Monday, December 30, 2013

Christ’s Perfect Identity and Oneness with the Believer

   Because most Christians’ understanding of the doctrine of salvation is so shallow, they have little understanding of what God has done, is doing, and will do in His gift of salvation to us.  To grasp the unsearchable riches of God’s gift of grace in our salvation, we must return to God’s original intent in His creation of humanity and a place for our existence.  All of God’s creatures including angels and humans were created with free volition.   Volition is the power to choose or determine.  Volition is commonly referred to as free will.  God’s intent in giving His creatures volition was that as they learn of Him and know of His attributes and character.  God’s intent in giving His creatures volition is that they will choose to love Him, worship Him, and serve Him with gladness.  God’s intent in giving His creatures volition is that they will desire to live in fellowship with Him in all that they do. God’s intent was that all of His creatures would live with Him in His eternal existence we might called the realm of His continual blessedness. 
Adam’s fall into sin removed him from this eternal state of blessedness and put all of Creation, including all of his descendants, into the eternal state of cursedness, or damnation in separation from God.  This is the opposite of God’s intent in His creation.  God’s doctrine of salvation is intent upon returning humanity to God’s eternal existence of blessedness through the exercise of our volition in repenting of sin, which is worldliness.  Then the sinner must understand and believe the Gospel. 
Humanity invented what God calls “dead works” by inventing and corrupting religious practices to gain favor with God, foolishly thinking that such practices could return sinners to God’s blessedness.  When God gave His redeemed nation of Israel the Mosaic Covenant to define what is sin and the sacrifices that looked forward to their promised Savior in the Messiah, they corrupted the purpose of the Law and the sacrifices making the Law and the sacrifices the means of salvation.  The Law and the sacrifices were intended for already saved people.  The Law and the sacrifices were given to help them understand sin and the cost of their redemption, which would be provided through the substitionary death of their Redeemer in the coming of the Messiah. 
The Mosaic Covenant was given as a blessing and curse covenant intended for people already saved “by grace . . . through faith.”  If these saved people would live according to God’s precepts and judgments of God, they could live within a bubble of God’s blessedness within the cursed creation until God’s New Creation came into existence.  This is true of Church Age believers today as well.  Local churches are intended to be bubbles of blessedness within the cursed creation until we are ultimately translated into the New Heaven/Earth (“the regeneration”).  The New Heaven/Earth will be the full restoration of God’s realm of existence in eternal blessedness.   It is to this realm of God’s eternal blessedness that Hebrews 2:14-18 refers. 

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18).

          We still live under the curse of God upon this fallen creation throughout this earthly life even if we are saved.  We are all slowly dying physically.  We are susceptible to sickness and we must toil to provide for our shelter and sustenance.  However, we enter the bubble of blessedness within the curse through salvation.  To actually receive the blessings of our new life “in Christ,” we must “reckon” ourselves “11 . . . to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Romans 6:11b-12). Our new union with Christ must extend itself into unity with Christ if we are ever to experience the benefits available to us within the bubble of blessedness.  Jesus gives us the necessary conditions to be blessed within the bubble of blessedness in Matthew chapters five, six, and seven.  These three chapters define how unity with Christ can exist within the union we have with Christ in our “so great salvation.”  The “how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” warning expands to one more level on the plain of the “so great salvation.”  In Hebrews 2:14-18, God details the perfect union with Christ that is provided to all believers through the work of His incarnation.
          Before we look at Hebrews 2:14, we must jump ahead to verse 16 to lay some groundwork of this union.  It would appear that verses 14-15 establish a basis for the false doctrine of Universalism.  Universalism is represented by the false doctrines of the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man teaching that all people will enter Heaven and escape Hell because of the universal propitiation of God (I John 2:2). Universalism teaches that there is no need to make a volitional decision of faith, but that all people will be saved regardless of what they believe or how they live. This is the issue with which John deals in I John 2:1-2. 

 1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2).

