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….

What a Stiff Neck! #4

Wednesday, April 3, 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.”

Isaiah 53:6 contains the greatest definition of the word “sin:” “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus Christ, as the context shows, died for sinners. Sheep going astray, each one turning to his own way, is a graphic illustration of how sinful man (whether Jew or Gentile) drifts from his Creator. Man’s self-will stems from his desire to be independent, wanting to be his own “god,” a being wishing to decide for himself what is right and what is wrong. (Genesis 3:5).

Reflecting on Israel’s history in chapter 9, Moses commented in chapter 10 and verse 16: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” As he learned from God, there was a heart problem underlying Israel’s sins. Fifteen centuries later, Stephen said to Israel in Acts 7:51, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Man’s nature is thoroughly corrupt, as the Lord Jesus observed in Mark chapter 7: “[20] And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

If a sinner is to be not “stiffnecked,” he or she must undergo a spiritual circumcision. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). There must be a cutting off of the flesh, the sin nature passed down from our father (going all the way back to Adam). Herein is the realm where God works on the sinner’s behalf….

The Comforter #5

Friday, March 29, 2019

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever (John 14:16 KJV).

Who is this “Comforter?” What are His roles?

John 14:17 says the Holy Spirit will “dwell with [believing Israel], and shall be in [them].” Contrary to popular belief, the indwelling Spirit is not unique to our Dispensation of Grace. Through the Prophet Ezekiel, the LORD God had promised centuries earlier, “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” (36:26,27).

Beloved, our flesh is weak. (Right?) Despite our best efforts, we cannot live the Christian life. Only Jesus Christ can live His life—whether in Israel’s prophetic program or our mystery program. As the nation Israel will be the expression of Jesus Christ’s life in the earth in the ages to come, so we the Church the Body of Christ will be the manifestation of His life in the heavenly places. It is not we duplicating His life but rather He Himself living in and through us. There is no imitation; it is the actual life of Christ!

How exactly does Christ live in and through us though? Does He unexpectedly take control of our bodies and manipulate us as puppets? (No!) Is there some mysterious, hair-raising, gentle breeze? (No!) Bolts of lighting striking the back of our neck? (No!) The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible (2 Peter 1:20,21; 2 Timothy 3:16,17). When we trust Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, the Spirit of God indwell and seals us (Ephesians 1:12-14). We become “an holy temple in the Lord, an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21,22). He strengthens or fortifies us internally as we walk by faith in His Word to us, Romans through Philemon (Ephesians 3:16). Hence, daily Bible study—yea, daily dispensational Bible study—is so critical. Without the Comforter grounding us using God’s Word, neither Israel nor we can be vessels of Christ’s life!

Our two latest Bible Q&As: “What is ‘the mark of the Beast?’” and “Why is ‘666’ the number of the Beast?

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?

Distributing the Four Gospel Records? #1

Saturday, March 2, 2019

But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24 KJV).

To whom was Christ’s earthly ministry directed?

Recently, a ministry was raising money to intentionally distribute one book containing the Gospel Records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. While we certainly do not fault anyone for being zealous in getting God’s Word to all nations, that everyone may hear and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is a better way to conduct such an endeavor.

Sadly, professing Christians are continuously struggling concerning evangelism and daily sanctification. Whether genuine or only nominal, these believers are unable to present a clear Gospel message. They come quite close to the truth at times, yet their obscure words are simply an inadequate basis for faith. What results? Lost people remain lost. Also, genuine Christians (who heard it) begin to wonder if they themselves have believed the right message.

Daily Christian living (daily sanctification) fares no better. Lost people, having not heard a clear Gospel, assume they can work to become Christians. In fact, they often appear to be Christians. Then, we have the Christians who usually act like lost people. Ultimately, the lost people assume they must be Christians, for the “Christians” behave worse than they do! Since Christians have yet to grasp that they are not lost people, they see no reason to act otherwise! Plain and simple, such unending confusion stems from a failure to rightly divide the word of truth. Verses are lifted out of context, thrown into one “Gospel message” or “Christian living message,” and then doled out to the public. Hopefully undertaken with the best intentions, these attempts nevertheless reinforce misunderstandings rather than mitigate them.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). There is no doubt whatsoever that all 66 Books of the Bible came from God’s mouth. He spoke them, preserved them, and translated them into our language. It is such a tragedy that He went through all that trouble to give us the plain and simple truth, and we still manage to complicate it literally beyond belief….

The Good Man #6

Friday, March 1, 2019

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful (Psalm 1:1 KJV).

How is this an apt introduction to the Book of Psalms?

The final verse of Psalm 1 reads, “For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Here is a suitable ending for the Book’s opening chapter. Read it in its entirety now.

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

The 150 psalms found in the Book of Psalms feature two types of people—believers (“righteous”) and unbelievers (“ungodly”). They speak of Divine wrath and Divine rule—the Second Coming followed by the Millennium. God the Holy Spirit urges the nation Israel to be prepared for both major events. Lost souls will perish at the Second Coming of Christ; their course of life will lead to utter and eternal destruction, physical and spiritual. Believers in Jesus Christ, however, will survive and continue on into His 1000-year reign: their spiritual health and growth will increase throughout the endless ages to come. The remaining 149 psalms are spoken (technically sung) in light of all these events.

Praises upon praises of JEHOVAH God erupt throughout the Book. Believers rejoice in His goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, justice, power, and so on. In other words, they are the very people represented by the good man of the opening psalm! Eternity will ring with their singing and playing of musical instruments—we will join in with them! 🙂

Bible Q&A #585: “Must I have a degree in music to sing or play an instrument at a local church?