LAWLESSNESS

Jack Woodard's Blog

rapture

TITLE: LAWLESSNESS
TEXT: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he…

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Christmas Day Two Hundred Twenty and Three

What do I want for Christmas?

I want to be a Holy Spirit filled  pastor, undershepherd in Christ Jesus to the people I preach to each Sunday at Shiloah Baptist Church, and minister to the people of Jenkins, Missouri; to lead them in the way of Scripture, God’s Son Jesus Christ, His cross, burial and resurrection.

And when they were come to him, he said unto them, ‘Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:18-21 (KJV)

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:28-30

DANGEROUS BUSINESS

Jack Woodard's Blog

Defile Temple

DANGEROUS BUSINESS
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”.
[1 Corinthians 3:16,17]

The local Church at Corinth was a troubled Church, about everything that shouldn’t be going on within a local Church was not only going on, but was having a destructive impact upon the Church.

In verses 16 & 17 the Apostle Paul gives a solemn warning to those individuals within the local Church that were literally destroying the Church; God would repay in like kind. If they destroy the Church, which is Holy unto the Lord, God would certainly destroy them in return.

This warning, this threat, this promise from the Lord has not been revoked and is still applicable to those within…

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The Preacher and His Preaching

I am thankful for the pastors/preachers who faithfully stand in their places of preaching and deliver the word of God to the people God has  placed in their charge.  Elijah felt he was all alone, that there was no one else who was faithful in all of Israel.  Man of God never feel that way.  You are not alone.

However, there are pastors who want to leave their people feeling good, encouraged, and entertained.  Most of the “feeling good” is about themselves; and the preacher neglects to preach for the glory  of the Lord, the correction of sin.  We must preach the word of the LORD.  There is nothing else to preach.

Jeremiah was evidently called as a young man, and from a family of priests.  When God came to him he was uncertain, calls himself a child, and unable to speak.  However, notice what GOD says to him…

“Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.’ But the LORD said unto me, ‘Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee,’ saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”  Jeremiah 1:6-10 (KJV)

The preacher must be faithful to preach the word.  Rightly divide or interpret the word, and according to the whole of the word of God.  No verse of Scripture stands alone; it must me interpreted in the light of all other Scripture.  We cannot interpret Scripture according culture; culture must be understood and interpreted by Scripture.  When culture, society, government, human law, or science contradict Scripture; Scripture is right and true.  If the preacher does not believe that or practice that then repent, or get out of the pulpit, and quit deceiving the people with your lies.

The prophet/preacher is a messenger of God.  Called by God we must speak what God says.  We must preach it without fear or favor of men or women.  We must preach it if it means our lives, our homes, friends, our employment or acceptance of other people.

The main message of the Word of God is the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Christ died for ours sins, was buried, and He bodily arose from the grave three days later.  He took the wrath of sin that was deserved by us, suffered the judgment of our sin from His Father, becoming sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.  The Righteous Son of God was made unrighteous; that the unrighteous might be made Righteous.  In His resurrection Jesus overcame the power of sin, death (which is the penalty for sin) and hell (eternal condemnation).  When you preach Jesus and the cross, the burial and bodily resurrection you preach the word of God.

Where is the prophet to preach?  Where ever God opens the door of opportunity.  If that means a church with small number of people to the sidewalk in front of the White House, or the steps of the United Nations building on the U.S. Supreme Court; or front of an idol in a foreign land.  God gives the words when the man of God is faithful to His Word.  Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

In the Days of Itching Ears

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”  2 Timothy 4:1-5 (KJV)

With the apostle Paul believing that his life and ministry was nearing an end he leaves a challenge with the young Timothy.  That challenge is “Preach the word…” and with it the purpose of preaching is given.  The preacher is to be ready to preach at a moments notice.  The culture and society we live in today needs the preacher to be ready.  It is fast moving.  Quickly moving toward disaster.

Paul speaks of a time when there will be teachers which will preach and teach things that will tickle the itching ears of those who do not want to hear the truth.  We are living in such a time.  People are willing to believe the fables of the time; but reject the truth, even to the point of hatred toward one God, who has a Son who died for the sinners of the world.

“Reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering (Patience) and doctrine”.  Confronting sin in God’s people, rebuking it and then teaching the people how to live for the Lord.  That is so needed in the lives of Christians today.

-T.A.

From a Facebook Friend

The following was posted on Facebook by a brother preacher,

H-E-L-L FIRE and D-A-M-N-A-T-I-O-N PREACHERS

Someone asked me yesterday;”Why are all of you Baptist Preachers H-E-L-L FIRE and D-A-M-N-A-T-I-O-N Preachers?”

Well, I didn’t know that there were that many that still were doing so, but for those of us that do, we do it for the same reason our cities have Tornado Sirens, we do it for the same reason that the Railroad puts Gates and Bells at its busiest and most dangerous crossings, we do it for the same reason that cities put up Signal Lights at their Intersections. We all do what we do to warn everyone that there is real danger approaching and that appropriate action needs to be taken in time to avoid sure disaster.
My friend, the Authoritative, Infallible Word of God tells all of us that all who are without Christ Jesus are:
1. Guilty Sinners – [Romans 3:23]
2. Condemned Sinners – [John 3:18; Romans 6:23a]
3. Loved Sinners – [John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 2Peter 3:9]
4. Wooed Sinners – [Matthew 28:19;Romans 10:14; 2Corinthians 5:20]
All Preacher’s and Christian’s are called of the Lord to woo and warn the Christ-less Sinner to come to Christ alone for salvation before it is too late and you go out into eternity to spend it in a Devil’s H-E-L-L, that is why we preach H-E-L-L- Fire and D-A-M-N-A-T-I-O-N, to warn you to flee from the wrath to come.

Would the same people who wished we would stop preaching H-e-l-l and D-a-m-n-a-t-i-o-n want their cities to pull down their Signal Lights, would they want the Railroad to remove their gates and bells at the dangerous crossings, would they want their cities to turn off all of the Tornado Sirens during the Tornado Season? I believe the answer is obvious, of course they would not. Yet H-E-L-L is a more CERTAIN and AWFUL reality than those possible events just mentioned. We dare not cease to warn the sinner. Preacher; PREACH IT, that is your calling, not to be popular or even liked, but to be Faithful.
~Jack Woodard

Thank you Brother Jack for preaching God’s Word. Jack also has a blog that would be a blessing to you.

-posted by Tim A. Blankenship

Day 84 – Instructions To a Young Preacher

The title does not mean that I am giving instructions to young preachers.  God knows I still need instruction.  There are many young pastors and preachers who are better instructed, than myself, and do so much better a job than myself, and some other older pastors I know.

Paul, in giving instructions to Timothy instructs all who will hear God’s call and follow Him.  My reading today was in the first two Pastoral Epistles – First and Second Timothy.  They are “Instructions To a Young Preacher” that we all need to hear and heed.  There is much sorrow on my mind and life for the many things I have not done according to these instructions.

First we can see that Timothy must have been struggling a bit with timidity and fear.  We hear Paul say to him,

“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God…” 2 Timothy 1:6-8 (KJV)

As you can see this is addressed in the second epistle.  It was probably a problem with Timothy from the first, though it could have also have became a problem following some time in ministry.  Timothy needed encouragement from his teacher, the apostle Paul; and Paul was giving it.

In these letters the apostle addresses several issues; prayer, leadership, and praying for those in authority.  He addresses the matter of women teaching men.  Because of the cultural prostitution, there is even instruction for women concerning the way they dress.  Do not dress like prostitutes.  Which, still needs to be heard.   It is a matter of creation  order, not equality that we should realize.  It was not a cultural issue it is a life issue for every culture.   The apostle Paul addresses the qualifications of pastors and deacons.  Who can fully measure up to these, but by the grace of God?

The apostle reveals Jesus Christ as “the man” in Heaven,

“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 2:5-6

The young pastor is also instructed to “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22).  The young pastor, preacher; and the old pastor/preacher needs to heed this cautions.  Youthful lust is not the only problem.  Old men can lust too.  There have been far too many pastors and preachers, young and old who have fallen to the seductive calling of applause, approval, and power.

There is much in these two letters for us to read, to hear and to heed.  Let me leave you with these last verses,

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”  2 Timothy 4:1-2

It is needed by the world of 2012 just as much; if not more than in the first century A.D.  Let us all be faithful to preaching the inerrant, infallible, verbally inspired Word of God.

-Tim A. Blankenship

What the Preacher Says

There are some who have much to say but say little biblically.  There are some who build up the hearts of men with their words, but build not up the heart of God with His Word.  Then, there are those who are like Jeremiah who heard the LORD speak,

“Say not, I am a child:  for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.”  Jeremiah 1:7

Consider this before you enter the sacred desk next time.

What does the preacher have to say?  Only the Word of God; nothing else.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Observations From Judges – 041111

The book of Judges is about the grace of God toward Israel.  They have come into the Promised Land which was given them by GOD, with instructions and laws to follow and to be obedient.  As long as they obey God’s commandments they will be prosperous and own the land, but they begin to practice worshipping other god’s; the gods of the surrounding people, whom they are supposed to drive out and destroy.  This is part of their disobedience.

GOD is longsuffering and merciful.  We find these words in chapter six,

“And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, that the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, ‘Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed My voice.'”  Judges 6:7-10 (KJV)

One thing we can observe in Judges and throughout the whole of the Old Testament is that God sends His prophets before He sends judgment.  The prophet Amos spoke by the leadership of God’s Spirit saying,

“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”  Amos 3:7

We can rest assured that before God does anything He sends His preachers to warn and instruct of what is going to come.  For Israel in that day it was “fear not the gods of the Amorites…” but they did not obey.  The people had cried out to the LORD, and He sent a prophet.

Not only that the LORD Himself came down as we read in verses 11-23.

The Lord Himself has came down, in the person of His only Son, given His life on the cross, was raised from death, hell and the grave; and by Him we have eternal life.

Believe Him and live.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Trust Not In Lying Words…

In an economy which has lost many people millions of dollars for people involved in Wall Street, the stock market, investing, and housing you would think people would learn where to place their trust, but not yet; I guess. Trusting politicians; whether they be President, Congressman or woman, Senator, or dog catcher we need to constantly keep in mind that all things on this earth, of this earth are temporal or temporary; and do not endure forever.

The people of the prophet’s day were believing that the temple of Jerusalem would endure forever. Had they forgotten that it was made of earthly materials just as their own homes were made or were they vainly trusting the promises of God (Understand I mean their trust is vain; not that God’s promises are vain). In the prophet’s day the people would vainly worship God on the Sabbath day; then forget Him the other six days of the week.

The people of Judah would live for themselves. They would do their business and take advantage of the poor, the widows and orphans; and anyone else there was to take advantage of. During times of tragedy the merchants would increase prices on needed goods; and think they were doing God a service. They cheated people with weights and measures, and chalked it up to and would say, “It’s just business”. Their hearts were far away from God, godliness, and thinking Biblically. They thought rather of “business”, and making more and more.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us:

“Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these.” Jeremiah 7:4 (KJV)

The prophet called by God, the door of the Temple, proclaimed to the people to “Amend your ways…” because they were going about their personal and business affairs as though they could get by with their evil deeds because God had promised that their kingdom, and the temple would be forever. Afterall they were the recipients of the word of God, the law of God, the ordinances of God; they need not worry about devotion to God or anything like that.

Lies, lies, and more lies is what the “gainsayers” were saying. “Gainsayers” could be those who are all for profit at the expense of godliness, Biblical living, and righteousness. They are out to make a profit at the expense of the public they supposedly serve. These false prophets are in the business for a profit, and to make as much profit as they possibly can, and to take advantage during times of trouble.

The prophet is calling for Judah to repent of neglecting godliness, repent of their listening to the lying words of the prophets for profit who would tell the people something like, “O, the temple will stand forever. Don’t worry about godliness, righteousness. We are sure and secure in the temple.” Lies, lies and more lies, and the people were perishing, headed for a captivity that would last for 70 years, and destroy the city of Jerusalem, and the temple.

Professing Christians, and deceived-sidetracked Christians of 2009, especially here in the USA can be found trusting in what we call capitalism. Capitalism is about profit; and the businesses of our country are in business to make a profit. There is nothing wrong with making profit; except when it begins to hurt others. When a profit making business does not pass its profits to its employees through bonuses, raises in wages, etc; or when they begin to raise their prices to make it hard or impossible for the poor, widow, orphan or lower wage earner to have a needed product they have become ungodly, and even greedy. Greed is not good. It may be American, but I personally want no part of greed.

Greed is officially taking trust away from God, His Word, and His ordinances, and putting trust in the power [seeming power] of wealth. Just as the people of Jeremiah’s day were trusting in the temple, because of the promise of God, they had made His promises vain by neglecting the right and godly things; trusting in the lies of the lying prophets. They did not amend their ways and ended up in captivity.

If the USA, and especially Christians, fail to amend her ways we too shall fall. We have received warning. We have fallen in status of world leadership to a small extent; but that will become greater. We are in captivity of sorts. Many are in captivity to debt.

The proper place to put our trust is in the Lord our God, the one who died for our sins on the cross of calvary, was buried, and rose again from the grave. He is coming again. Put your trust in Him. “Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. He is your RIGHTFUL TRUST.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Precious Word Of God

The Word of God is precious and dear to every  Christian’s heart.  When Paul the apostle was telling people of Jesus Christ all the Scriptures he had was the Old Testament.  That is the Word of God he used in his preaching Jesus.

In Acts 28:23 we find these words, “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening”.  Why is it that there are many preachers and even Christian groups who completely avoid the Old Testament when in the New Testament we have evidence that those words was the only Word of God available to the apostles?

When you see them as messages concerning Jesus they become precious and give better understanding to the New Testament.  Get into all of God’s Word.  The Old and New Testaments is all God has given us today.  Even Jesus, after He arose from death, mentions the law and the prophets.  Check out Luke 24.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Grace At Work

Ephesians 4:7-16

PURPOSE:  To teach that those who are in the one Body [the Church] are recipients of grace, demonstrated and shown through ministry gifts, also of grace, for the purpose of bringing the total Body to the maturity of Jesus Christ.

Grace does not stop with our initial repentance, faith, and confession of Christ.  Grace continues with every breath we breathe; every step we take; every morning we rise from our beds.  Grace is the continuing work of God in the Christians life.

The following are some works of grace which God has bestowed upon us.

THE WORK OF GOD WHICH DELIVERED US FROM THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN AND DEATH (v. 7).  Grace is the means by which we are delivered from the condemnation of sin and its death.  It is provided for us through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is only the propitiation or appeasement; God judging our sin [all sin] by placing it on the sinless, guiltless Jesus Christ.  Grace continues and becomes efficacious [effective] when we respond  to His grace by faith in Him.  That same grace provides not only salvation, but also gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit as He sees fit, for living by grace in His power.

“But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” 1 Corinthians 12:11 (KJV)

Just as every individual who is born again, by faith in Jesus, is in the one Body, so too, has everyone received a grace-gift(s) in which to serve the Body.  There is no one who is in Christ who is not also gifted to live for and serve Him.

All this is the “gift of Christ”.  We are brought into one Body by Christ; we are gifted by Him to serve in the Body as He [the Head] directs and leads by the person of the Holy Spirit.

THE WORK OF GOD ON THE CROSS WHICH DELIVERED US FROM CAPTIVITY (vv. 8-10).  Because of the cross on which Jesus bled and died God the Father was and is able to deliver us from the captivity of sin.  His resurrection gave us victory over hell and death.

If you watch  people; as I have a tendency to do; you will see many enslaved by sin.  Illegal and legal drugs, like cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, prescription drugs, etc., and you know what I mean.  You see some captive by other things in their lives.  Men and women, married and unmarried, are enslaved to their lustful desires; whether those desires are greed for wealth, or sex; makes little difference; they are none the less enslaved.  Some are enslaved to their comforts and entertainments.

When Jesus arose from the grave He led those who were Old Testament  saints out of captivity.  I believe this is vividly illustrated in Matthew 27:51-53:

“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

He then placed into captivity everything that places man in bondage – sin, hell, death, and Satan.

By ascending into heaven He opened the avenue for the Holy Spirit; in fact sent the Holy Spirit; to come and dwell within all who trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  The Holy Spirit would not have come to abide in all who know Jesus except He [Jesus] ascended into heaven first.  By ascending He not only gave us the person of the Spirit, but He also gifted us; gave us tools for ministry, and the Holy Spirit is the power of the gifts.

His descension is His incarnation [Jesus coming as God in flesh].  Because of His death, burial and resurrection His mortal body was changed into an immortal body.  The Scriptures  declare that there is a man (in bodily form) in heaven:

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”  1 Timothy 2:5 (KJV)

Because of and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.  It is being made more and more into the image of Christ in heaven, in every individual who abides in His Body  on earth.  This by no means implies that individual’s in His Church are sinless, but contrary to that, His working in us shows that we are needy of Him.

Jesus’s desire, His heart is to be the FULNESS of everyone who will come to Him.

THE WORK OF GOD IN THE GIFTS WHICH HE GIVES US; CONTINUING THE WORK (vv. 11-12).  God desires, and Jesus desires to continually be at work in us; fulfilling His will and glory.  The reason for the gifts of the Spirit is His grace.

The gifts listed are not natural talents, but special gifts of the Spirit for glorifying Jesus in the ministry.  The apostles and prophets are the one’s upon whom the church is built (2:20).  There is no such thing as “apostolic succession”.  At least not in the sense of the Roman Catholic religion.  Apostles are not declared or made by a local congregation, but they are called out individually by God for the purpose of going to an unchurched, unevangelized area, and doing the ground work; preaching the word and the gospel of Christ to establish a local congregation.  In the truest New Testament sense an apostle today could be a missionary.  There can be no more apostles because the foundation has already been laid; there are no more eye witnesses of Jesus Christ risen from the grave; there are no more disciples who personally walked with Jesus in the land where He walked.  Missionaries do the work that the original apostles did in going about, preaching the gospel to people groups who have not heard, and showing them the love of Jesus Christ.

The prophets were preachers who were gifted with a special understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures, and given the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit for the New Testament Church and Scriptures.  They were and are those whom are sensitive about sin and its destruction in human life.  They have a heart for hearing God and His Word.  The Church is built on the apostles and prophets.  The prophet today would probably be better known as  “Preacher”.  This is still how local churches begin.  The local church is where the gifts and power of the Spirit are demonstrated.  The Body of Christ is manifest in the local church.

Evangelists are gifted by God to seek out the lost and are particularly gifted at presenting  the gospel of Jesus Christ in a clear and understandable way.  They are also gifted to teach others how to be soul-winners.

Where the previous three are itinerant [traveling] messengers the pastor/teacher is one who sticks around awhile.  He loves the people as his own family.  He preaches the Word of God to them and teaches them how to apply  the Word to their lives.  He is one who is really more concerned about their spiritual walk, spiritual growth than numerical growth.  The pastor will leave the numerical growth up to the Lord.  The pastor simply sows the seed of the Word and the gospel and leaves the increase up to the Holy Spirit.  He teaches by word and example.

In verse twelve we see a twofold purpose for these spiritual gifts;

1. The perfecting of the saints to do the work of the ministry;
2. Edifying the Body of Christ.

Number one, the ministry of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor/teacher is to equip the believers to do the work of the ministry.  These four are the equipping/leadership gifts of the Spirit.  There are other gifts listed in Romans 12:3-8;  1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31; and here in Ephesians 4:11.  Each of these gifts of the Spirit are needed in the local church to for the people to grow and be healthy and powerful for the glory of Jesus Christ.  Number two, the equipped Body will be operating in the unity of the Spirit and truly “building up” the Body of Christ.  When everyone “in Christ” recognize their place of service, then, the Church has been built up and is honoring and pleasing to Jesus.

THE WORK OF GOD AND THE FRUIT OF THAT WORK (vv. 13-16).  When the Body of Christ is being equipped and built up there are four evidences of spiritual growth.

  1. We become more Christlike caring for the needs of others, experiencing others hurts and sorrows.  We grow in knowledge of Him and His Word and work of His Spirit.  We reach a place of maturity where we are not offended by truth; or the color of the carpet.  This lever of maturity is still seeking the fullness of Christ.
  2. We begin developing a stability of faith.  We begin to understand truth and are not tossed around by false doctrines and teachings.  We are learning to test all teachings by the Word of God.
  3. We have a love for truth, coupled with a lover for people, the lost, and even backsliden  When others are confronted with the truth love will not permit us to condemn, but we will admonish them by pointing to their real need; realizing from whence we have come.
  4. We realize that there must be a unified work.  We have purpose through cooperation.  By joining our hands, prayers, finances, families, ministries, and our hearts we are in cooperation with one another and ‘building up’ the Church.  That means we would be the most powerful force on earth; through Jesus Christ.

When you have grace working in you  through  Jesus Christ you will be the better for it, and the world will benefit from it.  Grace works everyday in the lives of those who follow Jesus Christ.  Let each of us submit to the work of grace and the Spirit of God every day.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Abundant Family of God

Ephesians 3:14-21

It has been the will and the plan of God to bring all people into one body, but according to God’s good will; not man’s.  It seems that man has endeavored to come together as one more than once; the first time being at Babel; and look what happened.

