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

 

Finding Favor

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5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.

6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

7 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;

8 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Nehemiah 2:5-8

            When last we met we looked at the first four verses of Chapter two which I had entitled “Carpe Diem or Seize the Day”.  It is my hope that everyone got the message that when God provides the opportunity for us we must not be gripped by fear but by courage and Seize that occasion for God’s glory.

            As you will see in as our study continues Nehemiah was very good at seizing the circumstance God so graciously provided. He patiently waited on the Lord but when He opened doors Nehemiah did not hesitate to stick his foot in there. So to must we, as we set about rebuilding the brokenness in our lives be patient but ever ready to plant our foot securely in the opening(s) God delivers?

            Like anything else in life; when those doors open there is a correct (righteous) and wrong (unrighteous) way to proceed. I for one am like a bull in a china closet. Yes sir, a type “A” personality pedal to the metal kind of guy. For sure it has gotten me in some trouble over the years. I thank God I am learning to slow down some (yeah, getting older is having something to do with it). But mostly it is God working in me to correct my faults.

            I often joke that for some folks God needed a 2x4 upside the head to bring them around well for me it was a 6x6. There are days when I bet He wishes He used a 10x10. That is why I have entitled this sermon “Finding Favor”. When the time comes to enter the path God has put before you, you must do so with a proper attitude. One that will find favor with those you encounter along the way and of course with God too.

            Look at verse 5 with me again. Nehemiah says And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. Twice Nehemiah asks “if”, if it please the king and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight.  I thought Nehemiah was a trusted servant of the King why is he asking “if”? It is because Nehemiah understands his position in life, at that moment in time. Although a trusted servant he is in fact a servant and slave and to ask otherwise would be presumptuous (arrogantly bold) and he would be asking amiss.

            Let me chase a rabbit for a moment. Far too often today I hear of preachers saying (in print, radio and TV) that we have this power of faith and we have no need to ask God if. That is “if it be your will Lord”.  They would have us cast a seeming magic spell by claiming things in Jesus’s name. That is unbiblical; somehow these men and women feeding this garbage to the masses have forgotten to read “The Book”. For in my bible I find Jesus at Gethsemane where He prays Matt 26:3942  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done. Listen “if” it was good enough for Jesus the living God to pray and ask “if”; you better believe it is good enough for you and me. Further who are you to claim things in Jesus’s name? Are you sinless and able to pay back that marker?

            Ok, back to our text. Let us explore the means by which we find favor with God and Man. I believe there are FIVE (5) essential elements of finding favor with God and man. They are prayer, obedience, humility, diligence and sensibility.

            Psalm 90 is in fact a prayer. In fact many bibles have a heading at its beginning defining it as a prayer of Moses. Moses acknowledges that God is there refuge or hope, that he is Glorious and the creator of all, eternal and powerful. That is we, his children, must be willing to be taught by Him.  It is the final verse that stands out as Moses closes with; PS 90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Moses calls upon God to find favor in their work. Not because their work is so good but because it is in fact the work God ordains or establishes and they wish it to be pleases to Him. Prayer is essential to all we do, never more so than if we desire to find favor in the sight of God and Man.

            Prayers are of no help if we are in a state of disobedience (sin).  Proverbs 3:1-4 tells us My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments: 2 For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.  3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Note what is says if we wish to find favor we must keep God’s commandments not just some, not just the ones we find easy or agree with, no all of them. I know, I know that is impossible. True but it is what every true believer strives for daily; to be perfect in the Lord.

            Next we read in Proverbs 3:33-35: The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. 34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. 35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace. One of the things I see most often in today’s society is the attitude that I am on equal footing with everyone else. Folks I am here to tell you that is simply a lie. A private in the Army is in no way equal to his squad leader never mind the company commander. It’s called the chain of command for a reason. A person living in South Central Los Angeles has in no way equal financial footing as a person living in Beverly Hills. Obviously one has inherent advantages over the other. An inmate is on no way on equal footing with a guard. It should be obvious but I constantly see inmates mouthing off like they are completely equal. While the private, the kid from South Central and inmates may have some advantages (knowledge, health or a relationship with Christ) over the others they are still disadvantaged in many ways. It is here that this verse speaks to us.

            We must be willing to humble ourselves before God and Man is we wish to secure favor from God. This is a no brainer there is no better example than of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:5-8; Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. It may seem simplistic but if Christ could humble Himself for me it’s the least I can do towards Him.

          We must diligent seek God and Mans favor. Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. In today’s society if you mention this most folks think your nuts. “I do not care what others think of me” is an often heard quote. But it is totally unbiblical for a Christian. We should be very concerned what others think of us. Oh not in the sense that they think we are crazy to be a believer but in the sense that they think of us as a person. Our actions as seen by others are a BIG part of our witness for Christ. How many times after you have done something and heard “and I thought you were a Christian” or “and you call yourself a Christian”. I know we have all heard it undeservedly but I for one have had that comment justifiably leveled at me more than one time. Just as importantly we must not be shocked or offended if we cannot find favor simply because of our faith.

            Noah is a great example of this. The language of Genesis 6:8 gives us insight into Noah’s character. “Found” is a simple active perfect verb, not a passive one. Thus, Noah found favor—grace—in God’s eyes because he was diligent that is actively looking for it. He diligently worked at his standing with God. So should we.

            Common or good sense is another thing I find lacking today. People do the dumbest things. If you have driven anywhere lately cell phones are a HUGE problem. Last fall I rounded a corner on our motorcycle and there was a car backing up at full pedal to the metal because they missed the turn into the Gas station. Of course they were taking on the phone. I was blessed and avoided the collision but a friend was not so fortunate and his bike was nearly totaled in a similar incident. What were these folks thinking? The answer is they were not thinking.

            Another sensible thing I see absent amongst so called believers is a lack of understanding there position. Working hand in hand with a lack of humility is this attitude of “Entitlement”. We make demands upon God and others because we feel we deserve to be _______________ you fill in the blank. Really, who am I to make demands on God that is the all-powerful, all-knowing and ever present God of all? It makes no sense.

            In Proverbs 13:14-16 we find: The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death. 15 Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin. 16 In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. In all things we need to be asking ourselves does doing this make sense. For a Christian that means does it Glorify God and edify others. If not why are you even thinking of it?

            In closing I am not advocating you become some push over. Nor am I suggesting that you should be overly concerned about pleasing everyone. I am however strongly encouraging you to diligently seek to find favor (approval) with God and mam as you work to rebuild your future. That means praying, obeying His commands, humbling ourselves before him and those he has appointed over us. In short doing what is right and sensible to His glory.

            In HIS Service.

Response to Brokenness Continued

 

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PRAYER PART 1

 

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

           

            Nehemiah 1:4

 

            Remembering that we defined Brokenness as the state which man is not living as God intended.  We continue our series on Nehemiah this week by continuing to look at Nehemiah’s and hopefully our Response to Brokenness.

 

             A quick review, Nehemiah hears of the plight of the Jewish people back in Jerusalem. He is told that they are are in great affliction and reproach. He also learns the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. Nehemiah’s response is not to blame the government, he does not say oh well it’s not my problem; no he sat down and wept, and mourned certain days. Last week we explored his next response where he fasted. Today let us examine his final response where he prayed before the God of heaven.

 

            I may be way off base here by I would venture to say most people Christians or “religious types” or not, understand some concept of prayer. Here are some definitions of prayer:

 

Wikipedia says: Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with a deity, an object of worship, or a spiritual entity through deliberate communication

 

Focus on the Family- So what is prayer? Prayer is a relationship, wherein we humbly communicate, worship, and sincerely seek God's face, knowing that He hears us, loves us and will respond, though not always in a manner we may expect or desire. Prayer can encompass confession, praise, adoration, supplication, intercession and more.

 

Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 178 - What is prayer? A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

 

            I hope you can easily spot the differences between Wikipedia’s secular definition and that of the next two. I included it to make my point, that even non-believers and those who would deny a deity in any fashion (an object of worship) have a concept of prayer.

 

            As believers our concept of prayer is quite different than that of those still living in darkness. Today I want to look at five specific things Nehemiah did (and we should follow suit) concerning prayer and why he did them. They are:

 

            1) Why he/we should pray prayed

            2) To whom he/we should pray

            3) Reason(s) he/we should prayer

            4) How he/we should pray

            5) Our expectations of prayer

                       

I am going to use the Westminster Larger Catechism to look deeper into prayer in the life of Christians.

 

1.         The first question many have is why pray? Principal reason we pray because we are commanded to do so:

 

(WLC 186) What rule hath God given for our direction in the duty of prayer?

A. The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in the duty of prayer;[1198] but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which our Savior Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’s Prayer.[1199]

 

(1198) 1 John 5:14: And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.

