The Armor of God

March 30, 2013

For a hippie to show up at boot camp is a rather traumatic experience. I was a peace and love kind of a guy suddenly thrust into a violent and loud place designed to prepare me for a loud and violent war. Had I had any clue what those weeks would have been like and the opportunity for death it offered me, I might have ran off to Canada.
I had been a WWII buff in my pre-teen years and watched every war movie I could. “Combat” and “Twelve O’clock High” were favorite TV shows. My favorite comic books were “Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.”, “Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos”, and “The Haunted Tank” (haunted by the ghost of J.E.B. Stuart and flying a rebel flag). I still have many of those comic books.
Hollywood and comic books made war more of a fairy tale. The blood and guts didn’t really sink in. I could not have imagined real war. My father-in-law and one of my maternal uncles were real war heroes and they spoke little of what they saw. I can still remember my uncle sitting there in a sweat while I watched “Combat” on his TV. I believe both my uncle and father-in-law suffered from shell shock/PTSD. Incredibly, they both worked hard and provided for their families. Maybe we should rethink our current treatments for those conditions, which seem to leave the men and women helpless and dependent on groups and therapists.
I was very fortunate. I did not make it to SEA (Southeast Asia) until six months after the Viet Nam war was declared over albeit they were still shooting at our troops leaving Nam a year after I left SEA.
I spent most of my active duty stateside. My only contact with the carnage was via my Honor Guard duty that allowed me to participate in the funerals of my fallen comrades in arms. After awhile, I could no longer take the grief I saw at the gravesite and asked to me moved from the color guard to the firing party that stood away from the family. Also, Dover was one of the processing points for bodies returning from Nam and I routinely made deliveries to the morgue and occasionally saw the bodies. That was ghastly enough and I cannot imagine the horrors of those on the battlefield watching their friends fall and wondering when it would be their turn.
War is indeed Hell and no one wants to think about it or be involved in it. However, Brothers and Sisters, we are in a war. We are not at peace. Sadly, many have fallen wounded and remain on the sidelines because their fellow soldiers are AWOL or on perpetual R&R and will not or cannot help.
Many will fall and condemn their Commander-In-Chief because they do not believe they are in a war. They think it is over and they should be running through flowered fields dancing with butterflies. They do not understand the cries of the wounded Christians and the dying lost. Yea, often they do not hear them at all. They are like mad men walking in the midst of the battle singing and gathering up shrapnel thinking they are gathering flowers for their dinner table.

Eph 5:14-16
14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (KJV)

How appropriate that Paul would write these words before he speaks of putting on the whole armor of God. Those who are “sleeping the sleep of the dead” will not hear nor understand the need for the armor. They are in the dark and they need the light of Christ to show them the truth and lead them from their fairy tale world into reality. Fools wandering around in a daze will only hurt themselves for they will treat the weapons of war as toys and will fall as though they were unarmed. The time for the partying of victory is after the war is over not while the days are yet evil!
I do not know that it is still there, but at one time the Queen Elizabeth was berthed in a California harbor. The ship not only served as a luxury liner, but as a troop transport in WWII. They had divided the ship in half. One side was decorated as it looked in peace and the other as it looked in war.
The peace side showed extreme luxury. Crystal chandeliers, fine china, gaudy table cloths, thick rugs, etc. The war side was stark and barren. Lights were functional, not pretty, the floors and tables bare and the utensils tin. What contrast! Brethren we are called to war!

2 Tim 2:3-4
3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (KJV)

We are expected to kakopatheo (kak-op-ath-eh’-o); 25553 from the same as 2552; to undergo hardship: KJV– be afflicted, endure afflictions (hardness), suffer trouble. It is a part of war. We are line soldiers. Our place is on the field not at the Officer’s Club or the rear echelon. We are called to do battle. Jesus won the war and He will win our daily battles, but not as we sit on the beach or at ringside. We are to do battle together.

James 4:7
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (KJV)

5293 hupotasso (hoop-ot-as’-so); from 5259 and 5021; to subordinate; reflexively, to obey: KJV– be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.

I am to submit myself unto the Captain of the Host (Joshua 5:13-15). I am a man under authority (Luke 7:6-10) as a soldier is to his superiors. Which means I have orders to follow and a fight to fight.

436 anthistemi (anth-is’-tay-mee);from 473 and 2476; to stand against, i.e. oppose: KJV– resist, withstand.

While there have been times that God fought the battles of His people as they stood behind and worshiped (II Chronicles 20) He also tells us to resist. To stand against the Devil you must be in the right army (saved) and in the condition to serve which means no unconfessed sin and having the right weapons.

2 Cor 10:3-6
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. (KJV)

In a carnal army carnal weapons are used. In boot camp you learn to make your rifle an extension of your body. You eat and sleep with it. You learn how to break it down, reassemble and load it blindfolded. If your weapon fails because you failed to care for it or you did not use it properly you die. That is the cold, hard and dirty facts.
In a carnal war, your enemies want you dead or at the very least maimed and out of the battle. It has been said that it takes at least four people to carry you from the battlefield wounded and hence it is more beneficial to wound your enemy than to kill him. That may be true, but in the heat of the battle I doubt that any soldier has anything else on his mind than to kill so as not to be killed.
In this spiritual war, you have one advantage. Once you are in Christ, the enemy cannot kill you spiritually for you are already dead and your life is hid in Christ (Col. 3:1-7). He can kill you physically with God’s permission (Job 2:6) or if he can get you to participate in some activity that will bring about death (Matt 4:7) or causes you to commit a sin unto death (I John 5:16).
He can make you wounded and out of the battle. He can create doubt so that when you pray you cannot receive from God (James 1:5-8). He can get you working in the flesh so that you receive no rewards in Heaven (I Cor 3:11-15). He can cause you to fall so that you lose your ministry temporarily or for a lifetime (1 Cor 9:27, Heb 12:15-17). He can keep you wounded so that others are wrapped up in caring for you when you should be bearing your own burden and teaching others (Gal 6:1-5, Heb 5:11-14).
How can we resist the devil victoriously and avoid the wounds? We put on the whole armor of God and use it correctly!!!

Eph 6:10-20
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (KJV)

First, we need to know in whose power (dominion) and might (ability) we are working in the first place (vs. 10). It is not ours, but God’s!!! Without Him we can do nothing! (John 15:5). Without His Spirit the battle is not won and there is no liberty! (Zech 4:6, 2 Cor 3;17)
Next we need to sure we put on the whole armor (vs. 11). Achilles of mythology fell because of one small part his mother did not dip in the river. How many policemen have died because while they had their pistol and nightstick they did not wear their vest? The devil is lying in wait to see which part we forget to put on and he will attack us there.
In the heat of the spiritual battle we must remember who are our real enemies (vs. 12). Many times we attack people and reject people instead of attacking the spirit behind the actions of that person and rejecting the lies that come from that evil spirit that is deceiving that person. The person is just being used as a carnal weapon to throw us off our objective and divert us from our main target.
Let’s keep our sights on the main objective and ignore the diversionary tactics of the devil.
We are to withstand the evil day. (Vs. 13) Brethren, we are surely in that day or time. The word evil is where we get our word porno or pornography.

4190 poneros (pon-ay-ros’);from a derivative of 4192; hurtful, i.e. evil (properly, in effect or influence, and thus differing from 2556, which refers rather to essential character, as well as from 4550, which indicates degeneracy from original virtue); figuratively, calamitous; also (passively) ill, i.e. diseased; but especially (morally) culpable, i.e. derelict, vicious, facinorous; neuter (singular) mischief, malice, or (plural) guilt; masculine (singular) the devil, or (plural) sinners:

KJV– bad, evil, grievous, harm, lewd, malicious, wicked (-ness). See also 4191.

We are living in a day when moral lewdness prevails and we can see all the facets of meaning in this word in the traits of our people. The result of the moral degeneracy is a time when people are vicious, full of mischief, malice and calamity. We suffer from many illnesses and addictions that are falsely called illness. We are a derelict society full of spiritual and moral derelicts! People are drugging themselves because of depression caused by guilt!!!
What are we called to do? We are called to withstand and having done all else to stand. We withstand the evil by refusing to buy into the lies of this age and its activities. We withstand by calling the world to repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Yes, sins! You can call them something else and write it off as ancient mind manipulation espoused by blue nosed Victorian prudes, but God still calls them sins and either we let the Blood cover them or we will pay for them. That is withstanding! Staying in the old path that is narrow and calling to those in the broad path of destruction. We seek to thwart the advance of evil and push it back and recover ground for Christ at all costs. That is withstanding the evil day!
You say, Brother Ron, they do not listen to me. They laugh and mock Christ when I try to reprove their deeds in love and show them to the Cross. Would it not be better to say nothing? God forbid!!!!

Lev 5:1
1 And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity. (KJV)

Prov 29:24
24 Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not. (KJV)

