The Unending Journey

In the study of the book of Acts you can see that the early Church grew, and continued to grow.  It grew not because of the men who  had given their lives to following Jesus Christ; but it grew due to the power of God in the Person of the Holy Spirit within and upon them.

One of the chief apostles named in the book of Acts is first introduced in the Acts of the Holy Spirit book.  It is God who increases His Church.  It is God who regenerates those who come to Him.  It is God who keeps the Church growing even in 2017.

After Paul had arrived in Rome many Jews (at Paul’s invitation) came to him to question him concerning the charges against him from Jerusalem.  They wanted to hear what he preached and taught…

“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. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.” Acts 28:23-24 (KJV)

The apostle spoke clearly of the place of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel from the Law and the Prophets all day long.

Paul believed the gospel.  He lived the gospel,  He proclaimed the gospel and God blessed, and gave results.

Sadly, today’s Church is much weaker in stature, faith, and power with God; yet God is still redeeming souls, regenerating them, and bringing us into His kingdom.

The Church today needs the Spirit of God at work; not entertainment, or showmanship from its pastor, music director, or any other director.  That is fire under the altar (1 Kings 17).  Let us call on the fire of God to come down on us.

We must have the power of God for perseverance.  We need to be servants of God first; then willing to serve others as well.  When we are in the will of God through His Spirit, His word, and in prayer then we will have peace.

The Church today needs to understand that all provisions will come from God for His work and ministry to progress.  In the early Church every member was provided for due to persecution (Christians were losing their employment, their homes, etc.), and those who were able made donations for the cause of helping those who suffered.  God provided the need for the apostle Paul to get to Rome.  He also provided encouragement for Paul by giving him friends.

Too many times the Church today, and their preachers do not challenge the opposition of the gospel.  Paul did.  He called them to come and hear what he had to say, and they came.  Some of them “Believed” and some of them did not.  Are we too afraid of being turned down?  When we present the gospel, and it is rejected it is not us who is being rejected; it is in fact Jesus being resisted.

Now, Church, is not the time to stop preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is time to preach it clearly, with the power of the Spirit unlike any other time.  It is time for Christians to rise up and say in public places “I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God, and God the Living Son”, then live like we are children of the King of kings.

The preaching of the gospel must continue, be unending until that day when we see Jesus face to face.  Paul could have said, “I am a prisoner. What can I do”, but he did not he preached the gospel.  His heart was set on Jesus, because Jesus was his treasure (Matthew 6:21).  He preached with confidence; not in his own abilities, but with confidence that God fulfilled every word He has ever spoken, and will continue to do so.  Though in prison Paul was free.

Although the book of Acts is a book of history we can also get the way the Lord would have us operated His Church.  To operate any other way would not be a New Testament Church.

The Lord’s way is 1) Jesus is the Head;  2) The Body submits to His Lordship;  3) We are to operate as one even as Jesus and the Father are One;  4) We are to walk in the Spirit of Christ Jesus.

Avoiding Shipwreck

The following thoughts are not original with me.  I heard it from another preacher, teacher, and apply my own thoughts and words to it; with the exception of the verses of Scripture.

Avoiding tragedy is not always possible, but if we would keep our eyes open, and our ears attentive we could see the way God is working, and hear His words of warning.

If we, like the men on board, the captain of the ship as well as the crew, with Paul ignore the warning, we have put ourselves in great danger.  The danger these had gotten into was life threatening to all on board the ship.  Paul was on  his way to stand trial in Rome, and he was going there by ship through the Med.

There are some great spiritual, as well as practical truths we can learn from these verses in chapter 27, and the journey by ship through the Med Sea.

“Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, and said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.” Acts 27:9-14 (KJV)

From verse 9 we can learn that there is danger in being impatient.  Impatience can definitely endanger life.  As Christians it shows a lack of trust and unbelief in God’s providence, and His knowing what is best for His children.

See Proverbs 3:5-6 and Isaiah 40:31

Secondly we can learn that not all expert advice is godly or right (Acts 27:11).  The “Expert” may know the natural, but not the supernatural power of God.  The centurion was being a good soldier, and trusted the ship master and the owner, but did not believe the servant of God.  Check out 1 Corinthians 1:20-21.  Many an expert has been wrong.  God is never wrong.  See Luke 5:3-6.

Third, the places we may see of no comfort, may be a place of refuge (v. 12).  Comfort may be a peril of its own.  We Christians, especially in the U. S. of A.  are addicted to our comforts.  Comforts can draw us away from our faith which must be continually growing.  Killing our peace of heart and mind.  We must learn to be content with however God blesses us.  Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10.

Fourth, following majority opinion may not be the direction God would have us take (v. 12).  Sometimes, if there is even one who is in disagreement; that one individual may be the one who is being led by the Spirit of God.  To make life changing decisions, even life saving decisions, and for growth, there should be “All in one accord” within the body of Christ (Acts 2:1).

Fifth,  favorable circumstances may be a sign of worse to come (v. 13).  Such times are times to be aware, and alert to other possibilities.  There are times to remain where we are; to stay put and not weigh anchor.  We must learn that judging by circumstances; whether good or bad can be disastrous.  Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-10.

Sixth, the surest way to avoid shipwreck (v. 10).  Listen to God’s word, from God’s messenger.  Pay attention to the signs.  Delays in schedule.  Some of these may be “Closed doors”.  Remember that God knows what is best.

Though the ship master and owner did not listen to Paul, God’s servant, they made it to safety by the grace and providence of Almighty God.  The ship wrecked, but all were saved alive, by following the direction the apostle Paul gave through the Spirit of God (vv. 31, 43, 44). Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The Prisoner of the Lord

During Paul’s life as a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ he was beaten, and left for dead; he was whipped; he was shipwrecked; he suffered at the words of false brethren, and he endured it all for Christ sake.

My heart’s desire is that I could have that said of me.  Someone could say it, but would it be true?  It is true of Paul.  Everything that happened should be seen as the closing or opening of a door by the Lord as He directs our paths.  That is the way  Paul viewed things. He was truly a PRISONER OF THE LORD.

“And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Acts 23:10-11 (KJV)

The prisoner of the Lord often encounters problems with the religious crowd.  The Sadducees, and the Pharisees were united against the apostle at first.  Then Paul realized their differences, he used that to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ (Acts 23:6).  At issue was the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If Jesus is alive then the religion that crucified Him is greatly in error.  One group did not believe in resurrection, or anything spiritual.  These religions who are stuck on religion, but not the truth completely miss out on Christ Jesus and the salvation that is available to all who will believe.

In verse 11 where the Lord speaks to Paul giving him assurance that he will go to Rome and be a witness of the resurrection of Jesus.  He receives a message for the Lord that he might be courageous.  It is also a message of commendation for ministry and the power of the Holy Spirit within him and upon him.  Can you imagine what this did for Paul’s confidence?  Wonders.

When people do not like the truth being spoken they will more often than not attack the one speaking it (vv. 12-22).  Get this in your heads:  The messenger is not the one making you the way you are.  The truth often hurts, and if the truth makes you angry then you are the problem.

These are some who hate the truth; no matter where it comes from.  They are blind to the providence, and sovereignty of God.  Enraged mobs are thoughtless and heartless.

Some things we can learn from chapter 23 of Acts:

  1. Most times God uses what some would call “Unapparent means”;
  2. God uses time, that seems wasted, as a time for ministry to others;
  3. God uses people to accomplish His ways.

The following are the persons He uses:

  • The government;
  • The rebellious;
  • Satan;
  • Willing servants.

Let us be willing to trust the Lord.  Trust Him in such a way that He will work in our lives changing us, then work through us to change the lives of others.  Every open door should be viewed as an opportunity provided by God unless by going through it you would be violating His Word, His Spirit, or your conscience.

Continuing the Work of the Resisted Cross

The world today needs the cross of Jesus Christ just as the days of the past.  ‘Today is the day of salvation” not tomorrow.  Today.  We as Christians have the most urgent message for people; men, women, children, and their families to get our of their condemnation of sin through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Today is not the day to cease.  Today is the day of salvation…

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22 (KJV)

Christian as we look at the above verses we see the early Christian and their leaders never ceased preaching.  They just moved on.  They moved on to other places, and sometimes they may have stayed where they were.

We read of Paul (who had been Saul who hated the gospel of Christ) being stoned, and they supposed to death, and drug out of the city (14:19-20).  Then, Paul got up and went to another city.  Why did he go to another city?  To preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  O for the passion of Paul for Jesus and His love.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s love for us on display at the cross where Jesus bled and died for our sins.  He was buried in a tomb, and three days later arose from that grave alive.

Nothing real good comes without a price.  We are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).  It cost me nothing.  It cost you nothing.  God paid the price for you; because we do not have the price to pay.  The price for sin is death, and if we were to pay our own sin debt through death, then there would be no eternity except Hell’s fire.

As a Christian today we are called to live the gospel, spread the gospel, share the gospel, preach the gospel.  Where?  Wherever we may be.  What ever we may be doing.

