Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Back Story to Authority

I. Protect

A. People with authority [employers, civil authorities, elders, husbands, and parents] have a double obligation both to pray and to teach as Samuel did when Israel sinned. “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:” (1 Samuel 12:23)

B. Because Samuel served in a rebellious age similar to the present one, the prophet both warned and comforted. “And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart;” (1 Samuel 12:20)

C. Just as timely diagnosis and treatment can save bodies from cancer, they can save souls from the ravages of sin. “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.” (1 Samuel 12:24-25)

D. Much earlier in history Job applied this pattern to his family, demonstrating the faithful way to everyone in authority. “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” (Job 1:5)

II. Instruct

A. Moses delivered the Scriptures, not as literature, but as the framework for thought and action. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:” (Deuteronomy 6:6)

B. Moses then commanded that those in authority must teach the truth of God in word and example across all the range of life. “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. (Deuteronomy 6:7)

C. The people and institutions which receive the revelation of heaven must distribute the truth for personal safety and future welfare; teaching is one of the best forms of learning. “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)

D. Responsible people teach and explain what God has done in history, redemption, and personal experience. “We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. F or he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:” (Psalm 78:4-6)

E. When people understand the past the present Providence of God becomes visible to them. “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (Isaiah 29:14)

III. Honor

A. The presumed inadequacies of those entrusted to a believer are no excuse for failure to do as God directs; God punishes silence with silence. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

B. God warns against turning the opportunities to instruct in the truth into obstacles to learning the ways of God; people in authority are always molding those in their care. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

C. Honor can be hard or counterintuitive, but the alternative is shame. “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (Proverbs 29:15)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hold the Territory

1 Timothy 1:1-11

I. Paul Worked in the Context of Grace

A. Paul wrote with authority far greater than anything which human institutions can grant. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;” (1 Timothy 1:1)

B. Paul frequently placed his authority to speak and to command in the context of election and Biblical doctrine. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,” (Romans 1:1) “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,” (1 Corinthians 1:1)

C. God explained Paul’s mission and authority while setting him apart to the ministry on the road to Damascus. “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:” (Acts 26:16-19)

D. The following letter comes from the God of grace; the subject matter is not optional. “Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Timothy 1:2)

II. False Teaching Obscures Grace

A. Paul ordered Timothy to hold the doctrinal line at Ephesus; doctrine cannot be democratically determined. “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,” (1 Timothy 1:3)

B. One false doctrine imports with it other false doctrines, bad behavior, and misdirection for believers. Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” (1 Timothy 1:4)

C. In contrast, right doctrine generates good behavior and positive life changes. “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:” (1 Timothy 1:5)

D. People who turn away from heaven’s direction produce nothing but empty noise. “From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;” (1 Timothy 1:6)

E. People who advance themselves rather than Bible truth lose their wits; the authority of church leaders derives from God’s commands and extends no further than the context of faithful doctrine. Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. (1 Timothy 1:7) “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1)

III. Biblical Law Is a Function of Grace

A. The place of law in church life is always in contention; grace preachers acknowledge the importance of law when it is used properly. “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;” (1 Timothy 1:8)

B. A dispassionate observer will see the enormous benefit to understanding what is in humanity’s best interest. “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

C. The law exposes sin so that sinners can understand their situation and its danger. “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,” (1 Timothy 1:9)

D. Everything that is incongruent with the mind of God is sinful; sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. “For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;” (1 Timothy 1:10)

E. Behavior either conforms to the gospel of grace entrusted to believers or it is sinful; life does not come with neutral zones. According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” (1 Timothy 1:11)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bless the Children

Deuteronomy 31:1-13; Mark 10:13-16 / Genesis 17:1-26

I. How Do Children Fit into the Church?

A. The disciples objected to the problems children bring to church life. “And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. (Mark 10:13)

B. Historically, children were an important part of the era in which God organized the Hebrew nation. “And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the LORD. And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. (Exodus 10:9-10)

C. Children were incorporated into the liturgical life of Israel. “And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?” (Joshua 4:21)

D. Christianity is a family religion and family life impacts children; sin and its consequences descend through generations. “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Exodus 20:5)

E. In contrast, the blessings of grace extend much further than the curse of sin; compassionately incorporating children into the life of the church is obligatory, not optional. “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:7) “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

II. Jesus Put Children at the Center of Church Life

A. Jesus not only welcomed children into the life of the church, but He declared that even the adults in the church must be children. “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14)

B. Newborns are loud, wet, self-centered, and demanding, yet these are the example Jesus chose to describe people of the covenant community; all that newborns bring with them is helplessness and trust. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:3-7)

C. The hardness of the human heart sees problems when Jesus sees opportunities; pro-life principles cannot be restricted to the civil realm. “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” (Mark 3:5)

