The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Posts Tagged ‘repentance’

The Necessity of Change, Part 2

Posted by israeliteindeed on June 22, 2016

My last post was about the necessity of change (repentance) in order to be saved. This post will focus on why we need to continue to be open to changing after we are born again.

When we are first born again, we are essentially blank slates, ready to be written on by God. Our past is forgiven, and we have turned from our old ways, and readied ourselves to learn how to do good as little children (Isa. 1:16-17). God’s law is written upon our hearts, and we now commit to cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, so as to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).

Before I go on, it is necessary for me to qualify what God does NOT mean by “perfecting holiness.

He does not mean that after your conversion, you can still be living in open rebellion against God and yet “blameless in His sight.” That idea is deception. I’ve met fornicators, drunks, etc. who have no intention of giving up their sins, who claim they are saved yet “being sanctified gradually,” as if you can gradually give up these willful sins over the space of decades. “God’s not finished with me yet,” they may say. Well, they haven’t even been born into His family unless they’ve ceased from the obvious sins which they know He hates.

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries. (Heb. 10:26-27)

Or, they may have had an honest conversion followed by a return to their old sins, in which case they are worse off now than before they believed–

For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” (2 Pet. 2:21-22)

So, we have established that “perfecting holiness” is not remaining in or returning to old sins. A person who does this is headed for judgment despite his excuses and religious pretenses.

However there is a “perfecting of holiness” that needs to happen in the believer’s life, and this does require constantly being willing to change as God reveals His will. Just as little children do not know everything, but learn gradually as they mature, we need to mature as Christian saints. (Note: little children may not know everything, but they are required to obey those things they do know and are capable of obeying.) Maturing spiritually requires washing our minds with the Word of God and consistently seeking God’s will in every matter of life. It also requires being willing to change our understanding of who God is, what pleases Him, and how we should behave, as we search out His Word and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). It requires being humble and teachable at all times, never assuming that we have arrived and have nothing more to learn.

When I was a newborn believer, I immediately gave up fornication and drunkenness, knowing God was displeased with these sins and required my repentance. I also began to cry out to be delivered from cigarettes, which I overcame by the time I was baptized. I began to study the Bible in order to learn more fully what would please God. I went to church and started putting money in the offering plate, as an act of obedience to what I thought would please Him. At this time, I had no idea the prosperity message was evil, how many false teachers were ruining God’s flock, how much false doctrine I actually believed (having grown up in various churches), that nationalism didn’t please God, that I should dress more modestly (the women in my church were less modest than I was), etc. God fully accepted me in this rough state, because I was a child ready and willing to learn all that He had to teach. He didn’t download everything I needed to learn at once, just like we don’t teach a 3 year old the same things we teach a 17 year old. What God required was ears that hear, and willingness to change old beliefs and patterns of behavior.

Eventually I had figured out alot of true vs. false doctrine, was much more selective in fellowship, dressed more modestly, turned away from things I now recognized as idolatry, made sure my money went to help the poor and evangelize rather than to finance a bigger church building, etc. Even though I was born again and walking with God, I had to repent of many things as I learned they were against God’s will. I was much more mature, but certainly hadn’t arrived.

At this time, I fell in with a certain group of Christians who stressed the need to be holy, but often overlooked carnality among themselves. They were very particular about doctrine, and zealous to evangelize, which is what first attracted me.  But eventually I realized they were no longer willing to examine themselves or find fault with themselves, or…change. They could not hear reproof from anyone. Because of this, they began to give teachings that justified their carnality, instead of repenting.   And I was troubled, seeing that we can be so easily deceived by our past changes and our knowledge.  I began to ask the Father for wisdom concerning this, as I wondered if I was as blind as they seemed to be.

The Lord began to address some issues in my heart that no man could see. He showed me that although this holiness group would accept me based on my dress and my core beliefs, there were things He wanted to change in my heart to make me acceptable to Him. He showed me how these heart issues sometimes spilled over at home with my closest family members, and if I did not change, I could not think I was holy. This was a deep and painful experience that lasted a long time. I had to continually hearken to the Lord’s voice and agree with Him about what He was finding in me. He was also showing me some pitfalls I could avoid if I would be careful to listen to Him rather than following the crowd (not even the holiness crowd should be followed blindly; they too can err.) I had already separated from so many people, I did not want to experience any more separation, yet here it was. I could follow them or follow Him. And I chose to follow Him. These changes were not totally comfortable, but they were necessary. If I had allowed myself to think I’d arrived at the pinnacle of Christianity, I would have deafened myself to the Lord’s instruction.

Have you stagnated in your Christian life because you feel you’ve arrived at all knowledge and cleaned up your flesh? Are you judging yourself by others instead of judging yourself by Christ? Are you patterning yourself after some group you belong to instead of after Christ? Comfortable in their acceptance, and no longer asking Jesus if He is pleased with your direction? Certainly we can learn from others, but we must not let the camaraderie lead us away from Jesus, and it can ever so easily. Not everyone who comes in His Name also comes in His Spirit.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 7:1)

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I John 3:2-3)

It can be very convenient for us to stop at cleansing ourselves of the filthiness of the flesh, while leaving our spirit contaminated, especially if our fellowship group is also neglecting this. Their spirits can easily contaminate ours (Prov. 13:20). Some have become haughty in their condemnation of those with filthy flesh, while their own spirits remain in need of tremendous changes. The Pharisee who thanked God he wasn’t like other men comes to mind; with such an attitude, how can God show us where we still need to change?

Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. (I Tim. 5:24)

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits. (Prov. 16:2)

We do well to remember that God weighs the spirits of men. While we may have been held up as a Christian example by others, and perhaps even developed a large following; God knows our motives, our thoughts, and any contamination of spirit. (Very often our families at home know some of this also, and they are not impressed with our reputation among other people! If we can’t consistently walk in kindness and mercy toward our family members, we should not deceive ourselves that we are holy.)

David knew God, but didn’t content himself with what he had already accomplished through God. He knew there could be a wicked way in him that he could not yet see–

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psa. 139:23-24)

Dear friends, to walk with God requires ongoing submission to His Word, a teachable spirit, and a readiness to change. Let’s not assume we are more than what we are. Without constant connection to the Vine, our life would dry up and we would be twigs destined for fire just like others. We are the sheep of His pasture, and must follow His leading (sometimes changing direction). We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), not arrogance and pride. It will take consistent diligence in adding good things to our character to make our calling and election sure–

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.  Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:5-11)

But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. (Prov. 4:18)

God bless you as you continually gaze upon Jesus and are changed into His image!

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18)

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The Necessity of Change, Part 1

Posted by israeliteindeed on June 8, 2016

I recently heard a song in a public place which repeated these words, “Don’t try to change me.” It struck me that this is the attitude of many people toward God.  They do what they want, following their own darkened hearts, and they run into trouble after trouble. But they never blame themselves for their troubles or acknowledge that they need to change. In fact, they defy anyone who would try to change them, and they demand that everyone accept them “just as they are.” But what does God think about this refusal to change?

