What a Stiff Neck! #6

Friday, April 5, 2019

“For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Deuteronomy 31:27 KJV).

A Christian lady was expressing her frustration over her unsaved family members being “stubborn” as concerning believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Or, in Bible terms, they are “stiffnecked.”

The Scriptures say, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Mankind refuses that truth: he resolutely believes he is good. Here, the lost person sees Jesus Christ as unnecessary. Commandments are viewed as “help” to get to God and merit His favor. A sinner, instead of realizing his or her “lostness,” stubbornly cleaves to works-religion. Man does not see himself as the evil monster he really is; he just cannot agree with God and take a negative view of himself. Falling for the strange delusion that he can keep God’s laws perfectly, his efforts replace (!) Christ’s finished crosswork. It is truly a miracle when the unsaved escape such trickery: that enlightenment comes through the Scriptures to a sincere heart.

God’s Word pronounces, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Christ’s finished crosswork offends the Christian’s flesh (sin nature) as it upsets the lost person’s flesh (see above). Christians also obstinately cling to works-religion: they come to faith in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone, knowing Calvary alone can save them, but then they labor to please God for rewards (material blessings, physical health, et cetera). It is truly a miracle when the Christian escapes such deception: that enlightenment comes through the Scriptures to a sincere heart.

Honestly, God does not want our “good works;” He desires our trust in Christ. Grace not works! Jesus Christ gave His life to us, not for us to then use a legalistic system to simulate it, but for Him to live it in and through us as we believe His words to us. It is our faith in His faith—His faithfulness not ours, His crosswork not ours, His efforts not ours! Let us cease being “stiffnecked!”

The “Offensive” Gospel!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5 KJV).

Behold, “the offence of the cross” (Galatians 5:11)!

I recently asked an elderly lady if she thought people could know where they go when they die. She answered, “Since most people are good, Heaven.” Afterward, naturally, she revealed her good deeds—especially her kindness toward others. Therefore, I inquired again, “Where will you go?” That pointed question was unexpected, prompting her hesitant reply, “I hope Heaven.” Notice when it became personal she was unsure. The Holy Spirit used those questions to convict her, and she actually expressed concern of being “scared.” Yes, this sweet little lady could not hide behind her “good works” any longer. She recognized she was Hell-bound!!

It was quite a friendly conversation from start to finish. Without doubt, by the time we parted ways, she understood her dire predicament and, most importantly, the solution. What she did with the Gospel of the Grace of God was her choice. I left her some printed material (verses). Just maybe she will contact me and we can talk more if necessary.

We often hear people stressing “good works” as necessary to enter Heaven. Point out to them Matthew 7:11—“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children….” Focus on the fact that man’s nature is “evil” despite doing “good” deeds. Rather than God emphasizing man doing evil, He underscores man being evil.” By nature, man himself is the problem. Consider Matthew 7:21-23 quite carefully: read it over and over until you get the impact. It is surprising to say the least! “Good” deeds can be exceedingly deceptive.

Lastly, I offered her a simple analogy. We can pick all the oranges from an orange tree, hang apples on it, and yet never change its nature. The tree can produce only oranges. Likewise, the sin nature can yield only sins. We can trade fleshly sins (lasciviousness) for religious sins (self-righteousness), and our nature is unaffected. However, in Christ, through Calvary’s crosswork, we receive a new nature, and it produces the good works God accepts. Ultimately, though, it is the new nature (not its resultant good works) that gets us into Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).

Our archived Bible Q&A: “Should Christians celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?

Something in Which to Glory!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:12-14 KJV).

In what shall we glory? About what shall we boast? In what shall we find value?

Religion produces people who enjoy bragging all about their “dedication to God.” “Look what I did—the ceremonies in which I have participated, the many prayers I faithfully recited daily, how much I put in the collection plate, see how many pleasures I gave up to please God! Come, see how much I love Him!” Dear friends, the Apostle Paul found great value in something—but that something was not what he did. All that human flesh can accomplish pales in comparison to the work in today’s Scripture.

As Lent begins, the time when religionists temporarily (a mere 40 days) relinquish some pleasant food or activity, let us remember that our performance is often non-performance. Once we place ourselves on that treadmill of “do, do, do,” we are guaranteed to fail at some point. Human flesh is simply too weak to maintain 100 percent—that is sin! Even concerning one rule, we cannot keep it perfectly. We mess up eventually.

If ever we believe that our puny works are worth bragging about, let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul in today’s Scripture. While some boast in their religiosity (in the passage, the Judaizers applauding their rite of physical circumcision), and such denominationalists today urge us to obey their church’s instructions so they too may boast in our ability, let us eschew such foolishness. Being imperfect, all their works do not measure up to Christ’s finished crosswork. At Calvary, we find the only sacrifice that will ever please the God of the Bible. If we must boast, let us brag that He did what we could never, ever do!

See our archived Bible Q&A: “Should Christians observe Lent?

Bound in False Religion 97 Years

Saturday, February 23, 2019

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 KJV).

How can today’s Scripture enable us to avoid a literal century of religious bondage?

Some years back, we had a devotional study in which my parents and I were dealing with a 94-year-old relative who had been a lifelong member of a works-religion cult. She was resistant to the Gospel of the Grace of God then, and was even more fiercely antagonistic toward it when we visited with her late last year. Recently, we learned that this dear lady has died at age 97. Whether her soul is now in Heaven or Hell, it was her choice. (She remembers my admonition, “If you die and go to Hell, you will remember this very moment when you could have been saved from it.” Just over three months later, she departed this world.)

