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Friday, January 18, 2019

Declaring the Whole Purpose of God

And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Acts 20:25-27

The Greek word for “purpose” is boule.

The boule was an advisory citizen body of the Athenian democracy. Members had to be over 30 and citizens could serve on it twice, which was more than other elected offices. There were either 400 or 500 members of the boule, who were selected by lot in equal number by each of the ten tribes. In Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, he attributes to Draco a boule of 401 members, but Solon is generally taken as the one who started the boule, with 400. The boule had its own meeting house, the bouleterion, in the Agora.

-       Source: The Ancient Greek Council, thoughtco.com

The boule that Paul talks about – the purpose of God – was God’s own advisory body, comprising Father, Son and Holy Spirit!!

Before the foundation of the world, this divine council came up with a plan to redeem sinners and take them to heaven to live eternally. Ephesians 1:3-14.

In Acts 20:25, Paul says he went about “proclaiming the kingdom,” while in Acts 20:27, Paul said he did not shrink from “declaring to you the whole counsel of God” – the whole purpose or plan of God.

When we today proclaim the kingdom of God, we must proclaim the whole plan of God – not just a few proof texts!

While preaching in Pisidian Antioch, Paul said:

“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation … 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,

“‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’

34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’

35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Acts 13:26,32-39

Boule is used here in verse 36 to say that David “served the purpose of God in his own generation.” And that whole sermon of Paul also includes the whole purpose of God.

                                             Are you serving the purpose of God in your generation?

Boule is found in some 12 places in the New Testament. Here’s one other of those significant places:

When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not

having been baptized by him. Luke 7:20-30.

John’s baptism was in God’s plan, but rejected by some Pharisees and Lawyers. Jesus’ baptism is in His plan:

And Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16

Sadly, today, many reject God’s plan when they distort God’s purpose by claiming water baptism is not essential for salvation.

Messing with God’s purpose is a terribly dangerous thing to do. Beware!

Luke 23:51; Acts 2:23; 4:26; 5:38; 27:12,42; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Ephesians 1:11 and Hebrews 6:11 are the other places boule is found. Here’s one of those, but try reading all of them!

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guaranteed of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-14

Are you in the purpose of God? Has God worked in your life “all things according to the counsel of his will”?

 

David Hunter

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What does acappella mean?

The word “acappella” is defined by the dictionary as:  “music without instrumental accompaniment.”  It comes from a Latin word which literally means “as in the church.”  Interestingly, the etymology (origin) of this word, proves that at the beginning of the church (and for many centuries thereafter), the music in worship was singing only, without instrumental accompaniment.

- by Greg Gwin

 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

We’re going to face both good times and bad while traveling through 2019

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: give me a light
that I may tread safely into the unknown! And he replied: go out into the
darkness and put thine hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to thee
better than light and safer than a known way." (Anonymous)

I used the above proverbial saying recently but, I truly love its message and it's so appropriate to our lesson today because we've passed through the gate and have begun our journey. I pray that it's God's will that we all survive this year's journey. My editorial efforts today is directed towards providing us with advice as to what I believe to be the best way of traveling. In order to do this I'm going to use a most profound question asked of Jesus by one of His disciples. Before we get to that question, let me give you some thoughts that will sort of "set the stage" for our question.

Throughout history there have been many great authors and philosophers, people I'll refer to as "users of words." We've had Socrates, Sophocles, Aristotle, Shakespeare and Longfellow (to name a few). All of those were great users of words. And, we still have many today who could be considered in that category. But, all human "users of words" past and present, fall short in the most important usage of words.

The sad thing is that man has always, and still does, look to these "users of words," these renowned philosophers and authors for answers to the real questions of life. And, the sad thing is that none of them can really provide the answers man needs the most. As great of thinkers that they are, they simply cannot answer questions that are most important to our lives.

If you want to know how to live your life in the best way possible, or you want to know what is truly important in this journey of life, where do you go? And, even more important is what happens after this life? All of the great thinkers and authors have no answers for these questions. Especially not reliable in answers to those questions are the psychologists and philosophers because, for the most part, they only ask questions and leave it up to you to figure out the answer.

