Without or Within?

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

“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 23:27,28 KJV).

Which matters most—outward or inward?

He had worn his conspicuous, elegant robe to the funeral home. My family members huddled to greet this religious leader in the lobby. Having just arrived, he was ready to perform the “services” for a dearly departed relative of mine. After they had shaken his hand, I watched how he proceeded to break away from the crowd and stroll to a table whereon was a bowl of delicious mints. He selected a candy, popped it into his mouth, tossed the wrapper onto the tabletop, and passed on by. Someone else would have to throw away his trash!

Later, during the “services,” he bellowed a long series of prayers in a book, stumbling over the simplest words and having to correct himself numerous times. It was as if he were racing to see how much he could get through so he could depart quicker. He seemed bored, like it was mindless repetition, something he needed to endure because he had to “play the part” for all the devout souls observing him. While only the Lord knows his heart, it looked like it was done out of religious duty rather than genuine worship of God. If the man was too lazy to discard his own garbage, whatever he believed made no positive difference in his life, so the impression was given it cannot improve anyone else’s condition either.

Remember, dear friends, we can fool some people some of the time, but we cannot fool all people all of the time, and we can fool God none of the time. Dispensational Bible study will empower us to avoid religious hypocrisy, for we know the life of Jesus Christ is manifested in us as we walk by faith in God’s Word to us, Romans through Philemon. What matters most is on the inside (heart faith), not outside (“fair shew in the flesh;” Galatians 6:12,13). Here is genuine, not artificial, Christianity.

*NOTE: Dear Saints, we now close 12 full years of “333 Words of Grace!” 🙂

Natural Affection

Saturday, May 13, 2023

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8-10 KJV).

Many years ago, a major fire broke out in a house. Soon, firefighters and a news crew had arrived and were setting up their equipment. While a cameraman was recording a reporter doing a live broadcast, a woman cries out hysterically, “My child is still trapped in the building!” She frantically runs off and re-enters the structure, never to come out again, perishing in the flames as she seeks her child! The reporter, aghast, remarks, “Oh, what could make her do such a thing?!”

Defining man’s downward spiral because of sin, Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3 list “without natural affection” as one of those resulting evils. “Astorgos” is the Greek word, literally “no affectionate cherishing of kindred.” A mother’s love for her children is rightly called “natural affection.” The same attitude should exist amongst all family members. When we read of children aborted, abandoned in dumpsters or on sidewalks, or neglected or abused, that is an example of “without natural affection” (Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3). What prompted that poor mother to run into that fire and die while trying to rescue her child was “natural affection.”

It is in Father God’s nature to be affectionate, loving, kind. No, we cannot fathom it, but He did love us sinners enough to send His perfect Son Jesus Christ to die for us. Like the mother who sacrificed herself to rescue her child, so the Lord offered Himself in our place. We do not need to comprehend or explain it fully, we just need to believe it in our heart, thereby passing from death to life, qualified to be vessels of that very resurrection life of the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Son of God, who loved [us], and gave himself for [us]” (Galatians 2:20).

What Marvels the Lord #6

Thursday, April 20, 2023

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Luke 7:9 KJV).

What marvels the Lord?

The Lord Jesus Christ was shocked when His very neighbors and acquaintances—among whom He had grown up and lived for some 20-plus years—were the very people who had no meaningful understanding of whom He actually was (re-read Mark 6:1-6). “And he marvelled because of their unbelief.” How difficult it was for Him to fathom that, despite all that He had said and done in their presence, the outcome was prevailing unbelief. In no uncertain terms, He had presented His credentials, but these Jewish people still declined to believe on Him as Messiah!

He had also been surprised to hear a profession of faith from a pagan Gentile military official! “When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel(today’s Scripture; cf. Matthew 8:10). This Roman’s people had not been given the Hebrew Bible. Jesus was certainly not his Messiah, but Israel’s Messiah, yet he had profound insight concerning this spiritual truth (re-read Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10). Here is what stunned Christ.