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)

The essence of this repentance–which God requires of all men everywhere–is CHANGE. We must change our thoughts and our actions from rebellion and self-will to obedience and self-denial.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good. (Isa. 1:16)

To those who repent, God gives a new heart and spirit, out of which flows a whole new (changed) life.

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

The prodigal is a great example of the change that is required by God (Luke 15:11-24). He came to himself, reasoning about the suffering his rebellion against a good father had brought him (he changed his mind). Then he returned to the father, acknowledged he was a sinner who deserved nothing, and offered to be a servant (he changed his behavior from riotous rebellion to humble service.)

This is repentance– the change that is required for a man, dead in his sins, to be made alive again.  Without it, there can be no salvation.

Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3)

A refusal to change is a refusal of salvation.

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Washing Judas’ Feet

Posted by israeliteindeed on January 17, 2016

There are situations in life that give us the opportunity to discover whether we’ve really learned all that we think we have, and in my case, all that we have been preaching to others!  A situation like that occurred in my life this week. A sin was committed against me by a person I’d previously forgiven for the same sin. Learning of this was a knife to the heart. I could barely breathe, so great was the pain.

I was so distraught, I did not trust myself to confront the person. I also felt that a coerced “repentance” upon being found out was not what was best for the other person. There needed to be a deeper repentance and true godly sorrow over the sin, not just an attempt to appease me.

I was up most of the night crying and praying that I would walk completely blameless toward this person, and asking God what my response should be. I confessed my hurt, my anger, and also my willingness to obey God no matter how difficult it might be.

I can honestly say that He changed my heart toward my “enemy” that night. By morning I felt like a new person, a person on a mission.  The person who’d hurt me had become my missionfield. Where there had been insecurity and fear, there was now peace and a sense of rest for my soul. God had visited with me, caused me to feel His presence and comfort, and shown me the path for my feet. It would not be an easy path that would please the flesh, but it would be a path that would cause me to grow spiritually, and could potentially bring my enemy to repentance. It was the path He walked on His way to the cross, when His closest friends would desert Him, and one would attempt to cover a terrible betrayal with a kiss.

I started that very day, deliberately blessing this person and showing more kindness than even before. The response to my kindness was confusion and perhaps a bit of conviction.  I know there is no guarantee that godly sorrow and repentance will follow, but I have the peace of knowing I am following Jesus. I genuinely feel His smile upon my soul.

I know that going forward, continuing to bless and pray for this person, there is no guarantee I won’t get hurt again. When Jesus taught us to bless our enemies, there was no guarantee attached saying we’d never feel pain again. But my security is not in the belief that I won’t get hurt, but in the belief that God cares for me and will carry me through, even to the end of my days. I also know this–the greatest power in the world has been launched against the enemy–and truly flesh and blood is not the real enemy–the power of mercy. The power of the cross. It can break the most hardened heart and pierce through the lies of satan with blinding light.

The following poem came from the depth of my soul while I struggled before the Lord concerning how to respond to betrayal. It acknowledges that sometimes we find ourselves in situations where those who should love us can be turned aside to satan, and walk contrary to love. Satan’s goal is to destroy them, and to hurt or destroy us.  How will we respond in that moment of suffering?

I believe Jesus’ last interaction with Judas testified against his coming betrayal more than words of condemnation could have. There is no doubt that Jesus loved this man and gave him an opportunity to turn from his sin, but he would not. Judas would not, but others may. Peter did! I know that the kindness of Jesus while I was hurting Him is what changed me from a rebel to a servant (Rom. 2:4).

I hope this poem will be a blessing to others. Follow the Lamb wherever He goes!

Washing Judas’ Feet

Two thousand years ago,
You knelt before his feet
To wash them tenderly.
And with him, you did eat.

You pleaded with your friend
To love you back, but still
He kissed you like a traitor
And followed satan’s will.

Great sorrow filled your cup;
You drank it so that others
Would be able to become
Your sisters, brothers, mothers.

You washed the feet of Judas;
And with him, you did sup,
You said that we must follow you
And also drink the cup.

Your fellowship is nearer
When Judas dines with me.
He loves us, he loves us not.
He is our enemy.

I’m carrying the basin,
And I’m going to fetch the towel.
And why is it such agony
To force my flesh to bow?

Now Judas’ feet are in my hands.
Now they are clean and dried.
But I can’t make him love You.
There’s still some dirt inside.

I pray he finds repentance,
And in You, a new start.
For I was once a Judas too,
But mercy changed my heart.

And never was my Lord so near
Than now, when I stooped down
To wash the feet of Judas
On my journey to a crown.

Our tears will all be wiped away,
Our agonies well spent,
If we endure these trials with
A faith that won’t relent.

So set your heart on things above
And count this life as loss,
To win the resurrection
On the far side of the cross.

To all suffering saints, with love.

 

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Dispensational Zionism Proof Texts Examined, Part 2: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Posted by israeliteindeed on September 7, 2014

Introduction

Many people believe that Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled by the creation of the Israeli state. This includes the Prime Minister of Israel himself, who claimed the following in a speech:

Armed with the Jewish spirit, the justice of man, and the vision of the prophets, we sprouted new branches and grew deep roots. Dry bones became covered with flesh, a spirit filled them, and they lived and stood on their own feet, as Ezekiel prophesied:

“Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.”

Well, that certainly is an astounding claim, but let’s examine the Scriptures to see if these things be so!

Read Ezek. 37:1-14 here.

God defined the dry bones as the “whole house of Israel.” Ezekiel gave this prophecy (while in exile himself) after the capture of Jerusalem (33:21), at a time when Israel and Judah were overthrown by enemy nations. We can understand, then, why Israel was pictured as a valley of hopeless dry bones. How could they ever rise to life after such thorough judgment had befallen them? When asked by the Lord if these bones could live again, Ezekiel could only reply, “Oh, Lord God, you know.”

Notice that God did not give, as an antidote for Israel’s problem, a military plan by which to overthrow the oppressing countries. Instead He told Ezekiel to prophesy the Word of the Lord to the bones (4). Israel’s calling was spiritual, its problem was spiritual, and its remedy must also be spiritual. The only hope of life is the Word of the Lord–received, believed and obeyed. Israel had become a valley of dry bones through disobedience. Thus thoroughly humbled, some (a remnant) would respond to the Word of the Lord, and again “rise from the dead.” For are we not all dead in sins while in a state of disobedience, yet alive again when we receive with meekness the implanted Word which is able to save us?

