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Revelation 22:14

Thursday, 29 Dec 2011 Leave a comment
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)

A casual reading of this verse might lead one to think that by doing the commandments of Christ you will get to go to heaven. Or, in a fearful and condemning reading, you will not go to heaven if you do not do Christ’s commandments.

First, let’s suppose the verse is translated correctly. If we interpret this verse in light of what the New Testament teaches about salvation by grace through faith, we know that works (doing commandments) are our response by faith to the grace offered and provided by God. Doing the commandments brings blessing because doing things God’s way is always better and is always filled with blessing. But, all of this begins with salvation by grace through faith. This is how we have right to the tree of life and heaven. These other things (blessing and desiring to follow commandments) are natural consequences of salvation. This verse is merely saying that those who are saved will be blessed, will do his commandments, and will have right to heaven.

Young’s Literal Translation brings this interpretation out very well:

Happy are those doing His commands that the authority shall be theirs unto the tree of the life, and by the gates they may enter into the city. (Revelation 22:14, Young)

Those who are saved are happy doing the commands of Christ precisely because they already have the right to the tree of life and will by the gates enter into heaven. It isn’t what they have done or are doing, but that they have accepted the sacrifice of Christ as payment for their sins by grace through faith.

If for some reason you don’t buy this interpretation, consider the following. Other English translations say “wash their robes” instead of “do his commandments.” This is because different copies of the original Greek manuscripts have different words in this verse. (If you look at the Greek wording in the two cases, it is visually very similar.) Which is right? No one knows for sure. “Wash their robes” blends more naturally with New Testament theology, but obviously “do his commandments” can be interpreted correctly as well if you are willing to compare scripture with scripture (as explained above).

So, in the end, this verse cannot be used to build a foundation for a legalistic, performance-based, religious version of Christianity. The content of the verse itself is in question, and even picking the more plentiful “do his commandments” wording, if taken in the right spirit, doesn’t violate the New Testament teaching of salvation by grace through faith.

On a more general note concerning seemingly legalistic scriptures, the problem with much of legalism is the Bible never spells out how perfect you have to be. There are just vague statements about doing good and following commandments. No one has or ever will perform perfectly (except Christ). At that point, some criteria must be used to separate those who perform “well enough” from those who do not. But, the Bible does not give such specific criteria. This is the cause of the fear seen so often in legalism – one never knows how well to perform to keep from going to hell. But, the Bible is replete with many hundreds of instructions similar to “do not be afraid.” Fear is not of God (God is love and perfect love casts out fear); fear is of the devil. If legalism is a source of fear, then legalism is of the devil.

Here is the main point: the reason that the level of performance is never spelled out in or near seemingly legalistic verses is because the verses are being misinterpreted.

This verse is a good example – it can interpreted in a legalistic way but there are no performance qualifications or criteria. So, a legalistic interpretation is an incorrect one. An alternate (correct) interpretation must be found, which was offered here at the beginning of this post along with two alternate translation possibilities.

(For Revelation 22:14, one could argue that verse 15 gives the conditions. But, one of the prominent commandments of Christ was to love your neighbor. Verse 15 does not mention those who do not love their neighbor. So, I do not think verse 15 is giving negative performance qualifications for missing verse 14. It is merely being descriptive of some types of people who are not saved.)

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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The Scapegoat

Wednesday, 28 Dec 2011 Leave a comment
5And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

7And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
8And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
9And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.
10But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

20And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:
21And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:
22And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
(Leviticus 16:5, 7-10, 20-22)

I first heard about the scapegoat being a type (foreshadowing) of Christ in a book called “Christ the Healer” by Fred Francis Bosworth (a book I highly recommend for anyone who needs or is interested in healing). I have never heard anyone else mention it. So, here is my teaching on this powerful Biblical truth.

In Leviticus 16, two goats are selected for a sin offering and lots are cast for the two goats. One goat is sacrificed, but upon the head of the other goat are symbolically laid the sins of all the people. This latter goat, called the scapegoat, is then let go in the wilderness and symbolically carries the sins of the people into a land not inhabited.