 

(1199) Matthew 6:9-13: After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 

 

Luke 11:2-4.And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

 

            Christ in leaving us this model on how to pray, commands us to pray. There is no if you feel like it, when you get around to it, or if the spirit moves you suggestion here. No Christ clearly says After this manner therefore pray ye and When ye pray, say undeniably a command to pray. Prayer develops our relationship with God.

 

            One of my favorite passages of scripture (So much so my thesis is on its importance) is 1 John 1:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. I really like the idea of a full cup of joy, don’t you? Well John in the preceding verse tells how to get that:  That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. Fellowship is the key to joy. Both fellowship with believers and with God. Now it should be obvious that fellowship with believers can happen in many ways but fellowship with God (whom we can’t see or touch) can only happen through prayer.

 

            Christ did not command us to pray just for ha ha’s no He wanted us to communicate with Him that our joy may be full.

 

2.         The next question is whom do you pray too. Unlike the unbelievers who pray to establish a rapport or connection with some unknown deity   (god, idol, immortal) Christians already have a connection to God and that is whom we communicate with:

 

(WLC 179) Are we to pray unto God only? A. God only being able to search the hearts,[1152] hear the requests,[1153] pardon the sins,[1154] and fulfill the desires of all;[1155] and only to be believed in,[1156] and worshipped with religious worship;[1157] prayer, which is a special part thereof,[1158] is to be made by all to him alone,[1159] and to none other.[1160]

 

            It is to God the one and only true and living God of the bible that we are to pray. None other can search our hearts, hear our requests, pardon our sins and fulfill our desires. Let’s face it that is the reason most folk’s believer or not pray. They are in a jam or things are just messed up and they want help (desires). The unbeliever in desperation calls out; God if you are there help me.

 

             While many cry out in desperation with no real sincerity some (like many of us at one time) cry out with true understanding of the situation and our Broken state. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, R. C. Sproul wrote on the matter:

 

Prayer has a vital place in the life of the Christian. First, it is an absolute prerequisite for salvation. Some people cannot hear; yet though deaf, they can be saved. Some may not be able to see; yet though blind, they can be saved. Knowledge of the Good News—salvation through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—will come from one source or another, but in the final analysis, a person must humbly ask God for salvation. The prayer of salvation is the one prayer of the wicked God has said he will hear.

 

            Why God only, His word tells us so: 1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Let’s get logical for a moment. I have never met anyone that has said I will take the worst thing, the weakest person the laziest helper. No we want the best for ourselves and our families. There is nothing wrong with that. So why would you chose a lesser god?

 

            John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Now if obtaining the best means going through Jesus to God that for sure is the path I want.

 

            Nehemiah prayed to God because he knew that God alone could help in this matter. Like Nehemiah I pray to God because I want the best. I desire the guidance of He who is able to do all things.

 

3          Now let us look at the Reasons we pray. This could be a whole sermon series on its own so I am going to try and give a helpful overview by again using the WLC.

 

Q. 183. For whom are we to pray?

A. We are to pray for the whole church of Christ upon earth;[1168] for magistrates,[1169] and ministers;[1170] for ourselves,[1171] our brethren,[1172] yea, our enemies;[1173] and for all sorts of men living,[1174] or that shall live hereafter;[1175] but not for the dead,[1176] nor for those that are known to have sinned the sin unto death.[1177]

 

            That is quite the list. Some of the persons mentioned are quite easily understood. The first five would seem relatively common today.  Most folks find it easy to pray for their church family (as Nehemiah was doing here), the government (especially in these times) our families and friends, our church leaders and of course our own needs. But I want to look at two specific items on the list:

 

            a)        Our enemies, the WLC uses Matthew 5:44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you to make this point and I totally agree. How easy it is to pray for our loved ones but those that hate and oppress us.

 

            How many of us could respond as Stephan and say:  Acts 7:59-60  And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive and accept and  welcome my spirit! 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]! And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].

 

            An even greater example to me is recorded in Romans 5:7-8 Amplified Bible (AMP) 7 Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. 8 But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us. Christ did more than pray for His enemies He died for them. What are you willing to do?

            b)        those that are known to have sinned the sin unto death. The WLC uses 1 John 5:16. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it,  to make its case. There are varying opinions on exactly what John meant when writing this. I tend to agree with Dr. John Gill on the matter:

There is a sin unto death; which is not only deserving of death, as every other sin is, but which certainly and inevitably issues in death in all that commit it, without exception; and that is the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is neither forgiven in this world nor in that to come, and therefore must be unto death; it is a sinning willfully, not in a practical, but doctrinal way, after a man has received the knowledge of the truth; it is a willful denial of the truth of the Gospel, particularly that peace, pardon, righteousness, eternal life, and salvation, are by Jesus Christ, contrary to the light of his mind, and this joined with malice and obstinacy; so that there is no more or other sacrifice for such a sin; there is nothing but a fearful looking for of wrath and fury to fall on such opposers of the way of life; and as the presumptuous sinners under Moses's law died without mercy, so must these despiteful ones under the Gospel; see Matthew 12:31. Some think there is an allusion to one of the kinds of excommunication among the Jews, called "shammatha", the etymology of which, according to some Jewish writers, is, "there is death" (t).

 

I do not say that he shall pray for it; the apostle does not expressly forbid to pray for the forgiveness of this sin, yet what he says amounts unto it; he gives no encouragement to it, or any hopes of succeeding, but rather the reverse; and indeed where this sin is known, or can be known, it is not to be prayed for, because it is irremissible; but as it is a most difficult point to know when a man has sinned it, the apostle expresses himself with great caution.

 

            As Dr. Gill points out I think this is in reference to Matt 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. John is relating that there are better things to pray for than those who have so hardened their hearts to the Gospel that there is little hope for them. Is that so called tough love, maybe? Yet if given the choice to pray for known needs of those listed prior and that of a blasphemer; well you get the idea.

 

            Along with people we are to pray for certain things also.

 

Q. 184. For what things are we to pray?

A. We are to pray for all things tending to the glory of God,[1178] the welfare of the church,[1179] our own[1180] or others, good;[1181] but not for anything that is unlawful.[1182]

 

            Again while this may seem obvious to all I think two areas are worth closer exam.

           

            a)        The Glory of God should be on our mind in all things especially in prayer. The Lord’s Prayer or Model Prayer as so insist, is the lasting example left by Jesus. Matthew 6:9. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Our prayers should acknowledge that God is worthy to be Hallowed or Glorified. It is not enough o just understand it it is important to express it.

 

            This is going to be a poor example but we are humans like being acknowledged to the accomplishments in life. Get an “A” on the exam and your teacher writes “excellent”. Finish your work ahead of schedule and the boss gives you a big at-a-boy. Well if sinful creatures such as us desire and deserve acknowledgement for the good we do how much more so does God?

 

            b)        …not for anything that is unlawful. Really do we need to go here, YES! for to many times today I hear Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart misquoted and out of context. It should seem obvious that unlawful things (illegal, immoral, unethical) are not God honoring. Yet I hear folks all the time willing to bend the truth of the bible to meet their needs.

 

            Listen you cannot ask God for things that are out of His will for your life 1 John 5:14. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us nor for things that do not glorify Him and expect results. That is foolish.

 

            I think this is a good place to stop for tonight. Next time we will continue with the last two things Nehemiah and we should do in prayer.

 

Until Next time

 

In HIS Service

The following was preached at Bayside Baptist Church, Bay St Louis MS Sunday 28 Dec 2014

1 Peter 3:10-15

 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

 

            I have entitled this sermon Where Does Your Hope Lie? I will be focusing in on verse 15 but let us take a running start at it by looking at verses 10-14 briefly.

 

            Peter begins this portion of his epistle by pleading with the brethren to do no evil. To avoid it (v11) to not speak it (v10) in fact we are to seek peace and to do good (v11) always.

 

            I believe the scripture points out two reasons for this directive. The first can be found in verse 12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers:…  Now I am a simple man of simple means but this is pretty clear to me. God is watching my every move. If I live a righteous, that is God honoring life, He will also hear my prayers. BUT, in this case the word is more than just a connection between two sentences, it is a clear warning, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Now I do not know about y’all but getting the all-knowing ever present, all powerful God of the universe mad at me is not high in my priority list.

 

            Peter next goes on to say something a little confusing at first. Do you see it?  Let’s look at verses 13 and 14 again:

 

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye:

 

            Maybe it is just me but when I read that I am both encouraged and intimidated. Verse 13 implies that no one can harm the true chosen children of God. Then verse 14 says But and if ye suffer the Greek text suggests a better rendering to be nevertheless when you suffer. Now wait a minute I thought no harm can come to me.

