Return Unto ME

The nation has been a wayward nation. It has deliberately turned its back on God, and served its own gods which are idols; a means of worshipping devils or demons. It is a sad thing for a nation, in this case the Northern kingdom to walk away from God. It is, however, joyous to see that God is gracious, forgiving and still He is just.

YaHWeH [God] has been calling the spiritually adulterating nation to repent. He has been pursuing her. God will have His way with His people. Let us never forget that. He will be glorified through His people as well.

“If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto Me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” Jeremiah 4:1-2 (KJV).

This call is clearly to Israel, the Northern kingdom. What is it to “return unto ME [the LORD]”? It is clear from these verses what the LORD expects. “Put away thine abominations…” is one of the clearly sought after things of the LORD. According to Strong’s the word “Abominations” has to do with the filth of idolatry.

    H8251 – shiqqu^ts shiqqu^ts; shik-koots’, shik-koots’; From H8262; disgusting, that is, filthy; especially idolatrous or (concretely) an idol: – abominable filth (idol, -ation), detestable (thing).

You will notice that the word “disgusting” is used, and “abominable filth”. That only shows us the way God sees this adulterous relationship between His people and the gods of the nations. There must be a “Putting away” of all that is vile, unclean, detestable and idolatrous in God’s sight before there can ever be cleansing, renewal and a return to God. When will the people of God come to the place to learn that to depart from God is about the easiest thing we can do. It can happen just by dropping our attention away from the LORD, and putting it someplace else.

In calling the Northern kingdom to return God intends for a true repentance in returning; not as the Southern kingdom of Judah who gave acknowledgement by words, but not in action. Judah gave a lip service to the LORD, but in truth their hearts were far from Him. That is why earlier we see God referring to Judah as being treacherous (Jeremiah 3:11). God does not approve of hypocritical lip service or pretense. Even Jesus says, “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Those who have a true love for our Lord do not serve Him to gain anything from Him; however we do serve Him with love knowing who he is, and because of His wonderful gift of grace.

Jehovah’s call to Israel to return is for them to turn from their sin, and to Him. We are to worship God and Him alone. There can be no honor given to other gods, which are not gods, but demonic representations of men’s desires. “If you will return, O Israel, then return to Me” is the desire of God’s heart. This could be for their return to God’s land from which they have been carried away captive. There will be no return to the land unless they return to Him could be the meaning.

“Return unto me; with thy whole heart, and not feignedly and hypocritically, as Judah did, Jer_3:10. Some render the words (and the accents require they should be rendered so) “if thou wilt return to me, O Israel, saith the Lord, thou shalt return” (l); that is, to thine own land, being now in captivity; or, “thou shalt rest” (m); or “have rest”; so Kimchi interprets the last word; see Jer_30:10, and these words may very well be considered as the words of Christ, and as spoken by him, when he entered upon his ministry, who began it with calling the people of the Jews to repentance, and promising to give them rest; and all such who return to God by repentance, and come to Christ by faith, find spiritual rest for their souls now, and shall have an eternal rest hereafter, Mat_4:17,” FROM JOHN GILLS EXPOSITION OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE, e-Sword edition.

If you will put away these abominations, “Out of My sight” then you will not be moved from the promised place. God would speak to the prophet concerning the return of the people in seventy years (25:12; 29:10-14; Daniel 9:2). This time in captivity would be a time of chastisement, cleansing, and bring glory to the LORD. During this time the Babylonians and the Persians would mistreat the captives, and in this God would be glorified by His wrath and judgment upon the nations for thier evil doing on the people of Israel; both the Northern and Southern kingdoms.

If you will now, notice what happens when the people do return. It is first to be a speedy return, ie., when they realize that they are away from God, they are not to merely speak of returning, but quickly return, and not to the land, but to God, then they will go to the land, after the seventy years have been fulfilled. When they have returned to the LORD, then they will “swear, ‘The LORD LIVES’…” This “swear[ing]” is more than an oath. It seems to be a very full and genuine heart change, realizing the greatness of the LORD our God. Strong’s gives us this concerning the word, “Swear”:

    H7650 – sha^ba‛; shaw-bah’; A primitive root; properly to be complete, but used only as a denominative from H7651; to seven oneself, that is, swear (as if by repeating a declaration seven times): – adjure, charge (by an oath, with an oath), feed to the full [by mistake for H7646], take an oath, X straitly, (cause to, make to) swear.,/ul>

The people of Israel will truly see the living LORD, and they will see that He is truth, and He is righteous in all His ways and truly just. When the nations of the world see what God has done for the people of God they will rejoice in Him, and “In Him they shall glory”. They will boast only of the LORD, and His greatness, they will celebrate in His glory, they will shine for His name. John the Revelator wrote,

“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:22-27 (KJV).

“And the nations…” is the phrase we need to see in the previous verses. The nations of the world; those who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb; will gather in that new city, and will celebrate the glory of the Lord.
The word that is needed for our day of 2008 is “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” JESUS (Matthew 4:17). Will you find peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ or will you for all eternity be in the bath of flames which never go out?

