An Unlikely Convert #4

Saturday, April 13, 2019

“And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20 KJV).

Who is this preacher?

Thus far, we have been reading the testimony of the Apostle Paul. Listen to him in his own words as he stands before Gentile King Agrippa, nearly 30 years after his conversion: “[9] I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. [10] Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. [11] And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:9-11).

Saul was bloodthirsty religious fanatic! He did not think twice about arresting and putting to death any Jew who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Yea, he was God’s leading enemy in the earth at the time. Saul was heading the world’s rebellion against the God of creation. In Acts chapter 9, Saul (the chief of sinners) met Jesus Christ (the Saviour of sinners)!

First Timothy chapter 1: “[12] And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; [13] Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. [14] And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. [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. [16] Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

So, Paul’s salvation is a “pattern.” No matter how hopelessly lost someone appears, just remember they can come to Christ by faith as well. The mercy and longsuffering God extended toward Paul is still being offered to any and all today 2,000 years later. If only they would believe on Jesus Christ as Paul did!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Can you explain, ‘Give strength to the LORD?’

Logomachy!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers (2 Timothy 2:14 KJV).

Can you spot the logomachy in today’s Scripture?

Every Christian leader—preacher, Bible teacher, evangelist, deacon—would do well to become familiarized with the guidelines found in the “Pastoral Epistles.” These four Books—1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon—have been rightly called “the handbooks for the local church.” Therein, we find Divine counsel as to how the ministry should be established and maintained.

There are great threats to God’s work, and they often gain a stronghold in the subtlest ways. Chiefly, there is counterfeit (or false) teaching. Instead of grace-oriented doctrine, it is legalistic (law-oriented—performance) and/or humanistic (man-oriented—philosophical). Other ways Satan thwarts God’s ministry include: foolish questions, petty disagreements with brethren, bitterness and grudges, intimidation, spiritual immaturity, discouragement, selfishness, formalism/ritualism, pride, greed and materialism, carnality/fleshliness among church leaders and common members, and persecution (from other believers, the government, or lost people).

If we concentrate on today’s Scripture, we find the “charge” (or order) to behave a certain way so as to prevent the Adversary from gaining a particular advantage. We are to “strive not about words to no profit.” In Greek, “strive about words” is “logomachein.” As you might have guessed, “logos” carries the meaning of “thought, word, saying;” “machomai” is “war, quarrel, dispute.” That is to say, “striving about words” refers to “word-fights” or “heated debates.” (We actually have a rare English word derived from that Greek term—logomachy, “an argument about words.”)

Yet, is it not good to “defend the truth?” Hold it, friend. Read the entire verse: Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. There is “no profit” in such word-wars. Actually, the audience will be “subverted”—spiritually overturned, demolished, apostate (the Greek is “katastrophe!”). It was nothing but a “flesh parade:” there was destruction instead of edification. God the Holy Spirit was not involved; it was sinful man operating under the guise of “godliness.”

Brethren, may we exercise great discernment in this regard, lest we fall into such a trap!

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!”

What a Stiff Neck! #5

Thursday, April 4, 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.”

Scripture provides a portrait of the “stiff neck,” and it is anything but flattering. Firstly, it is antonymous to “yield yourself unto the LORD” (2 Chronicles 30:8; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:13). Secondly, it means to “resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51)—refusing to listen to His words and obey them (Jeremiah 17:23). Thirdly, it stems from the heart, an internal sin nature that is contrary to how God designed Adam to function before he fell in sin (Deuteronomy 10:16; cf. Jeremiah 17:9). Fourthly, it originates iniquitous and sinful deeds or actions (Exodus 34:9; cf. Mark 7:20-23). Lastly, it results in God’s judgment (Exodus 33:5).

On one hand, whenever God observes anything that fails to meet His righteous standard, He must act to enforce a penalty. He cannot look at sin (Habakkuk 1:13). On the other hand, He is merciful, gracious, and forgiving toward the sinner (Exodus 34:6,7). He can hold back the wrath they deserve, He can give them pity that they do not deserve, and He can cancel the spiritual debt they have incurred. If we study the above verses as to how “stiffnecked” Israel behaved, and His responses, we see both realities on full display.

When they sinned, when they drew back from His leading, when they did the exact opposite of His commandments, there was chastisement to reform them (if they were willing to listen). Yet, He never completely wiped them off the face of the Earth, did He? Many times they deserved it, but He spared them. Despite all they have done against Him, He still has a plan for them even now, to make them His own and bless them beyond belief!!!

Let us conclude this devotionals arc by seeing a parallel concerning God’s dealings with individuals today….