God is holy, and all people cannot come to Him in their own merit due to sin.  God loves humanity, and is the offended Deity to whom a price must be paid, and that price is death; the death of every sinner.  Just as sin entered the world and the human race by one man [Adam] so too, by only one man can sin’s debt be paid, and that debt, which was owed to God, has been paid by the death of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12-21).

In verses 1-13 of Ephesians 3 Paul has given explanation how that God has displayed His love and grace by the cross of Jesus and has opened the way for the Gentiles (all who are not Jewish).

NAMED FOR THE FATHER OF THE FAMILY (vv. 14-15).  In the first two chapters and the first thirteen verses of this chapter the apostle has dealt with the “mystery of the gospel”, by which the Jew and the Gentile become one through Jesus Christ.  We understand through the previous thirteen verses of this chapter that it has always been God’s plan to bring Jew and Gentile together into one body.  God is sovereign and works all things for his purpose, will and glory.

God the Father is the source of “Fatherhood”.  This is not a verse supporting the heresy of the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man”.  God is only the Father of all who have trusted Him through faith in Jesus Christ and the finished work of Christ – His death on the cross, His burial, and His bodily resurrection.  The “whole family in heaven and earth” can only refer to the “saints” both living and dead [bodies sleeping awaiting their day of resurrection].  We are of the family of God, because God in His grace has made it so; without our aid or efforts.

We are of the “Household of faith”, with the name given us by our Father.

BEING FILLED WITH ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD (vv. 16-19).  When the lost man or woman comes to Jesus Christ they receive all of Jesus Christ that they will ever receive.  We are however, at times, very inept in practicing all the fulness of God we have been given.

God said through Zechariah the prophet;

“This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  Zechariah 4:6 (KJV)

The Spirit of God is the person and source of our Fulness of God.  He is the catalyst of our fulness.  In this prayer Paul is asking these things from God for the Ephesians and us, “according to the riches of His glory…”

1.  “To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man”;
2.  “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith”;
3.  “being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height…”;
4.  “to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge…”

It seems by the presence of these that would be having the fulness of God which Paul speaks of.

THE ABUNDANCE OF GOD’S POWER WORKING IN US (v. 20).  It seems as I am studying this I seem a bit unable to describe what this is dealing with.  God’s grace for salvation is more abundant than I can begin to imagine, and His grace for living is just as abundant, and when God says, that He will complete what He began (Philippians 1:6); that is part of that abundance.

God is far more able to do “Exceeding abundantly”, “far more abundantly”, “above and beyond” “all that we ask or think”, that we ought to know that anything God says we can rely on.

All of this accomplished “…according to the power that worketh in us…”.  The power working in us is limited, it seems, only by our faith at work.  Maybe I should say, “Limited only by our faith not working”.  If we are truly walking with God, in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit; then there is nothing that should stand in our way of fulfilling God’s will in our lives; and seeing God’s will accomplished in the lives of others.

We cannot muster up the power in ourselves.  It is through the Spirit of God in the child of God walking by faith in Jesus Christ.

THE CHURCH GIVING GLORY TO THE FATHER FOREVER (v. 21).  The purpose of all creation is to give glory to God, to praise and adore Him.

When sin has wrecked and mauled and destroyed a sinners life God gets no pleasure from his death (Ezekiel 18:32).  When that soul has been saved, set free from sin by God’s free gift of grace God glories in that child’s physical death (Psalm 116:15).  Why deos Scripture tell us this?  Because, it is God who has worked in that saved soul’s life to bring him to Himself.  It is God who works in you (Philippians 2:13) as a child of God to bring you to His glory.

Now, having siad that, it leads us to the Church.  The Church is the Bride of Jesus Christ.  He being “the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).  What glory it brings to God when finally the Church is brought as one into the eternal presence of God.  The Spirit habitating in the life center of every believer is the means  by which we glorify God.  The Holy Spirit is the power of the Church which brings every born again soul to God.  He is glorified because He sees the Church completed already seated with Jesus in heavenly places.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Divine Architect

Ephesians 2:18-22

The chapter begins by the apostles reminder that we were “dead in trespasses and sins”, and gives us good reason for believing it so.  Even more does he remind us that we have been “quickened” or “made alive”, and delivered from the old course we were once walking.

We are also told of God’s rich, marvelous, wonderful and glorious grace and mercy due to His great love for us.  That we have been raised up with Christ to sit with Him in “heavenly places” (v. 6).  Then in verses 8-10 the good and  faithful words, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:8-10 (KJV).  It does not seem right, nor Biblical, nor even teaching if we do not include verse 10 in there with verses 8 and 9.

The Gentiles of Ephesus, and you and I who are not Jewish, are reminded that we were not or are not of the “common wealth of Israel”; we did not receive the oracles, the Word of God, nor have we ever had the presence of God previous to the birth of the Church.  We were once strangers, separated from any hope, but God sent His Son.  It was like a wall of separation, that now, “through the blood of Christ” are made near, and brought into the Family of God.

THE WALL IS TORN DOWN BY THE DEATH OF JESUS ON THE CROSS (vv. 18-19).  God raised up a nation of people who would follow Him, and be a light to other nations ( ).  The nation of Israel has not been faithful to the LORD’s calling, and were not an obedient people.  However, the LORD still used them to give us His Word; both the written oracles, and the Living Oracle [Jesus Christ].

It was and is the  will of God to bring together in the one body of Christ people from all nations, races, cultures.  With the people of Israel, through the call of Abraham from Ur, to go to a land he knew not of, with Sarah his wife, and to a land yet inhabited, but promised to his people in a future day; God promised to make of him a blessed nation.  God promised to him, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3); and we have with the oracles [Scriptures] which have been written for us. The Law, History, Poetry [Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations], and the Prophets (Major and Minor).

Where all seemed to be specifically for the Jew; now through the cross of Jesus Christ, there is access for all.  When Jesus died on the cross, the veil which separated the holy place in the Temple from the most Holy place was torn from top to bottom; signifying to us that the way was made by God Himself, into the very presence of the throne of God.

Those who come to God through Jesus (which is the exclusive way) become the “…Household of God”.  No longer strangers, no longer aliens, but brothers and sisters, with one Father.

THE DIVINE ARCHITECT’S FOUNDATION AND CORNERSTONE (v. 20).  Before there is a building there must of necessity be a foundation and a cornerstone.  Jesus Christ is that cornerstone.  It is the cornerstone which determines the size, the shape of buildings made of stone.

Hear what God says of this cornerstone:

“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” (Psalm 118:22)

“Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation…” (Isaiah 28:16)

“For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11)

Actually before there was the “foundation of the apostles and prophets”, there was the cornerstone which is the beginning of the foundation.  The “Apostles and prophets” have spoken, and written the words of God for us to hear and read, applying them to life and heart that we through the power of the Holy Spirit, believing would be living stones, added to the “building” of this “household of God”.  Since the “Apostles and prophets” are the foundation, and this is dealing with Scriptures, then, there can be no more apostles and prophets.  They have already spoken and written what God has given us.  Let’s be more diligent by His Spirit to obey what we have received; instead of searching for something new which will most likely be deceptive, and seek to lead astray.

Hear what the apostle Peter has written:

“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” 1 Peter 2:4-8 (KJV)

According to Peter’s inspired words we are, through faith in Jesus Christ, “living [lively] stones, are built up a spiritual house”.  That house is the “household of God”.  It can be called the “Family of God”.

THE DIVINE ARCHITECT FITS ALL WHO BELIEVE INTO THE “BUILDING” AS HE SEES FIT (v. 21).  It is only the Divine Architect who can “organize compactly” all those who are called to fit in just right for His glory.  A stone building designed correctly will have each stone in its proper place, fitting every niche, so that it will sit well with the one below it, beside it and over it.

Think of it this way.  Each part of this “household of God” is placed into this household in its proper time, proper place, and proper service.  It is Jesus Christ who determines this.  It is He who shapes and molds us for that fit that He needs, at that time He places us into His household.

WE HAVE BEEN DESIGNED TO BE THE PLACE OF GOD’S DWELLING ON EARTH (v. 22).  Everyone who is born again is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Together all born again believers are the Temple of God, giving Him even greater glory.

It is a sin against Him when we refuse to join together.  It shames His glory when we have the opportunity of gathering with brothers and sisters, and refuse to because of some carnal mindset, such as hurt feelings, something is not quite the way you like, envy,  jealousy, etc..  What shame.  Glorify God in your body and your bodily presence with the other saints in Christ gathered together for His glory.

Together we are strengthened.  Together we are encouraged.  Together we are empowered to resist sinful desire and temptation.  Together we can assault the gates of hell.  Together we can pray with authority and power.  Together we are the Body of Christ.

You are the place of God’s dwelling.  Let others rejoice with you by joining with other dwellings of God, becoming one with Him.  God does not have any “Only child”.

-Tim A. Blankenship

For The Praise Of His Glory

Ephesians 1:6-14

Three times in verses 6 – 14 we find the phrase, “to the praise of his glory…” and dealing especially with His grace.  First is it is written, “To the praise of the glory of his grace…” (v. 6), then we find; “…we should be to the praise of his glory…” (v. 12); and lastly; “…unto the praise of his glory.” (v. 14).  It should not come as a great surprise to the Christian that we are for the purpose of His glory.

Knowing this should thrill our hearts and souls.  To know that we are for the purpose of His glory ought to cause us, by the power of His Spirit within, to live lives that are scented with the fragrances of heaven.

THE PURPOSE OF OUR CALLING (v. 6; Romans 3:23).  Before there was Jesus Christ on earth as man we were in condemnation.  We were walking in ourselves, self-willed, without self-control, rebellious, and enemies of God.  That’s right!  I said, “Enemies of God” (James 4:4).  That was my estate before Christ, and the estate of everyone before they have faith in Him.

God’s purpose in calling us to Himself is for His glory, and to redeem a people unto Himself.  He loves us, and sent His Son Jesus to be the propitiation – the recipient of God’s wrath in our behalf.  By this one glorious event we now have fellowship, restored likeness with God our Creator.  We are accepted in His sight.  That our lives might be for the purpose of His glory, and the magnification of His grace.

BE THANKFUL FOR YOUR REDEMPTION THAT IS BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS (v. 7).  It is only through the blood of Jesus that we have redemption (1 Peter 1:18-19).  Because of sin the law requires death.  The blood is life for the sacrifice of sin (Leviticus 17:11).

By the shedding of blood God is just in forgiving our sins (Hebrews 9:22).

Slaves were bought and sold by millions in Rome of Paul’s day.  We were slaves of sin.  Jesus purchased us from sin’s bondage, by the shedding of His own blood, and set us free.

This price was not paid because you and I deserve it, but because of the riches of His grace.

THE GRACE AND THE INHERITANCE PROVIDED US THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS (vv. 8-12).  This grace of God is far more abundant than we can ever imagine.  He has over supplied it – (grace abounded) fully supplied – for us in making known to us “the mystery of His will”.  Mystery sometimes excites us.  By something being a mystery does not mean something spooky, eerie, or of which to fear.  Mystery causes mankind to be curious.  The mystery of His will was not fully revealed until Jesus came, died on the cross, was buried carrying the guilt, shame, and condemnation of sin away, was risen, and ascended into the clouds; and through the apostles; including Paul.  It is still mysterious how that God could become man, bleed, die, then rise again bodily from the grave.  Some things God reveals, we must trust rather than understand.

By coming to the Lord Jesus we are place into God’s “Inner circle” and He reveals, to those who are His, His will concerning reconciliation of men to God, man to man, man to creation, Jew to Gentile, and earth to Heaven.

For verse eleven it has been translated to read, “In Him we were also made His inheritance…” (HCSB).  There is no real problem with that since we are told in the Psalms, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”  Psalms 2:8 (KJV).  We Gentiles who are in Christ are His possession, and inheritance in Him.  We have also received our inheritance in Him.  In the gospel of John Jesus mentions, at least six times, “…Those whom You have given Me” (John 17).

For the second time the apostle uses the term predestination.  As God’s children He has completed the work or plan for our lives in His Son Jesus Christ.  He has a predetermined purpose for our lives and brings them about, “after the counsel of His own will”.  We must remember that God does not have one plan for when everything goes well in our lives; and another for when things don’t go so well.  He only has one plan for Christians, and that is a completed salvation.  As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…”  Philippians 1:6 (KJV).  His plan will not fail.

These verses end with doxology.  Words of praise and adoration.  A life lived in praise and adoration of His is what He desires.  This is a great part of our inheritance – to praise, adore, magnify, and glorify our Lord.  By the Holy Spirit within we are equipped to live such a life.

“Who first trusted in Christ” is most likely a reference to the Jews who began the first church of Jerusalem.  No matter to whom it may refer; it is the calling of all followers, believers of Jesus Christ, “To be to the praise of His glory”.

THE SEALING OF THE SPIRIT AND THE EARNEST UNTIL OUR REDEMPTION (vv. 13-14).  Paul has written “…To the Jew first…” meaning that to them the gospel came first of all.  Jews were the first to hear and first to believe; though the numbers were very few.  Now the gospel has come to Ephesus – Gentiles.  This same Jesus of whom a few Jews had trusted was also the One in whom the Ephesians were trusting.

How did this transpire?

1. They heard the gospel which was preached unto them;
2. They believed the gospel – that is they put it to work in their lives;
3. They were then “sealed” or baptized into Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

* Water had nothing to do with this “sealing” nor the “baptism” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

This “sealing” is one that speaks of and guarantees several things.  First, it is a promise, from God, of a finished transaction.  The full price of sin was paid.  When we believe on Christ and His finished work we become Christ’s inheritance and He becomes ours.  It is as good as done.

Secondly, this seal implies ownership.  We are marked by God, bearing His mark on us throughout the rest of our lives and into eternity.  “For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).  He is our owner.  We have no rights of our own.  We are branded/marked by the cross of Jesus Christ.

In the third place, the seal means security and protection.  There is nothing you or I can do to break off this seal.  It is eternal.  We are protected and secured from Satan, and all his forces, as well as protected from ourselves.

Fourthly, the seal is one of authenticity.  It takes more than a profession of the lips, religious activity, good works, etc..  If there is no witness of the Holy Spirit in the professor’s life, that is where Christ is not (Romans 8:9).  “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  The Holy Spirit is the mark of an authentic Christian.

Finally, the seal can be an engagement ring.  The promise of a full and meaningful relationship, in the Christian example, for all eternity.

The Holy Spirit is the guarantee from God to the Christian that God will come and redeem the body of the man as well as his soul.

From verse three through verse fourteen there has been three doxologies.  The first speaks of the Father.  Why has He chosen, adopted and  accepted us?  “To the praise of the glory of His grace” (v. 6).  The second speaks of the Son.  Why has the Son redeemed us, forgiven us, and revealed God’s will to us and blessed us with His inheritance?  “To the praise of His glory” (v. 12).  The third speaks of the Holy Spirit.  Why has God the Spirit sealed us and become the guarantee of future hope and blessing?  “unto the praise of His glory” (v. 14).

In conclusion God has blessed us with “all spiritual blessings… in Christ Jesus”.  The gifts and riches of Christ are far beyond what we deserve.  Yet, they are ours when we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

All of heaven is yours and mine in Christ.  Jesus died, shed his blood, that you might be renewed to the place God intended you to be.  Believe Jesus.  Trust His Word, and you shall be saved eternally.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Confronting The Culture

Confronting The Culture
Acts 17:15-34

The apostle Paul has been to Thessalonica, and forced to leave there due to those who were trying to kill him, basically the Jewish people, as he taught them in their synagogue.  He then goes to Berea, and the Jews of Berea are much more “noble” because they search the Scriptures to see if what Paul is teachiing them is true.  In Berea, though, Jews from Thessalonica come to bring ill to Paul, and the message of the Gospel.

The apostle is then forced to leave Berea, sent to Athens, and there he discovers a mission field ripe for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

THE CITY OF ATHENS IS WHOLLY GIVEN TO IDOLATRY (vv. 15-16).  The world in which Christians live today is much like Athens of Paul’s day.  The United States itself, is made up of many religions.  Though it was originally built upon Judeo/Christian principles taken from the Bible there are many parts of the culture who want nothing to do with Christ, Christianity, and some do not even want God in the picture of their lives, or this country.

We have already had prayer removed from our Public Schools, and in order for “unity” which is basically “uniformity” we must not pray in public meetings, as Christians, in the name of “Jesus” any longer; we might offend someone.  It is best in those situations not to mention the cross or resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However, it is okay for the muslim to pray and use the name of Allah, the moon god, one name of many gods which Mohammed originally worshipped.  It is okay for the Buddhist to mention Buddha, and all the religions can mention their deity.

Idolatry permeates our land.  It begins with the god of Greed.  Greed rules through the hearts of men and women of all ages, and in business galore.  If more wealth is all that is in your heart and life, then you are certainly full of the god “Greed”.  He controls your thoughts, your heart to the point that your family is neglected, and most of all, God is out of the picture.  For some Science is the answer to all our ills, and the drive of some to conquer space and inner space.  Technology is also the answer for getting further into outer space, searching the galaxies, stars and planets for other life.  It also seems to be the answer to greater mobilization, and better sources of knowledge (science).

Mankind himself has become a god of sorts.  It is after all our knowledge that has made such strides in medicine, science and technology, and gains of great wealth.  It is us who has done it.  Arrogance, pride, and rebellion against holy God is what that is and it will not stand forever.

As Christians we must shun falling prey the lies of the false prophets and teachers who tell us that we are our own source of prosperity, health, technology and science.  The culture may be wholly given to idolatry, however, as Christians we have the message that can change the world, and that message is the gospel of Jesus Christ; that He died for our sins, according to Scripture; and that He was buried; and the the third day rose from the grave bodily and was witnessed by more than five hundred witnesses; and that all who will come humbly before Him confessing their sin, repenting, and calling on His name shall be saved – receiving eternal life with Him.  Anything short of Jesus Christ is pure idolatry.

THE APOSTLE’S DISPUTATIONS WITH THE JEWS AND GENTILES (vv. 17-18).  Even in Athens Paul goes to the synagogue.  He wants his brethren “according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-5) to come to faith in Christ.  He longs for them to repent and believe.

It is quite evident by the apostle’s preaching and teaching that the gospel is meant for all who will hear it and believe.  We may curse the fact that our country [the United States of America] is being filled with people from other parts of the world.  It shows me that others are desperately wanting to come to a nation which is free from tyranny, free from communism, and free from a state religion which tells its people how to live their lives, how to dress, and kills them, or takes their property when they convert to Christianity [so far].

We should be thankful for the numbers who are coming to America seeking these things.  The greatest gift the United States has to give these people is the message of Jesus Christ, and the freedom from sin and its condemnation.

A NEW DOCTRINE NEEDED A NEW HEARING (vv. 19-21).  The people of Athens were curious about this new doctrine of a crucified, buried, and resurrected man.  The Athenians were debaters, disputers, and philosophers.  They enjoyed hearing new things, then disputing them with the promoters of that teaching.

We live in a time when people are moved by debate, apologetics, and arguments.  Everyone has an opinion, and no one’s opinion is better than any other, except the ones you agree with.  That is the philosophies of men.  However, the message of the apostle Paul, and any messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not debatable, because it is the truth.  Others may dispute it, despise it, disdain it; but that doesn’t affect that it is still the truth.

It is surprising and almost shocking to realize that there are still people, even in the United States of America who have not heard of the death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I found that out a few years ago while I was attending Boyce Bible School in Louisville, Kentucky.  While working part time at a Townhouse, and Condominium living area as a gardener the chief gardener ask what Baptists believed and I told him the gospel of Jesus Christ.  His response was, “I have never heard that before”.  He told me that he was Catholic, so I understood.  It still surprised me to know that there were people in the USA who had never heard the true message of Jesus.

With the many beliefs in our nation today, there are probably many more who have never heard, but would be curious, should they ever hear even a smidgen of the truth.

THE MESSAGE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL (vv. 22-31).  With the many idols which Paul saw in Athens he marvelled that there was a place [an altar] “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD”.  It is as though, they had erected an altar to all the gods/idols they could imagine, or think of; and just in case they might have missed one who might happen to be the one true God; they erect an altar to Him.

These were a very religious people.  The KJV says “superstitious” which fits as well.  When people are unsure of a deity or deities, they will be very superstitious.  That is when you have them going to horoscopes, reading tea leaves, turning to nature worship [pantheism], black arts (such as witchcraft), and old nature religions (including druidism); the worship, or dependence upon any image of man is idol worship; the worship of any of God’s creation is also idolatry.  Paul likens such worship as the “worship of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:20-21).

Paul did not present it so bluntly, nor did he even mention the worship of demons to them, but he  did make it quite plain that there was only one God who was worthy of worship, and by whom He will judge,” by that man whom he hath ordained” (v. 31) ,and His name is Jesus Christ.  He is the resurrected One, and He ever lives and is seated at the Father’s right hand (Hebrews 1:3, 13: 8:1; 10:12: 12:2;  1 Peter 3:22).

A DIVIDED CROWD WITH A DIVIDED RESPONSE (vv. 32-34).  When the gospel of Jesus Christ, ie.; the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins, His burial – carrying our sins away never to be judged  by them again once they have been confessed and there has been repentance, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave, appearing to over 500 witnesses during the forty days before He ascended into heaven; is preached there will continue to be various responses.  There was in Paul’s day; there is in our day.