 

            The problem here is my trying to interpret scripture of my own understanding. I read no harm and think physical pain while the text refers to spiritual security. Look at Romans Chapter 8 with me:

 

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

            I hope you can see what both Paul and Peter are speaking of here. Nothing of this earth can separate a child of God from him. Christ said of His sheep (followers, chosen children of God) no one could remove them from His hand.

 

            I want to add a caution here for I believe there is one thing that can come between us and God. That thing would be ourselves. Maybe you have never experienced this, but I have. Gotten to a place where all is going so smooooth, that you think hey I got this and soon forget about God. We alone but barriers between us and God.

 

            Look back at main text in Peter. God is so merciful though that He does not leave it at that. No He tells us in the remainder of verse 14; be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. Knowing that we would have times of trouble, trails and suffering God adds words of comfort.  I think the reason for that comfort and the second reason for the directive in verse 10 and 11 lies in verse 15; one of my favorite verses of scripture:

 

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

            Remember I have titled this sermon Where Does Your Hope Lie? As the New Year fast approaches many of our friends and relatives will be preparing to make a New Year’s resolution in the hopes of changing something about their lives. Folks make these resolutions each year in the hope they can change for the better or find peace and comfort they are sorely lacking.    Ask a group of everyday folks outside Wally World or Lowes where their hope lies and you would get countless different answers. For some it is family, a job, or their “church”. Still others find it in bottles of booze or pills and sadly many would simply answer “hope what Hope”? As Sanctified Born Again believers we do not find any assurance in our own determination, our own will power to make changes in our lives. No we rest on the power of God to both change us. It is the comfort we have in that Hope, that Anticipation that indwells all true believers; a hope, those of the world are blind too. 

 

            I want to break verse 15 down into three tasks that I have labeled Acknowledge, Answer and Attitude.

 

            The first task noted in verse 15 is to Acknowledge or Sanctify God in our hearts. Now this is more than just admitting God exists for even the devil does this. No the Greek word translated Sanctify in the KJV entails so much more. I like the way the Amplified Bible translates this as: But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord

 

            We must confess God as sovereign ruler of the whole universe. Surrendering our all to Him and declaring His son Christ Jesus as Lord and Master of our lives. To do less and call ourselves “Christian” is to live a lie.

 

            This sanctification must not just be verbal; it must be in our hearts. Romans 10:10 tells us that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. It must be a true deep rooted belief that is evident in both our talk and our walk. We cannot have one without the other.

 

            The next charge in verse 15 is Answer. We are to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you(us). This is the defining task, the crux of the matter if you will. We, who are true believer’s, must be ready always. Not just when we feel good and are having a really blessed day. No in the midst of trials and turmoil, on top of the mountain and in the depths of the valley we must be ready to give an answer or as the ESV translates it always being prepared to make a defense.

 

            The answer is not some theological gem, no, it is simply a reason of the {or for the} hope that is in you (us). If you will allow me to reminisce for a moment, when I first started down the path of Christianity I was attending a church that was always talking about witnessing. My first thought was these people are in court a lot. I mean my only association with witnesses was from Perry Mason TV series. Ok so I soon got over my ignorance and then came the in nervousness. How was I to witness to anyone? I barely knew the bible so surely God would not want me to talk about it our Him?

            Well somewhere along the way I came across this verse and I realized what witnessing (for most of us who are not called as evangelists) really is and what God expects. It is really quite simple. If you love God and He has changed your life. Taken you from HOPELESSNESS to FILLED WITH HOPE that is what you need to share. Being able to quote scripture left and right is all well in good. But people want to hear your story. What has God done for you? Using scripture in a personal manner has a far greater impact on those we share it with.

 

I like how John Calvin put it in his commentary on the verse: But it ought to be noticed, that Peter here does not command us to be prepared to solve any question that may be mooted; for it is not the duty of all to speak on every subject. But it is the general doctrine that is meant, which belongs to the ignorant and the simple. Then Peter had in view no other thing, than that Christians should make it evident to unbelievers that they truly worshipped God, and had a holy and good religion. And in this there is no difficulty, for it would be strange if we could bring nothing to defend our faith when any one made inquiries respecting it. For we ought always to take care that all may know that we fear God, and that we piously and reverently regard his legitimate worship.

           

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown’s Commentary says of a reasonable account. This verse does not impose an obligation to bring forward a learned proof and logical defense of revelation. But as believers deny themselves, crucify the world, and brave persecution, they must be buoyed up by some strong "hope"; men of the world, having no such hope themselves, are moved by curiosity to ask the secret of this hope; the believer must be ready to give an experimental account "how this hope arose in him, what it contains, and on what it rests"

 

Webster’s 1828 dictionary has two definitions of Hope that I find helpful:

 

1. Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well-founded expectation of good; as a hope founded on God's gracious promises; a scriptural sense.

A well founded scriptural hope is, in our religion, the source of ineffable {overwhelming} happiness.

 

2. To place confidence in; to trust in with confident expectation of good. Ps.43:5 remind us: Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God.

 

            What is it we can bear witness to? It is our hope, the resolve that God is greater than all our problems that His grace and mercy abound. It is in that alone we have indescribable joy and happiness.

 

            The final tasking is Attitude. We must approach life with a proper attitude. For some of us that is really, really hard.  Maybe you can’t relate to this but when my kids were young they would sometimes misbehave. Now I sure none of your children are like that but I remember saying more often that I can count “if you don’t change your attitude I am gonna change your altitude”.

 

            Now God does not threaten us to have the proper attitude (although I know He disciplines us). Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote our testimony must be done with meekness and fear.  This does not mean we are a push over, a door mat for all who wish to stomp on our parade. Nor does it mean we are to force feed our beliefs down others’ throats. The ESV translates it with gentleness and respect. Our attitudes can affect all aspects of our lives; none more so than our witness for Christ. Peter earlier in verse 4 of chapter 3 said this gentle spirit is precious in God’s sight.

 

            Remember the words of Paul :  Philippians 2:15 - That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; We must be that shining light in an otherwise dark world. Why is this so important? Christ tells us in:  Matthew 5:16 - Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  If our testimony is damaged by our attitude how is God glorified in that.

 

            In summary why is it that true brethren; love life, refrain from evil, and do good? Because God has given us hope. Not just any hope but a hope like no other. A hope that one cannot find among those of the world for it is only given through Christ Jesus. It is a hope so strong and powerful than believer’s cannot but help share the Good News of what Christ has done for them.

 

            Where is your hope today? Do you have that hope? The Hope that only God can give? Are you a child of God today? It really is a simple matter. There is no special prayer no magic words. You only have to ACCEPT you are a sinner; CONFESS your sinfulness and BELIEVE Christ died for your sins.  The bible says that is all that is needed to inherit the kingdom of God and the glorious hope of eternal life.

 

            In closing I wish to express my desire that the coming year will be full of hope for you and yours.  Christian artists Bill and Gloria Gather summed up and shared their hope in Christ when their son was born in this song:

 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

 

In HIS Service

Response to Brokenness Continued

 

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

           

            Nehemiah 1:2-4

 

           

            Last week we learned the first responses of Nehemiah to the news of Jerusalem being in a state of brokenness was to weep and mourn. We explored a number of biblical reasons for weeping and mourning. Many of these were because of some illness or tragedy, yet we also learned that there are equally as many reasons for us to weep tears of joy.

 

            This week we will examine the second part of Nehemiah’s response when he fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. Because of the scope of this short phrase I am going to look at fasting today.

 

            In the bible fasting is mentioned over 70 times. The practice of fasting is not taught in the first 5 books of Moses where God lays down the Law. One can infer then that fasting is not commanded of God to His children. However it is found in the historical books, Psalms and the prophet’s writings. From that one can easily surmise that while God does order the practice neither does He forbid it.

 

            The Hebrew word found in our text that is translated as fasting is Tsuwm  (Tsoom) which means to abstain from food. Thus biblical fasting is the decision to abstain or go without food but to what reason and end must be explored.

 

            In many evangelical churches today fasting is almost never spoken of, or if it is in a rather negative context. I think this comes from the warning Christ gives in Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. In an effort to not appear puffed up, many have completely ignored fasting as an effective tool in our personal spiritual tool boxes. But note Jesus is not telling them to avoid fasting, no he is saying avoid doing it wrongly.

 

            Let’s us look at some of the tradition of fasting. As noted there are some 70 references to it in the bible. In addition the following historical church documents speak of it:

 

“The Westminster Confession spoke briefly of fasting in the context of public worship:

 

The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner (21.5; emphasis added).

 

In the Larger Catechism this is put more strikingly: “What are the duties required in the second commandment? The duties required in the second commandment are . . . religious fasting” (Q&A 108).

