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                     PAST                                  FUTURE

Looking Back to Get Ahead

14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. 15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. 16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

              - - - Nehemiah 5:14-19 (ESV) all scripture ESV unless otherwise noted

 

            We conclude chapter five this week by focusing on the actions of Nehemiah after he has successfully navigated the many roadblocks that had been set before him and the peoples of Jerusalem in the preceding chapter and a half. 

 

            First there is one obvious thing I would like to point out in our text before I move on to the main points for tonight. It is the uniqueness of Nehemiah being governor of Jerusalem. He is a Jew, and has been appointed so by Artaxerxes the king, a pagan king. Nehemiah has been rewarded for his honesty and his loyalty, but to whom?  But remember as we have seen time and again throughout this series he is loyal to God before all others. It is God who has rewarded him though this pagan king.  It is imperative we understand this; that God alone is in control. Why else would you bow down and worship Him?

 

            The main point I wish to emphasize tonight is the same thing Nehemiah did some 2600 years ago. That in order to move forward, in order to rebuild our lives we can NEVER forget the mistakes of the past. We must look to the past in order to move ahead with our lives.

 

            Now I know if this were a TV or radio sermon some of you would be reaching to change the channel right now, because my statement above seems to fly in the face of the modern evangelical hyped teachings of today but please bear with me. Let’s look at what God’s Word says:

 

 Isaiah 43:18-19 ““Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”

 

Philippians 3:13 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,”

 

            On the face of it, it would seem we should never look back “Remember not the former things”  or “forgetting what lies behind”  Or the so often miss applied Luke 9:62 “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” But is that really what God is saying? Does God really tell us not to remember our past?

 

            Again let us dig further into scripture looking at The Whole Counsel of God!

 

Turn back to Nehemiah 1:8-11 “Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

 

            We are encouraged to remember God’s promises to us, especially in times of trouble and conflict. Can you think of any other familiar passages of scripture folks go to in times of trouble? 

Psalm 23 and Psalm 91 come to mind or a favorite of mine Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

 

Nehemiah 9: 18-24 “Even when they had made for themselves a golden[c] calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. 22 “And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. 23 You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. 24 So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would.”

 

            We are to remind ourselves daily of the many blessing God has given unless we become dissatisfied with God.  Here in Nehemiah chapter 9 the story of the Exodus in all its Glory and sorrow is recounted as a reminder that God is a God of promises and one who keeps His promises.  He promised the Jewish people a promised land and even though they were rebellious and continually turned away from Him, He kept that promise. What would you have done?  We also see one of his greatest promises in the sky Genesis 9:15-16 “I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

           

            How about 2 Peter 1:15-21 “And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

 

            We need to be able to recall biblical truths. How else are we to share the Good News of Christ with others? This the great commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 is the duty of all believers.

 

            Are you confused yet? This is where the naysayer (fancy word for doubters) that is those who claim the bible is a lie, made up and written by men contradicts itself. They point out that in some places it says do not look back on your past and in other places it says to recall the past. So see it’s all a bunch of junk.  Well if you are one of those who mind has been blinded by the god of this world (Satan) 2 Corinthians 4:4 that would make sense. To the rest of us in our right mind we can reason this out.

 

            Let us start with a text every believer knows   2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Does this mean you will not battle with sin? Not in the least listen:

15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [[b]which my moral instinct condemns]. 16 Now if I do [habitually] what is contrary to my desire, [that means that] I acknowledge and agree that the Law is good (morally excellent) and that I take sides with it. 17 However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me.18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. [I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out.] 19 For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing.  That is none other than the Apostle Paul from Romans Chapter 8. Did you hear his words? Can you feel the struggle he is experiencing? This is Paul the writer of 2/3 of the New Testament, not just some average Joe.  How are you to combat dealing with sinfulness of the flesh if you cannot look to your past experiences Like Paul?

           

            Another of the Proverbs that comes to mind is Proverbs 4:25-27 “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Ponder[c] the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. I like this one because I am guilty of not doing this. I am speaking of eyes look directly forward I won’t embarrass everyone by asking for a show of hands but I bet I am not the only one to have walked into an unmovable object because I was not watching where I was going.  

 

            God’s admonition in this verse and other verses like it is to not forbid looking back on the past while trying to move forward.  He is saying do not dwell on the past while trying to move forward. Do not get stuck in the mud, bogged down in your past, mired in the muck of your past mistakes.  You cannot move forward if you are having your own little pity party and decide all is lost because of your past mistakes.  At the same time it would be foolish to try and move forward and not remember your past behaviors and mistakes.

 

            Let us look at our main text again.  Nehemiah is a wise governor he has learned from the past mistakes of others.  In verse 15 we read “The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.”  Note why Nehemiah did not do so, was it because he was scared of God?  No the Greek word translated fear in English means reverence. It was because of his admiration, his awe his devotion to God. In the remaining four verses of our main text we see Nehemiah again demonstrating changes to the previous administrations burdensome rule.

 

            Let us put this in perspective, many here have struggled with alcohol or drugs over the years. So you get released and the first place you find to rent is a small studio. It is a good deal, the rent is affordable and the landlord is nice and understanding about folks who have been in your shoes. He is even willing to ask around about jobs for you. Sounds like the perfect place except it is right above a bar. Now if you believe and follow the advice of those who advocate NEVER looking back on our past then living there will be no problem. However if you believe and follow the Word of God that arrangement has DANGER! ! ! written all over it. 

 

            Oswald Chambers wrote on the matter: "A man's disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possesses in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of that nature. Every man has the setting of this own temptation, and the temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition. Temptation yielded to... is a proof that it was timidity that prevented the sin before." In other words, Satan isn’t no dummy he knows how and what with to temp you.  Yet here we go putting ourselves right in the midst of the very temptations that contributed to our problems. Of course we will pray beforehand Matthew 6:13 “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” I am sorry but that is S.O.S. disease at its best. Asking God for favors and then doing something that thumbs your nose at the favor.

 

            In closing I want to reexamine Luke 9:62 “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Why was Jesus so adamant in this statement? It sounds like on casual reading that if anyone looks back after becoming a Christian they are doomed, not worthy of entry to heaven. We’ll again need to look at the Whole Counsel of God by backing up to the previous verses for a clue. In verses 57 -60 we have conversations between those who wish to follow Jesus and Christ who tells them the cost.  You remember elsewhere when he says it can be a heavy price, even one’s own family. Then in verse 61 we see “Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Do you see it, Jesus is not saying do not remember the past he is saying once on the chosen path do not deviate from it. There is a huge difference between those two meanings. Our Lord is telling the person, if you have truly decided to follow me, then do so, make me the priority and not those who are left behind. Nowhere does He, Jesus, say do not think of them, just do not look back and long after that life you are leaving behind. If you do you cannot stay on the path of righteousness. Using metaphors or images of the plow He easily makes His point understood by all. Put in modern terms if you have ever tried to drive a mower or tractor forward while looking backward you will understand the results are UGLY.  Unfit for any lawn or farmers field.

 

            Like Nehemiah prayed in verse 19 “Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.” We need to stand ready to call upon God to remember us as we look back to get ahead.