Notice Luke’s words in the verses… “exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”  No one; not even Jesus ever said that the Christian life would be easy, but we are told “Through much tribulation…”  “In the world you will have tribulation”; and “Yea all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (John 16:33;  2 Timothy 3:12).

Just as with the early Church, so too in the Church today, where there is trial, persecution, or tribulation because of the cross of Jesus Christ God will be blessing and increasing the kingdom

On this Valentine’s Day start it off right by loving the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength; because that is how He loves you.

Religions Resistance

There are many times when the message of Christ is clearly presented that there will be resistance, even persecution, because the gospel of Christ turns religion upside down.  It is as true in 2017 as in the days of the apostles of Jesus.

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.” Acts 13:46-52 (KJV)

Paul and Barnabas were in a town where there was a Jewish synagogue, and they went there to fulfill the word of God, “To the Jew first…”.  They were made bold by the power of the Holy Spirit within them and upon them.

They had shared the history of the people of Israel; reminding them of the power of God on the people, His love, His grace, His mercy; upon the people in their journey in the wilderness.  All these as well with the Judges and the Kings of Israel, and how the LORD had called the Jews to be the messengers of God to the whole world.

Religion of men seeks to control men, women and children, and keeps people in bondage of sin.  Christianity, following Jesus frees men, women and children from the bondage, death, and scourge of sin.

What should the messenger of Christ do when opposed by the religious elite?  Do as Paul and Barnabas did.  Keep on preaching, teaching, living for the Lord.  “Shake the dust off your feet”, and go on doing the work of the ministry.

Day Three Hundred Forty and Seven

What do I want for Christmas?

I want to no longer be selfish, or self promoting; I want my heart and mind to want what my Creator wants; for myself and for all His creation.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galations 2:20 (NKJV)

Clothing Makes a Difference

“Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.” Psalm 104:1 (KJV)

We live in a sloppy dressing culture.  Young “men” wear jeans or pants halfway down their buttocks, showing their underwear.  Women; young and old wear dresses and blouses with tops which tell us “Look here”, then complain when a man looks.  I do not mean to be brash, rude, or ugly, but let us face it “Clothing makes a difference”.

Clothes shows one’s character.  In the above verse it is glorifying God, our LORD.  Jehovah the one and only God worthy of our worship and praise.

What is the clothing of God to show His character?  He is dressed in honor and majesty.  He is great in grandeur, in His presence; He is of royal appearance.

Have you noticed that many are interested in the royal family of Britain?  Have you also noticed that they dress as royalty probably ought?  Well, God is the greatest of all royalty, and He has called us to Himself, and made us royal; a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).  Be clothed with the honor and majesty of the One who gives us life.  His name is Jesus.

The apostle Paul said,

“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:14

Thanks, and Thanks Again

“Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto Thee do we give thanks: for that Thy name is near Thy wondrous works declare.” Psalm 75:1 (KJV)

One day a year the United States of America has a day of Thanksgiving.  I believe a few other Nations also have a day of Thanksgiving some time in the year.

It is an awesome thing to thank the LORD God.  He is worthy of our thanksgiving and our praise.  Are you a grateful person?  Do you thank God every morning as you get out of bed for a new day; for the chance to start over?  Do you thank Him for the sunrise, or do you curse it?  If you curse the new day, you are guaranteed a rough day.

All it takes for the child of God to be thankful is not out of obedience, but seeing the glories of God’s creation around us.  His works do declare that He is near.  Look at the birds as they soar, and fly through the air, and the sky.  Listen to them as they sing their praises every morning, and all day long.  Look at the wonders in the weather; the beauty, and the purity of the snow, falling and covering all the imperfections that are on the ground and in the trees.  Thank Him.

For the Christian thanks is the way to begin the day, and end the day.  It is even the way to live through the day.

As the apostle Paul has written,

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

Confidence and/or Confusion

“In Thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.” Psalm 71:1 (KJV)

The LORD is the place for our trust.  We far too often place our trust, our confidence in our own abilities.  We are blessed, and we are a blessing unto the Lord Jehovah when we affirm with our words of prayer and praise that our trust is in Him.  That is what the Psalmist is affirming here.

Will I daily; and will you daily affirm with me that our trust is in the LORD?  I pray that you will, and speak it loudly to Him, and show it loudly to Him and the rest of the world as well.

If we will not walk with Him, putting our trust, our confidence in Him and His Word then we will be put to confusion.  Confusion is not of God.  The apostle Paul has written,

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

When a professing Christian is not putting their trust in God, but walking after their own lust, and passions they will be confused, there will be confusion in the world concerning what Christianity is; and it is quite obvious we have that today.  Trusting the LORD means believing His word, and living according to what He says, not what the rest of the world is living and saying.

Have confidence in the LORD and His Word; and you will not be confused.

Communication With GOD

“Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not Thyself from my supplication.” Psalm 55:1 (KJV)

In all of life communication is a necessity.  Many times if we would communicate with those who are an enemy we could solve many problems between us.

We communicate sometimes without words.  For instance when we are driving an automobile we use turn signals to let someone know we are making a turn.  We turn on our headlights even though we can see to let others see us on a cloudy, raining, inclement day.

God desires to communicate with His crown of creation.  God’s greatest and loudest communication with people is the death of His only Son on the cross.  He does, and has for centuries, even millenniums spoken through the Law and the Prophets, through His Word.  That is still the chief way that people can hear from God.

God has given to us a way of speaking with Him.  It begins by believing Him through Jesus Christ.  It is given to us to pray.  Prayer is our communication with Him.  The apostle Paul tells us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Our focus on GOD.

The Psalmist prays, “Give ear to my prayer, O God…”  Of this Matthew Henry wrote,

Prayer is a salve for every sore and a relief to the spirit under every burden: Give ear to my prayer, O God! Psa_55:1, Psa_55:2.

-Matthew Henry Commentary

Prayer is also our way of remaining in contact with the King in the spiritual warfare we fight (Ephesians 6:18).  We cannot fight without the armor, the sword of the Spirit, or without prayer.

In summary of this Matthew Henry has written,

If we, in our prayers, sincerely lay open ourselves, our case, our hearts, to God, we have reason to hope that he will not hide himself, his favours, his comforts, from us.

When we are in the Lord Jesus Christ, God does not hide from our supplications.

Veil on the Face

“And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.” Exodus 34:33-35 (KJV)

Moses would share with the people the words the LORD gave him.  He would speak as he was commanded to speak.  The words he spoke were not easy words; as the words of the LORD are not often easy.

When Moses would speak with Israel he wore a veil over his face.  On first appearance it would appear that Moses put the veil on his face to cover the glow of his countenance, that the people might not fear or cower in his appearance to them.  When we read Paul’s account of this in the New Testament we read,

“And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.” 2 Corinthians 3:13-16 (KJV)

The veil was on the face of Moses so they could not see the glory fading.  Yet, Paul says there is a veil on the hearts of the people of Israel, because they have refused to see Jesus as their Messiah.  Oh how I pray for the removal of that veil, that they might see Jesus, and we are informed by Scripture that one day they will “Look upon Him whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10;  John 19:37;  Revelation 1:7).  They will look and they will believe.

Turn, Oh turn to the Lord Jesus Christ; and live in His glory.  The glory of Christ does not fade away.

 

Day 82 – Spiritual Blessings

It could be said probably, that, everybody likes a blessing.  Those who do not believe in God, however, may not call it “Blessing”.  What would you have to be thankful for?  Who would you thank?  I do not have the answer.  My reading this morning was reading through Ephesians and Philippians.  Two Epistles [Letters] written by the apostle Paul with words of encouragement to the church of Ephesus and the church of Philippi.

To Ephesus Paul writes,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ…” Ephesians 1:3 (KJV)

It is one thing to bless God with words, such as the apostle does above; but how are we at blessing Him with our lives too.  Both are a part of the faithful Christian’s life.  We are to bless God by remembering His blessings to and upon us.

While Paul is addressing “Spiritual blessings” which involve the things that are in the following verses; “He has chosen us in Him”,  “Predestinated us unto the adoption of children…”,  “…We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins…”.  He goes on and includes “…an inheritance”, and that “Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise…”.  The spiritual blessings go on and on.

Those spiritual blessing work themselves out into living in this world and life.  If we do not live with these spiritual blessings; having thankfulness for them, then, we will most likely be a negative, bitter, envious, carnal individual; probably not a true Christian.  Do you realize your spiritual blessings?  Are you thankful for them?  Particularly for the grace given to us by the Father, putting His own Son to death on the cross, and raising Him again bodily from the grave?

In Ephesians we are told about grace.  It is by grace we are saved; plus nothing, minus nothing.

“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

In chapter five we are admonished to “…Be filled with the Spirit”, not spirits; how husbands and wives are to respect and love one another, especially how the husband is love his wife as Christ loves the church, and gave Himself for her.  Children are to obey their parents, parents are not to “Provoke” their children (chapter 6).  Servants, even employees, are to serve their bosses as though they are serving Christ.

In Philippians we see that Jesus Christ was a man of humility; humbling Himself even to the death of the cross;

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  Philippians 2:5-8 (KJV)

It is one of the greatest spiritual blessings to know the God/Man who came to be with us and without sin, offer His life as an atonement for our sin, that we might be like Him.  Because of Him we have great cause for rejoicing, which the apostle addresses in the letter (4:4).