          I John 2:1-2 contextually continues the thoughts regarding the issues necessary to New Covenant “fellowship” with God explained in I John chapter one.  I John 1:5-10 gives us the details that replace all the Mosaic Covenant holy days and sacrifices intended to represent to believers that sin separates them from God and that the death of a substitute was necessary to restore a believer to fellowship with God (the bubble of blessedness).  All of those Old Testament types are fulfilled and abolished in the New Covenant reality of the once for all finished redemption in the death, burial, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus the Christ. 

5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk {present, active, subjunctive} in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth {present, active, indicative} us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have {present, active, indicative} no sin {if we deny the principle that we are sinners by nature}, we deceive {present, active, indicative} ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess {present, active, subjunctive} our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned {if we deny the principle that we are sinners by actions, thoughts, and/or emotions}, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:5-10).

I John 1:5-10 is about what is necessary for fellowship with God. These verses do not define what is necessary for salvation.  However, these few verses do articulate that we all need to be saved from the condemnation of death put upon us under the curse of God AND we need a Savior to deliver us from our own corrupt desires and emotions. 
The falsehood of Universalism exists because people do not understand Hebrews 2:16.  Verse 16 literally reads, “for a sure thing Jesus didn’t come to help the angels, but He gives help to the seed of Abraham.”  Specifically, He helps the seed of Abraham (the redeemed), not the seed of Adam (the condemned).  He died for the whole Human Race, but is High Priest only of the “household of faith” - those who have received the gift of redemption and have entered the bubble of blessedness through salvation.  The “help” Jesus gives is not to help people earn or keep salvation, for salvation is a gift.  The “help” Jesus gives is all that is necessary to live the Christ-life and be blessed within the bubble of blessedness in their “so great salvation.” 
          Why is this important?  First, Christ is not the High Priest of the human race, which He would be if this referred to Adam.  The reference to Abraham identifies Jesus Christ as High Priest of specific people.  “They which are of faith {born of faith} are the children {seed} of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). 

7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham . . . 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:7-9 and 16).

          The Mosaic Covenant was given ONLY to believers within the nation of Israel.  The Mosaic Covenant was never intended for the lost or for Gentile nations.  Granted, there were unbelievers who thought of themselves as believers within the nation of Israel just as there are unbelievers who think of themselves as believers within all local churches.  There were also Gentiles who became believers and submitted themselves to the Mosaic Covenant.  Within the Abrahamic Covenant was the promise of the “Seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).  Therefore, the promise of the availability of salvation was to “all nations” (Galatians 3:8). 

9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision {Jews} only, or upon the uncircumcision {Gentiles} also? for we say that faith was reckoned{logizomai is translated counted in vs. 3 and 5, reckoned vs. 4, 9, and 10, and  imputed in vs. 6, 8, 11, and 22-24} to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Romans 4:9-12).

          The bubble of blessedness, now offered to the redeemed, extends to “whosoever” within the New Covenant.  In other words, no one needs become a Jew any longer to either be saved or live faithfully for the Lord. 

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:11-13).

          The contextual continuity of the epistle to the Romans demands that we see Romans chapter ten in the light of three dominant truths already established from the earlier chapters:

1. God is universally propitiated for the sins of the whole world extending from the Adam’s fall to the end of time. 
2. This translates into universal provision of the free gift of salvation to “whoever shall call upon the Name of the LORD.”  Salvation is available to “whosoever.”
3. Although both of these two statements are true and should be universally applied, and although Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is sufficient for the salvation of all, it is beneficial only to those who respond in faith according to God’s inspired directives of five verbs.

Ø Repentance from sin and “dead works”
Ø Believing the objective facts of the finished work of redemption as detailed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Ø Confessing Jesus as Jehovah
Ø Calling on the Name of Jesus as Jehovah to save
Ø Receiving Jesus Christ in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. 

          Most people would not have any problem following the contextual continuity of the epistle to the Romans and the categorical theological establishment of the three statements above if it were not for the presuppositions of Calvinism and Reformed Theology that are imposed upon the epistle.  For the Calvinist, the word “whosoever” means whosoever of the elect.  For the Calvinist, when God says it is His will that all come to repentance and that all are saved, it means all who are elect.  For the Calvinist, God’s love for the world refers to two different kinds of grace. 