 

            Let’s pray, most gracious and heavenly father I ask that you continue to work in the minds and hearts of the hearers and readers of this message. That it will build them up that they may glorify you in all that they do. I pray father that if anyone knows not Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour that you would choose them now send your Holy Spirit upon them convict them of their sins, have them repent and claim the free gift of Christ. We pray this in His most Holy and precious name. Amen.

 

In HIS Service

Mike

 

 

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Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 

- - - Acts 20:26-27 (ESV) All text ESV unless noted

 

            There is a plague that has invaded our country and it started in the “Christian” churches. It is a plague that has resulted in ignorance, distortion and deficiency. What is this plague I am speaking of? It is none other than the proper preaching of God’s word.

               

            This plague started with men and unfortunately in more recent time’s women preaching only portions of God’s word. These men (we will not mention the women again as the bible calls only men to preach) as well intended as they may have been; failed in their duty to do as Paul declared in our text today, ‘to declare to you the whole counsel of God.’

               

            So what is the whole counsel of God? It is the “good, the bad and the ugly” to quote a spaghetti western movie title. It is man’s sin and total in ability to do good apart from God. It is God’s hatred of sin and the sinner while at the same time being fully capable of expressing love to us while we were yet in our sinful state. It is the whole Word of God not just the parts we like or understand and certainly not our pet theological topics. It is one reason I am so guarded against those who insistent on topical preaching each week. That type of preaching usually leads to a lack of declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

 

D. A. Carson[i] :  

 Explains what Paul meant this way: “When Paul attests that this is what he proclaimed to the believers in Ephesus, the Ephesian elders to whom he makes this bold asseveration know full well that he had managed this remarkable feat in only two and a half years. In other words, whatever else Paul did, he certainly did not manage to go through every verse of the Old Testament, line by line, with full-bore explanation. He simply did not have time.

 

What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.

 

It embraced God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped), an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope), the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).”

 

            Before we go further it is critical, that if we are calling ourselves Christians we agree that there is only one AUTHORITY and one STANDARD for which we must adhere. That is the Word of God. Are you a child of God calling yourself a Christian today?

 

            How do we know we are a child of God?  We obey His laws first and foremost. 1 John 5:2–3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

 

            But Jesus in His earthly ministry also made is perfectly clear we are to pay tribute to those God has appointed over us.  Matthew 22:20-22 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

 

            Of course some modernist have tried to twist scripture and say the above was for taxes only but Paul in his Epistle to Titus clears that up. Titus 3:1 (KJV) Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work

 

            We are however, as Christians, are to question tasking’s by those appointed over us to insure that they are in compliance with the Word of God. Acts 5:29 (KJV) Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men. The Word of God always trumps the law of man. If this is your AUTHOIRY and STANDRAD you can proudly wear the name badge Christian.

 

            So now let us look at a few examples that maybe we do not have the whole counsel of God on.  Let us start with the one that has been most recently been in the headlines as the U.S. Supreme Court made it’s in my opinion unconstitutional decision.

 

            Homosexuality and Same Sex Unions have become the rage. The liberal media has waged an all-out persecution crusade against anyone who exercises their constitutional right to freedom of religion by refusing to support these schemas.  We have been fed a steady stream of lies and innuendo in order to get the minority agenda passed. Sadly even the pulpits of evangelical churches have been wrongfully preaching half-truths and or just as bad messages of hate.

 

            Let us look at the Whole Counsel of God:

 

            a. It is a sin Lev 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. There are no mincing words here. Others words for abomination include: outrage, disgrace, horror, hatred, atrocity. Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 defines it as: “Extreme hatred; detestation”

 

            b. Those engaged in it cannot go to heaven 1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality. God’s word is clear. Those who actively engage in this sin are condemning themselves to hell.

           

            c. The cause of Homosexuality, transgenderism etc. is the evil in our hearts our own sinfulness: Romans 1:24-27 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. The homosexual agenda would have you believe people are genetically wired to be that way. That is a bold face LIE. God’s word again is clear it is our selfish sin.  

 

            d. What should be the Christian's Response to the Homosexual?

 In his article Christianity and Homosexuality Matt slick explains[ii]

“Just because someone is a homosexual does not mean that we cannot love him (or her) or pray for him (or her).  Homosexuality is a sin, and like any other sin it needs to be dealt with in the only way possible.  It needs to be laid at the cross and repented of.

 

Christians should pray for the salvation of the homosexual the same way they would any other person in sin.  They should treat homosexuals with the same dignity as they would anyone else because, like it or not, they are made in the image of God.  However, this does not mean that Christians should approve of their sin.  Not at all; Christians should never compromise their witness for a politically correct opinion that is shaped by guilt and fear.

 

In fact, the following verses should be kept in mind when dealing with homosexuals. "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.   6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person," (Col. 4:5-6). "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith," (1 Tim. 1:5).

 

You do not win people to the Lord by condemning them and calling them names.  This is why God says to speak with wisdom, grace, and love.  Let the love of Christ flow through you so that the homosexuals can see true love and turn to Christ instead of away from Him.”

 

            So how do you love your homosexual neighbor without committing the other BIG controversy of our times Judging others. Have you noticed the one verse that both Christians and non-Christians (especially those in jail and prison) can quote is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.

 

            The problem arises when we try and apply modern understandings to ancient Greek text. Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 (all verses KJV) gives me one of the best understandings of the word:

 

a. JUDGE, n. [L. judex, supposed to be compounded of jus, law or right, and dico, to pronounce.] This refers to the man, the one sitting on the bench or in the case of the scripture; God.

 

b. JUDGE, v.i. [L. judico.]  This verb for the most part, is what bible is referring to and primarily to sub definitions #1 and #4.

 

1. To compare facts or ideas, and perceive their agreement or disagreement, and thus to distinguish truth from falsehood.

            Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment John 7:24

 

2. To form an opinion; to bring to issue the reasoning or deliberations of the mind.

            If I did not know the originals, I should not be able to judge, by the copies, which was Virgil and which Ovid.

 

3. To hear and determine, as in causes on trial; to pass sentence. He was present on the bench, but could not judge in the case.

            The Lord judge between thee and me. Gen.16:5

 

4. To discern; to distinguish; to consider accurately for the purpose of forming an opinion or conclusion.

                        "The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment." Psa. 37:30

            Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

            Read 1 Corinthians 6-1-5 we are called to judge others for someday we will judge the angels.  Unless you are willing to Judge others how else can you/we fulfill the mandate in Romans 16:17-18 Amplified Bible (AMP)17 I appeal to you, brethren, to be on your guard concerning those who create dissensions and difficulties and cause divisions, in opposition to the doctrine (the teaching) which you have been taught. [I warn you to turn aside from them, to] avoid them.18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites and base desires, and by ingratiating and flattering speech, they beguile the hearts of the unsuspecting and simpleminded [people]. You must be able to identify, then avoid and or weed out those who are set on causing trouble in the fellowship of God. It is your duty. You cannot do that if you are unwilling to judge others.