D. Any congregation which fails to welcome children of all ages and problems declares itself not to be the family of God. “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” (Mark 10:15)

III. Children Must Be Welcome

A. Jesus set the pattern; bless the beginners. “And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:16)

B. The education of children and spiritual beginners is a normal and necessary part of daily Christian living. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 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.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

C. Through Moses God organized Biblical family and institutional life to nurture the new birth Jesus would bluntly reveal. “That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 6:2-3)

D. The normal church life is expressed in Psalm 78 (255 in the Hymnbook).Maschil of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God.” (Psalm 78:1-8)

Monday, May 11, 2009

In the Beginning It Was Not So

Malachi 2:10-17; Mark 10:1-12 / Genesis 2:5-25

I. How Do We Trap the Christians?

A. Jesus taught people who wanted to learn. “And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. (Mark 10:1)

B. Some people delight to disrupt gospel progress with tempting questions. “And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.” (Mark 10:2)

1. The term “tempt” or “test” enters the Gospel when Mark uses it to describe the work of Satan. “And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.” (Mark 1:13)

2. Mark uses the term three other times; each of these echoes the first usage. See Mark 8:11; Mark 10:2; and Mark 12:155

C. Christ turned the trap on the trappers; the question was disingenuous. “And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?” (Mark 10:3)

D. The Pharisees were mishandling Scripture just as Satan had in Matthew 4:1-10.

II. Jesus Unraveled the Problem

A. The people asking the question knew that the Bible permits divorce. “And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.” (Mark 10:4) “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

B. Scripture provides divorce as a remedy for the abject depravity of the human heart; rather than permitting divorce for any reason, the pattern was designed to restrain sin and protect the weaker party. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” (Mark 10:5)

C. God created people with important differences that complement and benefit each other through interaction. “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” (Mark 10:6)

D. Marriage is implicit in the human design. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; (Mark 10:7) See Genesis 2:24

E. A supernatural interaction of marriage partners is more reflective of the Trinity than of the atomized individuality of the unbelieving world. “And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. (Mark 10:8)

F. Polygamy appears in Scripture, but practicing polygamists cannot fit the original marriage paradigm and practicing polygamists are excluded from church office. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” (1 Timothy 3:2) “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” (1 Timothy 3:12)

III. No Fault Divorce Is an Oxymoron

A. The ingenuity of sinful minds, excusing evil, should never be given more authority than the facts of Creation. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Mark 10:9)

B. How should Christians handle all the exceptions and complications? “And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.” (Mark 10:10) “His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)

C. Unbelievers substitute tender mercies for justice and the only remedy for protected sin is divorce; just cultures would not leave many evil people alive to divorce. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

D. Righteous people extend mercy to every area of life and unrighteous people convert mercy into cruelty; something is fundamentally flawed when society protects snail darters and funds abortion. “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. (Proverbs 12:10)

E. Swapping for a better deal is actually adultery, not divorce. “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Live in Peace

Deuteronomy 13:1-18; Mark 9:42-50 / Isaiah 33:1-16

I. Some Things Are Just Wrong

A. It would be better to die an agonizing death than to rob a young believer of confidence in God; there are many ways to discourage believers and all of them are wrong. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. (Mark 9:42)

B. It is disgusting when believers become barriers to belief in Jesus Christ. “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13)

C. Avoid people who teach what is contrary to sound doctrine in word or deed. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)

II. Spiritual Suicide Also Destroys People

A. Some losses are worse than others; bad doctrine and behavior can open the door to eternal devastation. “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:43-44) There is a real hell, and that hell is eternal.

1. Sin expresses itself in what people do with hands, feet, and eyes; the problem is not exclusively mental or spiritual. “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.” (Romans 6:13)

2. Bluntly, people need to transform their enthusiasm for sin into enthusiasm for righteousness. “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” (Romans 6:19)

B. Bad doctrine and behavior are not just bad for other people; they are self-destructive. “And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:45-46)

C. Kill sin or it will kill you; no tool or asset is worthwhile when the price is eternal misery. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:47-48)

D. Do the numbers, where are you taking yourself? “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

III. Give Up Dodging God and Get Right Today

A. Purification is coming and it will be on God’s terms. “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” (Mark 9:49) “I [i.e. John] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:” (Matthew 3:11)

1. Temple sacrifices were purified with salt. “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.” (Leviticus 2:13)

2. Without salt and fire there was no sacrifice then, and there is none now. “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

3. The life of sacrifice is normal for Christians. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (1 Peter 4:12)

B. When Christians fall into patterns of life that the ungodly celebrate, they become unable to point people to God; genuine purity produces peace. “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” (Mark 9:50) “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

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