Let me end with just a note concerning the passing of a man of God.  Charles Colson who was the founder of Prison Fellowship and aided in many prison reforms; and many men and women coming to faith in Christ who were in prison; has gone home to be with Jesus.  Reading his book “Born Again” was a blessing to me.  I have also read several of his other books.   Thank God for men such as Charles Colson who devote their lives to the name and cause of Jesus Christ.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Day 81 – The Power of the Cross of Christ

There have been some wonderful photo shots of lightening of late.  There is a whole lot of power in each one of those bolts of light.  The  one’s who know those things could tell you how much, but I am coming up without any trivia on that except to know there is so much power that just one bolt can kill a man with one quick flash.  I know that because I had a cousin who was killed by lightening many years ago.

I am fascinated by lightening, and its power; yet I know at least  one greater Power.  He is the One who formed the Universe, and placed everything in unison, and precision.  This post is not about lightening however, it is about the power of the cross of Christ.

My reading this morning was 2 Corinthians 7 through Galations 6.

The apostle Paul had written this letter as an encouragement for their agreement with him concerning the sin of the young man of 1 Corinthians 5; his correction of the matter, and the young man’s coming around to repent, and now Paul has told them to receive the man back again into the fellowship.  He then, however, addresses another issue.

It seems that they are gullible for any persuasive teacher who might come to them with a different message –

“Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.  For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.  But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”  2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (KJV)

He warns them of the deception of Satan who works through false apostles and teachers (11:13-15).  It seems to me that we live in the midst of many professing Christians who are believing and falling for anything in our day; and neglecting the power of the cross of Christ.  In the final chapter of Second Corinthians the apostle exhorts them to “Examine yourselves…” –

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”  13:5

Where Paul was concerned about the Corinthian church’s possibility of being deceived; we find that the Galatian church had fallen for the deception of the Jewish legalists. From May 18, 2011 through April 11, 2012 we studied the book of Galations at Carr Lane Baptist Church. Follow this link to the study notes for that Wednesday evening study.   Hear what the apostle says to the Galation church –

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, ‘If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.'” Galations 1:6-9 (KJV)

The Judaizers [legalists] had come in and were convincing the Gentile converts that they needed to practice Jewish law; especially the law of circumcision; or they could not be saved.  Paul is correcting this false teaching, this deceiving lie; and expressing with great conviction the power of the cross of Christ.  It is by the cross of Christ Jews and Gentiles are born again.  There is no law one needs to keep, no sacrament, no ordinance, one must keep in order to be saved.  By the cross of Christ you are saved.

The apostle has written,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  2:20

and also we read,

 “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” Galations 6:14-16 (KJV)

For anyone who adds a sacrament, an ordinance, a law, unto grace; it ceases to become grace, and becomes a debt which God owes.  God owes no man anything.  He has purchased us with the blood of His own Son.  That is the power of the cross of Christ.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Day 80 – Forgiveness

Yesterday’s post was about “Sin in the Church”.  Looking in First Corinthian at the Corinthians church was not much different than looking into the world; maybe even worse.  The apostle Paul confronted a situation which grieved his heart.  These were his spiritual children, and they were in the midst of tolerating the evil in their midst.

In a letter he confronts them; and tells them they need to deal with it, by putting the man out of the church.  In our day I have heard of lawsuits for such actions.  In my mind and heart the person who would file a lawsuit against the godly actions of a church, particularly if it is done with love and for the correction and return of the believer; that person is an unbeliever, and should be treated as such.

The second letter to Corinth is written on a much more encouraging scale.  It appears that the Corinthians have confronted the sin, and the man has indeed repented, and returned to right fellowship with God and now it is time the church forgave him;

“But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.  For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?  And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.  For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.  But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.  Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.   So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.  Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.  For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”  2 Corinthians 2:1-11 (KJV)

He reminds them of the first letter, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears…”  They had also disciplined the man, “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many” sounds as though the whole congregation, or at least most of them were up to the discipline.  That is a good thing.

Paul also  tells them to “forgive him” and welcome him back into the fellowship.  Forgiveness is awesome.  In John 8 the religious hierarchy catch a woman in the act of adultery and present her to Jesus to see what He would do with her – to condemn Him.  He tells them, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”, that was according to the law for stone throwers; that the witnesses be the first to throw the killing stones.  The accusers all went away, probably a feeling a bit foolish, maybe some a bit ashamed; we would hope.

“Where are your accusers?  Has no man condemned you?” Jesus asked the woman.  “No man , Lord”, she says.  Jesus tells the woman the words every sinner needs to hear, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.”  Is there forgiveness in those words?  Most certainly.  If Jesus, the only one who could stone her, did not condemn her, then He forgave her.  Note the admonition, “Go, and sin no more”.

“There is therefore, now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).

-Tim A. Blankenship

Day 79 – Sin in the Church

There is probably nothing more sure and clear than the title of this post.  “Sin in the Church”.  To ask, “Is there sin in our churches?” is a very unnecessary question.  Where there is a church without sin; it is of their own confession; and not the truth.  Besides where there is people there will be sin.  By that statement I do not mean to lessen the gravity and seriousness of sin in the church.

In my reading this morning of 1 Corinthians 3 – 12 it was quite apparent that the apostle is writing this church to confront a major problem they have.  First of all they seem just a bit proud of their “Spirituality” and “love” since they have tolerated an adulterous affair to continue to go on in their midst (chapter 5).

The apostle addresses their immaturity at first,

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”  1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (KJV)

We see there are other problems of sin within the congregation as well, “strife and divisions”, arguing and debating over who is the best preacher, and probably other things.  Too many times in today’s society Christians “wear their feelings on their sleeves”, are easily puffed up, easily knocked down,  and easily offended.  That is the height of immaturity.

Paul’s intent for writing this letter is not to shame or offend this people,

“I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.  For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.  Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”  4:14-16

We live in a time where “Tolerance” is king.  At least much of laws are written with tolerance in mind.  What is the idea of tolerance?  The MIRRIAM/WEBSTER DICTIONARY defines “Tolerance” –

1. the act or practice of tolerating; esp. : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from one’s own  2: capacity for enduring or adapting (as to a poor environment) 3: the allowable deviation from a standard (as of size).

Today’s tolerance police would be proud of the Corinthian church.  They loved this couple so very much, and were so very tolerant they were about to bring the wrath and judgment of God upon themselves, and the whole church.  The apostle was not pleased when he heard of this, and this very well could be the main reason for writing this letter; the “straw that broke the camel’s back” so to speak.  Hear what Paul told the church to do with the man:

 “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?  Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  5:4-8

If you will notice Paul’s concern was at least  in part for the man to be delivered from this grievous sin.  He was also very concerned with what it was doing and would continue doing if the rebelliousness and evil were not dealt with.

There is much to learn and hear for the guidance of the post modern church.  There is sin in the church today that needs to be dealt with.  I hear of adulterous affairs going on between couples within some local congregations; and if these sins and others are not dealt with then those churches will fall.

The first step in dealing with sin in the church is for each individual to keep their accounts short with God.  Read the Bible daily, hiding the word in your heart that you sin not against the LORD.  By taking heed to the Word of God their is cleansing and forgiveness.

To tolerate sin in one’s own life is not love; that is arrogance.  To tolerate sin within the church is not love, nor is it spiritual; it is pride and rebellion.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Day 78 – Paul, the Jew, the Corinthian, and the Christian

My reading today was finishing up Romans, reading chapters 8 – 16, and then beginning the Corinthian letters; reading chapters 1 and 2.

The apostle goes to great lengths in chapter 8 of Romans to show what the Christian has in Christ Jesus.  There is no condemnation.  It is such a wonderful thing to know that because of Christ death, burial and resurrection God does not condemn us.  Jesus said, “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).  The human race is already condemned due to sin, but God sent His Son.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  Romans 8:1 (KJV)

The Christian is “joint-heirs” with Christ, and though it does not sound too pleasant, and it is not to be; that includes suffering with Him-

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  8:16-18

In chapters 9-11 the apostle speaks of the nation of Israel and where they fit into God’s plan of salvation.  He even asks some questions which were probably being asked concerning Israel, and Jesus.  These chapters basically tell us that God is not finished with the nation of Israel; but that their initial rejection of Jesus and His crucifixion was in part to bring the Gentiles into the faith of Christ.  There is a promise that “Israel will be saved”,

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.   And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.’  As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.  For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Romans 11:25-29 (KJV)

In the First Corinthian Letter we find that the wisdom of the world is not sufficient to know God, nor to understand spiritual things.  In fact those who are hung up on knowledge, understanding, and in unbelief will not believe, because they cannot understand;

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (KJV)

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.    For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 2:14-16

The  only hope for Paul, a Jew; the Jew, and the Corinthian (Gentiles) is to know Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God.  Christian you need to grow more into the image and likeness of Him.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Day 77 – Shipwrecked, Sin, and Slavery

The world we live in with all the conveniences, comforts, and wealth is not often viewed with slavery, or sin in mind.  As a matter of fact most of the human race would just as soon forget the idea of sin and chalk it up to being an antiquated idea.  An ancient superstition or fear that was in the hearts and minds of people of times long ago.  We are beyond that are we not?  We are a civilized, educated, knowledgeable and technological society free of this “sin idea”.