 

JUDGE, v.t. To hear and determine a case; to examine and decide. To preside over a legal case, this rules us out. Yet that is what many have a tendency to want to do.

 

JUDG'ER, n. One who judges or passes sentence. Again only God and those whom he appoints to the bench have this authority. The rest of us only have authority to Judge as it pertains to discernment. Yet this is the one that everyone jumps on fast. We will condemn someone sure enough quick and easy without the least bit of biblical backing; just give us half a chance. This is what Christ spoke of in Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

 

            I recommend always judging using the following guidelines:

 

1) Judge using scripture alone. This is RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT!!!

2) If scripture is silent so should we be. Let the Elders of the church deal with the                                                                                                                              B I G issues.

3) Pray for discernment from God

4) Never be disrespectful or degrading

5) Always be truthful and merciful

6) Always judge yourself FIRST

 

            Back to our main text I hope you can see the importance of seeking out the “whole counsel of God.” By picking and choosing what we want to hear, preach, study or teach we are in danger of the very sinful acts that we may be trying to avoid.

 

John Piper [iii]    

has an excellent article on the subject: in it he says: I see three unmistakable implications from this verse:

 

“1. Knowing the Whole Counsel of God Knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven. Look carefully at this and you'll see why I say it like that. You cannot say from verse 27 that a person has to know the whole counsel of God in order to be saved. A person doesn't have to know it! What you can say is that if an elder doesn't teach the whole counsel of God, he may be an accomplice in someone's destruction. And if a person MAY fall short of heaven because of an elder's neglect in teaching the whole counsel of God, then knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven….

 

Why did God elect his bride the church before the foundation of the world? Why did he create the universe and mankind in his image? Why did he permit the fall into sin? Why did he choose the nation of Israel? Why did he give them the law? Why did he have animal sacrifices and a tabernacle? Why did Jesus come into the world? Why did he preach the kingdom of God? Why did he die and rise again. Why did the Holy Spirit come? How is God fulfilling his purpose and counsel today by calling and regenerating and justifying and sanctifying a church from every people and tribe and tongue and nation? How will he bring this age to a close? How should we then live? What is the unified, whole counsel of God that holds all this together and gives it meaning?

 

That is what we ought to be teaching our children—faithfully, systematically, and with so much life and power that the beauty of it shines for them.

 

The first thing to say from verse 27, then, is that knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven. Otherwise Paul would not have said that he is innocent of their blood because he taught them this whole counsel.

 

2. Wanting to Learn the Whole Counsel of God The second thing to say from verse 27 is that people should want to learn the whole counsel of God. Biblical Christians hunger to know the whole counsel of God.

 

This text clearly teaches that elders are deficient and may be guilty of someone's destruction to the degree that they do not declare the whole counsel of God. It must follow that the people of the church are also guilty to the degree that they are not interested in the whole counsel of God. If not teaching it is a sin, then not wanting to be taught it is a sin.

 

So the text clearly implies that Christians should long for the whole counsel of God the way a baby longs for milk. Once you understand this verse, disinterest in the whole counsel of God implies disinterest in the means of salvation. Because the text says that Paul will be innocent if someone fails to be saved, because he gave the fullest means of salvation—the whole counsel of God.

 

3. Courageously Teaching the Whole Counsel of God Finally, the last thing to say about verse 27 is that elders should be courageous in teaching the whole counsel of God.

 

This idea of courage is implied in the phrase, "I did not shrink from declaring to you . . . " This means that there are parts of the whole, unified counsel of God that might make an elder want to shrink back from teaching them. They might be hard to understand. Or they might be uncomplimentary to human pride. Or they might demand radical obedience. And so the elders might be tempted to declare only part of God's counsel—the part that is easy and that they know people especially like. But that would be a shrinking back from declaring the whole counsel of God. It would be cowardice not courage.

 

And that brings us back to the point made at the beginning—obedient life—courageous life in this case—is just as important as accurate doctrine. For Paul the two were inseparable: I did not shrink back—that is, I am a certain kind of person. I declared the WHOLE counsel of God—that is, I taught a certain kind of doctrine. That's what we must aim at together: a courageously obedient kind of person, and a unified, whole counsel of God.”

 

            Piper is so right. It is what the pulpits across America today need, men of courage and conviction to ‘to declare to you the whole counsel of God.’ He is also quite correct in his assessment of what is needed in the pews across America. It is men and women not just “Wanting to Learn the Whole Counsel of God” I dare say DEMANDING to learn the whole counsel of God.

 

            My friends we hear so much about being “fed by the spirit” when folks go looking for a church. As if it is some emotional sensation they must experience each time they are at church building. That is hog wash. There may be a spirit moving upon these churches but it might be the Holy Spirit.

 

            The duty of the Church first and fore most is plainly stated in the Bible. It is to PREACH the Gospel. Romans 10:14 (AMP) But how are people to call upon Him Whom they have not believed [in Whom they have no faith, on Whom they have no reliance]? And how are they to believe in Him [adhere to, trust in, and rely upon Him] of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?

 

            As we have just learned those standing in the pulpit must be preaching the whole counsel of God if the plague that has resulted in ignorance, distortion and deficiency is to be reversed. Is your church “declaring to you the whole counsel of God?” If it is not you need to find another church.

 

In HIS Service

 

Mike  

_______________________

[i] —D. A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit,” in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes, ed. Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson [Crossway, 2007], pp. 177-178; bullets and italics added

[ii] Christianity and Homosexuality by Matt Slick http://www.carm.org/

[iii] John Piper The Guilt of Giving Part of God's Counsel, April 16, 1989 ©2015 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

Road Blocks  Part III

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15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand

 

----- Nehemiah 4:15-23 (ESV) All text ESV unless noted

 

            We continue working our way through Nehemiah Chapter four and the theme of Roadblocks, this week looking at the final verses and the theme of discouragement.

 

            There are many reasons we can become discouraged. I have chosen just a few that the bible lists:

 

Being defeated: Joshua 7:7-9 “And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

 

Heavy Burdens: Numbers 11:10-15 “Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers?13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”

Self-Pity: 1 Kings 19:1-4Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying,“So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

In Sickness Isaiah 38:9-20  A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness: 10 I said, In the middle[a] of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol or the rest of my years. 11 I said, I shall not see the Lord, the Lord in the land of the living; I shall look on man no more among the inhabitants of the world.

            Like everything else God’s word does not leave us hanging. It/He has an answer for everything. IN the case of discouragement there are many answers. Again I have chosen just a few:

We can find strength to overcome the discouragement in Christ. Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Christ provides the peace we need in times of discouragement. John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The power is not in us to deal with discouragement it is found in Christ alone through Grace alone. 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

We must turn to Christ as our example to encourage us in times of discouragement.  Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

            Ok, I hope you can see the pattern. To use a bad phrase even a blind man could. It is all about Christ. As I have stressed from day one in Nehemiah our rebuilding process as crazy as it sounds cannot be about us it must be about God. He through Christ must be the focus if we are to have success.

            Instead of listening to me rattle on I have selected a sermon from William Hughes former Pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church Coconut Creek, FL. 