Her religion never gave her the assurance of sins forgiven and a home in Heaven (she freely admitted that). Nevertheless, she certainly rejected Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. She was known for many noble deeds in her life. As she said, “If I am not going to Heaven, no one is. I raised four children as a single parent. I recited prayers. I did this, I did this… but, I am not bragging, not bragging at all.” This captures the essence of Satan’s world system (cf. today’s Scripture). To own a Bible but refuse to open it. To hear the name “Jesus Christ” for nearly a century and still not know Him personally. To be a faithful church member and be so spiritually blind and numb to the truth. Indeed, while not impossible, a senior citizen trusting Jesus Christ as personal Saviour is highly unlikely. They are “set in their ways,” brainwashed from the cradle to the grave.

Hell is filled with billions of souls right this very moment—they all presumed to offer their works, ideas, systems as substitutes for Almighty God’s works, wisdom, and will. Eternity keeps them where death found them!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Become as little children… to enter the kingdom of heaven?

A Heart Matter

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:11 KJV).

Today’s Scripture, believe it or not, lies at the heart of prayer.

Like innumerable other Christian subjects, prayer is terribly misunderstood. Superstition thus lurks in this realm. Since not considered dispensationally, prayer is usually such an unspeakable burden, a taxing exercise with mysterious and often unexpected results. Little wonder so many stumble therein!

As God has already spoken to us through His Word, the Holy Bible, so we now speak to Him through prayer. Prayer, of course, must be “Pauline” if it will have the impact Father God intended. The only way our prayers can be Pauline is if our doctrine is Pauline—harmonious with what the Lord says to us through the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:1,2). We cannot force God to do something He is no longer doing. Yanking verses from other dispensations, claiming prayer promises God never gave us, is a sure way to wind up a bitter opponent of Christianity!

God the Holy Spirit speaks in Romans through Philemon, then we read and store or believe that information with the heart (cf. today’s Scripture). Psalm 62:8 comments: “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.” Prayer is heartfelt communion with Father God—not mindless repetition of denominational proclamations!

Watch how Hannah prayed: “And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD (1 Samuel 1:12-15). She read God’s Word to her—particularly the Mosaic Law—and she prayed according to it. Scripture was in her heart, and her prayer was the pouring out of her soul. This led to the birth of the Prophet Samuel.

Brethren, our prayers will be equally powerful when we pray the Pauline way!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Should Christians celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Not Willingly Ignorant!

Monday, February 11, 2019

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17 KJV).

Are we ignorant—or actually willingly ignorant?

Recently, a dear Christian brother lamented that he was “ignorant” of the Bible. I quickly corrected him. We are all ignorant of Scripture to some degree. No man on Earth today knows the Bible as he ought to know—even he who has memorized 15,000 verses is not guaranteed exemplary spiritual discernment and superior Bible understanding!

Certainly, it is no sin to be uniformed about Holy Writ. The problem is when we are willfully or deliberately unfamiliar with it. After all, it is easier to remain uneducated. Preconceived notions remain unchallenged. Religious tradition is hard to abandon. Habits are not easy to change. Second Peter chapter 3 speaks of Bible mockers who intentionally overlook historical truth—namely, the Great Deluge of Noah’s day—because it contradicts their “things never change” prejudice:

“[3] Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, [4] And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. [5] For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: [6] Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:….”

The Bible’s definition of “sin” is Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way….” Proverbs chapter 18 adds: “Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom. A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (verses 1,2). The fool has an agenda, a “pet” idea or system, and has no interest in changing it on account of the Bible. Thus, he pleads ignorance—willful ignorance! Dear friends, may we not be numbered with him. We are ignorant, yes, but we are nevertheless endeavoring to correct and refine our distorted thinking by “studying… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

A Life That Will Please

Friday, January 4, 2019

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 KJV).

Today’s Scripture tells us who alone can live a life pleasing in God’s sight!

Everyone does “good” deeds. Yet, doing “good” is not necessarily good. For instance, people often do “good” just to receive praise/reward, make up for their wrongs, feel good, et cetera. Furthermore, despite our “good” deeds, we have plenty more bad ones! Pride, lying, evil thoughts, being a false witness, and being contentious are some of the things the LORD hates (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Mankind cannot even keep 10 simple rules from God. However, religion continues to urge us to keep seven sacraments, utter various prayers, give assorted offerings and “tithes,” attend numerous feasts and festivals, and perform sundry other tasks to “hopefully” please God and avoid hellfire. Whether we attempt to keep a church’s laws, our laws, or God’s laws, our flesh is far too weak to ever measure up. Just look at what God’s religion did to Israel—how much worse some man-made religion does to us!

As Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul was a Pharisee, a religious leader of Israel. He was a nitpicker concerning Law-keeping, and yet, after his soul salvation, he admitted that all of his religion was “but dung” compared to Jesus Christ’s righteousness (Philippians 3:3-11). Even for the Christian, to live a perfect life is impossible (read of Paul’s miserable existence in Romans chapter 7). Paul had to forsake his vain religion and learn today’s Scripture: the Christian life is NOT the performance of the Christian, but the Lord Jesus Christ living and working in the Christian, as the Christian walks in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word to him or her!

If we trust a Saviour who will save—the Lord Jesus Christ—and trust a Book that will teach—the King James Bible—we can redeem the year for the great God and our Saviour, “who loved [us], and gave himself for [us]!” 🙂

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