In the 17th chapter of Acts we can see varied responses to the gospel as Paul went and preached in the synagogues and other places.  Many of the Jewish leaders resisted the gospel, the Word of God (vv. 1-9); Some of them heard and believed including  Jews and Gentiles (vv. 10, 15); Then, in these verses there were those who ridiculed the gospel of Christ Jesus, and some of these believed it.

In this message Paul told the people of Athens of the “Greatness of God” – He is Creator (vv. 24-25).  He tells them of the “Goodness of God” – He is Provider (vv. 25b-26).  The apostle tells them of the “Government of God” – He is Sovereign (vv. 27-31a).  He does not end with that, however, and concludes telling them of the “Grace of God” – He is Savior (v. 31b)

The opinions and philosophies of men are just that opinions and philosophies, which have no power, little lone saving power.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the “power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes” (Romans 1:16).  It is the position of the man and woman of God to preach the gospel, to proclaim the gospel; it is the power of God to save people through the gospel.  We have no power to save, only God does.

Some of these in Athens heard Paul and rejected the message, and some said, “We will hear you again on this matter”; and others received it and followed Paul.

The important thing is what will you do with the message of the gospel.  If you hear it and believe, and call on the name of the Lord Jesus for salvation, you can be saved.  If you reject it, and die you will go to eternal judgment.  The choice is yours when you have heard the word of God.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Slain By The Spirit

Acts 5:1-11

There had been a great generous spirit within the early church which supported the people and the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some may in fact have given out of jealousy and envy; like the ones we see in chapter 5 (4:32-37).

TWO IN THE CHURCH SOLD A POSSESSION OF LAND, THEN LIED ABOUT THE AMOUNT (Acts 5:1-2).  There was no pressure for anyone to give.  Barnabas one who sold all he had and gave to the Church was blessed by the Lord for doing so, but that was not his reason for giving.  I am sure he had a pure motive, which would and did glorify God.

The only pressure which Ananias and Sapphira experienced was the pressure of envy, or jealousy.  These two things can bring ruin into a life and a church.  It can also be the ruin of many a family, a business, a city, or any other government.  The attitude of these two was probably “Keeping up with the Joneses” as is the problem with people of two thousand and eight.

This couple had saw an opportunity to express themselves, receive a few accolades from the others, and keep back part of the proceeds from the sale for themselves; maybe put it back for gaining interests, or a rough, rainy period or something like that.  There was nothing wrong with the only giving a portion of the proceeds to the church; what was wrong was their deceit in the giving, and declaring that they were giving it all to the church; when they did not.  They, Ananias first, lied to the Spirit of God.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT THROUGH THE APOSTLE PETER CONFRONTS THE SINNING ANANIAS (vv. 3-4).  Spiritual discernment is greatly needed in our postmodern era.  We have lying teachers and “prophets” and I use the term “prophets” loosely.  These are ‘prophets’ of doom in the future, leading people into the fires of eternal torment.

We are not told what gave Peter a clue to the lie.  It was by the Spirit  of God definitely, however, there are sometimes clues people give to telling lies, if we have the discernment to make that determination.  Have you ever been told, “You’re not even a good liar”?  That is really a compliment.  That would be something someone says to you after you have made a statement in jest, or “Pulling the leg” as I have often heard said.  I am not questioning whether the Spirit of God was the discerner of the eventful lies, but wondering what Ananias did that gave Peter a heads up.

It would seem that Peter is wondering how a man can lie to God, and think that God would not know.  One thing is for certain, we see that the Spirit of God is upon and within Peter and all the apostles through this event.

Every Christian is to use the gift of discernment.  We can discern whether a word is from God.  We can discern whether the words a man or woman speaks is from God or the contents of their own thoughts and heart.  We can discern whether seeming miraculous events are of God or manipulations of things, thoughts, and torments of men.  We must practice spending time with God in His written Word, in prayer and when God leads in fasting.  We must also practice the principles of godliness, holiness, righteousness in life.  When one is saved these things become the desires of our hearts.

Spiritual discernment does no good if it does not confront that which is wrong and evil.  That is what Peter did on this day which would change the Church for years to come.  What if Peter, even though the Spirit had revealed this sin of Ananias to him, would have overlooked the sin, received the gift, and never said a word to Ananias?  Don’t you love “What ifs”?  Peter did confront it.  He didn’t have any other choice before God.  It was not Peter who struck him down.  It was in fact the power of the Spirit of God.

UPON HEARING HIS SECRET WAS OUT, REVEALED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, ANANIAS DIES A SPEEDY DEATH IS CARRIED AWAY AND BURIED (vv. 5-6).  Something we might very well consider at this point is that the Church being new, had much to learn, concerning sin in their lives.  Lying is not good, and never is when you lie to God.  There are other times in the Bible where God judges immediately due to sinful behavior.  Take these for example:  the sons of Aaron – Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3); then you have Ahio escorting the Ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem who was slain on the spot for touching the Ark (2 Samuel 6:1-10).  Both of these events were the beginning of a new era; a new time of hope.  During those times God’s people still must learn to remember that you cannot violate the holiness or the law of God.  The message concerning Ananias and Sapphira is the same.  Just because we are in the New Testament does not negate God’s wrath upon disobedience to His Law, nor His holiness.

THE CONSPIRIACY OF THE LIE IN SAPPHIRA IS DISCOVERED AND JUDGED (vv. 7-10).  There was a deliberate act to deceive.  There was a conspiracy between a husband and wife, and that conspiracy was against God.  Who would dare conspire against God?  A hypocrite.  Do you think that God does not know your heart and mind?  He knows, O, man the very hairs of your head.  He knows, O, woman every thought that you think no one else knows.  God knows.

This is clearly a planned act to deceive.  It is clearly a planned act to lie and conspire against the Church, the apostles, and especially against God.  I wonder how far they really thought they would get with this “little lie”.  Who will it hurt if we keep part of it for ourselves?  Will it hurt anyone?  Yes!  It will hurt someone.  It will, first of all, hurt the liar.  It will hurt their fellowship with God, with the church family, it will hurt the ministry of the church, and repercussions will go on and on.  God will judge sin.  As Moses has written, “Be sure your sin will find you out”

AN EARLY JUDGMENT IN THE CHURCH LETS US KNOW THAT GOD WILL STILL JUDGE SIN (v. 11).  It is written elsewhere is the New Testament, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31), and “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29).

Those who can read the New Testament and come away with the idea of God being only a god of love without wrath, comes away with a false deity who is powerless, and unworthy of worship.  It is in the gospels we learn of His great love and His wrath.  It is through His divine Son Jesus Christ we learn of that love and wrath.

It was Jesus who bore His wrath for our redemption.  He paid the price that should have been ours to pay.  Our paying the price of our sin would have meant eternal torment, eternal separation from the Creator, eternal wrath by His own hands.

These early believers had on display the wrath of God against lying to Him.  Though the two liars thought they were just deceiving the church, they were in fact lying to God, and He took vengeance on them,  and it brought the “fear of God” on the church.  Do churches do themselves, the people who sin, or God any favor by refusing to deal with sinful behavior by those who are members of their church?  It really only continues to invite sinful behavior within the church.  It is a sin for the church, the pastor and congregation not to deal with, and discipline for confession, repentance and restoration of that member.

It is still a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  He is still a consuming fire.   Maybe this early judgment upon members of the church is only unique to remind us of God’s holiness and power; and that we cannot fool Him.  Maybe it should cause us to realize that even if we are His, He will not let us get away with sin.

-Tim A. Blankenship

These are study notes for a sermon preached at Carr Lane Baptist Church on October 19, 2008.

A Journey To Rest

Acts 9:26-31

It was at Saul’s feet the stoners of Stephen laid down their garments.  I suppose he was responsible for caring for their clothing while they stoned a man to death.  That sounds so heartless, because it is, and it was, however; at least it seems to have been this event; his hearing the word from Stephen, seeing and hearing his dying testimony; which had an impact on Saul coming to faith.

When Jesus confronts Saul as he is traveling to Damascus to capture, persecute, and jail Christians; Jesus says to Saul, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” Acts 9:4-5 (KJV).  His “kick against the pricks” is evidence that before the Lord confronted him he was deeply under the convicting power of the Spirit of God.  Saul met Jesus Christ on that day, and he has been a blessing to Christians, the Church and the world ever since; because of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

THE CONVERSION OF SAUL, AND THE CHURCHES REACTION (v. 26).  Upon his salvation Saul is led to a man named Ananias, who shows Saul the way he is to go for the Lord.  He is received by the disciples of Damascus.  Saul had spent time in Damascus preaching the gospel.  He was new to it for sure, but he started in faith and kept on faithfully until the day he died by losing his head at the hands of Rome.

The church of Jerusalem was reluctant to receive him into their midst.  He had been their persecutor, he had shown them nothing but hate, and now he’s wanting to come into our fellowship.  Can you understand their doubtful thinking about him?  I can.  He had received orders from the religious establishment of Jerusalem, and it was in Jerusalem where most of the persecution was still going on, and Saul had been the chief persecutor.

The Jerusalem church could not believe that their chief persecutor was now one with them.  The disciples there – not the apostles – were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple of Jesus now.

It is an awesome thing when one who has been against the church of Jesus Christ is changed and begins to walk, live, serve and glorify our Lord.  Their testimony will be one of glorious change and the glory will belong to Jesus Christ.  The glory will not return upon the professing individual, but go to the Lord.

BARNABAS RECEIVES SAUL, AND ENCOURAGES HIM AND THE CHURCH, AND THEY WALK AND WORK TOGETHER (vv, 27-28).  Barnabas sees the rejection Saul experiences, sees a life who has been changed by the blood of Jesus Christ and takes Saul and makes him his disciple.  The call of the great commission of Jesus Christ is to “Go and make disciples” there are more than twelve disciples; there are only twelve apostles; thirteen counting Saul – who later became Paul.  We are not commanded to “make apostles” but disciples which is a “follower of Jesus Christ”

Known as an “encourager” Barnabas walks along side Saul when no one else will.  He even takes him to see the apostles, and Saul shares with them his testimony of how he met the Lord on the road to Damascus, and they are told of his bold preaching in Damascus.  After his visit with the apostles he is then seen leaving and entering the city with the apostles; they have received him as one of themselves.

The work of an encourager is a great work, and is much needed in the work of Christ and His Church.  We all need someone to come alongside us, to pick us up when we are down on occasions.  There are also occasions where we need to be the encourager, and pick up a friend, family member, church member, or a neighbor who needs to just get things clicking and right between them and the Lord.

SAUL’S PREACHING IN JERUSALEM IS BOLD, AND HE IS RUSHED OUT OF TOWN TO HIS OWN TOWN (vv. 29-30).   Why is it a lot of preachers think they are called to popularity.  Jesus was popular while He did His miracles, but when He got bloody and doctrinal concerning His body and the blood many of “His disciples left Him” (John 6:60-68).  If popularity, or drawing a crowd, was the agenda of our Lord, the message would not be so hard and difficult for people to hear and believe.  The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the simplest message ever proclaimed, yet people do not want to hear it.

Have you ever been run out of town for your preaching?  I have not, but there are some places I have not been asked to return.  I am grateful for the church where I am currently pastor.  The Carr Lane Baptist Church maybe small in number, but we are big in heart for hearing the word of the Lord.  When a preacher can stand in the pulpit week after week, Sunday after Sunday, and preach expository messages straight from Scripture, and you hear no negative comment, and you hear an “Amen” ever once in awhile you just got to know that they are hearing God, and not you.

The preacher when he is preaching the word of the Lord can boldly proclaim the message of God without fear or favor to those who are listening; and will glorify the Lord in the preaching.  An Old Testament Prophet name of Jeremiah was one who convinced me that I needed to come out of my shell, preach the word and be faithful to the Lord.  Jeremiah says, “Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.”  Jeremiah 1:17 (KJV).  When you know you are delivering the word of God you have nothing to fear.  Be bold, proclaim from the rooftops what God says in His Word.

Though Saul did get rushed out of town it was for a greater purpose.  He would return to Jerusalem at a later time, and then be shipped to Rome.  Saul’s/Paul’s message of Jesus Christ was not loved nor appreciated.  Check your message; if you have crowds following you; change your message to the message of Jesus and Saul.

THE CHURCHES OF JERUSALEM THEN, HAD REST (v. 31)  It was because of the change in Saul’s life that there was rest in the Jerusalem churches.  The persecutor of persecutors was now one of them and being persecuted.

A few years ago I took the thirty first verse, disected, prayed, and developed a sermon, and called it  THE THREE R’s FOR THE CHURCH getting the idea from what used to be the words for education Reading, ‘Riting’ and ‘Rithmetic; but changing that to be Reverence, Rest, and Results, as three points for the sermon.  You can see the Reverence, “walking in the fear of the Lord”; the Rest in, “Then had the churches rest…” and the Results, “in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”  Acts 9:31 (KJV).

There is little fear of God, even in church these days we live in.  There is more talk of “perfect love casts out fear”, so we don’t fear God.  NOT!  John’s writing has absolutely nothing to do with the reverence and fear of God.  It does have to do with the condemnation of our sins, the lies of the devil, the lies of friends and family.  It has to do with everyday events of life.  Someone has said, “When we fear God; we need to fear nothing else.”  If there is no fear of God, there will be fear of all else.  Paranoia, schizoprenia, trouble and danger lurking behind every closed door, fear of darkness, fear of storms, fear of failure, fear of bankruptcy, fear of world financial failure.  When even the child of God is not right with Him, out of His fellowship, we too can be fearful of these things.

Rest has come to the Jerusalem churches because the one who pursued them unto death was now one of them.  He now was being persecuted.  He had been pushed out of town; but unto a great endeavor of preaching the Word elsewhere; to his own home of Tarsus.

Results, come when the Christian and the church practice their faith, and live by that faith through their everyday lives.  We have seen examples of this multiplication earlier in the book – 3000 saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), more were saved according to Acts 4:4.  It seems that people were being saved everyday in the early church.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to baptize at least one every Sunday during a worship service, maybe even more?  Remembering it is the Lord who adds daily to His church.  It is not programs, or money, but by and through the faithful witness of the Spirit of God through His faithful witnesses.

The rest you need can be found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.  You may despise the gospel right now but realize, as did Saul, that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day that we all who call on His name have eternal life with Him.  Call on His name believing Him, and trusting Him with all your life, confessing your sins and repenting of them.

-Tim A. Blankenship

This is the study notes for a sermon preached in the morning worship at Carr Lane Baptist Church on October 12, 2008.

Discipleship – The Pursuit Of Godliness

Hebrews 12:14-17

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”  Hebrews 12:14-17 (KJV)

OUTLINE –
I.  A PURSUIT OF PEACE AND HOLINESS (v. 14).
II.  TAKING OVERSIGHT OVER ONE’S LIFE IN MATTERS OF GRACE (v15).
III.  BE AWARE – BE WARNED OF THE “ROOT OF BITTERNESS” WHICH IS PUFFED UP TROUBLING YOU (v. 15). Deut. 29:18
IV.  THE EXAMPLE OF ESAU/EDOM DESIRING GOD’S BLESSING WITHOUT GOD (v. 16).
V.  THE TRAGEDY OF BLESSING WITHOUT GOD (v. 17).

In previous verses of Hebrews 12 we are told not “to despise the chastening of the Lord”.  The chastening of the Lord could be called His discipline, correction, or discipling.  After reading something I believe was Charles H. Spurgeon saying, “God will not allow His children to sin successfully”, that has been in my mind from the day I read it.  I believe it to be a true saying.  Though you will not find those words spoken or written that way in Scripture; it does seem that the principle of that is spoken of in the verses we look at today, and those few preceding them.

A brother in Christ has called it “God’s Discipleship” when he is making us holy, and pursuing peace.  One great achievment or failure to succeed in the Christian life would be to fail at sin.  Now, wouldn’t that be a great achievement as a child of God?

People are pursuing all sorts of things.  Success in employment, success on the job, a bank account with money left over after the bills are paid, health, personal recognition, popularity, prestige, power… you get the idea.  Godliness is not so much sought after, even by those who profess to be Christians.

A PURSUIT OF PEACE AND HOLINESS (v. 14).  Peace is a topic of much talk, and use of many words; however it doesn’t seem real close in the realm of the political world, and at times the religious world.  One thing I think I know and that is those who know the Prince of peace – Jesus Christ are at peace with God, and one another.  It is the “peace that passes all understanding” which “Keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 KJV).

“G1515
εἰρήνη
eirēnē
i-rah’-nay
Probably from a primary verb εἴρω eirō (to join); peace (literally or figuratively); by implication prosperity: – one, peace, quietness, rest, + set     at one again.” From e-Sword Strongs

Being at peace with God, “at one” with God, “walking with God”, in agreement with Him (Amos 3:3) is the greatest and best thing that has ever happened to mankind.  Anyone who has not made peace with God will not be at peace with anyone else.  That tells us much about ourselves. Doesn’t it?  “Turning the other cheek” can only come from an individual at peace with God.  Loving the unlovable comes from a heart at peace with Jehovah.  Those who are truly merciful, and have obtained mercy have the peace of God.

It is because one has been “Justified by faith” that one can “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).  This peace will also lead us into holiness; and the penman of the Hebrews Letter tells us “without which no one shall see the Lord”.  The word “Holy” is given this meaning in Strongs

“G38
ἁγιασμός
hagiasmos
hag-ee-as-mos’
From G37; properly purification, that is, (the state) purity; concretely (by Hebraism) a purifier: – holiness, sanctification.”
From e-Sword Strongs

Peace and holiness are God’s to give.  They come from the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ; paying the price for our sins Himself, taking their guilt, condemnation, and power away; rising to life victorious over them, declaring Himself to be whom He said He was and is; the Great I am.

TAKING OVERSIGHT OVER ONE’S LIFE IN MATTERS OF GRACE (v. 15). We are living in a day very much in need of personal oversight.  Many not wanting to take personal responsibility for their actions, behavior, words, or otherwise.  Those who are Christian need very much to be leaders in this matter.  Taking the oversight in matters of grace.  Lest we be the cause, or a catalyst of others falling.

The duty of the Christian; leader, teacher, person in the pew; is to be on watch, guarding one’s own heart and life, and the lives of others.  Part of “shepherding” is to keep the younger from straying, and going over the edge endangering their lives and/or the lives of others.

If we see any of the brethren straying we can, should, and will guide them back to the straight and narrow path that is the right one.  The path is not without effort, nor pain, but it is a path with destination and that destination is into the presence of God for all eternity.

“G1983
ἐπισκοπέω
episkopeō
ep-ee-skop-eh’-o
From G1909 and G4648; to oversee; by implication to beware: – look diligently, take the oversight.”  e-Sword

BE AWARE – BE WARNED OF THE “ROOT OF BITTERNESS” WHICH IS PUFFED UP TROUBLING YOU (v. 15).  Moses wrote by the Spirit of God on this same matter when he penned, “Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood…”  Deuteronomy 29:18 (KJV)

I grew up around trees.  We have had trees all around us.  Oak trees (of various kinds), cedar trees, maple trees, apple trees, peach trees, Walnut trees, Hickory trees, Ash and elm trees, and if I could name them all I probably would.  The thing I want to illustrate here is the root system.  In many cases these trees have more of what cannot be seen under the ground, supporting through the feeding, providing foundation, and strength against strong winds; than that which can be seen above ground.  What the writer of Hebrews and Moses of Deuteronomy is warning about is that which cannot be seen if in bitterness is very destructive.

This “root of bitterness” is a poison which can suddenly come to the surface and ruin you.  If the root of a tree gets something poisonous it will kill the tree.  This bitterness, this bane can lead to all kinds of immorality and evil in one’s life.  Evidently that is what the writer is saying concerning Esau.

“All it takes for a grudge to grow is for the one who is holding it to keep nursing it.”  I am not sure that this is a correct quotation, or who said it, but it is still the truth.  Bitterness is the root of evil, and for evil grudges to grow they must be nursed.  Feeding, coddling, cherishing those bitter feelings.  Saying things like, “I can never forgive that person”.  Anyone who has ever said that was mistaken, and/or have never been forgiven.

This “bitter root” nursed, and cherished by its holder will one day have this poisonous root spring, explode onto the scene, and it will not be a pleasant scene for the holder of that grude.  As long as that grudge is nursed, cherished, coddled like one’s baby there will be no relief from guilt, sin, shame, or anger, and destruction.

THE EXAMPLE OF ESAU/EDOM DESIRING GOD’S BLESSING WITHOUT GOD (v. 16).  Esau, the first born son of Isaac was a man with a bitter root, and he never let it die.  It was passed on to his children (Genesis 36:8, 19).  How do we know this?  Because of Edom.  Edom  hated the children of Israel (Numbers 20:17-21).  Where did this innate bitterness, anger, envy, and hatred come from?  There is one conclusion to that; and that is from their father; Esau.

