31 July 2009

Tell No Man – 7.31.09

Matthew 9:28-31 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.

On the surface, it seems strange that Jesus would tell the blind men He just healed not to tell anybody about it. But as you read the gospels, you find that this was His common practice. He gave the same charge to the cleansed leper (Matthew 8:4; Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14); the healed multitude (Matthew 12:16; Mark 3:12); His disciples (Matthew 16:20; Mark 8:30; Luke 9:21); Peter, James, and John following the transfiguration (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9); and the family of Jairus after the healing of his daughter (Mark 5:43; Luke 8:56). [One notable exception would be the maniac of Gadara (Mark 5:19; Luke 8:39).]

There are actually several good reasons for Jesus' doing so. These 4 are listed by Dake in his reference Bible:

1. He did not want to set forth His claim to Messiah-ship this early in His ministry and hasten the controversy He knew that His works would cause. Even later He forbade His disciples to make it known (Matthew 16:13-20). He made no public claim of it at first, but simply did the works that the prophets had predicted the Messiah would do (Matthew 11:1-6).

2. He wanted people to fulfill the law and offer the testimony that Moses commanded in such cases (Leviticus 14:4-22). In each case it would have to be known to the priests how one was cleansed and this should be sufficient proof of His Messiah-ship to the priests. The Jewish rabbis taught that cleansing lepers should be characteristic of the Messiah, so His very works proved it before He was forced by opposition to make such claim for Himself.

3. He wanted to shun popularity and human acclaim and the evil effects of mob clamor to make Him King. When this did happen He got away from it all (John 6:15-21).

4. Jesus set an example of putting healings to the test before testimony is given for them. Any real healing will stand any kind of test. Any person maintaining he is healed when he is not is unscriptural.

In addition to this, Bro. James gave us this note on John 2:24-25 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. The fact of the matter was that He couldn't trust these people to represent Him properly – because unlike us, they didn't have the indwelling Holy Spirit (yet). Remember when He gave the Great Commission to the apostles, He also commanded them to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8).

Now, what's amazing about all this is the fact that in every case the persons healed and instructed not to spread it abroad just couldn't help themselves. They jumped over Jesus' command to keep it quiet in order to go tell people what He had done for them.

On the other hand is us. What Jesus has done for us (save our souls) is so much better than what Jesus did for them (heal their bodies). We have the Holy Spirit; they didn't. We have a command to tell; they had a command not to tell. They couldn't keep quiet about it; we can't seem to get motivated enough to tell hardly anybody. Brethren, it seems as if we just really don't appreciate what Jesus has done for us like we should.

Mark 5:19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

29 July 2009

Continue – 7.29.09

2 Timothy 3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

Having a great time making our way through the book of 2 Timothy in our young men's Tuesday night Bible study this summer. The book is all about enduring hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ despite the promised persecutions from without and discouraging departures from within.

Timothy was instructed to be a partaker in the afflictions of the gospel (1:8); he was reminded of the sufferings of the Apostle Paul (1:12; 2:8-10; 3:10-11); he was told that perilous times shall come (3:1); he was promised persecution (3:12); he was told of a time when believers would not endure sound doctrine (4:3); and he was warned of those who had and would depart from the faith (1:15; 2:17-18; 3:8; 4:4; 4:10).

In light of all this, the main thrust of the letter is this continual admonishment to CONTINUE – to stick with it, to keep doing right. What was right yesterday is still right today, so do right. What was right yesterday will still be right tomorrow, so keep doing right. No matter what the world does, no matter what the brethren do, no matter how it turns out, no matter what results you do or do not get, CONTINUE doing what you know is right.

Because God will keep you (1:12; 2:10; 2:19; 3:11; 4:17); because God will reward you (2:12; 2:15; 4:2; 4:8); because God won't lie to you (3:14) – CONTINUE!

This line of exhortation runs throughout the book from start to finish (1:6; 1:13; 2:1; 2:15; 4:2; 4:5). And it's a good reminder for us today. There is never any good reason, there is never any good excuse to stop doing what's right.

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

24 July 2009

Acquainted with God – 7.24.09

Job 22:21 Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.

Bro. James brought an excellent lesson yesterday evening on the subject of peace. In one statement, the gist of the message was that the God we serve is the source of peace (He never lacks or loses control of any situation!), and if we are to have peace, we must obtain it from Him by loving His law (Psalm 119:165) and trusting in Him (Isaiah 26:3-4). Now, there was much, much more to it, and it'd be worth taking the time to listen to when you have a chance (click here).

One of the many verses we turned to was the above passage in the book of Job, and this one stuck out in my mind, especially that first phrase, Acquaint now thyself with him. The book of Job tells us that the way to have peace and blessing it to get to know the Lord.

Now, as a believer I both know God and am known of Him (John 10:14; Galatians 4:9). That's my standing; my eternal, unchanging position before God in heaven (Ephesians 2:6). But as far as my state – that is, my temporal, oft-changing condition before men on the earth – is concerned, I need to know God better. That I may know Him was Paul's desire (Philippians 3:10).