In these accounts we have the “marvelling” Messiah, for the Jewish people (with the Bible) are in unbelief but a Gentile man (without the Bible) is willing to believe! Similarly, we in grace ministry are dazed at our present paradox. The people who have attended American “Christian” church services their entire lives usually have no appreciation for Bible truth, yet there is unrestricted access to the Bible (with the Bible). There is no sincere interest in sound doctrine, though, for only entertainment and emotions are the priority. Yet, we can venture out to the foreign lands where the Scriptures are banned, burned, and limited (without the Bible). These souls are so hungry and desperate for the truth, and they gladly receive even a partial Bible or the most basic Gospel tract. What a tragic state of affairs, another testament that human nature has not changed one whit in 20 centuries!

What Marvels the Lord #5

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Luke 7:9 KJV).

What marvels the Lord?

The other passage where Jesus “marvelled” is Mark chapter 6: “[1] And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. [2] And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? [3] Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. [4] But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. [5] And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. [6] And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.”

Absolutely, this unbelief was extremely remarkable. These Jews gathered in the Nazareth synagogue had heard Christ speak and teach. They knew of His miracles and wisdom. “Where did He obtain such information and power?!” Instead of identifying Him as God in human flesh, they had a low estimation of Him: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him” (verse 3). They could not fathom how He was able to do and say these things. After all, in their eyes, He was just a “commoner” like them! There was nothing “special” about Him, so it made no sense He could teach with such skill and work with such capability. Why Jesus “marvelled” here is simple: this was the synagogue where He grew up, the people who had supposedly “known” Him for some 20 years (see Matthew 2:23; Luke 4:16). Note also Luke 4:22-30!

Shocking indeed….

What Marvels the Lord #4

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Luke 7:9 KJV).

What marvels the Lord?

Today’s Scripture in context: “[1] Now when he [Christ] had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. [2] And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. [3] And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. [4] And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: [5] For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”

“[6] Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: [7] Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. [8] For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. [9] When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. [10] And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.”

A Gentile has requested the Lord Jesus come heal his dying servant (see parallel account in Matthew 8:5-13). Christ’s earthly ministry was to Israel only (Matthew 15:24; Romans 15:8). The Scriptures belonged to Israel (Romans 3:1,2). Yet, here was a Gentile!—a non-Jew!—willing to believe Jesus. His profession of faith was more informed than even amongst the Jewish people to whom Christ had been sent (today’s Scripture). Thus, Jesus “marvelled.” Let us look at the other startling occasion now….

What Marvels the Lord #3

Monday, April 17, 2023

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Luke 7:9 KJV).

What marvels the Lord?

Jesus Christ had definitely presented His credentials. For example, there was the fourfold witness of John 5:31-47. Whether John the Baptist’s ministry (preaching), God the Father’s testimony (announcement at Jesus’ water baptism), Jesus’ works (including His miracles), or the Hebrew Scriptures (fulfilled prophecies), all bore record of His Messiahship. It was not an evidence problem—meager proof, defective proof, unimpressive proof. Rather, it was a heart problem in the audience.

“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life…. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive…. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:40,43,46,47).

To wit, the Lord Jesus offered His “identification card,” His “driver’s license,” His “birth certificate” for all of Israel to inspect throughout His three years of earthly ministry (see again Acts 2:22,23). Everything He said and wrought matched the Messianic promises and prophecies laid out centuries before in the Hebrew Bible. Those Scriptures were to prepare the Jewish people to accept the God who would one day become a physical or biological member of their family. Alas, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:10,11).

From the human perspective, what happened was startling because it should not have turned out like that. Those to whom the Lord Jesus was sent, they did not believe Him. Yet, those to whom He was not sent, they did believe Him. Here is what marvelled Him, surprised Him, amazed Him. To think that the same evidence was there for all to see and hear—but what resulted was two extreme responses, one of absolute unbelief and the other of genuine faith….

What Marvels the Lord #2

Sunday, April 16, 2023

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Luke 7:9 KJV).

What marvels the Lord?