Esau had not only given up his birthright for a “bowl of beans”, but he had evidently been a very immoral rascal.  Giving himself to various immoral activities with the women of foreign tribes whom his people had been forbidden to have relations with.  John Gill wrote this concerning Esau,

“Heb 12:16 – Lest there be any fornicator or profane person,…. The first of these is guilty of a sin against the second table of the law, as well as against his own body; and which is opposed to the holiness the apostle had before exhorted to; such who are guilty of it, are not to be continued in the communion of the church; and it is a sin, which, lived in not repented of, excludes from the kingdom of heaven: the latter is one who is a transgressor of the first table of the law; who is an idolater, a swearer, a despiser of public worship and ordinances, and who behaves irreverently in divine service, and mocks at the future state, as Esau; to whom both these characters seem to belong: and this agrees with what the Jews say concerning him: they have a tradition (w), that he committed five transgressions on the day he came out of the field weary.

“He committed idolatry: he shed innocent blood; and lay with a virgin betrothed; and denied the life of the world to come (or a future state); and despised his birthright.”

It is elsewhere (x) a little differently expressed.

“Esau, the wicked, committed five transgressions on that day: he lay with a virgin betrothed; and killed a person; and denied the resurrection of the dead; and denied the root, or foundation, (i.e. that there is a God,) and despised his birthright; and besides, he desired his father’s death, and sought to slay his brother.”

It is common for them to say of him, that he was an ungodly man; and particularly, that he was a murderer, a robber, ונואף, “and an adulterer” ”
The (w) being (“Targum Jon. ben Uzziel in Gen. xxv. 29.”), and the (x) being (Shemot Rabba, sect. I. fol. 89. 3. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 16. 2.). From e-Sword Commentary by John Gill.

THE TRAGEDY OF BLESSING WITHOUT GOD (v. 17).  Esau lived on in immoral conduct.  He had sought forgiveness from his father Isaac for his selling of the birthright, and with tears, but to no avail (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).  His “repentance” was not a real repentance which would get forgiveness, but only sorry he got caught with his “hands in the cookie jar, and still wanted the cookie”.  He wanted the blessing of God without wanting God.  That is typical of many who profess Jesus as Savior today and probably in any era of time since the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  As long as things go well; as long as the blessings pour in; as long as there is good health; as long as there is wealth at their disposal; and no sorrow, then all is well with the “faith”.

Because of the sin of Edom, Edom has no place in the future (Ezekiel 32:29;  Joel 3:19).  That is not the desire of God’s heart to have His children pass along the envy, hatred, bitterness, and anger to our children and/or to the rest of the world that is already perishing.

SUMMARY –

i.  The pursuit of peace and holiness is the pursuit of all Christians, and one obtained only through faith in Christ the Lord.

ii.  Those in pursuit of peace and holiness will take oversight of their behavior, words, actions; and feed themselves daily in the word of God, prayer, and holy life pursuits.

iii.  The ones in pursuit of peace and godliness will be aware of the root of bitterness, guard against bitterness, and its poisonous, disastrous, death which it brings with it where ever it springs up.

iv.  Peace and holiness leads to peace and life; and makes for peace with all people (Proverbs 16:17).

-Tim A. Blankenship

This is the my study notes for the message for Sunday morning September 13, 2009

The Early Church and the Testimony of Scripture

Acts 7:1-60

Stephen, a spirit filled deacon, a servant of the early church, and serving tables; had stood up and preached the message of Jesus Christ, and was being called a “blasphemer”.  In Acts 6:8-15 we see the beginning of chapter seven and Stephen’s sermon of the testimony of Scripture and the history of the Jewish people.

The charge of “blasphemy” is a serious charge, especially in Israel, during these early days.  In some countries it is still a serious charge and often paid with the death of the accused or guilty.  Blasphemy is the calling someone God who would be human, or using the name of God to proclaim a message that was not of God.  In Stephen’s case all he had apparently done was quote the words Moses had written concerning the Prophet who was coming, and proclaimed Jesus as the Prophet, and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When the true gospel of Jesus is preached it reveals Him in His true character, ie., God-man.  How could a man stop storms, walk on water, raise the dead?  No mere man would willingly go to a cross of death in the place of a sinful world; Jesus did.  No mere man has ever been raised to life in His own power; Jesus has.  To these Jewish leaders Stephen was a blasphemer, because He had proclaimed Jesus as deity – the God-man.  Thus, they sought to put Stephen on trial.

In verse eleven of chapter six we find them bringing in false witnesses against him.  Sound familiar?

THE TESTIMONY OF ABRAHAM AND THE PATRIARCHS (vv. 1-8).  Stephen, filled with the Spirit of God confronts them with their own Scriptures and history.

The history of Abraham is one of the nation of Israel.  Without Abraham there would be no Israel.  Abraham is the man whom God chose to use to birth the nation.  He was a man of faith, and his faith grew.

Called out of Ur of the Chaldeans he left the life he knew to go to a land he had never seen, and did not go where he was going.  All he knew was that he had met God, and God told him to “Get”, and he got going.

Stephen is not answering to the charge of blasphemy; he just gets into the Scriptures proclaiming to them, what they probably do not want to hear.  He gives it to them anyway.  Some preacher I once heard made this statement after telling about being caught in a mob, “When you have an angry crowd, and they are trying to do you bad; then preach”, at least something along that line.  I would not say that is what Stephen is doing, but even if he is, it does not negate the message.

The land was promised to Abraham and he never so much as received one acre of it; with the exception of a tomb for Sarah, and himself (Genesis 23).  Yet, he still believed, trusted the Lord and is an example of great faith to all followers of Jesus Christ today.

Isaac was/is the promised son of Abraham’s faith.  Isaac also received the promise of the land, and of being a great nation; as did his son Jacob as well.

The message of Abraham is faith.  The history of Abraham is faith.  He left all to go where he knew not where.  He faced famine in that land almost immediately upon arriving, yet even though he left the land, he returned and is called the “friend of God”.  The ultimate test of his faith was when God called on him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, and in that he was faithful.

THE TESTIMONY OF THE PATRIARCH’S ENVY, JOSEPH, AND EGYPT (vv. 9-16).  When we find that Abraham was counted righteous by God, according to Scripture, we also find that God gave Abraham a bit of prophetic knowledge.  In Genesis 15 we read,

“And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”  Genesis 15:13-14 (KJV)

In verse 6 of Genesis fifteen we find these words,

“And he [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

He was not counted or reckoned “righteous” because of his good works, or for anything he had done, but because God had spoke and he acted on it believing God.

Joseph, the son of Jacob, the first born son of Rachel; Jacob’s beloved wife; was a dreamer of dreams.  These dreams were not brought on by eating too much pizza, or from some dose of crazy weed, but they were from God.  As a dreamer of God dreams he also had an understanding of dreams.  Because of some of his dreams the other brothers got jealous of him.  According to his dreams the brothers and the whole family would one day bow at his feet.

Joseph may not have realized the significance of his dreams.  The significance was that what he was dreaming was going to be the fulfillment of God’s promise/prophecy to Abraham in bringing a nation out of Egypt.  The significance was that God was working through the evil conduct of his brothers.  You may flinch at that thought, but God is sovereign over all things, and so don’t think for a minute that evil thwarts the will of God; in fact He uses it to accomplish His purposes and will.  That in no way means He approves it, causes it, or empowers it; it only means that man has a freewill, and God uses man’s freewill to accomplish His own.

The Psalmist wrote of Joseph:

“He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.” Psalm 105:17-19 (KJV)

Verse 19 in particular is the one we need to see.  “Until the time that his word came the word of the LORD tried him.”  From the time Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, into Egypt, to Potiphar, then to prison, then freed; there was probably a total of about twenty years.  Do you think Joseph had ever dreamed that he would go through all these trials?  I really doubt it.  Joseph, however, remained ever faithful.  There appears to be no doubts, no complaints, no anger toward God, no heart of vengeance against his brothers (though some may want to disagree with that when he comes face to face with his brothers).  All the time Joseph was waiting for the word of the LORD to come to pass.  Oh, how the Christian today needs that type of faith; that “waiting faith”; that faith that waits on God, and His time and place.

THE TESTIMONY OF MOSES, THE RED SEA, AND THE WILDERNESS (vv. 17-36).  The time between the last verse of Genesis and the birth of Moses, recorded in Exodus 2 is near to 400 years; nearing the promise and prophecy of God to Abraham in Genesis 15.

The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have grown to quite a large number in those 400 years.  They have become so numerous that the Pharoah who rules at the time of Moses’s birth is a tyrant toward Israel, has no memory of Joseph, and doesn’t care for the people at all; but fears their numbers.  This tyrant Pharoah orders the death of all baby boys born to the Hebrews.  The mother and father of Moses hid him for a period of three months, and then finally put him in a “ark of bulrushes” placed it in the Nile River, along the shore, and floating down near the place where the princess of Egypt bathed; was found and adopted by her.  Only the sovereign LORD could work something like that out.

The Hebrew people were enslaved, and treated like livestock or worse.  They were not allowed to worship God; and maybe only a few really knew about YHWH [YaHWeH].  We know that they did have homes to live in, though what condition we are not aware.

Moses was taken out of the water of the Nile and named Moses by the daughter of Pharoah.  “Drawn out” is the meaning of his name and it is a perfect fit for him.  We see him all his life being “drawn out”.  He was “drawn out” of the water.  He was “drawn out” to his own people.  He was “drawn out” to the desert/wilderness.  He was “drawn out” to serve Jethro for forty years.

For forty years Moses was in Egypt learning the ways of Egypt.  For forty years he was in the desert with Jethro learning the ways of the desert/wilderness.  After delivering the children of Israel from Egypt he spent forty more years in the wilderness preparing  them for life in the Promised Land.

We complain if we must wait a minute or two at a traffic light.  Lord help us.  How we need to learn to wait, and trust the LORD with His word, His church and His people.  Moses had to learn the lesson of waiting on God.  He supposed that when he killed the Egyptian that the people would know that he was God’s deliverer, but it was not the time, and Moses had to leave Egypt to be prepared.

A THOUGHT:  Joseph, by God’s providence, was in Egypt to prepare Egypt for the world famine, and to prepare Israel to become a nation.  Moses fled from Egypt to be prepared to return to Egypt, and deliver the people from the world.

In the wilderness the new nation saw the mighty hand of God the LORD.  When they did not see a way God made a way across the Red Sea.  The LORD delivered them from their enemies by causing the Sea to collapse in upon the soldiers of Egypt, killing them all.  The Almighty provided them water, meat to eat and He provided them with bread from heaven – “Manna” meaning “What is it?”

THE TESTIMONY OF ISRAEL’S REJECTION, REBELLION, AND CAPTIVITIES (vv. 37-50).  Moses testified of One who would come, a Prophet, the Prophet of prophets.  Stephen reminds his listeners, persecutors of the prophecy of Moses and his teachings.  Hear the words of the prophet Moses concerning the Prophet;

“The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken…” Deuteronomy 18:15 (KJV).

While Moses was in the wilderness with the people we find them many times rejecting his leadership, such as while he went up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from the Lord.  They built a golden calf to worship in the place of God.  Our impatience is somewhat astonishing.  God says something and we do the opposite.

We Christians have been accused by some who refer to themselves as atheist or agnostic of being “makers of our own god”, and they mean that of the world religions as well.  With the latter I would agree.  The God of Creation who created all that is is not a god of man’s own making, however.  No man has ever imagined a god who is Almighty, All-Knowing, All-Present, All-Powerful, and Immutable.  No man has ever invented a god who condemns sin and wickedness, and provides a means of fellowship, relationship, justification, sanctification, and  being glorified together with him in an eternal home.  No man has ever created a god that would send his only son to die for the sins of the world.  The God of Christianity is the Creator of the universe, and all that is in it; and He loved us so much He did send His Son to die on a cross for our sins, was buried, and He rose again bodily from the grave and was witnessed by over 500 eyewitnesses.

All the gods of man’s creation allow them to behave and act any way they choose.  The god’s of men cause the immorality of all the world.  The god’s of men’s own making is what causes wars and strife.  Every individual without Jesus Christ is their own god; and will one day crumble, fall at the feet of Jesus, and be cast from His presence into eternal fire.

The “golden calf” for those people of Israel was a reminder of their lives back in Egypt.  They had been freed from its bondage, yet they still cling to it, even to the point of desiring to return and continue as slaves.  Even the gods people worship today, the images, are images which puts no guilt on them, or would make them question their actions.  The world hates any guilt, or shame.  That is one of the things, however, which is needed in the world; ie., guilt and shame. It can be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and turn them toward the only One who can cleanse them and forgive all their sin.

When people turn to Wall Street, Dow, or other stocks and bonds, etc. for their security; then they have turned their back on God.  Christian we may be in a financial crisis in this nation [USA], however, there is a greater crisis that many do not even realize.  That crisis is a Spiritual crisis.  With greed ruling the day through the lies of satan; there is a genuine spiritual need for God.  Whether it is believed or not; there is only one way to God and heaven, and that is the way He has provided; and that way is by way of the cross of Jesus Christ, his burial and resurrection.

Oh, how we need to understand the fulness, power, vastness, and glory of our God.  The nation of Israel is still in rejection of their God, His Son and their future foretold by God.

THE TESTIMONY OF ISRAEL’S REJECTION OF JESUS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT (vv. 51-54).  These men to whom Stephen was speaking were just as the prophets which foretold the coming of the Prophet, the Messiah, their Deliverer.  “Stiffnecked and uncircumcised heart” shows a rebellious attitude and an unclean heart of these people.

All Stephen did was proclaim to them the truth of their own history, confront them with Jesus, their betrayal of him, and how they had “murdered him” (v. 52).

THE TESTIMONY OF STEPHEN A PERSECUTED, MARTYRED SOUL FOR JESUS CHRIST (vv. 55-60).  When the angry men heard the message delivered by faithful Stephen they proceeded to kill him.

The Word of God works as a sword, a “twoedged sword”.  In the book of Hebrews we read,

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)

In other words; that means God will make things uncomfortable  for you until He gets you where He desires you to be; if you are His own.  When you are God’s He will not allow you to remain in sinful behavior.

These men hated Stephen and his words that he spoke, then, they proceeded to kill him.

The deacon never sought to strike back.  His last words before his dying breath was, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”, and then he “fell asleep”.  The stones which were hurled at Stephen, hitting his body, were stones of identity.  It is not without merit to mention that in the Revelation is mentioned a stone,

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Revelation 2:17

Stephen had his stones, and they were stones of blessing because as he was dying he looked into heaven and could see glory;

“Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

O, for the passion of our people like Stephen had.  For a fire to burn in our hearts for people who are bound in religion, but hate Jesus Christ, and refuse His death, burial and resurrection, by continually trying to earn their way to God’s presence and favor.  Preaching to the religious may not get you any popular vote, but you will see God.

-Tim A. Blankenship

These are the study notes for a sermon preached on October 05, 2008.

The Continuing Christian…

For forty days following the ascension of Jesus Christ the disciples waiting in the upper room prayed, waited, and encouraged one another; as they waited for that “power” that they were to receive from God.

As they waited they were in ”one accord” as Luke writes of these wonderful events.  ”One accord” does not mean that the individuals did not have a independent mind, or thought.  It means that they were together for one purpose, and that one purpose was the glory of Jesus Christ.  That glory of Jesus Christ was to be the Holy Spirit of God that was coming  upon them all as they studied, prayed, preached, and read the word, or had it read to them.

Forty day following the ascension of Jesus it happened.  The long awaited event was coming and what an event it was.  The sound of a “Mighty rushing wind”.  That reminds me of a wind from a tornado, a hurricane, or shear winds.  “Cloven tongues of fire” fell upon them, and caused each one to speak in a language that the people there for the feast would hear and understand.  These “cloven tongues” were the sign that the Spirit of God was on them in this place.

We are told that they were “all filled with the Holy Ghost…”  The many languaged people began to hear words from these followers of Jesus, which they had never heard.  Words of life, words of liberty, and words of grace, peace and love.  Some began to accuse these of being drunk.  Being early of the morning was reason enough for Peter to remind them that it was morning, thus they were not drunk with wine from the vine, so to speak.

As a result of this heavenly event at least 3000 souls were saved.  What happens following this wonderful event is the source of our study.

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”  Acts 2:41-47(KJV)

Let’s see if we can find an outline for this text:

  1. BAPTISM FOLLOWS THOSE WHO GLADLY BELIEVE (v. 41).
  2. THEY ARE ONLY COUNTED WITH THE JERUSALEM NUMBER FOLLOWING BAPTISM (v. 41).
  3. NOTE THE FOUR CHARACTERISTICS OF A NEW AND ACTIVE CHURCH (v. 42).
  4. THERE WAS AN AWE OF RESPECT, A FEAR, WHICH SWEPT OVER THE PEOPLE, AND THE ONE’S WHO WERE BELIEVING HAD ALL THINGS COMMON (vv. 43-45).
  5. THE ACTIVITIES OF THE EARLY CHURCH THROUGH THE WEEK (vv. 46-47).

BAPTISM FOLLOWS THOSE WHO GLADLY BELIEVE (v. 41).  Receiving of the Word of God – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – is purely, surely a great joy and a gladness.  When we hear the truth of the Word of God, believe it, and put it to work we have no problem following our Lord’s instruction for growing in faith.

Receiving the word and the gospel is far more than a mere belief in the existence of Jesus Christ, or His death on the cross, or His burial, or His resurrection.  It is in truth the receiving of the Spirit of God into your life, who changes you, and grows in you each and every day for our God’s glory.  It means the thief who believes is no longer a thief.  It means that the murderer is no longer a murderer.  It means the prostitute is no longer a prostitute.  It means the liar is no longer a liar.  Those who have been changed in their hearts now have desire to be more like Jesus Christ and give their lives completely to Him.

Where there had been only 120 Christians in the upper room; we now find that “about three thousand souls” were added to the Jerusalem church that day.

THEY ARE ONLY COUNTED WITH THE JERUSALEM NUMBER FOLLOWING BAPTISM (v. 41).  Is the Point statement made here pertinent for today’s Christian?  I believe it to be very pertinent.  It gives Biblical guidance for local church membership.  These were not or are not counted until we are told that they were baptised, then they are counted as “Members” of the local church.  At that time there was only one local church, and it was the Jerusalem church.

There are some today who do not believe that local church membership is a Biblical idea, or principle.  It seems clear to me, that the Bible says much about it.  The letter to the Romans written by Paul the apostle was written to the church at Rome.  The letter to the Galations was written to the church at Galatia.  The letter to the Ephesians was written to the church at Ephesus.  The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians were written to the local congregations of those respective cities.  In the Revelation Jesus Christ Himself sent a different letter to seven different churches.  They are local churches.

Understand, none of this negates the fact that we are all part of the one body of Jesus Christ.  Just as the human body has different parts, so too, does the body of Christ.  Each local church has its own parts, and each one in the total Body of Christ has their parts.

We are baptised into the Body of Christ by the baptism of the Spirit of God.  We profess our faith in a local congregation through water baptism.  Water baptism testifies to the death – our not breathing going under the water, meaning immersion; burial – being put under the water; and the resurrection – coming up out of the water.  This way is meaningless through sprinkling or pouring of water upon a participant.

Until a soul has been baptised Scripturally into the local body of Christ they are not qualified to particpate in the Lord’s Supper, are not counted as part of the local body, and have no membership privileges.

NOTE THE FOUR CHARACTERISTICS OF A NEW AND ACTIVE CHURCH (v. 42).  There are four characteristics of this early church.  The first one is that they “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine”.  What is the “apostles’ doctrine”?  The things about Jesus Christ which He taught; the miracles of Jesus, His virgin conception, and virgin birth.  The death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And surely the apostles’ doctrine would include the last day prophecies, and the return of Jesus Christ at His second coming.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list.  Those are the main things.

The second, fellowship.  Fellowship is much more than sitting around a table sharing a meal together.  It may include the meal, but fellowship is a bonding, a coming together, for the one goal and good of one cause.  It is caring for one another, sharing with one another in the Word of God and material things.  It is a casual sharing of a testimony of God’s grace and goodness in a daily event, or a tragic circumstance or what could have been a tragic circumstance.

The third is, “in breaking bread”.  Now this could definitely be the breaking of the bread representing the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  This could also be the sharing of a meal.  We see that this had gotten tangled up with the Corinthian church, and the apostle Paul had to rebuke them (1 Corinthians 11:20-34).  They were not only defying the richness of the Lord’s Supper, but they were rude, unruly, showing partiality, and just plain ole, hypocritical in their behavior.

The fourth is prayer.  Prayer is a very important part of the church.  We go to God in prayer to share our hearts with Him; and we go to His Word so He can share His heart with us.  I know it is much deeper than that.  One thing  being that in prayer, Biblical prayer, we go as an intercessor before the throne of God for others.  We go before the throne to pray His will, not our own will.  Going to the throne of grace we find grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  Even though our heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask; our asking is a show of subjection, humility, and love to the One who supplies all our need.  When we step out ahead of, or before God leads, or supplies we can get ourselves into very serious trouble.  Most people have credit cards, for example, and will buy things without a thought as to its price; and often it is something they do not need.  After many times and years go by, and they have paid only the minimum payment each month, while continuing to mount up the balance they find themselves in trouble.  Why can we not pray, believe God to supply, instead of trusting in the plastic god?