The scapegoat is a beautiful picture of the atonement of Christ. Christ is our scapegoat. At the crucifixion, the sins of the entire world were laid on Christ (I John 2:2; Isaiah 53:6, 11). By our acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ as payment for our sins, God now remembers them no more (Hebrews 10:17), so for all practical purposes they have been taken from us and carried into the wilderness to a land not inhabited. Psalm 103:12 also prophesies this beautifully by saying our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west (verse 12). Also note that verse 3 of this psalm emphasizes that God view sin and sickness as being a whole package that He has dealt with for us.

If you need healing for any reason, or if you carry condemnation and guilt for events and decisions in your past, look on Christ as your scapegoat. He has paid for your healing by carrying your sickness for you (Isaiah 53:4-5, I Peter 2:24). In fact, He carried it away from you as far as the east is from the west, to a wilderness not inhabited. So, you need not carry it too – it has been carried for you. The same is true of any guilt or shame you feel for sins in your past. Because of the sacrifice of Christ, you should have no more conscience of sins (Hebrews 10:2).

Close your eyes and see in your imagination Christ as your scapegoat. Let it drop into your heart as a vivid reality. It is God’s gift to you because of His love for you. Yes, you. It will bring you physical and emotional healing, and this truth (like many others) will make your free (John 8:32).

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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Conviction of the Holy Spirit

Saturday, 24 Dec 2011 Leave a comment
7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
8And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
11Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
(John 16:7-11)

This passage foretells one of the greatest promises and truths of Christianity that was fulfilled at Pentecost. But, in true religious fashion, the church has often turned one of the greatest blessings of God into a heap of condemnation.

When Jesus ascended to Heaven and Pentecost was come, the Holy Spirit – God Himself – was sent into the world. He was sent for many reasons. One of them was to live in the heart of each believer (John 14:17, Galatians 4:6). This is a great truth, but it is not related to what is being discussed in this passage. And, to mix that truth into this passage causes many problems (we will discuss this later).

This passage talks about one (and only one) specific reason the Holy Spirit was sent into the world: to reprove the world of sin. Notice the word “sin” in verse 8 is singular, not plural. “Oh, well that just means our sins in general.” Really? Look at verse 9.  It states the specific sin the Holy Spirit is sent to convict the world of: not believing on Christ. This is single, solitary sin that the Holy Spirit will convict a person of.

Why is this? Does it even make sense against the rest of the New Testament? Yes, it does. The Holy Spirit only needs to convict us of not believing on Christ because all of our other sins have been paid for. In I John 2:2 we are told that Christ paid the price for the sins of the entire world. This means every sin for every person for all time. Hard to believe? Need another scripture? Try Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17 – God will remember our sin no more. He will remember them no more because they have all been paid for. Hebrews 10:12 – the sacrifice of Christ was for sins for ever. Even the Old Testament mentions this: Psalm 103:3, 12; Isaiah 53:5, 11; Isaiah 54:9. If you need more to satisfy you, try Romans 4:6-8; II Corinthians 5:19; Colossians 2:13; Hebrews 9:12, 26; Hebrews 10:2, 10, 14.

The New Testament is emphatic: it matters not what sins you have committed. What matters is whether you recognize and accept the payment that has been made for your sins in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Failure to accept this payment means, in the end, you have to make the payment. In hell. For eternity. This is why the Holy Spirit is only convicting people of the sin of not believing on Jesus. Simply because it is the most important “act” that a person must ever do: accept the payment Jesus made for your sins as the sinless Son of God. Everything else is already taken care of.

