Friday, November 29, 2013

Things to Flee

“Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 
2 Timothy 2:22

There are times to stand and there are times to flee. There are some things so fearful and deadly that it is foolish to try to face them at all. The only rational course, when confronted by them, is to flee!

The most obvious of all such enemies is the wrath of God, for His judgment is terrible and eternal. Therefore, His message to all unsaved men and women is to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7 - the first occurrence of “flee” in the New Testament) by receiving Christ as Savior.

It is wise to refrain from all kinds of sin, but certain sins have such deadly consequences, even in this present life, that the Scriptures warn us to flee from them. “But flee from these things, you man of God” (1 Tim. 6:11). In context, the apostle Paul is here warning against “the love of money” and those who suppose “godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:10, 5). Those who desire to be rich, he says, “fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9). Therefore, flee from this temptation!

He also warns us to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14) - that is, from worshiping and serving any part of the creation “rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). This warning is especially appropriate today when there is such a wide resurgence of evolutionary pantheism.

Also, we must “flee immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). This is a deadly danger to the Christian in this day of amorality. Finally, as our text says, young believers (and old believers need this admonition, too!) should “flee from youthful lusts,” if we are able to “call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Walking in Truth

“I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.” 
2 John 1:4

This beautiful metaphor, “walking in truth,” is found only in the two, one-chapter epistles of John - here in our text and in 3 John 3-4. This principle should indeed characterize our daily lives since our Lord and Savior is Himself “the truth” (John 14:6), the Word of God which we believe is “truth” (John 17:17), and the Holy Spirit who indwells our bodies is the very “Spirit of truth” (John 15:26).

The New Testament also uses other characteristics of the Christian life under this figure of walking. When a person is born again through faith in Christ and testifies of this by following the Lord in baptism, he or she is said to be raised to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

Then, since the Holy Spirit has come to indwell our bodies, to comfort, to guide, and constrain us as needed, we are exhorted to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). Furthermore, we are commanded to “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you” (Eph. 5:2). This is not erotic love, of course, or even brotherly love, but unselfish “agape” love, that sacrifices its own interests for the needs of others. We are to “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light” (1 John 1:7).

All of these and other similar admonitions can be summarized as simply following the example of Christ. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).

May this Thanksgiving Day be a wonderful day for you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Ear to the Master’s Voice

“But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”  Exodus 21:5-6

This unique ordinance of the Mosaic law is significant as being the first one given after the Ten Commandments. It (and the following ordinances) centers first on the most humble members of society (that is, the slave-recognizing the universal existence of slavery at the time and ameliorating its practice), then on other people, then on property - thus establishing God’s priorities.

Here also, right at the beginning of the dispensation of law, we are given a picture in miniature of the coming Servant of the Lord, who would come someday to bear the penalty of the law for us, saving us by His grace.

The servant pictured here, with full right to be set free in the sabbatical year, chooses rather to do the will of his master forever, listening to his voice only - this commitment symbolized and sealed by the opening in his ear. Just so, the coming Savior would say: “My ears You have opened; Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:6-8).

The fulfillment of this prophecy is described in Hebrews 10:5-10. There, the opening of the ear of the servant is interpreted as the preparation of His human body “To do Your will, O God...By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:7, 10). Out of love for the Father and for those who would share the Father’s house with Him, He offered His body to accomplish the saving will of God.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Will of the Lord

“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Ephesians 5:17

There is no more exalted theme in the world than the will of God, nor is there a more important, practical question than how to know the will of God. Of greatest significance is the recognition that it is His will - not man’s will - which is important.

God desires for us to know His will - both His will in general, as revealed in Scripture, and His specific will in each particular decision. The latter must in every instance, of course, be fully compatible with the former, as the Holy Spirit, who leads us, will never contradict the Scriptures which He inspired. Thus, and indispensable prerequisite to finding the personal will of God is knowing His general will.