THERE WAS AN AWE OF RESPECT, A FEAR, WHICH SWEPT OVER THE PEOPLE, AND THE ONE’S WHO WERE BELIEVING HAD ALL THINGS COMMON (vv. 43-45).  As we look at these verses we see that wonderful, and awe-inspiring things took place in city of Jerusalem.  The power of Jesus Christ Himself had come upon all who were in the upper room, ie., the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit who is Christ in those who possess, and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and are possessed by Him.

“Fear” is a God given emotion.  Without fear we would be jumping to our deaths.  We would be touching hot burning stoves.  We would drive insanely speedily on hilly, curvy, terrain.  You should get the picture with those matters.  “Fear” can be a good thing.  In the case of this verse it is a good thing. “And fear came upon every soul…” (v. 43).  When we are before the presence of holy God we will shiver, tremble, and quake because we recognize His presence, person, power, and genuine prestige.  This ‘fear’ is more than simple respect.  It is an awe.  He is more awesome than anything we can ever see.  He is more awesome than any celebrity you will ever meet.  He is more powerful than the President of the United States of America or any other country.  Even the redeemed will bow before Him, and gladly call Him “LORD”.

We must note that this passage points out that it was through the apostles the Lord granted the “signs and wonders“.  Why do people assume that there are apostles in the church today?  There is no evidence of it.  They have not been eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.  These signs and wonders were given to the apostles as testimony from God of their calling, their witness, and their preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ.

Some would liken the love and generosity of the early church and their sharing of their goods, land and homes as being the first socialistic order.  That is not so.  Socialism confiscates from those who have to give to those who have not.  The order for the early church was that each one gave as they were able, and were blessed by God.  Some of the early church sold their houses and land in order to be better servants to God and His Son Jesus, but no one forced the sale.  It was an act of love not of a dictatorship.  Christians who love the Lord and have burdens for the cause of Christ are still doing this; maybe not on the same scale and maybe to a greater scale.  Every week when believers gather together we receive the tithes and offerings, and those come, sometimes with great sacrifice from the giver or givers.  In most congregationally led churches no one is forced or shamed into giving tithes and offerings; it comes from their hearts most of the time.  These funds were distributed as there was need among the people.

THE ACTIVITIES OF THE EARLY CHURCH THROUGH THE WEEK (vv. 46-47).  The question has been asked, “How often should Christians meet as the Body of Christ?”  There are many answers to that question and some would like to answer it with “Only twice a year.  Easter and Christmas”.  Oh, how far we have fallen.  How often did the early church, the Church of Jerusalem meet?  Look at verse 46, and the first part of 47:

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people.”

Note “…They, continuing daily…” and many professing Christians today have a hard time getting together one worship service per week.  We should feel ashamed for our lack of faith, trust, and commitment to God, His Word, His Son and His Church.  Why is that many Christians want to find an excuse to miss worship services on Sunday?  Why do they want to go to the lake for swimming, water skiing, fishing or boating rather than spend time in the place of worship with brothers and sisters in Christ?  They are missing the heart of worship.  They are missing the very One who gives them that desire, and that drive.  The early Christians loved being together.  Christians today love being together, and seek every opportunity to do so.

The “Breaking bread” referred here has to do with the sharing of daily meals, and provisions.  It was a time of fellowship, worship, praise, and Christian growth.  In their gatherings they not only shared their food, and fellowship; they also shared “gladness and singleness of heart“, and Oh the joy which they had together worshipping, praising God and magnifying the name of Jesus.  Their worship in the gatherings were without hypocrisy, they were genuine, and did not attempt to overshadow anyone else.  They were a simple people with a simple goal; and that goal was to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the concluding part of verse 47 we read:

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

There are many attempts today to “grow the church”, “reach people for Christ”, etc. thus we have shows of entertainment, motorcycle jumping and racing, power teams, rock stars, and we get a crowd.  The gospel is preached, and hundreds, maybe in some cases thousands, raise their hands of decision for Christ.  For some it is genuine and they are born again to faith in Jesus Christ.  For the others they go away thinking, “Man, I prayed some words tonight.  I am alright with God.  Let’s party.”  and they are still on the road to destruction due to deception.

Notice who added the people to the church.  It was the Lord who added to the church daily.  It was not the apostles.  It was not the women of the church.  It was not the children of the church.  It was not the men of the church.  They had no programs.  They had no visitation program.  They were, however, faithful in worship, praise, and living a consistent Christian lifestyle which was a testimony of their faith.

It is my belief that when the people of God will get into His Word, read it, study it – pulling out the meaning, the message and power of the text, and apply it to our lives then, we will be more powerful affective witnesses and see multitudes come to faith in Jesus our Lord and Savior.  It is not our doing, our calling to save sinners; that is the work of our Lord.  It is our doing and calling to be faithful witnesses.

Continue Christians in the work of Jesus Christ.

-Tim A. Blankenship

These are my study notes for a sermon I preached at Carr Lane Baptist Church on September 28, 2008

Put Off, Put On, Put Away

Ephesians 4:20-25

A few years ago a church of  which I was pastor had a Sunday afternoon Nursing Home ministry one Sunday of each month.  There were several who attended the service, and we sung hymns, and I usually preached a short message.

Almost every Sunday we were there I made an attempt to visit a moment with each one, shaking their hand, placing a hand on their hand or shoulder, even kneeling beside them so I could hear what they wanted to say.  One man in particular, which I remember well; and this shows the repulsive side of me; was a man who was pushed in a wheel chair to the service.  This man was unclean, he stank, and it was so bad the flies even noticed.  I tried to give him the same attention I gave all the others.

The first time I met him I am sure I pulled away, but quickly caught my action, and still spoke with him.  That must be a small bit of how God senses our stink of sin.  The odor of sin is more than He in His holiness, righteousness and justice can endure, but in His wondrous grace, and tender mercy He provides cleansing, and new clothing of righteousness which is the righteousness of Christ Jesus.

Would God provide this cleansing, new clothing, and new life to continue living in that stench from which we have been delivered?  By no means.

OUTLINE –

I. THE CHRISTIAN LEARNS CHRIST (v. 20).

II.  THE CHRISTIAN “PUTS OFF” THE “OLD MAN” (vv. 21-23).

III.  THE CHRISTIAN “PUTS ON” THE “NEW MAN” (v. 24).

IV.  THE CHRISTIAN “PUTS AWAY” LYING (v. 25).

THE CHRISTIAN LEARNS CHRIST.  We already know the way we have left behind.  It is time we learn Christ.  This is not learning about Him, but LEARNING CHRIST.  This means a life, road, path of sin, stench, death and destruction is left behind (Ephesians 2:1).  It was a life that knew not that it was enslaved until the Light of Christ broke through.

It is good to learn about Jesus Christ, however the Christian LEARNS CHRIST.  That means we love Him more than anything else; we love and enjoy sweet fellowship with Him.  That means that we walk with Him and He with us (John 14:21, 23-24).  That means to live His life so others see Him within us.

THE CHRISTIAN “PUTS OFF” THE “OLD MAN”.  When Jesus delivers us from that life of sins condemnation and its stench the old stinky clothes of sin must be removed; sometimes, however the Christian getting full of themselves rather than full of God, put the old clothes back on.  Delving into the sewage of our sins, the stench hangs around again, and we wonder why God seems so far away, and we have started getting into the old, former way of life.

The people of Ephesus were known to be worshippers of Diana, and this made the Christian life a little difficult, because all the Ephesians were almost expected to be Diana worshippers.    Every culture or society is difficult  for the Christian life.  We say things today like, “It’s hard to be a kid today”.  “Things are different in this day than they have ever been”.  I am one who begs to differ with that.  Someone has said, “The more things change; the more they remain the same”; and that looks right to me.  I read the Bible, and in the prophets I see people who are absolutely no different than the people of today are.  That is why we need the apostle’s inspired words today.

Put them off… that is not what you learned Christ.  That old life of self, sin, and its stench must go.  “Put off” that old garment spotted by the flesh.  Since the apostle is telling us to “put off” that surely means that it is  in our power, through the Spirit of Christ [Holy Spirit] to put it off.  We have the POWER of God to put off the evil.

Then there must be “renewing in the spirit of your mind” as well.  Before we were born of the Spirit of God our spirit was dead to God.  By the power of the Spirit of God our spirit was born of God; we are empowered to overcome all sin; to put off the garment of sin, and put on the “new man”.  The “putting off” comes before the “renewing the mind”.  The old stench of sin on those grave clothes blocks the fragrant scents of heaven and of God’s glorious grace. (Colossians 3:8-9).

THE CHRISTIAN “PUTS ON” THE “NEW MAN”.  The “new man” is born of God to be like God in His holiness, and righteousness; through His Son.  We are told by Paul nine times within his epistles to “Put on” something…

1. In Romans 13:12 he writes, “Put on the armour of light…”
2. 1 Corinthians 15: 53 & 54 “Put on  incorruption… ‘put on immortality” twice in these two verses;
3. In Galations 3:27 “put on Christ…”;
4. Ephesians 4:24 “Put on the new man…”
5. Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the whole armour of God…”
6. Colossians 3:10 “put on the new man…”
7. Colossians 3:12 “Put on… bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering”
8. Colossians 3:14 “Put on charity…”

We are to “put on” the life of Jesus Christ.

THE CHRISTIAN “PUTS AWAY” LYING.  Lying is a means of deception.  Deception should never be in the heart of the believer; the follower of Jesus Christ.  Deception’s intent is to cover the truth, and reveals nothing except that the one lying, deceiving cannot be trusted.  Deception is a tool of the enemy.

The truth is precious among friends, neighbors, and practiced among them.  Sometimes truth hurts, however, it is a means of great peace, and to great peace.  Truth is the way to the knowing of God, and all knowledge needed knowing.  Truth is the way to strong faith, and new, rewarding fellowship with one another and with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus is the Truth in Person.

Those who do the truth come to Jesus.  “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”  John 3:21 (KJV)
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  John 3:36 (KJV)

-Tim A. Blankenship

Message Of Jesus – Still Needed

“And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.  And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.”  Mark 2:1-2 (KJV)

“They crowded to hear Him, as we read in this passage, “until there was no room about the door.” They were amazed. They were astonished. They were filled with wonder at His mighty works. But they were not converted. They lived in the full noon-tide blaze of the Sun of Righteousness, and yet their hearts remained hard. And they drew from our Lord the heaviest condemnation that He ever pronounced against any place, except Jerusalem–“And you people of Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in Sodom, it would still be here today. I assure you, Sodom will be better off on the judgment day than you.” (Matt. 11:23, 24)”  From J. C. Ryle Commentary

There is a need for humanity to hear the words of Jesus.  It is a necessity of human beings; if we are to be eternally saved; to hear and heed His Word.  The  earthquake (December 26, 2004) which caused the tsunami in the Indian Ocean; and various other earthquakes, storms, and wars; should be a wake up cry to the world.  God is still in charge of the world.  The death toll has been staggering – to say the least – reaching into the hundreds of thousands, and many of those going into eternal fires of torment.

There is sin still in our world.  Every one of us born of man is born into sin.  We are sinners by birth and sinners by choice.  It is because of sin that there is sickness, disease, death, tsunami, tornado, earthquake, storms, etc..

People will often gather; as they did for Jesus on the day we read here; to hear a great speaker, because of what they might see, receive, or to be entertained.  The people of Capernaum were awed by Jesus, and the words He spoke, but they would not take heed to His words.

There are people who are asking, “If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then why did He not prevent this horrible disaster in the Indian Ocean?”,  “Why did He not prevent the destruction of this tornado, earthquake, the death of my son or daughter; husband or wife?”  God is Omnipotent [All-Powerful] and Omniscient [All-Knowing], and yes He could have prevented the disaster, but because of the fall “Nature” just as sin is allowed to run its course.  We had just as well ask, “Why did my Dad die?” or “Why is there death in the world?”  Most Christians would agree that death is the result of sin, because we know those verses that tell us “death came into the world because of sin” (Rom. 5:12-21).

The world needs to hear the words and message of Jesus because there is coming a judgment upon the world unlike which the world has never seen.  It seems to me that God is screaming for mankind’s attention.  Still there are those who keep asserting that “…these things are only a thing of nature, there is no God, and this tragedy only proves it.”

In stark reality it seems to me to show that God is truly gracious; for if He were to take His hand completely away from His creation; the universe and the  world on which we live, and all that is in it would come to an abrupt end.  And He would be completely just in doing so.

People in Ezekiel’s day would gather to hear a preacher preach, but not do according to his teaching (Ezekiel 33:30-33).  Jesus said, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not what I say?”  Good question.  We as God’s people need to hear what God says and take heed to what He says.  The people of the world need to hear what God says, they need to hear what He says about repentance and faith, about His Son Jesus and the way to eternal life through Him.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Conspiracy Theorists

Prophets were often accused of conspiring with enemy forces. Isaiah was no different. Isaiah was involved in a conspiracy, but not with the enemy of Israel or Judah. He was in a conspiracy with the LORD of hosts. That is “The Conspiracy” I write of in this article. If preachers are to be the men of God we have been called to be we will be accused at times of conspiring against our church, our people, and sometimes even accused of going against tradition, when we really are not.

The prophet Isaiah is told by God, “not to walk in the way of this people”. When our people are going astray, when they are living out of the will of the LORD, when they are in feuds with one another, when they are charging the preacher of conspiracy, then is the time for that preacher to stand and preach like he has never preached the Word before. It is not the time to back down.

Hear the Word of the LORD spoken to Isaiah:

“For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,  Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.  Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.  And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.” Isaiah 8:11-15 (KJV)

The prophet is being directed by the LORD to have no walk in the way of his people. They were actually accusing this man of God of conspiring with the enemy, and they wanted to pronounce judgment upon this man Isaiah.

As I look as this passage of Scripture I find myself wondering, “What did they fear?”, “What did they dread?” Were they fearing the dreaded enemy that they had heard was coming? It seems to me that they were probably fearing the failure of the economy. The failure of their insurance policies, ie., their walls. They may have been more fearful of their health failing them as well. What ever they feared Isaiah is told not to fear the same things, but rather to “Regard as holy” Him who is speaking to the prophet. He is assured that God will be his sanctuary – a place of protection and solitude.

The prophet is also told “Let Him (ie., God) be your fear, and let Him be your dread”. The only hope anyone has is in the LORD. It does no one any good whatsoever to fear and dread anything that is human, or thing, or thought, or act of another. We have absolutely no control over other’s lives; but God does.

We can stand assured by God and His Word that those who stand against God, His Word, and His men will find a Rock of offense, they will stumble, they shall fall, and be broken. If there is a conspiracy among the men of God; let “The Conspiracy” be that we are faithful to God, His Word, and His way. Let us be faithful in proclaiming the Word, warning the people, encouraging the people who are weary, “comforting the afflicted; and afflicting the comfortable.”

-Tim A. Blankenship

An Assuring Word

There is many a time that preachers can become discouraged, down-hearted, and just plain ole depressed. All people have those moments, and the men God calls to proclaim His Word are definitely no different.

The prophets were given God’s message to proclaim to God’s people. Jeremiah the prophet of God is known as the “weeping prophet”; because his heart is so often broken, and his eyes come to tears because of the backsliding of the people. There are times he doubts, fears, and is troubled, and God always comes through with words to encourage him; though sometimes, those words may also be disturbing.

Take for example the following:

“Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.” Jeremiah 5:14 (KJV)

The man of God who proclaims the Word of God should do so with the burden of God’s Word on his heart; yet with joy knowing that God will complete His Word – it will be fulfilled. Many of the words of the prophets and the prophecies we have written in God’s Word comes across many times as being negative; however it is all proclaimed with a positive outcome in sight.

The prophet wept over the sins of his people, proclaimed the message of God’s Word with power and conviction; and at the expense of his life’s comforts and his life.

Look at God’s Word to Jeremiah; “Because ye speak this word…”. God is declaring Jeremiah faithful in preaching. “…Behold, I will make My words in thy mouth fire…”. Fire burns; it burns the fuel that is added to it; and where there is no fuel the fires dies out. Again, God commends Jeremiah for speaking “My words in your mouth…”. The ‘words’ being fire means that God will accomplish what the prophet has spoken. It is very discouraging to the preacher to know that he is preaching God’s Word, and feel that God is not moving in the messages. When the preacher/prophet sees God moving in the lives of people, and is hearing God promising him that He will accomplish His Word; that encourages and blesses the preacher.

One of the sad things about the message of the preacher is knowing that it will affect people differently. Some will leave with anger concerning the message, and in most cases God will still continue working to cut away, the burn away the dross, and deal with that sin or sins in that life. Others will hear the preacher preaching the Word of God, and believe, and begin practicing the Word which they have heard.

The words in the mouth of the prophet made fire… and God continues, “…and this people wood…”. Wood is fuel for the fire. This is a sad element of the prophet of God. That God through this preacher would devour this people in their sins. It brings no pleasure to God’s prophet; but pain. Yet, there is this fulfillment of knowing that God is accomplishing His purpose and glory through this painful message.

Be assured pastor and preacher of the Word of God; God will accomplish His word. Every word will be fulfilled; and God will be glorified. He is glorified in the message of the cross of Jesus Christ; His Word has been fulfilled in the death of Christ, His burial, and His bodily resurrection. Preach Jesus; His cross, burial, and bodily resurrection.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Cause Worth Fighting For

1 Samuel 17:29

There are times we need to heed the wise advice of who ever coined the phrase “Choose your fights”, or maybe you have never heard the phrase before.  That is okay.  The advice is good to heed when it comes to family, friends and neighbors.  You might include in that the people you work with in case some don’t understand the neighbor part.

There are times we must fight when no one else will, and this case in David’s life is a great example.  His brother was willing to start a quarrel with David, but unwilling to face Goliath.

What is there that is worth fighting for; even if it could mean our death?

OUTLINE from 1 Samuel 17:29 –

I.  THERE IS A CAUSE WHEN THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE IN FEAR (vv. 11, 24).
II.  THERE IS A CAUSE WHEN THERE IS NO FEAR IN THE ENEMY CAMP (vv. 3-10).
III.  THERE IS A CAUSE WHEN THE ONE WITH NO FEAR IS CHARGED WITH PRIDE (v. 28).
IV.  THERE IS A CAUSE WHEN THE NAME OF GOD, AND HIS ARMY IS DEFIED (v. 10).

THERE IS A CAUSE WHEN THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE IN FEAR (vv. 11, 24).  I would imagine that all of us have been intimidated by some one or some thing at some time of other.  Intimidation is fear.  King Saul and his troops were in fear of this behemoth of a man, the soldier of the Philistines who challenged them to send out their best man, and end the battle.

Saul was a king who had allowed pride, and his own personal accomplishments to get between himself and God, and fear was a side product of this.  The Lord Jesus has said,

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (KJV)

Saul seems to have been more concerned with losing the battle than that the name of God was defied.  Compare the heart of the king with young David, and you see quite the contrast.  David had the heart like what our Lord spoke, believing God would deliver;

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32 (KJV)

The fear in the troops of God was evident for the young David who had a heart for God.

David was angry by the man who defied the armies of God; defying God.  When God’s people see people defying our God; it should cause us to rise up and confront the enemy of God.

Christian, let us maintain our right fellowship with God.  Let us always give Him the glory for any accomplishments.  Let us never fear the flesh of man, but always fear our God, knowing that it is He who raises up kings, and prime ministers,  presidents, and princes.  Christian, always walk in the fear of God and you will fear nothing else.  Paul the apostle has written by the Spirit of God,

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

THERE IS A CAUSE WHEN THERE IS NO FEAR IN THE ENEMY CAMP (vv. 3-10).  The words of Goliath continued haunting the host of Israel day after day after day, and no one is doing anything, except shaking in their sandals.  It is a good sign that the people of God are not living by the commandments of God and have fallen away from Him.

It is quite evident by Goliath’s challenge that the Philistines are not shaking in their sandals.  The giant is boastful, arrogant, confident that he can win against any “poor soldier” of Israel.  They have forgotten the power of one man who is right with God.

Saul’s sins are many, but there are two which bear remembering.  The first is his impatience in waiting for Samuel to come and offer sacrifice; so he offers it himself (1 Samuel 13).  The second sin is one of disobedience.  In chapter 15 the LORD sent Samuel to command Saul to destroy the Amalekites, and to leave none living; and to kill all the animals in their possession; to take nothing.  Saul saved many alive, saved some of the animals, and saved king Agag alive; in disobedience to God.  Some of today’s people might call Saul a “Real humanitarian”; however the issue was a commandment of God, he disobeyed, and the issue is obedience, godliness, and righteousness and Saul was none of them.

Due to the sin of Israel, the king and the troops they now live in fear.  Some fear with over coming faith in God can be a powerful thing.  When there is no faith in God, however, it [fear] is crippling.  Such was the case with Saul.  Now because of this there was no fear in the Philistine camp.

Could it be, that the reason there is no fear of God in the enemy camp today [2009] is due to the disobedience of many of God’s people?  The love, power, grace and mercy of God is not seen in our lives.

The cause for the Christian today is to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10), and stand upon the teachings, the death, burial, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the promise of His imminent return for His bride.  To be honest, forthright, just, faithful (first to God, and to one another), loving, generous, kind, having self-control, being filled with joy, peace, and patience (Galations 5:22-23).

When Christians are walking with God the world will respect us, and they will fear YHWH.