God said He would put His very Spirit in those who would arise from their graves. Remember that God’s Spirit is not given indiscriminately to everyone, but to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32)! The “exceedingly great army” that would arise in obedience to the Word and Spirit of the Lord, was not a military army. It was a spiritual army made up of people who had returned to the Lord in obedience after being humbled by judgment.

Obedience Necessary for Blessing, No Exceptions

Deut. 30:1-10 contains the requirements Israel would have to meet after falling under God’s judgment, if they wanted to be restored to a blessed state again–

Now it shall come to pass, when all these things (the curses of the covenant) come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments which I command you today…For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

It is very clear that any blessing after judgment could only follow renewed obedience to the voice of the Lord. Lipservice wouldn’t do; they would have to keep God’s commands out of circumcised hearts that had sincere love for Him.

So, is Ezekiel’s prophecy of Israel’s resurrection still yet to be fulfilled, or has it already been fulfilled by events in history? There is a very clear fulfillment of this prophecy in earthly Israel’s history not too long after it was given. There is also a greater fulfillment in the spiritual Israel, which I will discuss later.

Earthly Fulfillment of Ezekiel’s Dry Bones Prophecy

In Daniel 9:2, Daniel understood from reading Jeremiah (25:1-12) that there would be 70 years of judgment, and then the repentance and restoration of Israel would occur. This is the very restoration promised in Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones coming alive again. Remembering that Ezekiel’s prophecy was written between 593-565 BC, let’s look at the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which record the rebuilding of the nation after that time.

Ezra

The first group of exiles to return to Jerusalem came under Zerubbabel’s leadership between 538-520 BC. Ezra 1 records the stirring up of Cyrus King of Persia by the Lord, who issued a proclamation that any of the exiles who wished to return to Jerusalem were free to go! The time of judgment (70 years) had been fulfilled, and what had seemed impossible for many years (the bones were dry) was suddenly possible (God resurrected the humbled remnant). Ezra 1-6 records the rebuilding and re-dedication of the temple over a period of years, under the protection of kings Cyrus and Darius. Once the temple was completed, “the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel.” (Ezra 6:21)

Beginning in Ezra 7, we see that Ezra is a very godly man who had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (7:10). Persian king Artaxerxes allowed Ezra to take a second group of exiles back to Jerusalem, and even gave money to the God of Israel! He gave Ezra authority to set up leaders and judges who “know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them.” (7:25) Having testified to the king that “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him” (8:22), Ezra did not request a military escort, but had the people humble themselves and fast, asking for God’s protection. They arrived safely in Jerusalem, not due to military superiority, but because “the hand of our God was upon us.” (8:31)

When it was revealed to Ezra that some of the people were marrying unbelievers, he tore his clothes, fasted, and prayed with great humility. He acknowledged that Israel had been justly punished, yet God extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us (9:9–the same revival Ezekiel prophesied in his dry bones vision). Then he cries, “O our God, what shall we say after this [new sin]?” (9:10) Look at his humble confession:

And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this, should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor? O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!” (9:13-15)

Ezra acknowledged that if they broke God’s commands again after their revival, God would be likely to be so angry as to consume them for good! While he knew the prophesies of restoration, he obviously believed the promises were conditioned on obedience. The people were apparently stricken with conviction, for they came confessing their sins. They then made a law that whoever would not come and listen to Ezra, that person’s property would be confiscated and he would be cut off from the assembly (10:7-8). Apparently, they didn’t view the land as unconditionally theirs based on genetics! Instead there was an emphasis on spiritual fidelity to God. An investigation was then carried out in an effort to bring the people into conformity to God’s law.

Nehemiah

The third group of exiles to return was led by Nehemiah, and this is recorded in the book by that name.

Nehemiah’s prayer of repentance on behalf of himself and the nation is found in Neh. 1. It includes confession of sin and a humble plea that God would do for those “who desire to fear your Name” as He promised in Deut. 30. There was no assumption on Nehemiah’s part that God would bless anyone who was unrepentant.

Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Under exile, Nehemiah had become the servant of Persian King Artaxerxes. He apparently had served him respectfully, in the fear of God, for Artaxerxes seemed to genuinely care for him when he was downcast about the condition of Jerusalem. God gave Nehemiah favor with the king, who not only allowed him to return to Jerusalem, but also gave him letters which protected him on his journey. As with the first two groups who returned to Jerusalem, the restoration was not brought about by rebellion and warfare, but God supernaturally resurrected the humble remnant, directing the hearts of kings to let them go and even help them.

When threatened by neighboring peoples while rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, Nehemiah resorted to prayer (4:4). He armed his men but reminded them, “Our God will fight for us.” (4:20) When Nehemiah discovered that some of the Jews were taking advantage of their poor brethren, he rebuked them and commanded them to fear God and do what was right. He even said if they didn’t repent, “may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise.” (5:6-13) Obviously, Nehemiah (like Ezra) did not hold to an unconditional land promise. Once the returned remnant was again living in Israel’s cities (7:73), the Book of the Law was read by Ezra the priest, and “the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” (8:3) After hearing the Word of the Lord, they agreed with it, and humbly bowed their faces to the ground, worshiping the Lord (8:6). Neh. 9 finds the people assembled with fasting in sackcloth, confessing their sins and the sins their people had committed over a period of many years. They confessed that God had justly judged them for their wickedness (9:33), and offered themselves as God’s servants once again (9:36). Again in Neh. 13, the people repent and obey God when challenged by Scripture.

Can you see that Ezekiel’s prophecy of dry bones coming to life again was fulfilled?! The remnant heard the Word of the Lord and were obedient. They returned to Israel “not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit.” There, the Lord would soon bring forth His Servant Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea, who would save His people from their sins.

Spiritual Fulfillment of Ezekiel’s Dry Bones Prophecy

First, I contend that the earthly fulfillment of the prophecy was, in fact, also spiritual–because the remnant had to get right with God spiritually in order to be “resurrected” in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra. But as the days of Nehemiah and Ezra brought a repentant spiritual people to an earthly Jerusalem, that fulfillment stands in contrast to the return of a repentant, spiritual people to the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a spiritual reality which the earlier fulfillment foreshadowed.

Consider the days recorded in the four gospels and Acts. John the Baptist came preaching the Word of the Lord in Israel (prophesying to dry bones) when a relapse into sin and apostasy had once again enslaved the people under Roman occupation. Did he preach about how God gave the land to Abraham and therefore the Romans had better take their hands off the apple of God’s eye?–On the contrary, he preached that the Jews needed to Repent, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand! (Matt. 3:2) He did not allow anyone to rest in earthly heritage (Matt. 3:8-12). He did not teach the supremacy of the Jews or an unconditional land promise. In fact, he said nothing at all about land or rebellion against occupation, but exhorted people to press into the spiritual kingdom.  The gospel of the spiritual kingdom was preached to the Jew first, and many “dry bones” came together in response to the Word of the Lord. The Spirit of God filled these resurrected people through the breath of God (Jn. 20:22; Acts 2), and empowered them to be the army of the Lord–a spiritual army which the very gates of hell could never overcome.

