Saturday, December 8, 2018

Perplexity

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. (Matthew 1:18-19)

Point 1: God uses perplexities to prepare the heart for more satisfying revelation. It is good that we be confused before a revelation, because then the magnitude of the revelation becomes more complete and clear. This is what happened to Joseph as he pondered what to do with Mary. She had a visible pregnancy, so he could understand that, but he did not understand the divine aspect of the situation. He knew she was honorable, so he did not wan to make a spectacle of her but "put her away quietly." Joseph is in perplexity. He knows Mary is pregnant, but he does not understand the holy manner of the pregnancy. In other words, he does not believe.  He has a faith issue. Joseph's decision to put Mary away secretly marks the beginning of Christ's sufferings. He is confused, but he has correct information. She is pregnant, but she is not an adulterer. All he needs is a revelation of the truth to give him the faith to do the right thing, which is to marry her. God waited to do this until Mary had been espoused to Joseph, so there would be no "wagging of tongues." He was a just man, so he was not going to call her out publicly. But he needed to do something, so he was intending to put her away secretly. The revelation from the angel gave him the peace and clarity to do the right thing.

Point 2: Before revelation, in our perplexity we are in a state of rejecting God.  Even the elect reject Christ before understanding.  The perplexity plus the fact that the Spirit hasn't manifested Christ yet to us equals rejection, just as Joseph was to do. It is good to be perplexed, even though we are in a state of rejecting Christ. As long as the garden of perplexity is honest, as long as we are being honest doubters, the revelation that comes afterward will be satisfying. Seek out the truth, no matter where it leads, and you will find it.

Point 3: The world will intentionally obfuscate the truth so that we cannot find it. The world wants you to stay in a perpetual state of perplexity, so that you will then be in a perpetual state of rejecting God. The world does this by giving us dishonest perplexity, by giving us false information to use. Always go to the Bible for the proper knowledge with which to wrestle. Here are some examples:

It is important that we always join "of the Holy Ghost" to the virgin birth. We must provide no opportunity to think blasphemous thoughts about Christ and the nature of his birth.  This means knowing the Holy Ghost intimately.  So many times I hear someone blasphemously say or write that the Holy Ghost "knocked up" Mary. Lately a college professor has gained attention by claiming that Mary did not "provide consent," implying that the Lord raped her. This is dishonest rhetoric that clouds the issue and keeps people in a perpetual state of rejecting Christ. Go to the Bible and see that it always mentions the Holy Spirit as instrumental in Mary's conception. Even Mary was perplexed at the angel's words in Luke 1, until the angel mentioned the Holy Spirit, and then Mary was satisfied. For comparison, see Zacharias in the same chapter who, even though Elizabeth's was not a virgin birth, was given all the necessary information from the angel, and yet he still doubted. The forced muting of his voice until the birth was the extra revelation he needed to believe.

Another example: Mary is not the mother of God. This is confusing theology. She is the mother of the human nature of Christ through her virginity. Christ is eternal, so when a denomination uses phrasing like "Mary, Mother of God," it poisons the earth in the garden of perplexity, so as to keep people away from Christ, and, in this case, worship the saints instead.

Another example: Free Will does not mean, "not a programmed robot." It means, "no longer in bondage to sin." The world wants you to believe that the true church claims that we are all pawns that God moves around on a chessboard.  If you believe in the correct definition of free will and that Christ frees our wills from the bondage of sin, the fruits of revelation will rapidly grow in the garden.

Other examples abound: election, predestination, the trinity. In all cases we must go to the scriptures that rightly present the perplexities and give us the revelation by the Holy Spirit to be satisfied Christians. Whether you're Thomas and need just a nudge of revelation to believe or Saul, hater and persecutor of the church, who needs to be blinded and thrown down on the road to Damascus to believe, Christ will open your eyes to his truth when you are in honest perplexity.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Generations of Jesus Christ

The first verse in the Gospel of Matthew is usually glossed over, as well as the genealogy that follows, but careful study of the verse reveals some amazing things that we usually take for granted:

1. This is a physical genealogy of Jesus from Abraham, but it is also a spiritual genealogy of mankind from Jesus.  "Jesus" means "he saves." This genealogy is one of salvation, and it includes the members of the genealogy itself.
2. Christ means "anointed." The three offices that were anointed in the Old Testament were prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is all three.
3. "Jesus" is Hebrew. "Christ" is Greek. His name and title include both Jew and Gentile. None is left out of salvation.
4. Abraham and David are the milestones, because distinct promises were made to both of them: to Abraham the promise that all the nations would be blessed through his seed, and to David the promise that his seed would rule over the true Israel forever.