THERE IS A CAUSE WHEN THE ONE WITH NO FEAR IS CHARGED WITH PRIDE (v. 28).  You could say that Eliab, David’s brother, was accusing him of “grandstanding”.  That sounds like many who have accused men of God in past generations of Christianity, and not so distant days of “grandstanding”.  It could be called, “Making a spectacle of one’s self”, or using an opportunity to call attention to one’s self as the answer to the problem at hand;  just for selfish cause.

David’s heart went immediately to God when he saw this treacherous event from the Philistines.  He saw a cause in this and he, though just a youth, was willing to give his life in God’s hands and go and conquer this mocker of God.  David did not say, “I think I can conquer this giant”,  he said,

“The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” (v. 37).

There is no question in the mind of David.  God will give him the victory, and he is going to give God the glory.

THERE IS A CAUSE WHEN THE NAME OF GOD, AND HIS ARMY IS DEFIED (v. 10).  This thought is tied very closely with the second thought.  When there is no fear in the heart of the enemy of God, and His people they will defy the name of God, and His people.

To defy is to belittle, mock, to make light of, to accuse of cowardice, or impotence in battle.  John Gill in his commentary wrote;

“1Sa 17:10 – And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day,…. Or “reproach” them; that is, should they not accept his challenge, and send down a man to fight with them, he should then upbraid them with cowardice; and now he disdained them, as if there was not a man among them that dared to encounter with him:

On verse 26 Gill writes;

“for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? there were two things which provoked David, and raised indignation in him against this man; the one was, the character of the person that reproached, a Philistine, an uncircumcised person, a profane man, that had no true religion in him, an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger to the covenants of promise; and the other was the persons whom he reproached, the armies of the living God, of the King of kings, and Lord of lords; and which in effect was reproaching the Lord himself, and which David, filled with zeal for God, and for his people, could not bear; and the consideration of these things animated him to engage with him, not doubting of success.”

Back to the thought of fear.  It cripples, it keeps God’s people from the power which God has given us through the seal of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 1:13-14).  We begin to fear the shadows of life when we are not walking with God.  We fear physical assaults, we fear every turn of our lives, we fear that our friends are whispering about us behind our backs, plotting to ruin or hurt us in some way, we fear financial ruin, we even begin questioning our salvation, the love of God, and the love others have for us.

When we, like David, are walking in the Spirit, walking with God, then we fear nothing but God Himself.

When God and His army is defied, that should cause His people to rise up, and be brave, bold and beautiful in our Lord.  We are living in a day of darkness.  It is not the time for fear, but faith in God through His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus’s words, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1) were words of assurance, peace and encouragement.  We must live, love, and fight in those words.  When others try to tear you down, the body of Christ down, your church down;  let us stand strong in God; in His Word, in and through the power of His Spirit.

-Tim A. Blankenship

When God Is Not King

Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25

This is going to be a overview of chapters 17 through 21.  It seems that these chapters tie together very strongly in showing what happens when God is not the One ruling individuals, and national life.

The key to understanding these chapters appears to be the phrase, “There was no king…”, and that would certainly mean that even God was not the rule of their hearts and lives.  At least they were not submitted to His rule and reign.  We know and believe as Christians, of course, that God is sovereign, and in complete control of every nation, ruler, and individual.

OUTLINE chapters 17 – 21 –

I.  THE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP OF THE NATION WAS IN SHAMBLES (17:6-18:31).
II.  LACK OF LOVE, RESPECT, AND COMMITMENT IN MARRIAGE (19:1-21).
III.  SEEMING UNRESTRAINED ANIMAL LUST, AND HUMAN DEPRAVITY (19:22-28).
IV.  WARS BETWEEN BRETHREN (19:29-20:48).
V.  UNHOLY COMPASSIONS (21:1-24).

WHEN GOD IS NOT KING THE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP OF THE CHURCHES, COMMUNITIES, AND NATIONS CRUMBLE (17:6-18-31).  This as a matter of fact is the ultimate reason that nations crumble and fall.  When the spiritual, moral leadership fails, nations are left without a foundation on which to stand.

In this text we have a young man (unnamed) from the  priestly family (Levi) who goes to serve as a priest for one man [Micah] and his family.  He is basically selling the office of priest.  It isn’t long until some group more powerful, with more means comes and buys him away.

This was a young “priest” who was selling his services for gain, to live, and not giving spiritual guidance, or any life guidance what so ever.  Right priestly, spiritual leadership will confront, rebuke, exhort (2 Timothy 3:16-17) through Scriptural counsel.

Right spiritual leadership begins with the priesthood of the home.  The priest of the home is the husband of the wife, father of the children.  This is one of the appointments of God for the Christian man of the house.  That is not to say he is the only priest of the home, the wife, the mother, and each of the children who are Christians are also priests under Jesus Christ, and have the authority to approach the very throne of God.

God has placed the Christian man as the head of spiritual leadership of that home, and when this begins  to fail the foundation begins weakening.  When the husbands and fathers are not leading the homes spiritually, that will show up in the local church, the community, the State government, and the National governments.

This responsibility begins with every Christian.  Make God King of your life through faith in Jesus Christ and His cross.

WHEN GOD IS NOT KING THERE WILL BE A LACK OF LOVE, RESPECT AND COMMITTMENT IN MARRIAGE (19:1-21)  We have in these verses a Levite who has a “concubine” who has forsaken him and returned to her father.  For all practical purposes we see her here as the only “wife” he has.  He does seem to have a love for her, because he pursues her to her father’s home.

The wife had been unfaithful (v. 2), and went to her father’s home in Bethlehem-Judah, and was there for four months.  He goes to her father’s house to bring her home.  He meets his “father in law” (v. 7) for the first time, and they begin communicating , creating a bond with one another, and the “husband” stays the night;  and it wasn’t until the late afternoon of the fifth day that the man and his ‘concubine’ departed.

She  has shown a lack of commitment in her marriage, by being unfaithful.  He has shown some love for her by  pursuing her to her father’s home, to bring her back with him to their home.  He does not however have much respect for marriage, because a concubine was only for the purpose of man’s pleasure or service, and God actually commands a man have one wife.  We are not told anywhere that she was his “wife”, but only concubine.

It seems that the man made bad choices.  This is certainly evidence of the time of spiritual darkness of that day and time.  She is not his wife, she is his wife.  She is not his wife in the traditional sense of that day; she is his wife in the sense of his responsibility for her.

Just as this issue with the Levite and the concubine is confusing so too has the marriage issue of our day become quite confusing.  God ordained that a man leave his father and mother, and cleave only to his wife (Genesis 2:24).  He has ordained that one man and one woman wed, and be together until they are parted by death.  Because of sin God has given allowances for divorce;  Jesus said, “Because of the hardness of your hearts…” (Matthew 19:8;  Mark 10:5).

When God is not king in marriage, then there will be confusion about the rights and wrongs of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.  There will be arguments over authority, rights, and all kinds of family issues; similar to whether a woman should have children if she is not married, and especially if an unmarried woman should be allowed to have fourteen children, through medical means.

When God is King we follow His plans for life, love and marriage and family.

WHEN GOD IS NOT KING THERE WILL BE UNRESTRAINED LUST AND HUMAN DEPRAVITY (19:22-28).  This Levite showed same careless attitude of many people, including many Christians of our day;

1. Any judgment that may be coming is somewhere around the corner in another time and place;
2. Still longing for more fun, more partying and more amusement.

He took no thought for his or her own life when he decided to leave her father’s home so late, and found himself on the streets of an unholy place.

A fine, courteous man invites them to his home for safety, and shelter.  The man accepts the invitation, and they are soon approached by the “sons of Belial” (v. 22), and they sound much like the people who approached Lot’s door requesting to “know” the men he had in his house (Genesis 20:4-5).  Only these were not struck with blindness or later destroyed by fire and brimstone.

Lust was in the hearts of these people.  They had no self restraint, no fear of God, and no care for anyone but self.

The sad part about it is that the Levite and his host seem to have no love for anything but self either.  The “good guys” are not so great after all, are they?  Now, I know all the arguments about this; and I clearly see it, but no man who is right with God in any time or culture would sell their wife, daughter; nor any other man’s wife or daughter for their life.  We will not cast them out to the savages for our own benefit, and to leave them lying dead on the “thresholds” after having wanted back in.

When God is King there is love in the marriage, the home, and respect for one another; and a heart for what is right, wrong, and responsibilities for guidance and protection of that home.

WHEN GOD IS NOT KING THERE WILL BE WARS AND UNREST BETWEEN BRETHREN (19:29-20:48).  Though rightly angry over the death of this woman; I cannot help but believe that part of his actions in cutting up her body is from guilt.  Why didn’t I stand my ground?  Why didn’t I stand to protect her and the man’s daughter (19:24)?  So now he wants to get all the people of Israel involved in his sin.  The rush to judgment, though they had consulted God in the matter, led to the eventual destruction of the tribe of Benjamin.   Though God had given approval for the first two attacks He had not promised them victory until the third attack.

The nation needed to learn from this event.  Their sins, their lack of trust in God, and dependence upon Him was their major offense.  Now they have come to God these three times, it would seem, as only a crutch, or a spare tire.

How should it have been handled?  Should they have been obeying God’s commandments, God’s laws?  YES!  Should they have had only one wife?  YES!  Sometimes even at all times when we just insist on having our own way God allows us to do it.  Then we suffer the thorns and thistles of the life we chose.  That young lady who was counselled by her pastor she shouldn’t marry that non-christian boy, but went ahead with it and, is now troubled by a drunken husband who beats her, cheats on her, and abuses the kids and won’t bring home the check for groceries and rent, but gambles, and drinks it away; she now wants to blame God for her choice.  You were warned young lady.  God gave you the word and you didn’t hear it, you rejected it for your self desire, and will; now you are paying.

When God is King there is obedience to His commandments, and prayer and right choices lead to a life of blessing.  Do we who are Christians ever make wrong choices?  Most definitely.  We pay for our wrong choices.  When God is King it will not lead to unrest between brethren.  He is not a crutch or a spare tire; to be only called upon when in dire straits.

When God is King His Word will be believed and practiced and feared.  When God is King there will be no conflict over whether the Word of God is inerrant, infallible, and eternal

WHEN GOD IS NOT KING THERE WILL BE UNHOLY COMPASSIONS (21:1-24).  The tribe of Israel had basically been destroyed.   Now they suddenly grow concerned about that one tribe, and begin doing all kinds of compromising things to justify their actions.  A plan, a scheme of kidnapping women, and joining of the kidnapped with the living Benjamites, and the kidnapped women being from a city of Judea which has been destroyed due to their lack of participation in the war.  When God is not King man schemes, plots, and eventually loses out on the blessings of God.

Compassion is a good, and sometimes even godly thing.  Any compassion that is based on godlessness is not godly.  It may have been right to preserve the tribe of Benjamin, but the plots and scheming was not right.  It would not have need to be done should things been done according to God’s Word, guidance and direction.

When God is King there will be holy compassion and holy unions, all without schemes, and plots around the desires of God.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Our Love For Jehovah

OUTLINE for Deuteronomy 5:6-21;

I.  LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART (vv. 6-7).
II.  LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR SOUL (vv. 8-10).
III.  LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND (v. 11).
IV.  LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH (vv. 12-15)

LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART (vv. 6-7).  God [YHWH or YaHWeH] is the One and only One who delivered Israel from Egypt.  Delivered from the house of bondage He calls His delivered people to trust only in Him.

To LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART is to love only Him.  When a man is  in love with a woman, he grows more in love with her with each passing day.  The same is true with knowing and loving God.  In the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy we are told, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart…” (v. 5); and in Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus is quoted saying the same thing (Matthew 22:37;  Mark 12:30;  Luke 10:27).

When God speaks here He is not authorizing us to put Him at the top of the list of gods to worship.  His heart’s command is to worship Him alone, and there is no other.  Would a man tell his wife “As long as you have me at the top of the list, you may see all the other men you want”?  No man in his right mind, and with any moral character would say that.

The heart is the seat of who we are.  The heart of the one who worships God alone will have his/her heart filled with God.

LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR SOUL (vv. 8-10).  Mankind is the only one of God’s creation which is made in His image and after His likeness.  We are told that when God had made Adam, “…and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7 (KJV).

When we LOVE GOD WITH ALL OUR SOUL we are loving Him from who we really are.  He breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, and that is not said of any other creature of creation, but mankind.

When we worship and love gods of our own making we denigrate ourselves.  Even when we worship self through selfishness, atheism, agnosticism, or in science, technology, or any other means of self worth garbage; we do not lower God we lower ourselves.

It is certain, at least in my mind, that everything which God has made obeys the ordinances and laws of God set down for each of them with the exception of one; and that one is man.  The one made in His image has sinned, rebelled, and seeks other things as their god.  The worship of other gods is demon worship;

“What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10:19-22).

Man is the only part of God’s creation of which God has said is made in His image and after His likeness. Remember, everytime you look at another human being you are looking at the image of God. Though this image is darkened by sin; there is light for thier soul. To murder the unborn in the womb is to murder the image of God. To curse another human being is to curse the image of God. To lie about another is to lie about the image of God.

The greatest, purest, and clearest Image of God was the One who walked on earth as God’s Son.  His name is Jesus.  He said, “If you have seen Me,  you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).

LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND (v. 11).  It is certain, at least to me, that many people of our society need a renewed mind. I know that Jesus also said that, “…From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh…” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45), but is it not the mind that gives the mouth the ability to speak. And, we do often “Speak our mind”. We say things like, “…I will give them a piece of my mind…”, and usually when we cannot afford to give them any.

God’s name is often used, even by professing Christians who use His name without thought. It has been said that the Hebrew scribes, when writing the Scriptures would change “pens” to write the name of God. It was so special that the name of God is not even clearly revealed in the original languages. In the Hebrew language all we know of the name God is YHWH. That name has been transliterated to Jehovah or YaHWeH. The best name we have for God is J-E-S-U-S. And, how often we hear His name used vainly.

The heart that is abundant with the things of God and Jesus His Son will speak from that abundance. An abundant heart will have a clear, thinking mind. The abundant heart will speak things which will glorify the Father and the whole God-head. When your heart and soul are filled with God, are you going to speak vainly of God? No way.

There are those who use God’s name in vain by cursing and swearing. What about those who speak God’s name, seemingly in a reverent manner on Sunday at church, but the rest of the week live like the world in the way they speak? It seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy. Not just a hypocritical act but the act of a Hypocrite.

There is nothing that turns off a someone away from God quicker than someone who professes Christianity on Sunday, but imbibes in the world the rest of the week. This is a taking of God’s name in vain as well. God help us to guard our minds, by always speaking reverently of God. “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.” (Psalm 111:9).

What about those who do all the churchy, traditional things, but overlook doing right toward their neighbor?

“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:” (Isaiah 29:13).

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9).

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.” (Luke 6:46-48).

LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH (vv. 12-15).  This is the fourth and final commandment having to do with our relationship with God. It is important to have this relationship. We are born into this world with that relationship in deadness. There is no spiritual heart for God. The law is pure evidence that this is so. There is no human being who has obeyed the law of God completely, except the Son of God Himself – Jesus Christ.

In the first place the Sabbath was initiated by God after the sixth day of creation when His work was finished.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” (Genesis 2:1-3).

In creation God established a work cycle for mankind. Contrary to some beliefs work is not a part of the curse. Laziness is a sin and is a part of the curse. God made it where every hard working person would have a day of rest and worship. It is still necessary to have a day to rest and to worship the Lord our God. It is a shame on our society in which people work seven days a week and never give God a thought. The only god some people worship is the “Greenback” which can do absolutely nothing for peace or joy.

For Israel it was a day for renewing their strength after six days of laboring, and for worshipping God. The Christian is not bound by this commandment. We find our strength and rest in Him. He is in fact our rest and strength. That does not mean that we are to forsake the day of worship. It does mean that our worship is to be everyday, and when we join with our brothers and sisters on Sundays to lift up the name of our Lord and Savior, and God.

The Christian and the Sabbath is shown us in Hebrews 4:1-11. There we are told,

“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief…”.

Because Jesus fulfilled this and all the law by His complete and perfect obedience to God, His Father, we are privileged and honored to join together on the first day of the week to do so, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” (Acts 20:7). “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:5-6). The reason we worship on Sunday is because of the fulfillment and completion of the law in Christ Jesus and His resurrection on Sunday morning. The Christian’s rest is in Jesus Christ, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28). Jesus said this before He died and was buried and rose again. That means it was so in the beginning as well.

Our strength is God’s.  He gives every breath we breath.  He gives every beat of our heart.  He gives us every step we take.  Our sole allegiance ought to be to Him and to Him alone.

Loving God We Love Our Neighbor

OUTLINE vv. 16-21

I.  LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR BEGINS AT HOME (v. 16).
II.  LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR MEANS LOVING AND RESPECTING HUMAN LIFE (v. 17).
III.  LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR MEANS CHERISHING THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE (v. 18).
IV.  LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR RESPECTS PRIVATE OWNERSHIP (v. 19).
V.  LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR WE BEAR WITNESS OF THE TRUTH (v. 20).
VI.  LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR WE DESIRE THEM TO BE BLESSED (v. 21).

LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR BEGINS AT HOME (v. 16).  Without our mothers and fathers we would not be present in the world.  That should be a good thing for us.  It is a sad thing that many a child grows up never knowing their dad, and sometimes their mom.  One of the most dreadful things is that some of those who do grow up with both parents is the disrespect many have toward them.

Usually, when a child does not honor and respect their parents, they have less respect, if any respect, for law enforcement, and for any in places of authority; thus getting themselves into a multitude of troubles.  God intended children to have their parents.  Mom’s and Dad’s; you are not ordained by God to be a friend to your child; you are called, ordained to be a parent, giving them guidance, correction, love, care, providing for them as they are growing and learning.  Friendship with your son(s) or daughter(s) will come when they are grown, then, you will have a friendship which you will cherish.

This is the only commandment of the ten with a promise.  One reason for the Babylonian exile was Israel’s disrespect for parents;

“In thee have they set light by father and mother: in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger: in thee have they vexed the fatherless and the widow”. (Ezekiel 22:7);

“Behold, therefore I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee. Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do it. And I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in the countries, and will consume thy filthiness out of thee. And thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself in the sight of the heathen, and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 22:13-16).

Could it be that many of the problems of the society within the United States is much related to the disrespect of children toward parents, many authority figures, and God Himself?  That may have started with adults having a disrespect for human life.  Which would have began with a turning away from God.

LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR MEANS LOVING AND RESPECTING HUMAN LIFE (v. 17).  This sixth commandment is given to protect life, human life.  We are to cherish, and respect all human life.  The human baby in the womb of his/her mother, or even the embryo in the glass dish, or frozen in storage.  The MIRRIAM/WEBSTER Pocket Dictionary defines “embryo: a living being in the earliest stages of development–”,  and we have “Scientist” who want to cut up and destroy human embryoes for the purpose of “life saving” stem cell research.  These are not “Scientist”; they are butchers.

Let me get one thing straight.  This commandment is a commandment against cold-blooded murder.  Willful, pre-meditated, planned taking of a human life.  It is not commandment against protecting one’s own life.  It is not commandment against the execution of a murderer.  The execution of a murderer is surely the surest form of respect for human life.  Capital punishment of the murderer shows all that every human being is equal before God.  When we allow a convicted murderer to live; we count her/his life more precious than the one they killed.  When we put to death the one who killed maliciously; we  show not only respect for human life, but also show the respect that is due God’s commandments.

Here is some Scripture to reconcile the sixth commandment with capital punishment –

“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’ brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Gen. 9:5-6).

“And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.” (EX. 21:15).

“And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed: If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.” (EX. 21:18-19).

Then a New Testament passage,

” Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” (Romans 13:1-7).

All human life is precious.  Our neighbor’s life and all in his/her household are precious in the sight of our Lord.

LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR MEANS CHERISHING THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE (v. 18).  This commandment, the seventh, is a decree of respect and honor for the marriage of every man and woman.  Marriage is not a right it is an institution of God.  It is decreed by God that “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24), and this definitely means a man and a woman.

The First Institution God Ordained. This first institution is MARRIAGE. This blessed institution is falling by the wayside in our modern society. Our government penalizes married couples by charging them more  taxes in some cases. Elderly couples can receive more Social Security benefits by living together without marrying. This, in essence, is government, our government of the United States; rewarding immoral behavior.

Young couples are living together more and more without marriage. They want to “Test drive” the relationship, similar to test driving a car they want to purchase. This is a relationship not a piece of property. If you test drive a car and buy it there will come a day in a few years, at the most, where you will get rid of that car. If you “Test drive” that relationship, that is what most likely will happen to the relationship too. Why? Because there is need for commitment, and where there is no commitment, there is no power or permanance to the relationship. Either party in the relationship can leave at any time. It is with sadness that I must admit, there are many who enter marriage with this attitude as well. If you are not prepared to spend a lifetime with someone do not marry, but do not make a sham of marriage by living in rebellion to God’s law by cohabitating. There is little to no respect for the institution for marriage, and it seems due to the fact of no respect for God and that which is holy, righteous and good.

