Saturday, August 29, 2009

What Do You Say?

I. God Loves Truth

A. The Creator leaves His mark on Creation. “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

B. Truth is ultimately expressed in Jesus. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

C. The future is bright for those who turn to Jesus and all that He represents. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

II. Satan Is the Father of Lies

A. Satan lied and murdered from the start. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

B. Satan shares in every human disaster, but falsehood is not so strong as truth. From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:1-7)

III. Your Allegiance Will Reveal Itself

A. Jesus set a pattern; speak the truth for those who unable to speak the truth for themselves. Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

B. Believers will take up the cause of those who are unable to do so for themselves. “These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:” (Zechariah 8:16)

C. Doing unrighteousness to yield righteousness has nothing to do with Christ. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.” (Leviticus 19:15)

D. There is no way to mix truth and lies; ultimately there is no safe way to side with evil. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:8-12)

E. Satan seeks recruits; take nothing for granted. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8)

F. Will you share in the triumph of truth? “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

Close to Correct

Deuteronomy 6:1-25; Mark 12:28-34 / Proverbs 21:1-31

I. What Matters in Life?

A. An intellectual asked Jesus to identify the foundation of Christianity; where does the religious journey begin? “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28)

B. The question reminds a thinker of the Shorter Catechism--What is the chief end of man? “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

II. The Answer Begins with God

A. The priority of God is the starting point for life; this insight is a pervasive feature of the Old Testament. “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:” (Mark 12:29) “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39) The Shema is recited twice daily.

B. Genuine love of God will fill every realm of life; heart refers to the center of all intellectual activity. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30)

C. Just as the cross has both vertical and horizontal dimensions, the love of God has two dimensions. “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

D. Disrespect for the image of God, man, is inherently disrespect for God; a believer who loves God must consequently love the image of God. “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:9-10)

III. The Intellectual Was Pleased with Jesus

A. The intellectual approved of monotheism; Jesus had the right answers. “And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:” (Mark 12:32)

B. Being right from the start is far better than repairing what has failed. “And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:33)

C. God demands comprehensive devotion at every level; everything in life flows from how a person interprets reality. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

IV. Close Is Not Enough

A. While the man had the right idea, something was missing. “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.” (Mark 12:34)

B. The exchange demonstrated that right answers are not enough; only God can give new life to the dead. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10)

C. Jesus was about to demonstrate on the cross exactly what these two commandments meant. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:7-12)

D. Fulfill these two commandments in your own life by seeking and nurturing the signs of a transformed life in yourself and others. “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1 John 3:23-24)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It Will All Become Obvious

1 Timothy 5:11-17

I. Treat Widows Properly

A. Unless widows are treated properly, there is no point to the rest of sound doctrine; John Wesley argued, “Put first things first.” Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

B. Paul is not talking about creating a class of perhaps useful dependents; using unhappy situations to impose impossible restrictions on people is fundamentally wrong. “But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.” (1 Timothy 5:11-12)

C. Imperfect solutions can transform into major problems; do it right the first time. “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” (1 Timothy 5:13) She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27) “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10)

D. The right solution to challenges prevents making the church vulnerable to attacks from enemies. “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan.” (1 Timothy 5:14-15) “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)

E. Avoid behavior which even looks questionable. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

F. Christian families must do their duty rather than throw challenges at the church. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.” (1 Timothy 5:16)

II. Enable the Ministry

A. Do what must be done so that ministers can do their work; churches benefit from full-time ministers. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

B. People cannot sustain themselves on voluntary, unpaid work; extrapolate from the rest of working life. “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” (1 Timothy 5:18)

C. One of the most important assets a minister brings to his work is his reputation; weakening the pastor inherently weakens the congregation. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19)

D. Transparency, not cover-up, intimidates potential sinners. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. (1 Timothy 5:20)

III. Believers Must Behave Faithfully

A. Demanding godly behavior is a critical part of leadership; good leaders will be faithful and impartial. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. (1 Timothy 5:21)

B. Going by the book excludes shortcuts and the pitfalls they conceal. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22)

C. Good behavior will not lead a person to neglect basic life necessities; God is not expecting us to do His work for Him. “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (1 Timothy 5:23)

D. Everything will become obvious in the end. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.” (1 Timothy 5:24-25)

E. The church will not escape the judgment sweeping the world; in fact, account settling will begin with the church. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Put Your Hand in Your Own Pocket

Luke 6:38

I. God Condemns Sharp Dealing

A. Covering up theft with a clever alternate term does not fool God; theft is theft. “Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found.” (Leviticus 6:4)

B. Truth and integrity are the only options for Christians; do not offend God to His face and expect Him to treat it as a simple misunderstanding. Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.” (Leviticus 19:11) Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 7:9-11)