 

In the Assembly’s Directory for the Public Worship of God, an entire section was taken up with “Public Solemn Fasting.” The context is either a time of trouble or a time of seeking God’s blessing:”

 

            Let us look at when fasting is appropriate:

 

1) Upon hearing sad and distressful news as in our main text. Nehemiah hears of the troubles in Jerusalem and not only weeps and prays but also fasts. His grief over the brokenness of his fellow Jews is so intense that tears and prayer alone are not sufficient to appease his mind.

 

2) For Guidance And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)

            Grand decisions require grand advice and no one can provide better advice than God. Before choosing to ordain (or commission) elders/pastors the Apostles prayed and fasted seeking God’s advice on the matter

            The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin. They were asking for guidance on what they should do and how to proceed (Judges 20:26-28).

            Today we too should seek God’s advice in life’s BIG decisions. In fact it would do us good to seek it in all decisions. The choice is yours to fast or not.

 

3) Help in Prayer! Have you ever had trouble praying? I know I have had periods in my life that seemed like deserts where prayer was concerned. Fasting may be a solution for that.

 

            Note in 2 Sam chap 12, King David fasts and prays for his son that he had with Bathsheba. David knew he had sinned against God and wanted intense prayer to intercede on behalf of his son. We know God did not grant David’s petition yet two things are noteworthy. First David did not complain, he was satisfied and content with God’s decision to let David’s son die. David knew he had screwed up and through repentance he also knew there are consequences to our poor decisions. David manned up and acknowledged the sovereignty of God. Secondly you would think the bible would have pointed out David’s acknowledgement and atonement for his sins. Instead we are led to believe it is a given that a true believer will always do so.

 

 

4) To Humble Ourselves Before God, sometimes as an act of repentance, remorse or even apology prayer may not seem enough and we can fast as an act of contrition.

 

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. PS 35:13

 

When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. PS 69:10

 

            I am sure we can all think of many more reasons to humble ourselves before God maybe the best is a reminder of just who HE is.

 

5) In our Worship of God,

 

            Fasting can be a way to worship God. By fasting we can give God what he desires:

 

 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise PS 5116-17

 

6) For Spiritual Strength, I would venture to say that all of us have some weak points in our spiritual amour. To deny this is to deceive ourselves and invite the devil in. As hard as we try to repair the weak area we sometimes fail and that can be a good time to fast and pray.

 

            In Luke 4:1-11 while Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, He fasted for 40 days. Did HE the living God have to fast to defeat Satan? No of course not but there is a principle of spiritual strength that is demonstrated in fasting that we find in the life of Christ.

            These are all good reasons to fast but we cannot forget that all must be done with a proper attitude.  At the beginnings of the sermon I quoted Matt 6:16 where Christ warns of fasting as a hypocrite. He goes on in verse 18 to say: That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

            Fasting (even corporate/family) should always be done as an act between you and God alone. When a friend or co-worker asks why you are not eating today there is no need to announce “I am fasting for God” no an appropriate answer is simply I am just not eating today. Fasting for biblical purposes should ALWAYS draw us closer to God. Any other result and we have wasted our time.

            No discussion on fasting would be proper without a warning! Always seek medical advice before fasting. Some folks like me take certain medications must be taken with food. So fasting for me might not be the same for you. There are any number of reasons why fasting can be spiritually helpful and just as many where it can be physically harmful to the unprepared.

            I would like to point out that there are many reasons folks today ignore fasting in there walk with the Lord. Some legitimate (health and lack of spiritual urging) many just plain bogus. John Calvin in his commentary on the book of Joel (14:45) says it is all spiritual laziness. . . . this practice {FASTING} has not been abolished by the gospel. And it hence appears how much we have departed from the right and lawful order of things; for at this day it would be new and unusual to proclaim a fast. How so? Because the greater part are become hardened; and as they know not commonly what repentance is, so they understand not what the profession of repentance means; for they understand not what sin is, what the wrath of God is, what grace is. It is then no wonder that they are so secure, and that when praying for pardon is mentioned, it is a thing wholly unknown at this day. But though people in general are thus stupid, it is yet our duty to learn from the Prophets what has always been the actual mode of proceeding among the people of God, and to labor as much as we can, that this may be known, so that when there shall come an occasion for a public repentance, even the most ignorant may understand that this practice has ever prevailed in the Church of God, and that it did not prevail through inconsiderate zeal of men, but through the will of God himself .

            This most common excuse toady may be “I am too busy”.  I know I my life there are days that seem overwhelming. I have so much on my plate I feel like I need a crane to lift it. But an old Army saying of mine applies “The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters” Do you really want to stand before God someday and tell Him “I was too busy for you”?

            Finally we as a people are spiritually ill-informed or uninformed about the subject. We have decided fasting is not for us based not upon our own research or wise counsel of elders. No we heard something from someone who knows little or nothing about much of anything yet that is who we are base our opinion on.

            In closing I am not advocating everyone begin fasting. I am advocating that like Nehemiah when we need the strong counsel of God we should not neglect this method of drawing closer to Him.

 

In HIS Service

Response to Brokenness

 

3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

 

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

           

            Nehemiah 1:2-4

 

            A reminder of where we were last week in this series. I had entitled the sermon “Recognition of Brokenness”. Verse three tells the tale of walls and gates of Jerusalem being in a sad state of affairs. Nehemiah acknowledges that he understands this in verse four when he says And it came to pass, when I heard these words. We then looked at what brokenness was and its effects on mankind.

 

            We determined that mankind, since the fall in Genesis 3 has been in a constant state of brokenness. As a counter to brokenness we looked at what God had intended man to live like. Genesis 1:31 says that all that God created was good and can logically infer from that man was intended to live a good life. Backing up to verse 1:26 we see man was also intended to rule (have dominion) over all the things of the earth. As we turned back to Nehemiah we saw, the report he gets is they (the Jerusalem Jews) are living a broken existence. One not in line with God’s plan, for they are in great affliction and reproach.

 

            Before I move on to today’s theme I do not want anyone left with the wrong impression. God did not have a plan A for mankind and a backup or plan B if man failed at plan A. God is sovereign and in complete control of all things. John MacArthur says of God’s sovereignty: “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6).

 

            Ok let’s look at Nehemiah’s Response to Brokenness in verse four. He says when I heard these words that I sat down and wept and mourned certain days. Nehemiah is moved to tears. The bible is full of stories that describe folks weeping and or mourning for a variety of reasons. Let us look at a few:

 

Death – especially the death of a loved one Gen 50:10 And they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days

 

Disobedience -  Ezra 9:4-7 Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice 5 And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,

6 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. 7 Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.

 

DesolationJoel 1:9-10  The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord; the priests, the Lord's ministers, mourn.

10 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.

 

In DefeatRev 18:11 10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:

 

When Diseased Job 2:28 7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.

8 And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.

 

When we lose something valuable - Gen 27:34-38 34 And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. 35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing. 36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? 37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? 38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.

 

            We are naturally sorrowful when the above events occur. Many of us like Nehemiah are moved to tears when we hear of the suffering and tribulations of saints in lands around the world. But there is no greater event in our lives that should move us to tears than when we come to the realization that our life is a broken mess. Like Nehemiah’s realization of broken walls and gate the realization of our broken lives; is a cause for weeping and mourning.

 

            I have often stated that man cannot fully appreciate the Love of God until he understands the Depravity of Man. One can easily substitute brokenness for depravity. This may seem a hard statement but if you are not brought to tears and your knees with that realization you do not fully comprehend it. Some of your authority, your superiority complex is still alive and kicking.

 

            Lest I leave you thinking all tears are because of sorrow and brokenness there is more to the story. Our old self must die a mournful death in order that we may shed new tears of joy. Again the Bible is full of these stories too:

 

Hard work has joyful payoffPsalm 126:5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy

 

Depending upon GodJeremiah 31:9-13 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications  will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble : for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. 10Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say , He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. 11 For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. 12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. 13 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.

 

Joy in knowing the God of LovePs 30:5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

 

Reunions are times of joyful weeping  Gen 33:4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

 

 

“The catalysts for brokenness don’t have to be huge, tragic or devastating, though sometimes they are. Suffering comes in all sizes and shapes every day of our lives. And when it comes, we often bury the pain of it somewhere deep inside us where it simmers and stews and gnaws away at our peace, faith and health, turning our hearts even stonier, compounding our pride and unbroken- ness layer by layer.”

 

Mark Buchanan wrote in his book Your God is Too Safe, that there is one soil that usually withers pride. It is brokenness. He goes on to write that broken- ness "molds our character closer to the character of God than anything else. To experience defeat, disappointment, loss—the raw ingredients of broken- ness—moves us closer to being like God than victory and gain and fulfillment ever can."