You can download the file from sermon audio available here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1171293925

 

In HIS Service

 

Mike

Road Blocks   Part II

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7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. 10 In Judah it was said, "The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall." 11 And our enemies said, "They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work. 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, "You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and aroseand said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes. "

- Nehemiah 4:7-14 (ESV) All text ESV unless noted

            We continue working our way through Nehemiah Chapter four and the theme of Roadblocks, this week looking at threats of attack. Next week we will close with verses 15 to 23 where we will see them by way of by way of discouragement.

 

            A reminder as I noted last time ALL Christians have roadblocks, obstacles, trials call them what you may in their lives. James 1:12-13 "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one." Some of these Roadblocks will come from our own making and some as in our text will come from those who oppose us. It is how we react and handle these obstacles that will dictate where our futures lie.

 

             'He pushed me, well he pushed me first, no I didn't.' If you are a parent this may be a battle that has gone on in your home a time or two. The fact is though as believers it is not our earthly siblings or even the humans in a foreign land that we are really at war with. God's word tells us in Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

            That is whom Nehemiah faces attack from in our text. 7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. My point is we should never be surprised that someone wants to attack, that is physically harm us for going about and doing God's work. Note I said going about and doing God's work, this ****assumes**** you are doing something God has called you to do, trained you to do, and sent you to do. I cannot place enough emphasis on this point. There are just to many "Christians" out there doing what they want and calling it God's work. Many of them look good, many of them sound good but a large number of them will one day meet God and he will say to them: Matthew 7:21-23 Amplified Bible (AMP) 21 Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name?23 And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands}.

 

            So what do you do when you find out there is an attack planned? What do you do in a situation like the tragedy on 17 June 2015 at the church in Charleston, S.C.? This can be a difficult topic because to some the bible would seem contradictory. Some verses such as:

 

Proverbs 25:2-22 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

 

Matt 5:39 But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

 

Romans 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

 

            These verses almost make is sound like Christians are meant to be pansies, pushed around by everyone and just have to suck it up and take it. But how do we reconcile that with John 2:15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. That "He" is Jesus, and it sure does not sound like He was turning the other cheek. In fact it sounds like He was the instigator in that action.

 

            Confused yet? Well let's look at the biblical mandate to preserve life; which by the way flies in the face of the Supreme Court decision to legalize murder in the U.S. by calling it abortion. Since that fateful day in 1973 nearly 58 Million murders have been committed in America. More than Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and all the rest of the worst 20th century war criminals and mass murders combined.

 

Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

 

Proverbs 24:11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

 

Ezekiel 33:6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes anyone of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.

            If that was not enough to make the head spin then there are many verses in the Old Testament where God commanded the nation of Israel to completely destroy everyone and everything in the Promise Land. So it is clear, to me at least, that God is not opposed to war, that He is in favor of protecting life, yet it is just as clear He is also completely opposed to unnecessary bloodshed. So what is a man to do when the treat comes like in our text? First, pray and ask God for guidance. This should be our daily task in all things. Look what Nehemiah and his fellow workers did 9 "And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night."  They asked God for the biggest and baddest weapons to nuke their enemies till they glowed. Uh no not exactly they asked God for a guardian to protect them. A watchman if you will to act as guardian. That is the very first thing we need to do is ask God for is help.

 

            Next be a Solomon in these situations and ask for Wisdom. Yeah I know you know it all. NOT! I do not care how rough and tough you once were (or are) in the military, or wherever, remember the guy directing this fight is the devil himself. He maybe six times removed from it all but his evil influence is in there somewhere you can bet on it. So why fight spiritual evil with physical might? To use an expression from a movie (can't remember which now) that is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Pray and ask God for wisdom to defeat your enemies in the battle to come.

 

            Then you must be prepared. I do not want to sound like a dooms day prepper but those days are coming maybe not in my lifetime; but surely in my children's or grandchildren's lives. Would you enter the court room with no plan, no defense just a dumb look on your face? Of course you would not. Be prepared for the fight to come. Have a plan what are you going to do if a fight comes your way.
How are you going to respond? How are you going to protect your family, your home?

 

            Arm yourself. Not only do we have Nehemiah in our text 12 "At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, '"'"You must return to us," 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows." We can also look to Jesus in the New Testament who calls on the disciples to arm themselves: Luke 22:35-38 And he said to them, '"'When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." 36 He said to them!' "But. now let the one who has a moneybag take it!' and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors/ For what is written about me has its fulfillment:" 38 And they said, "Looh, Lord, here are two suiords." And he said to them!' "It is enough,"

 

            Arming yourself is a fool's errand if you are not properly trained. King
David u
nderstood this
Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war!' and my fingers for battle. In the New Testament we see 2 Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. While this verse is obviously speaking of the use of scripture I do not feel it to far a stretch to imply that as we find in 1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink!' or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. That is if we are going to arm ourselves we must do so in a way that Glorifies God by being properly trained with our weapon of choice. I know folks who insist on owing a "Dirty Harry" .44 Magnum revolver. "The most powerful handgun in the world", well not anymore but it will still break your wrist if you do not know what you are doing. Not much help for self-defense then. A well-aimed .22 Magnum with a 30 round clip can do just as much damage, is easier to handle and holds a lot more affordable ammo, just a consideration.

 

            In closing it would be thoughtless of me if I failed to note that it is wrong to admire "viciousness men." I am not advocating nor do I believe the bible teaches violence but preparedness. The bible clearly tells us to be humble, slow to anger and not to esteem violence:

 

Proverbs 3:31-32 Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, 32 for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence.

 

Proverbs 1:16 for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.

 

            I believe however you can see there is clear biblical mandate for men to protect themselves, their families and property. We must nevertheless understand and never forget who the Commander-In-Chief of our Army is. God, He alone has the authority to issue the order to attack. Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

 

            Again let us look to Nehemiah in the last verse of our text 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes." Nehemiah got it. He knew the battle could only be won if he (we) depend upon the Lord to deliver the victory.

 

            The grand lesson in all this is not that the bible condemns this or condones that. It is that apart from fellowship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, you (we) will be facing spiritual/fed physical attacks alone. As prepared as you may think you are, you will never be prepared enough. Would you not prefer to go into battle wearing the Full Armor of God? You can because God offers it as a benefit of His free gift of Salvation. If he is calling upon your heart tonight please acknowledge you are lost in a world of sin, needing the work of Christ at Calvary to rescue you from eternal damnation. Make Christ the Lord of your life tonight and that armor is yours to keep.

 

 

In HIS Service

Mike

 

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Four out of ten “Christians” (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan.

Although a core teaching of the Christian faith is the divinity and perfection of Jesus Christ, tens of millions of Christians do not accept that teaching. More than one-fifth (22%) strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, with an additional 17% agreeing somewhat. Holding the opposing view were 9% who disagreed somewhat and 46% who disagreed strongly. Six percent did not have an opinion on this matter.

Much like their perceptions of Satan, most Christians do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force, either. Overall, 38% strongly agreed and 20% agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.” Just one-third of Christians disagreed that the Holy Spirit is not a living force (9% disagreed somewhat, 25% disagreed strongly) while 9% were not sure.  © The Barna Group, Ltd, 2009.