The general will of God is expressed, first of all, in the fact of special creation (Rev. 4:11). Then Christ became a man in order to accomplish God’s will (Heb. 10:7), as our sin-bearing substitute; “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). It is His will that this should provide salvation to all who believe. “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 6:40). This, in turn, entails individual regeneration of all who receive Him, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

Furthermore, His will includes absolute security in Him (John 6:39), our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3), and ultimate glorification (John 17:24). Thankfulness in all things (1 Thess. 5:18) and a virtuous (“doing right” 1 Pet. 2:15) life are also God’s will. A believer who understands, believes, and obeys God’s general will is then prepared to know and follow His specific will.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Names of the Lord

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”Exodus 3:14

This unique name of God was given to stress the truth that He is timeless. The name “LORD” (Hebrew: “YWWH” = Yahweh or Jehovah) is essentially the same, conveying the truth that He is the eternal, self-existing one.

The Lord Jesus Christ appropriated this divine name to Himself when He told the Jews: “before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). Correctly assuming that this statement was nothing less than a direct claim to identity with God, the Jews immediately (but unsuccessfully) attempted to stone Him to death as a blasphemer.

As the “I Am,” the Lord Jesus Christ, is indeed everything, and He has revealed Himself to us under many beautiful symbols. Is well known that the there are seven great “I am’s” in the gospel of John, each of which is rich with spiritual depth of meaning. They can be listed as follows:

“I am the bread of life...the living bread” (John 6:35, 51).
“I am the Light of the world...the Light of life” (John 8:12).
“I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7).
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
“I am the true vine” (John 15:1).

It is well known that this magnificent self-assertion of the Lord permeates the whole Bible, from its first use in Genesis 15:1, “I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great” to it’s final occurrence in Revelation 22:16, “I am...the bright morning star.” And all these beautiful figures help us to pray more fervently “that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

Sunday, November 24, 2013

“I AM” in the Pentateuch

“And He said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.’”  Genesis 15:7

There are seven “I am’s” in the Book of Genesis. The first is a beautiful figure of speech - “I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great” (Gen. 15:1), but the others are all names and titles of God. The first of these is in our text above, identifying Jehovah Himself (the Lord) with the “I am.”

The next is Gen. 17:1: “I am God Almighty.” The Hebrew here is El “Shaddai” (“God the nourishing sustainer”), also found in Gen. 35:11. Next is in Gen. 26:24: “I am the God of your father Abraham; Do not fear, for I am with you.” Then, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac” (Gen. 28:13). “I am the God of Bethel” (Gen. 21:12). “Beth-el” means “the house of God.” Finally, God says: “I am God, the God of your father” (Gen. 46:3).

In Exodus there are 21 places where God says: “I am.” Most of these are merely variations of the different names of God as noted above in the “I am’s” of Genesis, but six do give new insight. The first, of course, is the great assertion of Exodus 3:14, where God identifies Himself as “I AM WHO I AM.” The others: “I, the Lord, am in the midst of the land” (Ex. 8:22); “I, the Lord, am your healer” (Ex. 15:26); “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5); “I am gracious” (Ex. 22:27); “I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Ex. 31:13).

In the remaining books of the Pentateuch, the phrase “I am the LORD your God” occurs very frequently, but there are two important new “I am’s.” “I am holy” occurs six times (e.g. Leviticus 11:45), and “I am your portion and your inheritance” is recorded in Numbers 18:20. The great theme of all these claims and names of God is that the mighty God of time and space is also a caring, personal God. We can trust Him, and He cares for us.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Shun Babblings

“But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus.”  2 Timothy 2:16-17

Paul’s earlier warning about “word fights” (2 Tim. 2:14) is strengthened in the text above with a different emphasis. Word fights are “picky” debates started by quarrelsome people. They are useless and devise. They create conflicts and schisms.

Profane and vain babblings, however, are worldly and valueless “noise.” Less obvious and more subtle than fighting, they have the effect of destroying godliness. “But have nothing to do with worldly [ungodly] fables [myths, baseless stories] fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7).

Because “godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8), Paul strongly urged Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter [babble] and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ — which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21). The “oppositions” spoken of are the “antitheses” - the conflict, the stand against knowledge, a “pseudonym” - a false name. It sounds like knowledge, but is not true.

The results of these “babblings” are not good. Ungodliness will increase. Error will eat away at spiritual health and truth like gangrene. The two church leaders that Paul mentions, Hymenaeus and Philetus, are listed as examples of such a cancer. They taught that the resurrection had already occurred for the saints.

Peter’s warning is very similar: “be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17).