Daily Archives: January 19, 2014

Questions about Cults and Religions: What Does the Bible Say about White Magic?

 

White magic is described as “good” magic, as opposed to black magic which draws upon the powers of evil beings. Opinions vary as to the differences between black and white magic, ranging from the idea that they are two names for exactly the same thing, to the belief that they are completely different, especially in goals and intent. The Bible does not differentiate between “good” and “bad” magic. Magic is magic as far as the Bible is concerned. Scripture doesn’t distinguish whether the magic is supposed to be used for good or for bad; it’s all forbidden because it appeals to a source of power other than God.

Those who practice white magic, also often called Wicca, worship the creation rather than the Creator, and while they may not call on the devil or evil spirits, they often appeal to “mother earth,” angels, and/or the elements. The central Wiccan theme is, “if it does no harm, do your own will.” Many who dabble in white magic call themselves Wiccans, whether they actually are or not. Although Wicca is fairly open-ended and there are various “denominations” and theological positions within the belief, there are certain beliefs, practices, and traditions which connect adherents of white magic to Wicca.

Whether the intent is to venerate “mother” earth, the elements, or the angels and one intends to do only good, the reality is that ultimately there is no distinction between white and black magic because they both worship something other than God. It’s frightening to think that the adherents of white magic are unknowingly praying to and beseeching the same god that adherents of black magic are—Satan.

Throughout Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, all forms of witchcraft are in violation of God’s law and are condemned. (Deuteronomy 18:10–16; Leviticus 19:26, 31, 20:27; Acts 13:8–10). Pharaoh’s magicians tried to duplicate the miracles done by Moses and Aaron by using their “secret arts,” which refers to “the ceremonies or rituals sorcerers and magicians use to accomplish their ends: incantations, spells, magic words, wearing of charms, amulets” and so on (Exodus 7:11, 8:7). The apostle Paul condemned Elyas, the sorcerer, proclaiming him a “child of the devil” who was full of “all kinds of deceit and trickery” and was “perverting the right ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10). Nowhere in the Bible is any sorcerer or magician portrayed in a positive light. All are condemned by God.

Scripture says that God hates all magic, whether it is the right-hand path, or the left-hand path. Why? Because it doesn’t come from God. Satan deceives people by making them think white magic is beneficial. He can do this because he pretends to be an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), but his desire is to ensnare the souls of as many as he can. The Bible warns against him and his evil tricks. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Real spiritual power only comes from God, from a right relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and from the Holy Spirit who lives in the hearts of believers.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: What Does It Mean that Jesus Will Return like a Thief in the Night?

 

The concept of the return of Christ being like a thief in the night comes from Matthew 24:43: “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.” The essential elements of Jesus’ warning are that no one knows when He will return, and we have to be in a state of preparedness, always watching for His imminent return. Jesus warned that we should always be prepared because no one except the Father knows the hour of His return (Matthew 24:36–44).

This event has become known as the Rapture. The word “rapture” appears nowhere in the Bible, but the event does. The word used in the Greek is harpazo (“to catch away; to snatch”), found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

The sudden nature of this event is described in 1 Corinthians 15:51–54 as “a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.” There will be no warning of Christ’s coming, just as a thief in the night comes without warning. Therefore, Matthew 24:44 tells us, we must “be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

For the Christian, the Rapture will be a welcome event, but for everyone else it will be a time of great tribulation. Imagine being left behind while millions of Christians all over the world suddenly vanish without explanation. We have been sufficiently warned by the Bible and the testimony of God’s own Son to be prepared. We must be vigilant, and we must be protected by the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13–18). The devil roams the earth looking for Christians with a chink in their armor. Do not be fooled into believing the devil only focuses on sinners. He already owns them and has no reason to bother with them unless they begin to spiritually awaken to Christ Jesus. The devil’s concern is the Christian. We are the ones he wants to corrupt and destroy, and that is why Christians must be ever watchful and ready for the hour of our Lord’s return.

We also have the presence of God’s Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us. We have everything we need to live godly lives in obedience to God’s Word, leaving no excuse for being unprepared.

We thank God that He loves us enough to provide the way for us to escape and the judgment of God. That way is Jesus Christ. By accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and by the grace of God, we are granted forgiveness of sins, mercy and salvation with the promise of everlasting life (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). Our salvation in Christ is the means by which we may be prepared and rejoice in His return.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Apologetics and Worldview: What Is the Judeo-Christian Ethic?

 

The term “Judeo-Christian” refers to something that has its source in the common foundations of Judaism and Christianity. The Bible includes the Jewish Scriptures of the Old Testament, so the moral foundations laid down in Judaism are upheld in Christianity. The first use of the term “Judeo-Christian ethic” was apparently by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in his 1888 book The Antichrist: Curse on Christianity. The early uses of the term “Judeo-Christian ethic” referred to the Jewish roots and identity of the early Christian church, but it wasn’t used to speak of a common set of morals until much later.

In 1952, President-elect Dwight Eisenhower, speaking to the Freedoms Foundation in New York, said, “Our sense of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion that all men are created equal.” This began the modern use of the term in American political and social circles. From Eisenhower’s day to the present, the term has become particularly associated with political conservatives in America, though there are much broader applications. In our American military schools, it is commonly taught that the modern rules for war, like the protection of captives and non-combatants, are based on biblical themes. American jurisprudence is firmly based in Judeo-Christian ethics and celebrates that fact with a variety of artwork throughout Washington, D.C. In the House of Representatives there are 23 marble relief portraits of great lawgivers, including Moses, who is given the central point of focus. The sculptures over the main entrance to the Supreme Court building are centered on Moses with the Ten Commandments, and there are several other representations of Moses and the Ten Commandments in various places throughout the building.

