Impressionable Minds and Effectual Doctrine

Monday, October 31, 2011

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23 KJV).

Today is Halloween. We mull the idea of sincere children arrayed in costumes going door-to-door and exclaiming, “Trick-or-treat!” They have never been taught that this “innocent looking” holiday is rooted in the spiritually toxic soils of Celtic paganism, devil worship, and superstition.

Considering the “Harry Potter” franchise and Halloween, the gravity of devil worship has been downplayed. Future generations are receiving mixed messages from the Church the Body of Christ. Christians, rather than speaking against these atrocities, have become permissive regarding the activities that God hates. They remain silent, greatly reducing their impact on the world, and allowing the world to impact them! Ephesians 5:14-17 exclaims, “Wake up, O sleeping Christians, Wake up!”

God clearly forbade witchcraft in Israel (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Micah 5:12). Witchcraft is sin, according to Galatians 5:20. God wanted Israel, His earthly people, to not participate in Satan’s policy of evil. They were not to mingle with the works of darkness. God wants the same thing for us, the Church the Body of Christ. Note how the Ephesians burned their spell books in Acts 19:19.

There is no law “Thou shalt not celebrate Halloween,” yet notice today’s Scripture. Although they are not explicitly forbidden, some activities harm others and ourselves, and are inconsistent with our identity in Christ Jesus. Thus, we avoid those activities. If an activity does not bring glory, praise, and honor to God Almighty (the Lord Jesus Christ), it is devil worship. Satan wants you to worship something other than the one true God.

We desperately need our young people to realize the weightiness of sound doctrine, especially regarding the occult, witchcraft, et cetera (and its most subtle forms like Halloween and Harry Potter). God Almighty instructs us to educate them with sound Bible teaching. We know that God’s Word will “effectually work also in [them] that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). God’s Word will reach their minds, we just need to plant and water, sowing it into their minds, and let God take care of the rest.

*This is excerpted from a larger Bible study with the same name. The Bible study can be read here or the study video can be viewed here.

Are You a Nominal Christian?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

“Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:7-9 KJV).

The title “Christian” was such a hateful, derogatory term in the first century A.D. It was used to describe a small number of people who lived such “Christ-like” lives, conversations that communicated God’s grace instead of the world’s vile standards. Today, over two billion people identify themselves as “Christian.” Nevertheless, we have not lost sight of what the Bible says about nominal believers.

Unbelieving Jews and saved Jews look alike on the outside. In Jesus’ day, millions of Jews practiced Judaism. While they had the outward physical circumcision of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, very few had the inward spiritual circumcision of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Physically, they were all Jews. Spiritually, most of them were not Jews—they were not God’s spiritual children, but Satan’s children (John 8:44). These lost Jews had never been born-again (they had not received the spiritual circumcision of Romans 2:28,29).

In today’s Scripture, the Lord Jesus Christ describes these “nominal believers” (cf. Mark 7:6). Scribes and Pharisees (Israel’s religious leaders) loved to keep the Mosaic Law and feel “religious,” but the Lord Jesus claimed it was vain worship. They appeared to do everything that God told Israel. However, they disobeyed the commandments they hated and embraced the tradition of men (Matthew 15:3-6; Mark 7:8-13)!

Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13 to describe these “hypocrites.” Despite their godly façade of Matthew 23:27-36, they were not God’s children (“their heart is far from [God]”).

God is not fooled. He knows the hearts of those who are saved and those who are lost. Are you a nominal Christian, in name only? Have you truly trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, thereby being rightfully called a “Christian?” Or are you just a church member who merely professes to be a Christian? Friend, it makes an eternal difference!

The Saints of Caesar’s Household

Saturday, October 29, 2011

“All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22 KJV).

Today’s Scripture is excerpted from Philippians, one of the half-dozen epistles Paul wrote from his Roman prison. “Caesar” refers to the tyrannical Roman emperor who ruled from A.D. 54 to 68 and greatly persecuted Christians. In fact, prior to committing suicide, he is thought to have executed Apostles Peter and Paul.

When Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he concluded his epistle with today’s Scripture: there are saints within Nero’s household!

About five or six years after the Philippian letter, Paul writes his final epistle, his second letter to Timothy. Notice 2 Timothy 2:8,9: “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.” Paul is still in prison, treated as a criminal. Why? Satan and his evil men hate him because he is God’s apostle of the Gentiles (Acts 9:15,16; Romans 11:13; et al.).

Paul was imprisoned because he was preaching the Gospel of Grace, the same Gospel we preach today. Physically, Paul was shackled to Roman soldiers. Satan had prevented God’s chief apostle in our dispensation from traveling and preaching the wonderful salvation in Christ Jesus. However, God would not be stopped. Paul wrote “but the word of God is not bound.” No matter how hard the devil tried to keep God’s Word from reaching lost souls, God’s Word could not be confined.

In Philippians 1:12,13 Paul wrote from prison: “But I would [wish] ye understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;”

Paul preached his heart out in that Roman prison. Today’s Scripture confirms that God’s Word worked so mightily that some of Nero’s own household had trusted in Christ! Certainly, Paul was imprisoned, yet the Gospel of Grace was still published and prosperous… in the very prison where Paul was held!

Only One Gave Glory to God

Friday, October 28, 2011

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger” (Luke 17:17,18 KJV).

