Sunday, 20 January 2019

In the Days of Thy Youth

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) 

Here is the wisest counsel a young person can receive. Though it was first written many years ago, it is more relevant than ever today when young people are being bombarded daily with the propaganda and practices of evolutionary humanism. They urgently need to realize that despite these pressures, they are not products of chance, with pleasure their only aim in life. They are special creations of God, with a high and holy purpose destined for them by their Creator.

If they will only recognize this fact, acknowledging God, in Christ, as Creator and Savior while they are young, trusting and obeying His Word as they mature, they can anticipate a life of fulfillment. “I have been young, and now am old,” David said, “yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

If they refuse their Creator in the days of their youth, however, then it will become increasingly difficult to remember their Creator as the years go by. Few are converted in later life. They can only anticipate the bitterness and regrets of old age and death, as described so vividly in the verses following our text. Under the figure of a decaying house symbolizing their aging bodies, the forlorn picture is drawn of fading eyesight, trembling hands, buckling knees, sleepless nights, easy irritability, increasing senility, and other aspects of approaching death—all with no pleasure in them because they long ago had forgotten their Creator. Remember now thy Creator, young man, young woman! Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Therefore, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Where Is Jesus Now?

“Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” (Matthew 24:26)

The above warning was given by Christ in His famous Olivet discourse about His future second coming, right after He had predicted that many “false Christs” would first come, deceiving many (Matthew 24:24). That prediction has been fulfilled many times during the following centuries, but He Himself has not yet returned, in spite of the claims of these latter days.

However, His present location is no secret. After His resurrection and final instructions to His disciples, “he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). We must remember that He arose bodily from the grave, then ascended bodily to God’s throne, and that “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven” (Acts 1:11), will return. Until He returns, therefore, He is seated bodily at the right hand of the presence of the triune God in heaven. In fact, there are no less than 21 references in the Bible to the Lord Jesus now being at the right hand of God.

It is not strictly correct to say or sing that Jesus can come into our hearts, unless it is clearly understood that He is there symbolically in the presence of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. In this way, “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts” (Galatians 4:6) so that “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ephesians 3:17).

In the physical sense, however, the Lord Jesus Christ, still in His physical, but now immortal, body, is at “the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3) and will remain there until He returns physically back to fulfill all the remaining promises in the Scriptures and to establish the kingdom for which He created us.

Friday, 18 January 2019

The Gods Shall Perish

“Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” (Jeremiah 10:11) 

This is a unique verse. Jeremiah, the second-longest book in the Bible, is written in Hebrew except for this one verse! Why would Jeremiah make this remarkable exception here?

This verse was written in Aramaic, which was the official language of the great Babylonian empire—the world’s chief nation at that time. The Babylonians, as prophesied by Jeremiah, were soon to be used as a weapon in God’s hand to punish His chosen people, carrying them into exile and captivity, and the main reason for such punishment was apostasy. God’s people had corrupted the worship of the true Creator God with the teachings and idols of the Babylonians and all the other nations around them who had rejected God.

Jeremiah had repeatedly condemned this apostasy, showing that God’s people were to be punished by the very nations whose religious philosophies had so attracted them.

But those nations needed also to understand that this was not because of their own strength nor the merits of their own gods. Thus, Jeremiah appropriately inserted a special word to be conveyed to the Babylonians, in their own official tongue. Only the true God, who made the heavens and the earth, is in control of the heavens and the earth.

The same type of warning, delivered in the “official” language of the modern world (“science?”), is needed even more today than it was in Jeremiah’s day. Today’s “gods”—Marx, Darwin, etc.—are even less deserving of trust than Zeus or Baal, and yet professing Christians have gone after them in droves. It is urgent that we call them back to the true Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ, urging them—before God’s judgment falls once again—to repudiate every vestige of evolutionary humanism.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Assurance Before God

“And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” (1 John 3:19) 

There is a chain of reasoning in this context that is important to understand. Our hearts will be “assured” before God (1 John 3:19) if we love the brethren in “deed and in truth” (John 3:18). A lack of that heart assurance condemns us (1 John 3:20). If our heart does not condemn us, then we will have “confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21).

It is worth noting that John uses the word “love” 26 times in this little letter. The word “know” is used 31 times, but the word “assure” is used only once (our text) and the word for “confidence” just four times. In each case, the promises of boldness in prayer or trust in answered prayer are based on our obedience.

