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Posts Tagged ‘Apostle Paul’

 

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3-9

Charles Spurgeon’s take on the parable.

“The preacher of the gospel is like the sower. He does not make his seed; it is given him by his divine Master. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master’s name and scatters precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of conviction; but not knowing men’s hearts, it is his business to preach the gospel to every creature—to throw a handful on the hardened heart, and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the sower will be rewarded by His Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand.” — Charles Spurgeon

For the record, I do not disagree with Charles Spurgeon. He likens the sower (in Jesus’ parable) to a preacher; one who is specifically DSCN1751called to teach the Word of God. I suppose Spurgeon would further liken the preacher’s congregation as the field (the soil) to which he broadly casts God’s celestial seed. I suspect any pastor would acknowledge that within his very flock there are some with harden hearts and others whose minds are preoccupied with the cares and pleasures of the world. As the parable reminds us, the seed that falls in these unfortunate places are devoured by birds, withered by the sun, or choked out by thorns.  That leaves me with a few questions for Pastor Spurgeon, and also for those who ‘fully’ embrace that interpretation.

  1. Is this parable for preachers exclusively or for the church generally?
  2. Is that the end of the lesson; is that all that Jesus intended us to glean from the parable?
  3. Is there an additional (and incredibly obvious) message we’re all missing?

As you might surmise from my questions, I believe the parable was intended for the entire Christian audience (pastors included), that there is much more to be gleaned, and that we might be glossing over a critical aspect of Christ’s teaching. What is that critical aspect? In two words: soil preparation.

Can soil prepare itself? Let’s consider the sower (aka, the farmer; husbandman) and his duties. If all he had to do was broadcast seed, I suspect farming would be an easy livelihood, but there is much more to it than merely casting seed. By definition he is a person who cultivates the land.  He is a nurturer and a promoter, he fosters growth by preparing and tending the soil. He breaks the hardened earth with the till, thus exposing the rocks for removal while simultaneously plowing the weeds under for nutriment. As he turns over soil, he’s aerating, effectively breathing life-giving air into it. It brings to mind this Genesis passage:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

I noted He did not broadcast His breath upon the earth (although He certainly could have); He took a portion and formed it for the sole purpose of breathing into it. Arguably (in this) we see the first mention of cultivation in the Bible. In that act, coupled with the lesson of Christ’s parable, I’m seeing a picture of the ‘born again’ experience; that moment when life is poured into a soul by the Word of God, giving new life. Of course this all begs the question, “As sowers of God’s seed, are we also called to be cultivators of His soil?  Cain would ask another way, “Lord, am I my brother’s keeper?”

Instead of speculating, it would be better to turn to the Bible to see if there are any good examples of sowers cultivating the ground before actually depositing the seed.  Naturally the best example of goodness is Jesus, so let’s see what He has done in this regard.

The Woman at the Well

The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. John 4:16-18

I don’t see any broadcasting in Christ’s encounter with this woman, at least not initially. What I do see is Jesus breaking up some hardened soil and addressing a mind that has been preoccupied with the cares and pleasures of the world. This cultivating act ultimately leads to Holy Spirit conviction. The Apostle Paul would later say, For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Having received the word (after having been appropriately prepared), the woman leaves the well rightfully proclaiming, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29) all because the Messenger took the time and effort to remove some stones, turn under the thorns, and aerate the soil.

The Woman Caught in Adultery

Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:6-12

Take note that nowhere in this account does Jesus condone the sin of adultery or this woman’s involvement in it. Without using so many words, Jesus effectively gives us what the Apostle Paul would give us in Romans 3:23, that is, “”For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” When it comes to preparing soil for seed (or the soul for God’s word) addressing sin; putting the spade into the earth and exposing sin for what it is and what it does, it arguably the first step. God only knows what Jesus wrote in the soil, but what we do know is that it was very convicting. Perhaps in some way it revealed the second step in the Roman’s Road to salvation, “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Either way, Jesus is doing a lot of groundwork. At the right time Jesus plants the seed essentially saying to her, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).  We also notice that Jesus [the multitasker] was working in the field of many souls this day.