In Luke 17:11 we find our Lord Jesus passing through Samaria and Galilee (northern Israel) on His way to Jerusalem. Verse 12 explains that there are ten lepers standing outside of a town. (Remember “leprosy” describes various skin diseases, so these unclean men are outcasts of society.) The ten lepers cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (verse 13). Verse 14 says, “And when he [Jesus] saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that as they went, they were cleansed.”

In Leviticus 14:1-ff., the LORD had given instructions to Moses concerning lepers (in the day of their healing, they were to go to the priest). Although they are still leprous, Jesus commands the ten lepers to go to the priests, as though they were already healed.

By faith, these ten lepers begin heading toward the Temple. Interestingly, notice how they were not healed until after they followed Christ’s instructions and had already begun walking to the Temple. These ten lepers knew Christ had the power to heal them, and they knew that as long as they obeyed Him, they would be healed. So, they begin walking (as though they were already cleansed). Because they had faith in Jesus’ words, they followed Jesus’ commands.

Luke 17:15,16 continue: “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.”

As indicated in today’s Scripture, only one of the ten lepers thanked and glorified God. The other nine, sidetracked by the relief and healing, never bothered to glorify the God who had healed them. May we be like that lone leper, mindful of what the LORD has done for us, grateful to Him, and giving Him the glory that He so rightly deserves!

The Saints in Silence

Thursday, October 27, 2011

“And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are written in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3 KJV).

During the early days of the Church the Body of Christ, there were many unnamed Christians who labored with the Apostle Paul in spreading the Gospel of Grace. Today’s Scripture references them.

Notice “thee” is the “true yoke-fellow,” an unidentified Christian whom Paul urged to “help those women who laboured with [Paul] in the gospel.” These female Christians are also unnamed. While other “fellow-labourers” are mentioned, they too are not named. Still, their names were written down somewhere else…. Romans chapter 16 lists over two-dozen names of Christians living in Rome. Some are unlisted, but their names are recorded elsewhere else….

We all have different roles within the local church (the church size is irrelevant, for a church can consist of two Christian friends or just one family). Some members are more noticeable than others, but they are all needed. Your role may seem “unimportant,” but it is significant. “Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary, and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely [unattractive] parts have more abundant comeliness [beauty] (1 Corinthians 12:22,23).

Also, your work may go unrecognized, but God notices it, and that is all that matters. The world will recognize us as Christians only to intimidate us, but we will never receive their praise for being Christians. Our names are ignored, and will never appear on secular, religious lists like “Most Generous Church Supporters” or “True People of God,” but we need not fret.

We are the (unnamed, unrecognized) saints in silence, doing the work of the ministry without fanfare from the world. Let us remember that we may be nobodies in this life, but, brethren, as members of the Body of Christ, we are listed in God’s Book—the Book of Life, the only list that counts for all eternity.

A Land Flowing With Milk and Honey #2

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey” (Numbers 14:7,8 KJV).

God had been faithful in delivering Israel from Egypt. Now, He would bring her into an exceeding good land.” But, Israel doubted God, and wanted to send 12 spies to explore that land. After 40 days of exploring Canaan, the spies return to Israel’s camp. Today’s Scripture records their confession before Moses and Israel.

Canaan, the Promised Land, was abounding with food and water, high agricultural productivity (“a land flowing with milk and honey”—the presence of milk-producing animals implied grasses and other vegetation; honey indicated pollinating creatures like bees). The spies showed Israel the large grape cluster, the pomegranates, and the figs they had collected in Canaan (Numbers 13:21-27). The 12 spies confirmed that God had indeed given them a very great land, but 10 spies feared military defeat by the Gentiles dwelling therein, so Israel refused to enter (Numbers 13:28–14:11). Thus, God, in His righteous anger, punished them via the 40-year wilderness wandering (Deuteronomy 1:21-ff.).

Today, the Promised Land does not exhibit the beauty it had in Moses’ day. It is desolate and barren. But, that will change at Christ’s Second Coming and the following earthly kingdom. The Promised Land will be restored, and the curse of sin will be broken (Isaiah 51:3; Joel 3:17-21, Micah 4:1-3; et al.).

According to Amos 9:11-15, “[Israel will] build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God” (verses 14,15).

One day, Israel will eternally dwell in her land, “a land flowing with milk and honey.”

A Land Flowing With Milk and Honey #1

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:8 KJV).

In today’s Scripture, the LORD in the burning bush tells Moses that He will deliver the nation Israel from Egyptian slavery and bring them into the Promised Land, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” The Bible uses this expression 20 times to describe Israel’s land (Palestine). What does it mean?

By the time of Numbers chapter 13, Israel has been delivered from Egypt and is sending 12 spies to explore Palestine. Moses instructs these spies: “And [see] what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes” (verse 20).

In verse 23, the spies arrive at the brook of Eshcol, and cut down a grape cluster (“Eshcol” is Hebrew for “grape cluster;” verse 24). This one cluster of grapes is so enormous that two men must carry it on a pole! The spies also collect figs and pomegranates.

After 40 days of scouting, the spies return to Moses and Israel’s camp and show them Canaan’s fruit: “And they told him [Moses], and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it(verse 27). “And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey (Numbers 14:7,8).

Deuteronomy 11:10-12 and Deuteronomy 31:20 also confirm that “flowing with milk and honey” indicated Canaan was a land of high agricultural productivity (pollination, green grass, flowering trees, water resources, abundant food, et cetera). Just think…rebellious Israel refused to go in!