If we rebuke not the sins of this age then we are partners with them. By our silence they will think it is not important or we agree with them. Telling them will make then hate us or get saved, but we cannot offer them the comfort of our silence. (2 Cor 2:16) In spite of their curses and abuses we are to stand. An example might be the English royal guards that are not to move or show any expression regardless of the foolishness or the taunts of the tourists. They are to stand fixed and focused on their duty and endure the continued assaults. We too are to stand bruised, bloodied, and bullied as one focused on the mission given him by His King! Even when there is no advancement holding your ground is still a victory.
Loins gird about with truth (vs 14). A man’s robe would hang to his knees for normal daily wear. When he needed to run, do certain types of work and fight he would hike it up and stuff the excess in the belt to give him the needed mobility and keep it from getting caught on things. The belt also was a place to hang his sheath. In order to keep us mobile and prevent us from getting hung up on things we must be sure that we wear truth like a belt. Some belts also protected the man from a stomach wound, which was usually fatal.
It is also interesting that the belt covers the waist or bowels of a person. Throughout Scripture the bowels represent the residence of emotions (2 Cor 6:12, Phil 1:8, 2:1; Col. 3:12; Philemon 7,12,20; I John 3:17). We speak of having gut feelings. This is a great picture of what we striving for in SAFE (Stable And Free Eternally). We want our emotions controlled by truth and not truth interpreted by our emotions. We also want to avoid emotional reactions to our trials, temptations and other assaults.
A belt also provides support to our back to reduce strain and injury. As we grow in the full knowledge of the truth (epignosis) we will strengthen our spiritual backbones and be able to endure any load we must bear.
The breastplate (vs. 14) also defends against a fatal wound to the heart. Earlier I spoke of policemen who died because they neglected to wear their vest or breastplate. Not all blows to the chest would be fatal. A hit to the solar plexus would knock the wind out a person and even bring them to their knees. This leaves them temporarily unable to defend themselves and to save their lives might lead them to surrender.
Again, the devil cannot kill us spiritually because we are in Christ, but unless we put on Christ’s righteousness and reckon ourselves already dead (Rom 6) he can disheartened us to where we become unable to serve because we are dwelling on our righteousness. The devil can accuse us 24/7 if we trust in our own righteousness and he will always find weaknesses in the armor of flesh. He can deal a deathblow to our ministry and testimony if we put on the breastplate of self-righteousness. By putting on Christ’s breastplate of righteousness we become invulnerable to the devil’s attacks to our heart area. If we rely on our righteousness even slightly we will open up a hole for him to hit us in our spiritual solar plexus bringing us to our knees and tempting us to surrender. Let us put on the right breastplate, but if we falter let us hit our knees praying to recover not surrender.
I was issued combat boots. They were very durable and gave me good footing on various terrains as well as protecting my shins and strengthening my ankles. I had to be sure that I had a proper fit if I was to be prepared for long marches. I had to tie them properly to keep from tripping over my own shoestrings.
We must also be properly shod (Vs. 15). We must keep our focus and not get tangled up in vain babblings (2 Tim 2:16) and vain jangling (1 Tim 1:6) that are designed to trip us and make us fall or slow us down while we mess with loose strings or tangled knots. We must know what the Gospel of Peace is (1 Cor 15:1-11), how it should be preached and what is the bottom line (1 Cor 2:1,2). Only then will we advance over the rugged battlefield and reclaim the ground gained by the devil for the Kingdom of God and reach fallen soldiers and enlist those brought out of captivity to join us in spreading the message.
Riot police often carry shields when they do crowd management. This helps them fend off thrown bottles and rocks and block blows from baseball bats and tire irons. Our enemy throws fiery darts or Molotov cocktails (Vs. 16). These are his lies from Hell that can burn our subconscious or cripple our walk as we listen to them. Each time he slings a lie at us we must block it with our shield of faith and then take and slice him to bits with the sword of the Spirit (Vs. 17), which is the word of God. It is not enough to block the lie. We must retaliate with truth. As long as he thinks we do not know the truth that sets us free he will continue to attack until the arm that holds the shield weakens. When the shield finally falls, we are had and he has won. By answering each lie with the Word which cuts him and exposes him as the liar that he is our arm holding the shield gets stronger because we have exercised our faith and have seen the damage done to the enemy.
However, note where the sword is sheathed. It is on that belt of truth that we put on earlier. Unless our sword is grounded or sheathed in the truth it is useless against the enemy. Many try and take the sword and make it say what they want it to say or try and mold man’s blade onto it. When they do that the devil laughs for that is just his tactic. He quoted Scripture out of context when he tempted Christ (Matt 4). The truth in context sharpens the two-edged sword and brings it into a position of perfect balance and able to divide asunder the soul and spirit (Heb 4:12). Do your homework and hone your blade on the bedrock of truth and you will do great damage to the kingdom of darkness.
I wanted to show the left jab and the right uppercut power of the effective use of the shield and the sword so I skipped a piece of the armor. Let’s go back to the first half of verse 17 and pick up the helmet of salvation. No soldier goes into battle without headgear. This is another part of the body where a blow could kill or maim.
Various cultures use different parts of their bodies to represent ideas. We have already spoke of the bowels being considered the root of emotions in the Bible. There is an African tribe that expresses their affection by saying, “I love you with all my liver.” We say the heart and it is often represented by the symbol for our blood pump. In Scripture the heart would really be the thoughts or feelings of the mind. The word in the Greek is kardia where we get the word cardiac and we may get the blood pump concept because it means middle by analogy and we view the blood pump as the center of the body. However, the ancients may have meant that since out of the mind comes the issues of life (Prov 4:23) it is the middle or center of the person. This is collaborated by Hebrews 4:12 since the mind is the place of thoughts and intents and not the blood pump.
The main thrust of the spiritual war that we are engaged in is for the heart/mind of the person. The word repent means a change of mind. Therefore unless the heart/mind perceives the truth of its condition and its need for a change there can be no salvation. Proof of this is in II Corinthians 4:3,4. It is their minds that are blinded and therefore cannot change or repent and they cannot be saved. This is the heart of the New Covenant.

Ezek 36:26-27
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (KJV)

We must put on the helmet of salvation to protect our biblical heart, our mind. The main benefit of this helmet is that it is the assurance of our salvation. One of the most common fiery darts of the devil is the doubt of salvation. Henry A. Ironside said, “Acceptable service springs from the knowledge that the question of salvation is forever settled.” If the devil can beat you about the head and shoulders with doubts about your salvation you will be at least too punch drunk to serve well if not knocked out completely!
How do you lead someone to Christ if you are not sure you are saved? How do you comfort another saint when you are not comforted? How do you assure a returning backslider that he is forgiven and welcomed like the prodigal son when you have no assurance of your own forgiveness?
Put on the helmet. Scripture is replete with verses that are meant to give you that assurance. Put up your shield! Slice the lie with the Sword! It is either salvation or probation. It cannot be both and He has said “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom 10:13) We are sealed until the day of redemption (Eph 1:13,14). Brothers and Sisters, it doesn’t get no gooder or more assured than that!! Rejoice and put that helmet on straight!!
Now we come to a final weapon that strikes fear in the heart of the enemy (Vs. 18-20). Prayer is like our battle cry. During the War of Northern Aggression, the Confederate soldiers would give what was later called the Rebel Yell. Yankee soldiers said it was the blood curdling and unnerving. They could not even give a good description of it so unique was its sound.
I was not there, but I think I have an idea what may have caused that sound. There are a large number of men fixin’ to go against the enemy. Each man has varied emotions about that action. Some are angry. Some hate their enemy. Some are scared. Many are calling out to God. All are wondering if this is their last charge and who will take care of their parents or children. All of these emotions are being released in this yell and the cacophony is loud and it is possible that the emotion is being felt by the Yanks who are also feeling the same penned up emotions and it sends chills through them.
Christians about to do battle feel many of the same emotions as a carnal soldier. When the enemy rears his ugly head he may have had the advantage of surprise or his roar seems deafening and you shake in fear. You may have righteous indignation or flat out anger because the evil one has touched someone you love and you want to revenge first blood. You should hate sin and the devil, but remember to love the sinner as one taken prisoner and needs to be set free not decapitated. The battle mounting may seem so fierce that you wonder if this is the one to take you home and you wonder about the ones you will leave behind.
No matter what you are feeling your first defense is a good offense and that first strike should be prayer. It will be a surprise attack for the devil does not expect you to pray. His experience is that Christians either flee or surrender at his first roar. Those few who stand and fight are unsure of their weapons or strive in their own strength and his victory is quick. The warrior who cries out to God is rare and is a real threat to the devil. Hell shakes in fear when even the weakest saint prays for he is latching on to supernatural power even the power of the blood which has destroyed the King of Darkness and is destroying his kingdom.

Isa 12:6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee. (KJV)

Josh 6:5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him. (KJV)

Ps 132:9 Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy. (KJV)

1Thes 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (KJV)

Brethren, let us cry out and shout for the Lord is in our midst! He will tear down the walls that prevent our progress or imprison us! Let the devil know that it is a joy to be in Christ’s camp and that the victory is ours for one day the Lord Himself will lead the final charge and His kingdom will be established!!!
Ah, but do not let us be slack! Let us through the Spirit persevere in prayer of worship and our supplications or requests for ourselves and all the saints!! Let us not be half hearted or selfish!! We are not the only ones fighting in His army. We need to pray for other components and soldiers (Vs. 19,20). Paul desired prayer for himself that he might also continue to fight the good fight. We often think to pray for the weak, but what of the strong? How many valiant soldiers have fallen by the wayside because we neglected to pray for them and continued victory? Moses was a mighty man of God, but even he needed Aaron and Hur to hold up his arms while he besought God for victory (Exodus 17:9-16).
Pray for boldness for yourself and others! Lift up the arms of men of God until the battle is won! Brethren, let us put on the whole armor of God and go forth into the fray for victory is ours and we shall sing the songs of Zion for joy!!

1 Sam 17:47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands. (KJV)


The Good Shepherd

March 30, 2013

This is my wife’s favorite passage and she has asked me for years to teach on this, but somehow it has never seemed to be what I was being lead to preach or teach. Finally, here we are. I guess that is a lesson in itself on patience. C];-)}|>
There are many people in the world today claiming to know the way to God and a godly life. In fact, I would not even try to number the voices and spirits in the world today or the books, radio, TV and computer programs they produce. (1 Cor 14:10, 1 John 4:1) It is no wonder people are confused. All these “shepherds” desiring to have “sheep” follow them and they are all going different ways and saying different things yet claiming they will get the sheep to the same or proper pasture dictates a study on what constitutes a good shepherd and a good voice.

1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter open; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. KJV

In the first five verses, we have a parable given. In verse one, we have only one door to enter the sheepfold. In verse two, we have only one shepherd. In verse 3, we have only one voice to recognize. In verse 4, we have only one person to follow and in verse 5, we have only one response to strangers.
At this point, the Jews would have no argument with Jesus. They understood sheep and shepherding and would have no problem with the concept of one in this context. They knew how sheep were sheltered. They knew what thieves were. Some of them were thieves and knew the modus operandi. They knew that sheep would learn the voice of their shepherd and would only follow him ignoring the voice of another. Their anger would come with the interpretation of the parable. In our society, we lack this understanding. Few of us tend sheep or know anyone that does tend them.
I think one being emphasized is significant in our day. We want all kinds of legitimate entries into the sheepfold. We want to recognize numerous shepherds. We want equality for all voices and recognition of all who claim to be a shepherd and for the sheep to just follow anyone. All ideas are of equal value is the cry of those who preach tolerance but do not practice it.
Indeed, I have heard that a Supreme Court judge has written that freedom of speech applies to everyone but Christians. If that is true, he needs to be impeached because of such gross ignorance of the Constitution and its framers. That may even border on hate speech and it is most certainly prejudiced. What this country needs is a cowboy and truck driver in the White House and some of them on the Supreme Court as well. These rich kids and lawyers we have been electing have lost touch with reality.

6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. KJV

In verses 6-10, Christ explains the parable and then the fireworks begin. To tell the Jews that He is the Door, Jesus warps their minds. (Vs. 6,7) They are expecting a Messiah, but Jesus does not fit their bill. They want a military leader and a King. Ironically, when God was their King ruling from glory, they wanted a human king to rule and God to stay in Glory. (1Samuel 8) Now God comes to them in human form to be their King and they just want a human warrior king with a God conveniently in Glory. Some things never change.
Not only is that a menace to their theology and political goals, but by calling Himself the Door, they understand that He is saying that He is the only Door into the sheepfold which they understand as meaning entrance into the presence of God or Heaven! They thought that they were the doorways to God. After all, they were the theological leaders. Yet, Christ said that they were not going through the Door and that they were blocking others from doing the same by taking away the key, which is the truth. (Luke 11:52)