Jesus and His Disciples

Is not everything Jesus said and did before His disciple preparatory? These same men who walked and worked side-by-side with the Messiah had little or no understanding of His earthly mission, let alone the suffering and death He was going to endure, or His glorious resurrection.  What we do see in Jesus’ interaction with His disciples is the same love and patience we might witness in a dedicated farmer.

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 13:17

We’re Not Jesus

That’s an incredibly important tenet to remember, but at the same time Jesus is our example. If Jesus takes the time to prepare a soul to receive the Word, should we not do the same? The question now is what does that look like for the disciple of Christ? I believe it begins with being a good listener. As Mark Cahill would say, “Sharing the Gospel message should be a conversation, not a presentation.”

Now that may not be the case for the preacher (in Charles Spurgeon’s analysis), for a preacher’s sermon is a presentation of Bible Scripture; it’s a teaching without class participation, but I’m not a preacher. I’m just a guy saved by grace with a burden on my heart to share God’s grace with others and to do it in the most loving way possible. To me a presentation says, “Here’s some seed for everybody,” but a conversation says, “Tell me about yourself and when we’ve dug around a bit, I have a good word for you.” There is nothing presumptive about that kind of approach, while the broadcasting approach supposes much.

For my money, Ray Comfort does it well. Instead of hopping up on a soapbox and broadcasting seed, he engages folks one-on-one (often in populated environments) and determines where they are in their earth-bound life. It’s not uncommon (for one example) for Ray to discover a person who falsely believes they’re going to Heaven [because] they think they’re good. Comfort is quick to turn over a portion of soil, exposing their true sin-nature by the Ten Commandments, quite often bringing revelation to the person that they are sinners in need of saving. In contrast, if Ray did not take the time to cultivate the soil, I suspect very few would even listen to a broadly cast, Gospel message. Even then what would the result be without cultivation? Would not some seed be eaten by the birds, dried up in the sun, or choked by the thorns? Is not [at least] one lesson from the parable of the sower that this does not have to be the case, but rather with just a smidgen of preparation, the yield could be greater (not for pride’s sake, but for God’s sake)?

I believe it is and for that reason I will take the time to prepare the soil whenever it is possible, and not because I believe I can ‘save’ a person with my efforts, but because I believe it is of godly counsel and good stewardship to do so. I see it as a compassionate and loving way to deliver the Word of God, partly because it demonstrates to the hearer that you care, taking the time to listen and go deeper. It’s not the only thing, but it’s an important thing that Christ revealed in His parable of the sower and prescribed in Paul’s letter to Timothy. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with patience (and truth) are the sower’s tools.

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away * their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:2-4

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Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2

I really didn’t want to enter the 50 Shades debate. I think it was because I’m still reeling from the President of the United States 1standing up before the 2015 National Day of Prayer and reminding us all that we should dismount our ‘high horses’ of anger and justice (in regard to Muslims burning a man alive), and pause to remember the church’s historical record. I’ve this vision of President Obama calling me out, “Ya know Dave, I think you should get off your ‘high horse’ and stop talking about all this ‘sex within marriage’ stuff. Seems to me your record on this issue makes you a hypocrite.”

Ya know Dave, I think you should get off your ‘high horse’ and stop talking about all this ‘sex within marriage only’ stuff.” 

Ugh

He’s right.

Where do I get off warning others about their sexual exploits after I’ve had my fill. While I’m at it, what business do I have warning others about drug and alcohol abuse, drunk driving, aggravated assault, or dare I say murder. Let the record show that Dave has lots and lots of blood on his hands.

A ‘Biblical Reality’ Check

This is where we all need to pause and consider all the players in the Bible, save Jesus. Can you think of one who was without sin? Me either. But yet these same men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the Bible. My mind immediately flashes to the Apostle Paul; a guy who arrested and murdered Christians, not unlike some barbarian Muslims we know! How dare this wretched man offer us Godly counsel and call it wise.