Recognizing that I need to know God better, how should I go about it? How do I acquaint myself with Him? The answer would obviously be the same way you get to know anybody. Spend time with Him. Talk to Him. Talk with Him.

And if you're a good Christian, you do those things. You read your Bible. You pray. You go to church and hear preaching from God's word. But if you're anything like I am, how often do you do those things without any thought or effort toward getting to know God any better? How often do you go through your prayer list without ever actually talking with the Lord? How often do you mark off your daily Bible reading without having much of any idea about what you read or what it meant or what it said about the author?

Let's be careful to remember the real reason we do so many of the things we do as Christians. Let's strive to acquaint ourselves more with our Lord, to draw nigh to Him (James 4:8), and to please Him more (Hebrews 13:20-21).

17 July 2009

Sons of Zadok – 7.17.09

Ezekiel 44:15 But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD:

Ezekiel 48:11 It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the sons of Zadok; which have kept my charge, which went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray.

Ezekiel 40-48 deals with the glory of the future kingdom that Israel will enjoy once the nation is reborn (chapter 37) and her enemies defeated (chapters 38-39) at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Twice it is repeated that the sons of Zadok will enjoy special blessings and special privileges in that kingdom because they remained faithful to God despite the apostasy and idolatry of the nation.

Zadok was a priest who lived and served during the reigns of David and Solomon. He was of the line of Eleazer, Aaron's son (as opposed to the line of Ithamar; 1 Chronicles 24:3) and became the fulfillment of God's judgment upon the house of Eli (1 Samuel 2:35) at the outset of Solomon's reign over Israel (1 Kings 2:27, 35). As a young man, the Bible says that Zadok was mighty of valor (1 Chronicles 12:28). He remained true to the Lord and the king when others were carried away by the rebellions under Absalom (2 Samuel 15) and Adonijah (1 Kings 1). His progeny served faithfully in Judah's great revival under King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 31). Because of this steadfast commitment, the Lord will richly reward Zadok and his sons when Jesus Christ returns to rule and reign on the earth.

There's an important practical lesson for us to learn from this interesting statement in the book of Ezekiel. Just like Zadok and his sons, we find ourselves in a time when God's people on a massive scale are going astray. Despite the apostasy and the apathy and the ignorance and the lukewarm condition of today's church, God calls on us to stand fast, be faithful, and remain true to the charge He's given us. And there are ETERNAL blessings and privileges that await those who will answer the call.

Allow me to correct a common misconception. The Bible clearly teaches us that (1) all saved people will live forever in heaven (2) and heaven will be a wonderful place (3) where we'll all have a new, glorified body (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-3) (4) and will be forever delivered from the very presence of sin.

What the Bible never teaches is that everything will be equal for everybody in heaven. There are rewards God has promised to those who serve Him faithfully! There are crowns to be won; there is gold, silver, and precious stones to be gained; there are positions in Christ's kingdom to be filled. God wouldn't have told us about all those things and held all that out to us if it didn't matter. Fact is, it will matter, and it will matter for all eternity! God will make it worth your while THERE to obey and stand and serve and give Him all you've got while you're HERE.

Now, for the sake of those who would over correct and swerve off into the ditch on the other side of the road, the Bible also never says anything to even indicate that if you don't serve God while you're HERE He'll beat you or send you to purgatory or make you sit in a corner for 1,000 years when you get THERE.

But you might just miss out on some special blessing like the one He has reserved for the sons of Zadok.

1 Corinthians 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

14 July 2009

Honest Inquiry – 7.14.09

Ezekiel 14:7-8 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself: And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel picks up in Babylon right where Jeremiah left off in Judah. And the people haven't changed a bit. In this 14th chapter, the elders of Israel come to the prophet to "enquire" of the Lord. They're seeking direction. They're asking for guidance. They're looking for help.

Problem is they have set up idols in their heart. They want God's blessings, they're just not all that interested in His commandments. They want God's direction, they're just not about to pay any attention to His instructions. They're seeking for His leading in their situation, but they've failed to consult the scriptures wherein God has clearly revealed His will.

The answer that comes back from the Lord is, "REPENT!" Here's your help, elders. Here's your direction, leaders. Here's your guidance, men of Israel. Get rid of your idols. Turn away from your iniquities. Fall down on your face before me and get your heart right. Then we'll talk.

Here's an important principle that runs throughout the word of God. God generally doesn't give out additional information to those who aren't already making the most of what they've got.

When we need direction from the Lord, we need to be able to approach Him as an "honest enquirer" – following His word to the best of our knowledge, and coming to Him with a heart that is clean, a mind that is pure, and a will that is resolved to do whatever He says.

As we study the scriptures and go to God for more light, let's make sure to take a moment to examine our lives and ask, "Am I, to the best of my knowledge, doing all I can to walk in the light He has already given me." Jesus said, "He that doeth my will, he shall know of the doctrine…" (John 17:17).

10 July 2009

Honesty in Prayer – 7.10.09

Jeremiah 12:1 Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?