Marriage is more than, “Just a sheet of paper…”. It is in fact the bringing together of two – one man and one woman – before God and they two become “One flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). It is in fact a life-time commitment with binding vows that promise one another, and God, that whether “…rich or poor, in sickness or in health, loving no other, until death do we part.” That is more than a sheet of paper; it is a “binding contract” with God, and has serious repercussions if the bond is broken any way other than by death.

THERE IS FORGIVENESS (John 8:1-11). In the Bible the penalty for adultery is death. The Scripture given previously to the last sentence shows this was what was in the heart and mind of this woman’s accusers. Quick to pick up the stones of accusation, slow to mercy, slow to forgiveness. With this woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus gives her forgiveness.

Notice Jesus’s words, “…Go, and sin no more”. It was not just a blanket forgiveness without responsibility. She had been forgiven, and now her life would reflect the cleansing and forgiveness she had received. Muse on these questions for awhile. Where was the man who was caught in the act with her? What did Jesus write in the dirt on the ground? Why didn’t they throw the stones?

The only one who could have stoned her forgave her instead. THERE IS FORGIVENESS FOR THE SIN OF ADULTERY. There is forgiveness for all sin, when you put your faith in Jesus Christ.

LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR RESPECTS PRIVATE OWNERSHIP (v. 19).  For some reason there are many  who think society owes them something so they take what they want, when they want it, and often at great cost to someone else.  Some people who work in some business think they have a right to take a little something which belongs to their boss.  It could be “just a box of paper clips”, or only showing one’s self busy when the boss is watching.  It is theft.  It is stealing.

* Of the first seven commandments; death is the penalty for the violation.
* This eighth commandment does not call for the death penalty – it calls, rather for restitution (Ex. 22:1; Luke 19:5-10).
* There is one exception, that is if they “Kidnap” – steal a human being (Ex. 21:16). This called for the death penalty.

If we love God and one another we will not desire what another has, and take and steal. We will practice what Paul taught the Ephesians, rather, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28). There will be no need for gambling, stealing from those who are more needy – doing it legally. When one loves their neighbor there is also a love for God and for being a faithful steward of God’s resources He has put in our trust. Also there will be the need to see that all debts are paid in full, especially the debt to our neighbors that could be the redemption of their souls.

LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR WE BEAR WITNESS OF THE TRUTH (v. 20).  This commandment is a decree against lying against your neighbor.  Bearing false witness to condemn, to elevate one’s self, to unjustly bolster one’s self image over another, or to bring condemnation before a court.

The Truth is precious, and we should be truthful with our neighbors, with our families, and most of all with God.  When we love God and our neighbors the truth will be precious to us.

The law of God says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” What exactly does this involve. Is it for the individual who is witnessing in court? Yes! Is it for the individual who is witnessing to a neighbor? Yes! You are witnessing as you share a word of gossip. You are witnessing as you defame the character of someone you do not care for. Is this a good witness? No! This is as true in politics. When one candidate charges the other with things they have heard, but are not proven. When one charges the other with something they know is not true.

J. Vernon McGee writes,

“Did you know that there are more words for breaking this commandment than all the other commandments put together?….some of them – lying, mendacity, prevarication, slander, backbiting, defamation, detraction, belittling, censoriousness, gossip, depreciation, derogation, rumor, vilification, aspersion, forgery, mudslinging, falsehood, guile, hypocrisy, insinuation, innuendo, railing, whispering, talebearing, libel, fib, fable, equivocation, disparagement, fabrication, aberation, deceit, trump up, forswear.” (From LOVE, LIBERATION, & THE LAW by J. Vernon McGee pg. 150).

That is a terribly long list of bad words, which are words in action to destroy another.  Should we not consider that when we are guilty of that it is almost certain that it will not be long and they will come back to get us.

Just a few Scriptures will bear out for us the lies destination.

“A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.” Prov 19:5 (KJV).

“A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.” Prov 19:9 (KJV)

“Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.” Psalms 101:5 (KJV)

Now look in the New Testament,

“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” Rev 21:27 (KJV)

“For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Rev 22:15 (KJV)

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matt 12:36 (KJV)

LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR WE DESIRE THEM TO BE BLESSED (v. 21).  When we have real desire for others [our neighbors] to be blessed we will not have the audacity to desire, lust for, covet the property which belongs to them; or the persons which are in their love and care.

Though this commandment is the final of the ten, it could be the KEY COMMANDMENT.  Think about this; if we disobey this commandment we can very easily and are breaking every one of the other nine.

James tells us, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10 (KJV). Get that, “Guilty of all”. Now that can be said of all the others too, but here, I hope you can see why it is important to realize that covetousness is a seed of evil, that breeds evil, and leads to the decay of the whole law in the hearts of people.

According to the book of Colossians it is Idolatry to covet. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” Col 3:5 (KJV). Even the book of Ephesians backs this up by saying, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Eph 5:5 (KJV). Note that Paul has written there, “Nor covetous man, who is an idolater…” O, the sad thing is there are many, many, too many people who live for the grasping and holding on of things, or people, or positions, or power; do I need to go on. I think you get the point.

The following verses are the words of Jesus:

”Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Luke 12:15 (KJV).

Again Jesus says,

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: ) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matt 6:31-34 (KJV).

Now if this is not a word for those who covet things and such, I am mistaken about the whole issue,

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matt 6:21 (KJV).

If your heart is on the things of the world, that is your treasure. However, if your heart is on the Lord and His righteousness and glory, that is your treasure. If you are going to covet; covet the godly things, that will glorify the Savior.

When our treasure is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, then we have these laws written in our hearts, and our desire is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  No one I know of wants any of these negative acts conducted against them.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Error Of Balaam

Numbers 31:16

There are some in the work of the ministry for the ministry of keeping, or getting into others wallets, billfolds, and purses.  Maybe it should be called the taking of others wallets, billfolds, and purses.  This is not a new thing.  The man who is called by God to proclaim the message of God’s word can find himself in many temptations.  One of the strongest is that of obtaining all the wealth of this world he can.

That tends to be the problem with Balaam.

The Bible says;

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” Jude 1:11 (KJV)

There are two other men named in this verse; Cain of Genesis 4, and Korah [Core] from Numbers 16.  Cain killed his brother; Korah verbally attacked and led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron.  What is the “error of Balaam”?  Greed for reward.  And that is not only gold, silver, precious stones; but it can be power, prestige, position, performance, and/or profit.

Let’s look at Balaam, and his life, his acts – both good and bad, and his demise.

I.  KNOWN TO BE A PROPHET; HE IS REQUESTED TO CURSE THOSE WHOM GOD HAS BLESSED (Numbers 22:6-14).

II.  SEEN TO BE AN ANXIOUS PROPHET TO CURSE WHOM GOD HAS BLESSED (vv. 15-21).

III.  GOES TO BALAK, BECAUSE HE CANNOT SEE (vv. 22-35).

IV.  BALAAM EVIDENTLY HAS THE RIGHT WORDS; BUT NOT THE RIGHT HEART (23:7-12, 18-24).

V.  BALAAM’S EYES ARE OPENED TO THE TRUTH OF ISRAEL (24:2-9, 15).

VI.  BALAAM PROPHESIES OF ISRAEL AND THEIR FUTURE BLESSING (vv. 15-24).

VII.  BALAK BRINGS A CURSE UPON THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL (chapter 25).

VIII.  WHAT BALAAM DID TO AID IN THE CURSE UPON THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL (Numbers 31:16)

NO ONE CAN CURSE THOSE WHOM GOD HAS BLESSED (Numbers 22:6-14).  God has previously told, and promised, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you” (Genesis 12:3).  What Balak was requesting was a curse on himself, but then, they were already cursed by their own fear, hatred, and rejection of God’s people.

Balaam seems to be a sorcerer that was well known among the people of the land of Moab.  His sorcery is spoken of,

“And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.” (Numbers 24:1)

He dealt with “enchantments”, “ritual”, or “performance”, and this is probably the very first time God has intervened in his greedy pursuits; and because it was going to relate to His people.  It can only be but by the mercy and grace of God that He intervened.  This could have been nothing more than God showing them, ie., Balaam, Balak, and the Moabites the power of the One True God of Israel.

The thought of Balaam’s face being set toward the wilderness is that he may find a way to curse them.  He at least desires that he may find a cause for God to judge them.  In other words he is not interested in doing the will of YHWH; he is interested in lining his pockets from the wealth of Moab, and their king.

TOO ANXIOUS, FROM GREED FOR WEALTH, LEADS TO THE ATTEMPTED CURSING OF WHAT GOD HAS BLESSED (22:15-21).  Remember Esau, and Jacobs stew (Genesis 25:29-34)?  Esau had gone to hunt or something; may have been gone for a day and without any game on returning.  He is hungry, tired, and the scent of Jacob’s stew makes his mouth water.  At what price will Esau feed his stomach?  At what price will Balaam feed his greed?  At what price will a pastor sell out his calling, ministry, family, or church?  At what price will the Christian man sell his faith and home for that woman at work who pays him more attention than his wife at home?  At what price will that Christian woman sell her faith, her children, her husband, for that more lavish lifestyle?

Is our faith something we can sell?  Some seem to think they can.  When Balaam set out on the journey which was fanned by the flames of greed and fear; the voice he heard louder than any other was the jingle of the gold and silver coins in their purses, the position, power, prestige and profit he could receive if he would just “curse” these people wandering in the wilderness.

He did the right thing in turning down Balak the first time.  He heard the word of the LORD there.  Then, the servants of Balak returned with a better offer, and if he would have been the man of God he should have been; his answer would have been an immediate, NO!

When God has given a clear answer in the negative; especially in this type of situation; there is no need to seek God’s advice again.  He is simply wanting God’s approval to go with the men (Numbers 22:1-21).  God in his patience with Balaam gives him a clear message which he disobeys (vv. 20-21).  Balaam is one of those who merely use God for his own means.  He is a sorcerer (he uses enchantments (24:1)), and he is also known for using all other kinds of sorcery, thus seeking the guidance of the devil as well.  He is a man, a prophet, with a divided heart, and no loyalty to God, holiness, righteousness, or justice.

What price did Esau pay?  He paid the sum of his birthright.  What price will Balaam pay?  That will become apparent by the end of the message.

WHEN THE DUMB CAN SEE AND SPEAK THE LORD MAY COME AND OPEN BLIND EYES THAT THEY MIGHT SEE (vv. 22-35).  Balaam, being anxious to sin against the will of God, and to get him his wealth arises early the next morning saddles his donkey, and gets himself ready to go.  Did Balaam not hear what God had said?  Hear God’s words to Balaam:

“If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.” 22:20 (KJV)

The text tells us nothing of the men coming to him;  he just rises up and gets ready to go.  His mind, his heart is not on God but wealth.

Why is it that we can get out of the will of God, then blame God for not working in our lives?  “I can’t see God doing anything anymore”; someone might say.  “What have you done to shun God or His Word?” would be my first question.  Have you gone your own way?  It could be that God may have some “donkey” to speak to you so as to spare your life.  And He might for me when I am in a similar situation.

Here are some signs of the blindness of Balaam:

1. It is quite clear that the first approach was from enemies of God’s people;
2. Their payment method of divination, shows us that he was viewed by the haters of Israel as connected with sorcery;
3. He listened to them and their payment a second time without reservation;
4. When God tried to stop him, or at least to get his attention, he could not see it.

When it got right down to the truth it was his lowly donkey who saw the “angel of the LORD” standing in the way, which would have killed him had it not been for the donkey.  Balaam could not see the hand of the Lord ready to slay him; he only thought it to be his donkey.

THOSE WHO SAY THE RIGHT THINGS; BUT DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT HEART (vv. 23:7-12, 18-24).  Can a  prophet or preacher say the right words without being in right relationship with God?  Is it possible for the preacher or prophet to know the Gospel of  Jesus Christ without knowing the Jesus Christ of the Gospel?  It is certain that Balaam knew the right words to say, and evidently God was giving him those words to say.  So the answer to those questions must be; YES!

That can go for the Sunday School Teacher, the Deacon, the Elder, the church Treasurer, or the pastor to the man and woman in the pew.  There are many professors in our churches who are not possessors of the person of Jesus Christ, ie.,  His Spirit within.  They know the right words to say in a personal word testimony, but their life bears no fruit.

Balaam’s life bore no fruit of righteousness.  Even John the apostle writing to the church of Pergamum,

“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” Revelation 2:14 (KJV)

This plot between Moab, and the Midianites prove too that it doesn’t matter who is in your family line.  Moab is the eldest of the incestual sons of Lot [Nephew of Abraham] (Genesis 19:36-38).  The Midianites come from Abraham as well; through the wife named Keturah (Genesis 25:1-5); whom Abraham married following Sarah’s death.  Moab gets the Midianites to join them in trying to overthrow Israel.  It is not the bloodline that counts; it is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses all our sin.

WITH EYES WIDE OPEN; YET CONTINUE TO DENY THE TRUTH FOR SAKE OF LUST (vv. 24:2-9, 15).  It is the confession of Balaam himself that says his eyes were opened.  It is the LORD who opened his eyes (v. 4) to see Israel for who they were.  Yet, this man, who divines, who deceives, who has the revelation from the only true and wise God of the identity, work, and uniqueness of this nation, still hungers, craves, lusts for power, prestige, position, and profit.

Jesus said;

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

and the “things” He speaks of is not wealth, riches, power, prestige, position or profit.

There are many who say they know Christ, but have a greater heart for making wealth than they care to know the One who makes wealth.  All things are in His hands, and no one can take them away from Him.  We are, as Christians, “seated with Christ in heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:20; 2:6).  The thing is the soul that is with Jesus does not have their hearts on the things of the earth.  Those who do fit into the same category with the “earth dwellers” of the Revelation.

Many of these know the truth of the Gospel, may profess to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; but they bear no fruit for Christ, thus are eternally lost.  These fit into the same type relationship with Balaam.

THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL, AND THEIR BLESSINGS (vv. 24:15-24). God has opened the eyes of Balaam.  Remember he couldn’t even see the “angel of the LORD” that would have killed him, but his donkey saved his life; thus the LORD was merciful to this false prophet.

His eyes have been opened to the blessing of God upon the nation of people called Israel.  This term [“eyes open”] is used by the prophet himself in a parable he speaks; and uses it at least three times (vv. 4 third parable, 15, and 16 fourth parable).

In this “parable” is a prophecy of the Lord Jesus; “there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel…” (v. 17).  Moab and Edom had been sources of conflict with Israel; even though related; and the coming King would and will deal with them according to His power and might.

The prophecies of Balaam are promises of Israel, and Balaam never fully realizes the truth of what he has spoken.  The mere mention of his name throughout Scriptures seem to indicate that he was false in his life, and that is one of the keys to the recognition of the man of God.

1. The man of God is true to God;
2. The man of God is faithful to God and His Word;
3. The man of God lines his life with the Word of God;
4. The man of God speaks and the Word of God comes to pass.

There are two examples of these in the five books of Moses (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20-22).  Both of these examples speak of turning the hearts of God’s people to other gods (which are not gods at all), and the worship of demons (1 Corinthians 10:19-20).

The God of Israel is the Holy One; He is the only One;  He is the righteous One; beside Him there is no other.  He is known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; working in the flesh of His Son.  One day all of Israel will turn from their unbelief; and see their God through their Messiah.  The King of kings is coming to rule on His throne in Jerusalem.

AN EVIL THAT CAN BRING GOD’S CHASTISEMENT UPON HIS CHILDREN AND THE ANSWER (Chapter 25).  When God’s people sin it causes grief in the heart of God.  Yet, as the loving, forgiving God and Father that He is He desires to bring them back to Himself.  I have said it many times, and believe it to be a quote from Charles H. Spurgeon, “God will not allow His children to sin successfully”.  His children, His people are those who believe Him and His Son Jesus Christ; and live their lives for Him and His glory.

Since Balaam could not curse the people of Israel; he did one of the worse things that a pretender, hypocrite can do; cause evil to come into the heart of God’s people.  There are those in 2009 who believe that just because they are descendants of Abraham they are God’s children; even John the Baptist and Jesus has something to say about that:

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Matthew 3:9 (KJV) [words of John Baptist.]

“I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.” John 8:38-40 (KJV)

Notice those words of Jesus; “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galations 3:6; James 2:23).

The only righteousness of God available is that righteousness which comes through the shed blood of Jesus on Calvary’s cross.

Though the death of Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins we still sin; but as a child of God we have the power, and ability through Jesus Christ not to sin.  When we sin God is not pleased, but He does want us to know that we have and Advocate with the Father (1 John 1:9 – 2:1).

The deception of Balaam brought evil into Israel, and a plague destroyed many of the people, and Phineas acted jealously for God, and stopped the plague.  Some of the people of Israel had fell to the lust of other gods which involved prostitution, and it is the worship of demons.  In this plague 24,000 people died.  God will not, and does not allow His children to sin successfully.  There may be times that it seems; at least in our eyes; that He is letting some things slip by.  If you profess to be a child of God and can sin without guilt, shame, or fear of God’s judgment; you are not His child.

We are not to live in fear, but in peace and love and contentment with God.  You cannot have that if there is sin in your life.  Deal with it.  Paul said, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Deal with sin quickly.  “Keep short accounts”.

THE HEART OF BALAAM WHICH WORKS RUIN (Numbers 31:16).  Now, we come to the opening Scripture verse.

“Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.”

We see the trespass which Moses mentions in chapter 25, the wrath and judgment of God; the plague upon Israel taking the lives of 24,000 people; and some dying due to God’s commandment to slay all the guilty.

Though the heart of Balaam was with the Moabites and the Midianites; and for the wealth and perks that went along with it; there is in the midst of this immorality, and debauchery; many people who are grieved by the sins taking place in the camp of God.  These are found at the “…door of the tabernacle of the congregation”, and weeping because of this great sin against God and the people of God.

As the people of God we are to seek to bring good and blessing into people’s lives; not ruin, and harm.  We are to be springs of living water – cool and fresh; refreshing the weary soul.  We are to be hotsprings for healing, renewing and strength.  We are to be especially so to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If we do things to cause a brother to sin; or to stumble and fall; then we fall into the category of the error of Balaam.  If we do or say something that causes us to look good while harming another; then that is the error of Balaam.  You may think, “I am not doing or saying it for pay?”  Oh!  You’re not?  You have taken away something that belonged to another.  You are in the “Error of Balaam”.  The heart of Balaam was to work ruin in the people of Israel.

Let’s always to seek to lift up our Lord Jesus Christ, glorify His name; and we will not be tearing others down to build up ourselves.  Nor, will we be leading others into sin.  Balaam died at the hands of Israel, along with the kings of Midian (Numbers 31:8).  Though the child of God cannot sin successfully; neither will God overlook those who treat His children poorly.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Hot Coals; Clean Lips

Prophet’s Possible Perspective

I realized that I was an unclean person; especially when in the presence of the Divine and Holy One of Israel. Unclean as the leper who must go among the people crying “Unclean, unclean, unclean” and with their lips covered so no spittal will fall on anyone else.

O, the glory of the presence of the Holy One. When you are in His presence there is such a view of Him as to see Him in His beauty, power, glory, and the heart is to praise and glorify Him; and realize that in His presence no one can stand.

“Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:  And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Isaiah 6:6-7 (KJV)

As I was in the presence of this holiness I knew there was something special and more than special about it. I was being prepared for service to God; unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced before. God was getting ready to use me in a special way, and yet I was awed by His presence – the presence of His glory.

This preparation was painful. Fire from the altar touched my lips, and yet it did not mar the physical appearance, but cleansed the “unclean lips”, and the Word of God came in clearer than ever before. By this burning coal, all my iniquity was taken away, and all my sin has been atoned. I now have a view of God I had never seen before.

God, the LORD of hosts, the King of Glory has purged every sin, cleansed every stain, and now He can use me. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

-Tim A. Blankenship
 

 

Scripture, Jesus, And The Christian

Purpose:  As Jesus came to do the Father’s will, fulfilling Scriptures, so too are those who follow Him fulfilling Scripures.

OUTLINE of Luke 4:14-21

I.  JESUS RETURNS TO GALILEE IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT  AND TEACHES (v. 14-15).

II.  JESUS IS FAITHFUL TO ATTEND THE PLACE OF WORSHIP (v. 16).

III.  JESUS PARTICIPATED IN KEEPING THE SCRIPTURES AS CENTRAL TO WORSHIP (v. 17).

IV.  JESUS READ THE SCRIPTURES AND APPLIED THEM TO HIMSELF (vv. 18-19).

V.  JESUS THE FULFILLMENT OF SCRIPTURE (vv. 20-21;  Revelation 19:10).

THE CHRISTIAN’S TIME OF TESTING EQUIPS US TO WALK IN THE SPIRIT OF JESUS (vv. 14-15).  Following the baptism of Jesus by John, Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness for testing.  Testing is not just to show us, what we have, but to strengthen us for the journey ahead.

The testing which Jesus endured, survived, and defeated the temptations of the enemy were needed by Him, to strengthen Him for the journey which lay ahead; all the way to the cross.  Let’s remember that Luke’s gospel is written concerning the “God-Man” Jesus Christ.  Luke shows the humanity of Jesus more than the other gospel writers.  As Luke emphasizes His humanity he does not degrade, lessen, or violate the Deity of Christ (as written by John); the Royalty of Christ (as written by Matthew), nor the Servanthood of Christ (as written of by Mark).   The four gospels nowhere, and at no place ever contradict one another; they rather complement one another; giving us the fuller story of Jesus Christ.