Though there are many aspects to the Judeo-Christian ethic, some of the more common ones are the sanctity of human life, personal responsibility, a high regard for marriage, and compassion for others. Much of what is best in Western civilization can be directly attributed to the Judeo-Christian ethic. Historian Thomas Cahill, in pointing out the common themes of Christianity and Judaism, said, “The heart of the Torah is not obedience to regulations about such things as diet—what one may eat, whom one may eat with, how one must prepare oneself beforehand—but to tzedakka, justice like God’s Justice,
justice toward the downtrodden.” The foundations of the Judeo-Christian ethic can be summarized in the “Golden Rule” which Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Gracethrufaith: If You Are Faithful to Confess

“This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. (Exodus 29:38-39)

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness  (1 John 1:8-9)

Each morning and each evening for as long as the Tabernacle and two Temples stood, the Israelites offered a lamb to set aside the sins of the people. Think of it: 2 lambs every day 365 days a year for over 1200 years. That’s more than 876,000 lambs just for the twice-daily national sin offering.

The purpose of this offering was to prevent the daily sins of the people from interrupting the fellowship between God and His people. Of course there were also numerous other offerings for various purposes, but this one maintained the relationship.

Man’s tendency toward sin is so deeply ingrained in his make-up that it’s literally impossible to separate him from it. As one commentator put it, “We aren’t sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re sinners.” David understood this when he wrote, ” Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” (Psalm 19:12-13). David believed that to be truly cleansed, he needed to confess even those sins he wasn’t aware of committing. He understood that our sin nature is so much a part of us that sinning is a natural response to the stimulus of our imperfect environment. It’s our default setting, if you will. David even confessed to being sinful while still in his mother’s womb (Psalm 51:5). So much for the pre-born not being human, or alive.

Since the priests were to keep the morning lamb burning on the altar until the time for the evening lamb and vice versa this national offering was a perpetual covering for the steady stream of unintentional and even unconscious acts of sin committed by the people day and night.

Keep in mind that the Israelites were in a covenant relationship with God and every year on Yom Kippur in their most sacred and solemn ceremony their sins were set aside. Even so the daily offering was required.

Contained In The Old, Explained In The New

I believe that many of the ordinances that were external and physical in the Old Testament became internal and spiritual in the New. So it’s no surprise to discover that the daily sin offering has its New Testament counterpart.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) John wrote his letters to believers who were already in a covenant relationship with God and whose sins had already been washed away by the blood of Jesus. And yet he admonished them to offer prayers of confession, promising that these prayers would purify them from all unrighteousness.  These verses imply that believers still sin, which makes them impure, and need to offer prayers of confession to have their purity restored.

But Paul claimed that if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, that God made Him Who had no sin (Jesus) to be sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21). If so, why do Christians have to offer prayers of confession?

Union Vs. Fellowship

It’s because there are 2 components to our relationship with the Lord. The first is called union. It’s that unbreakable bond that was created when you first believed and the Holy Spirit came to dwell within you (Ephe. 1:13-14). Nothing you do can reverse that; you can’t become unborn. Union is the basis of our relationship.

The second is fellowship. It’s the status of our relationship at any point in time, characterized by 2-way communication and blessing.  True, all our sins were taken away at the cross (Colossians 2:13-14), and if we had also been cured of our sin nature when we first believed, John wouldn’t have counseled us to keep on praying for forgiveness. But we weren’t.  God fixed it so that our ongoing tendency to sin wouldn’t disqualify us for salvation by paying the penalty for all our sins at once and choosing thereafter to see us as if we had already been made perfect, instead of still being in our imperfect state.

He Who sees the end from the beginning simply looks upon us as we will be not as we are. So for the purpose of our eternity, we are secure because by the time we get there we’ll have been made perfect. “For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever, those who are being made holy” (Hebr. 10:14). He knows that and has chosen to see us that way even now. This is the new creation Paul described.

And that brings us to the second component. We’re being made holy, because unholy beings cannot dwell in the presence of a holy God. We will one day be changed and made fit to dwell with Him in His Kingdom forever. But that hasn’t happened yet, so to remain in fellowship now we have to “clean up” periodically by seeking forgiveness for the sins we continue to commit. The benefit of staying in fellowship with Him is the incredible blessing and favor we receive from His Hand as He fulfills the role of Good Shepherd described in Psalm 23. Being out of fellowship means losing out on this day-to-day intimacy.

So Union describes our eternal state, while fellowship refers to our relationship in the here and now. The reason so many Christians live defeated lives is due to their failure to understand this difference. They come forward to receive the Lord and solve their eternal problem (union), but miss out on the tremendous blessing He can provide in the here and now (fellowship) by failing to confess when they continue to sin.

Lessons From Israel

The Lord taught the Israelites that even though they were a covenant people who had been granted great and eternal blessing in return for their obedience, they still needed to act daily to preserve their relationship. The required act was a twice-daily sacrifice for sin.