The genealogy itself was a matter of public record and irrefutable. From it we find:

1. Judah was an adulterer. He is saved.
2. Tamar was a deceiver. She is saved.
3. Rahab was a prostitute. She is saved.
4. Ruth was a poor gentile. She is saved.
5. Boaz was a rich Jew. He is saved.
6. David was an adulterer, deceiver, and murderer. He is saved.

And on and on. In fact, every person in the genealogy is a sinner, and every person in the genealogy is saved by Christ, because the list is the generations of Jesus Christ. Now, the timeline works in the other direction, too. Anyone who has an abiding faith in Christ is in Jesus' timeline going into the future. Jesus had no physical children, but he mas many spiritual children. Are you one? Do you believe that he lived on earth and died for your sins?  Many think that God will reject them, because they are a Judah or a Tamar or a Rahab or a Ruth or a Boaz or even a David. When you realize that no one is excluded from the free gift of grace that can only be found in Jesus Christ, the burden you are carrying should melt away. If you believe that God has forgiven your debt by paying the fine himself on the cross, you will be saved.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

External and Internal Laws

In learning about the trouble of indwelling sin in believers from John Owen, one aspect he shared really resonated with me: the concept that indwelling sin acts as law in our hearts and has more power because it is internal rather than external.  The law of God is external and is therefore easily broken until God himself writes his law on our hearts again through Christ.

1. The law of God was internal with Adam and Eve.
2. Adam and Eve were created in the likeness of God (Genesis 5:1).
3. This likeness includes God's law being internal. (Remember God IS the law).
4. In disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit, Adam cast out God's law and acquired the law of sin in its place.
5. All progeny from Adam have this law of sin internalized (Genesis 5:3).
6. This law of sin causes the intent of man's heart to be evil from its youth (Genesis 8:21).
7. God provides his law externally to us through Moses.
8. The external law of God is easily broken and actually stirs up the internal law of sin.

However, Jeremiah 31 tells us that God has made a new covenant with Israel (the church), in which the external law of God will be made internal, written on the heart. Read Jeremiah 31:31-34. As believers, we now have two laws in our heart, at war, but this is preferable to the law of sin being alone in our hearts to drive us to destruction.  How is this internal law of God restored? By faith in Christ.  See Hebrews 11:

1. By faith Moses rejected the pleasures of sin found in Pharaoh's household.
2. Notice that what Moses rejected were pleasures, which carnal man ever seeks.
3. By faith Moses endured hardship with his people.
4. Notice that only with an internal law of God in his heart, Moses is able to choose hardship, which carnal man ever rejects.
5. Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.
6. The internal law of God not only has power against the law of sin, it sets the Christian apart from the carnal world.
7. As revealed by Christ himself in Luke 14:25-35, sin is hated, and the carnal world is hated, so that even once beloved family members who are carnal are fought against in favor of Christ.

Now, we turn to the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). See how the internal and external laws work:

1. The younger son has the law of sin in his heart, and the grace of God is nowhere to be seen.
2. God (the father) releases us to follow our sinful hearts to their end.
3. Following the law of sin brings one to rock bottom.
4. When the son comes to his senses, this is the moment when God puts his law into the heart of the sinner.
5. The first reaction of this newfound faith is to repent.
6. The father forgives the penitent sinner.
7. The older son has not followed his sin to rock bottom.
8. However, he has not the law of grace in his heart. He is attempting to follow God's external law.
9. His unforgiving spirit reveals that he, too, follows the law of sin in his heart. He has failed to follow God's law, even though it may seem that he's following it on the surface.
10. The younger son has been brought to life, yet the older son still lies dead in his heart.

Which son are you? Faith and repentance in Christ brings the law of God into your heart, and the war between the two laws can commence. The law of sin looks appealing, because it gives us pleasure, and the law of God looks like it will give us only pain and suffering, but Moses chose the narrow path, because his faith in Christ compelled him there. Which law is ruling your heart? We can't eradicate the law of sin completely from our hearts, but with the aid of the law of God's grace, we can wage war against the evil within us. This is only possible with the law of God being internal and not external.  The law of God becomes internal when we have faith in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, our salvation.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Snares and Pestilence

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. Psalm 91:3

We know that God rescues us out of danger, but these two metaphors are special, in that they represent dangers that overtake people before they are aware.

1. Think of Satan as the trapper laying out his snares of temptations for us.
2. Think of the infectious, corrupt ideas of the ungodly as pestilence that will lead us down the road to destruction.
3. Those who have faith in Christ are preserved from such.
4. Such snares and pestilences can cause danger to both body and soul.
5. God preserves us from both kinds.
6. God not only breaks the snare, He enables our escape.
7. Our help is in God's name.