Ah, but for the grace of God, there go I.

Our One Defense

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:28

Sinners have only one defense in this matter: we boldly proclaim Biblical truth because we are justified by our saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is not the Christian who speaks, but the saint who is robed in His righteousness. No one in Christ’s church sits upon a high horse except Christ Himself, and it is in His name we may speak. It is for this reason I often declare on these matters that I have no opinion – I have a Bible. Therefore, we boldly proclaim that sex outside of marriage (i.e., marriage between a man and a woman) is wrong because God has said so.

I Don’t Agree

Please don’t argue with me or anyone else, read Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; and Jude 7 for yourself. If you still don’t agree, bring your debate to God, however trust me, “But Dave did it,” is not good fodder for your argument! The Bible commands complete abstinence before marriage, with sex between a husband and his wife being the only sexual relationship God approves.

It’s Black and White

5o Shades of Grey is nothing more than perversion. Even when I was active in my sexual sin I would have recognized this book as perverted, depraved, and pornographic. There’s nothing gray about it being smut. Know this: if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ and find yourself attracted to this book (and reportedly there are many), you are being deceived and you’re opening a door to consequences you may not be prepared for. Check out the last verse of Romans 1.

Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1:32

Earlier in this same Book, the Apostle Paul makes ill mention of all practitioners of unrighteousness, with dishonorable recognition going towards fornication, inventors of evil things, an unnatural affections. If we stop reading after verse 31, we might ride away on our high horses saying, “Shame on these evil doers,” but verse 32 serves to knock us out of the saddle by reminding us that if watch (or read) from the sidelines, we’re just as guilty.

Please don’t reject 50 Shades because some hypocrite told you it was filth; reject it because God says it’s more harmful than you know.

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9

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For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

Persuading Others

This clip reminds me of the coming judgment.  Did you know judgment is coming? Did you know there are two separate judgments for two separate groups of people? When you mention biblical judgment, many people think of the Great White Throne judgement (although they may not know that is what it’s called). You should know that if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, this is not the judgment that you will receive.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15

Perhaps you have heard it said, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess.” Well I believe this will occur at the White Throne Judgement. Everyone who stands before Jesus on that day will bow and proclaim that Jesus is Lord, but sadly, it will be too late for them.

Not so for you, Christian.

Your name is written in the book of life, therefore, you aren’t going to hell. However there is another judgment spoken of and believers refer to it as the Bema Seat judgement. I’d like to say it’s more akin to an awards ceremony for Christians, but I don’t believe that’s a fair assessment, despite the fact that there will be awards (crowns) presented.

The Apostle Paul speaks of that judgment day:

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Bema Seat

While searching for intelligence on the Bema Seat judgment, I happened upon these two paragraphs from the ‘Got Questions.org‘ website. Frankly, it was easier just to cut and paste their explanation, then to re-absorb the data and put it into my own words.

They say (and I concur):

Romans 14:10-12 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…so then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”Second Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” In the context, it is clear that both scriptures are referring to Christians, not unbelievers. The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ. The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed. However, that is not going to be the primary focus of the judgment seat of Christ.

At the judgment seat of Christ, believers are rewarded based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27;2 Timothy 2:5). Some of the things we might be judged on are how well we obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), how victorious we were over sin (Romans 6:1-4), and how well we controlled our tongues (James 3:1-9). The Bible speaks of believers receiving crowns for different things based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27;2 Timothy 2:5). The various crowns are described in 2 Timothy 2:5,2 Timothy 4:8,James 1:12,1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10.James 1:12 is a good summary of how we should think about the judgment seat of Christ: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

What does any of this have to do with the Schindler’s List clip?

Glad you asked.

Well first it reminds me that I can always do more. And just so we’re clear, I’m not referring to a ‘in-my-own-flesh’ kind of approach (Heaven forbid). No, I’m talking about in an ‘obedience to the Holy Spirit’ way.