We better back up and rethink this thought of sin.  My reading this morning of April 17, 2012 was Acts 26-28 and Romans 1-7.

In the reading we find Paul on his way to Rome by ship and the lives of the people on board are in great jeopardy, fear, and loss of life is seemingly imminent.  (I use the word “seemingly” because there is a divine factor involved.)

“Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, and said unto them, ‘Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.’   Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.”  Acts 27:9-11 (KJV)

The godly wisdom of Paul told him, and I am pretty sure the Holy Spirit gave him enlightenment in the situation as well, that there was great harm awaiting the people and ship if they set sail at this time.  The “Centurion” (Roman soldier) did not listen to Paul, but rather to the captain of the ship.  That seems like the logical thing to do, but it was not the right thing to do.

The ship ends up in a storm.  For fear of their lives cargo, much of the ships gear is cast overboard.  They were in this storm for many days, going without food, and began losing hope of ever seeing land again (Acts 27:20).  Paul has received a visit from “the angel of God” and gives them assurance,

“But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, ‘Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.  And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.  For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, ‘Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.  ‘Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.  Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.”  Acts 27:21-26

It was just as Paul told them.  They shipwrecked upon an island, are served by the people, and Paul preaches the gospel to them.  Paul goes to Rome, and it is from Rome we receive the Roman Letter.

In Romans 1 Paul deals with the issue of the sins of the nations.  In chapter two the sins of Israel, including the Jewish religious leaders.  We are told that our sins have brought us short of the glory of God (3:23), and that is God’s intent for humanity, ie. to glorify Him.

The idea of slavery comes into this post by way of  chapter 6 and verse 16 through 18,

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”  Romans 6:16-18

Some people do not like to think about, and there may be some who honestly do not even know it; but there is slavery in our technological society.  There is still evil in this world.  There is a slavery where women, children and some men are kidnapped, and taken and sold for outrageous prices (Of course selling people at any price is outrageous).  These are often sold as sex slaves, placed on streets in foreign cities and in the United States.  However, there is a slavery which we all need to deal with on a personal basis; and that is slavery to sin.

Apart from Jesus Christ there is no real freedom.  If sin has dominion of your life you are in bondage.  People say things like, “Religion is bondage” or something like that and try to present the picture that freedom is “Doing as one pleases with their lives”.  One’s who are in Christ Jesus are truly free to do as they desire, because it is God who gives us our desires when we are walking with Him (Psalm 37:4).

Paul says at the end of chapter 7,

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”  Romans 7:24-25

Turn to Jesus Christ.  The only source of peace, joy, freedom and forgiveness.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Day 75 – Loving The Lord Unto Life

We have heard it said, “I will love the Lord, even unto death”; Peter said something similar to that; even as the Lord told him “You will deny Me three times”.

My reading this morning was in Acts 6 through chapter 15.  These events give us some details of the work of the Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives.  Even the life of a young Pharisee who was intent on killing those Christians has his life dramatically changed when he meets Jesus Christ as he is on his way to Damascus to capture, chain and return to Jerusalem with them for trial and death (Acts 9).

Stephen was one of the men who were chosen in chapter six by the church to be a servant, feeding the Greek widows among them.  Stephen was also an evangelist proclaiming the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ and showed his love for the Lord even unto life.

Hear what Luke writes in his accounts of the work of the Spirit of God –

“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.  Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.  Then they suborned men, which said, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.’  And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, ‘This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.’   And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”  Acts 6:8-15 (KJV)

Stephen was full of faith and power, by the Holy Spirit.  He stood strong for the gospel even though it could mean the loss of life for him.  His love for Jesus Christ and the gospel was stronger than his love for this world, and the life he now had.  He stands in chapter seven with conviction and proclaims the word of God from the Old Testament; and they fall under conviction.

Do we know what “conviction” is today?  The conviction I speak of is where you feel some guilt for your sin; and shame for your behavior; there is repentance; and you are drawn to see that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God; and that through Him alone there is forgiveness, peace and eternal life.  Sometimes this conviction, with those who hate God, will cause them to do cruel, evil and vile things; in rebellion against God and His children.  Just as it happened with Stephen.

Luke records the sermon Stephen preached, and records these final words,

“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”  Acts 7:51-53

This was the final straw for this rebellious crowd.  They were “cut to the heart” then they ran upon him, and Stephen saw  “Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (v. 56).  In the home going of Stephen we can see traits of the Lord Jesus in him.  As he is being stoned by the mob he says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (v. 59).  Then as he breathes his final breath on earth Stephen cries out with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (v. 60).

There is another who loved not their life unto death, and that was that young Pharisee; who has now become a Christian, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  His name was Saul and he was from Tarsus.  His name became Paul and he has written 14 of the New Testament Epistles.

In a place called Lycaonia Paul and Barnabas were believed to be gods, because they had healed a crippled man, but Paul and Barnabas rejected the worship and tried to convince them they were not gods, but only men.  When some Jews came from Antioch they stoned Paul, dragged him out of the city, believing him to be dead;

“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.  Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”  Acts 14:19-20

The apostle Paul did not quit; nor did he soften the gospel message.  He got up from where they left him, went back into the city, shook the dust off his feet (Matthew 10:14;  Mark 6:11;  Luke 9:5), and went on preaching the gospel; loving the Lord unto life.

Let the Christians of our day Love the Lord unto Life.  Eternal life.

-Tim A. Blankenship

A Time To Pray

Scripture tells us that Daniel prayed three times a day, even after the king had written an edict of death to anyone who was caught praying to anyone but the king (Daniel 6).  Paul the apostle tells Christians to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  The Psalmist sang,

“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice.”  Psalm 55:17

For the soul who was under the dictates of the law, they had morning and evening sacrifices, and that was a good time to pray.  Daniel seems to have had a special one; so too the Psalmist.  They loved to speak with the LORD; and Daniel loved to do so even if it meant certain death.  Do we pray as we ought?  I ask that question knowing that is one of my weakest areas.  I love to hear God speak, and He does through His word; however, He loves for His children to speak with Him.

The following is Spurgeon’s comments of verse 17 –

“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray.” Often, but none too often. Seasons of great need call for frequent seasons of devotion. The three periods chosen are most fitting; to begin, continue, and end the day with God is supreme wisdom. Where time has naturally set up a boundary, there let us set up an altar-stone. The Psalmist means that he will always pray; he will run a line of prayer right along the day and track the sun with his petitions. Day and night he saw his enemies busy (Psa 55:10), and therefore he would meet their activity by continuous prayer. “And cry aloud.” He would give a tongue to his complaint; he would be very earnest in his pleas with heaven. Some cry aloud who never say a word. It is the bell of the heart that rings loudest in heaven. Some read it, “I will muse and murmur;” deep heart-thoughts should be attended with inarticulate but vehement utterances of grief. Blessed be God, moaning is translatable in heaven. A father’s heart reads a child’s heart. “And he shall hear my voice.” He is confident that he will prevail; he makes no question that he would be heard, he speaks as if already he were answered. When our window is opened towards heaven, the windows of heaven are open to us. Have but a pleading heart and God will have a plenteous hand.  From the TREASURY OF DAVID

With the spiritual condition of the churches of the United States and Christianity Christians need to humble themselves before God and get back to our dependence upon God our Savior, Redeemer, Friend and Deliverer.  Let’s commit ourselves to more time with God.  God will hear our voices and cries when we are humble before Him, and repentant of our sins.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Observations From Acts – 042711

There has not been much posted here on Acts, but I do want to end with one observation as we look at verses 22 – 24 of chapter 28;

“But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.  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.  And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.”  Acts 27:22-24 (KJV)

Paul the apostle is in Rome about to be tried for the charges his own people have brought against him.  He has been charged with saying things against them, and supposedly against their God; in blasphemy.  Rather than speaking against their God he has spoken plainly, using the Old Testament scriptures they adhered to and proclaiming Jesus Christ their Messiah.

The word “sect” was used, most likely, as a derogatory term meaning that the teaching of Christianity was heretical and was worthy of judgment.  Paul took time with those who came to him expounding the Word of God, and preaching the kingdom of God, persuading some to believe and follow Jesus Christ.

We have the testimony here that “some believed”, and “some believed not” and that is pretty much how things are in our time; as every other time since Paul.

If you will believe the gospel of Jesus Christ then, you will have the assurance of eternity with Him.  If you reject Jesus and His gospel, then you will die and eternal death.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Heavenly Vision

The Heavenly Vision

Acts 26:19-20

The reading of verses 13 – 18 would be a good thing for the study of this passage of Scripture.

Now I think it would be good to see what the writer of the Proverbs says about “vision”.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”  Proverbs 29:18 (KJV).

“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.”  Proverbs 29:18 (NKJV).

It would appear that by looking at the NKJV rendering of the verse that there might be a problem of interpretation and comparison between Paul’s heavenly vision and this revelation but it would not need to be a problem.