Why God's name? Well, God's name is his identity. It separates the true God from all the false gods that are claimed to exist (even though they are no gods at all). In the Old Testament the identity of God was YHWH, which in Hebrew means, "I AM." In the New Testament, the identity of God is still I AM, but Jesus Christ identifies himself as the same. He claims to be I AM, but he is also Jesus, the name meaning "He Saves." God is one. Worship him and him alone, but the conduit through which he has chosen to save us is his son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. To worship him is to worship the true identity--the name--of God, who rescues us from the snare and pestilence.  Read Christ's own words in John 8:31-59 as he discusses true freedom with people who don't know Christ, because they remain captives to the snares of the devil and are infected with the pestilence of false doctrine:

1. If we continue in God's Word, then we will be true disciples.
2. The truth found in the scriptures about Jesus will set us free from spiritual snares and pestilence.
3. Jesus is not talking about physical slavery, although that can be a consequence of spiritual slavery.
4. Jesus is talking about us all being slaves to sin. We didn't choose to have sin in our lives or not. We are born with original sin, and from that foundation we commit actual sin.
5. Sin is the ultimate snare, because it cannot be avoided by man.
6. The slave to sin does not remain in the church forever.
7. The slave to Christ remains in the church forever.
8. Slavery to Christ is true freedom.
9. Where sins are snares set by the devil, Christ is the one who destroys the snares.
10. Where the pestilence of sin leads to death, Christ is the cure that leads to eternal life.
11. In God's Word we find the true identity of YHWH in Christ.
12. To reject the Word of God is to reject Christ and remain ensnared.
13. To reject the Word of God is to not know his true identity, the name of God, which sets us free.
14. To trust in another god will fail to free us. To trust in another christ will fail to free us.
15. Lies are the ultimate pestilence, because once a lie takes hold, it spreads like a wildfire, infecting so many who come in contact with each other.
16. Jesus' true identity is violently offensive to those who are slaves to sin.

What snares have captivated you? What false ideas about Christ have taken root in your heart like a disease? True freedom comes from knowing God and his son Jesus Christ. This knowledge can only be found in his Word. Take and read. The truth will set you free.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

More Than You Can Handle?

The words, and message, "God won't give you more than you can handle," are not in the Bible. God gives us more than we can handle all the time, sometimes to the point of death. Where did this idea come from?

The verse that gets twisted is 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."

1. The verse is about being tempted, not pain or struggles or adversity.
2. All fallen mankind receive similar temptations. None are "special cases."
3. If the temptations become so strong that you may not be able to overcome them, God will help.
4. God helps his children. He is faithful to his children.
5. God will provide a way of escape from the temptation.
6. God will help you endure the temptation.

This help from God is for those who are in Christ. This is clear. We see from 2 Peter 3:4-10

1. God condemned sinning angels to hell.
2. God flooded the entire world and saved only Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and his family.
3. God destroyed all the cities among Sodom and Gomorrah, sparing only righteous Lot.

Given these three historical facts:
4. God certainly knows how to rescue the godly from temptation. Righteous angels, Noah and his family, and Lot: all were extremely tempted. When everyone else is "doing it", the temptation is mighty high to go along to get along, to "join them." So, God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what believers can endure.

It is of great importance that we do not take God's help lightly, and plunge, of our own will, into temptation, because we know that God will get us out of it. This help is for those who have an abiding faith in Jesus Christ, and if we put God to the test, it shows that we do not fear God--do not have reverence for him--and may not be his children.  For an example, we look to Christ's temptation in the wilderness: Matthew 4:1-11.

1. The devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple in Jerusalem.
2. The devil quotes scripture to support his temptation.
3. The devil omits a crucial part of the verse, because it is contrary to his point.

The devil quotes, "He will command His angels concerning you. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

The actual verse from Psalm 91 reads, "For He will give His angels charge concerning you, TO GUARD YOU IN ALL YOUR WAYS. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone."

What are your ways? Are they godly ways that are acquired from faith in Christ? Or are they the corrupt ways of your old nature? Help from God comes from walking in his ways. Christ affirms this when he responds to the devil, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."

Use Psalm 91 to examine yourself:

1. Do you dwell in God's shelter?
2. Is God your refuge and fortress?
3. Do you sense God's faithfulness to you?
4. Do you fear the world and not God?
5. Do you fear death?
6. Do you fear the wicked?
7. Do you sense God's protection?
8. Or do you sense the continual oppression of fate or bad luck or karma?
9. Do you love God?
10. Do you know God?
11. Do you call on God in times of trouble?
12. Are you satisfied with your circumstances?
13. Do you see his salvation in Christ?

Have a deep reverence for God. Study his word and pray continually. He will not lead you into temptation, and he will not allow temptation to overtake you.