Looking back over my [personal] Christian history, I know my stewardship-efficiency-ratio (SER), if there is such a thing, has been substandard. I’m not comparing myself to anyone else; I perceive because the Holy Spirit has revealed it. So at this juncture please do not accuse me of that, or worse, of beating myself up over my past. That is not what I am doing. I am merely reflecting upon my past in order that I might do better; that I might learn from my mistakes. I fully understand that I will fall short in the future, but it is my desire (placed there by God), to improve my performance, knowing full well I’m not earning my salvation, for that is a done deal, all praise be to Jesus.

schThe video clip also reminds me that there will be tears in Heaven. Just like the movie portrayal of Mr. Schindler, when the Heavenly books are opened and I see all that I’ve done in Christ’s name compared to what I could have done, there will be great remorse. Oh, I’m still going to Heaven, but this revelation will be gut wrenching. The only question that remains is,

“How gut wrenching do I want it to be?”

When I watch the movie clip, that’s what goes through my mind.

Heaven’s Gate

I envision it all going down like this:

I stand before the Bema Seat and watch in astonishment as most of my works burn-up before my eyes; praying, hoping that something survives the furnace. Sweat pours down my face, but it’s not due to the torridity of the blaze. Then Jesus turns to me and opens the book and shows me all the opportunities I’ve willingly and knowingly squandered. I want to protest and defend myself, except, “But, but, bu…” is about all I can say. Then it happens: perfect realization.  It will be the first time that the word perfect will be applicable to me, for with perfection I will fully understand how I quenched the Holy Spirit so much more than obeyed Him. With that, the tears will begin to flow and I sense this sobbing will be truly uncontrollable. There is no time in Heaven (so I have heard), but I picture this examination going on for decades, as every second of my Christian life is replayed with not one event being omitted.

Finally, mercifully, this occurs…

God (wipes) away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:4-5

Then I hear these words…

‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Matthew 25:23

Hearing this pronouncement, I want to cry again, but I can’t! There is abundant joy and crying is now impossible for me!

I’ve made it home!

So why do I fret over a silly video clip? Well I’m not fretting over it, it merely serves to remind me that Jesus has work for me to do, or more accurately, Jesus has more work that He wants to do through me. The Holy Spirit, working somehow through the clip, prompts me to be tuned-in to His will, submitted and obedient to all this Kingdom stuff that’s going on.

I was thinking that you might want to be tuned in as well.

When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.1 Peter 5:4

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Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Occasionally I read commentary in social medias (like Facebook) and come away with material for a blog. This is one of those instances. Recently I happened upon a posting that suggested we spend too much effort in denying ourselves and taking up crosses, when all we dislikereally should be doing is focusing on following Jesus. The poster continued that by merely following Christ, the first two actions would take care of themselves.

At first glance it seems to make a bit of sense, but then the Holy Spirit steps in and reminds us that there’s one huge problem with the concept:

“It’s not what Jesus told us to do.”

So the question then becomes what was Jesus talking about when He referenced denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily? Let’s look at the verse in context.

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  Matthew 16:21-24

Peter’s Mistake

Without rehashing the entire episode, Peter had not yet grasped the Spiritual doctrine of self-denial and taking up a personal cross; his actions demonstrate this reality, and the words of Jesus confirm it (in Peter’s defense, Jesus had not yet gone to the cross, but let’s not digress). Peter still had an emotional foot in the world which caused him to utter nonsensical things. Peter’s world-based emotions had gotten the better of him. Our heart aches for Peter, because whether we realize or not, we can relate to the character flaw.