Nothing actually shocks God, for He knows all contingencies or possibilities. If Option A is followed, Options C and D will be available. However, if Option B is taken, Options E and F will be presented. Although, this is a rather simplistic diagram because our limited minds can handle only so much information. A more realistic analysis would be something along the lines of hundreds or thousands of choices, with millions of combinations of outcomes. It is a complicated network of paths, and only God in His omniscience (all-knowledge) can fully appreciate the “big picture.” As the God-Man, Jesus Christ knew it all (as God) and yet learned too (as Man).

Consider the following illustration. Suppose you located a long-lost relative and decided to visit their house and introduce yourself. Understandably, they would be skeptical of any connection, likely demanding you present some proof—a birth certificate, a current driver’s license, a family photograph, knowledge of personal details or “family secrets,” a family heirloom, a corroborating story, genealogical records, any form of valid documentation. Now, imagine acquiring these materials and offering them to substantiate your claim. You would expect that person to accept you with open arms, consenting to the fact you belong to their family. Except, the person refuses to believe it, commanding you to take your items—and yourself—and scram from their front door! You would marvel, would you not? The surprise would be devastating. “After everything I have shown them, they do not want me!”

We take the above scenario and compare it to Christ’s earthly ministry. Read the Apostle Peter’s words: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:…” (Acts 2:22,23). Indeed, it is a tragic reality, but reality nonetheless….

What Marvels the Lord #1

Saturday, April 15, 2023

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Luke 7:9 KJV).

What marvels the Lord?

The Bible tells us how, on two occasions, the Lord Jesus Christ “marvelled.” Today’s Scripture is the parallel of Matthew 8:10: “When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” This was right after He delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Sometime later, we read in Mark 6:6: “And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.”

“Marvel” means “be filled with wonder, amazement, astonishment.” Do we not find it not amazing that the Lord could be surprised? Is He not omniscient, all-knowing? How could He witness unexpected results? Did He really know what would happen? If so, why was He shocked when it occurred?

Jesus Christ is the God-Man. He is undiminished Deity with full humanity added. These two natures do not interfere with each other. For example, though He was standing on Earth conversing with Nicodemus, the Lord Jesus was simultaneously present in Heaven: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is [not ‘was,’ but ‘is’ presently!] in heaven” (John 3:13). This truth is removed from modern English Bibles and their underlying perverted Greek texts, but it is as plain as can be in our King James Bible.

Again, Jesus Christ is both God and Man, the only Person with both natures. As God, He had nothing to learn: He knew all there was to know. However, as Man, He learned just like we do: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him…. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:40,52). These are unique to Luke, the Gospel Record presenting Jesus as the Perfect Man.

From the human perspective, Jesus had expectations, and, when He did not see anticipated outcomes, He was surprised….

I Have Finished the Work! #7

Thursday, March 16, 2023

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4 KJV).

Could we say this at the end of our life, at the conclusion of our ministry?

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection [mind, focus, regard] on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1,2). We must have this renewed mind (laid out in the first two chapters), or sin will master us. Remember Paul’s dilemma in Romans chapter 7.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1,2).

Ephesians 4:17-24: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). When we by faith let the Holy Spirit use the Word of God rightly divided to work in us, the very life of Jesus Christ is on display!

I Have Finished the Work! #6

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4 KJV).

Could we say this at the end of our life, at the conclusion of our ministry?

Dear friends, in order for today’s Scripture to be true of us, we need only to discover what God is doing today and do that by faith. We will thus do God’s will. (It is not complicated!) Philippians 1:9-11 summarizes the Holy Spirit’s desire for us: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ [He produces the fruits!!], unto the glory and praise of God.” We are just walking by faith in our identity in Christ, and He does the work.

Philippians 2:13-16 amplifies: For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

In his parting words to the Ephesian church elders, the Apostle Paul spoke: “But none of these things [trials and tribulations] move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify [bear record of, bear witness of] the gospel of the grace of God(Acts 20:24). Paul is no longer here, so we (other members of the Church the Body of Christ) have inherited his grace ministry. Read our “grace commission” outlined in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. The Holy Spirit worked in and through Paul, and He will work in and through us. We must be willing to learn, believe, and apply sound Bible doctrine….