By adding to and taking away from the Word, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Lawyers, were all thieves and robbers trying to get into the sheepfold their way. (Vs. 8) Things have not changed much. The names have changed to protect the guilty, but we still have Word tampering and people designing their own pet doctrines and gimmicks to show that they are the only shepherds that can get you into the sheepfold. For the cultural fussy eater we just provide a luxury sheepfold with a buffet where the sheep can pick and choose their doctrine or shepherd according to the latest fad diet. Some cater to the elite and others glean the poor, but they are all thieves and robbers. Look for their latest book coming soon with the new revelation to explain why the previous revelation did not come to pass, like the Y2K revealing of the AntiChrist or Rapture. Sadly, more and more of these types are cropping up even in the “Conservative” Baptist groups.
Jesus explains that there is only one way to salvation. (Vs. 9a) That did not sit well with the Jews or the Gentiles. The Jews knew they were the chosen of the only true God, so they had no problem with one salvation. They just could not accept Jesus Christ as that only way. Gentiles could not deal with that since they were polytheistic which is one reason they had such fits with the monotheistic Jews and persecuted them every chance they could.
The Romans believed in religious liberty as long as you bowed to the Emperor as god. After that, you can have a million gods they did not care as long as you recognized theirs. They did not even care if it was lip service. Now, if you had come along preaching that their god was the only way of salvation you would have received praise, a headquarters and a stipend from the Emperor or maybe a seat in the Senate. Ah, but to claim that there was only one God and theirs was not the one ended their tolerance and you became an enemy of the state.
Hmm, sound like the local news? I could start a religion where we all had to dye ourselves purple and dance naked on the full moon with marshmallows in our nostrils, while the men barked and the women meowed. I would be accepted into the ministerium as an avant-garde leader in spirituality. I could probably get some chaplains in the military as long as I filed my appropriate papers with the government. That is, as long as I said, “I’m Ok. You’re OK” and accepted everyone else as being on the same trail to the sheepfold expressing themselves in unique innovative worship.
Ah, but say that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and I am being intolerant and there is no toleration of me. Yet, what else can I say if I am a Christian when Christ said it Himself? How can I deny the clear teaching of the One I worship and serve? The Great Commission clearly teaches to teach and make disciples of all men. Well, if I come across a person of another faith or an atheist my commandment is to seek to make that person a disciple of Christ by love and not by sword as some have done in the past. Christ is the only Door to Heaven. He is the only way of salvation.
I had a black Baptist brother ask me about that and he said that he just could not see how the rest of the world was lost. I quoted him this passage and Acts 4:12 and others saying that you have to believe it because the Bible and the Savior you say you serve said so. I later found out that there is sort of a movement or thinking within some black Christians to try to redeem their animist ancestors.
I understand their concern for their ancestors, but my Teutonic ancestors are in Hell if they did not receive Christ. Many of my ancestors who might have been “Christians” by name only are there as well. We have to trust them to a righteous God that will do right. We need to lead to salvation all we can within our lifetime. We cannot help the dead, only the living. When you consider that God had every right to toss all of us into Hell, it is easier to be grateful that any make it to Heaven at all! It should spur us to greater zeal for evangelism. I trust the God of grace that is not willing that any should perish to provide the opportunity for salvation to all that would accept the gift He offers. I have read some tremendous testimonies as to how God accomplishes this.
Christ also says that He is the one way to spiritual growth and nourishment. (Vs. 9b) We seek fad ways to the deeper life like we seek fad diets. We buy all sorts of books and attend a myriad of seminars, but Jesus said that we get to the pasture by Him. The pasture was a place of rest and food. (Psalm 23) If we are hungry or stunted in our growth it is because we have been eating too much processed or regurgitated food and not feasting on the Bread sent down from Heaven or drinking from the spring of Living Water. (John 6:35; 4:10)
I did my time at Bible College. I have sat under the ministry of many teachers and preachers. Some I admired and some were mired in the muck. My best learning times were when I was in the library doing my own research apart from what my professors assigned. My sermons come more from what I have learned from God through my own experiences and my own study which is why I do not quote a lot of people unless they have been dead for a hundred years or more.
God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to win souls and equip saints. However, we are to learn to pour our own milk and learn to cut our own steak that the Lord would serve us. (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:13,14) It is needful to come and hear the Word preached as many times as the doors are opened, but it is equally important to spend time in your own study of the Word and to receive what the Lord has to say to you specifically as His child. If a husband hired a guy to come and tell his wife that he loved her three times a day it would not be the same as him telling her himself. Jesus has a guy telling you that three or four times a week, but that is to inspire you to come to Him and hear it from Him personally.
If I eat a steak in front of you, giving you a description of the taste with every bite and telling you how I feel you will get very hungry while understanding how juicy and tender it is. However, it will not satisfy your hunger and you will starve to death if it continues for very long. Your preachers and teachers are describing the meal they were given by the Lord to make you hungry to go get one from Him served hot from the throne and not live off of what they describe. If we ate physical food like spiritual food, we would be anorexic from three or four meals a week. Grab a spiritual knife and fork and eat all you want!! There is no cholesterol or fat!!! You will be lean, clean fighting machines if you eat regularly at the Master’s Mess Hall!!!
Thieves bring loss and death (Vs. 10a) Have you ever heard of a thief that broke into a house to deposit money and jewels? Do they install a top of the line computer and an entertainment center including a large screen TV? I don’t think so! I would leave the door of my house unlocked if they practiced that!!! No, they come in through another means to take everything that is valuable and if you get in the way they will take your life.
Spiritual thieves and robbers do the same thing. They come to the sheepfold or the church and because they have not the proper faith and belief in Christ, they cannot get through the Door, so they develop theologies and doctrines trying to get in another way. Sometimes, they even create something that looks like the Door. It is a good copy. It deceives many, but it is a doorway to Hell, not Heaven and will result in eternal death for those they rob of the Truth and their most precious possession, their soul! There is no greater loss!!
Contrast Christ who brings gain and life. (Vs. 10b) Thieves take and Jesus gives. Christ does not only promise us eternal life for our soul, but He promises us life more abundantly in this life. He does this in many ways. He changes our hearts, which changes our thoughts and practices, which guides us from destructive lifestyles. This improves our health, wealth, and relationships. He answers the questions that plague us as to where we came from, why are we here and where are we going after death. This leads to peace. He promises to always to be with us which is just one of many promises. He gives us purpose and vision and then supplies through the Holy Spirit the gifts to achieve the vision He gives us. And I am sure that if I asked for testimonies from the Brethren, I would get list way to long to place here as to how Christ brings gain to their lives and how the abundant life is experienced by them. It is a much more abundant life to be led by the Good Shepherd than being deceived, used, and abused by thieves.

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. KJV

We now have a Good Shepherd defined. In verse 11, we see a Good Shepherd gives his life. Not just giving his life as we think of dedication or devotion, but literally laying down his life. David fought a lion and a bear to protect his sheep. In that process, you could lose your life. No matter what the danger, a good shepherd stays by the sheep. No matter how far a sheep may stray or how deep a ditch it has fallen in, the Good Shepherd seeks out his sheep and if necessary will die for that sheep. He is preparing His disciples for His crucifixion, but they are not ready to receive that yet so they will miss it.
Compare this to the hirelings who flee (Vs. 12a) You see, the Good Shepherd or the ones whom the sheep belong to will have far more loyalty to the flock than someone paid to tend to them. Ever find it hard to hire a good worker? Many only find the paycheck important and when your interests’ conflict with theirs, they will follow their interests until you pressure them to do what they were hired for or they quit. They will never care about your business as much as you do. There are rare exceptions.
When a hireling sees trouble coming, he will flee. He is not going to risk his life for the sheep. A wolf shows up and he is gone. They are only there as long as all goes well. As long as there is money, fame, or power in his “ministry” he will hang around. Ah, but let that fame wane. Let the offerings and his take of it drop off or let someone that is spiritual challenge his actions and he is out of there. He deserts the sheep.
Sheep deserted are prey (Vs. 12b) Usually, when one of the hirelings flee, the church suffers. They are taken by ravening wolves of fear or anger. The weak are the first. They have looked to this hireling as a spiritual man and when he deserts them. They fear what the next man will be like. Will he also desert them? Will he also hurt them? They often leave and wander from church to church always afraid to commit to another undershepherd or church.
Others get angry either at the hireling or the leaders left behind who may be as surprised, fearful, and angry as anyone else, but because they are leaders they take the flack. Sometimes things are found out that the hireling had done during his tenure and this causes arguments. Someone blames others for letting him get away with it. This cause dissension and people leave and the sheep are scattered. All because people were looking to the hireling and not to the Good Shepherd.
Hirelings are selfish (Vs. 13) The flock is not theirs. If it prospers, fine, as long as that prosperity prospers them. If it does not prosper as long as their paycheck does not suffer, they will not care. Often this flock is only a stepping stone to a greater flock with greater benefits. They can change at a moment’s notice.
The Good Shepherd is committed (Vs 14a) He knows His sheep intimately and He will stay with them. It has been said that trying to get people to commit to anything today is like trying to nail Jell-Oâ to a wall. I believe it. I am of the old school that believes when a preacher takes a church he should put his tombstone in the church cemetery. If they do not have one, then start one with yours as the first plot. I read where one preacher accepted the call only when the congregation consented to allow the preacher’s father to come and conduct a wedding ceremony between him and the church. Now, that is commitment!!!!
It is odd that God changes his mind so often now when He kept men in the same ministries for decades in the past. Now, He seems to change His mind about every three years for a preacher and half that for a youth minister. Is it not odd that God nearly always calls a pastor to a bigger church or higher position in the denomination while the smaller churches often stay pastorless for long periods? Jesus goes the long haul with His flock and often ministers most to the weak and small. Why do not the undershepherds do the same? Why do the sheep change flocks every two years? There is no commitment. Yes, I know that God can and will call people to different ministries. I have doubts that He does it as often as he is given credit for it.
Because the Good Shepherd is committed, the flock will know Him (Vs. 14b) Christ so interacts with His sheep that they know Him when they hear Him. Sheep know their shepherd. They know his voice and his scent and when a stranger approaches they will bleat in alarm and calm down when they hear their shepherd’s voice.
This is why the Jews did not know Him. They were not His sheep. (Vs. 26,27) No matter how clearly He spoke or how well He explained His parables, they did not know that He was the Christ or the Good Shepherd. (Vs. 24) It is the same today. Many do not hear His voice and so they do not follow. That is fine, as Christ compels no one to believe in Him or to follow Him.
However, like the Jews of His day, they seek to stone Him by scattering His sheep. They may cause some fear in His sheep, but they will bleat and He will answer. He will lose none of His sheep for they will not follow another. People have asked me over the years about people who were once faithful and then went off and joined a cult. They want to know how that can happen. It is obvious that they were not His sheep. If they join a group that denies who He is or denies His work then they could have never been His because they are listening to a voice other than His. True sheep will not do that. They may stray into sin and maybe be enticed by pretty packaging and slick talking, but the Holy Spirit within them will tell them that they are not hearing the voice of the Shepherd and they will depart from the stranger.

15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. KJV

Finally, we have the Shepherd’s Mission Detailed (Vs 15-18) The Father and the Son are in agreement with the mission (Vs. 15a) He did not come on His own. He and the Father are of the same essence and they know each other in a way that is far beyond our comprehension. The thrill is that they know us in the same way and one day we shall have full knowledge of them as well.
When we want to try to describe how the plan of salvation came about with our minds we like to think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sitting at a table brainstorming. Because they are of the same essence, I like to think that plan was conceived in their essence instantaneously each taking their roles in it automatically as the expression of their love for Mankind. However it happened, there was agreement among them and we are the blessed recipients of that plan.
It was to be a mission of sacrifice (Vs. 15b) We cannot comprehend the sacrifice Christ made by stepping into flesh and leaving Glory. To leave all that to be born into a stable, live as a carpenter and then to die on the Cross, for those who did not believe and appreciate what He did. I doubt that any of us would even do half of that for such an ungrateful crowd. Yet, if we are to follow the Shepherd we will learn to sacrifice. We are called to carry His Cross and die daily. (Luke 9:23-25) Have you sacrificed anything for him today?
All sheep to be brought into one fold. (Vs. 16) An essential sign of someone following the Good Shepherd will be the death of prejudice. In those days, you were either a Jew or a Goy. To be Goy was on the same level as a mongrel dog. Color was not as important as whether you were a Jew and circumcised. Christ was going to bring those two groups into one fold.
What I loved about the church where I was the Associate Pastor is that we had a neat blending of many folks into one fold. We had Indians (Bombay type), Phillipinos, Hispanic, Blacks (both African and American), and some of us white folks hang out there as well. We all came together to worship and love each other, which is how it will be in Heaven. Thank God, we are getting into practice for Glory!!! If you are ever in Mesquite, TX come and get a taste for yourself at Macedonia Baptist Church. You will find  some mighty wonderful folk and Brother John who is a shining example of an undershepherd that is following the Good Shepherd!!
It was to be a mission of love. (Vs. 7a) God so loved us that He sent the Son. The Son so loved the Father that He willingly came. The Father loved the Son for giving up His life for us. The Holy Spirit is the gift of love to us and the one who conveys the love of the Father and the Son to us and to the Lost by showing us the Son and the Lost their sin that they might repent and receive God’s love. Once Jesus saves us and then the Spirit enters us, we are ordained to enter the same mission of love and produce fruit. By the way, how is your crop?
A mission accomplished by death but granting life (Vs 17b) Just as a seed falls into the ground to die before life can spring from it so also did Christ die that He might rise again and bring us into eternal life. We follow Him by dying to ourselves. The Spirit then leads those that witness our death and the resurrection life in us into repentance and life. Oh, that they may see more of that death and resurrection in us!!!
It was a volunteer mission (Vs. 18a) Jesus came of His own free will. He only went to the Cross because he chose to do so. He allowed Himself to be led as a lamb to slaughter. One word and the city would have been leveled to ashes and His enemies vaporized. His power was not jut in the ability to do it as we think of strong men lifting great weights. The word power is authority. He had the authority to raise Himself from the dead as He will have the authority to raise His own to reign with Him when He returns and the authority to send the devil, his demon mob, and human pawns to an eternal Hell.
Finally, it was a mission with no chance of failure. (Vs. 18b) With the omnipotence and authority that He had, He could not have failed. The Father also commanded Him and the Father would not have given Him a commandment that He could not keep. We have a Shepherd that could not and would not fail the flock! Glory to God that was true then and it is forever true!!! What joy! What comfort! What peace comes from that my Brothers and Sisters!!! My Lost friends that should cause you to realize that He will not fail when He returns as the King and Judge of this world! Better to be born into His family and become one of His flock today than to face Him as Judge in that day! Many Christians will lose rewards and weep over lost opportunities to serve at the Bema, but that will be nothing in comparison to the Great White Throne and its outcome. I beg you to receive the love of the Good Shepherd today!!
Who are you following the one Good Shepherd or a hireling? Whose voice are you listening to? Preachers are you following Him or your denomination? What door are you entering? Are you a sheep or a thief? Have you obtained the only salvation?
Brethren, have you entered as a volunteer, into the mission of love and sacrifice that will not fail? Are you following Him into green pastures or are you dying from malnutrition caused by fad processed foods? Are you committed or selfish? Have you left sheep to be a prey or defending them with your life? Do you know Him? I pray that we will all learn of Him and follow in meekness and lowliness taking up our Cross and receiving the power of the resurrection!!!! Lord, make it so!!