 

Frederick Buechner in his book Whistling in the Dark  “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling the secret of who you are, but more often than not of the mystery of where you have come from and are summoning you to where you should go next.”

 

Ken Gire wrote in Windows of the Soul, “In each tear is distilled something of eternity, something of love and compassion and tenderness, all things that originate in heaven and come to earth as a sacrament to the soul, if only I am willing to take and to eat. The closest communion with God comes, I believe, through the sacrament of tears. Just as grapes are crushed to make wine and grain to make bread, so the elements of this sacrament come from the crushing experiences of life.

 

“So much is distilled in our tears, not the least of which is wisdom in living life. From my own tears I have learned that if you follow your tears, you will find your heart. If you find your heart, you will find what is dear to God, and if you find what is dear to God you will find the answer to how you should live your life.”

 

            I had planned on closing tonight’s sermon with the joyful knowledge that our victory is won and are tears are temporary. Then this morning’s devotional from the Institute of Creation Research said it all better than I:

 

 

 

 

Tears in Heaven

“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:8)

 

It may be surprising to learn there are tears in heaven, but there are three places in the Bible where we are told that God will wipe away our tears there. This promise appears first in the Old Testament in our text—a text which is quoted in the New Testament as applying to the events of the second coming of Christ. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). The graves will be emptied and death itself will die when Christ comes again! But there will still be those tears, even after death, which God must wipe away.

 

The other two occurrences are in the last book of the Bible, both again in the context of the return of Christ, “[who] shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Finally, in the new Jerusalem, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 7:17; 21:4).

 

But why should there be tears at all when death has passed away? The Scriptures do not say specifically why, but it seems probable that these may be tears of regret at lost opportunities and tears of sorrow for unsaved friends and loved ones. It does say that in the new earth we shall somehow “look upon” the lost (Isaiah 66:22, 24) and that even some of the saved “shall suffer loss” when their works in this life do not “abide” in the judgment (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). But then, after these tears are shed, God will graciously wipe them away, and there will never be sorrow or crying anymore. HMM

 

Institute for Creation Research;  

Days of Praise devotionals:  http://www.icr.org/article/8315

 

 

Next time Response to Brokenness continued, Fasting and Prayer

 

In HIS Service

Mike

Perseverance

 

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

- - Phil 1:6

 

            What words come to mind when you here the term persevere? Initially I think of determination, steadfast, resolve, grit, diligence and I could go on but you get the idea. Here are a couple of quotes to help us understand the concept of perseverance ever better:

 

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. - C.H. Spurgeon

 

Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams. – Dr. Benjamin Carson

 

When we are foiled, let us believe we shall overcome; when we have fallen, let us believe we shall rise again. Jacob, after he received a blow which made him lame, yet would not give over wrestling (Gen. 32:25) till he had obtained the blessing. So let us never give up, but, in our thoughts knit the beginning, progress and end together, and then we shall see ourselves in heaven out of the reach of all enemies.  —Richard Sibbes

 

            Let us pause for a moment, think of that snail if Noah took 120 years to build the ark, when did the snail set out for it? Dr Carson’s quote is a slap in the face to today’s world of live for yourself. He tells us to reach our dreams our aspirations we must have faith in God. Finally Richard Sibbes reminds us that even with God on our side there will be battles to fight along life’s path. but we are never to quit.

 

            As we come to the 7th step in the Order of Salvation let us take a quick moment to review what we have learned:

 

Step 1            Election:                    We are Chosen by God

Step 2            Calling:                      We are Called by God

Step 3            Regeneration          We are Regenerated made anew by God

Step 4            Conversion              We are Born Again by God

Step 5            Justification              We are Justified by God

Step 6            Adoption                  We are made Heirs by God
Step 7            Sanctified                 We are made Holy by God

 

            Note the ongoing thread throughout each step. It is by God; not by anything we can do for or by ourselves that this process of salvation happens.  That same theme is present in today’s lesson on perseverance.

 

            How many of you have ever started a project of any kind and failed to see it through to the end? I know I am guilty of that.  The bible speaks of a different kind of project one that will always be completed fully. Look back at our base text for a moment:

 

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

 

            There are three aspects of perseverance brought out in this verse. We can have confidence because it is of God, we can be assured God will not quit in mid project and it is a lifelong process.

 

            When it comes to better understanding Perseverance of the Saints I have broken it down into three categories: Command, Change and Compensation.

 

COMMAND:

 

            We are commanded to persevere:

 

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  - - 2 Tim 2:1-3

 

Once again my mind says is it really that simple. Get and order, obey and order all is well in the world. Oh if were only so. Let us look deeper.

 

            First we are to be strong in Grace. Not our own grace but that of Christ Jesus. Again the theme from the beginning of this series on salvation is repeated; it is of God, by God and for God.

 

            How are we to be Strong on Grace? By learning and being convicted of the Word of God. We are to listen only to faithful men of God; we are to be a Berean in all things checking the genuine, uncorrupted word of God against all we hear and read.

 

            I have heard it said from to many that they need only the Bible and the Holy Spirit to fully understand the Word of God. While this may be technically correct (the Holy Spirit is God and fully capable of doing anything) it is not biblically correct. The Holy Spirit is our guide and as such is there to assist us in our studies of the Word. I want to emphasize the word STUDIES. If one is to truly unlock all the truths of God’s word we must examine and reexamine God Word as it was originally written. I understand that for many this is not practical or possible for a variety of reasons. That is why Paul wrote (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit) the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others.

 

            Finally perseverance is no easy task; for the Holy Spirit calls us to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. This is a cry to war not a family BBQ. There will be battles to fight and we must be prepared.

 

Change:

 

            How do we prepare for the battles to come? How do we endure the trials to come? By controlling our actions! We can only do this by changing how we go about our daily lives.  Let’s face facts, although some who claim to be “Christians” live a life that resembles anything but. We however understand that we must change to persevere.

 

“For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” - - Eph 2:10     

 

            As we read in our base text God has begun a good work in us. Here we see not only has he begun a good work in us He created us for good works. Now I do not know about y’all but before and apart from Christ there was and is nothing good about neither me nor my deeds. It is only by God’s work in changing me that I have any hope of persevering.

 

            We all know that once we are “born again” we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). But apart from the obvious need to separate us from sin, why else are we changed as it relates to perseverance?

 

            I thought of three that we can all easily relate to:

 

1) For Fruitfulness: John 15:4-8 says a person who perseveres will bear much fruit. I believe this is what Paul was referring to in Eph 2:1.  We become change so we can do good works for the Kingdom of God.  Just as the withered branch those apart from God not willing to persevere are cast into the fire but those who do persevere are able to do great things for God.

 

2) For Spiritual Growth: Ephesians 4:12-15 says those who persevere will not be as little children easily deceived and misled. They/we through perseverance mature in our faith.

 

3) For a Testimony to others: 2 Tim 2:10 reminds us that like Job many good saints must endure (persevere) through many illnesses and trials not for our sake but for God’s glory. Out testimony in testing times may be will help reach others for the Kingdom of God.

 

 

COMPENSATION:

 

            Remember our base text until the day of Jesus Christ? So what happens then? Not that we need any incentive to persevere, as we learned God commanded it so we should be obedient but hey it’s nice to know what the benefits of it are.

 

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap,

 if we faint not. - - Gal 6:9

 

            I love this verse it tells me that my time and effort are not wasted for God. That in the end there will be a payoff a return on my investment if you will. Here are a few thoughts on our compensation for persevering.

 

             I will start with one you may not have thought of Eph 6:11-18. Yes Armor, one of the benefits of perseverance is the Armor God gives us to fight the good fight. It gets less and less restrictive as we get accustomed to utilizing it in all conditions. Just like the modern soldier must train and train to utilize all his tools on the battlefield so to must God’s children train to meet the spiritual war raging around us. God provides all the Armor we need it is by persevering through trials that we reap its full benefits.

 

            How about strengthening our faith? 2 Tim 3:11 reminds us that Paul endured more than any of us probably ever will. Yet he complained not. No instead he praised the Lord for delivering him out of them all. His faith was strengthened by God’s demands of him.

 

            James writes of what maybe the greatest reason for persevering when in James 1:2 he says Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let that sink in a moment. In one short verse we are promised a reward but no ordinary reward for it is the crown of life!  This pinnacle of our existence is promised only to those who persevere to the end.

 

 

            In closing I would like to quote another Puritan writer William Ames who summarized Perseverance of the saints this way:

 

“This truth is perceived [perseverance of the saints] and made certain in us in these ways:

 

             First, by a certain spiritual sense in which the grace of God now present becomes known and evident to the believer.

 

             Second, by the gift of discernment through which believers distinguish true grace from its shadow.

 

            Third, by the whisper and witness of conscience in which grace and salvation are made fast for believers, just as sin and death for unbelievers.