Jesus stood up in the synagogue to read the portion of Isaiah.  It is noted in Nehemiah that when  the Scriptures were read, “…All the people stood up” (Nehemiah 8:5).  This was done in reverence to God’s Word.  Jesus, and it may be that all who would read Scripture in the synagogue or Temple were to stand.

With the test Jesus passed He was strengthened to face the temptations of the people.  Some wanted Him to be their king, and even came at least once to force Him to be their king (John 6:15).  Surely, this was a temptation for Him; however He would not take a shortcut, nor detour around the destination that was to the cross.

The Christian’s walk in the Spirit of Christ is not one filled with popularity, nor easy shortcuts which can often turn out to be sad mistakes, and even sin.  Christians walking in the Spirit follow the path of the cross.  “Take up the cross and follow Me…” (Mark 8:34, 10:21;  Matthew 16:24;  Luke 9:23; 14:27) Jesus said, and is still calling those who follow Him to die to self, and the world.  There is no walking in the Spirit of Jesus without the cross of the follower.

THE CHRISTIAN’S WALK IN THE SPIRIT OF JESUS WILL BE FAITHFUL TO SUPPORT THE WORSHIP OF THEIR LOCAL CHURCH (v. 16)  “I am part of the invisible church.”  Have you ever heard such a comment or something similar, and usually added to it is this comment; “I am not a part of any church, I attend all churches, as God leads”.  What they mean is that they are “Church hoppers”.  These types of people go from church to church, and more times than not are a source of contempt, and discontent, first in themselves and then to others.

We see Jesus attending synagogue when He was not in Jerusalem to attend the Temple meetings.  He attended the synagogue of His home town of Nazareth.

Becoming a member of a local church; and this is coming from a Baptist point of view, and I believe a Scriptural one; requires first of all that you be born again, having called on the name of Jesus Christ for salvation, and having been baptized by the Spirit into Christ.  Secondly, that you confess your faith to a local church, requesting water baptism showing the baptism of the Spirit which you have already received – baptism being by immersion (that is putting under the water)- testifying of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Scripture knows nothing of an “Invisible church”.  The letters which the apostle Paul wrote were written to local congregations.  For example, Romans was written to the Christians at Rome.  The Corinthian letters were written to Christians in Corinth.  The Thessalonian letters were written to the Christians in Thessalonica.  The Letters to the Seven Churches which were given by Jesus were to local churches.

Why does the Spirit filled Christian need to be in a local congregation.  First of all because Jesus is.  Secondly, for their spiritual well being; encouragement, solidarity, strength, faithfulness, systematic learning, worship, fellowship, ministry, discipleship, and reaching the lost to bring them in.  Third, a local congregation of God’s people bonding together in Christ can more affectively reach the community in which that local church meats.  I am sure there are more.

THE CHRISTIAN’S WALK IN THE SPIRIT OF JESUS WILL INCLUDE DEDICATION TO THE PROMINENCE OF THE WORD OF GOD (v. 17).  In recent years it seems that the priority or prominence within the church has become gaining attendance, rather than placing priority, prominence, and authority to the Word of God.  The Christian who is walking in the Spirit of Jesus Christ wants, desires, for the Word of God to grow in prominence within their hearts and lives.

Where should the Bible/Scripture fit into the local church?  Where should it fit into any church which professes to be Christian?  The Word of God should always be front and center.  By front and center I mean that the Word of God is of the utmost priority and prominence, because it is Scripture which lifts up and glorifies Jesus and the Father.  It is Scripture which works by the Spirit to make alive those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  It is Scripture by which a “…young man cleanse[s] his way…” (Psalm 119:9), by which all can cleanse their way.  The Scriptures, quickened by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, is “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path”  (Psalm 119:105).  In Baptist and some prostestant churches there is some symbolism seen in the way the worship area is designed.  When you enter the “sanctuary” you see the pulpit (as the place where the Word of God is proclaimed) up front, and in the center of the stage or platform, with the organ and piano to the right and left.  Many times the pews or chairs are angled toward the pulpit giving note to the priority of preaching the Scriptures.

Jesus stood showing priority, prominence and respect for reading the Word of God.

Prominence of Scripture must be done more than in a local congregation.  It must be lived out in the hearts and lives of Christians who worship in the local church.  The priority of Scripture must be seen in your life by your devotion to the reading, meditating upon what you have read, hearing what you have read – hearing God in what you have read, then taking it and applying it to your life, giving full priority and prominence to it within your life.

THE CHRISTIAN’S WALK IN THE SPIRIT OF JESUS WILL SHOW FORTH JESUS AND BE A PART IN THE FULFILLING OF SCRIPTURE (vv. 18-21).  As Jesus read the prophecy of Isaiah, He knew this spoke of Himself, and called on those who could hear Him to receive it, and believe it.   Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2a, cutting it off before, “And the day of  vengeance of our God…”.

Jesus came to these of whom He gives notice.  To preach good tidings to the poor; the heal the broken hearted;  to proclaim liberty to the captives; opening the prison to those who are bound.  Jesus came the first time to save us, to give us hope; and to assure us that there is a day coming when all evil will be dealt an eternal blow, which was initially dealt with on the cross a few years later.

Jesus’s presence with them in the synagogue, at Nazareth was not by accident, but was a clear declaration that Jesus is the God-Man who would do all these things.  With the commission given us by Jesus we are gifted to go and be a light, the salt, and the living word among those who have not heard.

In our obedience to Jesus Christ we fulfill the Scriptures in our own hearts and in the lives of others.  It would be more correct to say that God fulfills Scripture in our obedience to Jesus and His Word.

As Jesus stood to fulfill the reading of the Scriptures, He then sat down, as though to say, “It will be and is as good as done”.  That day all the answers to mankinds ills had made His appearance.  He still calls for people to follow Him.  The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is setting down at the Father’s right hand (Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2;  1 Peter 3:22).

-Tim A. Blankenship

Immorality, Judgment and Mercy

“…As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 7 (NKJV).

Since verse five Jude has written of the perils of apostasy, and named things of the commission of apostasy. Unbelief – the unbelief of those who were delivered from Egypt, but would not believe God’s provision, power, mercy and grace. The rebellion of the angels who left their God appointed estate for their own reward. Then, Jude writes of the cities of the plain who were destroyed with fire and brimstone because of their immorality, their gross immorality.

The sin of each of these groups are similar in that they departed from God. Their judgments will also be similar.

One of the clearest signs of a society which has departed from God is the approval of that society for immoral conduct. Not many in leadership positions within politics wants to expose immorality for what it is. It is a sign of that societies departure from God. Sexual immorality within a society is God’s judgment on that society for turning from Him. We are in grave danger of not seeing the hand of God’s judgment in the USA. It is judgment when society gives approval to greed, lust, and stealing from the poor. When God’s people turn a deaf ear to God, His prophets/preachers, and His Word; then, God will allow our own sins to judge us (Jeremiah 2:19).

As Christians in a society where sexual immorality is running rampant, approval of homosexuality is abounding, we must stand on the power of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus our Lord and Savior, and the Word of God. Let’s not back away from the truth of God’s Word. Trusting the Lord during debaucherous times, relying on His Spirit within us, and the authority of His Word to instruct us, correct us, and rebuke us; we stand as examples of Jesus Christ, His love and grace. Adultery, premarital sex relationships, and homosexual activities are all under the category of unbelief, rebellion, and immorality equaling apostasy. As Christians, followers of Jesus Christ; we are to have no part in it.

 

God does not desire that any perish (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9), and the God of the New Testament is as loving in the Old Testament. Hear the prophet Ezekiel,

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” Ezekiel 18:23 (KJV); and

“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel 18:32 (KJV).

Jesus Christ took the wrath and judgment of God that belonged to you and me. He died on the cross, was buried taking our sin, guilt and shame away, then He bodily arose from the grave, and through Him we have fellowship with our Father/God. Let us love with the love of Jesus Christ. The love of Jesus means revealing sin where it stands opposed to all that is unholy, and unrighteous, and giving our lives for the purpose of seeing the lost and condemned in sin come to a saving faith of Him who died and rose again. Also, giving hope through the power of Jesus Christ. Power to deliver. Power to change. Power to become the sons of God.

Turn from immorality to Jesus Christ today, and live.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Christian Soldier – Prepared For Battle

Ephesians 6:10-20

PURPOSE: Seeing how we are constantly bombarded with evil in society, which comes from the “evil one’; we Christians must be as soldiers, prepared for the battle of good against evil, the flesh against the Spirit, pride against humility, love against hate, and be equipped by the strength of the Lord, the power of His might and learning to put on, and keeping on the armor of God.

THE FINAL EVIDENCE OF THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT IN THE CHRISTIAN’S LIFE (vv. 5:18, 6:10).  “Finally” concludes the evidences of the filling of the Spirit which the apostle gives from verse eighteen of chapter five and runs through verse eighteen of chapter six.  I am saying that to put on the armor which we are commanded to put on, and the keeping on of that armor are evidences of the “Filling”

Let’s recap what has already been said of the “Filling of the Spirit”.  When you are filled with the Spirit of God:

1. You are controlled by the Spirit of God (v. 5:18);
2. Your life is a musical; your life is filled with song and thanksgiving (vv. 5:19-20);
3. You are submissive to others, or to one another (v. 5:21);
4. The Spirit filled wife is submissive to her husband (vv. 5:22-24);
5. The Spirit filled husband loves his wife sacrificially as “Christ died for the church” (vv. 5:25-31)
6. Spirit filled children will honor their parents (vv. 6:1-3);
7. Spirit filled parents will lovingly teach, discipline, and direct their children in the Lord (v. 4);
8. The Spirit filled laborer/worker/employee will be a diligent, faithful, hard working, unselfish, having high integrity, in the work for Christ sake (vv. 5-8);
9. The Spirit filled boss/manager/supervisor/owner will be well behaved toward his laborers/workers/employees: paying a better than average wage required by government; and see to it that all workers are treated fairly and equally.

The final three chapters of Ephesians are the practical aspects of what the apostle is teaching in the first three chapters.  These are surely practical, and show us how we ought to live personally, toward others, and this final one in the spiritual world as well; which many times, if not all the time; is manifest in the flesh and  blood of humanity.

We live in a desperately wicked world, and as Christians if we are not diligent and  vigilant we can find ourselves living a life of defeat.  Paul encourages us with these great words, Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.  This reminds me of the prophet Zechariah’s inspired words, “Not by might nor by power; but by My Spirit, says the LORD” (Zechariah 4:6).  The only way for us to “be strong” effectively is in the Lord, and that happens as we obey Him and His Word.  The Spirit of God can only work in us for godly living as we obey the Word of God.  The disobedient child of God is not in the will of God, and out of fellowship, out of tune with the leading of the Spirit of God.  No disobedient Christian can faithfully follow the will of God, nor can the disobedient Christian be strong in the Lord, and the power of His might.

The only answer for that is seeking God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9), receiving that forgiveness; then, living faithfully to God, His Word and the direction of His Spirit.  Be strong… in the power of His might.

The Spirit filled Christian will be a good soldier of Christ.

THE COMMAND, THE EQUIPMENT AND THE BATTLE (vv. 11-13).  Imagine if you will you can see the apostle, possibly chained to a Roman soldier, as he is imprisoned in a cold, wet, dark, cell.  He has occassionally caught the look of the armor the soldiers wear, and God has given him this illustration of the Christian’s armor.  You can tell where Paul’s heart is.  It is on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the people who have and who are coming to Christ as their Lord and Savior.  The apostle wants, even desires that his brethren be made strong, protected, powerful, and sturdy in the fight of the faith, and for the faith.

In these verses Paul gives us the command to put on the whole armor of God.  He also gives us the equipment of the armor; which consist of, the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, battle shoes, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and for a weapon, the Sword of the Spirit.  Could there be one more weapon?  I believe there is and it is the weapon of prayer.  It is more powerful than an ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missle), or any other missile for that matter, because it is faster, and hits with much more impact, and only damages evil.

We are told that the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against forces which we cannot see.  Evil is a force (within politics, religion, etc.) of our enemy [the devil] which works deceptively; destroying individuals, marriages, families, towns and cities, State and Federal governments, and the whole world; which the devil uses to try and overthrow the reign of God.  We can see God’s view on this in the Second Psalm:

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” Psalms 2:1-3 (KJV)

The battle rages everyday of our lives.  We cannot back down, nor lose hope.  Though the enemy has already been defeated on the cross by our Lord Jesus Christ; he is still a foe that we must deal with in the Spirit of God.  His doom is sure.  His teeth have been shattered, and all he can really do is roar, and make a big stink.  However, the Christian must daily be filled with the Spirit, putting on the whole armor of God to stand, and stand firm against the onslaughts of Satan, that others may come to faith, grow more into the image of Christ our Lord, and be eternally with Him in glory.

The evil day is any time Satan’s attacks are worsening.  It seems to me that they are worsening everyday now.  It is actually speaking of when things in the world are at their worst.  With the economy crumbling and especially with many people’s investments in Wall Street, there is much fear, worry and dread.  May the Spirit filled Christian and her resting in Christ be the cause of peace in many more.  Whent he attacks seem unbearable, even in this can the Christian – Spirit filled – and fully armored, stand.  Praise God!

STANDING, FIGHTING WITH THE ARMOR IN THE STRENGTH AND MIGHT OF OUR LORD (vv. 14-17).  Some years ago there was a song I heard several times with the words, “We are walking into the enemies camp, and laying our weapons down; shedding our armor as we go, and leaving it on the ground.”  I believe this was the chorus of the song.  It did, however, catch my attention.  I think you can see what the writer of that song was saying.

This is not the time for Christians to be laying our armor, nor our weapons down at the feet of the enemy.  This is the time for us to gird up our loins with the belt of truth, taking all those things which hinder us and tucking them away so we can fight.  Why is it that some “Christian” hymnals have taken songs such as “Onward Christian Soldiers” out of the hymnal?  Some have changed to wording of songs so as not to offend the world.  Has any one figured out yet that the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the cross, burial and resurrection offends this world!?  (I guess it would be alright to view the previous sentence as an exclamation or a question).  To put on the belt of truth requires that the Christian spend time daily in the Word of God, hearing God through those things written by the prophets, lawgivers, singers, and historical writers.

The belt of truth is used as the means to hold other pieces of equipment in place.  With it you had a  place to carry the Sword.  The “belt of truth” for the Christian is the “truthfulness” continued, abiding living a committed, dedicated life to the battle for Christ, without hypocrisy, and devoted to victory.

The breastplate of righteousness described by the MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE,

“The breastplate was usually a tough, sleeveless piece of leather or heavy material with animal horn or hoof pieces sewn on, covering th soldier’s full torso, protecting his heart and other vital organs.  Because righteousness, or holiness, is such a distinctive characteristic of God Himself, it is not hard to understand why that is the Christian’s chief protection against Satan and  his schemes.  As believers faithfully live in obedience to and communion with Jesus Christ, His own righteousness produces in them the practical, daily righteousness that becomes the spiritual breastplate.  Lack of holiness, on the other hand, leaves them vulnerable to the great enemy of their souls (cf. Is. 59:17;  2 Cor. 7:1;  1 Thess. 5:8).

THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE, p. 1815.

Righteousness has been put to our account, because of Jesus’s death on the cross, and in our place.  This breastplate protects the Christian from the frontal assaults of Satan as he bombards with accusation which has been forgiven, insults, defamation and lies.  When we are clothed in the righteousness and armored in the breastplate of righteousness we can rest assured in Christ Jesus and enter the battle with confidence that, “No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper” (Isaiah54:17a).

A good soldier will have on the proper shoe or boot for the journey, and the battles that will be faced.  The shoe will provide good traction, stable footing, a steady foundation.  The feet are our foundation for travelling.  The means of going, and carrying out the mission to which every soldier has been called.  The feet of the Christian soldier is to be ready to share the gospel wherever we may go.  The Christian soldier is assured of eternal salvation, and knows how to share his personal testimony, and give a clear presentation of the message of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15).  His feet are “shod” and, ready to go at a moments notice.

Though most modern troops/soldiers do not carry shields, each soldier knows the value of a shield.  If we have been watching some news clips on television news we have seen some of our soldiers walking beside the hum-vees using them as a shield from the enemy bullets.  We see them hunkered down behind walls as shields as well.  In many cases it would be foolish not to seek a shield for protection.  For the Christian we cannot exist without the shield of faith.

When the enemy come swinging his sword of evil, and shooting his “fiery darts” of hatred; the shield of faith is raised to turn them away.  Sometimes the blows of evil and darts of hate can be felt, but they fall harmlessly to the ground yielding to the raised “shield of faith”;

“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.”  Isaiah 59:19 (KJV)

The enemy will stop at nothing in order to make us stumble in our faith.  The “shield of faith” can only be effective when the “loins are girt about with truth”; when the “breastplate of righteousness” is in place, and our feet are “shod”, and prepared to preach the “foolishness” of the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The helmet of salvation is protection for the head; for if you lose the head you lose your life.  The Roman soldier’s helmet protected him from a simple blow to the head, and from being knocked unconscious from a seemingly minor blow, disabling him from the battle.  When an individual is born again they receive this salvation, as though awakened out of sleep or from death with this helmet.  It is from our head that we have our senses of sight, smell, hearing and taste; and without the head we would have no sense of touch.  The total body is ruled by the head.

It is with salvation one’s eyes are opened to the things of God; that one can begin to tell a spiritual stench from spiritual fragrance; that one begins to hear God’s commands and do what He says, that one can taste the Word of God, and that it is good, in fact DELICIOUS.

The apostle now proceeds to the offensive equipment/weapons.  The first item is the Sword of the Spirit.  The Roman soldier’s main offensive weapon was his sword.  Once trained in its use he could wield his sword with great accuracy and power.

Notice, by the text that this Sword is the “Word of God”.  The power of God’s Spirit in our lives is in the Word of God.  The Holy Spirit of God, who resides, dwells in every believer speaks to and through the one who is familiar with the Word of God.  The Sword would literally be the Word of God present, and at work in the spirit filled soldier of Jesus Christ; not just words on onion paper, and bound in leather; but written in our hearts.  The writer of Hebrews likened the Word to a “two edged sword,” and as  “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  The sword of God’s Word is not only powerful to its handler, but also to anyone within its thrust.

The preacher of God’s Word can stand confidently knowing God’s Word and God’s Spirit work together in power, doing the work for which God intends it.  He can stand with that Bible in his hands and know, that no matter what portion of Scripture he uses; a message from God is being proclaimed.  The “rightly divided” Word.

STANDING WITH GOD IN PRAYER (vv. 18-20).  Not too many see it, but it seems to me that prayer must be the second offensive weapon that we have in Christ.  I wrote earlier that it is more powerful and an ICBM and accomplishes far more in God’s glory.  What could be more important for the soldier of Christ than to kneel before His presence, tell him our hearts fears concerning the battle, receive His encouragements, corrections and rebukes, and also receive His instruction for fighting the battle ahead?

A lot of spiritual warfare is fought on our knees.  As a matter of fact no victory will be secured if prayer is not practiced.  In prayer we find and receive power to do the will of God; we are strengthened and encouraged for the battle(s) ahead.  In prayer we are made alert to the things that are hated by God.  The Christian soldier, when he spends time with his Commander-In-Chief Jesus Christ learns to become like Him.

We pray for others, one another, all saints.  Remember saints are simply called by God out of sin unto faith in Christ Jesus.  We pray “in the Spirit” by praying according to the Spirit and not our own desires.  The Spirit prays in us which glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14).

In this text Paul request prayer for himself as well.  We ought always pray for our pastors, teachers, and all who have spiritual authority in the church.  Paul’s request was threefold:

1. That he might experience freedom in his preaching;
2. That he might speak boldly;
3. That he might clearly present the “mystery of the gospel”.

If you want to know how to pray for your pastor, and others who are in authority, biblically, and in the Spirit; here is the answer.

We are all “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20a), therefore, we all need prayer to be bold in our witness, and preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Be a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).  “Put on the whole armor of God,” and wield the “sword of the Spirit” in power; trusting the Lord Jesus Christ to accomplish His work in you; and in His word.  His word will not return unto Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

-Tim A. Blankenship

On Overcoming Spiritual Depression

The following is a quote by Lloyd-Jones given by John Piper in his book “Future Grace”, and I found it to be really encourageing.  I think it will be especially so on Monday, since this is the day most pastors think about resigning :>)

“I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us! Do you realize what that means?  I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self.  Am I just trying to  be deliberately paradoxical?  Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?  Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning.  You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.  Somebody is talking.  Who is talking to you?  Your self is talking to you.  Now [the psalmist’s] treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself.  ‘Why art thou  cast down, O my soul?’ he asks.  His soul had been depressing him, crushing him.  So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you…Why art thou cast down?–what business have you to be disquieted?…And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who He is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.  Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”  From FUTURE GRACE, by John Piper, p. 304, paperback.

It is wise preacher/pastor if we do not make crucial decisions while we are in the pit of depression or discouragement.  I think the above words are wise words to hear.  Speak the Word of God to yourself.