An interesting verse to introduce the 12th chapter of Jeremiah. The prophet is basically going to the Lord and saying, "God, I know you never make a mistake, but there's something I've got to talk to you about…"

On the surface that might not seem like a right and proper way to approach the Lord, but I would contend that I believe our God would have us be totally and completely honest in our prayer life. Are we not instructed to pour out our hearts before Him (Psalm 62:8)? Is He not already aware of our thoughts and our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10)? So why is it that we hold back our worries and fears and problems and concerns when He already knows all about them?

I believe Jeremiah's example would be a good one for us to follow. If there is something going on in your life, and you don't understand why God's allowing it to happen, then tell Him about it. Don't demand that He does something different (Jeremiah 12:1) but honestly and respectfully let Him know how you feel.

Do you ever get mad at God or mad at His people? Sure you do. Well, tell God about it. If that's a shocking statement, then ask yourself who else are you going to tell and what good is it going to do you? Don't accuse the Lord of wrongdoing (Jeremiah 12:1), but openly and honestly pour out your heart before Him.

Now, I know that the Bible says we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and that men ought always to pray and not to faint (Luke 18:1) and that we should continue instant in prayer (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2). And I know that God hears our prayers and has promised that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16) and that whatsoever things we shall ask in prayer believing we shall receive (Matthew 21:22). But I also know that God does not force His will on anybody.

So to tell the truth, I don't understand how prayer works, but I do believe God enough to be obedient to what He has told me to do, and I'm OK with leaving the results up to Him. What I do know from personal experience – and that of other Christians – is that going to God with a problem or a situation or a request or an urgent plea, regardless of whether or not it has any effect on what's going on, somehow it sure helps me to get my heart in the right place.

So going to God might not always change your situation the way you'd want it to, but there's something to be said for casting your burden upon the Lord and tapping into His sustaining grace (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).

Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep YOUR hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

07 July 2009

Pray For Us – 7.7.09

Jeremiah 37:3 And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the LORD our God for us.

Again, you know the setting. Judah is in trouble. By this point, 3 of the 4 deportations (to Babylon) have taken place. Zedekiah has been set up as king, and the Chaldean army is camped just outside the city walls.

On the surface, what's recorded in this verse looks like a good move by King Zedekiah, and while I'm certainly in favor of seeking the prayers of God's people, I do have some problems with his prayer request – especially when I read the preceding verse…But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the LORD, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

First of all, if the king and the people of Judah had heeded the warnings of God's prophets and spent some time in prayer themselves, they never would have made it to where they were (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).

Secondly, it'd be different if Zedekiah asked for prayer in the spirit of confession and repentance. But he's not asking the prophet to help him right his wrong relationship with God. He's telling Jeremiah to ask God to take away the consequences. (See Saul in 1 Samuel 15:10-31 and Simon in Acts 8:9-24 for a couple similar examples.)

Thirdly, there really wasn't anything to pray about. Jeremiah had already told the king and the people what God said they should do in their situation. Continually Jeremiah repeated the message. "Don't fight. Don't flee to Egypt. Submit to the king of Babylon. You'll be there 70 years, and God will bring you back." No amount of prayer by Jeremiah was going to change that message.

Now, all this happened somewhere around 600BC, but it's amazing how up to date and relevant God's book continues to be. When we find ourselves in trouble, by all means let's ask God's people to pray, but let's make sure we're not just looking for an easy out – especially when the trouble is of our own doing. Let's repent of what got us in the mess we find ourselves in and go on in obedience to the instruction God has already given. Amen.

03 July 2009

The Prosperous Wicked – 7.3.09

Jeremiah 12:1 Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?

The question Jeremiah asks is a good one, and He wasn't the only person in the Bible to ask it. The writer of Psalm 73:3 confessed, "I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." David urges us in Psalm 37:7, "fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass." According to Proverbs 1:32, there are some whose destruction is chalked up to the prosperity of fools. In another place Jeremiah preached about wicked judges who seemed to prosper despite their wickedness (5:26-28).

I don't know about you, but at times I've pondered the very same question. If God is just and if you reap what you sow, why do those wicked people seem to be enjoying life? Why is it that they "prosper" despite their absolute disregard for the Lord and His word? Is their season of pleasure (Hebrews 11:25) ever going to end?

I believe there are two good Bible answers:

First of all, the Bible says, "The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works" (Psalm 145:9). God sends rain – in the context, a picture of blessing – on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). His purpose in doing so? It is His goodness that leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4). God in His mercy withholds judgment from the wicked oftentimes just as long as He can in hopes that the wicked will repent (2 Peter 3:9, 15).

Secondly, the problem is rooted in our own shortsightedness. If His word is true – and it is – then the wicked doesn't REALLY prosper. The only reason the wicked SEEMS to prosper is that we're focusing on the here and now. God is just, and eventually everyone will reap the due reward of their deeds. It's just that God's timetable is sometimes different than what we would like it to be.

Proverbs 24:19-20 Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked; For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.

Psalm 37:1-3 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good...