 

            Fourth, the Spirit of God so confirms to believers these ways of perceiving that they have the same certainty as faith itself…This certainty follows upon the perceiving of faith and repentance, where the free covenant of God is rightly understood.”           

 

            Perseverance is commanded to all saints. Whether you are in the valleys or on the mountain tops we must endure all. The path up the hill or down may be very difficult and we must be properly equipped for the fight to come. I urge you to study God word daily, seek out learned men who are properly trained to teach God’s word. Guard yourself against the lies and smooth talk of world and above all else seek Him daily.

 

In HIS Service

SANCTIFICATION

 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, [and] prepared unto every good work.

                        2 Timothy 2:21

           

            Tonight we explore the 7th component of Salvation called Sanctification. It is the next rung in the nine step process. There are three major views on Sanctification (and many competing within), they are:

 

Wesleyan Christian Perfection or Entire Sanctification: in this view, the state of holiness begins at regeneration and is completed by an instantaneous work of the Holy Spirit (the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) subsequent to regeneration, in which the old Adamic sin nature is actually abolished ‘Christian perfection… is nothing more or nothing less than a heart emptied of all sin and filled with a pure love to God and man.

 

Reformed: Ongoing or Progressive Sanctification: In this view, the state of holiness begins with regeneration and conversion, and is to grow throughout the believer’s life through the ministry of the Word and Spirit and through personal faith and obedience. In this understanding, the old sin nature is progressively subdued but never entirely abolished in this life. Westminster Larger Catechism, q 77

 

Pentecostal: Sanctification via The Baptism in the Holy Spirit: “This wonderful experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth… the baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical signs of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.” Articles Seven and Eight, “Statement of Fundamental Truths,” 35th General Council of the Assemblies of God, August 16-21, 1973

 

            Here are two definitions that may help us better understand Sanctification:

 

“The generic meaning of sanctification is "the state of proper functioning." To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A pen is "sanctified" when used to write. Eyeglasses are "sanctified" when used to improve sight. In the theological sense, things are sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intends. A human being is sanctified, therefore, when he or she lives according to God's design and purpose.” (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary)

 

            Note the part where it says things are sanctified when they are used for God’s intended purpose. Think about that God intended man to live a life that honored and glorified Him. A sanctified man or women will do just that.

 

“Sanctification is the work of God's Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13), whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God (Eph. 4:24), and are enabled more and more to die to sin, and live to righteousness (Rom. 6:11)” (Puritan Catechism #34)

 

            Less one should think this is a one and done operation we need to remember that just as we get older we mature (grow mentally) so too does the believer grow. We are not infused with all things that pertain unto life and godliness. No these things says Peter are made available to us and over time (God willing) we learn their uses.

 

            I want to spend the majority of our time looking at three areas. They are the 1) Differences between Justification and Sanctification, 2) the processes of Sanctification and finally 3) the results of Sanctification.

 

1) Differences between Justification and Sanctification

            I know it took me a while to distinguish Sanctification from Justification. The following chart may help.

Justification

Sanctification

Attributes Christ’s righteousness

Here it is Christ’s righteousness that is covering the sinner in order to make him acceptable

Instills grace to exercise own righteousness

Here it God’s grace manifested in us so we can demonstrate our own righteousness in Christ

Sin is pardoned

Here God pardons our sin because he sees only Christ’s righteousness

Sin is subdued

Here the power of the Holy Spirit works in us to subdue (conquer) our sins

Total, equal in all, complete                            

Justification is equally handed out to all God’s children. Nothing done by man can change this.                                                   

Partial, different in all, growing

God here hands out only the amount of Grace that each man can handle. Never to little or too much.

We can see from this illustration that the righteousness by which we are justified is imputed or attributed to us via Christ’s work at Calvary. The righteousness by which we are sanctified is instilled or infused into us via the Holy Spriit. Another way of saying could be the first is given the second learned. One requires nothing on our part the other much work is needed to succeed.

 

Perhaps an illustration will aid in grasping the distinction: Here is a wooden post. It is painted on the outside to cover up all the stains and spots, thus to beautify and perfect its appearance; but the paint does not change the inside of its structure. How different with a vine. The sap flows from the vine into the branches, and imparts new life within. It does not simply cover up the outside, but changes the inside. The paint changes only the exterior, while the sap changes the interior.

 

            The paint was “imputed” to the post and covered up its blemishes. Likewise the righteousness of Christ is imputed to cover our blemishes (sins). But the like the sap, Sanctification does not cover the blemishes but imparts or works from the inside of man to change his entire presence.  One of my favorite quotes comes from Theology for the People or Biblical Doctrine Plainly Stated by William S. Plumer: Justification is sin pardoned. Sanctification is sin subdued.            

 

2) The processes of Sanctification

 

                        God tells us in 1 Peter 1:15-16 to be Holy in all our parts of life, why because He is Holy. As we learned last week as Adopted Children of God, we are to obey our Father.

 

            So one morning we wake up having been regenerated and indwelled by the Holy Spirit (First Step in Sanctification) and wham all our sins are subdued. Easy cheesy it is a done deal. No worries mate as they say down under.  

 

            Oh that it could be so easy. How do we get to the point where we are a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use as our base text says.

 

            The Second step in the process of Sanctification is growing in knowledge.

 

Romans 12:2 - And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God

 

            How do we grow? By renewing our mind and how do we accomplish that? See the next verse.

 

John 17:17 - Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

           

            We grow via God’s Word. There is NO OTHER WAY.

           

2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

 

            Anything we hope to master in life comes only from knowledge. We must apply ourselves daily to God’s word that we might grow in knowledge therein.

 

            The third step is growing in understanding.

           

Prov 18:2   A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

 

            It is one thing to read God’s Word it is quite another to understand it.  Foolish men have knowledge yet little understanding of how to use it.

 

Proverbs 2:2-5  So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;

5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

 

            Notice the words in bold print. They are all actions words. Growing in understanding of God’s Word requires effort on our part. This is not one of those let go and let God moments.

 

1 John 4:6 (AMP) We are [children] of God. Whoever is learning to know God [progressively to perceive, recognize, and understand God by observation and experience, and to get an ever-clearer knowledge of Him] listens to us; and he who is not of God does not listen or pay attention to us. By this we know (recognize) the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error

 

            Although understanding can be a synonym for knowledge biblically speaking they are quite different. Many have knowledge of God without any comprehension or understanding of who God really is.

 

            It is the sluggard (lazy man) who depends only on his own interpretation of Scripture. One who does not take the time to research and  study the original languages with all their distinctions CAN NOT have a right understanding of God’s Holy Word.

 

            God uses many ways to bring us to this understanding. Sometimes it is the indwelling Holy Spirit speaking to us that illuminates a passage of scripture. Sometimes it is through Chastisement Heb 12:10 (AMP)   For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness. Prayer, meditation, fellowship and encouragement from likeminded believers are all part of this process of growing in understanding. 

 

            The final step is growing in conviction.

 

Matthew 6:24 - No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon

 

            As we grown in knowledge and understanding so to should we be growing in faith.

 

1 Corinthians 15:58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

 

            I love the use of unmovable here. Synonyms for it include: unwavering, unswerving, resolute, determined, firm, unshakable, adamant, unfailing, dogged, tenacious, inflexible, unyielding, unbending, uncompromising, dogmatic, iron-willed; rock-steady, diehard.

 

            Let me back up a moment and put the verse in context. Paul has just finished his discourse on Victory in Jesus. He says listen up because we have a guarantee victory go about your labors for God with confidence and a determined spirit. Because we know the outcome is preordained there is no reason to waiver.     

 

Titus 1:9 - Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers

 

            As our faith gets stronger our conviction or steadfast belief in sound doctrine should be growing so that we might exhort and to convince the gainsayers

 

John Bunyan spent twelve years in jail, but it wasn’t the stone and the steel that held him there. He could have gone free if he simply agreed to stop preaching. Instead, he wrote,

 

"If nothing will do, unless I make of my conscience a continual butchery and slaughter-shop, unless putting out my own eyes I commit me to the blind to lead me, I have determined, the Almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow on mine eye-brows rather than thus to violate my faith and principles."1

 

            As we noted in the beginning of this section no short cut to the process. Both the Apostles Peter (2 Pt 1:5-11) and John (1 Jn2:3-6) noted that it requires steadfast effort and obedience to His commandments to succeed. That conviction of belief is the rock solid foundation of our faith.  It allows us to weather the storms of life coming out stronger than we entered.

 

3) The results of Sanctification.

 

Our Benefit:

 

            1 Peter 1:2-4 tells us: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

 

            Our growth results in increased Grace, peace, power, and great promises.