I guess that what I'm saying here is, that when man needs direction in the most important things of life, the worlds greatest authors, philosophers or "users of words" cannot help us. You see, they can't give us directions to heaven. And, securing that eternal location should be our number one goal while living this life.

A sad thing to note is, that many people rely on the words of other human beings as to reaching the heavenly goal. And some "users of words" such as Jim Jones, David Koresh and others have cost their followers not only their earthly life, but have not led them towards heaven either.

So, where do we go for answers to who we are, how we got here and how to live while here so as to guarantee a future life in heaven? Those questions bring us to the question I referred to at the onset of this lesson. To me, it is one of the "great" questions of the Bible. In the 6th chapter of John, Jesus is seeing that "many of His disciples" were leaving Him. He turned to His Apostles and asked them if they were also going to leave Him? It's Peter that answers for the group and he does it in such a way that he provides us with our most pertinent question. He asks, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life."

"Thou," you, Jesus, is the only one who has the words of eternal life. It was true when Peter said it and it's still true today. No earthly writer, or user of words, can provide the route to heaven - only Christ. Later on in John 14:6 He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

Where do we find the "words" we need to follow for eternal salvation? The only source of this information is the "gospel." The "Word of God." There's even another term I like in making this point. It's found in 1 John 5:11 where we read "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." That "record" is the "words" brought to us by Christ and John 12:44-50 tells us that the "words" spoken by Christ are the "words" of his Father.

So, as we go forth on this year's journey, let's always remember Who and What our most trustworthy guide is. Who has given man the most important "words" with which to lead us. Yes, many men give us "words" and many of them are beneficial in many ways. But, just remember, no words of man can save your soul and grant you eternal life in heaven.

Like Peter so beautifully said it in his question, which I see as rhetorical, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" He's making a statement by his question and saying, there's no other place for man to go that has the "words of eternal life." What a tremendous question/statement. There is no other person, however great a "wordsmith" they may be, that can provide the most important information necessary to human & eternal life.

We're going to face both good times and bad while traveling through 2019 and we need to always hold Christ's Words before us as our roadmap to our eternal goal. When we hold Christ's Words, we hold God's hand. That is our safe way through our year's journey. I'll close with one more Bible passage that fits our thoughts here today

"Let that therefore abide in you, which ye had heard from the beginning.
If that which ye had heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye
also shall continue in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise
that He hath promised us, even eternal life." (1 John 2:24-25)

Respectfully submitted,
Ron Covey

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My Teachers

 

I like math.  Some may think I’m weird for doing so, but I do.  I like math.  I’ve enjoyed learning through the years about how to solve mathematical equations.  It was my favorite subject from elementary through high school grades.  I even began working toward a math degree in college as one of two majors until I decided to dedicate my life to another field of study and service.  (I’ll come back to that in a moment.)

 

I’ve been asked how I came to like math.  Was there someone who sparked my interest?  My answer has always been “yes”; it was Mrs. Harrell, my third grade teacher in Stanton (TX) Elementary School.  Over 4 decades removed from that third grade class, I now think back about Mrs. Harrell and my love for math.  What did she do to kindle a love for math in me?  I don’t remember many specific things that she did, but I think I’ve “factored” (a good algebra term) it down to two things: she challenged me to learn math and she cared about me.  I’ve come to recognize that those are two great qualities in teachers.  I’ll always be indebted to Mrs. Harrell who instilled in me a love for solving math equations.  She made a difference in my life.

 

I have had – and continue to have – many teachers in my life.  I’m especially grateful for those who have taught me and continue to teach me the truths of God’s Word.  In the end, that’s the Subject that matters most.  My teachers have been my parents, my grandparents (even posthumously), my wife and children, countless Bible school teachers, Bible professors at Faulkner and Freed-Hardeman Universities (Bible was my major), mentors, fellow ministers, dear friends, and even complete strangers (through their writings).  I am blessed to be able to personalize what Paul wrote to Timothy: “you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).  I continue to learn from the Master Teacher Himself (Jesus) and His Spirit-guided apostles and prophets in the inspired Word of God.

 

I’m eternally grateful for my teachers who have taught me the way of salvation.  They have cared enough about me to challenge me to learn God’s Word and to follow Him.