1. Common Grace (or Prevenient Grace) comes to all people.  This is basically defined as God temporally withholding his judgment upon sinners and the reprobate (those not chosen by God to be saved) allowing them the common blessings of life (“the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike”). According to the Calvinists, there is no hope of salvation for those not elected by God to be saved. According to the Calvinists, these people are pretemporally reprobate.

2. Irresistible Grace (or Efficacious Grace) comes only to the elect (those chosen by God to be saved).  In this position, God regenerates the elect at some unknown time before their salvation giving them the gift of repentance and faith in the Person of the Holy Spirit whereby the elect sinner will not be able to resist God’s grace and will at some unknown time in his/her life place faith in Jesus Christ and, because of this special working of God in the lives of the elect person, will ultimately persevere in the Christian life proving he/she is one of God’s elect (this is not the same as the doctrine of eternal security). 

          These two distortions of God’s grace flow from three other theological presuppositional aberrations of Calvinism and Reformed Theology imposed upon the interpretation of the whole Word of God.

1. Monothetism: the monothetic (one thesis or idea) definition of God’s sovereignty (whatever God wills to be done must ALWAYS be done or realized).
2. Determinism: God is the ultimate cause of all things thereby controlling all events in human history and in the future.  God can foretell the future, not just because of foreknowledge, but that God knows the future because God controls and causes all events in history.
3. Monergism: being saved is not based upon the will of an individual making a faith decision to trust Christ, but upon the sovereign will of God operating within (not upon) the elect prior to their salvation by regenerating them before salvation in order that they can believe. 

          Obviously, Galatians 3:7-16, Romans 4:9-12, and 10:11-13 establish an exclusive privilege of the redeemed and a complete contradiction against Unitarian Universalism.  The Bible teaches neither the universal Fatherhood of God nor the universal brotherhood of man.  The “children” of Hebrews 2:14, with which Christ is a “partaker” of flesh and blood, are those children “born again” of God “by grace . . . through faith.” 
In the context of the epistle to the Hebrews there is the absolute essential of moving out of the Mosaic Covenant bubble of blessedness into the New Covenant bubble of blessedness. The Levitical priesthood of Israel had corrupted the Law into a liturgical and sacrificial mess.  They replaced the Abrahamic Covenant of salvation by faith in the Substitute with a corruption of the Mosaic Covenant of religious “works” for salvation.  The first century Jewish Christians were being enticed to return to this corruption of the Mosaic Covenant in order to retain and maintain their salvation.  Even to be enticed by such nonsense manifests a complete misunderstanding of both the finished work of redemption in Christ Jesus and the misunderstanding of the advanced state of the believer’s spiritual existence within the new bubble of blessedness found within the New Covenant and Age of Grace. 
          An extension of this, helping us understand the miraculous mechanics of salvation, is found in Genesis 3:15.  According to I Timothy 2:14, it was the woman “who was deceived by Satan, not Adam.

“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (I Timothy 2:14).

          Therefore, as we understand I Timothy 2:14, we understand why it was necessary that the “seed” of the woman “bruise the serpents head.”  Satan deceived Eve into sin.  Eve led Adam into sin and all the human race fell with Adam.  However, Adam was not deceived.  Adam disobeyed when he exercised his volitional to disobey God’s command.  The important point of Genesis 3:15 is that Christ was not born of Adam’s seed, but Eve’s. 
Why is this truth important?  This truth is important because the sin nature is passed seminally through the man.  Therefore, because that is true, it makes Christ Jesus both perfectly human and perfectly divine at the same time because He was born of a woman, but not man.  He is perfect God and perfect man.  To understand this we must understand and believe that Jesus was Perfect God before the incarnation.  Jesus became a perfect man in the incarnation. Because Jesus is a perfect man, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin.  Because He is a perfect man, He became a perfect High Priest and a perfect Offerer of the perfect Offering for sin.  Therefore, the sinner is provided a perfect salvation as a GIFT from God.  This perfect GIFT cannot be earned or purchased.  It is offered ONLY as a GIFT of God’s grace.