Jesus continued…

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:25-26

Self Denial

Denying ourselves speaks to repentance; that is the turning away from our illicit, worldly pursuits, and turning towards Jesus. It’s the attitude of being all in for Jesus and it envelops the idea of dying to ourselves and reckoning our ‘old man’ to be dead. The Apostle Paul wrapped-up the doctrine tidily when he wrote:

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24

In the Ephesians passage we clearly see what self-denial of the holy sort is supposed to manlook like. No longer do we walk like the rest of the world; that path is the way of darkness. We put off that sinful, corruptible conduct of our old ways (our old man), and put on the behavior of the new man; that which was not accomplished by human hands, but created by His hands. Nowhere in God’s word are we counseled to bypass this step in order to simplify the process of following Jesus. We cannot for it’s the very thing Jesus told us to do. And just so we’re clear, it’s not our work, it’s an acknowledgment and reception of His work.

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

Our Daily Cross

The notion of taking up our cross encompasses all the elements of self-denial, but without the toil. As we know, Jesus finished all the work, and it’s there for us to receive by faith. The daily hoisting of our cross involves remembering daily that which Christ has already done. We remember both His crucifixion and resurrection, and yes, our own baptism.

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” Revelation 2:5

For me, it typically occurs every morning before my feet hit the floor. In one sense it’s Holy Communion, but without the bread and the grape juice. I remember what Christ did, why He did it, my receiving of it, and my gratitude to Him for it. I also remind myself that my old man has been crucified and is now powerless over me. Oh he still may taunt and tempt me, but he has no hold on me. I then ask the Father for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to instruct me, guide me, and empower me to do His will. Essentially I remember to present my body as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is my reasonable service (as per Romans 12:1).

Simply Put

I liken self-denial and hoisting a daily cross to making sure my parachute is on securely each and every day. In contrast, following Jesus without doing these things is akin to believing in parachutes, but refusing to put one on.

At the end of the day just remember, the reason Christians spend so much time denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Jesus is because Jesus told us to.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

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We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Piano Man

In order for a full size piano to generate sound, the 240 (or so) strings together must bear approximately 20 tons of tensile pressure. However, tension and stress alone do not pianoproduce music. For this to occur, access must be granted to the one who can adjust and tweak those strings, otherwise the tones produced would be disturbing rather than delightful. It doesn’t take much effort to appreciate that the piano maker and the piano tuner are specially gifted, as is the one who ultimately plays the instrument.

In some ways we are like pianos. We’re intelligently designed (no one looks at a piano and thinks that it created itself), we are subjected to and endure stress, and we’re designed for a specific purpose. A piano cannot create itself, tune itself, or play itself. The comparison comes to a head when we grasp that our Craftsman, and our Tuner, and our Pianist are all One.

Sadly, most humans believe they can both tune and play, while simultaneously rejecting the truth regarding their own creation. These folks (of which we were once also) are simply operating in their own flesh (operating in the flesh is the false notion that we know better than God).

This is not how God designed us.

It reminds me of Proverbs 14:7

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:12-14

That should be our wake-up call!

Yes, God did make each of us, but our functionality rests in Him and upon Him. In order to drive home the point, God gave each of us choice and a mirror. This mirror we call the Ten Commandments, and when we gaze into it we can see just how bad our choices have been. Most choose to smash the mirror, but a small number of believers opt to see it for what it truly is.

What is it?

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24

In Christ

Let’s take the same tension, the same stress, and the same purpose, but put it under the control of the Master who knows how much pressure each string can bear and knows the music best suited for the instrument He made. Suddenly the strain and the pressure are bearable, and the music is delightful. It is in fact pleasing to the ear; both our ear and the Creator’s ear. Nothing much has changed; same characteristics, but different results — better results.

Christians often call this unspeakable joy!

How can this be?

The change is a direct result of discovering that our ‘old man’ (that persona we left behind when we repented and turned towards Christ Jesus) was an impostor masquerading as a piano tuner and a piano player. But because we have submitted ourselves to the One who created us, the music is sweet and satisfying and honors God.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1

Consider these Bible verses:

  1. Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you.”
  2. 2 Timothy 1:9, “God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”
  3. Romans 7:4, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.”
  4. Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
  5. 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Read those verse again, pausing for a moment to weigh the Divine implication of each one. Understand that we are but tools in the Master’s hand, created and put here for His good purpose and pleasure. Furthermore understand that Christ’s teachings are easy and His burden is light. Christ came to save us and give us life abundantly — if that is not your testimony after having submitted and committed your ways to Jesus, then you can have your old life back.