Though the earlier prophets did see and describe the glory of the coming spiritual kingdom, the time of John the Baptist marks a transition from their looking forward to the kingdom, to “the kingdom is at hand.”  From this time forward, Scripture places all importance on the heavenly kingdom preached by John, Jesus, Paul and the others, and pays almost no attention to earthly kingdoms (except to assure us that they will come to an end). For the law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it (Lk. 16:16). This heavenly kingdom, even now being populated, is a fuller fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of a glorious restored Kingdom. Peter pointed to this spiritual Kingdom being the fulfillment of the prophecies, saying “all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.” (Acts 3:24) Its final and most glorious fulfillment will occur when Jesus returns for His complete international Bride and destroys the wicked in the same day (Lk. 17:29-30 is very clear that these two events happen on the same day.)

Jesus put an end to earthly sacrifices (and the Old Covenant) by the sacrifice of Himself (Dan. 9:27; Heb. 9:26), and was resurrected to His eternal throne, where He sat down, having finished the work of redemption. His kingdom is not of this world, and His servants don’t fight for earthly land, but instead are busy seeking the Kingdom of God (remember the earliest Jewish believers were known for giving up their possessions and lands to help the poor–Acts 2:45; 4:34-35. This stands in sharp contrast to the buying/stealing/occupying of land that is happening today in the Middle East.) Once it appeared that the Jews of that generation had been reached, some of the Jewish converts turned their attention to bringing Gentiles into the kingdom. Gentile converts were grafted into the same olive tree to which believing Jews belonged, thus putting an end to division between Jew and Gentile forever. This Mount Zion to which all believers come, is supernaturally protected. The repentant “exiles” of the whole earth come to her, and God Himself sees to it that all who desire to, arrive in their beloved city–the Jerusalem Above (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22).

Now, God’s people no longer worship Him on the mountains of Samaria or in earthly Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth wherever they are on the earth (Jn. 4:19-24). Regardless of national borders or races, all who enter Christ by faith are counted as the seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:16, 9:8; Gal. 3:7-9). These inherit all the promises–for all the promises of God ***in Christ*** are Yes, and in Him Amen (2 Cor. 1:20).

Why the Modern State of Israel Has Not Fulfilled Ezekiel’s Prophecy

Was the founding of the modern Israeli state a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, as Netanyahu and Christian Zionists claim?–No, for it does not meet any of the qualifications.

Was the state founded upon obedience to God, who sent His Son Jesus to die once for all men, and now commands all men everywhere to repent and believe on Him?–No.

Is the state the home of people who have circumcised hearts that love the Lord and keep His commands?–Again, No.

Are its citizens all Spirit-filled, and do they obey and promote the Word of the Lord?–Sadly, no.

While we can certainly sympathize with the desire of any people to have a safe place to live after the horrors of the holocaust, the events of 1948 have nothing to do with Ezekiel’s prophecy. It was simply the founding of another secular state by force. Yes, it was created in the place where ancient Israel once dwelt, but anyone who is honest must admit that it identifies more with the rebellious Israel than the repentant Israel. As we saw in our study of Nehemiah and Ezra, disobedience to God disqualified one from possessing the land even under the Old Covenant, regardless of ethnicity.

Furthermore, the even more glorious restoration of God’s Kingdom has already come through Jesus Christ, as the apostles believed and taught. God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, fulfills the restored Israel of God. This olive tree has had all unbelieving branches removed, and it has admitted believing branches from all over the world. The raising of Israel’s temple began with the resurrection of Jesus; it is still being rebuilt, as the lives of individually saved/resurrected believers become stones in the temple walls. Israel’s King can never be dethroned, Israel’s High Priest is a Priest forever (Heb. 5:6), and the veil which was rent cannot be un-rent. What place in this mystery, then, is found for an earthly Israel still ruled by ungodly people who may or may not return to animal sacrifices one day? If they did so, it would be a massive insult to Jesus Christ. The only appropriate place for such is the lake of fire. I can only agree with Paul, who wrote that this earthly nation will not inherit the promises (Gal. 4:29-30), no matter what they might be able to accomplish in their flesh. However, any Israeli can enter the kingdom of God through the only door, Jesus, by faith. 

It is imperative that we learn to recognize and discern the Lord’s Body/Assembly/Israel, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. The Lord’s Body is not a state. The Lord’s Body is a unified people who obey the Lord. These are the chosen people–people who abide in the Chosen One. Lots of politicians quote snatches of Scripture to legitimize their worldly ambitions; do not be deceived. We are repeatedly told by false teachers today to “watch (earthly) Israel,” but the Kingdom of God does not come with observation; in this lifetime, it is within us (Lk. 17:20-21). These false teachers seem to be under the same darkness and confusion as the deceived Jews who fought for their homeland in the Jewish/Roman wars. The Christians of those days, believing Jesus and the apostles, simply left their homeland and took the gospel with them, knowing their inheritance was spiritual and was “reserved in heaven” for them (I Pet. 1:4).

Isn’t it time to begin interpreting the Old Testament prophecies in the light of the New Testament, and how its inspired writers interpreted them?

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Hate Evil, Love Good, Establish Justice

Posted by israeliteindeed on July 23, 2014

A Meditation on Amos 5

Hear this word which I take up against you, a lamentation, O house of Israel:

2 The virgin of Israel has fallen;
She will rise no more.
She lies forsaken on her land;
There is no one to raise her up.

3 For thus says the Lord God:
“The city that goes out by a thousand
Shall have a hundred left,
And that which goes out by a hundred
Shall have ten left to the house of Israel.”

God has decided that the virgin of Israel will “rise no more” and there will be only a remnant left.

4 For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “Seek Me and live;

5 But do not seek Bethel,
Nor enter Gilgal,
Nor pass over to Beersheba;
For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity,
And Bethel shall come to nothing.

God’s instruction to the remnant is to seek HIM and live. They are not to seek particular places, as if by them they can live. God’s judgment will not overlook those places, but anyone hidden in God Himself will be protected.

6 Seek the Lord and live,
Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
And devour it,
With no one to quench it in Bethel—

God’s judgment does not pass over those who have His name, but not His character.

7 You who turn justice to wormwood,
And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!”

True justice and righteousness are very important to God, and there are many claiming His Name who make a mockery of these things.

8 He made the Pleiades and Orion;
He turns the shadow of death into morning
And makes the day dark as night;
He calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the face of the earth;
The Lord is His name.

9 He rains ruin upon the strong,
So that fury comes upon the fortress.

He is able to turn the blessing into a curse, as He has promised. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good (Josh. 24:20). The only hope for transgressors is to be humble and seek His mercy.