 

I want to issue a challenge to you.  Read God’s Word.  Study it deeply.  Read it as if your life depends on it.  It does.  “It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).  Don’t miss the main Subject: “the salvation of man through Christ to the glory of God.”

 

The Truth is: God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:4-6).

 

God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).

 

Don’t take my word for it.  Read and study God’s Word for yourself.  Read it and heed it.  You’ll never regret it.  And, like me, you will be eternally grateful to those who have helped you to learn the way of salvation through Christ.

 

-- David A. Sargent

 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Insights from a Blind Man

Insights from a Blind Man

My Dad recently told his Bible class about a blind man that he once knew. His name was Leonard
Burford. Burford was professor and head of the music department of Abilene Christian College for 24
years. In my Dad's estimation (and now mine), Burford was an amazing man.

Burford, born on September 30, 1905, and his two siblings, Jack and Mabel, were born with the same
eye condition: retinitis pigmentosa. Leonard's vision was always the poorest. When he was 14, his
sight was so poor he couldn't read even large print. His mother, Mrs. J. L. Burford, located a
Braille alphabet, and he taught himself to read it with a paper and punch. By the age of 28,
Burford was completely blind.

He was blind but he accomplished much. After graduating from high school, he went to college at
Abilene Christian College. He graduated with honors in 1925 earning a degree in education. When he
received his degree, his mother was also awarded an honorary degree for her work with her son.
Burford estimated that his mother did 90 percent of his reading from high school through college.

Burford's mother was also his first music teacher when he was eight-years-old. By the time he was
12, Burford was certain that he would seek a career in music. After graduating from ACC, he went on
to study music at several institutions including the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New
York. Burford later earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 1952.

Burford's career in music education enabled him to become a member of the faculty at his alma mater
at ACC in 1932. He founded the A Cappella Chorus that year. He became head of the Music Department
at ACC in 1937, a position he held until his death in 1961, at the age of 55. My Dad, Glenn
Sargent, was a member of the A Cappella Chorus under Burford's direction for three years in the mid
1950s.

In his life, Burford sought to help others who could not see. He compiled 86 religious songs in
Braille which were printed in two volumes and were distributed by the 14th and Vine Streets Church
of Christ in Abilene, Texas. He also wrote articles and tracts in Braille to help those who were
blind to know about Jesus and His church. He wrote a tract on church music and one on "What Must I
Do to Be Saved?" that were printed in Braille. He wanted all, both blind and seeing, to be saved
from their sins by obeying the Gospel (the Good News) of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the
sins of the world (1 John 2:2).

Perhaps Burford's love for his Lord and his desire for others to know Christ was his motivation for
writing a hymn that came to be loved by many. The hymn was "Come Unto Me," based on the beautiful
invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you
and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For
My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

That same invitation that Burford sought to highlight in his hymn continues to be offered today.
The proper response is what Burford wrote about in his tract, "What Must I Do to Be Saved?".

God will save and give rest and eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts
16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans
10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will
continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).

Although he was blind, Leonard Burford had tremendous insight. Through his music and his life, he
continues to extend the Lord's invitation: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest."

Won't YOU accept His invitation?

-- David A. Sargent

* Information gleaned from articles in the Firm Foundation (2/7/56) and the Gospel Advocate
(9/28/61) as viewed at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/34520784/leonard-burford and
http://www.therestorationmovement.com/ga/gab03.htm.

Friday, December 28, 2018

John and Janice Shavers

I'd Rather Have You

John and Janice Shavers were visiting with their son, Mike, and his family in Mobile several years ago.  At the time, John was working with Norfolk Southern Railroad in Atlanta, Georgia.  Despite the miles between them, the family would get together every two weeks.

This visit found the father and son back on the golf course.  As they walked up on to a tee box, John told Mike that Norfolk Southern had offered early retirement to upper management employees over 55 years of age.  At age 56 and in his position, John qualified.  John went on to tell his son how much he loved his job.  He was a National Account Manager and his job was to maintain a good relationship with Norfolk Southern's largest customer: Georgia Pacific.  Some of the benefits of his position included a membership to a Country Club and box seats to Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons ball games.  As a part of his work, John would take VIPs of Georgia Pacific to play golf, see professional ball games, and eat at nice restaurants.  He was also responsible for resolving any problems that would arise to keep a great relationship with Georgia Pacific.  John was good at his job and his company had awarded him with company stocks and large bonuses ever year.  If he passed on the early retirement offer and continued to work for another nine years (until the age of 65), John told his son that this could mean a large sum of money for him and his sister when he and their mother passed away.