-Tim A. Blankenship

    Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis

    The annual meeting of the SBC this year appears to be heading for a lot of excitement, and debate.  Excitement if you like those types of things.  There are six men who are “running” for the office of President of our Convention.  They may be good, evangelical, and Christian men, but how strong are they about our Baptist heritage, and doctrines of Scripture, concerning baptism.  I am going to let Ben Stratton give you the word on this matter.  There appears to be only one man who stands by the decisions of the International Missions Board concerning Baptism and private prayer languages.

    On June 10-11, 2008 the Southern Baptist Convention will meet in Indianapolis, Indiana and elect a new president. It is an unusual year as there are six men running for this office. They are Frank Cox, Wiley Drake, Johnny Hunt, Les Puryear, Bill Wagner, and Avery Willis. To help messengers to the annual meeting evaluate the candidates, Baptist Press recently asked each candidate eight questions. One of the questions read, “The IMB trustee guidelines governing baptism and private prayer language in appointing missionaries: Do you think their action was needed and appropriate?”. As our readers know in 2005 the SBC International Mission Board passed a guideline saying that potential missionaries can not have received alien immersion. It was very interesting to read the responses of the presidential candidates to the question about this guideline.

    Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia and one who many consider to be the front runner in the SBC presidential race said, “I am not sure that I fully understand all that the IMB trustee guidelines have said, however, if a person has received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and has been baptized by a minister who embraces the Gospel and the Scriptures as we do, their baptism should count in our churches. If James Dobson desired to become part of First Baptist Church Woodstock, I would not require him to be re-baptized.” Yet James Dobson is associated with the Evangelical Free denomination which recognizes infant baptism and sprinkling as valid baptism.

    Les Puryear, pastor of Lewisville Baptist Church in North Carolina and one who many consider to be the favorite of less conservative Southern Baptists said, “I do not agree with the implementation of these policies. The SBC as a whole has not stated a position on these doctrines, therefore I view these as non-essential doctrines and as such, should not be used as doctrinal policy for any SBC board or agency. This is not surprising as earlier this year Puryear said that theologically he was somewhere “between Baptist and Presbyterian”.

    Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia said, “The trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to see that the board’s objectives are being met in concert as to who we are as Southern Baptists. At any time issues arise that would be contrary or questionable to the doctrine and practice of Southern Baptists as stated through our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 or contrary to Holy Scripture, they must as trustees deal with these concerns. Therefore, I believe the trustees acted in line with their responsibility, and their action on the issues of baptism and private prayer language was appropriate in keeping with the doctrinal integrity as to who we are as Southern Baptists.”

     The office of the president of the Southern Baptist Convention is a very important position because of the political appointments he makes. In light of the above statements I believe that only Frank Cox will appoint conservative sound Southern Baptists to positions of leadership in the convention. Therefore I am endorsing Frank Cox for president of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention and I encourage all Southern Baptists going to Indianapolis to vote for him.

    By Ben Stratton

    For further reading on Frank Cox you may go to Frank Cox .  The sad thing about this is that I am unable to attend this meeting.  I pray God will have His way in the hearts of Christian Baptists as the meeting progresses for His glory.

    Heart Conditions

    Heart Conditions

    “Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3b-9 (KJV).

    “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23 (KJV).

    The theme of this parable and what Jesus desires His followers to see; and this is discovered by asking; is the condition of the hearts of mankind toward the Word of God. On the surface looking without much thought there appears to be four different types of souls or hearts; however upon further evaluation and study there is only two. Two different heart conditions. The ones who have no heart for God and His Word, and the ones who have a heart for God and His Word.

    We are seeing in these studies of Matthew that is Jesus’s day there was a rebellion against the King, and this continues. Jesus is teaching how these things are going to be. Jesus has had some followers who 1) outright rejected His Word – all through the ages; 2) those who followed for awhile, but when trials set in they ran away; 3) those who said they would believe, but soon discovered they had “more important matters to attend”; and 4) those who remained faithful, and fruitful.

    This is the second discourse in which Jesus names the Kingdom of heaven. The first one being in the Sermon on the Mount from chapters five through seven. and the term “Kingdom of heaven” is mainly mentioned in the Beatitudes, of verses 3-11 of chapter five, and the whole of the sermon dealing with the deportment of those who have been redeemed. The “kingdom of heaven” includes the Church, with both good and evil within it, and the true and the false. If you doubt that just look at the condition of the kingdom now.

    In this parable we find three different aspects of the story. The Sower, the Seed, and the Soil. The first is a person; the second a product; and the third a receiver. The Sower is the witness, the farmer, the broadcaster; the Seed is the Word of God being spread over the field of the world; the Soil is the hearts of men.

    We learn from this parable that in the kingdom of heaven there are those who will reject the message of God’s grace, and in fact are not even interested in it, because they see no need. There are others who seem to receive it, and appear to receive it with joy, but then, because of fear they fall away and never bear any fruit. There is another group who give the appearance of receiving it with joy, but are then led away by the draw of the world, pleasures, comfort, wealth, and just the simple cares of the earth bound, and they go their own way. The final soil condition is a condition which has been plowed, tilled, cared for has had plenty of water of the word, and bears much fruit. The ones who bear fruit are the genuine believers; “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2 (KJV) Every Christian will bear fruit. It will be a bountiful harvest. Fruitlessness is wickedness.