10 They hate the one who rebukes in the gate,
And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.

An indictment against Israel, but also against all wicked nations. The wicked and those who support them always turn against the one who rebukes them.

11 Therefore, because you tread down the poor
And take grain taxes from him,
Though you have built houses of hewn stone,
Yet you shall not dwell in them;
You have planted pleasant vineyards,
But you shall not drink wine from them.

12 For I know your manifold transgressions
And your mighty sins:
Afflicting the just and taking bribes;
Diverting the poor from justice at the gate.

Treading down the poor is a serious offense to God. Afflicting the just and taking bribes, diverting the poor from justice at the gate: God sees all these “manifold transgressions” and will punish.

13 Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time,
For it is an evil time.

Indeed, for when good is called evil and evil is called good, those who speak up for righteousness are punished. Remember when Lot tried to talk sense into his evil neighbors? They accused him of acting as a judge and promised to do worse to him than they intended to do to the angels (Gen. 19:9).

14 Seek good and not evil,
That you may live;
So the Lord God of hosts will be with you,
As you have spoken.

Apostate people are so fond of saying God is with them. But God is not with them. God is a God of Truth. He is not with us just because we say He is. He is only with us as we obey His Word. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you (2 Chron. 15:2).

15 Hate evil, love good;
Establish justice in the gate.
It may be that the Lord God of hosts
Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

God wants us to love good and hate evil, and to establish justice. Away with our wickedness, our excusing of sin, our favoritism, and our disregard for the poor and the weak. Without repentance, there is no possibility of God’s graciousness, but with it, “It may be that the Lord…will be gracious.” He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

16 Therefore the Lord God of hosts, the Lord, says this:
“There shall be wailing in all streets,
And they shall say in all the highways,
‘Alas! Alas!’
They shall call the farmer to mourning,
And skillful lamenters to wailing.

17 In all vineyards there shall be wailing,
For I will pass through you,”
Says the Lord.

It is easy to sit on high horses while God passes through others, but what will we do when He passes through us? If we do the same things we condemn in others, will we not meet the same fate?

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
For what good is the day of the Lord to you?
It will be darkness, and not light.

19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion,
And a bear met him!
Or as though he went into the house,
Leaned his hand on the wall,
And a serpent bit him!

20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light?
Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?

And this is remarkable–many say they desire the day of the Lord, who ought to be very afraid of it. This is because they abide in presumption that God is accepting of their sins and will not punish them. They rest in their heritage, they rest in their past faith, they rest in their rituals or their knowledge. But they do not seek the Lord, or have His life in them. If they did, their behavior would be very different.

21 “I hate, I despise your feast days,
And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.

22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them,
Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.

23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.

None of these things move God. He is not an idol to be appeased with rituals and gifts and songs. He is the God who is looking for the good fruit of righteousness in response to His Word. He hates “sacred assemblies” when the people in those assemblies do not bear His image.

24 But let justice run down like water,
And righteousness like a mighty stream.

Let justice run down like water! Let righteousness run like a mighty stream! Then–then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday (Isa. 58:10–read the whole chapter for the context!) Otherwise, your knowledge and your religious practices are worthless, serving only to cause the heathen to blaspheme God (Rom. 2:24).

25 “Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings
In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?

26 You also carried Sikkuth your king
And Chiun, your idols,
The star of your gods,
Which you made for yourselves.

What? Mixing the worship of God with the worship of idols? Who is this star god? God will not accept being part of a harem of idols. We are to worship Him alone. Let every nation pay attention to how God rebukes the nation of Israel for idolatry. As He has punished Israel, so He will punish all the nations. Take heed that you do not mix idolatry with your worship of God. Find out what is acceptable to Him, and what displeases Him (Eph. 5:10).

27 Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus, Says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.

Dear readers, the nations are raging against the Lord, but there is a King installed on Mount Zion (the same Mount Zion mentioned in Heb. 12:22–the heavenly Jerusalem.) Seek the Lord and live. Do not seek this place or that place on the earth, for all shall be burned with fire (2 Pet. 3:7). Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God, for this is what He requires (Mic. 6:8).

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide in times of trouble?

2 The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor;
Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.

3 For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire;
He blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord.

4 The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God;
God is in none of his thoughts.

5 His ways are always prospering;
Your judgments are far above, out of his sight;
As for all his enemies, he sneers at them.

6 He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
I shall never be in adversity.”

7 His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression;
Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.

8 He sits in the lurking places of the villages;
In the secret places he murders the innocent;
His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless.

9 He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den;
He lies in wait to catch the poor;
He catches the poor when he draws him into his net.

10 So he crouches, he lies low,
That the helpless may fall by his strength.

11 He has said in his heart,
“God has forgotten;
He hides His face;
He will never see.”

12 Arise, O Lord!
O God, lift up Your hand!
Do not forget the humble.

13 Why do the wicked renounce God?
He has said in his heart,
“You will not require an account.”

14 But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief,
To repay it by Your hand.
The helpless commits himself to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man;
Seek out his wickedness until You find none.

16 The Lord is King forever and ever;
The nations have perished out of His land.

17 Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,

18 To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.

Psalm 10

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What is Self-Righteousness?

Posted by israeliteindeed on September 12, 2013

I was reading a devotional book by Rod and Staff Publishers*, and came across a statement which concerns a subject I’ve wanted to write about for a long time. Here is the statement:

“To continue in our own way is an expression of self-righteousness.”

That statement has the ring of truth!

I readily admit this is not the definition of “self-righteousness” we generally hear. I have told family members that they need to stop doing their own thing and obey Jesus, and they accused me of being self-righteous!  Clearly, their definition of the word is the exact opposite of that which is written above. Self-righteousness is one of several words that seems to have been re-defined to fit popular cultural ideas.  In this post, I’d like to explore what self-righteousness looks like Biblically.

Speaking of the Jews who had rejected Jesus, Paul wrote, “They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Rom. 10: 3)  There is much confusion about what this means, especially with all the sin-excusing, so called “Christian” doctrines abounding today. Many people think Paul was accusing the Jews of trying to obey God too much, whereas they would have found true salvation “resting” in an assurance that “Jesus did it all.” Their dangerous response to their false problem is being a lazy and compromising “Christian” with no standard, and refusing to judge any matter by the Word of God.

It is true that Jesus Himself made the only atonement that could wash our sins away, and it is by faith in Him that we are saved.  It is true that all the law and prophets pointed to the forgiveness offered and made possible by Jesus–and this is something many Jews were unwilling to accept.  But God has never been angry with people who obeyed Him from the heart, and in fact He earnestly desires this.  Obeying God from the heart is never self-righteousness. 