 

            Romans 6:13-23:   22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

 

            Obtaining the fruits of holiness and assurance of everlasting life are a definite benefit.

 

For God’s Glory:

 

            John 15:8: Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

 

            James says faith without works is dead. It is real simple God saved you and sanctifies you so you can serve Him. What are you waiting for?

 

            Eph 5:25-27: 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish

 

            The church is described as the “bride of Christ”. By the giving up or sacrifice of Himself, Christ sets the Church apart for God. The sacrifice of Christ sets apart the Church and the world, just as the blood of the Passover Lamb set apart the Children of Israel and the Egyptians.

 

 

            In closing the Greek word translated "sanctification" (hagiasmos) means "holiness." To sanctify, therefore, means "to make holy."Sanctification is the separation of the believer from evil things and ways. This sanctification is God's will for the believer. It is a process that includes knowledge, understanding and conviction requiring effort and obedience on our part. The results will always glorify God and edify your fellow saints.

In HIS Service

Justification

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

- - - Galatians 2:16

    Midway in the Order of Salvation we find the doctrine of Justification. I think it is fitting that this doctrine has its place here. It is the bridge between our old sinful nature and the new nature infused by the grace of God.

Everyone I have ever spoken to wants justice, or so they claim. The truth of the matter is if we as individual really got the justice we deserve we would be in dire straits. Sinful man (woman) should have no expectation of a merciful justice being doled out upon them. No our expectation in response to our sinful nature should be nothing more than pain and suffering.

    For some this outcome is inevitable but for those whom God has chosen to share the Good News there is a secure hope. Titus 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    Justification by faith alone, through Christ alone was the realization that changed Martin Luther’s life and the church forever. It was while he meditated on Romans 1:17, "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." That he was pricked by the Holy Spirit and concluded that the righteous that the Apostle Paul spoke of was not the punishment we deserved but the merciful righteousness that God freely gives to sinners. Not all sinners, only those whom he chooses and solely on the basis of Christ's virtues (for man in his sinful state has no virtue before God). Luther recognized that the doctrine of justification by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (per sola fidem) because of Christ alone (solus Christus) was the heart of the gospel and the core of salvation.

    Let us now explore three areas; 1) the need for justification 2) the meaning of justification and 3) the means of justification.

Need

Anyone who has read the bible will most likely be familiar with Rom 3:23 We are all guilty of sin and Rom 6:23 The penalty for sin is death. As we noted earlier everyone wants justice and that include God. At the same time I know of no one who truly welcomes death as punishment and again that includes God.

If we are condemned to death by our sinful yearnings and at the same time desire to escape the penalty for said sin our actions must become justified before God. In other words our sins must be able to be exempt by God. No one can escape this need. It is with us from birth.

Meaning

    In defining biblical terms I often find it useful to use Webster’s Dictionary of 1828:

1. The act of justifying; a showing to be just or conformable to law, rectitude or propriety; vindication; defense. The court listened to the evidence and arguments in justification of the prisoner's conduct. Our disobedience to God's commands admits no justification.

4. In theology, remission of sin and absolution from guilt and punishment; or an act of free grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ.

    Justification is a legal or judicial term. What justification is, said the Reformers, must be learned from Paul, its great New Testament expositor, who sees it clearly and precisely as a judicial act of God pardoning and forgiving our sins, accepting us as righteous, and instating us as his sons. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/sola-fide-the-reformed-doctrine-of-justification/

Calvin defines justification as “acceptance, whereby God receives us into his favour and regards us as righteous; and we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.”

    We are all sinners and therefore all guilty and all deserving of death and eternal damnation. But Christ for Christ this would be the lot of everyone.

Means

    This is where we will spend the majority of our time. First as we have seem we care totally and completely incapable of Justifying ourselves before God. There is nothing we can do to earn our acceptance before by Him.

    Therefore considering our sinful state and total inability to do anything about it we come to the inevitable conclusion that Christ alone, His substituting righteousness is the only grounds for justification. Faith is acknowledging our unrighteousness while looking to Christ as our righteousness.

Faith is our act, but not our work; it is an instrument of reception without being a means of merit; it is the work in us of the Holy Spirit, who both evokes it and through it ingrafts us into Christ in such a sense that we know at once the personal relationship of sinner to Saviour and disciple to Master and with that the dynamic relationship of resurrection life, communicated through the Spirit’s indwelling. So faith takes, and rejoices, and hopes, and loves, and triumphs.

The faith of the individual must be seen as having no value in itself, but as discovering value wholly and solely through movement towards and committal to Christ. It must be seen as simply a means of finding all one’s hope outside oneself in the person and work of another; and not in any sense an originating cause or objective ground of justification. For true faith is active only in the man who is wholly occupied with Christ; its practice means that every blessing is received from another. For this reason faith is exclusive and intolerant of company; it is only truly present when any and every contribution towards his salvation on the part of the believer or on the part of the Church is absolutely and unequivocally shut out. Justification must be seen and received as a blessing dependent wholly and exclusively on Christ alone, on what he is and what he has done—a blessing enjoyed simply through being joined directly to him, through finding one’s all in him, through drawing one’s all from him, without the interposition of any other mediator or mediating channel whatever. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/sola-fide-the-reformed-doctrine-of-justification/

    The following is taken from A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 Rewritten in Modern English ©1975, Carey Publications, Ltd., 75 Woodhill Road, Leeds, U.K., LS16 7BZ Reprinted here by permission (Please Note I used KJV Text)

CHAPTER 11 – JUSTIFICATION

1. GOD freely justifies the persons whom He effectually calls. He does this, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins and by accounting them, and accepting them, as righteous. This He does for Christ’s sake alone, and not for anything wrought in them or done by them. The righteousness which is imputed to them, that is, reckoned to their account, is neither their faith nor the act of believing nor any other obedience to the gospel which they have rendered, but Christ’s obedience alone. Christ’s one obedience is twofold-His active obedience rendered to the entire divine law, and His passive obedience rendered in His death. Those thus justified receive and rest by faith upon Christ’s righteousness; and this faith they have, not of themselves, but as the gift of God.

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 4:5-8 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Romans 5:17-19 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified

Other confirming text include: John 1:12; 1Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 1:7; 2:8-10; Phil. 3:8, 9.

2. The faith which receives and rests on Christ and His righteousness is the sole means of justification. Yet it is never alone in the person justified, but is invariably accompanied by all other saving graces. Nor is it a dead faith, for it works by love.

Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law

Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone;

2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

3. By His obedience and death Christ paid in full the debt of all those who are justified. By the sacrifice of Himself in His blood-shedding on Calvary, and His suffering on their behalf of the penalty they had incurred, He fully and absolutely satisfied all the claims which God’s justice had upon them. Yet their justification is altogether of free grace, firstly because Christ was the free gift of the Father to act on their behalf; secondly because Christ’s obedience and His satisfying the demands of the law was freely accepted on their behalf; and thirdly because nothing in them merited these mercies. Hence God’s exact justice and His rich grace are alike rendered glorious in the justification of sinners.

Isaiah 53:5-6 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Romans 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him

1 Peter 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

Also see Eph. 1:6,7; 2:7; Heb. 10:14; 1

4. From all eternity God decreed to justify all the elect, and in the fullness of time Christ died for their sins and rose again for their justification. Nevertheless they are not justified personally until, in due time, the Holy Spirit actually applies to them the benefits of Christ’s Person and work.

Romans 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification

Colossians 1:21-22 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Titus 3:4-7 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Also 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:2.

5. God continues to forgive the sins of all the justified. They can never lose their justification; but they may, by reason of sin, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure; in which case, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg God’s pardon, and renew their faith and repentance, God will not usually restore to them ‘the light of His countenance’.

Psalm 32:5 I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 89:31-33 31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; 32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. 33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.

John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Also look at: Ps. 51; Matt. 6:12; 26:75; 1 John 1:7

6. Believers in Old Testament times were justified in precisely the same way as New Testament believers.

Romans 4:22-24 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

Galatians 3:9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

    Recapping this doctrine we can see

That all men are in need of being found justified before God.

This justification is a judicial act of God pardoning and forgiving our sins, accepting us as righteous, and instating us as his sons.

We are justified but by God pardoning our sins and by accounting us, and accepting us, as righteous.

This He does for Christ’s sake alone, and not for anything wrought in us or done by us.

This has been the same for all mankind from all eternity.

Until next time

In HIS Service

Regeneration

"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange(529 AD): Canon 6)

If you all remember the credit for this series goes to a man asking me what I thought about salvation. He was asking what I thought was the principle “thing” one must have to obtain it and his being completely taken back when I responded Grace and not faith.