"What do you think I should do?" John asked his son.

Mike responded, "Dad, I'd rather have you in Mobile for the next nine years than any amount of money in the future."

John replied, "Son, you've helped me make up my mind."  From that tee box, John called his boss, the Vice President of Norfolk Southern, and told him that he would take early retirement.

Why?  Because spending time with family is more important that being able to spend a lot of money.

John and Janice moved to Mobile, spent lots of wonderful time with their children and grandchildren, and never regretted taking early retirement.  Twenty-six years after taking that early retirement and spending it with his loved ones, John Shavers passed from this life, leaving behind a legacy of love, faithfulness to God, and a lifetime of memories.

Relationships.  That's what matters most in life – more than all the money in the world.  The Shavers family will affirm that truth to you.  They will also tell you that there is one relationship that is the most important of all: your relationship with God.

A relationship with God provides salvation, hope, and eternal life to come (1 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 6:23).  If there is no relationship with God, then there is sorrow with no hope and eternal destruction (1 Thessalonians 4:13; Matthew 7:13-14).

The good news is that God wants to save us and have a relationship with us!  In fact, He has made it possible for us – even though we have sinned – to be reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ His Son.  Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), but God gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  We can be reconciled to God through Jesus when we accept His offer of salvation and eternal life on His terms.

God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  When one is baptized into Christ, he/she is born again into the family of God, the church.  God will continue to cleanse His children from sin as they continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).

"I'd rather have you."  May that statement remind us of the preciousness of our relationships with family and friends.  May it also remind us that God would "rather have us" in heaven with Him after this life, and He proved it and made it possible by giving His Son to die for us.

Won't YOU accept His offer of relationship and eternal life?

-- David A. Sargent


Friday, December 14, 2018

Joel's prophecy

Joel’s Lament

    Last week, we began examining Joel’s prophecy and we read through 1:11. Continuing the imagine of a total devastation, in 1:11, Joel calls on the farmers and vinedressers to “be ashamed” and “wail.” The harvest is destroyed. The vine is dried up. The fig tree, pomegranate, palm, and apple trees are all dried up. Returning to the human predicament, “rejoicing dries up from the sons of men” (vs 12). This portrait “brings home the disaster in a striking, personal sort of way” (Douglas Stuart). Of course, “rejoicing drying up” is another figure of speech and is not an act that happens literally. Destruction of fruit trees was a part of the curses in the Law of Moses: Lev 26:20; Deut 28:40. It was worth mourning.

    In verse 13, Joel calls on Judah to mourn, putting on sackcloth. The priests and ministers of the altar ought to lament, throughout the night. Why? Because the “grain offering and the drink offering” have ceased (cf. 1:9). In addition to the external appearance of mourning, in verse 14, Joel calls on Judah to “fast” and to “proclaim a solemn assembly.” This assembly was to include both the elders and “all the inhabitants of the land” and they were to assemble “to the house of the Lord your God.”

Joel’s Lament (1:15-20)

     Judah was to see in the locust plague the “day of the Lord” (1:15; cf. 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14). Joel says the “day of the Lord” is near and it will “come as destruction from the Almighty.” Commenting on the phrase the day “is near,” Watts writes the concept suggests the event “at that moment [was] breaking upon the people. The message is typically prophetic, in the proper sense, for it speaks of what is present or in the immediate future, which demands a decision from the people now” (22).

    Elaborating on the idea that this locust plague / day of the Lord is destructive, in 1:16, Joel says food has been “cut off.” “Gladness and joy” have been cut off, eradicated from the temple worship and the harvest, times of traditional celebration. Not only has the vine itself been laid waste (1:7) but even the “seeds shrivel under their clods; the storehouses are desolate, the barns are torn down for the grain is dried up” (1:17). So complete is this destruction that there is nothing in the barns for storage, for future use. Subsequently, the animals are suffering (1:18).