He Is Risen! Maranatha!

March 30, 2013

At this season, I am going to do something a little different than you might hear at your church or even on all the Christian radio and TV stations. After all, with a name like Maverick Ministries, what else could you expect from me? C];-)}|> This is basically for Christians since much of what you hear this Sunday will be directed towards the lost folks who show up on only Christmas and Easter. I think we need to do some reflection that is a little different than going through a documentary of what we already know and believe though we do need to be reminded of that from time to time.
I am not even sure which Scriptures I am going to use at this point. I want to focus on two statements that have been used since the 1st Century. They were the common greeting between Christians. D. L. Moody once preached a whole revival meeting on John 3:16 and I am going to do something similar. I want to break down these statements and make us think about what we often spout out of ritual only at Easter. I want to help us recapture some of the awe and wonder of these terms and allow them to breathe new life into us since they have lived for two millennia.
He, of course, refers to Jesus Christ. However, who is He to you? I do not want a historical context. I want a here and now context. Who is Jesus in you daily life? I hope you have a biblical view of whom He is. When Jesus asked His disciples who the people thought He was, there were several answers and they were all wrong. Only Peter got it right. (Mark 8:27) Many quote His name and claim to know Him and who He is, but they are way off base and sadly lost. As they are not aware or cognizant of whom He really is, He will not recognize them when they stand before Him and claim a relationship with Him and try to bribe Him with things done in His name. (Matt 7:21-23) That will be a truly sad day for them.
After we have the history and theology down pat, we need more than that as we walk through this life. All of us need something different, but we need Him. He is everything we need and we need everything that He is, but at times, we need a different manifestation of who He is more than His other characteristics. When we are confused, we need Him to be the Wonderful Counselor. When we are in grief, we need Him to be the God of all comfort. When we sin, we need Him to be our Advocate. When carnal or spiritual adversaries overwhelm us, we need Him to be the Captain of the Hosts! I lost my father when I was very young and often, I need Him as Abba, Father, or Daddy! Got the idea? Who is He to you? Not whom men say that He is, but who is He to you today and are you open to Him being whatever you need everyday for the rest of your life?
The next word is is. Not was or will be, but is. That is why He can be all that you need everyday and forever because He is. Many men were. Many men are. If He tarries, many men will be, but all men in the flesh will become were and no longer be is. He has always been is. Before the earth was formed He, as part of the Trinity, was the only one that was an is. When we travel down the paths of time and stand before Him either in death or transfigured in the Rapture/Resurrection. He will be there and thus is in the future. He is in the present and is in the past. He is. “I am that I am” is His way of putting His eternal Isness. Extremely deep as that is, He put it in five words without the help of a seminary-trained theologian. If one of them helped Him, it would have taken seven books with twelve alternative possibilities. I am so glad that He is brief and keeps it simple.

Rejoice, for He is now and forever! Risen from the dead and risen to the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intercession for us! In both the Old and New Testaments, we are told of men and women who were raised from the dead. So, what is so different about Christ? The others all died again and will have to be raised again unto immortality. He is risen to die no more and that is the surety of our being risen with Him one day. His rising is the proof that His sacrifice was accepted. If He had not risen, we would have had not any hope.
If He had risen and just went straight to glory without manifesting Himself to many witnesses, we would have had doubts and fears. That He took His victory lap amongst men after winning the race that Paul also ran and we now run gives us energy and joy knowing that we too shall win the race in Him. His victory is our victory.
Not only do we know that He rose from the dead, we know where He rose to and that gives us boldness to come before the throne in our time of need. Honey, when you have the Son interceding for you before the throne you can come in any time and ask for all things righteous. You can come seeking forgiveness and restoration of fellowship no matter how despicably you have failed for the Blood of the Lamb has risen to the mercy seat of Heaven and the Son will rise up in your defense. Can you have a shoutin’ Baptist fit or did I just preach to the dead in Christ? Yes, HE is risen!!! Glory to God for it!!! May we never forget it or take it for granted or flippantly say the words!!!

Finally, we come to Maranatha! It is used only once in the New Testament. This is Aramaic and means our Lord has come. Indeed, He came and dwelt among men. While the early church used it as reminder of His coming again for them, they also used it to remind them of their mission here.

1 Cor 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. KJV

The context that Paul used it in is judgment. Anathema is accursed and following that is the reminder that the Lord has come and inferring His return. That return will be joyful for the Christian, but it will be a day of darkness and mourning for the unsaved or those who do not love the Lord. Why are we still left here after salvation and what were our marching orders? We are here as Ambassadors to beseech men to be reconciled with God to avoid that judgment at His return! Knowing the terror of the Lord, we are to persuade men as ones who will also stand before Him. (2 Cor 5:10,11) The only difference between the saved and the lost at the judgment will be destination. We will lose rewards, but they will lose their soul to eternal damnation. If we truly understand the concept of Maranatha and believe in His return then we should be pulling brands from the fire rather sitting around for a train ride to Glory!
So I ask you, when you say these phrases at this season do you take in all that they mean or are they just tradition like “God bless you” at the sound of a sneeze? Who is He, historically, theologically, and practically to you? If you do not get the first two correct, you will not experience the third! Are you walking in His presence fully aware of His being here now? Are you walking in the joy and victory of His being risen from the dead and risen to the right hand of the Father? Are you taking advantage of all that can bring into your life? If not, claim it now and experience more than you have ever known! Are you truly occupying or doing business until He returns? Are you seeking to reconcile men to Him? Will you lose rewards? My lost, sinner friend, will you lose your soul? Do not look to other men. Look to Him that is and is risen and then you can rejoice in Maranatha!
He IS risen!!! Maranatha!!!

Last time we discussed four reasons that we must forgive the brethren. First, because of our own past, second because our salvation is all about a new creation without condemnation. Thirdly, we must forgive the brethren because we do not want to take on the personality and tactics of satan. Fourthly, because of Christ’s command to forgive and the unlimited grace we receive. Well, the brethren must need a lot of forgiveness because tonight we have four more.

Matt 15:19-20
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things, which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. KJV

We must forgive the brethren because of God’s viewpoint! We look on the outward actions, but God says that thoughts condemn. We have sayings like, “You can’t sue a man for thinking.” In God judicial system, you can be sued.

Matt 5:21-28
21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time; Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. KJV

For those who think grace is easier than law, they need to rethink. Under Mosaic Law, you actually had to kill a person to be guilty of murder. Under grace or the law of the Kingdom, you have to be angry with someone without a cause to be guilty of murder. Why? Because the anger here means, rage and you are coming very close to committing the act. How many times have murderers tried to get off by using the crime of passion excuse? They started out just enraged at the person and when the rage consumed them, they acted out the thoughts.
Ever tell someone you wished they were dead? What kept you from fulfilling your own wish? Was it the fear of incarceration or execution? Was it your moral code? If you were absolutely positive that neither man nor God would “catch” you would you have carried it out? The danger of rage and a heart not ready to forgive is that it can end in tragedy. Even if you do not kill them physically, they are dead as far as you are concerned. Death is separation from life and you have cut them out of your life. That rage continues to burn and effect your whole life. In many ways, it has killed you, also. You will never have the fullness of life you would have before this murder. God holds you accountable for your thoughts!
The rabbinical tradition would have you brought before the council for saying another person is worthless or Raca. Call it a slander or libel suit. Christ says, you are in danger of hell fire if you call someone a fool or moron. Ouch! How many times have we done that? Aren’t you glad that you are under grace? You by your attitude have cast your brother into a type of outer darkness and Christ is saying, tit for tat. You become your brother’s spiritual judge and only Christ can cast people into outer darkness.
You come to God with gifts wanting to be reconciled and in fellowship, but you know there is a tension between you and another brother and you do nothing about it. The other brother may well be at fault. So, who offended and caused the need for the Cross, God? I don’t think so! We were the offenders and He took the first of many steps towards reconciliation with us in eternity past when He foreordained His Son to die for us. What are we waiting for? If we do not have a heart for forgiveness and reconciliation with our brother whom we see, what makes us think that we are truly seeking reconciliation with God whom we cannot see?
If you cannot for the love of God see the value of forgiveness and reconciliation then be pragmatic about it. Seek it to keep the situation from getting out of hand. We now have judicial entertainment programs where folks will air their dirty laundry and lack of common sense before millions on television. The real courts are log jammed with suits and counter suits and people are in jail because they did not seek some sort of reconciliation for disagreements.
Once it is in court, it then snowballs out of control of either party to fix and neither side may achieve satisfaction based upon the judge’s decision. If it means jail time, you are there and there is no way around the parameters of the sentence. You are there until you pay the last farthing. If your earliest possible parole date is ten years then you stay the ten and are thankful you did not do the twenty. In NT times, they had no such concept. Only on special occasions like Pilate freeing Barabbas did you get out early. Refusal to have a heart inclined to forgiveness and reconciliation can make you do hard time in or out of a cell.
One last proof that grace is a bit tougher than we think and that attitudes equal action is adultery. In the OT, you had to do it. In the NT, you only have to think about it. If you are thinking it, the only reason you are not doing it is your fear of being caught or you lack opportunity. If you think it, you did it!
May God especially help us since the amount of temptation in this area is overwhelming! Sex sells, and sex sells everything today. Modesty is rare and attitudes about sex changed drastically in the sixties. Our viewpoint may have changed, but God’s did not. In light of all this, how can we not forgive the brethren we stand in the need of forgiveness daily for our thoughts and attitudes?
We tend to cling to the error of little and big sins or mortal and venial sins. We forgive little sins and not so bad sinners, but we withhold our forgiveness from folks who commit big sins, especially those who have committed big sins for long periods. We need to forgive the big sinners because of their fruit!