Apparently, the key to an effective relationship with God, especially the key to a confidence in our prayer life, is a ready, visible, and instant response to God’s requirements for the believer. To the degree that we abide in Him (1 John 2:28), we will be confident when He returns. Our ready love for the brethren will keep us bold before God in our prayers (1 John 3:21), and our Christlike lifestyle will give us boldness at the judgment (1 John 4:17).

Meanwhile, absolute and steady belief in God’s salvation will remove any doubt that God hears us when we pray (1 John 5:14).

There is a continuing loop in these messages. We gain confidence as we “do” truth. We find more boldness as we understand God’s answers to our needs and prayers for others. That, in turn, increases our confidence that God is listening to our prayers, making our hearts all the more confident in our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Power of Spiritual Control

“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:17-18) 

Two factors need to be identified with these verses. First, the preceding context confines the primary application to behavior, just as the following context relates the behavior to the fellowship of believers. Secondly, the imagery stresses control of that behavior by the Holy Spirit, contrasting drunken behavior with filled behavior.

The filling is not synonymous with the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-14) since all twice-born are so baptized but not all are filled. Nor is it equal with or subsequent to speaking in tongues since some specifically identified as being filled with the Holy Spirit (John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Jesus) never spoke in tongues. Some individuals (Paul, Peter, Stephen) were filled on different occasions. Apparently, the filling produces a temporary effect like alcohol does. The effect of the filling of the Holy Spirit enhances or encourages a God-like behavior in contrast to the Satan-like behavior stimulated by alcohol.

Some passages equate power with this filling (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:5), and others equate it to wisdom (Colossians 1:9-11; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 3:15-17). However, the immediate context lists four evidences of the Holy Spirit’s control: songs of praise together, personal singing and private melody to God in our hearts, thanksgiving, and voluntary submission to one another in the Lord (Ephesians 5:19-21). Since the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to the saints (Ephesians 4:7-11) for the purpose of building the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16), it stands to reason that the Holy Spirit’s control would be designed to enhance and stimulate the ministry of believers to each other and their personal joy and awareness of the goodness of God.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Power to Edify

“Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.” (2 Corinthians 13:10) 

The older English word “edification” is used to render the Greek oikodomos that pictures the building of a house. We still use the word edifice to describe a structure of some importance. Paul specifically said he had the power to edify in the above text and later called himself a “wise masterbuilder,” an architekton, who laid the foundation we would build on (1 Corinthians 3:10).

When Jesus used oikodomos to depict those who build their house on a rock (His Word) or the sand (ideas of men), He was painting a picture of how we should edify each other (Luke 6:48-49). Leadership gifts are to be used to perfect the saints in the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12), using the living stones that will build the “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).

And like any good builder, the Christian carpenter has tools of the trade to assist the process. There are “things which make for peace” that must be employed (Romans 14:19). Most certainly love is a major tool (1 Corinthians 8:1), along with good communication that does not corrupt the building work (Ephesians 4:29).

Since “all things” are to be done so that the church is edified (1 Corinthians 14:26), it surely follows that “fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions” are not helpful (1 Timothy 1:4). Effective communication demands that those we speak to understand what is said, therefore a mysterious tongue does not publicly edify like prophecy does (1 Corinthians 14:2-4).

An edified church walks “in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:31).

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Power of Spiritual Tools

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:7) 

The grace that is given (charis) is a distribution by the Holy Spirit of gifts (charisma) to every believer (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Seventeen gifts are listed in Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10, and Ephesians 4:11, all of them intended by the Holy Spirit to minister to the church and enhance its unity (Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:12). Three reasons are cited for these gifts.

The Perfecting of the Saints 

This “perfecting” describes a process of making something useful or suitable that is not yet adequate. James and John mended their nets (Matthew 4:21). Paul prayed that he might supply that which was lacking (1 Thessalonians 3:10). The gifts of the Holy Spirit mend that which is lacking in the saints. The

Work of the Ministry 

This is a joint effort of service (2 Corinthians 6:1) that recognizes the public visibility of that service (2 Corinthians 4:1-2) and steadfastly displays those gifts so that the “ministry be not blamed” (2 Corinthians 6:3).

The Edifying of the Body of Christ 

The building process focuses the use of the gifts on the enrichment and betterment of the local assembly of believers (1 Corinthians 14:5,12,16). The goal is to bring all saints to a state of doctrinal unity (the faith) so that our maturity can be compared to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Eliminating susceptibility to “every wind of doctrine,” growing into Him in all things, and building the “body fitly joined together . . . according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:14-16).