             As the above reference shows we in America have lost our understanding of biblical truths. These truths fall under the doctrine of Sanctification, the biblical term for being set apart by God to God for the purpose of growing on Grace. This is also known as maturing in the faith.

            Today I would like to look at what someone else termed the Seven Pillars of Biblical Truth1. I came across these seven truths and their corresponding verses sometime back on the internet and copied them down as a reminder to me. Unfortunately I forgot to copy the source.

            The first is Pillar is in my opinion the most significant as it states:

[1] I copied this title for an unknown source. I found this on the web some time ago and failed to cite the source not thinking I would use it as a sermon. I have made and attempt to keep the original 7 pillars and their corresponding verses intact and easily identifiable. If anyone recognizes the text and can cite where it comes from please inform me.

 1) Our God is True

So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us - - - - Hebrews 6:18

            Our God has to be true not just some of time but all the time. This is so essential for His word also says:

Isaiah 45:6-7 That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

This denial of this basic biblical truth is a leading cause in the failing of evangelical churches in America today. Listen to what Rev. Jim Flowers is rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Mobile, AL has to say about God:

God does not have a plan. I have always bristled at the phrase "God has a plan." It is often said with all good intentions to calm one's fears, but for me, it has always been unnerving, an insidious, false sense of security. The thought of God as a dogmatic** cosmic puppeteer, a God of prescriptive design, evokes serious questions as to the problem of evil and violence in the world, the disparity between wealth and power and the lack thereof, the dispossession and suffering of innocent millions. If God has a plan … it ain't working.

God doesn't have a plan. Instead, God is like a jazz musician, as it were, improvising creation into being, making it up as God goes, open to imaginative possibility, playing artfully the music of creation anew.

                        Whom do you wish to follow? A God who is in complete control? A God who numbers the very hairs on your head? Or a God who is at a loss for what is happening today in the world and can only react to the problems and do the best he can.

            Let me tell you folks the choice for me is simple I have no desire or intention of bowing down to someone who has no more power or control over things than me. Our God must be in control which means He must be True.

** Dogmatic is a term defined in secular world as bigoted, suborn, unyielding, intolerant or narrow minded. Yet I would assert the most dogmatic man to ever live was Christ Jesus

2)  Our Conversion must be True

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me      - - - John 14:6

            As I Said above very dogmatic don’t you think? No one, no way except through me?

There is an old saying up in Maine “Ya can’t get there from he-ar” Neither can all these so called modern age evangelicals with their watered down version of the Gospel.

            They are what the bible warns us against:

2 Peter 2:1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

1 John 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

            Take note where the deceivers of the good news will come from. That’s right from within the church. A little knowledge in the hands of the wrong people is a dangerous thing. It will lead to a false Gospel messages being spread.

            My own conversion story covers an 18 year period. In 1980 I went forward to an alter call because a Baptist pastor told me if I came forward and said a special prayer I could avoid hell. Well hell did not sound like any place I wanted to be; so forward I went. Was I converted, saved, No! I had no sense of duty to God. No commitment to change.

That well-intentioned preacher only told part of the story. He played the get out of hell card but failed to mention the Lord of your Life clause. That came 18 years later when I had slumped to the lows of life and God in His mercy and Grace pulled me from the miry muck.

            In Tim Challises’ blog (18 Apr 2015) he quotes John MacArthur who looks at Mark 4 and says:  This is a critical lesson, by the way, to all evangelical manipulators and clever marketers who think they can make people believe. No human being no matter how persuasive, no matter how clever, makes a contribution to regeneration, conversion or justification. All we can do is give the truth. We can’t change hearts and we can’t produce life from dead people. That’s something the Lord alone does. “No man comes to me except the Father draws him.” And once He begins to draw him, then it’s the blade, then it’s the ear, then it’s the full grain. It needs to be drummed into the heads and hearts of all Christians who have been seduced by the contemporary lies, that if we just get better at marketing the gospel, we can be more convincing and we can convince people to be saved. Just tell the truth {and people will be converted}.

            The test for true conversion is simple, Conviction of Sin, if a person sins are they convicted of that sin? Or do they just ignore it and laugh it off like they always have and the rest of the world continues to do? To me that is the easiest way to tell a true conversion.

3) Our Beliefs are based on Truth

For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. (Jesus speaking)   - - - John 17:8 

Christ Himself testifies that Gad the Father gave Him (God the Son) {Same God Same Person ALL Part of the Trinity} the very words to speak to His followers.

The same is factual for all of scripture it is of and by God. Yes it was penned by men but under direct inspiration of God in the form of the Holy Spirit. Read with me:

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

2 Peter 1:20  Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.

4)  Our Worship is based in Truth

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth -- John 4:24

Listen it may seem obvious to those with even an inkling of common sense but you just cannot get on the same level plane with God, at least physically speaking. Yet that is exactly what many have tried to do with the worshiping of graven images and beasts of burden and such.  Many forget the preceding verse John 4:23 reads:

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

            The hour is now and God is looking for a few Good Folks. But just like the US Marine Corps, our God is a bit picky and is not about to take just anybody. No the bible clearly says HE is seeking those, who will worship Him in spirit and truth.

            No God calls us to worship Him in true spirit, and spiritual truth. They cannot be separated. The rich ruler in Luke 18 or Ananias, with Sapphira in Acts 5 are both certain examples of NOT following this principle.

5)  Our Walk must be in Truth

O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;              - - - - PS 15:1-2

            Ok, I get it this one is a tough one because we all know we are but sinners saved by Grace. Yet even though we are destined to sin again we are not compelled to live a life of deceit. Walking blamelessly does not necessarily mean without sin. I am certain I have a few of you confused so let me try and clear things up.

            First look at 1st Peter:

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation    - - - - 1 Peter 2:12

            Now there is no way to do that apart from the power of God working in you.

2 Peter 2:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence                       

He has given you all things that pertain to Holiness, which does not mean we will always use them at the proper moment. Hopefully even after we have sinned the holiness kicks in and we repent, ask forgiveness of those we have offended, make restitution as needed, etc. None of which we would have done apart from Christ. That is what I meant by our walk may have moments of sin but still be in truth.

6)  Our Conversations must be true

            Considering the fall of mankind was predicated upon a lie Gen 3: 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely dieI for one would think it wise for mankind to abstain from the practice. The bible clearly tells us we should always practice truthfulness in all our speech.

Proverbs 18:20-21 From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Matthew 15:11 It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another                                                                                 - - - -Eph 4:25

1 Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

            During my research I came across this illustration and I could not resist using it, I hope you get it:

In the early 1900s George Riddell acquired the sensational London newspaper The News of the World. Meeting British journalist Frederick Greenwood one day, Riddell mentioned that he owned a newspaper, told Greenwood its name, and offered to send him a copy. The next time they met, Riddell asked Greenwood what he thought of The News.

"I looked at it and then I put it in the wastepaper basket," said Greenwood, "and then I thought, 'If I leave it there the cook may read it,' so I burned it." Today in the Word, November 3, 1993.