Luke 7:39-50
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor, which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. KJV

Jesus asks Simon the Sanctified a simple question. Who loves the most? Old Simon would have advanced to the next level with his final answer. A. He who was forgiven the most. He may have gloated a little bit when Jesus told him that he judged rightly. After all, he was a Pharisee and that was what they did best. Well, at least judge though they did not always judge rightly. Unfortunately, he and we do not always realize how much we have been forgiven. We tend to get self-righteous and feel like a goody two shoes and not like them sinners out in the world.
Jesus then drops a bomb on old Simon. The most basic customs Simon did not do for Jesus. You come into a home as a guest and a servant washes the dirt off your feet. Your head is anointed with a perfume as a part of the feast and a kiss would be equal to our hug or shaking hands. Simon was just plain rude and crude to Christ. He may have only invited Christ there for sport since he did not hold him as a prophet. (Vs. 39) Simon was righteous in his own mind and therefore did not love Christ as he should have.
Ah, but enter in the harlot! She brings in expensive ointment, not the common cheap stuff and put it on His feet. For my comparison picture, she brought in the StetsonÒ instead of the Hai KarateÒ. She kisses His feet! She washes His feet with her tears and uses her hair as a towel! What love she had not only to do this, but imagine crashing the party at the Pharisees house!!! Love that would not keep her away from Jesus! No obstacle would keep her from ministering to the one she loved and in Whom she had placed her faith! What zeal!!! What humility! Oh that we would attain to such heights in spirituality!!
Those who know they are forgiven much are usually far more zealous! Note that even with that zeal and humility that caused such a work of love Jesus said that it was her faith that saved her. Thank God it is faith plus nothing or none of us would make since the average American Christian is more like Simon than this harlot who became pure as a virgin when she was forgiven by her Lord!

1 Cor 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. KJV

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. KJV

We must forgive the big sinners because they are usually more tender and humble. Paul calls himself the Chief of Sinners and the least of the apostles!! Lord knows I am the Assistant Chief of Sinners, but oh that He would make me the least of my generation’s Christians and yet use me like He did Paul!!!! If Jesus can forgive the harlot and allow her to minister to Him then how can we keep tabs or create degrees of sin and declare some sister unclean and unable to serve? When Jesus calls the unclean clean, who are we to say otherwise? (Acts 10:15)
If Jesus can forgive the Chief of Sinners and use him to evangelize the Gentiles and write most of the New Testament than how can we not seek out and forgive the worst sinner or the brother who has abused us the most and forgive him? Lord knows we need a Paul in this age!! Let’s find him and bring him into the kingdom! If he is already here but bruised by a fall then let us bind his wounds and strengthen him for the ministry for which God has called him. We cannot afford to not forgive the big sinners!
We must forgive the brethren because of Christ’s cleansing!!! I John 1:9 says it is complete! It is not a partial cleansing! He does not get us twenty percent or seventy percent clean, but one hundred percent clean when we come to Him! We must forgive all men and lead them to the cleansing power of the Blood! Learn to hate dirt my Brethren! Don’t see the sins of people as something to take personally. See it as filth and scum of the flesh and devil that needs to be cleansed! Learn to hate your own sin. We need to scrub ourselves regularly and not just sponge bathe to keep the odor down! We want a complete cleansing! Let us accept nothing less for neither sinners nor ourselves. Isa 1:18 tells us that God will make us white as snow though our sins be as scarlet. When it comes to getting the red out VisineÒ cannot come close to the Blood of the Lamb! It doesn’t get any cleaner than that!

1 Peter 1:18-19
18Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: KJV

Not only is it complete but also is the best possible cleansing! It was purchased by His blood, which only gets more valuable over the years. It knows nothing of inflation or devaluation. There will never come a time when you will go to Christ for cleansing and He will say, “I’m sorry, but you have reached your quota for this quarter or this fiscal year. I don’t have any more blood to cleanse you or it costs more this year to cleanse you and you are dirtier than you have ever been before.”
You cannot go to the Heaven’s Laundry and buy your cleansing with silver or gold. You can’t help in the scrubbing. Only the pure blood of Christ can wash you clean! No tradition or act of man you can do it. The cost has been paid! All you do is present your dirty rags and He gives you pure white robes! (Rev 19:14) As one of my early mentor’s would say, “Hallelujah for the Cross! If Jesus Christ fails, then everything fails for me!” Hallelujah, He doesn’t fail and we should not fail to forgive!
Rom 5:8-11
8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. KJV

Finally, we must forgive the brethren because of Christ’s example! He loved the worst! We were sinners and enemies! We shook our puny fists in the face of God and said we will be our own gods and the masters of our destinies. We destroyed our lives and the lives of others with our foolishness and yet, the Father proved His love for us by sending His Son to die for our forgiveness and reconciliation. The Son did this willingly because He said of His life, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:18)

Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. KJV

He forgave the worst!!! The very ones that betrayed Him to Pilate and caused Him to be crucified He forgives! Had Judas come to Him, He would have been forgiven!!! He would not come and He could not be forgiven. The very worst sinner, in our minds, could have been saved if he would have but asked forgiveness. Paul said that he was the Chief of Sinners, but he was ignorant.
Imagine that! All the ThDs of the time were ignorant of the truth. The truth was revealed to babes and unlearned fishermen. You can be knowledgeable and still not have wisdom. You can think you know and yet be ignorant. I am afraid that when it comes to forgiveness many Christians are far more ignorant than they realize. They can quote many passages, but they are like the lost people that “are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3:7)
To paraphrase a commercial, forgiveness is our business, our only business. The Gospel is the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation. When we refuse to forgive the brethren or even the sinners around us we are denying the Gospel and hindering the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. I did not plan it this way, but I ended up with eight points in this study of forgiveness. Eight is the number of a new beginning and is that not what the Gospel is all about? Is that not why we need forgiveness that we might have a new beginning?
When we see it from God’s viewpoint that thoughts and attitudes are the same as actions we must forgive. When we look at the fruit of the big sinners who love more when they are forgiven we must forgive. When we look at the completeness of the best possible cleansing through the Blood of Christ we must forgive. When we start at the stable and end at the Cross watching the example of Christ what else can we do, but forgive? Let us bring others and ourselves to Him to be forgiven, reconciled, and sent out to serve with a new beginning!
Father sanctify our hearts. Let us forgive and be forgiven! Let us begin again to take the Gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation to a world that so desperately needs it, yet so desperately needs to see us live it! Let us see how much we are forgiven and may our zeal and humility reflect what we have realized! In Jesus’ name, Amen!

I do not know about you, but I make a lot of mistakes. In fact, I sin. I spend quite a bit of time in prayer telling God what He already knows about my failures, fumbles, and foolish sins. I do not waste my time thinking I am perfect because that would be a vain fantasy. It also ticks off the people who are convinced that they are perfect. I certainly do not need the added stress of their wrath.
I have not only sinned against God and failed Him. There have been times in my life when my sin and failure has affected the Brethren. Worst of all, I have hurt the ones I love the most. For the most part, by God’s grace, people have forgiven me. By the blood of His Son, He has forgiven me. Hallelujah for the Cross!
You would think that with being the recipient of all that forgiveness that I would forgive at the tip of a hat and grudge would not even be in my vocabulary. O, that I would be that spiritual!!! There have been some folks, saved and unsaved that have hacked me off big time and forgiveness was not what I first thought of for them. I believe that I am distant kin to James and John, the sons of thunder. (Mark 3:17) My first thought was to bring down fire upon their heads. (Luke 9:54) The forgiveness concept comes when Jesus rebukes me. He reminds me of His mission and my own sins that He has forgiven and will continue to forgive as He works on my spirit. (Luke 9:55,56; Heb 7:25)

To live above with Saints we love, O that will be glory,
But to live below with Saints we know, now that’s another story!

That is the problem. We expect each other to be practically what Jesus sees in us judicially. We are declared righteous and we should be seeking His power to be righteous, but we do not always succeed. We are all too willing to be easy on ourselves and say, “Hey, I not perfect, just forgiven!” or “Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet.” Ah, but let another brother cross us and we expect God to be done with Him and he ought to be perfect. God may not be done with him, but we are!

2 Sam 12:13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. (KJV)

When God forgives your sin that is wonderful enough, but that He forgives and still grants you life is even more a marvelous work of grace. Yet, David received even more grace and mercy than what we might first see in this passage. You may know that Nathan was referring to the double sins of adultery and murder that David was guilty of by his relationship with Bathsheba.
You say, “Yes, those were really horrible sins and God is merciful.” What you may not know is that these were the only “unpardonable” sins in the Old Testament! There were no sacrifices for these sins. The penalty was death and there was no appeal or insanity plea!!! Commit one and you were dead and David committed both!!!! God pardoned the unpardonable! The law demanded death and grace gave life!!!! I hope someone is shouting somewhere!!! If I weren’t an old fat guy I’d be running the aisle and jumping pews and I’m a Baptist!
Yes, he suffered some things in the flesh because of his sins, but he was pardoned before God! We may pay some penalties for our actions here, but praise God the law that would have killed us was nailed to the Cross and His sacrifice of grace gives us eternal life!!!! Have you ever failed and asked forgiveness from someone, but did not get it? It hurts, but praise God again that when we seek forgiveness from Him we get it! Wave a hanky and shout, “Glory” until you are hoarse!!!! In light of all this, how in the name of all that is holy can we withhold forgiveness from any man that sins against us?
You must forgive the sins of the brethren because of your past! What were you before you came to Christ?

1 Cor 6:9-11
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (KJV)

If your sin is not specifically listed here, it is a branch of the same tree of one that is listed. Verse 11 says it all! Such were some of you! Thank God that you are washed! Peter had to have his feet washed or Christ would have no part of him. If you have been washed then take the same basin of serving love to your brethren and wash their feet clean of their sin against you.
If you are still gloating and puffing up because you do not see yourself as part of the “some of you” spoken of here stop and deflate yourself. No good person is saved we are told in Romans 3:23. Your particular filthy rags are no less stinky than anything mentioned in these verses. Should you think you were good when you were saved then recheck your salvation. Christ came for sinners not the (self) righteous!
You must forgive the brethren because of salvation! Salvation is being a new creature. (II Cor 5:17) As all things are becoming new, you will experience struggles, setbacks, and failures. Just as a child grows from an infant to an adult learning as it goes so also is the life of a Christian. Sometimes we learn fast and easy and at other times or in other areas we grow slow and hard. We go through remedial education repeatedly, but thank God, we are still His children whether we are whiz kids or a bit dense.
We must forgive the brethren because there is no condemnation in Christ. (Romans 8:1) If He does not condemn us when we fail, how can we heap condemnation on the brethren who fail? We are to restore them in a spirit of meekness knowing that only by the grace of God we are not in the same predicament! (Gal 6:1) Every reason to forgive the brethren is important, but we must do it because of satan! When we refuse to forgive the brethren, we take on satan’s role and personality.

Rev 12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. (KJV)

When I run around with a grudge against a brother or sister I am saying to God, “See! This one, who claims to be your child, has sinned against You and ME! Judge him! Make him pay! Don’t let him get away with that!” Think about that! The devil is the last person that should be seeking judgement on anyone since he is destined for outer darkness except that misery loves company. The devil accusing people of sin is a bit like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black wouldn’t you say?
Well, if it is ridiculous for the devil to be doing this, how about us? We should all be sizzling on the BBQ pit right now. And we want God to exact judgment on some other human? Man, do we have some nerve or what? We who have been forgiven much will not forgive a little? (Matt 18) I wonder how much that would change if God would let us smell sulfur and brimstone until we changed that attitude!
Job’s compatriots became devil’s advocates when they accused Job of sin when they had no real clue of what was happening. The Edomites were as one of Israel’s enemies when they just stood by and watched the attack. When we do not seek to restore a fallen brother or sister and stand by watching the devil attack them we become as satan.