He promised the church even greater blessing in return for our faith. But  John admonishes us to act to preserve our relationship as well. The required act is a prayer of confession when we sin. Theirs was a national, external, and physical requirement. Ours is personal, internal, and spiritual.

“Who can discern his errors?” David asked. Which one of us knows each and every sin we commit? We become so adept at rationalizing and justifying our behavior and sinning is so natural to our fallen state, it’s impossible to recognize and remember them all. “Forgive our hidden faults, Lord, and keep your servants also from willful sins; may they not rule over us. Then we’ll be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” Just as our morning shower cleanses us physically, this prayer offered each morning will cleanse us spiritually and restore us to righteousness, qualifying us for the great blessings the Lord has laid up for us in each new day. For if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  Selah 06-04-03.

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40 more maps that explain the world

Maps seemed to be everywhere in 2013, a trend I like to think we encouraged along with August’s 40 maps that explain the world. Maps can be a remarkably powerful tool for understanding the world and how it works, but they show only what you ask them to. You might consider this, then, a collection of maps meant to inspire your inner map nerd. I’ve searched far and wide for maps that can reveal and surprise and inform in ways that the daily headlines might not, with a careful eye for sourcing and detail. I’ve included a link for more information on just about every one. Enjoy.

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What are my Rights at Various “Checkpoints”?

There are four general types of checkpoints you might encounter: DUI checkpoints, US border checkpoints, drug checkpoints, and TSA checkpoints.

In a legal sense, they are not all created equal. So depending on which one you encounter, you’ll want to be prepared to flex your rights appropriately.

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The Existential Elephant in the ‘Christian Persecution’ Room :: Ibrahim in CBN News

by Raymond Ibrahim
CBN News
January 17, 2014

http://www.meforum.org/3718/christian-persecution

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Gracethrufaith: What Does The Bible Say? – (A Bible Study by Jack Kelley)

I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and in thought (1 Cor. 1:10).

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim 4:3).

I don’t believe there’s ever been a time in history when we’ve been subjected to a wider variety of opinions on what the Bible says. Some of these opinions have actually been around for a long time, while others are new to the scene. But all are now gaining a wider audience due to the advent of mass communications, especially the internet. And because today’s average Christian is woefully uninformed where the Bible is concerned, some of these opinions have gained a following that couldn’t have been possible in the past.

As as result it takes an above average level of Biblical knowledge and the full application of our spiritual discernment to figure out what is true and what is not. Fortunately the Bible, being the word of God, only teaches one doctrinal position so the diligent student can wade through all the false teaching and find the truth. Unfortunately, the number of diligent students in the Christian world seems to be at an all time low, and many are being misled. Most of this false teaching doesn’t impact a person’s salvation, it just sows confusion in the body. But some of it has resulted in a considerable number of people who think they are going to heaven because of what they’ve been taught, although according to what the Bible says they probably aren’t.

In preparing for this study, I began making a list of the various doctrinal positions now being taught, and I saw a pattern emerging. It looks to me like we’re being offered a selection of teachings which have the overall effect of fracturing the body of Christ in ways that defy coincidence. It’s almost as if some unseen force is applying the “divide and conquer” principle to deprive us of any chance we might have had to regain our lost unity in these last days.

This is in direct contrast to Paul’s teaching against allowing divisions to develop among us. The Greek word translated “divisions” in 1 Cor. 1:10 above is “schisma”. Its literal meaning is a rent or tear, but it’s also used metaphorically to speak of division or dissension. The root word is the verb “schizo” which means “to cleave asunder” or “split into factions.” The English word “schism” comes from here.

In Paul’s day these divisions were caused by believers preferring one teacher over another and allowing quarrels to erupt over which one was best (1 Cor. 1:11-12). Back then, there were only a few teachers involved, but because the Church didn’t heed Paul’s admonition there are now hundreds of major denominational and independent groups world wide, most of them begun because people either wouldn’t agree on what the Bible says, or willingly put their own opinions above God’s word.

So, as we begin this new year, I want to spend a few weeks reminding ourselves in the clearest possible terms what the Bible really says about the important beliefs of our faith. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study but a review of the clearest verses the Bible offers on the topics we’ll cover. In the first place exhaustive studies are often exhausting to read. Second, and more importantly, a basic rule of interpretation is to use the clearest verses on a topic to help us interpret those that aren’t as clear. (The Bible is not a book where you have to worry about the fine print or continually be on the lookout for exclusions and exceptions. It’s meant to be understood by ordinary people of average intelligence.) Finally, I’d like to keep this study simple enough so you can share it with a curious friend or loved one, or even your kids.

With that in mind let’s begin with the most critical and fundamental belief of all.

What Does It Take To Be Saved?

Understanding what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) about salvation is obviously our number one priority. Let’s begin by defining the term.

The Bible says we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). This means we’ve repeatedly violated God’s Law. How we got into this situation is a long story but the end result is that our sins have gotten us into big trouble with God. In fact the Bible says our sins are punishable by death (Romans 6:23). Being saved means to be rescued from the death penalty due us for the sins we’ve committed.

The Bible mentions two births and two deaths. The first birth and the first death are physical and relate to our physical body, which usually wears out and ceases to work after 70 or 80 years. The second birth and the second death are spiritual, and relate to our soul and spirit, which live forever.

Salvation was not intended to save people from their physical death, but from their spiritual death, which the Bible defines as being consigned to a lake of fire to be tormented forever. In Rev. 20:14 and Rev. 21:8 this lake of fire is called the second death. So in the most literal sense being saved means escaping the second death.