C. As the Redeemer of God’s Christ elect has purchased the right to set the rules for His people. “Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:36-37)

D. Some forms of theft are multiple crimes which cannot be excused by decent societies; not all sin is strictly personal. If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.” (Deuteronomy 24:7) “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, 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 1:9-10)

II. Theft Mocks Providence

A. Real gain is possible but the path to that gain is different from the ways of the world. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. (Proverbs 3:13-14)

B. What is the value of something which is ephemeral; the world and its trinkets are ultimately temporary. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1 Timothy 6:7) As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16)

C. Enough resources to function are all that anyone needs. “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:8)

D. “Riches” and “temptation” are interchangeable terms; avoid temptation. “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Timothy 6:9)

III. Carelessness with Resources Is Subtle Theft

A. Resources disappear when they are not accorded proper attention; consider the process as self-spoilage. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?” (Proverbs 27:23-24)

B. Take Providence seriously; God plants trees where they will prosper and accomplish His objectives. There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

C. God makes work rewarding; remain clear about how life functions. “I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)

D. Concentrate on the right things. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. (Psalm 37:3)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Get a Clue

Ezekiel 37:1-14; Mark 12:18-27 / Psalm 62:1-12

I. The Sadducees Took Their Turn Tormenting Jesus

A. The Sadducees claimed to believe the Five Books of Moses but they denied standard doctrines believed by most Jews and by the Pharisees in particular. “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” (Acts 23:8)

B. The Sadducees were an important feature of the cultural establishment, though they held to little theologically, they were prepared to line up solidly with their enemies to avoid letting anyone rock the establishment boat. “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,” (Acts 4:1)

C. John the Baptist called both Pharisees and Sadducees snakes; do not trust people who manipulate Scripture rather than submit to it. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7)

D. The Sadducees began with what all parties agreed was inspired Scripture. If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.” (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) Consult the story of Ruth.

E. The Sadducees tried to twist Scripture to mock the doctrine of Resurrection. “In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.” (Mark 12:23)

II. Don’t Argue with God

A. Get all the facts; the Sadducees had not done their Bible study homework. “And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?” (Mark 12:24)

B. Not only did the Sadducees fail to see the obvious doctrine of the Resurrection, they had ignored the implications for eternity. “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.” (Mark 12:25)

C. Even that fraction of Scripture that the Sadducees acknowledged supported the Resurrection by acknowledging that the patriarchs were actually alive when God was talking to Moses at the burning bush; God says “I am” rather than “I was.” “And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?” (Mark 12:26) “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 3:6)

D. The great message of God’s people is that death is not the summary of life; it is impossible to believe in Jesus and reject the Resurrection.He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.” (Mark 12:27)

III. Rejecting Error Is Not Enough—Believe and Teach the Truth

A. God’s people are those who expect resurrection; this is the hope of Abraham which made him the father of the faithful. “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:” (Romans 4:17-19)

B. Christians expect to see the New Jerusalem with Abraham; there is a better world coming.These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

C. The Sadducees were not quibbling about words; they were raising the ultimate issue of life. “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rule 7

Exodus 20:7

I. Christians Repudiate Worldly Behavior

A. Sanctification and honor frame Christian behavior, but they are from the norms of the unbelieving world; holiness isn’t often invited to the party. “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4)

B. Christians should avoid morally dangerous territory. I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1)

C. When David neglected the Biblical standard, he crossed the line and the consequences turned deadly for himself, his family, and the entire nation. “And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (2 Samuel 11:3) Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.” (2 Samuel 12:9)

D. Actual adultery is obviously wrong, but Scripture argues that lesser behaviors which tend in the wrong direction must be managed defensively as well.Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)

II. Respect for Marriage Is a Life and Death Matter

A. The home ought to provide the ultimate safe place in life. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.” (Proverbs 31:11) She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” (Proverbs 31:27-28)

B. Consider the implications of Joseph’s behavior in Potiphar’s house; on the human level, misbehavior would have been so easy. “But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.” (Genesis 39:8-10)

C. Is that brief pleasure worth an eternity in hell? “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:13-15) Dog” refers to a behavior pattern, not to a faithful pet.

D. When families collapse, God turns society and culture over to the covenant-destroying behaviors which always mark the end of civilizations. “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” (Romans 1:24-27)

III. Avoid Putting Words in God’s Mouth

A. Adding rules to marriage which do not come from God can have disastrous results. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

B. Human wisdom can be nothing but self-promotion; cultures and cults add incalculably harmful nonsense. “Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23)

C. Clever arguments over casual divorce and justification for open marriage are actually treachery, not wisdom. “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” (Malachi 2:14-15)

D. Trust what God reveals and be skeptical of anything which isn’t congruent with Scripture. “And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matthew 19:5)

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