Where there is revelation there is hope, and people will follow the revelation of God when they believe it.  Every one needs vision for guidance, and worth-while-ness.

To have Revelation/Vision is a necessity for having a moral and decent society.  The vision Paul has is a life changing vision.  It first changes the heart and mind of Saul when he met Jesus.

The true Revelation/Vision is from God.  Paul’s vision was of Jesus Himself.  When there is no Revelation/Vision from God; people will live without power or authority, and find themselves without direction.   They will not recognize their true enemy; and they will blame others for their own faults, problems, and sins.

THE PURPOSE OF THE REVELATION/VISION (v. 16).  The highest aim or purpose of the Revelation/Vision is to glorify the Father.  The purpose of the Revelation/Vision for Saul was to be called to minister for the cause of Jesus Christ, and to glorify Him.  The minister is a servant to all –

“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered  unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45 (KJV).

The minister of Jesus Christ has no life of his own, but has given it up to the Lord.  Called to be a witness in two ways;  1) To be a faithful witness in the things that are seen:

* The death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ;
* The power of the gospel to change lives

and 2) To be a faithful witness through the revelations Jesus would reveal (John 14:21):

* Paul’s teachings of the pure gospel came by the revelation of Jesus: “For I neither received it of men, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galations 1:12).
* He has more writings in the New Testament than any othe penman – possibly 14;
* We are to bear witness in these two ways;

1. Preaching the gospel and showing forth a changed life;
2. By teaching the revelation of Jesus in all areas of life.

The Scriptures are complete.  Within them we have all the revelation of Jesus Christ and how He wants us to live that God has given us.  We are to learn it and seek His will for our lives.

THE PROMISE OF THE REVELATION/VISION (v. 17).  God never calls anyone to serve Him without Purpose, nor without Promise.  His promises in Revelation/Vision encourages, strengthens, and gives us perseverance.  God’s promises are the Christian’s hope of the future – eternity with God in glory – His glory.  It was God’s promise that motivated Abraham to leave his homeland without knowing where he was going:

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” Hebrews 11:8 (KJV)

He only knew that he was going with God.  He did not know the place on earth.  He has promised to deliver from enemies of the gospel.  There will still be persecution, but the persecutor will not prevail.  Many a persecutor, like Saul of Tarsus, fell under the power and authority of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

THE POWER OF THE REVELATION/VISION (v. 18).  The power of the revelation/vision is the power of a changed life.  There is no religion that can change a life for eternity.  There are many good ministries which stress self-reformation, and cleaning up your act, but they basically give not power to maintain the life which one ought to live.  Usually if there are any lasting changes the organization gets the credit and the glory, and none goes to the One who created us, and all thing.

Jesus said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto Me; both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the utter most parts of the world.”  (Acts 1:8)  He said in Matthew, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth”  Matthew 28:18 (KJV).  We find also that Jesus said to Peter,  “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17 (KJV).  Peter was only able to know the true identity of Jesus because it was by revelation from God the Father.

The Revelation/Vision of the person of Jesus Christ, when accepted, believed, practiced has the power to change the life of that individual.  Jesus Christ has the power to forgive, remove, cleanse, from all sin.  He has the power to open eyes that they might see the work of God in the world.  He has the power to turn a life of darkness to a life in the Light.

In some cases – many cases – people love darkness rather than light:

“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:20 (KJV)

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Ephesians 2:1-3 (KJV)

If you are in that darkness you can come out by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on Calvary’s cross for you.  The only cleansing and forgiveness is in the Light of Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus there is also a wonderful inheritance:

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Romans 8:17 (KJV)

“And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:15 (KJV)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5 (KJV)

This is an eternal inheritance which has been provided us by the Lord Jesus Christ by His death, burial and resurrection.

THE PERSON OF THE REVELATION/VISION (vv. 13-15).  As Saul/Paul is riding a horse toward Damascus, and for the purpose of taking captive many Christians, and putting them to death; he meets the One whom he is really persecuting.

Saul had seen the Christian message of Jesus Christ as a great and vile threat to his own religion.  That was the Jewish religion he had grown up in, and this Jesus was a rabble rouser, a trouble maker, a deceiver, and they could not have this man upsetting the purity of Judaism.

Saul does, however, find out that he is not persecuting the people who are calling themselves followers of Jesus; but he is actually persecuting Jesus Himself.  He is alive.  Now Saul knows it, and falls on his face before Him, and calls Him “Lord”.

It was upon his meeting Jesus, the Revelation of Jesus Christ to Saul of Tarsus, that he realized the conviction, the torment of soul, the troubled heart and thoughts; his kicking against the pricks (vv. 14; 9:5) finally hit home in his life.

Is there a troubled area of your life where you just can’t find peace?  Maybe it’s your whole life, and you just can’t find peace with yourself, your spouse, your family, or with God.  That maybe your pricks from the Spirit of God and He is calling you to Him.

There is only one true Revelation of God to man (other than creation), and that is His Son Jesus Christ.  He came to earth as a man; to die for the sins of mankind, carry our sins away in burial taking all guilt and shame, and then, He rose agains bodily from the grave.  The bodily resurrection is proof of His revelation of God to man.  It is the divine work of God.  It is not of the flesh, but the Spirit of God.

Salvation is through the Son of the Living God, and His name is Jesus.

THE PERCOLATION OF THE REVELATION/VISION (vv. 19-20).  Percolation is a filtering process by which to arrive at a desired effect or goal.  The Christian with the Revelation/Vision is the instrument of God to reach a lost world.  Disobedience to this vision will do these five things:

* Cause guilt for neglecting those who you leave  untold;
* Cause ineffective ministry and ministries;
* There will be a lack of prayer;
* There will be a lack of time with and/or for God;
* The individual will be in a backsliden condition, slipping ever farther away from God’s loving, protecting hands.
* …This is not an exhausted list.

Obedience to the heavenly vision will give us five things:

* Peace of heart and mind;
* Joy in an of ministry;
* A life of prayer and drawing near to God;
* Takes every opportunity for God;
* Has a growing Christian testimony;
* …This list is not exhausted.

Our Christian lives, lived in the presence of others, will be the only vision of heaven they may ever see.

-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

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

How Are We Doing?

In the past thirty years or so it would appear to me that Christians have fallen away from the idea of evangelism.  We have turned to the political arena, and there have been some good things happen from going to the polls and letting “our vote count”, and we must continue to do that.  However, dependence upon the political to legislate change, moral change in particular has given us government out of control.  We are gradually losing our freedom of speech, and will eventually lose it entirely.

The power of changing lives of individuals is solely in the hands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Forcing moral change through law has never worked, and never will.  Paul the apostle wrote many years ago –

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”  Romans 1:16 (KJV)

It would appear that we [Christians] have stopped believing in the power of the gospel of Christ.  We place more hope in our government than in Christ.  We have more confidence in the power of the president’s pen, than in the quiet, soft voice of the Spirit of God.  We have more faith in the politicians power than the power of the Word of God.

Why do I say these things?  We will strongly urge everyone, “Go and vote on election day”, but rarely do we say something like, “Be sure and tell someone about Jesus today, or this week”.

Let me give you a personal example.  I am often asked, “What do ya know?”; and my answer is always disappointing to me.  “Not much”.  Though the question is often asked as a means of getting a conversation going it should give me the chance to tell what I do know about Jesus Christ, His life, death, burial, resurrection; and His second coming.  Boy!!! would that be a conversation grabber.  Now I know that everytime someone asks me “What do ya know?” they don’t really want to know what I know, but I should and could share with them anyway.  I have responded a time or two, “Do really want to know?”

At any rate the hope of this world is not power, popularity, politics, or prestige.  The hope of this world is Christ Jesus.  Paul said he was not ashamed.  No Christian will be ashamed of the very one who delivered and delivers us from our sin and eternal destruction.

Someone gave an acrostic for GOSPEL  as God Offers Sinful People Eternal Life.  That is what Jesus has done for us on His cross, and proved the power of the cross by the resurrection.  He lives, and because He lives we live.

There is no power greater than the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He possesses the power to change a murderer into one who loves life – his own and others lives.  He empowers the child molestor to become a man or woman who loves children, and would never do anything to harm, molest, or torment them.  He empowers the sexual deviant to become one who is moral, and respects his/her gender and the opposite gender in the correct, moral and Biblical manner.  He empowers the sinner to become a lover of God, His Son, His Spirit and His Word; and live according to the directives of His Spirit and Word.

We must never forget that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”.  That means me, and that means you.  That means all with one exception, and His name is Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God.

Let’s be faithful in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ; “it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes”; and it matters not what sin they have sinned.  Legislate morality all you want, still lives are not changed until we meet Jesus, surrender our wills to His, and then we are changed with the desire to be like Him.

In answer to the question, “How Are We Doing?”  It does not seem too well.  We can do better.  I can do better.  God has not failed us. He will never fail us.  As the Lord has told us in His Word,

“The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” 2 Chronicles 16:9

Perfection is only through His Son Jesus.  Believe on Him and live.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Heavenly Vision

“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision”  Acts 26:19.

