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Archive for November, 2011

Prepare Your Heart

Sunday, 27 Nov 2011 Leave a comment

Today we begin an approximate 10-part series on preparing your heart.

The concept of “preparing your heart” is discussed in many different ways in the Bible, but all of them link back to the same Hebrew word – kûn (Strong 3559, whose translation will always be underlined in this study). This word appears to be translated very broadly into English, but the theme is actually very narrow – prepared, fixed, directed, established, ordered, stable, among other things. Whether our heart, our steps, or our thoughts are in focus, the concept is an ordered stability that is established ahead of time.

Preparing your heart is vital since, as we will see in this study, the Bible makes it clear this plays a significant role in determining whether we become a “good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). We will cover many aspects of this topic from why we should prepare our heart to how to prepare our heart to the effects of having prepared our heart. We will also examine how this concept relates to finding and following God’s will for our life.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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Becoming What You Believe

Friday, 25 Nov 2011 Leave a comment

After the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites sent 12 spies to search the Promised Land. When they returned, 10 of the 12 men brought back a negative report.

32And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
33And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
(Numbers 13:32-33)

Verses 32 and 33 contain a quotation of what the spies reported in their own words. Neither ancient Greek nor the King James Bible use quotation marks to clearly define where a quotation begins and ends. The beginning of the quotation is easy to identify. But, the end of the quotation could be placed in at least two different places. In this case, it is likely that the quotation carries very naturally all the way to the end of verse 33. That would be an entirely correct interpretation of the verses. But, it is interesting to add quotation marks in the following manner:

32And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
33And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
(Numbers 13:32-33)

Using this punctuation, the ending phrase “and so we were in their sight”  is not a part of the quotation but rather a commentary on the result and effect of the spies’ unbelief. The spies viewed the Israelites as grasshoppers compared to the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. Remember that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), and “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). By having a negative view of themselves and speaking the unbelief in their heart, the Israelites became what they viewed themselves as. The truth of this is clearly demonstrated in Numbers 14:39-45 where the Israelites defied the Lord and Moses and tried to enter Canaan where they were soundly defeated. They had become like grasshoppers as they believed and proclaimed themselves to be.

This story is also a great illustration that we are very small and helpless without the Lord. Numbers 14:42-43 shows us the mechanism by which they became as grasshoppers. The Israelites were as grasshoppers and were defeated precisely because the Lord was not with them (verse 42), and the Lord was not with them because of their unbelief and disobedience (verse 43).

Praise the Lord that the Spirit of Christ lives inside of us and the Lord will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). If we look to His presence, promises, and provision we will never be as grasshoppers in the sight of anyone. If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

Categories: Bible Commentary

The Pearl

Tuesday, 22 Nov 2011 Leave a comment

The parable of the pearl of great price…

45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

I remember this being taught in the following manner. The merchant man is you. The goodly pearl is the Kingdom of God (or salvation or Christ). When you have found salvation, then it should be so desirable to you that it would be worth selling all you have to seek after and obtain it. The primary point of the interpretation is the value of the Kingdom of Heaven (or Christ).

When you understand and “see” salvation, it is true that you should wholly commit yourself to the Lord. It is also true that Christ and salvation are gifts of priceless value. In these respects, this interpretation is accurate and valuable. The problem with this interpretation is it attempts to tell you how you should feel. In a sense it is setting goals or standards for your feelings and beliefs. If your soul and body are not in that place at a given time, this interpretation will bring guilt and condemnation. It is a veiled form of legalism that attempts to generate love and commitment from your soul and body, not from your spirit (heart). Such love and commitment will not be enduring because it is based on self-effort of some sort. In the end it essentially puts the burden of wanting to seek after and love God on your shoulders.

The proper interpretation of the parable is as follows. God is the merchant man. You are the pearl. God views you as a pearl of great price. He sold all He had to purchase you. This is what happened at the cross. God gave up His own Son to purchase your redemption (John 3:16). God loves you with such infinite value that He paid an incredible price for you. And, if necessary He was willing to pay that incredible price for you and only you – you are the “one pearl of great price”.

Parables of this nature are intended to melt your heart. They are intended to show you God’s true view and opinion of you. They are intended to produce in you a love for God that stems from His love for you (I John 4:19). This love is activated from your spirit and your heart, not from your soul or body. It is intended to be effortless, and therefore the love and devotion will be enduring.

The Kingdom parables are intended to illustrate a truth about the Kingdom of God. This parable is intended to show the value you have in God’s eyes. It is intended to show you God’s unconditional and unlimited love for you.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

One Purpose of Holiness

Monday, 21 Nov 2011 Leave a comment

For a committed Christian, personal failures and periodic (or frequent) lack of holiness easily lead to condemnation and guilt, something a Christian should never feel (see Romans 8:1). The following scripture (when interpreted incorrectly) is surely one source of these feelings.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)

On a casual reading, this verse sure seems to provide plenty of condemnation and fear. If you do not live peaceably with others and attain (some undefined level of) holiness, you will not go to heaven. That is what this scripture says, right?

No. Or better, God forbid!

The Bible is replete with assurances that God accepts you as a New Testament saint based on the sacrifice of Christ and not on your works or performance before or after salvation (of the hundreds that could be listed try Psalm 103:1-3, Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 53:11, Isaiah 54:9-10, Romans 5:13, II Corinthians 5:19, Galatians 2:16, Galatians 3:3, Colossians 2:6, Colossians 2:13, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 10:2, Hebrews 10:17, I John 2:2). So, if this Hebrews 12:14 is not setting conditions for you to maintain your salvation, what is it saying?

