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Friday, June 23, 2017

What is real cheese?

DID YOU KNOW...Any cheese which is labeled as "processed cheese" is really only 49% cheese (even thought it is labeled as “Real Cheese”. The other 51% is coloring, binders, preservatives, and stabilizers. So… does that make processed cheese “real” cheese or only a “cheese like” product. How close to “the real thing,” does something need to be before it is considered… well… real?

 

DID YOU KNOW... that there are no regulations regarding the labeling of Honey? A product can have as little as 1% honey (the rest corn syrup), and still be labeled as 100% honey. How much honey does it need to be real honey.

 

DID YOU KNOW… that many who claim to be Christians, don’t read their bible regularly, don’t attend the worship periods of the church, don’t share their faith with others, don’t fellowship with other Christians, often don’t live their lives as if Christ lived within them, yet are still labeled as “Christians”. How much much of God’s directions or commands do you need to keep to still be considered a “real” Christian?

 

John wrote in 1 John 2:3-4, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.” So… how much does it take to be a real Christian according to God’s Word? It seems to me that God is saying that it takes (at least trying to give), 100% of our lives to him.

Is 49% of the real thing enough? Well, that’s one of the reasons we don’t buy “processed cheese,” I want the “real” thing. Do you think that God will be satisfied with 49% of your life?

 

--Russ Lawson

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Does the meaning of the Greek word "psallo" authorize instrumental music?

"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:19).

In this famous text, the expression "making melody" comes from the Greek word "psallo." Some have argued that this word, in its original usage, implied the use of instrumental accompaniment to the singing that occurred during the worship services of the early church. In response to this claim, consider these points:

1) All authorities and commentators are in agreement that the early Christians in the first century did not use musical instruments in their worship assemblies. Therefore, those who knew the language and used it as their native tongue DID NOT understand the meaning of the word to include the use of the instrument.

2) Around 600-700 AD, the Greek Orthodox church split from the Roman Catholic church, and one of the main contentions was the use of musical instruments. Those who knew the Greek language at that time DID NOT understand "psallo" to include the use of instruments. Interestingly, the Greek Orthodox church continues to this day to only sing and not use instruments in their assemblies.

3) In the last several centuries, there have been dozens of English translations of the New Testament. Among all of the hundreds of scholars who translated those versions, NONE of them believed that the word "psallo" should be translated to mean "sing with instrumental accompaniment."

So, think of it this way: in the first century, then around 600-700AD, and in this modern day, those who knew and know the Greek language the best have NEVER believed or taught that the word "psallo" should be translated to include the idea of instrumental accompaniment.

- by Greg Gwin

 

Worship

Genesis 4 relates man's first attempt to worship God. Abel, a shepherd, brought an offering of the firstlings of his lock. Cain, a farmer, brought an offering of the fruit of the ground. The Bible says, "And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering, but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard" (vv. 4-5). Whatever may have been the difference in this case, one thing is clear: God does not accept everything offered Him as worship.

The Concept of Worship - Worship is our acknowledgment of God's worth. Occasionally, the Bible uses the term of everyday living which respects His will (Romans 12:2). Mostly, worship refers to special acts of devotion intended to express to God our regard for Him. Either way, the underlying principle is reverence for God. Worship may therefore be defined as a reverent attitude which is expressed by a life of service and special acts of devotion.

Common Mistakes - The prophets of the Old Testament had much to say about the ancient Israelites' worship. While the forms were different back then - offering animal sacrifices, burning incense, tithing, etc. - we can still learn much from their experiences. The prophets identified three common mistakes: (1) People often mixed their own preferences with God's instructions. Instead of honoring God by doing what He said, they added or substituted what they liked. (2) Even when people were doing exactly what God said, worship at times became a boring ritual. Isaiah called it "lip service," "traditions learned by rote" (29:13). (3) Daily lives were too often segregated from what people expressed in formal worship. People praised God in songs and prayers but lived in complete disregard for His will. This was perhaps the prophets' most common complaint (Isaiah 1:10-17; Jeremiah 7:1-11; Amos 4:1-4; 8:4-6; etc.). Surely you understand why God would not accept worship from people who are just going through the motions or who substitute their own will for His. How does that honor Him?

Modern Applications - Jesus taught that "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Spirit emphasizes that worship is the product of a spiritual relationship. Worship is a privilege, not a right. It is the privilege of those who are in Christ, who "through Him . . . offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name" (Hebrews 12:15). Both in the formal sense and the broad sense of daily living, it is the conscious expression of a heart devoted to God. Truth emphasizes worship as God directs. Only that kind truly honors him. Omission of spirit leaves empty formalism. Omission of truth results in honoring self, not God.