Looking at the verses previous to this one you find Paul’s testimony of His salvation and calling from the Lord Jesus.  That is found in verses 14-18.  His calling is one of ministry and a witness to the matter of salvation, and the things which Paul has seen and will yet see.  He is called to “Open the eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, and that they may receive forgiveness of sins…” (v. 18).

Paul is, of course, sharing this message with king Agrippa who, along with his wife, had come to salute Festus.  Festus had told the king of Paul who had false charges brought against him, and was wanting the king’s advice and guidance on what to do with Paul.  The apostle had shared this glowing testimony of how he had met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, and that he had not departed from doing as he had been directed.

Would to God, that I could say, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision”.  Some might say we had no “Heavenly vision” that caused us to come to Christ.  If we were drawn by God’s Spirit to be saved.  We had that heavenly vision.  That vision is Jesus Christ.  Keep that vision that God has given you in Christ His holy Son.

O Jesus, Savior, holy Son of God; give me YOUR vision for souls. Set a fire in my heart, O LORD for one lost soul today.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Jesus – Son of God, As God

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory”  1 Timothy 3:16.

Why is it that when the Bible; and that includes Old Testament Scriptures; is so clear on the deity of Jesus Christ, that there are those who will argue with God Himself?  This verse is quite clear on the fact that Jesus is God incarnate.

Many of those who want to dismiss these verses, or twist them to suit their own ends, will admit that Jesus is the “Son of God”.  That just does not make sense.  Reason will tell you that if you are the ’son of a man’, that, that makes you a man: that is if you are a man.  Jesus is also referred to as “Son of Man”, thus making Him man.  Being called “Son of God”, being virgin born, conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, God His Father, in the mind of reason will see that the Son of God is God.  Jesus is one hundred percent Man, and one hundred percent God.  You cannot get any better than that.

For further study on this read John chapter five, and six.  May God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit bless you in your study.

-Tim A. Blankenship

A Prayer, Praising Earthquake

Up until a few years ago I always kind of though musicals in movies, on stage, etc. was a funny, and needless way to do things.  Then, I realized our lives are a musical. I mean by that; that, if you are like me anyway you will be in the middle of doing something, working, golfing, camping, hiking, riding a bike or motorcycle; anyway you get the idea.  In the middle of doing these things, and just break out in a song.

It may be a song dealing with how you feel.  If you are at work you might want to sing, “Take This Job and Shove It”, or if you enjoy your work, it could be a bit more jovial like a hymn of thanksgiving or praise to the One who gives us all things to enjoy.  So life is a musical.  For some it is a musical even when things do not look so bright. Singing praises to God in the midst of suffering, your suffering makes life so much more joyful musical.

Have you ever thought much about what singing praises to God and what praising Him can do?  Well, there is an example in the book of Acts.  It was following the beating, and jailing of Paul and Silas after they had been faithfully preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Philippi.  The preaching of the Gospel had been responsible for delivering a young girl who was demon possessed by a demon.  She was the source of income for her soothsaying.

When this girl was delivered, or course, her soothsaying days were over.  That should tell us something about the “Ghost Whisperers”, and “Mediums” and witches we hear about.  When she was delivered the men using her lost their income, thus they were angry with Paul and Silas, caused a riot of sorts in the city; got Paul and Silas beaten and jailed.

What was Paul and Silas doing in jail?  They were singing praises to the Lord.  Here is what the text says,

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”  (Acts 16:25).

Verses following show that there was an earthquake, the doors of the prison were opened, the guard and his family were born again.  Now that is the result of a praying, singing, praising people.

Let’s learn to pray, sing, and praise our God and Savior no matter the violences the world and its biases hurl at us.  Who knows what would happen  in the USA, and the world if God’s people would sing, pray, and praise our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Spirit Of The Family

Galations 6:1

OUTLINE –

I.  BRETHREN ACCORDING TO THE FAITH.

II.  OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD BRETHREN CAUGHT IN TRANSGRESSION.

III.  THE TRANSGRESSION IS AN ACT AGAINST GOD AND HIS LAW.

IV.  A WORD FOR THE SPIRITUALLY MATURE.

V.  RESTORATION IS THE GOAL OF CORRECTION.

VI.  SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS AT THE HEART OF CORRECTION/RESTORATION.

VII.  LOOKING ATTENTIVELY AT ONE’S SELF IN CORRECTING/RESTORING A FALLEN BROTHER.

VIII.  BEWARE, LEST YOU ALSO BE TEMPTED.

I refer to the family of God.  Those who are in the faith of Jesus Christ.

Families have problems.  Marriages of Biblical as well as non-biblical couples have problems, yet many times work things out or learn to live with each other in love.  The same is also true within the church – the Body of Christ.  Sadly some cannot, or don’t want to work things out.

The Christian family cannot do anything except love one another, as we have been given commandment; by our Lord Himself (John 13:34-35).

The Spirit of God’s family is His Spirit.  His Spirit gives live, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness (Keep an eye on this word), temperance…  How God’s family treats one another goes a long way in the way we deal with our neighbor, work associates, or ones we might consider “enemy”.  We have no enemy but Satan, and he is the enemy of every human being.

BRETHREN ACCORDING TO THE FAITH.  There are three ways in which humanity can be called brethren.  The first is by being a part of creation some have a tendency of calling us all brethren because we are of the human race; but if that were the case, then we not be “brethren” with all created things.  That would be okay with the pantheists I guess.  Secondly, we are brethren with those who are born into our physical family.  Thirdly we are brethren when we are born again in faith through Jesus Christ.  Now there are probably other ways to be called “brethren”, but I will not consider any of those.

As brethren/family through Christ we have been born again.  Raised from death in sin to life in the crucified, buried, and risen Christ.  Called to be the brethren of Jesus Christ Himself.  He being our Elder Brother (Hebrews 2:11-13).

OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD BRETHREN CAUGHT IN TRANSGRESSION.  Every Christian has died to sin and its power; but none are sinless in this world.  The seed of Christ in us never sins (1 John 3:9-10).  The flesh in which we labor to overcome sins, must be forgiven and cleansed, changed through the sanctification of God’s Spirit.  We experience sin through the “lust of the flesh’, ‘lust of the eyes’, and ‘ the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

This must be dealing with sin which has trapped, and holds the brethren, as he lingers within it.  A follower of Jesus Christ can become blinded by rationalizing.  It is often because we get away from daily prayer, daily Bible study and reading, church attendance/worship and living in the disobedience of it all; stuck in the mud pits of sin.

We must all be aware of sins entrapment.  It can grab, and hold you by a lingering, overbearing doubt, fear, lust.  It can bite or sting you through a simple luxury.  It can be as subtle as a slithering serpent.

THE TRANSGRESSION IS AN ACT AGAINST GOD.  Sin is transgression of God’s Law (1 John 3:4).  The law is a “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ (3:24).  By the law we learn we transgress God’s law – we are incapable of obedience to it for the glorifying of God – thus “falling short of the glory of God”.

All mankind has transgressed the law of God making us sinners – transgressors.  Unworthy of God’s love, mercy and grace.

It is sad to say, but sometimes, even the Christian willfully transgresses the law of God, and by their sin offend others.  This is probably the “fault” or transgression of which Paul refers.  O, God be merciful to the child which willfully disobeys and send a loving member of the family for correction and restoration.

A WORD FOR THE SPIRITUALLY MATURE.  Shows there are levels of Christian growth.  The apostle speaks to this when he says to the Corinthian church, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1).  The apostle Peter even addresses this when he states, “…As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).

We cannot and should not expect new born Christians to suddenly become mature.  Growing is a process, and is a good and godly thing.  It will require prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and witness.  It will also involve trials, suffering, testing – and none that are really pleasant to prove their faith.

RESTORATION IS THE GOAL OF CORRECTION.  How a piece of wood furniture is restored.  First of all it is taken apart piece by piece; then each part is sanded and prepared for finishing; then if needed new bolts, screws, biscuits replace the old; and last new varnish, laquer, or other finish is brushed or rolled onto the wood restoring and renewing the surface.

Sometimes a fallen brother or sister needs the loving, mentoring/discipling of another brother or sister to guide them back into fellowship with the church.  It is tough love that corrects and restores one loved.  It is not love at all to let a brother or sister continue in sin without correction; anymore than it would be for a parent to allow a child to continue doing something that would hurt them.

SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS AT THE HEART OF CORRECTION/RESTORATION.  Jesus spoke of meekness, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).  Meekness is not weakness – it is strength or power, authority under control.  Two of the meekest men who ever lived are Jesus and Moses (Matthew 11:29;  Numbers 12:3).

As one who knows and is aware of the weakness of the flesh; meekness serves as a means of godly wisdom with understanding of one’s own redemption story.  One’s knowing from whence he/she came.  Pulled, snatched from the burning, the cesspools, pits of fear, despair, doubt, destruction, sin and condemnation.

Meekness can be seen in Presidents, kings, potentates, teachers, pastors, preachers, or leaders from most walks of life; as they take off their “garments” of leadership, and put on a tool belt: for more than political promoting picture ops.  Simply remembering our “roots”.  Putting ourselves on equal/level ground with the “overtaken” brethren.