You Must Be Born Again

We are saved from the second death by experiencing our second birth. In some circles this is called being being born again and it’s absolutely necessary in order for us to be saved from the penalty due us for our sins.

Here’s how it works. Knowing it isn’t entirely our fault that we’re in this predicament, God promised to send His Son to pay the penalty for our sins by dying in our place. His name is Jesus, and in the eternal sense, His death has saved our lives, if we’ll let it.

In John 1:12-13 we read the following;

“Yet to all who received Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, nor of a husband’s will, but born of God.”

Our first birth made us a child of our earthly parents, but our second birth makes us a child of God. It’s our second birth that qualifies us for entry into the Kingdom of God, for without it no one can enter therein (John 3:3). In John 3:6 Jesus said flesh gives birth to flesh (first birth) but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (second birth).

These verses tell us our second birth takes place when we receive Jesus and believe in His name. Receiving Him means taking Him to ourselves or making Him our own, and believing in His name means believing Jesus is the one through whom God brought our salvation. In Hebrew, the name of Jesus is Yeshua, a contraction of the phrase that means “God is salvation”. His name explains what He has done, so by believing in His name we are believing in what He has done for us.

To summarize, if we’re only born once we’ll die twice, but if we’re born twice we’ll only die once. (Some of us won’t die at all, but that’s a topic for another discussion.)

Who Can Be Saved?

The Bible tells us God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9) and that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but will have everlasting life (John 3:16). In fact it says believing that God sent Jesus to save us is the only thing God requires of us (John 6:28-29).

It also says the decision to be saved is ours to make. In Matt. 7:7-8 Jesus said everyone who asks will receive, everyone who seeks will find, and to whoever knocks the door will be opened. Paul said if we confess with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead we’ll be saved (Romans 10:9). He said everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). The only condition is that our decision has to be made during our lifetime (Hebrews 9:27). After we die our destiny is sealed for eternity.

Did God Say That?

Everything else you may have heard about salvation is man made, not God breathed. For example;

The Bible does not say we have to agree to stop sinning in order to be saved. It does say we have to change our mind and agree we are sinners, because people who don’t think they sin don’t ask for a Savior.

The Bible does not say that before He created any of us, God selected some of us to be saved, left the rest to suffer the second death, and there’s nothing any of us can do to change that. The clearest verses on the subject tell us that God doesn’t want any of us to perish (2 Peter 3:9) but instead wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament tell us that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13).

The Bible does not say we can only be saved if God deems us worthy of such a blessing. It says we aren’t saved because of righteous things we have done but because of His mercy (Titus 3:5).

The Bible does not say we have to contribute our own effort to the salvation process. Is says we are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Bible does not say we can be saved by simply joining a particular church or denomination. It says we have to be born again (John 3:3).

The Bible does not say we can be saved by obeying God’s Law. It says no one will be declared righteous by obeying the Law (Romans 3:20) but that we have a righteousness apart from the Law that comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:21-24).

The Bible does not say we will get another chance to be saved after we die. It says we’re only given one life and when it ends we’ll face our judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

The Bible does not say we need to be baptized in order to be saved. While baptism is important, it serves as the public declaration of our private decision to join the family of God, not as a prerequisite for doing so. The Bible says we were included in Christ when we heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. Having believed we were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance,until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Next time we’ll look at the durability of our salvation. Did God go to the extreme lengths that were required to save us, only to leave the maintenance of our salvation in our provably incapable hands, knowing we couldn’t help but lose it? Let’s find out what the Bible says. See you then. 01-18-14

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Theology: GOD IS LOVE

Define Human love, the love that we should have one for one another. Is it not self-sacrificing, is it not an extreme desire to do for, is it not an extreme desire to be with, is it not the desire to spend time with the person?

So, is this the way you act toward God? It should be if you really love Him.

There are four types of love that we want to look at briefly.

1. Physical Love. That which the world portrays as true love — that of the flesh. Impulse love. Soap Opera love. The love based on feeling, impulse, and desire.

This love is not the marry me type love. It is the use me type love. It is not the spend my life with me type love. It is the give me something to do tonight love.

It is based on looks, desire, lust, and convenience. It takes no commitment to be involved in this type of love.

The “Let’s live together” love is wrecking our society. This is the love that too many marriages are based on.

2. Natural Love. The friend and relative love that one can feel.

Faith and I went to Ohio for a reception with Regular Baptist Press. I have a cousin that lived in the same city, so we called her and met with her for a couple of hours. She had gone through a divorce and just lost her mother.

She was having a rough time. I had a real concern for her welfare and her hurt. This is the natural love of family and friends.

This love often moves you to action on the other person’s behalf.

3. Aesthetical Love. That which you have for something of beauty or character.

Wyoming has some of the prettiest sunsets that I’ve run across in my travels across the western United States and the Far East. One night on the way to Torrington, WY in our 2nd year at Frontier School of the Bible, we noticed the sunset and I was excited way down deep to know I was going to watch this thing unfold as we traveled for about 45 minutes. I had a real sense of anticipation.

June Carter Stapleton, a charismatic faith healer believes that a person can be born again after viewing a beautiful painting. This is the aesthetic approach to salvation which is misleading many today. They are being given false hope in what is too commonly called the born again experience. Being born again comes from dealing with Almighty God about your sinful condition, not form watching a sunset, or looking at a beautiful painting.

