness of God would not even allow them to hear the warnings of God’s pending judgment.  Unbelief is both blind and deaf to the will of God and to God’s warnings.  At every instance, God did exactly what He warned He would do and He did so without mercy.  For a redeemed soul to live like the world is perhaps the greatest abuse of grace that is possible.  Such an abuse of God’s grace is a disgrace to everything that is righteous. 

“28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite {is an insult} unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:28-31).

The flooding of the earth and the destruction of the whole of mankind, other than eight souls in the Ark, is a constant reminder that God says what He means and means what He says.  The warning of God’s pending judgment continues to all people of all ages.  God will not allow His Name to be blasphemed and His commandments to be ridiculed.
         
Habakkuk 3:9-10 reminds us of one simple truth.  If you know nothing else of God, know enough to fear Him.  A biblical faith, a faith based upon understanding God by His revelation of Himself through Scripture and history, knows God is as much a God of wrath as He is a God of mercy and love.  He is both the Creator and righteous Judge of this world and all that relates to it.
         
The only way to escape the coming wrath of God upon this world is to be saved by placing faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  While the lost world continues to “treasurest up... wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5), the person whose faith is in the finished work of Christ has already been “delivered... from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10).  This is why the book of Habakkuk leads us from fear to faith.  God is faithful. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). 

The point is that sin, regardless of how it might seem for the moment, is not good for us.  In other words, sin will harm us and destroy our children.  God must correct the corrupting influences of sin that we allow into our lives.  God’s correction of unrighteousness with chastisement is an expression of His loving grace. 

“5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not” (Hebrews 12:5-7)?

The real question of every difficulty in life comes down to one thing - can God be trusted?  If God can be trusted, the believer must believe that God continues to work and intervene on behalf of His children.  Although this is a matter of faith, it is also a matter of fact.  Habakkuk gives us one major instance of that fact in God’s involvement in bringing the children of Israel into the promise land and miraculously defeating their enemies.  God became personally involved in the horrors of human atrocities towards one another on behalf of His children.  His involvement has never ceased.
         
The consistency of the activity of the sun and the moon are a continual reminder that God has established an ordered creation.  Creation is so ordered that man can know to the second when the sun will rise and set.  We know the exact days of the moon and the effects it will have on the tides.  The sun and the moon are prominent examples of God’s created order.  Yet God is sovereign over His creation.  In other words, God controls His creation for His purposes.  There is consistency because God is consistent.  God can interrupt that consistency at any moment!
         
Even though God has established a physiological system of laws (physics), He can override those laws and still maintain order.  Faith understands that God is not bound by the laws of physics.  Man is.  When God does something that transcends the laws of physics it is supernatural.  Humanity calls that a miracle, because we cannot explain it.  Sometimes man calls such things impossible because he does not believe in supernatural events.  In that case, he must seek for an alternative explanation.
         
Habakkuk’s faith overcomes his fear by addressing what he knows of God.  Accurate theology can rescue the believer from worry and fear.  In these few verses of Habakkuk 3:9-15, Habakkuk draws upon the historical facts of God’s supernatural intervention on behalf of the children of Israel as they entered the promise land.  These historical facts reinforce his faith and help the believer face the difficulties of life.  To understand Habakkuk 3:11-13 we must look to Joshua 10:5-14.

“5 Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it. 6 And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us. 7 So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour. 8 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. 9 Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night. 10 And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. 11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. 12 Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher {probably an historical commentary on the events of Joshua’s leadership}? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel” (Joshua 10: 5-14).

God’s purposes overrule all the laws of physics.  Therefore, faith and prayer enable the believer to ask God to do things that are impossible if we are willing and able to believe Him for those requests.

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)?

The faith application of Habakkuk 3:11-13 is that it was God’s intended purpose that Israel be instantly victorious over these five Amorite kings.  These pagan kings were not to have the opportunity of darkness to regroup and continue fighting another day.  This portion of Scripture teaches us the only limitations on God are those limitations which weak faith for which cannot trust Him.  Faith and prayer allow the believer to escape the limitations of this world. 
         
Faith allows man to trust God for supernatural intervention.  Faith allows man’s heart to soar on the wings of prayer to places his hands could never reach.  Faith allows man to trust God to do anything within the boundaries of His will.  Faith transcends human boundaries and limitations.  Faith is not a matter of determined human will or the strength of the human mind (Transcendental Meditation).  This kind of faith is the ability to trust in the power of God to do what man deems impossible.

“14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:14-21).

Habakkuk 3:12 reveals to us Jehovah Sabaoth.  This Name of God refers to God’s power being present with His children.  An historical faith allows the person of faith to see God as the LORD of hosts.  God’s omnipotent presence is constantly with the His children when He sends them to fight spiritual battles.  When a believer goes forth in faith, being obedient to God’s command, he joins himself to the innumerable hosts of God.  That believer is numbered as a warrior/servant of God’s heavenly host.