LOOKING ATTENTIVELY AT ONE’S SELF IN CORRECTING/RESTORING A FALLEN BROTHER.  Knowing your own weakness to sin will help you to mercifully deal with brethren.  The Christian who says, “This would never happen to me”, is in for a big disappointment somewhere down the road of their lives.

Correcting is showing/teaching the errors or wrong as well as teaching the right, and without further condemnation.  Usually, the fallen brethren are feeling guilt, shame, and don’t quite know how to deal with what they have done, or are still doing.  A loving example, “considering yourself”, in their presence could be all that is necessary to bring them back.

BEWARE, LEST YOU ALSO BE TEMPTED.  Jesus was tempted, but not unto sin.  Temptation is not sin.  James writes, “…Every man[everyone] is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).  We are drawn away by our lust, our ungodly desire.  Temptation only becomes sin if it is not quickly dealt with and terminated.

Temptation can be so subtle, quiet, and deceptive.  “I am not happy in my current marriage” says a wife and mother to her friend, “so, I am leaving my husband for Joe who I am happy being around”.  “God wants me to be happy”.  Temptation comes in the form of obtaining happiness, wealth, things, even health outside God’s law, grace and provisions.

It helps each of us to know and confess our own weaknesses.  It could be a proclivity toward lying.  It could also be love for the luxurious.  It could be an almost overbearing desire for wealth; or the sin of greed.  What about gossip, talebearing, or a froward (trouble making) attitude and lifestyle.  There are so many; far too many, but each individual must deal with them accurately and adequately.

All sins were dealt with by Jesus and the Father on His cross.  The Spirit of the Family is the Spirit of God given to all who believe that Jesus is the Christ Son of the Living God.  Believing that Jesus is God [Immanuel] come in flesh.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Please note:  This message will be preached in Carr Lane Baptist Church in two parts – Sunday morning and Sunday evening.

Spirit Bearing Witness

Romans 9:1-5

A burden is a heavy thing to bear.  As we begin reading this “parenthesis” in the letter of Romans we find Paul with a heavy heart.  What has grieved his heart?  What is this burden?  It is the weight of the state of anathema which is on his countrymen – brethren – the Israelites.

A question could be asked why are they in such a curse?  Due to their unbelief at the coming of Messiah.  Their crucifixion, and putting to death the One who was foretold by the prophets, and the Law.

Another question comes to my mind;  Am I, would I be willing to be accursed that another might be saved from that curse?  Let us keep in mind this is a nation of people who have received many a blessing from the One whom they crucified.  Those blessings are listed in verses four and five; and those are not exhaustive.

This “parenthesis” covers chapters nine through eleven.  The ninth chapter shows us how God has dealt with Israel in the past; up to and including the time of Jesus Christ.  The tenth chapter shows us how God is working with them in our current age – the Church age.  The eleventh chapter shows us God restoring Israel in His future work with them.

I was once asked, “Why is this a parenthetical statement?”  My answer is that Paul has through chapter eight been dealing with the sins of mankind (chapters 1-3); the wonderful work of the grace of God (chapters 4-8); and then in chapters 9-11 he begins dealing specifically with the nation of Israel.  Then in chapter twelve he begins dealing with the fruits of grace in the believer’s life.  I hope that explains it.

It seems to me that this parenthesis is used by the apostle to show quite clearly, that since God gave many unconditional promises to Israel, and His will to fulfill them; He gives His body – the Church – evidence that He doesn’t quit, or give up on His people.  I like that kind of assurance.  Israel is evidence of God’s fulfilling His Word.

OUTLINE –

I.  THE WITNESS OF CONSCIENCE AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD (v. 1).

II.  THE GRIEF, AND SORROW OF HEART FOR THE PEOPLE (vv. 2-3).

III.  THE BLESSINGS OF A CONDEMNED PEOPLE (v. 4).

IV.  THE ONE’S THROUGH WHOM CHRIST HAS COME INTO THE WORLD (v. 5).

THE WITNESS OF CONSCIENCE AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD (v. 1).  Paul seems to have been quite aware of the problems of relying on conscience alone to make right and godly choices.

The conscience of an individual can be shaped and molded to reflect one’s culture; and not necessarily what is right and wrong according to Scripture or Christ.  The conscience which is subject to the Spirit of God, and the Word of God will make Biblical, conscientious, godly decisions; and if they don’t the conscience will be burdened with guilt, until the transgression has been forgiven.

Paul’s conscience and the Spirit of God bore witness that he had a heavy burden for Israel concerning their curse.

The reason some people can make evil choices concerning right and wrong, or godly and ungodly decisions is because their conscience is not in tune with God or His Word.

Paul’s conscience was clear.  He was burdened for his nation of people.  They are his brethren “after the flesh” – meaning these are the people he was born into.  What the apostle is about to say is one of the most profound statements he will ever make.  This is the most Christlike statement anyone could make.  It is even more Christlike to show it, and Paul demonstrates it quite vividly in the book of Acts when he is willing to give his life to be sure the people of Jerusalem hear the message of their Messiah.

THE GRIEF, AND SORROW OF HEART FOR THE PEOPLE (vv. 2-3).  It is certain that from this statement that Paul knows of the curse on the nation due to their unbelief and rejection of Jesus as their Messiah.  This word [accursed] is the word “Anathema”, and it conveys to us the most horrible and vile of cursing.

The MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE note states,

“9:3 accursed. The Gr. word is anathema, which means ‘to devote to destruction in eternal hell’ (cf. 1 Cor.12:3; 16:22; Gal.1:8,9).  Although Paul understood the exchange he was suggesting was impossible (8:38,39; John 10:28), it was the sincere expression of his deep love for his fellow Jews (cf. Ex. 32:32).”

Paul knew that he himself was not spotless, holy, undefiled to be that sacrifice, and that the sacrifice had, indeed, already been given by Jesus Himself.  The only spotless Lamb to ever be offered for the sins of man, and complete the offering was the offering of the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 36).

Could I love so deeply that I would be willing to take another’s  place in hell?  In the love of Christ I can.  Isn’t that the essence of the love of Jesus Christ?  To be willing to give one’s life that another might live.  As Isaac was led by his father up the mountain, he went faithfully.  When he arrived he allowed Abraham to bind him, and lay him on the altar.  He had given his life for his father, and seemingly without any explanation; just trusting the father (Genesis 22).  Three of King David’s chief men, went through enemy lines, hazarding their lives so their king could receive a drink of water from Bethlehem’s well –

“And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD.  And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it.” 2 Samuel 23:16-17 (KJV)

–  Why not give one’s life for another?

Our lack of love is seen today in that we don’t tell others the gospel of Jesus because we are fearful we may not be accepted, we may not have time.  How much time does that one God gives us opportunity for witness have?.  We may not be popular.  We might even be attacked physically, or at the least verbally.  How is that for loving to give our lives?  I cannot say with Paul, “I would wish myself accursed…”  Even knowing that my “sacrifice” would be of no benefit.  I am unworthy and unable to save myself.  How can I save others, except through giving them the hope that is in Christ Jesus alone.

THE BLESSINGS OF A CONDEMNED PEOPLE (v. 4).  “Israelites” were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and these were children of the promise.  From the fall of Adam and Eve, yea, even from creation, and before in the heart of God there was the nation of God who would be the progenitor of the Savior of the world.  Many nations would come to God, believing Him, calling on His name, worshipping Him, and glorifying His name.

The blessings of Israel were God’s “adoption” of them to be His witness nation to a condemned world.  The Israelites were recipients of the covenants of God, the law of God through Moses, the service of God in the priesthood, the tabernacle furniture, and tools; the pictures and types of the future Messiah – the promises; and they were the one’s by whom came the Blessed One through the virgin Mary.

We must learn from the blessing of Israel as Gentiles who are believers in the Messiah Jesus Christ.  They became hard hearted due to their “security” of the temple, arrogance in having the law, the adoption, the covenants, and believing the blessings were of the flesh, and not of the Spirit of God.  We cannot follow their path to destruction in unbelief.

Followers of Jesus Christ are not to evilly think we have it made because we have earned the  place of forgiveness, love, peace, and grace of God.  We are not any different than any other individual upon this planet.  We have sinned.  We have transgressed the commandments, the laws of God, and He has given us forgiveness and grace through the finished work of His Son.

We are commanded to take this wonderful message of salvation to the world.  When we don’t do that we fail, and become similar to the nation of Israel.  Jesus Christ built, and continues to build His Church upon the confession that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God.  Every confession of faith in Christ adds another living stone to the building of His Church, and nothing can prevail against her.  However, should we become arrogant, disobedient as individual believers or even as a local church; He can, He has, and will raise up another local church or individual to take our place.  We do have His assurance that we are saved; “Yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).

That is not something we should or would look forward to.