    Joel turns his heart to Jehovah God and cries to Him in 1:19. Joel is explicit and exclusionary in his appeal to Jehovah God (“To you, Jehovah, I cry”). In this verse, Joel speaks of the locust plague metaphorically as a fire that has “devoured the pastures of the wilderness and the flame has burned up all the trees of the field.” Fire is a metaphor for God’s righteous wrath: Deut 28:22; 32:22. Again, the animals are suffering (1:20) because the water brooks are dried up and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

    Joel is portraying the destruction of the locust plague / army invasion in as complete terms as possible, even using fire to suggest the utter destruction on the land. Fire, if its intensity is enough, could evaporate the water brooks. Stuart suggests a drought might have followed the invasion which would have exacerbated the destruction, or the diverting of water supplies commonly practiced by ancient armies.

Monday, December 10, 2018

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them--Hebrews 11:16

 

We are living in a remarkable period of time. Read these words from A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." Now, read them again and substitute the words, "this is" for "it was" and you will have a most accurate description of the time in which we live.

 

 We live in a time in which sin, evil, wickedness and error abound. Our days are surrounded with so much unrest politically and spiritually making then troublesome and perilous. But still, isn't it great to be alive in this remarkable age? As children of God we should rejoice and thank God for each day (Phil. 3:1; Phil.4:4; 1 Thess.5:16). We should be rejoicing that we have a Saviour who has prepared for us a beautiful city (John 14:1-3); rejoice that we have been rescued from kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God's dear Son in whom we have redemption even the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14); rejoice that we can go before the throne of grace and there receive mercy and find help in time of need and by so doing have a peace that passes understanding sweep down over our souls (Heb. 4:16; Phil. 4:6-7).

 

I want to live as long as possible without becoming a burden on my loved ones. Yet, like those heroes of faith, I long for that beautiful city promised to all who have been pardoned by the Lord. If I seek the things above, if I set my mind on things above, not on things that are on earth, if I lay up for myself treasure in heaven, if I seek first the kingdom of God, I know my Saviour will pilot me safely through this sea of life. What is true for me is also true for you (Phil. 3:13-14; Col. 3:1-4; Matt. 6:19-21; Matt. 6:33). I just want to come to the end of this journey, to the end of the race, to the close of the day and be able to say, "the time of my departure is at hand, I am ready" (2 Tim. 4:6-8). How about you?

 

I pray that all of us are living our lives in a manner that we can say, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" Phil. 1:21). To God be the glory forever and ever.

 

Charles Hicks

Friday, December 7, 2018

Mercy and Grace to Help in Time of Need: Sin, Suffering, Sanctification

 

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18

 

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

 

Let us dig a bit deeper into these verses.

 

Jesus suffered, being tempted, Hebrews 2:18, and Jesus, in every respect, has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15.

 

It seems pretty clear, when you put Hebrews 2:18 and Hebrews 4:15 together, that Jesus suffered being tempted means that in the many temptations He endured, without sinning, the suffering came in his resisting those temptations to sin – never giving in to sin.

 

And isn’t endurance in resisting sin the point of the following in Hebrews 12:1-16?

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

 

My question, though is: how is Jesus thus  “able to help those who are being tempted”?

 

Well, if the totally innocent Jesus was prepared to accept all that unjust scourging, reviling and crucifixion without any reviling in return or any other sinful reaction, surely we can also cop a lot from the world and still resist the temptations to sin? John 15:18-20; 1 Peter 2:19-25. Surely we can do our own bit of enduring, resisting and suffering for Christ. Matthew 5:10-12; Acts 5:41; Romans 5:3; 12:12; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Colossians 1:24; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 3:14;  4:12-13.

                                            The 17th century Puritan, John Owen, said:

"There are three things, of which tempted believers do stand in need:

·       Strength to withstand their temptations;

·       Consolations to support their spirits under them;

·       Seasonable deliverance from them.