The New Testament reveals several avenues of formal worship, either in individual or group settings. The history of the first-century church begins, "And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). Instruction in God's word clearly has a part in our assemblies. Breaking bread refers to eating the Lord's Supper, a memorial of Jesus' death (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). This is to be eaten on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), the day also specified for the contribution, a means of Christians joining together to do the work God has assigned us collectively (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Prayer is our means of communicating with God, both for praise and requests (1 Timothy 2:1-6). Singing is another means of praising God, with the added benefit of teaching and admonishing each other (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Whether done individually or collectively, God's honor, not our pleasure, is the goal of worship. Therefore, His word dictates what is done and how. Is it surprising that the means He has given appeal more to the spirit than the flesh? How it looks, how it sounds, how it feels - these are not the critical factors. Instead, God says, "Let all things be done for edification" (1 Corinthians 14:26). Remember, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).

- by Frank Himmel

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Rolf Christoffersen, a sailor in the Norwegian Navy

The Love Letter

 

Earlier this year Melissa Fahy and her father were renovating her New Jersey home when they found a letter in the gap under the stairs.  The letter was postmarked May 1945, apparently written by a previous owner of the home.

 

It was a love letter from a woman named Virginia to her husband, Rolf Christoffersen, a sailor in the Norwegian Navy at the time.  Virginia wrote: “I love you, Rolf, as I love the warm sun.  That is what you are to my life, the sun about which everything else revolves for me.”  Somehow Virginia’s letter got lost beneath the stairs.

 

But Melissa Fahy was determined to get that letter to its rightful owner — if it was possible – even if it was 72 years later.  She turned to Facebook for help, and within hours Facebook users had located the couple’s son.  Rolf Christoffersen is now 96 years old and living in California.  Rolf’s son read the letter to his father.  Virginia Christoffersen had died six years earlier, but the letter was a reminder that her love had not. *

 

If you search around your home, you’ll probably find at least one copy of a love letter.  It’s a love letter from God; it is His Word.  It is much more than a love letter, but the fundamental message is one of love – that God loves you and wants to save you.

 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

 

This love letter proclaims the great love of God for us even though we aren’t that lovable.  Our sins separate us from God and destine us for destruction (Isaiah 59:1-2; Matthew 7:13-14).

 

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Because of His great love for us, Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we can be saved from sin and receive the gift of eternal life.

 

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. {10} This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV).

 

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).  The blood that Jesus shed on the cross for our sins will continue to cleanse those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

 

The Bible: it’s a love letter from God.  Won’t YOU read it, embrace it, and cherish it?  Won’t YOU accept and reciprocate the offer of love from the heavenly Father who gave His Son to die for you?

 

The core message of the Bible is the salvation of man through Christ to the glory of God.  Once you understand and embrace that message through your trusting obedience, Jesus will be the “Son” around which everything else revolves in your life.

 

-- David A. Sargent

 

* Sources: Associated Press, “Love Letter Reaches WWII Vet 72 Years Later,” klove.com (5/12/2017) and Bill Ray’s Illustrations for Sermons (www.illustrationsforsermons.com).

 

David A. Sargent

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

'Traditional', 'Contemporary', or Scriptural Worship?

'Traditional', 'Contemporary', or Scriptural?

A nearby denomination advertises that it has two worship services each Sunday morning.  One is "traditional" and the other is called "contemporary."  While we have not visited either one, we suspect that these distinctions indicate that the first follows the routine patterns that have been observed in that denomination for many years.  The "contemporary" service, on the other hand, likely breaks those long standing practices and seeks to attract a younger, more religiously 'liberated' crowd.

The whole notion of choice in this matter of worship is what deserves our attention.  Choice is good, even preferable in many realms.  We would be upset if we had no freedom to choose houses, cars, clothes, food, etc.  In these areas we have a preference, and we act upon it.  We allow that others may choose differently, and that is okay.  "To each his own," we say.

But, men have mistakenly concluded that we are also free to choose what we like in worship specifically, and in religion generally.  The "church of your choice" was a popular slogan many years ago.  We don't hear that phrase much any more, but we certainly see that the concept has taken root.  The denominations are full of people who have sought and found what appeals to them.  What God wants -- what He has commanded and authorized -- seems to be of little concern.

Jesus taught that "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).  This important verse emphasizes two key aspects of acceptable worship.  It must be "in spirit" -- indicating that the Father expects a sincere, heart-felt service. Without it, He is not pleased (Matthew 15:8).  But our worship must also be "in truth," that is, in accordance with the commands of the Scripture.  Those who do not submit to the authority of God's law will not be saved (Matthew 7:21-23).