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(God) hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son… Hebrews 1:2a

Son-ish

The word his (in the King James Version of the Bible) is written in italics, which means it’s not in the sonishoriginal text. As you may know, these italicized words were added to clarify the text, and they often do, but sometimes they also muddy the waters a tad. As a result, one Bible teacher says the Hebrews 1:2 text (above) should read “(God) hath in these last days spoken unto us by Son.”

I’m not going to be dogmatic about it, but I tend to agree.

“By Son” (without the word his) is a little confusing, thus the reason the word was added by the Bible translators of yore. But it may help us to know that the word ‘by’ (in the Greek) would be better translated to ‘in,’ so the sentence actually reads, “(God) hath in these last days spoken unto us in Son.”

That makes it a little less confusing if we  look at it in another way: God has delivered to us a wonderful message “in Son,” or in the language of the Son — Son-ish, if you will.

You know: english, spanish, Sonish!

I realize it sounds a bit silly, but it’s not really a stretch of the text when you consider this is how it was originally written and where it is we want to travel with this notion.

First, do you agree that the message Jesus ultimately brought to us was not of this earth and that it was in fact a message (or language) alien to humanity? Then we must concede that the character, tone, and substance of Christ‘s missive is divinely unique and supernaturally unparalleled. So while it’s true the Old Testament prophets foretold the message, it lacked (for a variety of reasons) the fulfillment of the revelation that only an incarnate God could deliver. So as a result, and with Christ Jesus in our very midst, we can boldly interpret the passage that God spoke both by His Son and in the Heavenly vernacular of His Son — Son-ish! 

Hath Spoken

Of course the other critical aspect of this passage is revealed in the phrase, “Hath spoken.” The tense of those two words is more than just preterite, as it doesn’t merely signify what Jesus had already said, but that when He finished saying (and doing) it was a done deal – there was nothing more to be added to it, ever.  The message Jesus brought was consummate. Most of us are aware of this, but perhaps did not know it was being proclaimed here in this text. So while in other Bible passages we have been instructed to add not to God’s word, it is here we are told why. Therefore we know if anyone (or any religion) comes along and adds to Christ’s message, it is counterfeit; a perversion of the one and only truth. The Hebrews 1:2 text declares that Jesus gave us a ‘one-of-a-kind, masterpiece message’ and just as it would be a terrific enormity to add paint to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, so also to annex God’s Word.

“God hath spoken in Son”

Our understanding of God’s word is affected by the simple phrase as we read the Bible (Old and New spokenTestaments) through the lens of Jesus Christ, in Son-ish. No longer (for one example) does, the Apostle Paul interpret Jesus, but Jesus interprets what the Apostle Paul has to say about Jesus. After all, these words are God-breathed! The understanding, by means of the Holy Spirit, is unclouded as we don this holy hearing aid. It is at this juncture if anything we read contradicts the nature of Jesus found in the Gospels, we can know we have misinterpreted or misapplied the passage. If it is a non-Bible source we are reading, we can instantly know if it is flawed. The reality is that everything we need to know regarding God and His will is found in the Son of the Gospels. 

By so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. Hebrews 7:20-28 

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“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 10:3)

Sympathy, fervor, passion, or grief, if not inspired of the Holy Spirit, serves only to quench the work of the emoteHoly Spirit. Feelings must not captain our course, as that position (if you are a Christ-follower) has been ceded to Jesus. Emotions must remain those things bared in the wake of obedience to Christ, lest they lead us astray and undermine the truth. Emotions are not bad, they are secondary. For this reason Christians must never go to battle with an effusive guide.