6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

          In the Garden of Eden, Satan stole something to which he had no right.  He stole mankind’s authority (dominion) over the Creation God had given Adam.  He did so by introducing sin into the human race through Adam.  When that happened, Satan seized the power of darkness in the world.  Once Satan had fallen, he had no authority in the Kingdom of light (then or today).  Within that power of darkness is the power of death.  The bubble of blessedness is a bubble of spiritual life and light within the realm of spiritual death and darkness.
          From that day forward, God has been restraining the forces of evil intent upon the absolute destruction and annihilation of humanity from the face of the earth.  If the forces of evil were left unrestrained, the forces of evil would use sickness, disease, the weather, and cataclysmic events to destroy humanity.  In fact, God’s judgments on the world during various periods of Earth’s history are merely Him releasing His restraints upon evil.  We will see God remove His restraint on evil again during the seven year Tribulation in God’s judgment of the nations. 

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians 2:3-12).

          God, in the work of Calvary, used the power of death against Satan, because the power to hold a person in death was only over those who were in the realm of spiritual darkness.  Because Jesus never had a sin nature, Christ Jesus was never part of the realm of darkness (although He existed within it).  Therefore, He was able to be resurrected out from the realm of death.  Because He was resurrected and because He substitutionally paid the price of sin (which was death, Romans 6:23), He is also able to deliver anyone who desires to be delivered out of the bondage of the realm of darkness and the “fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).
          Our “so great salvation” does not deliver us from the “realm of darkness” and “death” only to put us into a spiritual vacuum.  Salvation delivers the believer out of darkness and “from its power” into the Kingdom of light.  Today that Kingdom of light and life is found within the bubble of blessedness of the New Covenant known as the local church.  It is not that we are saved by joining the church, but that the first effect that is synchronous with salvation is that we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Church (I Corinthians 12:13 – which is the first phase of the unfolding New Creation).  The physical manifestation intended to represent our understanding of our entrance into this new bubble of blessedness is water baptism accompanied by formally uniting with a local assembly of believers of like precious faith.  The local church exists because the physical reality should always portray the spiritual reality. I believe God does this because we need physical and empirical representations in order for us to understand spiritual realities and the responsibilities that accompany those realities.

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13).

          In the realm of darkness, death rules.  In the Kingdom of light, life rules.  According to Hebrews 2:14, Satan was literally put out of business.  He is in the death and destruction business.  The only realm Satan is still prince over is the realm of darkness and sin existing only over those who chose to continue living in the realm of sin, death, spiritual ignorance, disobedience, and the obfuscation of spiritual darkness.  This is why discipleship is a critical essential to every new believer in Jesus Christ and why God had ordained local churches (Ephesians 4:11-16). 
          This realm of darkness and sin is the only authority Satan presently has over fallen men and women who have not been saved or who have willfully rejected Christ.  As far as Christ our High Priest is concerned, Satan has been put out of business.  How has he been put out of the death business?  Satan was put out of the death business when Jesus Christ substitutionally satisfied God’s judgment on all sin on the Cross of Calvary.

31 Now is the judgment of this world {in His death at Calvary}, now shall the Prince of this world {Satan} be cast out {from is stolen position of authority}. 32 And I {Jesus}, if I be lifted up from the earth {resurrection from Calvary’s substitutionary death and judgment} will draw all men unto myself {into His Kingdom of light and out of the power of darkness}” (John 12:31-32).