THE ONE’S THROUGH WHOM CHRIST HAS COME INTO THE WORLD (v. 5).  Through the mercy of God Mary, a virgin was chosen to bear the Son of God and birth Him into the human race.  This was not an accident, a fluke of nature.  Virgin births, little lone virgin conceptions do not happen by accident.  They can only be planned by God, and that is what makes a miracle. The unnatural, impossible, and glorious happens by the hands of God.  It happened as the fulfillment of His promises to send, this King, this Savior, this Messiah, this Great Physician, this Great High Priest, this Prophet of prophets; this God-man; the incarnate Son of God.

This One was born into this nation who would reject Him, make a false judgment of Him, crucify Him, put Him to death, bury Him in a borrowed tomb, and three days later rise from the grave; conquering sin, hell, death, and the grave.

Paul, here in this fifth verse is affirming the sovereignty, and the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ – “…The eternally blessed God. Amen.” (v. 5).

The Christians of today, the Body of Christ, the Church is the means of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ into the world.  Let us be faithful with the message, the only message that will save and change the world; for the glory of our Lord and God.  I am to be the messenger of the gospel of Christ Jesus that God has called me to be.  I can do no better or worse than my love for Him.  The same is true of all who have been called in Christ Jesus, “saints” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1).

O for a heart like Jesus who was willing to endure separation from the Father to become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), and to give His righteousness to us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.  To have a heart like Paul we must know our Savior as Paul did.

O Lord our God; give us your heart, and a heart like your servant Paul; that souls who are lost might hear of YOUR wonderful grace and mercy displayed on the cross of Calvary.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Power of the Parables

The Power of the Parables

 

“The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables…” Matthew 13:1-3 (KJV).

“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” Matthew 13:10-17 (KJV).

“All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”Matthew 13:34-35 (KJV).

In the first three verses of this chapter we see Jesus beginning to teach a multitude in parables. People like stories. Many of us had stories read to us by our parents or guardians, and we loved hearing them. The love for hearing stories is most likely why the popularity of television and movies is so high. We have all heard the story of Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, many stories of King Arthur and his knights of the round table, and Camelot. Many citizens of the United States have heard the American Tall Tales, concerning men like Davy Crockett, Sam Patch, Paul Bunyan, and Pecos Bill, and then there is also John Henry the steel drivin’ man. These are all stories that do not just tell a story, but capture your imagination, and cause you to dream and dream big.

Jesus told His stories with a different purpose, and they were powerful stories that were life changing; if you had the heart to hear them. Someone once defined a parable as “A earthly story with a heavenly meaning”, and I don’t think that is far wrong. These are stories of things most people were familiar with, and so should understand. It seems however, that the religious leaders, being hard of heart, were so set in their ways, and their spiritual understanding that they had no heart for understanding simplicity. There are seven or eight parables in this chapter. That depends on if you consider verses 51-52 a parable or not. It seems to me to be a parable, and may be the hardest to understand of the others.

The power of the parable is to hide the truth from the hard of heart (v. 11). A simple and some would call avoiding answer. The longer answer is that spiritual things are meant for the spiritual. The unspiritual or natural man cannot know the things of God, and Jesus is speaking of the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). The things of God are revealed by the Spirit of God otherwise known as the Holy Spirit. The natural man, unspiritual individual, has no heart for the things of God. The scribes and Pharisees though having a knowledge of God, the Scriptures, and rituals had no heart for God or knowing and doing His will. All they had was merely pretense and hypocrisy.

The things of God are revealed to those who are willing to receive them. Those who are drawn to God’s Son by God’s grace. The hardened heart has little or no understanding of grace, and knows only law and its condemnation. Jesus has warned of casting our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). To continue giving the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God whose heart only grows harder with each word is a waste, and we should leave such individuals to God. When we have presented the truth of the gospel to them we have done what is required of us. I heard someone say, “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, until all have heard it at least once”.

The power of the parable is to teach and grow those who do or will understand (v. 12). In the parable is the power for understanding the simplest of things. Those who are familiar with agriculture, and those to whom Jesus spoke would have been, understood about the soils, the seeds, and the sower. Many of these listeners had probably seen or been involved in the farming process, and knew exactly the picture that was given. Jesus was, however, giving more than an agricultural story; He was applying an area of life to the spirit of men. In this those who would understand would be receiving more than those who just saw or see it as just a story. In the study of these eight parables it is clear to me that they are all related to one basic lesson. I will not reveal that fully now, but will as we go along. One thing I think that should be obvious to us all is that it is related to the “Kingdom of heaven”.

What about these parables? Whoever has understanding will receive more understanding and grow in their knowledge of Christ Jesus, put on the things of Christ, and put away the things of the flesh and evil. This will be dependent upon the Christian’s obedience to what they have already received. If the Christian has heard the Word of the Lord, understanding what has been said, but will not obey, let not that Christian believe that they will receive anything further from the Lord, concerning His will. For example – If you ask God’s will concerning something of a moral issue, you have Scriptural evidence that it is wrong, and you go ahead and commit the sin, want to continue in that sin, though you know it to be sin; until you repent, agreeing with God and His Word that it is sin, you will not be given understanding on much else. Disobedience will bring you loss.

If someone shuns the desire of God they lose even the possibility of knowing Him. They lose any sense of morality through their conscience that they may have had. They lose their ability to think reasonably – think of the plight of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter four, and that is God being merciful. They lose their lives to sins bondage. ” Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:” Romans 1:21-26 (KJV).

Abundance of understanding will be given to those who hear these parables, and not only understand the story, but its heart and spirit. These parables are positive in their meaning, however, they all have a negative aspect to them.

The power of the parable is to fulfill the Word of God spoken by the prophets (vv. 13-15). When we look at the writings of the Old Testament prophets we see that the people of God would not hear and heed the message the messenger brought them. They might listen, and probably did hear, but they usually did not like what they heard, and they would stone, imprison in a dungeon, or a waterless cistern, and sometimes killed the messenger/prophet; almost always shunned by the people. Isaiah the prophet was told when he was called and had surrendered to the call, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” Isaiah 6:9-13 (KJV). The people would not listen to Isaiah. How long was he to continue to preach without anyone repenting and changing their lives? The basic answer here is “Until the people are gone, and you are gone.” How many preachers do we know who would want a ministry with no converts, no believers repenting, and no changed lives; and God forbid; no baptisms?

There are people who have physical eyes, but cannot see the God of creation in His creation. They, also, can not see Him in His works and/or Word. They are blinded by their own way. They really do not want to see God or His work. It would take too much away from them and their good deeds. They will see the darkness as light. They have ears, but do not hear. The Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ can be clearly presented and all they hear is an argument against their lives. Those type of people rejected the words of the prophets in their days. They had ears, but could not hear. They only loved the sounds of their own voices, their own hearts; wicked though they were. When people are satisfied with their own spirituality they will believe almost anything but the truth. They believe they will succeed and make it to heaven by their good works and deeds, and they have none. The truth of Christ, His cross – death, His burial, and resurrection, ascension and promise of His return will be the very Truth which judges them on judgment day. Jesus will be their Judge, rather than their Savior – What of His mercy then?

The power of the parable is to reveal what the prophets desired to see. In some ways I would have loved to spoken with Elijah, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. I will one day be able to sit down with them in God’s Kingdom. As I read the prophets today I can hear their hearts, there are times I can almost feel their pain because they see a people, who are supposed to be God’s people who will not bow before their God, except in pretense and hypocrisy. You can hear and feel the heart of Jeremiah as he says, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” Jeremiah 9:1. The prophets desired to see the people of God quit their idolatry, their gross rebellion, their pretense and hypocrisy. God has always been a jealous God. Jealous meaning that He is the only one worthy of worship, and that He deserves our complete, total, and whole admiration. The prophets foretold of One who would come to redeem the world, restore Israel to her land, and bring the Gentiles into the promise. They longed to see the “Promised One”. They are now in His presence rejoicing in His glory. We can yet hear their words as we read them. They have been kept and preserved that we may hear and know the one true God, His Son Jesus Christ; hear Him and believe and live forever.

The prophets had a longing heart to see the fulfillment of the Word they had penned down. Jesus Christ Himself is the fulfillment of the prophets messages. The apostle John wrote, “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10 (KJV). The main focus of that verse which I wanted to point out is that “…for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” All of the prophetic Word is concerning Jesus. Of Jesus, after His bodily resurrection, it is said, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 (KJV). If one wants or desires to understand these and all the parables of Jesus one first needs to know Jesus.

Let’s look at a contrast of hearts:

1. The dull of hearing rebel against the preacher; The Illumined ones hear and support the preacher.

2. The dull of hearing pull away from service and regular worship to the Lord, worship their own way; The Illumined ones desire to be active in solely the worship of the Lord, and with other believers.

3. The dull of hearing increase in hypocrisy by their ritual and tradition; The Illumined ones despise hypocrisy, especially in themselves, and yearn for genuineness.

4. The dull of hearing have a lack of spiritual understanding, often thinking they are the really spiritual, but what spirit are they of; The Illumined ones are enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus Christ.

5. The dull of hearing rationalizes personal sin; The Illumined ones hate personal sin and judge it by the Spirit of God andHisi Word.

6. The dull of hearing lose any understanding they may have when they refuse the truth: The Illumined ones increase in spiritual understanding.

-Tim A. Blankenship