2 Cor 2:5-11
5 But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.
6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (KJV)

We must forgive the brethren because an unforgiving spirit is one of satan’s tactics. People need forgiveness. Guilt that is not properly dealt with will drive a person into deep despair and depression. More people are locked in asylums because they are racked with guilt than those who have true brain damage or organically caused mental illnesses. They cloak their guilt and refuse to deal with it properly and thus tumble into a dark world of self -deception and a life with little to no hope in spite of all drug or psychotherapy. They refuse to admit their real problem and therefore cannot receive the correct treatment and healing. I refer you to a book by Jay Adams called, Competent to Counsel for case histories of people who walked out of institutions and away from beds of paralysis by dealing with their guilt. I do not hold to his very strong Calvinism, but his counseling precepts are sound.
The devil knows that if a person is racked with guilt and despair their life is fruitless. In the case of a believer, this is a victory for him. He will tell a Christian that they are not forgiven or that they have crossed over some line and it is all over for them. They should just give up and await judgment! This will incapacitate a saint. If the saint is incapacitated for service, satan has no fear of him. The saint has no witness, no fruit, and no joy. If we cause that saint to be in that condition by lack of forgiveness then we are aiding and abetting the enemy of God! If we allow the saint to remain in that condition we are guilty of worse than apathy. We are Edomites.
We need to reach out to the saint that is in despair and help them to experience their acceptance in the Beloved! (Eph 1:6) Guilt attacks our acceptance and people need acceptance. If we did not need it, we would all be hermits and there would be no such thing as peer pressure since we would have no need to be accepted by our peers.
We need to be accepted before God most of all which is why we must win people to Christ. Once a person is a Christian, they will need to learn and experience that acceptance in the Beloved if they are to grow in grace and power. They also need to know they are accepted in the Body! Outside of the throne room of God, a child of God should be most at home in the Church. He or she should be loved unconditionally and should be made to feel like real family even if they have never known a good family life with their genetic family. The genes of the second Adam bind us more closely together than the genes of the first Adam. When one of us breaks an ankle the rest should limp and seek to make the lame limb strong again.
That is not to say that sin is tolerated in the name of love or heresy in the name of unity. Remember the context of this passage. In I Corinthians, Paul knew of a man and woman claiming to be saints that were living in incest. He was appalled that the Corinthians were not appalled at it and did nothing about it. He called for church discipline and for the couple to be shunned if they did not repent. In this passage, he has heard of their repentance and is seeking to have them brought back into fellowship with the church as they have been brought by into fellowship with God. The sin is not accepted and condoned, but the saint is to be restored and not stoned.
We must forgive the sins of the brethren because of Christ’s Command!

Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (KJV)

I know Paul said this. It is not in red. However, I believe that Christ through the Holy Spirit inspired Paul’s teaching and it is just as authoritative as if Christ said it. The town crier may read the message of the King, but it is still the King’s message and not the crier. Jesus did say in red,

John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. (KJV)

Forgiveness is a part of love. God proved His love to us that while we were still doing our sinful thing He sent Christ to die that we might have the means to receive forgiveness. (Rom 5:8) The Father proved His love for us by giving the Son that we might be forgiven. The Son proved His love for us giving His life that we might be forgiven. The Holy Spirit proves His love for us by drawing us to the Son that we might believe and receive that forgiveness. Therefore, while Ephesians 4:32 is not a red saying it is indeed the voice of Christ, who has said the same thing through word and deed throughout the Gospels.
We like to sing, “Count Your Blessings.” Well, maybe we should try to count our sins and see how blessed we really are. Actually, we cannot get close to an accurate count. Like David, we could say that they are way over our heads and it is wonderful that God does not mark iniquities because we could not stand. (Psalms 38:4; 130:3)
That brings us to this week’s final reason to forgive the brethren unlimited grace.

Matt 18:21-22
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (KJV)

Ah, my soul brother Peter! Seven is the number of completion so why not seven times of forgiveness and that completes that! Most of us don’t even get past one or two times so seven is a magnanimous number! Yet, Jesus said seventy times seven! You would have to keep amazingly good ledgers to know if a person committed 490 sins against you. I know some folks that have been real thorns in my side, but I don’t think any of them got to 490.
Now Christ had said seven times in a day if a man repents, you forgive him. (Luke 17:4) Again, how many folks have sinned against you seven times in one day? Peter grabbed on to that and was going to make that a rule of life when Christ was trying to teach unlimited forgiveness. For most people, that would be too hard a number to remember daily. Peter might have been able to keep up with a seven times in a day count. Therefore, to clarify and emphasize to Peter what he was getting at all along Jesus tells him 490 times in a day!
Peter missed the point of the parable of debtor. We owe God so much that even at 490 times a day there is no person that can run up an account like we had with Him. If I were forgiven a ten million-dollar debt even if a person owed me a hundred thousand dollars it is but a nickel compared to what I have been forgiven.
How many of us have sinned against God at least seven times in a day? How about 490 times a day? Remember we are talking about thought, word, and deed. Are we ever as holy as He is holy? We strive, but we fail that one daily. Do we ever do something good with the wrong motive? Do we know our own deceit heart well enough to say no? I don’t think so! (Jer 17:9)
If we cannot keep track of our own sins and are thankful, that God does not count ours then why are we counting the brethren’s? Have we forgotten our past? Have we forgotten what salvation is all about? We seem to have forgotten Christ’s commands. We have become accusers of the brethren taking on the tactics and personality of satan. O, may we repent quickly!!! Let us forgive the brethren as we have been forgiven!!!


Little Hammers

March 30, 2013

Little Hammers

The Anvil – God’s Word

by Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1703-1791)

Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,

And heart the anvil ring the vesper chime;

Then, looking in, I saw upon the floor

Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.

How many anvils have you had,” said I,

“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”

“Just one,” said he, and then, with twinkling eye,

“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”

And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,

For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;

Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,

The anvil is unharmed–the hammers gone.

The Word of God, God and His people are under severe attack on many fronts by many groups of people. The hammers come in various sizes and the ones using them have varying strengths. Some are just hammering enough to be irritating and others are trying to deliver crushing blows in rapid succession. The flurry of hammer activity against the anvil is creating a loud cacophony and scaring many saints and confusing others.

As we see from Brother Zinzendorf’s poem, this type of thing has been going on for some time and yet the anvil stands. During the same time frame as this pastor poet there was a grand atheist named Voltaire (1694-1779) that declared there would be no more Bibles in a hundred years. A hundred years later they were printing bibles in the house where he had lived. So goes that hammer’s prediction and damage. Sadly, while the anvil incurred no damage one can only imagine the souls that hammer damned to Hell because people thought all the noise the hammer was making was actually accomplishing something when indeed it was just a fleeting flurry of fury.

In every century after the Fall there has been an all-out effort by the enemies of God to hammer Him, His Word and His people into a pile of pulverized metallic dust and yet the anvil stands as does the Creator of the anvil and His people both Jewish and Christian.

The Word of God is replete with descriptions of hammers busily clanging away. At times in the dust created by the hammer as it destroys itself the hammer thinks it is doing damage to the anvil until it finally breaks into pieces or the wielder of the hammer dies and is turned into dust. Some even acknowledged their error and wept over their doom as their life departed. These little hammers can irritate and the Saints, but never abrogate the anvil or its Creator.

Indeed, the Creator of the anvil has a perspective on the issue that the Saints need to understand and appropriate to bring peace to their souls in the midst of all the clamor and dust clouds.

Psa 2:1-12

1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

See any heathen rage about us? Even heathen wolves cloaked as Christians rage and sometimes confuse the saints that have forgotten about the warnings of wolves in sheep’s clothing, demons and false prophets appearing as angels of lights as well as false brethren. We should not be surprised nor fearful of these little, but loud, hammers. They are no surprise to God and He does not fear them for they imagine a vain or useless thing. The King of Kings is naught but irritated by all these lower powers that think themselves grand pile drivers that will break off His bands.

God is laughing at them like you would if a four year old came up to you and wanted to fight. His little mouth might speak bold words or write checks his body can’t cash, but you would just chuckle if not laugh out loud. He could come at you and as you put you hand on his head to hold him back he might swing furiously, but he cannot connect. Eventually, he will tire and leave spitting at you and maybe even cursing but it was all in vain leaving you guffawing at the sight of his angry departure.

The raging heathens are no different than that. Someone once chastised Lester Roloff when he challenged the Texas government about licensing his children’s homes by saying, “Brother Roloff, doesn’t the Bible say to obey the higher powers?” He replied, “I have no problem with the higher powers. It these lower powers that are giving me a fit.” The most powerful heathen on earth is not even equal to the four year old in my analogy. He is just a crying infant in a dirty diaper in comparison to God.

There is coming a day as there has been in the past when the long suffering of God will end and He will laugh at all of them as He deals with their rage and vanity. Oh, the hammers will make quite a noise then as a they are cast down together in a heap called Hell. They chose a useless path and did not want the easy yoke or band of Christ or His cords of love thus they will endure eternity bound hand and foot suffering the full yoke of their sins. Foolish rage it was and though they rage through eternity at God it will be misdirected as it should be against themselves and the devil who sought to be king.

Indeed as they derided God so shall they be in derision. They mocked the Lord, laughed at His Word and His people often with derogatory mimicking or perverted interpretations. Yea, it will be the Lord’s turn during the Tribulation and at the Great White Throne. He will really not have to do a thing as their own words and actions will be replayed before all and they will be condemned by them. They will be able to see their own foolishness and it will have them in derision. God may not have to do anything but look them in the eye so they can see the love they could have had and the wrath they will incur. Eyes can speak more than words sometimes so that should be enough though He may say or do more in His wrath. The Judge of all the earth shall do right in that day as He as always done when He makes them tremble or as the passage says, vex them. He has the right to do so in His sore or burning displeasure for they are in His kingdom as rebels and enemies.

Then they will see the King that the Lord has set upon His holy hill. The very King they sought to destroy as did the hordes of Hell. Yea, they thought they had Him when they nailed Him to a Cross. What they did not know was they were only accomplishing that because He allowed it. It was not Jew nor Gentile or even the unholy hordes that put Him on that tree. He laid down His life freely for the sins of mankind. They were taken in their own craftiness and ego for He knew what they would do. Their desire was vain and had they known their own rage would defeat them they would not have consented to His Crucifixion.

We see the Messianic promise for Israel in verse 7 when the Son of God will come and destroy His enemies and the enemies of Israel. Verily, God has given the Son the heathen for an inheritance in two ways. Many of the heathen have come to faith in Christ and those are joint-heirs with Him because they were His by the calling of God and thus He bought them with His blood. They are also His by inheritance for the world is given unto the Son and He has the authority to judge them. All creation belong to the Father and He has given it to the Son to possess. Opposite of our traditions where the Father dies for the Son to inherit the Son of God died according to the Scriptures to gain His inheritance.

He came the first time to offer the raging heathen a pardon, love and salvation. When He returns the second time it will be to execute judgment upon them and the description here is quite vivid though other aspects or details of that judgment as shown in other passages in the Prophets and Revelation.

Verse nine should be enough to encourage the judges and kings of the earth to rejoice with trembling and serve the Lord and to seek wisdom, but the determined foolishness of men cannot see the truth until an anvil is dropped on their head. Some men can wake up by stubbing their toes against the anvil, but most need much more pain than is necessary. Sadly, many of His people also have some issues in this area as we need to go through many heartaches before we allow Him to be Lord in our life. We are entitlement driven in that we like the blessings and want them with no responsibility or commitment. So many of us lack joy, power and impact because we want to do life our way and just go to God’s welfare office to pick up benefits when we run short or just want more.