Jehovah Sabaoth (LORD of hosts) is the is the name God repeatedly uses of Himself to comfort the hearts of His faithful remnant as they faced pending captivity.  (Used in Jeremiah about 80 times, in two chapters of Haggai 14 times, in Zechariah about 50 times, and in Malachi about 25 times)

“6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. 9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:7-11).

The truth of this Psalm was essentially the same promise God gave to Joshua.  Be assured, this is God’s promise to all faithful believers. 

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).

The truths of Habakkuk 3:11-13 are of great importance because they establish faith on the foundation of established historical facts.  This faith does not require human might or large numbers.  This faith allows one man to confront anyone or any number, because this faith transcends what might happen to him physically.  This is the substance of Exodus chapter fifteen in what is commonly called the Song of the Redeemed.  Notice the substance of the hymn. 

“1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. 2 The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. 3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. 4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. 5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. 6 Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. 7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. 8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. 10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. 11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. 14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. 15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. 16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased. 17 Thou shalt bring them {the children of Israel} in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. 18 The LORD shall reign for ever and ever. 19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea” (Exodus 15:1-19).

“17 If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? 18 Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt; 19 The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out: so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid. 20 Moreover the LORD thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed. 21 Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible. 22 And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee. 23 But the LORD thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed. 24 And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them” (Deuteronomy 7:17-24).

Habakkuk 3:13 portrays God as One Who is continually involved in the spiritual struggle of mankind.  This representation of God is intended to comfort the faithful believer.  He fights for and is in cooperation with His redeemed. 

Through the finished work of the sacrifice of Christ for salvation, God has laid bare the neck of Satanic opposition which only awaits the final day of execution at Armageddon.  The intent here is that the victory is already won.  All that happens intermittently in history is solely for the purpose that the lost might be recovered and saved.  Everything else is inconsequential.

“4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:4-5).
         
The only way the forces of evil can be victorious is when they are not confronted by faith.  When confronted by people of faith, they flee in fear back into the shadows and darkness from which they come.  They have no power in the realm of light, truth, and faith.  They are completely overcome by faith. 

“7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:7-10).

The only weapon evil has over the believer is fear.  When circumstances cause us to fear what might happen to us physically, we must confront that fear with faith in God.  Faith takes away evil’s weapon of fear.

“In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (Psalm 56:4).

“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).

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 4, 2016

Living Blessed


Living Blessed

Perhaps the greatest abuse of faith is the failure to use the resources available to us through our relationship with God.  God’s Word is filled with His promises to those faithful to Him.  Being faithful means living in loving obedience to His commands.  Yet, the vast majority of those professing to believe in God do not read His Word or study His Word to know His will.  The saddest of all testimonies are the testimonies of those that profess faith in Christ, but never seem to get around to making His will for their lives the highest of their priorities.  There always seems to be something on their agendas that come before what Christ wants them to do.  The ultimate testimony of a faith relationship with Christ is that His agenda for your life should be your agenda for your life.  If His agenda for your life is not your agenda for your life, He is not your Lord in any practical sense of the meaning of the word. 

“9 Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers. 10 The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high” (Habakkuk 3:9-10).

Habakkuk 3:9-10 address the surety of the promises of God to the children of Israel in the Mosaic Covenant.  The Mosaic Covenant was also known as “the blessing and a curse” Covenant as defined by Deuteronomy 11:26. The sad testimony of the thousands of years of the majority of Israel’s history was that they seldom experienced the blessings of the Mosaic Covenant because they were unfaithful to God’s commandments.  This is certainly true of most Christians as well.  How readily and easily are most believers “drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14).

“26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

In Habakkuk 3:9, God states “ Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.”  The point here is that God has unsheathed His bow and is prepared to protect and defend Israel against her adversaries if she will repent and be faithful to the Mosaic Covenant as she agreed.  God wants His children to know Him.  He wants them to know Him personally, intimately and accurately.  God wants His children to obey and be blessed. 

God wants His children to live in the midst of His blessings.  This is His central purpose of the inspiration and giving of the Scriptures.  God wants believers to know His will and live according to His will in loving obedience.  Living in loving obedience is the supreme expression of faith and trust in God.  The child of God who truly loves the Lord wants to know God’s will because he wants to worship and praise His Redeemer with every action of his life.  It is a sad testimony when a person wants to be blessed more than wanting to be a blessing.  Have you ever considered that your purpose for existence is to be a blessing to God and to others? 

God is consistent in everything He does because He is consistent in both character and nature.  The very nature and character of our loving God is to be a blessing to those who believe and trust Him.  God is not evolving as the Emergent Church leaders are trying to tell us.  God loves righteousness and hates unrighteousness.  God is not becoming more tolerant of the practices He calls sin.  Those practices that were an abomination to Him from the beginning are still an abomination to Him today.  What ought to amaze us is that God tolerates any of us!