Unto these is the succor afforded by our High Priest suited; and it is variously administered to them:

·       By his word or promises;

·       By his Spirit; (and, that by communicating to them supplies of grace or spiritual strength; strong consolation; by rebuking their tempters and temptations); and

·       By his providence disposing of all things to their good and advantage in the issue." [ “succor” means “help.” Emphasis mine]

Another then added: “Those who are peculiarly tempted and severely tried, have an especial interest in, and claim upon Christ. They, particularly, may go with boldness to the throne of grace, where they shall assuredly obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Were the rest of the Scripture silent on this subject, this verse might be an ample support for every tempted soul.”

And when Hebrews 4:16 says: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” my question again is: how and why do we draw near to the throne of grace? Well, why we need to draw need to the throne of grace is explained as the verse goes on to add, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

How do we draw near to the throne of grace?

If we confess our sins, He is gracious to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

And, as Hebrews 9:14 says: how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The Holy Spirit, through the blood of Christ, supplies the grace we need to forgive us of our sins. Just at this point, read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (quoted in full on next page), noting vss 7 and 8 as they connect with vss 3-6!!

As Zechariah 12:10 had predicted: And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a Spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

And as Hebrews 9:14 implies in saying:

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God, Matthew 12:28, and the Spirit plays a part as the sprinkling of Christ’s blood  cleanses us of sin. The Holy Spirit, working in Jesus’ life, enabled Him to offer a sacrifice without blemish, and the same Spirit can work through the blood of Christ to purify our conscience from dead works, when we come to the throne of grace - acknowledging our sins to God, and asking for forgiveness, because God said, as part of the New Covenant arrangement, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

 

Now study the following verses from Hebrews 10:9-18,

 

“Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

 

The point here is that, in contrast to the repeated sacrifices of the Old Covenant, Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for all the sins of all time, and it was a single offering: “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10:12. This is the reason forgiveness is part and parcel of the New Covenant.

 

Verse 10 says we have been sanctified (made holy) through that single offering, while verse 14 says he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Why does one verse put our sanctification  as a completed, past reality, but the other verse says that Christ has perfected (perfect tense) for all time those who continue to be sanctified - a reality in progress??!! Why the difference?

 

"We have been sanctified" in Hebrews 10:10 is perfect tense, meaning a present state resulting from the past

action of Christ. We stand today as sanctified, because of Christ's once for all sacrifice, while Hebrews 10:14 uses

a present passive participle that must be saying that by that one sacrifice He has perfected for all time those who

are now continuing to be sanctified - at this present moment sanctified, which is what the perfect tense of Hebrews 10:10 says!! Or as a brother I shared this with essentially said, we were saved, are now saved and will continue

to remain saved until you “obtain as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:9.

 

Southern Baptist, Tom Schreiner, wrote, in his Commentary on Hebrews, pp34-35:

So again in Hebrews, the author says in 10.10, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and it is through “the blood of the covenant” (10.29). Sanctification is a completed reality. It’s a done deal. And yet the readers (including us) are to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12.14). We also must recognize that we are not yet completely sanctified, as we have the command to “strive… for the holiness” if we want to see the Lord. We are perfected once and for all (10.14), and yet we are to strive for perfection (6.1)

 

It could appear to be a bit confusing, but it seems to be saying something like this: because Christ would die on the cross, and rise from the grave three days later, God had prepared a little book and wrote on the cover: The Book of Life in which he would write the names of the saved. Cf. Matthew 25:34; Revelation 13:8; 17:8. In the introduction, God says: “I will write the names of all future believers in this book as they come to saving faith. The single sacrifice my Son has made has already been sufficient to perfect and sanctify those who come to saving faith – that is, they will be set apart from the world at the moment of their conversion – but the new life in Christ of those converts will be one of continuing sanctification as they keep on drawing near to My throne of grace when they sin, as they surely will, until one day they see My face - perfect and sanctified completely.”

 

I participated in a blog discussion on this 10:10 vs 10:14 thing, and Spencer replied:

David. Cockerill says, “The first may put emphasis on the privilege of access to God; the latter, on consecration to God through the removal of sin” (Hebrews, 451–452). DeSilva says something similar when he says that we are neither profane nor polluted, but cleansed and can come before God. “The sins that one has committed against God have defiled the conscience, which cannot now come into the presence of the holy God, before whom nothing unclean (i.e., defiled or ‘unwhole’) survives” (201).