          There on the Cross of Calvary, God the Father “laid on Him (Jesus the Son) the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).  Then, for the space of three hours, from noon to about three in the afternoon, God put the world into darkness and poured out His wrath on all iniquity upon His Son.  In doing so, Jesus’ substitutionary death propitiated (satisfied) and adjudicated God’s wrath providing God the righteous ability to justify believers by imparting to them the righteousness of Jesus in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:4).  This gift of salvation, and the impartation of the Spirit of God, moves all saved sinners into the realm of new possibilities in practical righteousness hitherto never known by fallen beings. It is this reality to which is referred by the phrase New Covenant bubbled of blessedness.  Why would anyone return to the old when the new exceeds it in unfathomable ways?

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).

          According to Hebrews 2:17, “It behoved Him.”  In other words the incarnation was a necessity.  This physical identity with mankind in a human body and a human nature was the only way to accomplish this great victory over death.  The only way He could be our Savior was to become one of us.  The only way He could be able to be our Great High Priest was to grow up as one of us, live among us, and be tempted as we are tempted (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Christ our High Priest “offered up Himself.” Therefore, these truths are essential to our redemption.

22 By so much was Jesus made a surety {guarantee} of a better testament {covenant}. 23 And they {the Levitical High Priests} truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man {actually is referring to Jesus as a New High Priest after a different order of priesthood}, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 26 For such an high priest became {one of} us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore” (Hebrews 7:22-28).

          In the “offering of Himself,” Jesus made “reconciliation {Hebrews 2:17, literally propitiation} for the sins of the people.”  “Reconciliation” is from the Greek word hilaskomai (hil-as'-kom-ahee).  Propitiation refers to the thing necessary “pertaining to God” (v. 17) to satisfy God’s righteous demands in the execution of His wrath in condemnation of sinners to death.  In the epistle to the Hebrews alone there are twenty or more statements referring to our Lord’s propitiatory death.  The great reality of the doctrine of propitiation is that the believer is eternally mercy seated with our High Priest Christ Jesus. Because God’s justice is satisfied righteously, we can be justified righteously.
          Lastly, Christ is able to “succour” (to help; to come to the aid of those being tempted - Hebrews 2:18).  He knows what temptation is.  He knows temptation like no other man who ever lived.  There is only one difference.  Jesus was victorious over temptations to sin and He knows how to help us do the same.

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (I Corinthians 10:13-14).

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

          Our salvation includes so much more then fire insurance.  Do you have a temptation that you can’t get victory over?  Christ is there to help.  He wants to help.  He was identified with our death, with our sin, and with our temptation so that He can experientially understand our struggles in life.  There is no pain or no suffering that His pain and suffering has not exceeded.  What a great salvation! Are you neglecting it?

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

When You Are Doing God’s Work, Expect Opposition

When You Are Doing God’s Work, Expect Opposition

          The enemies of righteousness live in unbelief.  Therefore, they always fail to enter the God-factor into the equation of existence.  They evaluate the work of righteous believers according to numbers and according to the physical strengths.  They are willfully blind to what is added to the circumstances of life when the God-factor is entered into the equation.  We should expect that of unbelievers.  However, it is quite sad indeed when the righteous live in fear and trembling before the threat that the unrighteous pose to the Christian life.  The fact is they pose no threat at all.  When true believers are exposed to the threat of worldly onslaughts, they should simply be consumed with knowing and doing the will of God.  In that reality they can be confident that God is sovereignly involved in every intimate detail of their existence.  They can faithfully pray – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

1 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. 4 Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: 5 And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. 6 So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work. 7 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, 8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them (Nehemiah 4:1-9).

          Sometimes it amazes me how easily Christians get defeated in their “work of the ministry.”  It seems as if we expect to do the Lord’s work without any opposition.  At the first sign of resistance, we dash back to our comfort zones and cower in the shadows until the moment of conflict passes by.  The other scenario is that we get on the defensive against the opposition and the opposition accomplishes their goal anyway.  The work stops.  The first is an act of cowardice, the second an act of foolish pride.
          Satan has learned to use our fears and pride against us.  Sin made fear and pride a major part of our fallen nature.  Many Christians are so spiritually crippled by fear and pride that they are rendered useless as partners with God in His “work of the ministry.”  As Christians, we should never forget that as soon as God’s people begin to get involved in the “work of the ministry,” Satan becomes involved in opposition.  (Of course, Satan uses fear and pride to keep us from getting involved in the first place.)  David gives us the God-inspired twenty-seventh Psalm to confront and reinforce our faith with the God-factor. 