A Better Covenant #2

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31 KJV).

Look, the New Covenant—a better covenant!

Notice the appellations “house of Israel” and “house of Judah.” They first appeared in Scripture in 1 Kings 12:21: “And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.”

Since King Solomon pursued heathen women and corrupted himself and the nation Israel with pagan idolatry, God initiated the second course of chastisement after his death (1 Kings 11:1-13,26-42; 1 Kings 12:1-19). Israel’s government, her “power,” was weakened (Leviticus 26:18,19). The kingdom was split between its 10 northern tribes (taking the name “Israel”) and two southern tribes (assuming the designation “Judah”).

That divided kingdom existed during the time of the Prophet Jeremiah, some 300 years later. Jeremiah preached just before and during the fifth course of chastisement—the Babylonian captivity (Leviticus 26:27-39). However, his message also focused on Israel’s hope, her eventual return to the Promised Land after being exiled in foreign (Gentile) territories. This re-gathering and restoration of Israel is found in the chapter containing today’s Scripture.

“[31] Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: [32] Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:….” The Law of Moses, the contract into which Israel entered on Mount Sinai 900 years prior to Jeremiah, demanded Israel’s exclusive worship of JEHOVAH God. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Time and time and time again, they broke that covenant, disobeyed God’s Word, and came under His curse. As a wife being unfaithful to her husband, Israel ran after idols and cheated on JEHOVAH God, bringing upon herself unspeakable judgment….

The Sins of the Times! #6

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come (2 Timothy 3:1 KJV).

Friend, you have surely heard of “the signs of the times,” but do you know anything about “the sins of the times?”

“For the Jews required a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22). “Except ye [Israel] see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). Rather than seek “signs of the times”—which is Jewish (are we the nation Israel?) and prophetic (are we not in the mystery program?)—we perceive the sins of the times. These are, first and foremost, spiritual sins, false religion increasingly counterfeiting Christianity (see 2 Timothy 3:6-17).

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry [forced religious celibacy!], and commanding to abstain from meats [mandated religious fasting!], which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

Never do Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, predict some great, worldwide revival before the close of the Dispensation of Grace. It will not come, friends. In fact, the opposite is true (see above verses). This world will one day meet an angry, holy God—that cannot be avoided (it is only delayed!). False religion cannot be stopped and our self-serving society will not be destroyed until Jesus Christ returns. Our Christian duty—yea, privilege—is to preach the Gospel of Grace and teach grace principles while we are here, while our Dispensation of Grace is still open, to reach the precious few willing to hear and believe. How urgent (!!) it is that lost souls be saved from that horrible wrath to come; how pressing (!!) it is that Christian souls be saved from the rampant deception! Go out and get the Message of Grace out!!! 

Our latest Bible Q&A: “‘If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant?’

The Sins of the Times! #5

Monday, March 11, 2019

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come (2 Timothy 3:1 KJV).

Friend, you have surely heard of “the signs of the times,” but do you know anything about “the sins of the times?”

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (verse 5). Strangely, people actually (mis)use Scripture to justify their sins. They deny sound Bible doctrine, but readily misquote and/or mishandle God’s Word to teach and do their pleasure. God has given them over to their delusions: they think they are worshipping Him, following His will, but nothing could be further from the truth. We are to “turn away” from or avoid such individuals!!

Someone may inquire as to why Paul spoke of the perilous times in the future tense—“perilous times shall come.” Were not the sins of verses 2-4 present when Paul wrote those words 20 centuries ago? Indeed, those actions are really the “norm” for our dispensation! Yet, society’s conditions are worsening: such sins are not new, only intensifying and multiplying for four reasons.

Firstly, God’s grace through Calvary has been offered and rejected for 2,000 years. The more the world has heard of God’s love for them, the more they have grown to hate Him like never before and progressively hardened to His will (Proverbs 29:1). Secondly, more sects, cults, religions, and denominations have arisen to further corrupt society’s thinking: false teaching has had an extra 200 decades since Paul to proliferate. The sins of the flesh will grow more rampant because the sound doctrine to fight them has been pushed aside for religious lies.

Thirdly, larger populations mean more sinners are present to influence each other in wickedness. Lastly, the longer sin remains unpunished, the more widespread it becomes (Ecclesiastes 8:11). People are abusing God’s goodness and forbearance by continuing to willfully sin, when they should believe on His Son before they are judged in His righteous wrath (Romans 2:3-11)!

As this dispensation winds down, we become more and more removed from the Fall (when man first abandoned his Creator) and increasingly closer to the zenith of Satan’s policy of evil (the Antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition). Man is becoming more hostile toward God and himself….