Frozen in Death #5

Saturday, June 18, 2022

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13 KJV).

What priceless lesson can we learn from today’s Scripture?

Read Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14,20-26. On the Monday before His Thursday crucifixion, Christ Jesus was near Jerusalem when He encountered a fig tree “and found nothing thereon, but leaves only” (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:13). Here was Israel’s religious system symbolized—advertising its superficial “greeneries” (alleged “life”) but, upon closer examination, utterly fruitless inside (spiritually dead and therefore useless to God)! In fact, this narrative of the fig tree is presented in conjunction with the Lord purging the polluted Jerusalem Temple of Satan’s emissaries (see Matthew 21:12-17 and Mark 11:15-19). You can also compare it to The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree in Luke 13:6-9, Christ seeking fruit (faith and good works) in national Israel but finding none during His three-year earthly ministry.

Let us ponder another illustration. Imagine a dead tree with bare branches, with neither leaves nor fruit. We can glue green leaves to it, and hang ripe fruit from it—but that nice external appearance does not detract from the fact that tree is lifeless. Religion is dead, so it cannot produce the life of God. Think of yet another analogy. We can take a dirty, dead battery and clean it with soap and water—but it is still powerless. Religion has no power, so it cannot produce the works of God.

Victorious Christian living occurs when we are strengthened with might by [God’s] Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts by faith…” (Ephesians 3:16,17). If we are alive in Jesus Christ, it is His life, and He will produce fruit: “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart(Ephesians 6:6). We learn and believe the principles of grace outlined in Romans through Philemon, thereby eschewing spiritual hypocrisy, duplicity, and immobility!

Frozen in Death #4

Friday, June 17, 2022

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13 KJV).

What priceless lesson can we learn from today’s Scripture?

In Matthew chapter 15, the Lord Jesus censured the vain, hollow religious system corrupting His nation: “[7] Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias [Isaiah 29:13] prophesy of you, saying, [8] This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [9] But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Also, the parallel passage, Mark chapter 7: “[6] He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. [7] Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Verily, they read and heard the Hebrew Bible during synagogue services every Saturday Sabbath. Doubtless, they sang excerpts from the Book of Psalms at their religious gatherings—including the feast days. “How we love God! Praise the LORD!” However, it was empty talk: there was no internal faith in their spiritual heart to correspond to the holy words proceeding from their physical lips. Their unbelief, refusing to trust Jesus as Christ during His earthly ministry, proved that was so. What is far more important is the heart attitude, a love for the LORD’S Book and a sincere quotation of its teachings, not blindly following religious “authorities” who simply and mindlessly utter sound waves for religious duty’s sake!

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16). It is the Word of God’s Grace—His Bible rightly divided—that we trust and then apply to our daily lives, the resultant joy manifesting itself in songs. Here is how we avoid boarding the “frozen ship….”

Frozen in Death #3

Thursday, June 16, 2022

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13 KJV).

What priceless lesson can we learn from today’s Scripture?

Christ denounced Israel’s religious leaders during His earthly ministry: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:25-28).

Religion emphasizes formalism, adhering to rules and regulations so as to produce a desired outward appearance (but ignoring the inside—a heart of faith). Consider Jesus’ illustrations. Think of washing a cup’s outside, but leaving its inside dirty (and the inside, where the drink goes, is the more important surface!). Imagine cleaning the dish’s bottom, but letting its top remain filthy (and the top, where the food is placed, is the more important surface!). The Jews of the first century scrubbed and painted graves bright white so as to clearly demarcate the location of “unclean” corpses (see Numbers 19:11,16 for the reason). Even though these tombs had a delightful exterior, what really mattered was the disgusting interior: within were human remains decomposing because of sin! What seemed righteous on the outside was actually unrighteous on the inside.

Let us remember the “frozen ship” that we read about earlier. We can be active with our church and ministry programs, conferences, schools, and all the rest. Yet, is it empty works-religion (our spiritually-dead flesh impersonating Jesus Christ) or sound Bible doctrine (the indwelling Holy Spirit working in and through us as we who are alive in Christ walk by faith in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word to us)? It can either be “broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” or “the fountain of living waters.” The choice is ours….

Frozen in Death #2

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13 KJV).

What priceless lesson can we learn from today’s Scripture?

The Holy Spirit through the Prophet Jeremiah faults the people of Judah on the grounds of two grievances. Firstly, they have deserted the LORD God, “the fountain of living waters.” Of course, this means He is the source of spiritual life—just as He is the origin of physical life. They declined whatever spiritual nourishment He could provide them. Secondly, they have replaced Him with something of their own efforts: “they have… hewed [cut] them out cisterns.” These reservoirs or containers “can hold no water,” so whatever they have done has been in vain. No matter how hard the sinner tries, he or she cannot substitute or replace the living God: “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit” (verse 11).