4. Ethical Love. This is the unswerving or unwavering determination to do good. This is the love that we should have for our mates.

The different levels of love that we have listed, may be the levels that a couple passes through on their way to the altar. They first get that fuzzy feeling when they are getting to know one another. They may then move into the area where they are deep friends. They may even begin to see the real beauty of one another, that inner beauty that comes forth. However, the love that a marriage needs to survive is the love that determines to do good for the other partner.

Couples may get married in the first level of love and find that they have worked through the other three to a solid marriage; however, a marriage in the first three levels is not usually very solid. The first three types of love lack the total commitment of the final level of love.

God’s love is far above all four of these human levels of love. His love is that within Him that moves him to give of Himself to his creatures regardless of their merit. He does this of His own will, and will do it eternally.

This love is seen in 1 John 4:10 which shows that God sent Christ, in love to a people that did not love Christ, or God. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

GOD’S LOVE SHOWN

1. God loved Israel in the Old Testament: Isaiah 63:9, Isaiah 49:14-16. His love was not limited to Israel in the Old Testament. The pre-Israel times show God’s love for all people. The gentiles were to be part of the overall program during Israel’s time as well, except that Israel didn’t share that which they had spiritually. This is seen in the system, of sojourners and strangers, that was included in the law. Those people coming to God through the Jewish people were to be accepted in as Jews. This system demands that God wanted gentiles to be a part of the system.

God’s love for all people is also shown in the fact Jonah went to the Gentiles.

2. God loved the church in the New Testament: 1 John 4:11, mentions God’s love, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” He gave the church age the organization of the church for our benefit. He gave us the job that we should be about. The ministry of missions is so very rewarding to those that take part in it. God has shown great love for all peoples by opening up the gospel to all people.

3. God is love: 1 John 4:8, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” God’s very nature is that of love. He exudes love in all that He does for mankind. Even in judgment upon the earth after the fall, He left us an earth that is beautiful to behold. He gave to us many things to enjoy in this life.

GOD’S LOVE EXAMINED

1. His Love Is Unselfish: He has no thought of personal benefit, but seeks good for the object of His love. Israel was a small people yet He chose to benefit them. (Deuteronomy 7:7,8 tells of His love for Israel.) The church is often made up of the weak and the poor, yet God ministers unto them. He desires a people who will return their love to Him.

2. His Love Is Voluntary: A little boy once said, “If I was God I’d go to every country in the world and say, You guys love one another or else.” God does not operate in this way however. He gives his love and does not force that love upon those that reject it. Romans 5:8 tells us that while we were yet sinners He acted by sending His Son. He did not await someone to approach Him. (1 John 4:10 also)

3. His Love Is Righteous: His love for man never allows nor condones sin. Love that allows for sin is called sentimentalism. That is the willingness to do wrong for the sake of the one you love. Psalm 11:7, “For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” Psalm 33:5, “He loveth righteousness and justice…..”

4. His Love Is Everlasting: Jeremiah 31:3, “…..I have loved thee with an everlasting love…..” 1 John 4:8 mentions that He is love and that He is eternal. It follows that His love is also eternal.

His love will not allow Him to tire of taking care of for His people. His love will not allow Him to tire of seeking to save the lost. His love will not allow Him to forget His promises to us.

5. His Love Is Active: Jeremiah 31:3, “…..with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” John 3:16 — love caused God to send His Son. Ephesians 5:25-27 tells that Christ died because of His love for us.

A love that acts is a love that lasts in marriage. A love that acts is a love that is real and beneficent when it is God’s love.

6. His Love Is Yet Unsatisfied: He will have satisfied love when we are with Him. Zephaniah 3:17, “…..he will rest in His love…..” The context of this phrase is the end times. As long as there are believers, He will be active on their part. As long as there are lost, He will be actively seeking them.

7. His Love Is Directed: He has objects for His love. Before we list some of these, might we consider a question? Can there be love without an object of that love? No. Since God is Love there must be an object of that love. Before creation what was the object of the Fathers love? This demands that there be plurality in the Godhead. Christ is the object of that love. Indeed, there must be a perfect illustration of love within all three members of the Godhead.

a. God loved Christ, His beloved Son: Matthew 3:17, “…..This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” John 3:35; 17:24.

b. He loves those who love Christ: John 16:27, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” 1 John 31

c. He loves Israel: Jeremiah 31:3,4 “…..I have loved thee with an everlasting love…..” This love will again act on their behalf as they return to Him as a nation.

d. He loves the world: John 3:16

e. He loves all mankind: Matthew 5:43-48 mentions that He gives sun and rain to all mankind. John 3:16 tells that He gave His son for all.

8. His Love Is Universal: John 3:16 He loves all of His creatures, be they obedient or rebellious. Parental love both acts by hugging and by spanking. Both the hug and the swat are expressions of love from the parent.

APPLICATION

1. As we realize His love, we will love Him. As our love for Him deepens, our commitment to Him will also deepen.

2. As we realize He loves us, our response should be to return that love through our beings verbally, physically, and spiritually. 1 John 4:11 tells us that because He loved us we should love one another. He loved us enough to send His son. We should respond by sending our sons and daughters to His service. The Hymn writer in O Zion Haste mentions this. The song tells us to give of our sons, wealth, and prayer. All three are needed.