"Traditional" or "contemporary" is the choice offered by men, but the only right choice is to serve God according to the truth of Scriptures.  Anything else is an eternal mistake.  Think!

- by Greg Gwin

Saturday, June 3, 2017

God paid a tremendous price for us to be able to be saved

Love Overflowing

 

Haley to Dad: “Dad, did you feel the same excitement after each of your children was born?”  (Haley is the fourth of four children in our family.)

 

Dad to Haley:  “Absolutely!”

 

Haley asked this question on the day that our oldest daughter, Britney, gave birth to a baby boy – the first child born to Britney and Clint – and our first grandchild: Lincoln Ross Mitchell!

 

As a postscript to our discussion, I added: “But when your children have children of their own…”  I couldn’t complete my answer because the tears began to flow.  I struggled to find words to describe the magnitude of my love and gratitude for our new grandson.

 

Now I think I understand why so many grandparents had been telling me that “there’s nothing like having grandchildren!”

 

Here is what I’ve realized: when that little one that you and your spouse joyfully welcomed into the world as her parents, that you loved and raised to adulthood, the one for whom you have always wanted the very best, and that you couldn’t love any more than you do… then has a child of her own – a child that you also get to love, cherish, and SPOIL…  (I’m smiling.)  When you get to see your child experience the wonder of bringing a baby into the world and see her life changed by having the privilege of caring for her child and begin the process of raising him to be a good, godly man like his Daddy…  Then the love that you have for your own child (and ALL of your children) and this grandchild just overflows!

 

Is this what you were trying to tell me, grandparents?

 

I don’t think my heart could be any fuller!

 

I wonder if this may give us a hint as to how God feels when someone makes the decision to accept His offer of salvation and become a child of God by being born again into His family.  After all, we belong to God because He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).  But then, even though we’ve marred that image due to our sins, He still loves us, desires to save us, and wants to add us to His family (see Romans 5:8-10; 1 Timothy 2:4; Ephesians 2:8-22).

 

And when we accept His offer of salvation on His terms, He joyfully welcomes us into His family!

 

God paid a tremendous price for us to be able to be saved and become a part of His family.  He gave His one and only Son (Jesus) to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16).  It was because of His great love for us that He gave His Son for us (Romans 5:8).

 

God will save, add to His family, 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).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

 

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1 NIV).  It is love overflowing.

 

Won’t YOU accept His loving offer through your trusting obedience?

 

-- David A. Sargent, Lincoln’s “Bug” (Grandpa)

 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Love of Christ Constrains U

The Love of Christ Constrains Us … Ultimate Freedom Awaits Us

 

For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 

The word ‘compels’ in 2 Corinthians 5:14, is sunechei. Some translations have ‘constrains’, and others ‘controls’. It means, “the pressure which confines and restricts as well as controls.” (C. K. Barrett and Alfred Plummer)

 

As Christians, there is always the choice to make – to obey or disobey – yet Christ’s love for us pushes the choice in favour of obeying. “I don’t really want to obey this teaching, but when I think about Christ’s love shown in his dying for me to free me from my sins, it changes my perspective. He died to save me and make me a better person. His commands are meant to prepare me for heaven. That touches my heart, and brings a heartfelt response.”

 

It’s the same with children and parents: it’s the parents’ love that makes the children want to obey. Why? Because love engenders the desire to please the one who is loving you. This is why faith and love go together. You trust and love because of their love towards you.

                 

Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15. There’s an obligation there. Yet it’s not guilt but freedom from guilt that makes us feel obligated! Our obligation to keep Jesus’ commands should be driven by Christ’s love and forgiveness. Christ’s love for us prompts our love for him. Our love for him causes us to want to trust and obey him. He’s on our side. He’s for us! Romans 8:31-39. Duty and obligation are important, but it’s love and gratitude for Christ’s forgiveness that should drive the sense of obligation. The constraining power of love. We love to obey from our hearts, not “do we have to obey?” This is why God can say that in the New Covenant He will put His laws on our hearts: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour and each one his brother, saying,

‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward

their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12

It’s because God forgives our sins that His laws are written on our hearts! Compare verses 10 and 12 above.

The New Covenant is a covenant driven by forgiveness.

 

this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28

 

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

 

We want to do His will because the blood Christ - shed to ratify the New Covenant of forgiveness – motivates us.