Well tonight we explore the third part in our series on the Order of Salvation and we still are not to the point where Faith enters into the equation. Regeneration is still all about God’s great Grace. We will look at three main areas of the subject, what it is (define it), what others have said about it (defend it) and finally we will look at what we should do with this information (declare it).

Regeneration is a theological term used to describe rebirth. When Christ was speaking to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3 saying he must be born again. He was referring to regeneration. Christ was explaining that Nicodemus and actually all mankind that it is in dire need of a new beginning a Genesis make over if you will.

Other passages affirm this teaching. Ephesians 2:1-2 notes that unbelievers are "dead in the trespasses and sins" prior to knowing Christ. God's salvation brings them from death to life Ephesians 2:5-6. Then we come to verse 7 and behold we find: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

It is right there in plain print. We have redemption (rebirth) through His blood according to how well we pray a sinner’s prayer, no that’s not it. According to how well we declare our faith in Christ, no not that either. No it reads according to the riches of his grace. You see it is all about God and nothing about me and you. Then Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." To me at least it cannot get much clearer than that.

But of course there will be some naysayer out there that will yell “that’s just your opinion”. No, I did not write the book; take that argument up with the author. But let’s look at what some scholars say on the subject:

A. A. Hodge (1823-1886) Writing on this matter states: The nature of regeneration is of course variously conceived by different schools, according to their various views of the nature of the soul and its relation to God, of original or habitual sin, and of divine grace.

1. Pelagians, in accordance with their view of freedom and of sin, necessarily regard regeneration as a self-determined change in the general moral course of man's life, an act of the man himself, without any gracious assistance other than that involved in instruction and favorable providential conditions This was the teaching of Pelagius in the early part of the fifth century; and although not adopted by a historical church, it has been reproduced in various combinations by Rationalists and Socinians.

2. The Semi-Pelagian doctrine taught by John Cassian (d. 440) admits that divine grace (assistentia) is necessary to enable a sinner to return unto God and live, yet holds that, from the nature of the human will, man may first spontaneously, of himself, desire and attempt to choose and obey God. They deny the necessity of prevenient but admit the necessity of co-operative grace and conceive regeneration as the product of this co-operative grace.

3. The Mediaeval and Papal doctrine, which is practically that of Thomas Aquinas, and is hence often called "Thomism," admits original sin and the necessity of prevenient grace, but places the efficacy of grace in the non-resistance of the subject.11. See the Council of Trent, sess. 6, can. 4, chs. v and vi, and sess 7, cans. 6 and 8. But this grace is supposed to be exercised only through the instrumentality of baptism, which acts as anopus operatum, ex vi actionis ipsius, effecting regeneration and the entire removal of sin, and consequently of guilt, from every infant, and from every adult who does not willfully resist (non ponentibus obicem).22. Council of Trent, sess. 7, can. 6; Bellarmin, De Sacramentis, 2,1.

4. The Arminian view of regeneration admits total depravity and consequent moral impotency, yet holds that man is not really responsible until there is redemptively bestowed upon him for Christ's sake sufficient grace to re-endow him with ability (gracious, substituted for natural) to do right, which grace becomes efficient when the sinner co-operates with it, and thus effects the end intended.

5. The Synergistic view was held by a party among the Lutherans under the leadership of Melanchthon. At the Leipzig conference (1548) Melanchthon said: "there concur three causes of a good action the word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the human will assenting, not resisting the word of God."33. Loc. Com., p. 90.

6. The Lutheran standard, the Formula Concordiae, teaches that: (l) human nature is spiritually dead; and (2) the Holy Ghost is the sole efficient agent who quickens the dead soul to life, without the least co-operation of the will of the subject; but the non-regeneration of the unbeliever is referred not to the absence nor to any deficiency of grace, but to the positive resistance of the man himself.44. Formula Concordiae, pp. 662, 666, 582, 677.

7. The Reformed doctrine teaches as follows: (l) As to the nature of regeneration: (a) There are in the soul, besides its several faculties, habits or dispositions, innate or acquired, which lay the foundation for the soul's exercising its faculties in a particular way. (b) These dispositions (moral) are anterior to moral action, and determine its character as good or evil. (c) In creation God made the dispositions of Adam's heart holy. (d) In regeneration God recreates the governing dispositions of the regenerated man's heart holy. Regeneration is therefore essentially the communication of a new spiritual life, and is properly called a "new birth." (2) As to its efficient cause: It is effected by divine power acting supernaturally and immediately upon the soul, quickening it to spiritual life, and implanting gracious principles of action. (3) As to man's action: Conversion (conversio actualis) instantly follows, as the change of action consequent upon the change of character, and consists in repentance, faith, holy obedience, etc.55. Thirty-nine Articles, art. 10; Canons of Synod of Dordt, ch. iii, art 3; Westminster Confession, ch. x.

Regeneration According to Tim Challises’ Visual Theology says: God secretly and sovereignly imparts spiritual life to those who have been called.

J.I. Packer widely know Canadian Theologian says: Regeneration is the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which his/her inherently sinful nature is changed so that he/she can respond to God in Faith, and live in accordance with His Will (Matt. 19:28; John 3:3,5,7; Titus 3:5). It extends to the whole nature of man, altering his governing disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will, and renewing his nature.

R. C. Sproul, in his book Chosen by God writes: In regeneration, God changes our hearts. He gives us a new disposition, a new inclination. He plants a desire for Christ in our hearts. We can never trust Christ for our salvation unless we first desire Him. This is why we said earlier that regeneration precedes faith.

I think we have defined it well enough. Essentially, regeneration is a change in a man's condition, from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive.

Ok so now that we have defined it let us look at defending it. By now most of you know I love the writings of a bunch of old dead guys. Most anything from the era of the Puritans, to the late 1800’s I try to read avidly. So today I have chosen to use the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession, one of the earliest Baptist Confessions of Faith in America.

On one of my many internet searches for usable information I came across this confession and was pleased to see that near 200 years ago in this country stood men of sound doctrinal beliefs.

In no uncertain terms, it declares that the Baptists, who developed this Confession, believed that regeneration precedes faith and were not afraid to let everyone know it. Let me quote from section 7, “Of Grace in Regeneration”. {Please note I have chosen to use a few but not all of the original scripture verses to save time, it does not affect their message}

1. We believe that, in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again

Jn. 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God

Jn. 6-7 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Rev. 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

The confession makes it clear they (and I) believe scripture clearly says that only regenerated souls may enter the Kingdom of God. That in order (Ordo Salutis) to be saved one must be regenerated.

2. That regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind

Deut. 30:6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Ez. 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Rom. 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Rom 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us

It case one should wrongly think that this is come “New Testament: thing the confession includes verses from the OT too. How is man regenerated? By the LORD thy God circumcising your heart, that is giving you a new one. For the old heart of man is corrupt and completely incapable apart from God’s grace in calling upon the Lord.

3. That it is affected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth

Jn. 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jn. 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Phil. 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Jam. 1:16-18 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

How are we reborn, of God, of the Spirit, by His and for His good pleasure, it is a gift of God. It is all about God not us.

We can do nothing not even seek God; Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. We are totally unrighteous incapable of a righteous act apart from God; Psalm 143:2 - Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

4. So as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel

Eph 4:20-24 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Col. 3:9-11 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

1 Pet. 1:22-25 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

1 Jn. 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

     This is a key point which we will explore it in depth next week. Suffice it to say the writers understood that conversion (repentance and faith) is not some automaton act. No those regenerated by God will desire the Gospel.

5. And that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life

Matt 3:8-10 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Matt 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them

Rom 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his

1 Jn 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith

The final thought set forth in 1833 was this, that all regenerated, born again, Christians will bear fruit. They will share the hope that is in them with others. We will explore this more thoroughly when we look at sanctification. For a preview you can look back at our sermon on “Carnal Christians”.

In closing I would like to go back to our scriptures from the Council of Orange who quoting the Apostle Paul said:

1 Cor 4:7 (AMP) For who separates you from the others [as a faction leader]? [Who makes you superior and sets you apart from another, giving you the preeminence?] What have you that was not given to you? If then you received it [from someone], why do you boast as if you had not received [but had gained it by your own efforts]?

1 Cor 15:10 But by the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not [found to be] for nothing (fruitless and without effect). In fact, I worked harder than all of them [the apostles], though it was not really I, but the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God which was with me.

I hope you can see it, the writer’s at the Council of Orange and of the New Hampshire Baptist Confession some 1300 years apart recognized that it is was and always will be all about God. Regeneration the new birth is needed by all and it is solely a gift of God. Man has no part in this; I / we are what we are, of God and by God for His good pleasure and Glory alone. That my friend is the unfeigned truth the message we should be declaring to all.

Next week we will look at Conversion. Until then May God greatly bless you and yours.

In HIS Service