            Not only does God require of us that our tongue speak no evil but our pen must not write any either.  Ask yourself does what I am about to write Glorify God? If not, it DOES NOT belong on paper.

            But the Bible not only warns against false speaking it warns against those who would suppress truthful speech. This should be very familiar to anyone who has seen the shift in the geo social political climate in America the last 10-20 years.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness   - - - - - Romans 1:18

7)  Our Proclamations must be true

Henry Augustus Rowland, professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University, was once called as an expert witness at a trial. During cross-examination a lawyer demanded, "What are your qualifications as an expert witness in this case?"

The normally modest and retiring professor replied quietly, "I am the greatest living expert on the subject under discussion." Later a friend well acquainted with Rowland's disposition expressed surprise at the professor's uncharacteristic answer. Rowland answered, "Well, what did you expect me to do? I was under oath." Today in the Word, August 5, 1993.

What too many may seem like arrogant boasting was in fact biblical. Professor Rowland was at the time considered by most the ultimate expert in the field of physics. His answer while brash was truthful. We too must be ready at all times to give an answer in nearly the same manner.

            Let me explain. A somewhat more acceptable answer from the Professor might have been ‘I am considered by my peers and colleagues the greatest living expert on the subject under discussion’. This way the truth is presented without you sounding boastful.

            But the real message in this pillar is not to be humble. It is that all of us, each and every Born Again, Converted, Sanctified believer has a duty to share the Gospel and to do so in a truthful way.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  - - - - 2 Tim 2:15

Less you think you are exempt from this because you are not a preacher, think again. The great commission puts you in the club folks.

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

            To whom was Jesus speaking? Many think to the Apostles alone, but this is incorrect. He was in fact speaking to His disciples and if you are a follower of Christ you too are a disciple and this commission is for you.

            Now the Bible is full of cautions and warnings and this is no different. For those of you would be teachers, preachers and the like listen up:

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.  - - - Romans 2:6-8

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.    - - - - Hebrews 13:17

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.    - - -  James 3:1

            It is my prayer that you will be able to use these seven pillars as a guide to help you in your Spiritual growth with Christ. The key to that growth is and always will be biblical truths.

            My closing illustration comes from Our Daily Bread:

The story is told of a young girl who accepted Christ as her Savior and applied for membership in a local church. "Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your Life?" inquired an old deacon. "Yes, sir," she replied. "Well, are you still a sinner?" "To tell you the truth, I feel I'm a greater sinner than ever." "Then what real change have you experienced?" "I don't quite know how to explain it," she said, "except I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved. I'm a sinner running from sin!" she was received into the fellowship of the church, and she proved by her consistent life that she was truly converted.

            I would encourage you today to make that commitment to God. If the Holy Spirit has pricked your heart with the guilt of your sins, confess them now making Christ Lord of your Life.

In HIS Service

Mike

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First preached at Bayside Baptist Church, Lakeshore MS, 19 April 2015

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PRAYING PART FOUR

5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.

7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

11 O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

Nehemiah 1:5-11

 

            Last time we began our look at Nehemiah’s actual prayer, with an eye towards its meeting our previous analysis of prayer.  We got through two topics last time, 1) Only God (that is the God of the Bible) is worthy of our prayers and 2) we must always acknowledge our humble state when we pray.

            Today we will explore the final two points of Nehemiah’s prayer, 1) His prayer was and our prayer must; be founded upon hope and 2) we must pray with faithful expectation. While at first glance these two may seem similar I hope to show their significant and important differences.

 

1)  Prayers must be founded upon hope  

Verse 8-9   Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

            It may seem obvious but I think it may be helpful if I first define the word “HOPE”.  Hope has come to mean the following:

noun

1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

            Note the uncertainty of the matter, it is a feeling and desire

2. Grounds for believing that something good may happen.

            Again uncertainty; it may happen as in "he does see some hope for the future"

 

Now the classic or dare I say biblical definition is quite different. Although considered “Archaic” or out of fashion it is: a sense of trust or confident expectation

 

            You can see the modern translation is one of uncertainty a feeling without foundation as in wishful thinking. The biblical definition conveys conviction. It is in that manner Nehemiah prayed to God.

            Look with me what he prayed;

1) He implores God to remember

2) To remember His promise to the Israelites

3) That even though they had been disobedient and scattered abroad

4) If they repented He was powerful enough to gather them

5) Gather them not just anywhere but in Jerusalem

            Nehemiah points out that God had made certain promises and Nehemiah expected God to honor them. Should we expect anything less? I dare say no, for why pray to God if you do not trust Him to hear your prayers and more importantly be capable of fulfilling them.

            Our hope today is the same as Nehemiah’s. God has promised us just as He did the Israelites. Yet our Hope is founded upon something greater than that of those of Nehemiah’s time, our Hope is still in God but founded upon Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;  I hope you see it is still God where our Hope lies, it is just founded upon Christ and His work at Calvary.   Psalm 130:5 reiterates this: I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

            Our hope stands in stark contrast to that of the wicked (those without Christ):

 

Prov 10:28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish

            Our hope brings joy

Prov 11:7 When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.

            The unrighteous only hope is death

Prov 11:23 The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath

            Believers desire (hope in) good things the sinner in evil

Prov 23:18 Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

            Our hope is in a future that cannot be taken away          

 

2)  Pray with faithful expectation

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

 

You need not utterly despair even of those who for the present "turn again and rend you." For if all your arguments and persuasives fail, there is yet another remedy left, and one that is frequently found effectual, when no other method avails. This is prayer. Therefore, whatsoever you desire or want, either for others or for your own soul, "Ask, and it shall be given you." -- JOHN WESLEY

 

 

Elijah prayed to God for rain and then sent his servant to see if there was any sign of it (1 Kings 18:41–46). He sent his servant seven times—Elijah had great expectation in God! Expectant prayer conquers discouragement and waits upon the Lord. James 1:6–7 tells us to ask with unwavering faith. http://www.joelbeeke.org/author/jrbeeke/

            We have discussed many times that one must pray in a manner that honors God and acknowledges His authority and control in all matters. Praying in such a manner that imposes your will upon God, (belief things will always work out as you planned), that just by asking God He will remove all troubles in your life or asking God for proof He is with you, are all recipes for prayer disaster.

            Everyone who prays does so with expectations at some level. These prayers are either founded on Worldly Expectations or Righteous Expectations. Righteous expectations start with:

            1) God’s sovereignty - Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

            2) Obedience - Joshua 1:7-9 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success

            3) Faith - Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

            4) Confidence - 1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

            I like what R.C. Sproul says on the matter:

We can take comfort from the fact that God knows our hearts and hears our unspoken petitions more than the words that emanate from our lips. Whenever we are unable to express the deep feelings and emotions of our souls or when we are completely unclear about what it is for which we ought to be praying, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Romans 8:26-27 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” When we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for in a given situation, the Holy Spirit assists us. There is reason to believe from the text that if we pray incorrectly, the Holy Spirit corrects the error in our prayers before he takes them before the Father, for verse 27 tells us that he “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”     Excerpt from Does Prayer Change Things?  by R.C. Sproul

            Let us look back on Nehemiah’s prayer a moment:

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

            By declaring himself and those in Jerusalem God’s redeemed Nehemiah has a righteous expectation of God hearing these prayers of His people.