“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

Although the believer is to live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4), faith is not intended to be totally blind.  Faith is intended to be intelligent and knowledgeable about the way God works in His dealings with mankind, especially in His dealings with His redeemed.  Much of the Old Testament is intent on revealing God’s pattern of dealing with both His redeemed and the lost in various circumstances of life.  Peter says essentially the same thing as Habakkuk 3:9-10.  In the midst of the warning there is also the blessing of God’s protection of His redeemed. 

“3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: 10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government” (II Peter 2:3-10).

The life of faith lived in loving obedience to the commands of our loving, longsuffering God is intended to be a place of secure rest.  Although we live in the midst of the curse and all of the discomforts and threats that come from the adversary of righteousness, we can rest in the assurance of God’s protective custody of our eternal soul.  Although we have this eternal “rest” available to us, we tend to regularly drift out into the open tumultuous waters of worldliness never even considering the fact they we have left God’s protective custody.  This is the substance of the warning of Hebrews 4:1-13. 

Doctrinal definitiveness and doctrinal purity keep us anchored within the harbor of God’s blessings.  Theological compromise and doctrinal inconsistencies will cause us to drift with the tides that draw us back into worldliness.  The point of Hebrews 4:1-13 is that we can always repent and return to the enabling grace of God’s protective custody (“rest”) within the center of His will. 

“1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus {Iesous; ee-ay-sooce’: of Hebrew origin referring to Joshua of the Old Testament} had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest {God’s protective custody in the center of His will trough loving obedience to God’s commands}, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do {there are no secrets or hidden sins from God, your life will be measured according to obedience to God’s Word without any prejudices}” (Hebrews 4:1-13).

According to Habakkuk 3:9, true biblical faith should know and understand that God is oath bound in His dealings with His redeemed.  God never breaks a promise and will always do what He says He will do.  The “blessing and a curse” Covenant as defined by Deuteronomy 11:26 is a twofold promise.  The children of Israel did not stand without warning.  In every case, when God made covenant with them, He also gave a warning should they choose to disobey. 

The phrase “Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word,” is a statement of faith.  It means God had faithfully warned the tribes what would happen if they began to break His commandments.  Israel had promised they would follow the leadership of Joshua as he commanded them according to the commandments of God.  In Habakkuk 3:9, God is telling Israel that they are now experiencing the curse aspect of “the blessing and a curse” Covenant.  Even in this God is seeking to turn their hearts through repentance and return them to obedience to Him.  Chastisement has not accomplished its purpose if those chastised to not repent of their sins and return to loving service in loving obedience to the Lord.

“16 And they {all the children of Israel} answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:16-18).

The children of Israel living under Joshua’s leadership faithfully did according to their promise recorded in Joshua 1:16-18 all the days that Joshua was their leader.  Every generation must be equally committed to know the Word of God, love the Word of God, and live the Word of God with all their heart, soul, and might.  Without a continual reminder of the necessary commitment to full surrender to God’s will, every generation will begin to drift away from God’s will through both theological ignorance and theological compromise. 

“And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).

It is important for Christians to know that God’s warnings extend to all generations and are consistently administrated by God.  Theological drift will always result in compromises that will take believers into various degrees of worldliness and varying degrees of God’s chastisement. 
         
Deuteronomy chapter thirty-two is known as the Song of Moses.  In this chapter, Moses records the history of humanity and its unrelenting, consistent failures to produce continuing generations of faithful believers.  Deuteronomy 32:4-5 state the two great contradictions that have existed since the fall of Satan and the fall of humanity into sin and the curse.  God is perfectly righteous and humanity continually corrupts themselves through increasing levels of unrighteousness. 

“4 He {Jehovah our God} is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. 5 They have corrupted themselves {the point is that if they are truly God’s progeny, they will seek to live uncorrupted by the world}, their spot {their existence is like a stain upon righteousness} is not the spot of his children {not God’s redeemed}: they are a perverse and crooked generation” (Deuteronomy 32:4-5).

In Deuteronomy 32:34, God says His chastisement and judgments are part of His “treasures.”  In other words, the righteousness of God demands that He purify the world of all unrighteousness.  This fact ought to be viewed as a treasure to believers whose hearts are in alignment with God Word.  Believers should view God’s chastisement as purifying their lives to His glory.  Every wrong will be righted.  Every righteous act sown to the glory of God and His purposes will reproduce itself with the righteousness of another generation.  However, the opposite is also true. 

“34 Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? 35 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. 36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. 37 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, 38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. 39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. 40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. 41 If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. 42 I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. 43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people” (Deuteronomy 32:34-43)

After Joshua’s death, the book of Judges records the progressively incomplete obedience and compromising disobedience of Israel as they began to compromise the commands of God.  This fact is a historical constant repeated in all generations.  The constant creates an ever decreasing remnant of faithful believers from generation to generation. 

“8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres {tim-nath kheh’-res}, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. 10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. 11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. 15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed” (Judges 2:8-15).

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.