In other words, the Jewish people were dead spiritually—not only individually, but corporately or nationally. They were without “water.” However, to be sure, from all outward appearances, they were quite religious. The LORD, in chapter 1, verse 16, of Jeremiah, stated: “And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.” Chapter 2, verse 32: “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” They were too busy with idols to give JEHOVAH God any attention! Like the aforementioned “frozen ship,” they were drifting along—but were as lifeless as could be.

An evangelist once remarked: “I have been to churches where they have not had a controversy there in 20 years. Those churches are dead!” Again, they are also wandering or moving (“having a form of godliness;” 2 Timothy 3:5), but inside, there is no living God to impart spiritual life to them….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Was Jesus 50 years old during His earthly ministry?

Frozen in Death #1

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13 KJV).

What priceless lesson can we learn from today’s Scripture?

Let us read it in context: “[8] The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. [9] Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children’s children will I plead. [10] For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. [11] Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. [12] Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. [13] For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.The problem, of course, is pagan idolatry amongst the Jewish people. (We will come back to this later.)

More than a century and a half ago, a curious ship was found drifting amongst the icebergs of the Arctic Ocean. As the vessel was searched, the bodies of all the crewmembers were discovered frozen to death. Some were still in their hammocks; others were in the cabin. The captain’s corpse still held the log-book, for he had been writing the last entry—13 years before! Imagine that. For more than a decade, that ship floated aimlessly in a sea of ice… its crew all frozen dead. It was described as “a drifting sepulchre, manned by a frozen crew.” Someone then posed a controversial question to prove a point: Are there not churches in like condition?

Our modern “drifting sepulchre” churches match ancient Judah in the Prophet Jeremiah’s day over 600 years before Christ….

Samaria and The Holy Ghost #6

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-17 KJV).

What is going on in today’s Scripture? Is it something we should practice?

The Holy Ghost was given in Jerusalem (Acts chapter 2), previewing Israel’s New Covenant and Millennial Kingdom blessings. To demonstrate how He would one day rejoin the Northern Kingdom (10 tribes, including the Samaritans) to the Southern Kingdom (two tribes; capital city Jerusalem), the Holy Spirit moved Philip to preach to the Samaritans and then motivated Apostles Peter and John of the Jerusalem Church to confirm or authorize these Samaritans’ entrance into the Little Flock (Israel’s believing remnant).

Denominationally-minded people, no matter how sincere, are sincerely wrong if they believe today’s Scripture defines what the God of the Bible is currently doing with us. We should be ever so careful before we “name and claim” passages—ignoring contexts and lacking a firm understanding of what the Scriptures have already stated about those topics. Contrary to popular belief, just because it is in the Bible does not mean it is our pattern. We can be “Scriptural” and still be outside God’s will!

According to the Bible, Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), God’s spokesman to us. We do not appeal to Peter or John—including today’s Scripture. If we study Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, we will discover there is absolutely nothing about laying hands on anyone to impart the Holy Spirit to them. That is Israel’s doctrine, not ours. If anyone wants the Holy Spirit today, they need to believe Christ died for their sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed [preserved] with that holy Spirit of promise,…” (Ephesians 1:12,13).

Samaria and The Holy Ghost #5

Monday, June 6, 2022

“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-17 KJV).

What is going on in today’s Scripture? Is it something we should practice?

Remember, Jerusalem is “the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:2; Matthew 5:35). It will be Israel’s capital when the Lord Jesus Christ sits on David’s throne in the ages to come. The 12 Apostles are the new Jewish governmental leaders: “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).

Also, recall the Samaritans (Northern Kingdom) had broken away from the Davidic dynasty (Southern Kingdom) many centuries before Christ. As the Son of David and thus Heir to David’s throne, Jesus Christ selected His princes to rule with Him. The 12 Apostles therefore represent Jerusalem’s government, and Samaria must be brought back under and submit to David’s house. After all, according to Jeremiah 31:31, the New Covenant will reunite “the house of Israel” (Northern Kingdom) and “the house of Judah” (Southern Kingdom). You can also read Ezekiel 37:15-23, the reunion of “Joseph/Ephraim” (Northern Kingdom) with “Judah” (Southern Kingdom) to enjoy Kingdom glory. “And David my servant shall be king over them: and they all shall have one shepherd…” (Ezekiel 37:24).

So as to preview these New Covenant blessings, the Holy Spirit in today’s Scripture works through Apostles Peter and John—representing Jerusalem and David’s throne—to approve the Samaritans’ conversion. Samaria receives authority and power from Jerusalem’s Apostles, surrendering to David’s government, thereby reversing the political division brought about under the Law of Moses all those hundreds of years prior….