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

            Humbly but with confidence Nehemiah asks God to look favorably upon his prayer. The end of which is so significant but many miss it.

I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

            Note what Nehemiah asks for, mercy from the King of Persia. Nehemiah did not ask amiss. He pleaded with God to look favorably upon him not by building him up but by changing the heart of his captor. In essence Nehemiah prayed God use this pagan to bring about your will. There was no ego involved here, no vengeance against those who had oppressed God’s people, no self in this at all. Instead Nehemiah prayed for God to bring glory upon himself by using a pagan King to do God’s bidding. That my friend’s is a righteous prayer, it is a God centered prayer. Only with God centered prayers do we have a faithful expectation of being answered.

            I will close by citing part of an article by noted author and Pastor Derek Thomas. He expresses 4 points in the article and I will only quote the final.

How can we ensure that our prayers are God-centered? Consider the following five-step strategy:

1. Remind yourself that there is only one God in the universe, and that you are not Him.

2. Adoration comes first, before confession, thanksgiving, or supplication. Worship the Lord in your praying.

3. Read a psalm before you pray, and attempt to emulate what you find: a preoccupation with God in all His multifaceted nature. Find psalms of joy or grief, praise or lament, and note how the psalmist spends time with God, making Him the center of his thoughts and desires.

4. Learn to love God’s names so that saying and repeating them fills you with an inexpressible joy, a reminder of who He is and His covenant faithfulness to you in the gospel of His grace.

5. Learn to “wait” upon the Lord. Watch how the psalmist, “fainting” as he thinks of his own troubles, finds relief by deliberately focusing on the great things God has done:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds (Ps. 77:11–12). http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/god-centered-prayer/

 

Until next time may God watch over and protect you.

 

In HIS Service

 

 Trials or Tribulations?

 

            Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I thought it a good opportunity to reflect again upon what many Christians refer to as trials and tribulations.

 

            I have heard and read from many with illness, financial woes, the incarcerated and those with a variety of other problems that they must endure the tribulations that they are going through. That they can with God’s help deal with these great present tribulations, While the sentiments are nice they are somewhat lacking in biblical standing.

 

            As much as I can understand their feelings, I must first caution them that Biblical tribulations are always something one endures for the sake of Christ. Tribulation always equals suffering via persecution.  Even Nehemiah’s situation was not one of tribulation. A trial certainly, but true persecution for God; I think not.

 

            As we learned last week Nehemiah was living as an outcast in the land of his captors. Yet as the King’s cup bearer and trusted servant of the court his life could hardly be described as one of suffering. Although he has a lofty position in the court of King Artaxerxes, he is as a prisoner. He could only do what the King ordered and allowed. He may have been trusted but as we have seen in Ester the Persians probably did not approve of his high post. Finally he is a Jew in a pagan nation much like we all are as Christians in the World today.  Nehemiah must have been in daily conflict. To live as a Jew was greatly different than that of a Persian.

 

            The lesson from last week is this; most Christians today, like Nehemiah, go through trails in their lives. Some are brought upon themselves by illegal, immoral or unethical actions. While others through no direct action of their own (illness, injury, work cut backs, etc.) have equally challenging trials.

 

            I want to take a minute or two to expand on this for a moment. Verse one says:

 

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

 

            Do you remember why Nehemiah was in Shushan and not say Bethlehem? He was there as a direct result of the actions of his forefathers. They had broken God’s law and there was a price to pay for such actions. Listen even though Nehemiah was not one of those who had broken God’s law that led to the Babylonians conquering and enslaving the nation of Judah in 586 B.C. he must endure the consequences.

 

              Illegal actions that lead to our imprisonment have consequences not only for us but for our families and friends. While prison is not a fun time for anyone and can certainly be a trial in that it tests us in many ways it cannot be considered a time of tribulation. After all (in most every case) you put yourself there.

 

 

            Marital problems due to infidelity while trying are not a time of tribulation. Nor is the aftermath that while trying and seemingly under persecution (high alimony) again it is a problem of your own making.  Laziness that leads to financial woes cannot be blamed on the economy or anyone else. A man that will not work (at any legal job) to feed his family is not a real man in my book. Immoral acts such as gambling and drinking that lead to family, financial and health issues cannot be described as times of tribulation. Trying yes, but that is everyday life in a fallen and depraved world.

 

            There are many in the world today who face real tribulation. Who daily are persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus.  We in America are blessed that true persecution has not reached our shores. But be forewarned that day is coming. The actions of a misguided mayor in Houston and the passing of Hate Crime legislation making it seemingly illegal to speak out biblically against abortion, sexual orientation, same sex marriage etc. are bringing the day ever closer.

 

            For real Tribulations in the life of Christians today Voice of the Martyrs is one of the best sites for information. I gleaned the following from a long list:  

 

Egypt - Akhom, was shot during an attack on his Christian neighborhood. VOMedical will help him get the treatment he needs.

 

India - House Destroyed an Orissa victim sits amid what used to be her home. “We are waiting for the next riot. We do not know where it will happen. We know this was a warning, not an end.”

 

India - Imprisoned Indian pastors are imprisoned for their evangelical activity.

 

India - Four young Dalit pastors in India - Shivashankar, Ramiah, Yesuraj and Jeevan - were beaten by Hindu radicals and police and imprisoned. We assisted in their release from the Karnataka jail. They have returned to Bible study and ministry!

 

Indonesia - Before Christmas bulldozers were sent by the Muslim government of Tangerang County to destroy five church buildings.

 

Indonesia - Police tried to protect Christians of the Batak church, but two of the church’s pastors, including Pastor Purba (in the red tie), were beaten by the mob in August 2010. One banner carried by radicals during the protest read, “The Muslim community rejects the building of a church in Mustika Jaya.”

 

Iraq - In 2011, militant Muslims burst into Afanan’s home in Iraq. They locked Afanan and her two children in a room while they tortured her husband. The family was forced to listen to his cries until they ended with a fatal gunshot. VOM is supporting this widow and her children.

 

Laos - Somchi, a young Khmu woman, handed us an unusual package — a burned Bible in a plastic bag. The Bible was still wet from the rain, but we separated and dried the pages. Somchi has underlined many scriptures in her Bible. The most underlined section was around I Cor 9:19. She put a blue asterisk by this verse.

 

Nigeria - Seyi was hit with a machete several times and almost burned to death during Muslim rioting in Nigeria.

 

Nigeria - Monica was attacked by Islamic radicals in July and has already had four surgeries. She is due for another one.

 

Nigeria - Godwin lost his arm in an attack by local Muslims. VOM provided him with a prosthetic arm.

 

Pakistan - When Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gojra, Pakistan, in 2009, Christians used a cart as a strecher to transport the injured.

 

Vietnam - Pastor Cong’s home was destroyed by local authorities.