 
Psalm 50:23 declares that to him who orders his conduct aright, God will show His salvation. The man who orders his conduct aright does not save himself (atone for his own sins, or force God to forgive him)  by doing so. But his contrite heart is accepted by God, and because he has met God’s condition of repentance, he will be shown God’s salvation (Jesus), which he then can enter into by faith

The Jews that went about trying to establish their own righteousness were Christ-rejectors precisely because they first refused to order their conduct aright (repent). They had the writings of the law and prophets, which contained excoriating rebukes that applied to them and exposed their hypocrisy, but they did not humble themselves. It is no coincidence that both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries preaching that men must repent, and both preached against the religious hypocrisy that was so prevalent in their culture. These Jews were not called “self-righteous” because of their careful obedience, but because of their disobedience and hypocrisy. 

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  (Luke 12:1)

They failed to understand that all the law and prophets pointed to Jesus, the real sacrifice for sins. Why did they fail to understand? Again, I say it is because they refused to order their conduct aright, and so they stumbled over the Stumbling Stone. There were Jews who did come to understand these great spiritual truths, both in the Old Testament and the New. All of these were saved by their faith. The Pharisees and other Christ-rejecting Jews cherry-picked the Scriptures they had, so they could major on what profited them, and ignore what did not.  And as Jesus accused them in Mark 7:6-13, they outright rejected commandments of God in order to further traditions they had created to benefit themselves.

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do;  but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (Matt. 23:2-4)

In Matthew 23, Jesus detailed the many hypocrisies of Israel’s “blind guides.” But such hypocrisies were not limited to the spiritual leaders. There were many Jews who likewise went about trying to establish their own righteousness. They brought temple sacrifices and offerings, and claimed to be God’s people, while their hearts were far from God, and in fact in love with idols (Isa. 29:13).  They compared themselves to Gentiles and thought they were justified just because they were circumcised “children of Abraham,” and knew the one true God.  By insisting that they were already righteous as they were without a full submission to God, and while refusing to let God show them what would truly please Him, they traded in the righteousness of God for their own useless “righteousness.”  

What about those Jews who were doing their best to obey the law of God without hypocrisy? While such a life was pleasing to God, even one transgression must be atoned for. A return to obedience after disobedience, while commanded, cannot atone for transgressions. The law was never meant to forgive sins, but to bring the sinner to the One whose blood was shed for him!  Indeed, if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:21). If the law could make sinners righteous again, we could just preach the law to everyone, and once people returned to obedience, they would be saved. But Jesus was lifted up from the earth to draw all men unto Him. And He becomes righteousness to all who come to Him (I Cor. 1:30), not by imputation of His personal obedience to our account (as some teach), but by forgiving our sins and washing them from us in His own sinless blood.  Unless one comes to Christ, the only Way God has provided, one who has sinned can never be truly righteous, though he may have a form of fictitious, self-created “righteousness.”  

Therefore self-righteousness can rightly be charged against anyone (Jew or Gentile) who insists he can be acceptable to God any other way than by the Way God prescribes. 

  • The orthodox Jew that rejects Christ but practices Hebrew law-keeping, cannot, by these habits, appease Him; he has no faith in God’s Way of salvation, and without faith it is impossible to please God. 
  • The Gentile that goes to three church services per week, sings in the choir, and supports building funds and missionaries–while he still lives and thinks in his heart any way he chooses, is not accepted by God.  Oh, he may talk about the blood of Jesus, but that very blood he has been trampling by his willing disobedience will testify against him and prove him a denier of Christ (Heb. 10:26-29; Titus 1:16), and his righteousness a counterfeit. 
  • The Muslim meticulously praying  and washing according to man-made standards God has not commanded, will never find himself closer to God by these deeds. 
  • The atheist who thinks he is righteous by adhering to a standard of morals he has created for himself, has likewise created his own “way.” 
 
All of these ways, though they seem right to each man from his own perspective, will end in death (Prov. 14:12). 

There is only one Way that leads to life, and the Way is Jesus. To be a follower of The Way is more than acknowledging Jesus as a historical figure, or claiming to follow Him. It is  trusting in His merciful provision of atonement for our personal offences against God, and receiving His forgiveness; and then willingly walking in all His commands. Joining with Him in death (to self and the world), and joining with Him in a resurrected life that bears holy fruit unto God.

There are multitudes of self-righteous people that consider and call themselves real Christians.  Some don’t associate with the organized church, but many do. They judge themselves by standards that are man-made, or they judge themselves only by cherry-picked Scriptures to the exclusion of the whole counsel of God. Some are more moral than others. What connects them is that they will not submit to letting God Himself teach them what is right and wrong, and will not submit to His washing and regenerating influence. They insist they can decide for themselves what is right and how they will live, and resent anyone’s assertion that they should change. Some are masters at justifying their false way with little twistings of Scripture;  they know just enough of the Word to thoroughly damn themselves.

I will share a case in point:

I have an unsaved brother that hates homosexuality.  He is right to hate this sin, but he does not hate his own drunkenness, fornication, blasphemies, racism (he is a member of the KKK), and pervasive selfishness that continually hurts alot of people. He boldly told me he was a Christian.  He condemns the homosexual while claiming he is righteous. Jesus condemns all of the above, and calls both the homosexual and the heterosexual fornicator to acknowledge their own personal crimes against God. My brother will “preach” against homosexuality if the subject comes up, but if I preach against his own list of crimes, using the Word of God as the authority, then I am rejected. Why? He has not submitted to the righteousness of God, but is going about to establish his own. His life may be vastly different than the life of the orthodox Jew who carefully avoids fornication and drunkenness, but both are excluded from the kingdom of God together because neither is submitted to the Word of God.  When the Word is rejected, salvation is rejected. The Word of God is sent to heal us (Psa. 107:20), but disobedience to that Word leads to stumbling (I Pet. 2:8).  The wrath of God abides on all who continue in their own way.

A person like my brother can acknowledge that Jesus was a historical figure, and he might even say Jesus was a good man or a prophet, if he were pressed. A good Muslim would agree with these sentiments about Jesus, as would most Americans. But as long as men insist on deciding for themselves what righteousness looks like, they will never be saved, even if they live relatively moral lives, as do some Jews, Muslims, atheists, and professing Christians. Am I saying morality is inconsequential?–Absolutely not.  The law of God written on a person’s heart, and the Spirit of God directing a person’s steps, will produce a moral life because God is moral. But this will be a true morality borne out of a Spirit-led life, rather than a hypocritical, self-serving morality, such as the morality my brother walks in–or the morality some Jews, Muslims, or false Christians walk in. 

Returning to a point I touched on earlier, those who earnestly plead with sinners to abandon their self-led lives are not being “self-righteous.” It is the self-led sinner who assumes his own spiritual safety that is self-righteous.  But many sinners will hastily slap this label on the truthful witness that testifies against them and calls them to repentance.  Ear-tickling false doctrine streaming from too many pulpits facilitates this deception;  unfortunately many a false shepherd would agree with them and verbally crucify the witness!  Nevertheless, I think it helpful for the faithful witnesses to remember what self-righteousness really is, so that we are not intimidated by false accusations.