In that light we can more effectively address the following portion of scripture:

“For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:6-7)

We need to back up to the beginning of this chapter to fully grasp what the Apostle Paul is referring to. Starting in verse 1, Paul is issuing a warning to Christian men in particular, but not exclusively, to be on the look out for creeps; that is, those who are not of the Christian faith, who desire nothing more than to destroy the followers of Christ Jesus. Paul then moves forward to describe what these folks typically look like.

Let’s examine their traits:

“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:2-5)

What does this have to do with being misled by our emotions?

For that answer we need to go back to the terminology Paul utilized in verse 6 where he declared women to be gullible Don’t be offended. Paul is expressing a reality that men must grasp in order to protect women from those who want to creep in and destroy. In other words Paul is saying women are susceptible because they are emotional, or more accurately, apt to be misguided by their emotions. That’s not to say that men are not [emotional], but that across the board, emotionalism is a common enough characteristic of women that makes them vulnerable to deception by the enemy.

With men, the tendency more often is that we succumb not to our emotionalism, but that of our wives. Rather than lovingly correcting them (so as to turn them away from danger), we acquiesce in order to maintain peace or a selfish motive. Paul would have men know that when this occurs, we are the ones in error, not our wives.  The events within the Garden of Eden bear witness to this actuality.

 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:14)

The serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness… (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Sin was imputed to Adam because he knew what he was doing, while Eve was tricked into believing that her sin was no sin at all. That’s significant. Eve was guilty of a sin, but mankind’s fallen nature will forever be attributed to Adam because he knew the truth and purposely ignored it. Faced with a choice, he knowingly and selfishly made the wrong decision; he was not deceived. However, this does not mean men cannot be misled by their emotions.

Case in Point:

Official portrait of United States Senator (R-OH).

It has been widely reported that United States Senator, Rob Portman has become a supporter of equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians because he learned that his son is a homosexual. Portman wrote that he, “Wrestled with how to reconcile (his) Christian faith with (his) desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister.”  Previously, as a congressman, Portman had voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act.

We need not look too far to see that emotionalism (or selfish conformation) is likely the cause behind Senator Portman’s decision to change his beliefs in regard to Biblical marriage.  Portman loves his son Will and rightfully so, but he has allowed emotions to get the better of him. Worse than that, he has given emotion supremacy over truth. Misguided by sentiment, Portman has pushed aside God, the inerrancy of His word, his constituents, and yes, even his own son Will, because he now feels it’s the proper thing to do. The Senator has exchanged the truth of God for the lie.

This is the very thing the Apostle Paul is warning us to turn away from. Portman is essentially creeping into our households with an emotional, and now government-backed agenda, while trampling God’s truth with each step he takes. Sad to say, but emotionalists will likely rally around his new-found cause.

Sign of the Times

As we draw closer to the end of a prophetic chapter in history, this bold admonition from the Apostle Paul is most relevant. It should cause every faithful follower to pause and examine their relationship with Jesus Christ, continually asking if they’re being led by the Lord’s Holy Spirit or by heart-felt emotions.

Again, emotions are not evil; they are in fact God-given. However, they are not the vehicle by which Christians are to effectuate doctrine — God has already established a doctrine and it is forever true. Emotions are rather to be the catalyst towards the throne room of our Lord. It is there, with emotions laid out, we seek the Lord’s will in all things. We should not dismiss the love that Senator Portman has for his son. Frankly, his love, commitment, and compassion is admirable and his anguish is palpable, but it’s these very things that Jesus wants us to bring to Him. In this way, as we obediently submit to His authority, His will and truth will preside.

Let’s consider 2 Corinthians 7:10

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Godly sorrow is the kind of emotion that has been saturated in God’s truth. It’s the kind of emotion that says, “I love you son, but it serves no good purpose to lie to you; sin is a sin;” these are the actions whereby a person may be eternally saved. Worldly sorrow is not so. It is void of this truth and as the scripture says, it leads to death. Let us heed Paul’s warning.

The Apostle Concludes:

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (1 Timothy 3:14-17)

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