To understand this verse properly in light of the rest of the New Testament, we need to consider this verse in context.

13And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:13-15)

Verse 13 explains that we should live holy so that others are not turned away from us and consequently from the Lord. Our choices and actions affect others. We can let God live through us and draw others to God, or we can live in the flesh and often drive them away. This leads directly into verse 14, the verse we are examining. And, now we see what this verse really means. If we do not live peaceably and holy, others will not see Christ in us, and they may even miss out on salvation (seeing the Lord in heaven). When it says “no man shall see the Lord”, the “no man” is not referring to you – it is referring to others around you. The verse is not saying that you will not go to heaven if you do not live holy; it is saying that if you do not live holy then others will not see Christ in you and consequently they may not see the grace and love of God and miss out on heaven. Live a life of peace and holiness to draw others to Christ, not out of fear of losing your salvation!

Verse 15 continues this thought. Be diligent in your life and actions so that others do not miss the grace of God. Do not let bitterness enter your life that might then defile the lives of others around you.

Both verses surrounding Hebrews 12:14 clearly deal with how others are affected by your life and actions. Therefore, verse 14 must be interpreted in this light and in the light of the grace of the New Testament. It is clearly speaking of the effects an unholy life will have on others: such a life will not give a good testimony of God and will turn people away from God rather than towards Him. The verse is NOT specifying a performance based salvation where you will not see the Lord in heaven if you fail to meet some imprecise conditions of holiness.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

The Name (Part 2) – The Hope of Glory

Sunday, 20 Nov 2011 Leave a comment

As described in the inaugural post, the title of this blog is a combination of parts of two scriptures that speak to the heart of being a Christian, growing as a Christian, and knowing who you are as a Christian. The second part of the title, “The Hope of Glory,” comes from the book of Colossians.

25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27)

The mystery hidden from those in the Old Testament that has now been made manifest is that in the New Covenant Christ lives in the saints. This is the hope of glory. And, this is precisely what the first part of the title exhorts you to acknowledge for your faith to have effect in your life!

So, what exactly does this phrase “the hope of glory” mean?  The word “hope” (“elpis” in the Greek) means “a confident expectation of good.” The word “glory” (“doxa” in the Greek) is a more interesting and complicated word. If this is part of what we are seeking to acknowledge the presence of in our spirit, what exactly is it?

In many places in the Bible “glory” means what we most often visualize it to mean: majesty, splendor, brightness, magnificence. We have a confident expectation of majesty. Using this definition, we are likely to anticipate this in the future in heaven even though it lives on the inside of us right now. While it should give us pause to realize that glory of this nature literally lives on the inside of us (and this should cause our faith to become effectual), there is another definition of glory that is rarely mentioned that will change your life if you understand it.

“Glory” can mean an opinion or estimate, and in the New Testament it always means a good opinion. (This is especially emphasized in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.) So, Christ in you should give you a confident expectation of a good opinion. Whose opinion, and what does that opinion look like?

Ephesians 1:17 tells us that God is the Father of glory (the next verse also goes on to talk of the riches of the inheritance of God in the saints – the same point that is being made here in Colossians 1:27). So, of course God is the Father (the Greek word in this context means “the originator, generator, or source”) of majesty, but with the extended definition of “glory” we see that God is also the source of opinion of you. God’s opinion of you is the original opinion (and the only opinion that matters). And, what opinion does God have of you?

21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:21-23)

In verse 22, we see the glory (opinion) which God expressed to Jesus was also given to us by Jesus. God’s opinion of us is the same as His opinion of Jesus! Hallelujah! The verses surrounding verse 22 elaborate on and reinforce the exact truth being taught in Colossians 1:27 where we began – Christ lives in us as New Testament saints (“I in them” in verse 23).

Applying this back to Philemon 6, part of acknowledging the good things in us (as part of Christ being in us) is to understand that the view or opinion God has of us is the same as His opinion of Jesus. When God sees you, He sees Jesus! Right now. Meaning today. Not just tomorrow, but today.

Your faith will begin to have effect in your life when you acknowledge these good things that are in your spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the hope of glory.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

Categories: General

The Name (Part 1) – Effectual Faith

Friday, 18 Nov 2011 Leave a comment

The title of this blog is a combination of parts of two scriptures that speak to the heart of being a Christian, growing as a Christian, and knowing who you are as a Christian. The first part of the title, “Effectual Faith,” comes from the little one chapter book of Philemon:

That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. (Philemon 6)

This scripture is only one example of many that speak to a foundational Christian truth. To bring out the meaning of this verse, consider the following words.

communication – Thayer’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning “the share which one has in anything, participation.” So, this is speaking of the share of faith you have, or the participation or action of your faith.

effectual – Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines effectual as “produces an effect, or the effect desired”

So, this verse can be understood as saying the following.

“Your faith becomes active and produces the desired effect in your life when you acknowledge every good thing that is in you in Christ Jesus.”, OR

“The share of faith you have been given begins to work or participate in your life when you acknowledge every good thing that is in you in Christ Jesus.”

If you want to see God move dramatically in your life and in the lives of those around you, begin to acknowledge the good things placed in you (in your spirit) at your salvation. What are these things? How do I find out what these things are? The Bible tells you. James 1:23-25 tells us that the Bible is our spiritual mirror. Look for the promises of God to you through the sacrifice of Christ. Look for the view and opinion God has of you through Christ. They are everywhere in the New Testament if you only open the eyes of your heart to look for and see them as you read the Word.

So, the first part of the name of this blog describes one of its primary objectives – to point you towards an effectual faith by illustrating the good things in you in Christ Jesus.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

Categories: General