God bless you, readers!

Adult Bible Studies, Studies in Romans.  Crockett, Kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers; January, February, March 2013.

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The Heart of a True Pastor or Watchman

Posted by israeliteindeed on July 23, 2011

Rachel has posted a wonderful article at Know God’s Word called, “The Under-Shepherd’s Anguish.”

Reading this, I was reminded of the time the still-learning disciples asked the Lord Jesus if they should call down fire to consume those who rejected Him. Jesus turned and rebuked them with the following words–

“Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.  For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56)

Sometimes as men and women take up the Lord’s pleading with sinners to repent, they can allow themselves to become hardened to the plight of those who stand in the valley of decision. May it never be said of us. Let us remember how our Lord was longsuffering toward us, and had mercy on us. Let us remember how He wept over the fate of Jerusalem just before He was crucified there (Luke 19:41-42).

Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? (Joel 2:17)

Click here to go to Rachel’s article.

God bless you!

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Judgment is Coming on America

Posted by israeliteindeed on June 27, 2011

Please take a moment to visit this precious fellow-saint’s blog. Truly, Wisdom is still crying out, but so few are listening.  Read, understand, and spread the message far and wide!  God bless you.

Today, as in the days of the early Church, Christians endure persecution on varying levels.  Whether we are hearing news of a precious Saint who was murdered for the cause of Christ, or seeing slurs and racism based upon our political views, we know that all who live godly in Christ WILL suffer persecution.  Yet we cry Wisdom and pray that sinners will repent of their wickedness and find salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Recently, the state of New York passed a law sanctioning their approval and legalization of homosexual marriage. (Read More)

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God Sees Your Sin, Pt. 3

Posted by israeliteindeed on June 23, 2011

In the previous post, I wrote out some Scriptures from the Old Testament that demonstrate that once being chosen and favored by God does not make one exempt from living a life pleasing to Him. After entering into covenant with God, one’s future sins are not invisible to God. Many members of “the chosen people” did not inherit the promise because they did not continue to obey the Lord; their carcasses fell in the wilderness, and these things were recorded to warn us that such can happen to us (I Cor. 10:1-12).  Now I would like to examine some New Testament texts that confirm our need for obedience to the Lord after being born into His family, and the consequences for disobedience.

A favorite doctrinal component of Calvinism is that if you have ever believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, or ever had a moment of true faith, His personal righteousness has been imputed to your account once-for-all, and is the only thing God will ever see when He looks at you in the future. In other words, even if you live a wicked life after that and die in sin, God can’t see it; all He sees is Jesus when He looks at you.  If such were true, then not only will He continue to see us as obedient when we disobey, He will be mocked.  He said we would reap what we sow, but we really won’t! He said the wages of sin was death, but we have found a loophole whereby we can sow to our flesh and not reap corruption! He is not only blind, He can’t chastise His children when they do wrong, since He can’t see their sin!

Complete hogwash!

One wonders how God could ever see the righteous acts of the saints, if He can’t see their sin! Do NOT be deceived by these teachings; God will not be mocked. If we sow to our flesh we WILL reap corruption, and God DOES chastise His children when they do wrong. (Gal. 6:7-8; Heb. 12:7) The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good. (Prov. 15:3) The Lord is wearied when people falsely say that evildoers are good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them (Mal. 2:17). People who do what is wicked are wicked; only he that does righteousness is considered righteous in the eyes of the Lord (I John 2:29; 3:7).

Jesus taught the following:

The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves…shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (Jn. 5:28-29)

In Matthew 7:21, Jesus taught the importance of DOING the Father’s will (righteousness), not just acknowledging or SAYING “Lord, Lord.” So important is it to DO the teachings of Christ, that the man who DOES them is likened to a house that survives a storm, while the man who does not DO them is likened to a house that is destroyed in the storm for lack of a proper foundation.  Friend, you ARE that house, and you are determining the final destiny of your house by whether or not you are submitting to Christ and doing God’s will. This is FOUNDATIONAL to your spiritual life.  Remember, King Jesus will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend (cause sin) and all persons who do iniquity, and cast them into the furnace of fire (Matt.13:41-42). So serious it is to get the sin out of your life, Christian, that Jesus said it would be better to cut off an offending body-part than to have your whole body “cast into hell.” (Matt. 5: 29-30)

So what if you don’t do as Jesus said, and deal a death blow to the sin in your own life?  Is all automatically forgiven because of His blood shed on the cross?

If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,  but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.  He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:   of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:26-29)

Friends, this Scripture destroys the license-to-sin doctrine.  If you willfully continue to sin after being sanctified, you are treating the precious blood of Jesus as an unholy thing!  God sees it and views you as worthy of much sorer punishment than the punishments inflicted on those who disobeyed Moses’ law!  When Ananias and Sapphira sinned in the church, was their sin hidden from God’s view? On the contrary, Peter, speaking by the Holy Ghost, rebuked them publicly. Their judgment was swift, and caused the fear of God to fall on the people who heard about it. Paul instructed Timothy to deal with sin in the church in like manner:

Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.   I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.   Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.  (I Tim. 5:20-22)

Instead of following the right ways of the Lord, many in the church instead excuse or overlook flagrant sin, letting it spread like leaven through the whole lump. After all, if a person is considered positionally righteous even when they are doing unrighteous things, then who are they to judge?  False teaching is so dangerous!! Paul instructed the Corinthian church to put the sinner out of the church until he repents!! (I Cor. 5)  To refuse to do so is to be a partaker in other men’s sins and to become defiled.  Remember, the pure religion that pleases God includes keeping oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27); this presupposes that God sees when we become “spotted.”

In Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus–who is God–addresses the church. Does He only see His own righteousness when He looks at them, or does He assess them exactly according to their own works, and command repentance when necessary?  Indeed, Jesus makes some startling threats toward those who will not repent!

“Thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev. 2:4-5)

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.  So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.   Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (Rev. 2:14-16)

I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.   Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.  Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.   He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.  (Rev. 3:1-5)

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:  I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  (Rev. 3:15-19)

Please study those two chapters in full, and you cannot fail to see that all the beautiful promises of God are specifically for overcomers. We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). There is no easy way; the easy way taken by most is the wide road that leads to destruction. We must die to ourselves, and strive [make every effort, agonize] to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. (Luke 13:24)

Peter wrote that because the judgment of God is coming, and because we look forward to a new heaven and earth where only righteousness dwells, we must be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless…and beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Pet. 3:14, 17)  The righteous can be led away with the error of the wicked and fall? Yes!