 

Vietnam - Who can forget the stunning photo we printed of Vietnamese secret police officers swinging a club at a member of Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang’s Mennonite Church in August 2006? About 50 police officers swarmed the grounds of the house church, beating congregants with nightsticks, nunchucks and electric cattle prods. Pastor Quang was arrested. Today, Pastor Quang, released from prison, is operating a Bible school. Currently, 47 young Vietnamese and tribal youth are studying in the three-year program. The course teaches them a thorough understanding of the Bible, how to use a computer, how to establish a church and qualifies them to serve in full-time ministry. Oh, and secret police are still coming by his church and home.

 

India - VOM helped a woman after Hindu radicals beat her husband and burned her Bible. Christians are attacked in India more frequently than in any other country.

 

            For a look at real persecution and tribulation in the lives of Christians today I recommend you watch the following video. Afterwards ask yourself are you ready to answer the call of God? Are you truly a Christian?

http://www.persecution.com/idop       Leana’s Prayer

In HIS Service

Conversion

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything.

9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

1 Thessalonians1:8-9

    In 1980 I went forward to an alter call after listening to the pleas of a preacher telling me of the horrors of Hell. I was smart enough to understand that Hell was a place I wanted no part of. If, my going forward and saying some small prayer was all it took to avoid it I was all for that.

    Sound familiar to anyone? It should, in the intervening years I have met hundreds of if not thousands who say, “Yeah that’s how I got saved”. Really because I am here to tell you I was not saved that day. The only thing I accomplished was appeasing my conscience for the next 16 years while I ran amuck in direct defiance of God.

    I am not saying this is true for everyone. No I am just pointing out that going forward at an alter call and praying a prayer is not what converts you. It is God and His Grace working through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that brings about a true conversion. My experience in 1980 was all about me, “I” made the decision because “I” did not like the sounds of hell. Hear anything missing from that process? How about God?

    So far we have spoken about the first three steps in the Order of Salvation. They are: 1) Election, we are chosen of God 2) Effectual Calling; God’s call is always effective 3) Regeneration or Rebirth, where God changes our heart from that of desiring evil to desiring Him. Today we will look at Conversion.

    In its simplest terms Conversion means turning from one thing to another. In context of the scripture above the Apostle Paul says Biblical Conversion is turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Biblical conversion demands a change. That change is brought about by a two-step process, repentance and faith. It is only after we have been given a new heart (regenerated) that we are capable of and desire to respond by acknowledging our sins, confessing them before God and trusting in Christ and Lord and Savior.

Tim Challies, whose Visual Theology we have been using as our outline says of Conversion: We willingly respond to the Gospel call, repenting of sin and placing faith in Christ for Salvation.

    As noted this part of the Ordo Salutis involves two key components; repentance and faith. While two completely separate ideas repentance and faith are inseparably linked in the process of Salvation. Both must be preached so much so in fact John Calvin stated one could not call men to Christ by separating them.

Repentance

John Murray said: The question has been discussed: which is prior, faith or repentance? It is an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other is futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance...It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 113).

The Westminster Confession emphasizes the importance of preaching repentance as well as faith: Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ. By it a sinner, out of sight and sense, not only of danger, but also of filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XV, Sections I and II. Cited in A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), p. 210).

Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines Repentance in this manner:

There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance.

(1.) The verb _metamelomai_ is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Matt. 27:3).

(2.) Metanoeo, meaning to change one's mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with (3) the cognate noun _metanoia_, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.

Evangelical repentance consists of

(1) a true sense of one's own guilt and sinfulness;

(2) an apprehension of God's mercy in Christ;

(3) an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God; and

(4) a persistent endeavor after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments.

The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4).

    I like the definition by William Webster I found online: Repentance means turning from sin. It does not mean a mere acknowledgment of sin or remorse, but a turning from it with a purpose to forsake it altogether.

    In closing out this section I would like to quote from William S. Plumer D.D. (Theology for the People or Biblical Doctrine Plainly Stated, Chap XX Section III):

True Repentance is not a transient (or short-lived) act of the mind nor a temporary emotion. (as my alter call experience was) It is a glorious habit of the soul. It implies a fixed principle in the renewed mind. It is the hypocrite and self-deceiver who repent and sin, sin and repent. Genuine repentance produces a permanent change in men’s characters.

In Section IV Plumer states: Two kinds of repentance are often spoken of, legal and evangelical. In legal repentance the motives are chiefly drawn from the law and the consequences of sin (again my alter call experience). In evangelical repentance they are drawn from the gospel and the nature if sin. The latter would turn from sin, if there were no hell; the former would sin on, if there was no fear of wrath. The goodness of God leads the latter to repentance; but the former despises the riches of His goodness and forbearance (or mercy) and long-suffering. Rom 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

    No evidence of change equals no genuine repentance. Salvation demands genuine repentance. When it is genuine it is always the work of the Holy Spirit not of man and always results in true saving faith.

    So what is “Faith”? I think Martian Luther’s excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 gives us excellent insight:

Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either.

Instead, faith is God’s work in us that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

    If I ask you where the bible defines faith most every believer will quote Hebrews 11:1. But I believe the definition begins back Chapter 10 verse 38:

38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

    Can you see the connection? The first word in Hebrews 11 is “Now” it is a conjunction, same as But, Moreover, Furthermore, etc. It requires us to connect the preceding verse(s) to what we are reading now. So what is saving faith? It is the foundation (substance) of our belief (hope) the proof (evidence) that God is real. It is so sure a foundation that those who have it can never lose (fall back) into eternal damnation (perdition).

    The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) was composed in the city of Heidelberg, Germany, at the request of Elector Frederick III, who ruled the province of the Palatinate from 1559 to 1576. The new catechism was intended as a tool for teaching young people, a guide for preaching in the provincial churches, and a form of confessional unity among the several Protestant factions in the Palatinate. It is still appropriate today for those same purposes.

Q & A 21

What is true faith? A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; 1it is also a wholehearted trust,2 which the Holy Spirit creates in me3 by the gospel,4 that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also,5 forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.6 These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.7

1 John 17:3, 17; Heb. 11:1-3; James 2:19

2 Rom. 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb. 4:14-16

3 Matt. 16:15-17; John 3:5; Acts 16:14

4 Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21

5 Gal. 2:20

6 Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:10

7 Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10

Q & A 22

What then must a Christian believe? A. All that is promised us in the gospel, 1a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

1 Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:30-31

Probably the most often quoted New Testament verse referring to repentance is 2 Cor 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

    But the most prolific references are found in the book of Acts. I have listed a few below.

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted , that your sins may be blotted out , when the times ofrefreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me

Going back to our initial text we read:

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything.

9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

1 Thessalonians1:8-9

I would like to close with this thought. Verse 9 as we saw defines conversion but I would be remiss if I failed to point out what Paul notes in verse 8. Just as conversion demands repentance and faith to be complete. The completed act of conversion demands action on the part of those converted. Paul says you sounded out the word of the Lord that is you shared the Gospel of Christ. Not just in a few places but in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad, that is, everywhere you go.

Next week we will look at part V Justification. Until then may God greatly bless you and yours.

In HIS Service