Maybe the hammers are hitting us because God has taken off the pile of iron to stick in the fire to place us on the anvil and let the hammers beat the impurities out of us. Some of us get hammered because we portray ourselves as a mini-anvil and draw those hammers to us. We need to rejoice with trembling and serve the Lord with a bit more fear than we have and I do not just mean reverential awe. He can crush the heathen but He can also scourge the saint. If we hang out with the heathen we may find ourselves as collateral damage when God smites them with that rod of iron and the shrapnel of those broken pieces may definitely cut us.

We see again the importance of being in good relationship with the Son in verse twelve. Kiss the Son means to reverence Him or be subject to Him. We kiss for all sorts of reasons in our culture, but is was different in this time and still in some places in the biblical lands it means the same. He is the one with whom we have to do and we better do it sooner than later for the passage says that you will perish when His wrath is kindled. But a little speaks to it being quickly executed as well as how much of a quantity of wrath it takes to make it happen or how large a flame burns.

Indeed, blessed are those who trust in Him for as we know they are not under condemnation, but rather blessing, grace and peace. God chose the easiest and yet the hardest method of redemption of man for we can do nothing to please Him, but trust. It has always been about trusting Him. Adam and Eve failed to trust and here we are in this messy life. Only Noah’s clan trusted God and all the rest died in the Flood. Those who trusted in Scripture always fared well when they trusted even if they totally blew it at times in their works. Abraham was the father of faith and yet he had some severe failings. David, a man pursuing God’s heart committed the two unpardonable sins of the Old Testament. Solomon, the wisest man also failed in his wives. Peter feared people and failed before Pentecost and after in that same area. Yet, all these folks were greatly blessed and God used them.

Are you among the heathen today? You better stop your rage or your running for both are in vain. Kiss the Son soon as time is running out, for you shall surely die once. It is up to you if you die twice.

Brethren, are the hammers scaring you? Fear not, as it is the evident token of their perdition and sign of your salvation and redemption, which is drawing nigh. If you are being hit by the hammers or sparks you may be too close to the world or getting in God’s way. If you are hammered for your own sin or foolishness then there is no reward of comfort in that. If God is using the little hammers to mold you and make you more like Christ then no matter what the pain or cost it will be worth it all when you see Jesus. Therefore, listen to the hammers ring and rejoice! They will be silenced forever in due time! Maranatha!!

Beards Ain’t Weird!

March 30, 2013

I normally deal with a lot of very serious subjects confronting the believer. I have dealt with tongues, healing, women preachers, version perversions and the like. From time to time I would like to address issues that many folks did not know were issues. These are ones that I have come across in my twenty-seven years as a preacher. Some will be funny and others like this one actually have some deeper implications that are never addressed by the proponents or the opponents of the particular issue.
I have had some flack over beards from my Bible College days until now. I first grew a goatee and a mustache after I graduated high school in 1970. I guess this was done for a couple of reasons. I hated shaving. In the 60’s and 70’s it was part of the hippie movement to which I ascribed to in philosophy and practice. Thirdly, it was an expression of my becoming a man.
These were shaved after joining the Air Force. The military did not care what I hated doing and certainly did not like hippies and their idea of making me a man took a different direction. They marched to the beat of a different drummer than I did. They did allow me a mustache after I arrived at my duty station upon completion of boot camp and tech school. However, it’s dimension and style were rigidly defined.
I went to Bible College right after the military and they also allowed a mustache, but no beard. When I asked the Academic Dean why, he replied that the board was afraid that the young men would not trim them properly and no beard is easier to enforce than a beard standard. They already had plenty of trouble enforcing hair regulations for men and modest attire for the ladies. This was just one less headache for them. I also had other suspicions as why the ban after I had been there a couple of years.
So for four years, I only had a mustache. One of my fellow students went home for Christmas break and came back without his mustache. I asked if he just grew tired of it or what? He replied that after preaching a Wednesday night service a fellow came up to him and said, “And you call yourself a preacher and you have a mustache!” Radical that I am I asked if the fellow gave him a chapter and verse on that and received a negative reply. Ironically, to the Amish who have full beards but no mustache I was wearing the mark of the Anti-Christ. No, the lad I was talking to could not give me a verse for that. Usually you do not get a verse or you get one that is so ripped out of context it would make a cultist proud.
I stayed in the area for a couple of weeks after graduation and started growing my goatee back. One of my fellow alumni saw me and was flabbergasted. He told me that he knew I was as straight as an arrow doctrinally, but he could not understand how I could grow a goatee. I asked him what was wrong with it and he told me it was a sign of homosexuality. Now, I REALLY wanted a chapter and verse on that one! None was forthcoming, but he did tell me how he came to that conclusion. He said that it made a man’s mouth look like a woman’s privates. That almost sounds logical except for the fact that a homosexual does not find a woman sexually attractive so I am not sure that he would want to see a goatee in that perspective. I really wish that I could grow a full beard, but a goatee is the best that I can do. I have never had a homosexual come on to me while I was wearing a goatee so it must not be that much of a turn on. I have had them come on to me when I was not wearing a beard so go figure. This was the same guy that complained about one of our chapel speakers. It had been the best message on Jonah that I had ever heard and I still have the tape. My friend did not “hear” him, as the speaker had nothing to say to my classmate because he had a beard. Oy!
As was the custom, I had pictures taken so I could put them on my resume. I had them taken before I graduated so all I had was a mustache. I took my wife home to Pennsylvania to be near her parents while I searched for my first ministry. While a POW up there, I sent a resume to a Christian School in the area that was looking for a principal.
The pastor and I had a long conversation and we seemed to be in close agreement across the board doctrinally and philosophically. Then he asked me a last question about why my picture did not have me wearing a goatee. I explained that it was taken in college and they would not allow us to grow beards. He asked me if I knew why that was the case. I said, well my belief is that the old hats saw it as hippie and the newer ones saw it as neo-evangelicalism. However, God created man on the sixth day with hair follicles in his face and pronounced him good. Besides with women wanting to be men and men wanting to be women it would take a heck of a bad hormone problem for a woman to look like me and it definitely asserts my manhood. However, at that time I said that if it were a big issue for someone I would shave it in order to minister. From the look on his face, I knew that was the end of working with him. I do give him credit. I was scheduled to speak to the student body at chapel and he still allowed me to do so. Many I have met over the years would have shown me the back door and blasted me in that school assembly as I drove home.
I have had questions over the years about my beard and I am sure that it has cost me other opportunities to minister. I have no desire to just offend people for the sake of offending them. However the issue is just too weird and until I can get a real biblical reason why I should shave it will stay.
Actually, this is just another one of those things we come up with from our culture rather than Scripture. Remember Diogenes of “looking for an honest man” fame. Seems he was a heck of a troublemaker. The men started shaving their beards and he would ask them, “What’s wrong my son? Are you ashamed that the gods made you a man?”   It would appear that many of us are ashamed of our manhood.
Indeed, I go back to my creation argument. If righteousness is cooperating with God and/or God created reality then shaving is unrighteous. Every morning we argue with God. God grows the hair and says, “Son, I made you a man and this is your glory as a woman’s long hair is hers.” We say, “No, you just made me dirty and I need to be “clean” shaven.” Now, this is great business for all the razor makers, but it does not make much sense. In fact, the shaving of a beard in the OT was done as a sign of sorrow like the renting of clothes. Are we sorry God made us men? If He meant for us to have beards and we shave them for preference or bad interpretation of Scripture are we not then in open rebellion and sin? I know some preachers that just choked on that idea.

Ezra 9:3 And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied. (KJV)

2 Sam 19:24 And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace. (KJV) [Note, you can trim them so you do not have to look like a wild man.]

Jer 41:5 That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD. (KJV)

At times, God told those He was going to judge that He would shave their beards, which they understood as a symbol of sorrow and He was going to make them sorry for their sin.

Isa 7:20 In the same day shall the Lord shave with a rasor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard. (KJV)

Isa 15:2 He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off. (KJV)

Jer 48:37 For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth. (KJV)

One fellow started a war by messing with the beards of David’s ambassadors. By cutting them half off they would have shave completely and look like a boy or have people stare at them with half beards. Sending them off with their buttocks showing was to shame them, but a change of clothes would fix that. Marring their beards was a long-term shame.

2 Sam 10:4 Wherefore Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away. (KJV)

2 Sam 10:5 When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return. (KJV)

Another thing this passage should show us is that thong bikinis should be a no brainer for Christian ladies as showing the buttocks is a shame, but I would guess that a few gals have worn them as well as some guys wear the thong “briefs.” Any briefer and they would just be nekkid! There is no shame when it comes to following fads and staying in style for some folks.
Now, there are hazards in wearing a beard.

1 Sam 17:35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. (KJV)

Nonetheless, if we were to be honest to Scripture the injunction would be to have a beard.

Lev 19:27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. (KJV)

Lev 21:5 They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh. (KJV)

Shaving heads, beards and cuttings or tattoos were part of the pagan worship of the time. In fact, it seems to go along with that as well today. Because they worshiped the host of heaven they made their hair resemble the globe. Rounding off the beard would add to that globe appearance. Tattooing was done as a mark of allegiance to a deity showing the wearer’s willingness to allow that deity to take them over or possess them. Shades of the mark of the beast. Shaving the head was to somehow help out the dead. Actually, you can see a lot of this same stuff in cults and some rock groups. Who says that Bible is archaic? Shoot often the only difference between what we see practiced today and what was in biblical times is that the names have been changed to protect the guilty, and at times they are even too bold to do that.

Isa 50:6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. (KJV)

Here is a verse that the Anti-beardites have a real problem with. This is a prophecy of Christ’s suffering. It says that they plucked the hair off of his cheeks. Man, Christ had a beard. Ah, but they have an answer to that. It was just overnight growth. I have seen some pretty good five o’clock shadows in my day, but an overnight growth that you could grab and rip out? He would have had to shave five times a day, but He would not have done so because Jews wore beards and He was a Jew! Some Gentiles shaved and the Pharisees and Sadducees would have jumped all over Him if He had been shaved like a Gentile. They would have quoted the verses I have used previously to condemn Him as breaking the Law!
So, I am in good company and Scriptural by having a beard and the ball is in the other court for the Anti-beardites to show their position to be Scriptural. Don’t give me any of that cultural hoo ha. We are to be in a biblical culture though we may be placed in another one. Our citizenship is in Heaven, so its culture is to be in us.
In fact, many of the Anti-beardites revere men like Moody, Torrey, and Spurgeon all who had beards. If we did not have portraits of these great men, none of them would be able to speak in the Anti-beardites’ churches if they could just show up and ask to preach. Some even if they recognized them would probably ask them to shave before they preached. Silly, is it not?
However, this is the kind of silliness we get into when we base our judgment and convictions upon culture and affiliations rather than Scripture. Indeed, in an age of androgyny we should do all we can to be the examples of God’s design for men and women to be different in appearance as well as roles. Even if we can use Christian liberty for shaving it would behoove us to give up that liberty to stand against the satanic assault on God’s design for men, women and families. I could cover a lot of other issues relating to that assault as well, but one topic per message is plenty. C];-)|> Having set a precedence or foundation will make it easier to deal with some of the other silliness in other messages.

Ps 133:1-2
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; (KJV)

Ah, yes beards! If they were good enough for Adam, Aaron, Moses and Jesus, they are good enough for me! C];-)|> If we would only stick to the Book and nothing else we would have a lot more pleasantness and unity! Just think if we would have had beards back then the hippies and the Neo-Evangelicals would have had to shave to be rebellious. Maranatha!

The Laodiceans are coming! The Laodiceans are coming! No, wait! They’re already here! They are on TV, Radio and the Internet! They are in the city and in the country! They’re everywhere!! Woe unto us!

Rev 3:14-22

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, 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.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. KJV

I Stand For Life!