Paul wrote of those who swerved away from love, a clean conscience, and sincere faith, and so had left the path of life and had only “vain jangling” or “meaningless talk”–the emptiness of religion without God (I Tim. 1:5-6). He wrote that some who had not held onto faith and a “good conscience” (they defiled and hardened their conscience by disobedience), had shipwrecked their faith! (I Tim. 1:19) He wrote that any who refused to provide financially for their own widows had, by his wickedness, denied the faith, and was worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8). He wrote that some younger widows, being idle and gossipers, had already turned aside after Satan. (I Tim. 5:15)  In fact, Paul recognized that he himself was not immune to falling away:

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.   And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.   I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:   But I keep under my body [keep my flesh crucified], and bring it into subjection [to God’s will]: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (I Cor. 9:24-27, brackets mine)

Paul recognized he could be cast away even after all his dedicated service to God! Just as a man who wants to win a race must be disciplined, so must the Christian life be disciplined, for “if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” (2 Tim. 2:5)  It is possible to begin the spiritual race and not finish the course, which is why we are urged to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and…run with patience [endurance].” (Heb. 12:1)  It is possible to engage in “the good fight” and not compete lawfully, being finally disqualified.

In 2 Peter 2, Peter wrote of false teachers who bring in damnable heresies [such as once-saved-always-saved or “God doesn’t see your sin”], even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  Peter describes these false teachers as having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices. Beware if your spiritual teacher shamelessly claims he cannot cease from sin, and that we must all sin every day in thought, word and deed! They teach such lies because they themselves are spiritually adulterous, loving the things of this world, especially the adoration and financial support of others who love sin and wish to have their ears tickled with sin-excusing lies.  Such teachers allure through the lusts of the flesh those who were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. And so these wolves pretending to be ministers teach the flock of God that they have “liberty in Christ” to sin all they want! But when a man serves sin, he becomes the slave of sin! His so-called liberty is false! Don’t be deceived. Peter called these who had at first escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and were again entangled therein and overcome worse off than they were before they knew the Lord!  They were like dogs returning to lick up the vomit they had expelled, or pigs washed from their filthiness returning to their filth.  Truly this is receiving the grace of God in vain!

Dear reader, it is possible to deny the Lord by your disobedient works (Titus 1:16). Consider this carefully:

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Tim. 2:19)

This is the foundation of the Lord, and will not change despite the empty promises of false teachers.  How do you then depart from iniquity? David said a man could cleanse his way by taking heed to God’s Word (Psa. 119:9)  It is by abiding in Christ that His good fruit will be manifest in your life (John 15).   I John 3:6 teaches that whoever abides in Jesus does not sin! When you go astray, it is directly due to your not abiding in Christ.

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.  (John 15:7)

Paul said, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2-3)  We must CHOOSE the things above or the things of this earth. We must CHOOSE to mortify our members which are on this earth, and to follow the things that please the Lord, because the wrath of God is coming on the children of disobedience (Col. 3:5-6).

Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy post!  I hope it is clear to you that in both Old and New Testaments, God’s covenants with men are conditional. If you have not already, please study both testaments on your own, asking God to open your understanding to the Truth. He has promised wisdom to those who ask, and He has promised to be found of those who seek Him with their whole heart.  He is the God of love, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and purify for Himself a peculiar people zealous for good works. His grace teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-14). I pray that you do not receive the grace of God in vain! I will leave you with this powerful statement by the Apostle Paul:

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Rom. 8:13)

God bless you!

Posted in Backslider, Calvinism, Christian Life, Once Saved Always Saved, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Feeding on Foolishness

Posted by israeliteindeed on June 18, 2011

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness. Prov. 15:14

It causes me great sorrow to see many young people, who claim to love God, feeding on foolishness. They watch movies that “aren’t so bad.” They listen to music that isn’t openly opposed to Christ; it just doesn’t lead the heart’s affections in His direction. They follow the exploits of athletes as if it all means something, memorizing stats instead of the Scriptures which are able to make men wise unto salvation. They play video games, sometimes vicariously living through fake people while their spiritual house falls into disrepair. Oh, the daring exploits they accomplish in their video games–while in reality, they do nothing at all for either Christ or neighbor!

We are what we eat. All of this feeding on foolishness makes one a fool, and gives one the mouth of a fool that can help no one.  But you have not so learned Christ!

Is there even one account of Jesus behaving in a flippant, self-entertaining way in any of the gospels? Never. He was always working, just as His Father was always working (John 5:17). Jesus was ministry-minded, not entertainment minded.  He knew and purposely kept before His face the reason He came–to set captives free. What does this mean to you–My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me?

I charge you, dear reader, to steward your time here on earth as one who will give an account.  The question is not, “Can I get away with this activity?” but “Will this activity increase the knowledge of God in me and on the earth?”

Now, I don’t believe for a moment that Jesus never smiled. But joy has little or nothing to do with entertainments; entertainments are inherently selfish and produce no true joy in the soul. If you want to be anointed with gladness above all your fellows, you must love righteousness and hate iniquity as Jesus did (Heb. 1:9).  Squandering the new life and resources God has given you is ungratefulness and sin; you must hate it enough to turn away from it.  True joy is found co-laboring with Jesus in the great work of salvation while we can, for the night is coming when no man can work (Jn. 9:4).

How can you say you love God with all your heart, when you spend so many hours pursuing vain things that God is far from?–If this describes you, your profession of love is vain. You feed on things that produce no life in you; you have allowed your appetite for truth to dwindle to the point that no fruit is being produced in your life–for unless you abide in the Vine, you cannot produce fruit. You are lukewarm in your affections for Jesus, and are in the gravest of dangers. Seeking out His Wisdom and/or serving somewhere in the Body of Christ is not as important as beating another level in a fake video game world! While you win virtual battles on a screen, the real spiritual battle rages all around you, but your ears grow dull to its sound, and your mind uncomprehending of its strategies. Your sword grows dull from disuse, and you don’t even know that you are losing your spiritual life and becoming useless to God and others. What a tragedy!

The heart of him that has understanding seeks KNOWLEDGE, and refuses to feed on foolishness.  You must choose between life and death.  With the banquet of good things the Lord willingly spreads before us, with all the wisdom that is to be found in Him, with all the souls on their way to perdition, with the rumblings of divine judgment even now on the horizon, with so few laborers in God’s harvest fields, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation and rush headlong after foolish things?  Had Noah stopped working on the ark to do something “fun” with his neighbors, he would not have been mocked for preaching righteousness, and he would not have had the ark ready at the appointed time.

Young person, rather than feeding on the foolishness that brings spiritual death to you and everyone around you, why not study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, (2 Tim. 2:15) so that you can break true bread for hungry souls? Why not seek for the wisdom of God like treasure, so that you have a storehouse for you and others to draw from in times of trouble?  Why not find something profitable to do for the kingdom of God?

God bless you.

Posted in Backslider, Christian Life, Judgment of God, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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