3. Strong mentions, “By love we mean that attribute of the divine nature in virtue of which God is eternally moved to self-communication.” (Strong, Augustus H.. “Systematic Theology”; Valley Forge, PA: The Judson Press, 1907,p 263)

Indeed, any love, be it God’s or man’s, desires to communicate to the object of that love. By application, is that why communication breakdowns in marriage are so serious. Is it not partly that the love once present has no desire to communicate, or is it that the love is not present?

Poor communication may show serious signs of a deterioration in the marriage.

4. Paul finishes his second epistle to the Corinthians with the following statement, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”

Such a simple way to assure ourselves of the Lord’s presence and love — be perfect, be a good comfort, be of one mind, and be in peace.[1]


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

The Race in Ruin – (Romans 3:13–18)

The Race in Ruin

Romans 3:13–18

“Their throats are open graves;

their tongues practice deceit.”

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;

ruin and misery mark their ways,

and the way of peace they do not know.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

We have already had one very grim description of the human race in the verses that end Romans 1. There humanity was described as being “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (vv. 29–31). After a list of such vices we might think that a further catalogue would be unnecessary. Yet, as Paul gets to the end of this first main section of Romans, in which the need of people for the gospel of grace is so clearly and comprehensively pointed out, he seems to sense a need to do it all over again.

So he writes:

“Their throats are open graves;

their tongues practice deceit.”

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;

ruin and misery mark their ways,

and the way of peace they do not know.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 3:13–18

The difference between this and the passage in Romans 1 is that each of these sentences is a quotation from the Old Testament, whereas the earlier passage was made up merely of the apostle’s own descriptive terminology. In other words, the verses in Romans 1 are a description of the world as Paul saw it, though he is also writing as an apostle and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The verses in Romans 3 are more specifically and obviously God’s own description of the race’s depravity.

Wicked Words from Wicked Men

Verses 13 and 14 are made up of three quotations from the Old Testament: Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, and Psalm 10:7, though there are other passages that are similar. What is striking about them is that they all refer to the organs of speech: throat, tongue, lips, and mouth. And they describe how the words spoken by these organs are used to harm others. In the previous verses we have been shown how people harm themselves by turning away from God. Here we learn how they also harm others by the organs of speech that God gave them.

What do you think of first when you read these verses? If you are like me, you notice the words cursing and bitterness and think, first of all, of harsh speech, which is meant to wound another person. Perhaps when you were a child and other children said hurtful things to you, you were taught this little saying by a parent or a family friend: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Unfortunately, I am sure you also learned—if you thought about it—that this little saying is not really true. It is a way of bolstering our egos to help us get through some difficult times, but it is not true that words do not hurt us. Words do hurt; they hurt deeply. In fact, they often hurt permanently. When I think back on my childhood I can remember times when I suffered some physical injury. I broke my collarbone, damaged two teeth, tore the cartilage in my left leg, and suffered scores of bumps, bangs, and bruises. But, although I can sometimes recall the incidents, I cannot remember even one bit of the pain. Yet I remember the pain of words. I remember harsh things other people said, and I still hurt when I recall them. Sticks and stones do hurt our bones—temporarily. But words wound forever.

Yet, I think that what Paul is saying here goes deeper. Indeed, it is clear that it does, because the words that describe the outcome of the harmful words of the ungodly all have to do, not with psychological injury, but with death.

Martin Luther has written the most penetrating study of this passage of any commentator I have studied, and he, with characteristic insight and brilliance, relates these evil words not just to hurtful things someone may say to us, but to false teachings or heresy, which are able to kill the soul. Luther suggests that those who teach falsely do three things:

1. They devour the dead. This means that they devour those who are spiritually dead already. Here he writes vividly: “Their teaching … swallows up the dead, who have gone from faith to unbelief, and swallows them up in such a way that there is no hope of returning from the death of this unbelief, unless they can be recalled by the most wonderful power of God before they descend to hell, as the Lord showed in the case of Lazarus who had been dead for four days. He says, moreover, that the grave is ‘open’ because they devour and seduce many people.” Luther quotes Psalm 14:4 (“Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread?”), then continues: “That is, just as there is squeamishness about eating bread, even though it is eaten more frequently than other foods, so also they do not cease to devour their dead, and their disciples are never satisfied.” Luther concludes, “Heresy, or faithless teaching, is nothing else than a kind of disease or plague which infects and kills many people, just as is the case with the physical plague.”

And, of course, this is precisely the business the world’s purveyors of words are engaged in, even those who are highly regarded by our society. I was once talking with Josh D. McDowell, the popular Christian apologist who speaks widely on college campuses for Campus Crusade for Christ and is author of the best-selling books Evidence That Demands a Verdict and More Evidence That Demands a Verdict. McDowell was in the process of launching a nationwide campaign called “Why Wait?” whose purpose was to encourage today’s teens to reject sexual experience before marriage. We were discussing this campaign and some of the pressures on today’s young people. He mentioned television, pointing out that the average young person today will have seen more than ninety thousand explicit sexual encounters on television before he or she reaches the age of nineteen. Whenever anyone on television says, “I love you” to another person, the two always end up in bed. This is all “love” is allowed to mean. Moreover, the young person will probably not see even one example of anyone contracting a sexual disease as the result of such open sex practices. Nor will the TV screen show the pain or psychological damage that promiscuous sex brings. As we were talking about these things, McDowell said, “On television immorality has become morality. Sin is the norm.”