March 27, 2013

For the record, I am unabashedly, adamantly, unashamed and ardently Pro-life and any person calling themselves a Christian and is not Pro-life better read the Word and make their calling and election sure for they are ignorant of the Word.

Not Pleasing Ourselves

March 25, 2013

Take care of number one!” “You deserve a break today” “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” “Where do you want to go today?” “If it feels good, do it!” There is a tremendous amount of emphasis on self today and it has been that way for at least forty years. Everything is hawked to us because we want it, we need it, and we deserve it!! I am not sure any of that is true.

Until the ads started bombarding me, I did not know it existed, let alone wanted it. I lived 48 years without it; so I might even make it another 48 without it so do I really need it? I do not have a cell phone and I do not feel particularly needy without it. I am without a palm pilot and not deprived. Both gadgets seem to be a “need” in our day, but I seem to muddle through without them despite the ads and glowing testimonies of others that need them. Deserve it? If I must plunge into debt to obtain all the goodies they say I deserve then the only things I deserve are the eternal bondage of credit card or other debt and the ulcers worrying about it.

Yes, we have every opportunity to indulge and please ourselves in this wonderful age of technology, but should we do so? Do we not have the right to do so? If it is not sin, then why not enjoy? The premise is wrong. It is not what is in it for me, but what is in it for others? Remember all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient or edifying. (I Cor 6:12; 10:23)

Paul spent all of Romans 14 discussing things that were causing problems between the Gentile and Jewish believers. The underlying cause of the dispute was understandable. The Jews had spent a few thousand years under the law and certain things like holy days and dietary restrictions were very important to them and tied to their very being.

The Gentiles had no such cultural rituals and had no problems with having a ham sandwich. The holy days had no meaning to them. The Gentiles readily accepted the freedom of grace while the Jews struggled with some of the concepts. Peter speaking to the dispersed Jews recognized those problems and exhorted them to hear Paul. (2 Peter 3:15,16)

Contrary to popular interpretation, Paul was not speaking about gray areas. Doubtful things in that people were having doubts about them, but Paul resolved the issues themselves. The issues were black and white. He told the meat eaters that they had the right idea. The issue over ham sandwiches was settled. They were OK, in that they were lawful. Now, as we know pork has its problems so it is not completely profitable to eat a ham sandwich or eat fat, but it is now legal.

He said that the various holy days of the Old Testament were no longer required to be observed, but if you wanted to do so you could and not observing them is fine. The Jew would understand them more now that he was saved and saw the foreshadowing of Christ in them. If, as part of his heritage, and as a part of his worship to God, he still wanted to observe those days it was fine as long as he knew that his salvation or spiritual growth was not tied to them. The Gentile would never be able to completely comprehend the richness of those days and if he chose to only observe the Lord’s Day and maybe a day he decided to dedicate to the Lord then that was OK. All such ordinances were nailed to the Cross and now unnecessary but they were not evil. (Rom 7:8) All days should be holy unto the Lord. What each man desired to do beyond that was between him and the Lord.

He clearly taught that Jews were the weaker brothers, but did that give the Gentiles free license to do what had just been shown to be doctrinally correct? No, Paul took them to the higher level of love and responsibility to others. The Gentiles were not to show up at the church’s love feast with pig’s feet, chittlins, and ham hocks knowing their Jewish brothers would be offended and hence hinder their worship or their faith. (Rom 14:15) Were the ham hocks wrong? No. Now, chittlins are wrong for me, but more power to the brother that can chow down and say grace over them. No, eating the meat was not wrong. It was good, but Paul said let not your good be evil spoken of. (16)

He said eat pork at the house. (22) We get upset if someone suggests that we ought not do certain things and start yelling legalism, but Paul told us to be worried about being condemned for the things we allowed not the things we disallowed! (22) If my brother or sister comes into the church house and sees me doing something that he thinks should not be done in church, he will concentrate on that throughout the whole service and not be able to worship or receive teaching. I may be perfectly right in what I am doing, but if I know it offends my brother then I need to consider if what I am doing is really necessary. If I can refrain from doing it then I should refrain for the conscience of my brother so that he can freely worship and receive teachings that he may grow. He may eventually be able to accept that activity as OK and then I can resume it.

Rom 15:1-2
1We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

A few years back, a neo-evangelical magazine used Romans 14 to chide the weaker brother into growing up. The picture for the article was a flexed muscle and the title sounded more like chastisement instead of an exhortation. They missed the point of Paul’s teaching by forgetting to read these two verses in Romans 15.

While Romans 14:10-13 does take care of the weaker judging the stronger and vice versa, the intent of the passage is bent towards demanding sacrifice and responsibility from the strong. He did not tell the weak to grow up and have a ham sandwich and go golfing on the holy days. He told the strong to have their faith before God and at home while eating chicken and drinking tea at church. Following that logic, you would not invite the weaker brother to a tailgate party at the stadium on a day he considered holy.

Then in 15, he makes it even clearer. We who are strong ought to near the infirmities of the weak. Another way to phrase it would be, we who are powerful ought to help carry the scruples of conscience of the weak. If I help a person carry a burden, I have some of the weight on me. In order for me to help my brother carry his scruple, I have to deny myself freedom and either abstain from or engage in some activity.

Recently, I preached in a church out of state. In fact, it was out of Dixie, which is very rare for me. When I spoke to the pastor on the phone, I asked him how he would feel about my goatee because I had run into this issue once before in a church up there. He said, “I wish the Lord would let me have one.” I assured him that He would since He had a beard Himself and created man on the sixth day with hair follicles in his face. However, I told him that I would shave it to preach there. I would even have a picture taken without it for the newspaper article. He was gracious and said that while he had never had a preacher with a beard in his pulpit before he would let it up to me. I assured him that my desire was to help his work and not hinder it so I shaved. It is growing back as I type, but he and his congregation were able to worship and hear me without the beard being a distraction.

I gave him a “short” course or discourse on the subject, but deferred to his position. I could have argued a long time and then arrived with a beard, but what would it have profited? I would not have had the opportunity to minister or would have had my ministry hindered. It was better to surrender my liberty than my ministry.

I could have pleased myself, but it would not have been to my neighbor’s edification. We are to build each other up, not tear each other down. In the context of eternity, will exercising our “rights” or liberty to the hurt of our brethren really mean anything after our last breath? If we stunt the growth of our brethren for such temporal things, what will it cost the Kingdom for eternity? Is it worth that cost? Indeed, what will that lack of love cost us at the Bema?

The Jews and the Gentiles were in a transitional period with the NT not being finished yet and this merger of two such diverse groups still sticky like fresh paint. It is understandable that many things would be questioned. Before Paul wrote to the church at Rome, these issues were questionable. Afterwards, the issues were not questionable. Paul clearly laid out what was OK and what was not. Therefore, this passage is not really about how to determine questionable things. It is more how to handle people during the sorting out of questionable practices and those weak in the faith.

With the NT completed and the merger of Jews and Gentiles being established for over two thousand years, we should only see these types of issues when we do foreign missions and evangelism. Sorting out what part of a cannibalistic culture is not tied to eating humans or to their animism and is acceptable within the Kingdom may take awhile. So much of any culture is intricately tied to the religion of that culture. Sometimes it is hard to find all the knots or weaves. Bringing someone to Christ out of one of the sub-cultures or counter-cultures can also present some of these challenges as the new believers grow and ask questions. We should have the answers. We just need to have the grace to minister to these folks.

Many of the things that we split hairs over in the Kingdom are not really that hard to determine what is right or wrong. We are usually just too emotionally charged about them or to be honest, too lazy to do the research. Both sides of any issue usually cling to popular opinion or their preference rather than biblical exposition. Many people base their convictions upon which preacher can shout the loudest or what school he graduated from. Do the research if you want to be mature and stable.
We also lack the perspective of the early saints. They would not fast on the same day as the pagans. Fasting in and of itself is good and I need to do more of it. The early church did not want in any way to be associated with the pagans. They wanted a clear testimony.

A few hundred years later, in order to reach the pagans, all of their holidays and traditions were brought into the church. All it did was paganize the church. It did not change the pagans. The more the church compromised with the world the more worldly the church became. Its testimony was ruined until the fire was rekindled with the Reformation though there were small groups of burning embers throughout the dark times.

We have not learned that lesson today. Instead of presenting a clear and distinct testimony, we still want to “redeem” the rituals of the pagans and wonder why we have no power and they ridicule us. Try to suggest that we clean out what traditions and holidays we received from the pagans by the compromisers and see what a joyful and scriptural response you get to that. Try to point out the old paganism under new names that we need to keep out of the church and you will be called, unlearned, unloving, unenlightened, etc.

We also lack the desire for holiness, which was the basis of the early church’s perspective. Holiness and separation are same thing. We say we want to be holy, but we do not want to get crazy about this separation thing. Do a concordance search on holy and it’s variations and also separation in the NT. You can also do one in the OT, but since some have basically burned the OT in their experience, the NT will do. If you have a Young’s you can easily find the verses that use the same Greek word and then do a word study in Vine’s Expository Dictionary. It will be a good study and you might be surprised at what you find as examples of holiness/separation.

I recall reading about George Mueller and a young couple he led to the Lord in England. They lived a good deal North of Mueller and all he could do is tell them to read their Bible and pray before they left for home. A few months later, they returned and told him of all the things that they had changed in their life and things they had given away. They wanted to know if there were more things that they should do or give up for the Lord. Note he was not with them to push his convictions or laundry list of dos and don’ts on to them. The Word convicted them. By the way, where do you get your convictions?

How opposite we are of the early church and this couple. We do not seek to be holy and separate or what else we can give up for the Lord. We do not ask, “How holy can I be?” but rather “How low can I go and still be saved?” Keith Green sang, “You speak of grace and my love so sweet. How you thrive on milk and reject my meat.” We do not even want milk anymore. A pacifier will do nicely. We care not that we starve our spirits as long as we have that band around our wrist that says child of God. We’d rather die in the nursery than on the field of battle. It is a good thing that our forebears do not look over the ramparts of Heaven and view what we are doing. Tears and vomit would ruin their being in His presence.

Rom 15:3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. KJV

How blessed we are that Christ did not please Himself, but prayed, “not My will, but Thine be done.” Where would we be if He had called twelve legions of angels to level Jerusalem and then ascended into Heaven without going to the Cross? We would be without the Comforter in this life and without hope in the next as we burned in Hell for eternity.

They called the early church Christians or little Christs because they did follow Christ and they feared and hated them. They call us Christians and sneer because we do not follow Him and they hate us, but they no longer fear the Gospel we preach because we do not have the power of the early Church.

You see we who are strong are not as strong as we think that we are. Therefore we should be a tad more understanding of those who are weaker than us. We also need to consistently check up on ourselves. We may find we are the weaker brothers when we thought we were the stronger and vice versa.

What will happen if you give up your liberty for the sake of a weaker brother? God will bless you, but some of your peers may think you have lost your mind or joined the legalists. They may chide you or snub you. That only proves they are not that strong.

What will happen if you search the Scriptures and seek holiness and challenge the paganism in your church? Well, you will grow in strength and power in Christ, but your popularity with the saved may wane. Lost people may hate you, but some will respect you and you may find a new ministry in reaching people you never thought that you could reach.

Whatever happens, you will be in good company. Whatever reproaches you receive from saved or lost know that they have already fallen on those who turned the world upside down. Better still, remember that they have fallen upon Christ who saved you and in whose resurrection power you are called to live.

Stronger brother, show me your strength by your love and sacrifice. Weaker brother, seek His face and stay in the Word. You will become stronger than you can imagine. May none of us please ourselves, but seek to please Him that bought us. In so doing, we will again see the holiness and power that turned the world upside down and witness a huge gathering of souls into the Kingdom!