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Samaria and The Holy Ghost #4

Sunday, June 5, 2022

“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-17 KJV).

What is going on in today’s Scripture? Is it something we should practice?

The Little Flock, Israel’s believing remnant (see Luke 12:32), was not to preach to Samaritans until after converting Jerusalem and Judah (recall Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8). Yet, with Jerusalem and Judah still in unbelief, the Book of Acts records Philip moving to Samaria and evangelizing the Samaritans (the context of today’s Scripture). Philip’s actions signal God is no longer operating the prophetic program, for Philip, filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 6:3,5), has departed from the commission given to the Little Flock.

Israel had fallen back in chapter 7, when Stephen, another one of the seven Spirit-filled men selected in chapter 6, was stoned to death (see Acts 7:51-60). Stephen’s murder was Israel’s unforgiveable blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31,32). From chapter 7 of Acts to the end of the Book (chapter 28) is the 30-year-long transition period from Israel’s prophetic program to our mystery program.

When the Holy Ghost had been poured out on the Day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), that was a foretaste or preview of the New Covenant blessings: “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. 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” (Ezekiel 36:26,27). Though the prophetic program had been paused in Acts chapter 7, and our mystery program was beginning with Paul (see Acts chapter 9), the Lord through Luke writing Acts chapter 8 shows us how the New Covenant (yet future) will reunite the Samaritans and Jews under one government….

Samaria and The Holy Ghost #3

Saturday, June 4, 2022

“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-17 KJV).

What is going on in today’s Scripture? Is it something we should practice?

The Samaritans were ethnically, religiously, and politically distinct from the pure-blooded Jews: hence, “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). Samaritans, although sharing Israel’s patriarch Jacob as their own forefather (verse 12), resulted from Gentile-Jewish marriages during the centuries before Christ. The Samaritans had a hybrid religious system (syncretism), some Law of Moses mixed with heathen beliefs. Instead of worshipping at Jerusalem (Mount Zion), the Samaritans worshipped at Mount Gerazim to the north (verses 20-22). Samaritans vehemently opposed the Jews visiting Jerusalem for religious reasons (read Luke 9:51-56). Lastly, Samaritans (Northern Kingdom) had broken from David’s house or dynasty (Southern Kingdom).

Consequently, during the first installment of the so-called “Great Commission:” “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5,6). Like the Gentiles (non-Jews), the Samaritans (half-Jew/half-Gentile) were spiritually unclean. The full-blooded Jews were to be reached first with the Gospel of the Kingdom. Later, the Lord expanded the commission in Acts 1:8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Their order was to convert Jerusalem first, then Judaea (region surrounding Jerusalem, or Southern Kingdom), next Samaria (Northern Kingdom), and finally the world or the Gentiles (also, see Luke 24:47 and Matthew 28:19,20). However, with Philip and today’s Scripture, there was a radical departure from that sequence….

Samaria and The Holy Ghost #2

Friday, June 3, 2022

“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-17 KJV).

What is going on in today’s Scripture? Is it something we should practice?

In chapter 6 of Acts, seven men “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (verse 3), were chosen to manage the food distribution amongst the Messianic Jews in Jerusalem. One of these seven believers was Philip. When Saul of Tarsus ruthlessly persecuted the Jerusalem church, Philip fled the city and traveled to Samaria in the north to preach to them (Acts 8:5-13). The 12 Apostles, who had remained in Jerusalem (verses 1-4), hear of Philip’s converts in Samaria and send Apostles Peter and John to investigate (see today’s Scripture). Strangely enough, although these Samaritans are now believers, they do not receive the Holy Ghost until Peter and John lay hands on them. Nearly 2,000 years later, and Bible readers still needlessly struggle with this unusual situation.

One of the curses of the violated Law of Moses was Israel’s political destruction: “I will break the pride of your power,” the LORD promised them in Leviticus 26:19. This prophecy was fulfilled once idolatrous King Solomon died, David’s kingdom split into two kingdoms, 10 northern tribes and two southern tribes (see 1 Kings 11:1-13,28-39). “Samaria” eventually became a title for the Northern Kingdom. Due to their isolation from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem (Southern Kingdom), the northern tribes quickly fell into pagan idolatry or devil worship (see 1 Kings 12:25-33; 1 Kings 13:32; 1 Kings 16:23-33; et al.). Furthermore, when their evils led to their eviction from the Promised Land centuries later, idolatrous Gentiles resettled the area and further corrupted it with false religion, Jews even intermarrying into these families (2 Kings 17:24-41).

Samaria languished in spiritual darkness all the way to Christ’s earthly ministry….