But immorality kills! That is the thrust of the first three chapters of Romans and the point of Paul’s specific quotations from the Old Testament. Can you see this? If you can, you need to start thinking differently about the contemporary media—television, newspapers, magazines, and movies. Their messages are not harmless entertainment, as we sometimes think. They are a death machine. They are killing our young people and many older people as well. They are an open grave for the unwary.

2. They teach deceitfully. The second thing Luther noticed about those who disseminate false teaching is that they teach deceitfully, which is what Paul says. “Their tongues practice deceit” (v. 13).

Luther notices the difference between the mouth, which has teeth and chews—it is referred to later (“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness”)—and the tongue, which is soft. He says: “ ‘To teach deceitfully’ is to teach a pleasing and wanton doctrine, as if it were holy, salutary, and from God, so that people who have been thus deceived hear this doctrine as if from God and believe that they are hearing him. For the message appears good to them and truthful and godly.… The tongue is soft, it has no bones, and it licks softly. Thus their every speech only softens the heart of men to be pleased with themselves in their own wisdom, their own righteousness, their own word or work. As it says in Isaiah 30:10: ‘Speak to us smooth things. Prophesy not to us what is right.’ ”

Isn’t this what we hear in the words of the world around us? The world generally does not speak warnings—except as threats to other people. On the contrary, we are encouraged to think that everything is all right with us—that we can do anything we wish, satisfy any desire, avoid any responsibility, above all, never express true repentance for anything—and everything will come out right in the end. This is damnable heresy in the literal sense! It is false teaching that will transport many to hell.

3. They kill those who have been taught such things. In the third of his three points Luther comes to the end result of false teaching, showing that it leads to death. “This … same flattering and pleasing doctrine … not only does not make alive those who believe it but [it] actually kills them. And it kills them in such a way that they are beyond recovery.” Paul has already said the same thing himself in Romans 2: “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger … trouble and distress” (vv. 8–9). He says it even more clearly later: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a).

Violent Acts from Violent Men

We are not to think that this grim description is limited to mere words, however, still less to charming (though deceptive) words. In verse 14 the deceitful and poisonous speech of verse 13 boils over into harsh “cursing and bitterness” on those who refuse to be deceived. And in verses 15–17 those who teach falsehood move from words to violent actions. These verses, quoted from Isaiah 59:7–8, describe three acts of violent men, beginning with the end result of these acts. To see the progression, we need to take them in reverse order.

1. “The way of peace they do not know” (v. 17). This relates to people as they are in themselves apart from God. They know no personal peace—“… the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud” (Isa. 57:20). But this also describes the effects such persons have upon others. Having no peace themselves, they disrupt the peace of other people. Commentator Haldane says rightly, “Such is a just description of man’s ferocity, which fills the world with animosities, quarrels and hatred in the private connections of families and neighborhoods; and with revolution, wars and murders among nations. The most savage animals do not destroy so many of their own species to appease their hunger, as man destroys of his fellows to satiate his ambition, revenge or cupidity.”

There are three ways in which men and women lack peace apart from God. First, they are not at peace with God; they are at war with him. Second, they are not at peace with one another; they hate and attack one another. Third, they are not at peace in themselves; they are restless and distressed. The only way we can find peace is by coming to the cross of Christ, where God has himself bridged the gap to man and has made peace. There sinners find peace with God and within themselves. And they are drawn together into fellowship with those who have likewise found peace and who are therefore able to live in peace with one another.

2. “Ruin and misery mark their ways” (v. 16). Again, this is something wicked persons experience themselves; their way is misery and ruin. But it is also something they bring on others. In other words, this verse has an active and not just a passive sense. Without a changed nature, human beings naturally labor to destroy and ruin one another, as Paul has already shown earlier.

3. “Their feet are swift to shed blood” (v. 15). Working backward, we come to the last of these deceitful actions. Their end is death—and not just physical death, though that would be bad enough in itself—but spiritual death, which is the death of the soul and spirit in hell. Death means separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul and spirit from God. It is forever.

No Fear of God

The last phrase of this great summary of the human race in ruin is from Psalm 36:1, and it is an apt conclusion. It tells why all these other violent and wicked acts have happened: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

You know, I am sure, that the word fear in this sentence does not mean exactly what we usually mean by the word. We mean “fright” or “terror,” but in the Bible the word fear, when used of God, denotes a right and reverential frame of mind before him. It has to do with worshiping him, obeying him, and departing from evil. That is why we read in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” This means that if we approach God rightly, all other things will fall into their proper places. When Romans 3:18 declares that the human race has not done this, it is saying what Paul has been stating all along. Because men and women will not know God, choosing rather to suppress the truth about him, their minds are darkened and they become fools. They claimed to be wise but “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:22).

One commentator says, “To be destitute of the fear of God is to be godless, and no indictment could be more inclusive and decisive than the charge here made.”

I find it interesting, however, that Paul here also refers to “eyes.” This is the sixth of the specific body references Paul makes in these verses in order to make his accusations vivid. He has referred to throats, tongues, lips, mouths, and feet. Now he mentions eyes.