1 <<A Psalm of David.>> The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. 4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:1-4).

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.>> Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy” (Psalm 64:1).

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest {out of pride}, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Revelation 3:14-18).

In order for a local church to maintain any momentum in the “work of the ministry,” its people must possess two things: VISION and PASSION.  They must possess a vision of God’s missional purpose and a passion to win souls and make disciples (the “work of the ministry”).  Neither of these things can be manufactured.  They come to the believer when he finally owns and accepts the realities of Heaven and Hell.  God’s missional vision is that men everywhere repent and be saved.

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him {as blind men that grope in the darkness}, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained {Jesus Christ}; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:22-31).

The passion to win souls and make disciples for Jesus Christ comes when the believer finally understands that the means God has chosen to realize His missional vision is through a partnership (“fellowship”) with professing believers in getting the message of the Gospel to lost sinners (that is why the epistle of I John is so important as well as Romans chapters six, seven, and eight).  Believers have been given spiritual sight (faith) to lead their fellowman out of the darkness and into the light of the knowledge of God and His wonderful salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ.
Someone has said most Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  Let me plainly say, I have never seen that phenomenon in all my years as a Christian.  In fact, most Christians are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.
A vision without a work to accompany it makes a person a visionary.  A work without a vision to accomplish it makes the work drudgery.  A work of ministry accompanied by God’s vision of ministry makes a person a missionary.
Nehemiah had both a VISION of the work God wanted done and a PASSION to get it completed.  We call that kind of person DRIVEN.  That is why God called him to lead. 
Satan filled men’s hearts to oppose Nehemiah, redirect his vision, and quench the fire of his passion for God’s work.  Nehemiah was raised up by God during a particular time of need to direct the people of God in their “work of the ministry” and to lead God’s people in a stand against the opposition.  There are certain truths that must be emphasized in this scenario.

1. God raised up a man, not a committee.
2. God raised up a man, not an angel.
3. God raised up a man who could grasp onto His vision and who had a passion to get that vision realized.
4. God raised up a man He had chosen that He could use and bless.