Jesus’ sacrifice made us whole (or “perfect”) so that we can come into God’s presence, but we are not yet in the final consummated state (the new creation).

Something similar can be seen in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Paul refers to the Corinthians as sanctified (1 Cor 1.2) and as saints (2 Cor 1.1), yet he has a lot of trouble with them! They are definitively sanctified, that is, just as Christ is holy, God sees them and declares them as holy. But they are certainly not completely virtuous people. There is a both-and. A now and not yet.

 

Hebrews 12:14, Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

 

And 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

 

Also 1 Peter 1:1-2: To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

 

And 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

Wow! There can be no doubt that we need God the Holy Spirit to help keep us sanctified through the blood of Christ, and what is also required is our ongoing obedience to the Spirit’s word (Scripture), and our confession of sin when we do not obey as we should.

 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his

Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:7-10.

 

So we need regularly to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace, as we strive to walk in the light by obeying Christ’s teachings as set forth in the New Testament Scriptures. No help from Christ and the Holy Spirit can change the fact that we always need to obey the teachings of the New Testament.

 

We were sanctified at conversion, God keeps us sanctified as we live by an obedient faith, and He will perfect us and sanctify us completely so that we will one day see Him.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

 

We can’t reach heaven without our own effort, and we can’t get there without God’s help!! And if Jesus had not

offered that single sacrifice, no effort by anybody – human or divine – could get us access to God in heaven.

 

This may all  seem too complicated to some, but I believe it is always helpful to ask “why” God says something and “how” it actually works! This is one way to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour  Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18.  Amen indeed. Compare

Ephesians 1:15-20.

 

How privileged that we can begin to fathom the mind and the workings of God. Romans 11:33-36. It takes effort.

 

David Hunter

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

What does the Bible say about marriage and divorce?

Are We (As Some Claim) Making Divorce an Unforgivable Sin?

Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another woman, commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9).

What if a man does what Jesus prohibited? He divorces his wife simply because he no longer loves her, then later he marries another woman. Clearly, he is guilty of adultery. Now, what if this man wants to be forgiven? Let’s assume he is not a Christian. He learns about Jesus’ atonement, believes, and wants to be baptized into Christ. Can he continue in his marriage to his second wife? Many say yes, since baptism is for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). If someone objects that this unauthorized remarriage is still adultery, the objector may be accused of making divorce/adultery an unforgivable sin.

What if a man is married to multiple women? (It is illegal in this country, but not in all.) He ignores God’s law of one man, one woman (Mt. 19:5-6). He is guilty of polygamy. Now, what if this man wants to be forgiven? He, too, wants to be baptized into Christ. Can he continue to live with all these woman? If not, why not? Why does forgiveness not cleanse his wrong relationships? Is polygamy an unforgivable sin?

What if a man is living with a woman?  They don’t bother with marriage, they just live together. Their cohabitation makes them guilty of fornication (Heb. 13:4).  Now, what if this man wants to be forgiven? He, too, wants to be baptized into Christ. Can he continue to live with the woman? If not, why not? Why does forgiveness not cleanse his wrong relationship? Is fornication an unforgivable sin?

What if a man is living with another man? They are not merely roommates, they are lovers: “men with men committing indecent acts” (Rom. 1:27).  They are guilty of homosexuality. Now, what if this man wants to be forgiven? He, too, wants to be baptized into Christ. Can he continue to live with the man? If not, why not? Why does forgiveness not cleanse his wrong relationship? Is homosexuality an unforgivable sin?

Four relationships. Each one is wrong.  Why, then, do so many say that the last three must end if one wants to be right with God, but the first may continue?  What’s the difference? The only difference I see is that the first is more socially acceptable. (It will be interesting to see how the fourth is viewed as homosexuality becomes increasingly acceptable.)

The question is not, What sin(s) can be forgiven? The question is, What does God require in order to be forgiven? God requires repentance, as well as belief and baptism (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). Repentance is a change of heart and a corresponding change of life (Lk. 3:8-14; Acts 26:20). One has not repented when he determines to continue right on in his sin, whatever it is. And one who will not repent cannot expect to be forgiven.

- by Frank Himmel

 

More information on marriage, divorce and remarriage is here.

 

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