Since eyes are our organs of vision, to have the fear of God before our eyes means that we have God constantly in our thoughts and in a central position in everything that concerns us. It means that we are ever looking toward him. Here I remind you of what we see in Psalm 8:5, where man is described as being “a little lower than the heavenly beings.” Earlier I pointed out, in discussing man’s downward path, that it is our destiny as those made in God’s image to look up to the heavenly beings and beyond them to God and thus become increasingly like God. To have the “fear of God before [our] eyes” is to do just that. It is the way of all blessing, growth, and knowledge. But if we will not do that, we will inevitably look down and become like the beasts who are below us.

I began this section with a reminder that “fear” in regard to God does not mean “fright” or “terror,” but rather a right and reverential frame of mind before him. But I need to add that if we will not come to God as he presents himself to us in Jesus Christ (as Savior), it is not inappropriate to be actually afraid of the Almighty. God’s wrath hangs over us. His terrible judgment awaits us as the proper recompense for our unatoned sins.

The irony of the state of human beings in our sin, however, is that we do not fear the one, holy, and judging God. Instead, we fear lesser entities. The pagan of Paul’s day feared the vast pantheon of Babylonian, Greek, Roman, and an assortment of other gods. The pagan in the distant jungle fears the rivers, rocks, and trees. He fears the sky, the thunder, the spirits of the night. The “civilized” pagan—that is, a contemporary man or woman— fears the future, hostile neighbors, disease, technological breakdown, and a host of other dangers.

Above all, everyone fears death.

What irony: To fear these things, all of which pass away eventually, and yet not fear God, to whom all of us must one day give an accounting. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah: “… you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, [but] you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, [and] you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor …” (Isa. 51:12–13). No wonder the psalmist says, “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways” (Ps. 128:1).

Mercy Alone

As we near the end of our studies of this first and most important section of Romans, it is helpful to note what others have written in summary about these words. One man who has written wisely is John Calvin:

In his conclusion [Paul] again repeats, in different words, what we stated at the beginning, namely, that all wickedness flows from a disregard of God. When we have forsaken the fear of God, which is the essential part of wisdom, there is no right or purity left. In short, since the fear of God is the bridle by which our wickedness is held back, its removal frees us to indulge in every kind of licentious conduct.…

David, in Psalm 14:3, says that there was such perversity in men that God, when looking on them all in succession, could not find even one righteous man. It therefore follows that this infection had spread into the whole human race, since nothing is hidden from the sight of God.… In other psalms he complains of the wickedness of his enemies, foreshadowing in himself and his descendants a type of the kingdom of Christ. In his adversaries, therefore, are represented all those who, being estranged from Christ, are not led by his Spirit. Isaiah expressly mentions Israel, and his accusation therefore applies still more to the Gentiles. There is no doubt that human nature is described in these words, in order that we may see what man is when left to himself, since Scripture testifies that all who are not regenerated by the grace of God are in this state. The condition of the saints would be not better unless this depravity were amended in them. That they may still, however, remember that they are not different from others by nature, they find in what remains of their carnal nature, from which they can never escape, the seeds of those evils which would continually produce their effect in them, if they were not prevented by being mortified. For this they are indebted to the mercy of God and not to their own nature.

How could our salvation be due to anything but mercy if we really are as ruined as Paul describes us? Ruined? Yes! But we may be saved from ruin by the glorious work of our divine Savior, Jesus Christ.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 313–320). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Theology: GOD IS GOOD

Goodness is often equated with the benevolence of God. Goodness is “…..the quality or state of being good…..” (By permission. From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary copyright 1991 by Merriam- Webster Inc., publisher of the Merriam-Webster (registered) Dictionaries.) Benevolence is the “…..disposition to do good…..an act of kindness…..” (By permission. From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary copyright 1991 by Merriam-Webster Inc., publisher of the Merriam- Webster (registered) Dictionaries.)

Again the definition is limited, because in God there is not a state of being good (which holds forth the possibility of not being good), He is good by nature and is never anything else. He is incapable of anything else. Within the definition of Benevolence there is also a problem if applied to God. Disposition gives the idea of maybe good, maybe not good. He is GOOD.

The use of benevolence, if it is to be understood in light of the Dictionary definition, is not appropriate for God. God is “GOOD,” and there is no possibility of disposition, because with Him there is no maybe. Psalm 25:8, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he teach sinners in the way.” (Read also the following texts: Psalm 33:5, Psalm 52:1, Psalm 103, Mark 10:18, Romans 2:4, Romans 11:22.)

Goodness covers two areas, what God is in and of Himself, and what God is to His creatures. In other words goodness covers His character and the expression of His character.

His Character: Holy, True, Love

His Relation To Others: Righteous, Faithful, Merciful, mercy, tender mercy, kind, kindness, loving kindness, pity, pitiful, good, goodness, compassion, grace, gracious, and longsuffering.

There is no opposite for this side of God. He is Good, and He cannot be bad.

Some might question this concept in relation to the fact that He will judge and condemn the lost to hell. There is no divine attribute of wrath. Wrath is the logical and needed result of the attributes of holiness, truth, love and justice. The violators of His ways will feel this wrath. Within all of this is the fact that He is doing good. He is preparing the creation for eternity. This includes the removal of all evil.

Does this study bring new meaning to the idea that all things work together for good? He is in the process of doing good in your life, no matter how bad things seem to get. His work in you can only result in good.[1]

[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

The Temporal Result Of The Testing of Our Faith

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)

Despite what some false “so-called Christian leaders” in our time say, there is no…

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