 

Under the Old Covenant, godly people, like David, loved God and His Law with their whole heart. Psalm 119:2-11,34,69. They knew that God would forgive those times they broke the Law! See Psalm 51; 32; Luke 18:9-14. God’s urging circumcision in heart would help with this. Jeremiah 4:4. God would forgive their confession of sin if they had faith in Him and because He had planned to send His Son to die as the sacrifice for the sins of all men. Isaiah 53; Romans 3:23-25; 5:12-21; Hebrews 9:15-22. All Jews were not like the legalistic Pharisees who didn’t understand their enslavement to sin through Law, John 8:30-36; 1 Corinthians 15:56, and who thought their salvation was based on their own righteous observance of Law. Matthew 5:20; Romans 9:30-10:5; Philippians 3:2-9. The Law would become a Law of sin and death (Romans 8:2-3) only because many who lived under it didn’t understand it could only make them righteous if they observed it perfectly all the time, Romans 5:10:1-5; Galatians 3:10-12; James 2:9-11, which of course no one but Jesus could ever do! Matthew 5:17-18; John 19:28-30.

 

Oh how grateful we should be for Jesus’ sinless perfection, and for God’s gracious plan that the righteousness of Christ could become our righteousness!! Romans 3:21-26; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Philippians 3:7-11.

 

It is this gratitude and love for our perfect Saviour – who did what he did for us – that should motivate us to live for Him in the freedom of the New Covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Galatians 5:1-13. Jesus said:  Come to me, all who labour 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.” Matthew 11:28-30. We serve in the freedom of Christ because Christ sets us free from the huge burden of trying to be a perfect Law-keeper, plus the extra burden of the guilt that is borne when we realize we have failed to be a perfect law-keeper/do-gooder! When Jesus pleads with us, “Come unto me you poor heavy laden people and I will give you rest,” this is what he’s talking about. Trying to get to heaven merely by self-effort never works. We need to trust and follow Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8.

 

Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation because God was at work in them. Philippians 2:12-13. In our churches we work out our salvation by obeying Christ’s teachings because God has already worked His salvation in us through the death and resurrection of His Son. Philippians 2:5-11.

 

We can freely choose to be freed from sin and live above sin through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Yet we still live in a world full of evil, corruption and decay. One day, Jesus promises, we will also be freed from that!! Rev 21:1-7.

 

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:12-21

 

Where the Good Way is: Eternal Rest for the Soul

 

Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16

 

Jesus calls us back to the ancient ways of God “where the good way is”, promising that “you shall find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:25-30. But, Jeremiah noted, many said: “We will not walk in it.” Yet the elect do! Ephes 1:1-14

 

Jesus graciously offers us eternal life as one who, though being God and thus knowing and having experienced His Father God in eternity, with all the privileges of deity, yet humbled Himself by becoming one of us and dying on a cross, then conquering death in resurrection glory!! Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 1:1-4; 5:17-30; 6:38,46,51,57; 8:58; 10:27-38; 20:25-31; Romans 1:3-4; 8:11; 9:1-5; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:9-23; 2:1-10; Titus 1:1-3; 2:11-14; Hebrews 1:1-12; 2:6-18; 7:23-28; 2 Peter 1:1-3. What a Saviour and God Jesus is, and a brother to believers! Hebrews 2:9-13. We fall to our knees in praise and worship. Matthew 28:16-17; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:7-8; 19:10; 22:8-9

 

--David Hunter

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Dress Code for Worship?

NO!  God does NOT have a dress code for worship!  Of course He does not!  He assumes that a humble worshipping heart will dictate proper attire and behavior.  A true spirit of awe, reverence and worship dictates dignity and propriety in dress and demeanor.  When we dress appropriately we manifest a humbleness of heart that honors and respects the sovereign God whom we have come to praise and petition.

- selected

 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lessons for Life

Lessons for Life

 

It’s graduation time!  What a milestone for young people – and older ones, too!  What lessons do we want our graduates to remember as they embark on a new phase of their lives?

 

Here are a few “Lessons for Life” that I’d like to pass along.

 

1. Put the Big Rocks in First.

 

In First Things First, Stephen Covey tells a story that one of his associates heard at a seminar. The seminar presenter pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with those rocks, he asked, "Is the jar full?"

 

The group replied, "Yes."

 

He continued to add different things to the jar: gravel, sand, and finally water.  After each addition, he’d ask the same question: "Is the jar full?"

 

Then he asked the group for the point of this illustration.

 

Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if "you really work at it."

 

"No," countered the speaker. The point is, if you don't put the big rocks in first, "…would you ever have gotten any of them in?"

 

We must put the “big rocks” in our lives first – the things that matter most.  The most important rock is GOD.  Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  The “Big Rocks” – the priorities of our lives – should be: God, our family, the church, our Christian service, and our jobs.