    Let’s look at these soils individually:

    First of all there is the soil of rejection (vv. 4, 19). Along side many of the fields of Jesus’s day there were paths which the people would walk. It was hard packed and was not receptive to seeds falling upon it. The path of man’s way is hard topped, and unreceptive to the Word of God. In the days of the Judges of the Old Testament we are told about three times, “There was no king in those days; every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 19:1; 21:25). This is the path that most people would like to walk. To be free of God, free of His Word, free of His witnesses and people, and when the Word of God is preached or sown it is snatched away by the devil and it has no affect on these peoples lives. Let us never think that these are beyond the reach or power of God to grab hold of their hearts and change them into His likeness and image. Let us never think they are unconvertible. God can do marvelous things.

    The second soil is one which makes profession but soon falls away (vv.5-6; 20-21). This seed has fallen on shallow soil. The plant breaks forth toward the light, and grows for a time, but then wilts away because of the heat of the sun. There are many who have professed Christ as their personal Lord and Savior earlier in life, but when persecution comes, their friends have rejected their “new lives”, or they just cannot stand the trials that come with the profession they soon fall away. So many of these will profess to be Christian, based solely on the experience they had at the altar. “I prayed the prayer. I said the words the preacher told me to say. It happened on a certain day at a certain time. Surely if I remember the day and time I said those words I’m alright with God”. Where is the fruit? Where is the changed life? Where is the evidence of your salvation? Once being eager to follow and serve. For awhile were interested in always being in worship services on Sunday morning, Sunday Night, Sunday School, Wednesday night services, but then falls away due to trials and bad circumstance.

    Many times this one happens as a result of shoddy evangelism techniques which are quick to give the Roman road, or other style of presentation of the gospel without telling them of the COST of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. “Oh, we don’t want to do that. We want converts.” Converts for whom you or for Christ? Your converts are going to fall away and many will have your assurances that no matter what they do, they have eternal life. Then, one day they are going to split hell wide open, and to the evangelist shame. Perseverance is a fruit of the true faith of Christ. True believers will not fall away. A false profession is deceptive and condemning. Remember that when you start telling that soul about Christ, but without telling them there is a COST involved, and that COST is “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Jesus).

    The third soil we see is the soil of divided loyalty (vv. 7, 22; James 1:7-8). This soil is under the weeds and thorns, the trash of the field, and is similar to the second, but this one apparently has soil. It is just a matter of its environment. Am I saying that environment makes a difference? Only if that growing seed stays in that environment. When we are talking about agriculture the seed which sprouts forth doesn’t have much choice in where it came up. In some ways this may be so of humanity as well, but as soon as the heart is changed for Christ they would seek the light, and to get out of the environment that would drag it down. The seed has no choice of whether it remains or not the human does. In the case of this type of heart condition it could be that the seed of the Word was received with false motives, such as, beliving that everything will be cushy, and the world will love me. Those things just are not true. This type of heart conditon is quickly sidelined by doing the things of the world, the flesh and the devil rather than the things of God. If there was ever any spiritual understanding it will be lost. Understand spiritual understanding is not equal to spiritual rebirth or godly regeneration. The heart of divided loyalty will be condemned. James tells us that “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8). They allow the material things of earth, friendships and popularity and power become their save all giving themselves to worldliness; “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15-17 (KJV). These find themselves choked off from the words of life and condemned.

    The final soil representing heart conditions is the soil of perseverance (vv. 8-9, 23). In content the soil is different. It is not hard, shallow, or shaded over with weeds or thorns. This is good soil and God will accomplish what He wills, where He will, and when He wills. The broadcaster or Sower is only responsible for sowing the seed. Who gives the seed? God gives the seed. Who prepares the soil or hearts of men? God does. How does God prepare the soils? By their dealings in life; their loves and losses. He prepares the hearts due to His grace, and because of the humility of the heart and life. When the heart is receptive to the seed of God’s Word, with depth for the root, there will be fruitfulness. There is also a distinct characteristic of the heart. Those who receive the Word brought forth fruit, some brought forth more fruit, and some brought forth much fruit. Understand this has nothing to do with competition. It is according to the heart condition, and God’s provision, and blessing.

    Just to note; this final soil is the only one called good ground. The fruitful ones are the ones who heard the Word of God and put it to work. These are the ones whose lives have been genuinely changed. Jesus Christ has made a difference in their lives, and they bear fruit. This is the kingdom of heaven.

    In conclusion, When a farmer broadcasts seed upon the soil he is not in full control of where that seed falls. The wind blows and that will change the location of the falling of the seed. The side to side motion of the hand and releasing of the seed will have it landing on the hard places, the shallow places, thorny places and the good places. As God’s people we are called to broadcast the seed of the Word of God. It is not up to us to decide who will hear, or who will not; who will receive the Word and who will not. That is the work of God’s Spirit. Part of the fruitfulness of the receptive soil is not only a changed, pure, contented, joyous, Spirit controlled life, but is also one of sowing the seed.

    -Tim A. Blankenship