Understand this:  when God opens the windows of Heaven to bless us, Satan opens the gates of Hell to blast us.  “God’s smile means the devil’s frown.”
Nehemiah was a prophet of God.  That means he was preoccupied with “Thus sayeth the Lord.”  The prophet’s job is to communicate God’s vision to God’s people without compromise.  The prophet’s job (in partnership with the Holy Spirit) is to stir people to do what God wants them to do, his way, and without compromise.  When that happens, some people will get mad.  Some people do not want to come out of their comfort zones and even the pressure to do so angers them.
Most people want to go with the flow, but the prophet knows God has called him to go against the flow and to lead as many people against the flow as he can.  The prophet’s main goal in life is to exalt the God he serves by strictly keeping himself focused on God’s vision and by carefully keeping his passion in the perspective of that vision.  The prophet of God understands that work is not about him, or for him.  The “work of the ministry” is about God and for God.
          The man of righteousness understands that when he gets sidetracked and leads people away from God’s missional purpose, it is God Who is robbed of the glory He deserves.  He understands that when people are sidetracked due to his misdirection that it is the Lord Jesus Who is ignored.  He understands that when people fail to do what he tells them that God wants them to do, it is God’s laws and commandments they break, not his.  He understands that when people choose to live in sin and selfishness, it is God’s Name that is taken in vain, not the prophet’s.
The man of righteousness understands it is God’s Book that people ignore, not the prophet’s book.  He understands it is God’s house of worship that is ignored, not the prophet’s house.  He understands all those things, yet he is DRIVEN.  He has a PASSION and he will join himself to any other person sanctified to God who is intent on doing things God’s way.  If no one else will join him, he will do what he can with what he has by himself. 
The prophet of God understands some things most people never understand.  He understands that the world’s problem is not Communism, or Romanism, or Modernism, or even Liberalism.   Therefore, he does not spend all his time opposing them (being on the defensive).  The prophet of God understands that the world’s problem has historically remained unchanged.  The world’s problem is the problem of dead fundamentalism that fails to live the Spirit-filled life.  The world’s problem is the problem of professing Bible believers being dead to conviction, dead to obedience, dead to prayer, dead to worship, dead to evangelism, and dead to living faith. 
          The man of righteousness understands he can only tell others of God’s vision.  He cannot make them accept it or follow his leadership.  Most people give themselves to realizing only possible hopes and possible dreams.  The prophet of God understands he is called to give himself to a task that (by all human measurements) is impossible to accomplish and to convince others to follow him in the work.  That will not happen if he does not have a VISION and PASSION.
          The prophet of God is confronted with the problem of trying to lead people doped up with the pleasures of this world, whose main focus in life is where they will get their next fix, and whose concern for God’s vision (missional purpose) is at the bottom of their itinerary.  He understands that before God can use people to accomplish the impossible task before them, he must teach them the Truths of God’s Word to correct the accumulated pseudo-intellectualism the world has been pouring into them for a lifetime.  He understands he will be trying to lead a volunteer workforce who, in most part, have spent their lifetimes insulated against spiritual realities by large doses of cultural indifference to the will of God.
Our churches are filled with people who like to appease sin, but refuse to oppose it.  Then they stand in amazement as they watch their children grow up to shake their fists at God’s demand for holiness.  It ought to amaze every Christian that we can be as simple-minded as to think we can get others to follow the righteous standards of Jesus Christ when we live in such a sub-standard way.

The prophet of God understands the many forms of opposition.

1. There is opposition by ridicule (Nehemiah 4:3).
2. There is opposition by hostility (Nehemiah 4:7-8).
3. There is opposition by discouragement (Nehemiah 4:10).

The prophet of God has a biblical way of dealing with all forms of opposition.  Opposition is dealt with through prayer (Nehemiah 4:9).  The opposition of discouragement is dealt with through the process of rubbish removal.  Nothing drains our spiritual strength more than having to constantly deal with problems.  House cleaning, garbage removal, and weed removal are part of a regularly maintenance routine.  Do not expect to make forward progress until the obstacles (problems) are removed (Nehemiah 4:10b).
“Small foxes spoil the vines.”  One of the reasons why forward spiritual progress is stopped in many local churches is because they are forced to spend all their time dealing with church mice when lions devour the land.
          Can you imagine what would happen in our cities if Christians everywhere began to pray - “God move upon my heart in such a way that I cannot resist your will.  God expose any area of my life to me that is a hindrance to your using me for your glory.  God purge me of pride and open my eyes to see your face in the light of your glory.”
          It is our attitudes towards God that hold back His revival.  It is the attitude of hearts hardened against the working of the Holy Spirit.  God is a consuming fire.  The Church where the Spirit of God is active will be hot.  The pulpit will be regularly ablaze if the prophet has God’s missional vision and a passion to see it realized.  At the same time, opposition will be raising its ugly head intent on putting out any fires of revival God starts because that will force them out of their comfort zones or expose them for the hypocrites they really are.  True people of faith need to learn to live in the midst of the fire!  That is the lesson God wants us to learn from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:19-27). 
          The Church with the fires of revival burning in the hearts of each of its members will be like the “burning bush.”  It will be a living testimony to the wonders and powers of God, but yet it will never be consumed.  The emphasis of that Church will be on re-creation, not recreation, prayer not promotion, propagation not propaganda, and holiness not happiness. 
          It is said of these people in Nehemiah 4:6, “For the people had a mind to work.”  God’s call to all Christians is a call to the work.  I must raise the challenge of Joshua of old.  “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).  Who will you chose to serve?  When God dismisses us from a church service, we are dismissed to “the work of the ministry.”  To the work should be the marching cry of all true believers.