 

2. Remember, The World Does Not Revolve Around You.

 

It has been said, “A person wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package.”  Our proper priorities should be: God first (Matthew 6:33), others second (Philippians 2:3-4), and ourselves last (Matthew 22:37-39).  Remember the letters of the word “joy” - Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.  A person who is self-centered is off-center.

 

3. Consult Your Map Frequently.

 

Have you ever been hiking on a trail and got lost?  I have!  My fellow hikers and I were relieved when we finally found a map.  Then, we could locate our current position, our proper destination, and the way to get there.  These are the very things that God’s Word does for us.  It tells us:

 

Our current position: we’re lost without Christ!  See Ephesians 2:11-13.

 

The greatest destination: Heaven.  See Revelation 21:1-4.

 

The Way to get to heaven: Jesus.  See John 14:6.

 

Jesus died on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  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).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

 

We should always use God’s Word as the map for our lives.  “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  Consult the Map frequently and follow Jesus all the way to heaven.

 

Won't YOU?

 

-- David A. Sargent

"I will remove the heart of stone . and give you a heart of flesh"

 

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:22-27

  

God gives his people a heart of flesh, and His Spirit within us, and this helps us to carefully obey His rules

which are given to us to make us the kind of people God wants in preparation for eternity with Him. For Jews,

circumcision was a law that only profited because it was set within other laws that were intended to penetrate hearts and make Israel a people who were like God. It’s not about rituals but rules that recreate.

 

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded[b] as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 2:25-29

 

Flesh is soft as against stone which is hard. God gives us a heart of flesh, as a far better alternative to our former heart after the flesh in which we used to walk in our bone-headed, closed-minded ways. Our new heart of flesh is soft and open, instead of hard and closed. God does not want us to be bone-headed and hard-hearted - closing our hearts to His word and the needs of people. God does not want us to walk in the flesh – which means walking in our own sinful ways. No, for He has given us a heart of flesh so we will be open to His ways and thus walk in His ways … the ways of the Spirit. God can turn “stones” into His open-hearted children - like Abraham! Luke 3:8.

 

In the New covenant, God’s laws penetrate our hearts for several reasons:

1)  The New Covenant has forgiveness at its core, and forgiveness touches our hearts and promotes a desire to please the Forgiver.

2)  In the New Covenant, we have the Spirit, that Israel did not have, and the Spirit is such a huge help in making God’s rules not burdensome, but light. Romans 5:5; 1 John 3:24; 4:13; 5:1-8; Matthew 11:28-30.

3)  In the New Covenant, we have Jesus, and when you have Jesus you also have the Father and the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15-24. Notice in this John 14 Scripture the connection between keeping Jesus’ commandments and having Father, Son and Holy Spirit making themselves at home in our lives!!

 

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12

 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-4

 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-15

 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:1-9

 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:16-26

 

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. 2 Corinthians 7:1-4.

 

To soft, open hearts of flesh, the Holy Spirit has revealed right knowledge about sin and Christ that leads to right faith which leads to salvation which leads to right knowledge about right behaviour which ultimately leads to eternal life. John 6:35-45,68; 16:12-14; Romans 1:1-6:23; 10:1-10; Philippians 1:27-2:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-17; Titus 1:1-3; 2 Peter 1:1-12; 1 John 2:15-29; 3:23-4:13. Thus God gives us a new heart and a new spirit to do His will.

 

The Holy Spirit and a heart of flesh cancel evil spirits and the ways of the flesh. 1 John 3:23-4:13.

 

All of this gives us hope for our eternal future: For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5

 

Back to the 1 John reference:

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 3:23-4:13

 

Notice the two references to the Holy Spirit God has given His people in 1 John 3:24 and 1 John 4:13 in the passage just cited. They are like bookends. And like bookends, it is what is between the bookends that is most important.

The bookends, however, are also very important because they hold together and support what is between them.

Without the bookends, what is between them would collapse. Without the Holy Spirit supporting us, our lives would collapse.

 

Right knowledge about Spirit and flesh leads to right behaviour: Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:6-10

 

Remember this from two earlier references? But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:16-17

 

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

 

Keep your heart soft and open to God’s light and life. (As an example, my heart was touched this week by Romans 12:10 – especially the latter half: “Outdo one another in showing honour.”)

 

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. John 6:63

   God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit work in unison with their word to give us real life, but only if the heart of flesh, God has given us, remains open, pliable, ready and willing.

 

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:8-21

 

True-hearted, whole-hearted, Savior all-glorious!

Take Thy great power and reign Thou alone,

Over our wills and affections victorious, Freely surrendered and wholly Thine own. 

This stanza from True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted, words by Frances R. Havergal

 

--David Hunter

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