Returning now to the misinterpretation so often seen in the church… If we mistakenly view the Holy Spirit as constantly convicting us of each of our sins and then mix in the truth of the Holy Spirit living inside each believer, we concoct the religious teaching that the Holy Spirit was sent to continually convict and condemn you of each of your sins. Aside from contradicting the passage we are studying here, this also contradicts the stated mission of the Holy Spirit: He is the Comforter (by name even – John 16:7). Condemnation, guilt, and fear are not comforting. They are of the devil. The Holy Spirit comes to comfort us, to teach us and bring things to our remembrance (John 14:26), and testify of Jesus (John 15:26). Note also that when a prophecy is given it originates from the Holy Spirit and we are taught to discern it to be real by whether it brings edification, exhortation, or comfort (I Corinthians 14:3). These are the physical manifestations we should experience when God speaks to us.

If you feel conviction that leads to guilt or condemnation, then it is coming from your own conscience, another person, or the enemy. It is not coming from the Holy Spirit. II Timothy 3:16 says God will use His Word to teach, reprove, and correct us. This may cut us to the heart at times, but it will always be filled with hope, guidance, comfort, and love.

We should revisit one item in these verses before closing. Verse 8 says the Holy Spirit will reprove the world of sin. Since the sin being reproved is the sin of not believing on Christ, I interpret “the world” as meaning unbelievers (see Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). But, the Greek word for “world” can also mean all inhabitants of the earth, so including Christians. If we must include Christians in this verse, Christians are not convicted of the sin of not believing on Jesus in the same manner as unbelievers. They already believe and are saved. But, we all face difficulties in life. We all still sin and fall short. For Christians, the Holy Spirit can still convict us to look to Jesus in all of these situations when perhaps we are not. It is not a conviction for salvation, but a conviction for provision, for strength, for peace in Christ.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

Hardening Your Heart

Friday, 23 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

In this 9th and final installment of the series Prepare Your Heart, we will again look at the cooperative roles we and God play in preparing our heart. This aspect of preparing your heart can seem very confusing. As humans we like things to be simple and we like things to feel natural (to our flesh). A cooperative mechanism for preparing our heart takes some getting used to.

So, to help solidify this concept, we will look at the opposite of preparing your heart: hardening your heart. The classical story of heart hardening (that also by chance causes difficulty and confusion for many people) is the story of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart before the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Many verses say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but other verses say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. So which is it? Many treatments of this passage almost ignore (or twist) the verses that say Pharaoh hardened his own heart in favor of a teaching on the “absolute sovereignty” of God where God alone sovereignly hardened Pharaoh’s heart for His divine purpose and will. (Rather, Pharaoh started the process of hardening his own heart and God used it for His glory.)

Our study of preparing your heart provides great insight to the process of hardening your heart. We found verses describing God preparing our heart and we found verses describing us preparing our heart. But, we eventually learned from other verses that the actual picture is a balanced partnership: God prepares your heart as we allow Him to and as we commit to following Him. God guides our steps as we devise our way. Preparing your heart is a partnership with God that is instigated by you. Hardening your heart, which is the opposite of preparing your heart, occurs in a similar manner – it is a partnership with God that is instigated by you.

Since we see verses describing God hardening our heart and verses describing us hardening our heart, it is not only possible but also logical to seek a balanced position for hardening your heart as we have found for preparing your heart. Hardening your heart is a partnership where both you and God have a role to play.

Before discussing the scriptures related to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, we will list all of them. The scriptures are categorized by the person doing the hardening. They are numbered in chronological order.

Scriptures describing God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (40%):

#8 – Exodus 9:12 – And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.

#11 – Exodus 10:1 – And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:

#12 – Exodus 10:20 – But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

#13 – Exodus 10:27 – But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

#14 – Exodus 11:10 – And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

#15 – Exodus 14:8 – And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.

Scriptures describing Pharaoh hardening his own heart (20%):

#4 – Exodus 8:15 – But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

#6 – Exodus 8:32 – And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

#9 – Exodus 9:34 – And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.

Neutral scriptures describing the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (40%):

#1 – Exodus 7:13 – And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

#2 – Exodus 7:14 – And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

#3 – Exodus 7:22 – And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.

#5 – Exodus 8:19 – Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

#7 – Exodus 9:7 – And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

#10 – Exodus 9:35 – And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

The first three descriptions of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart appear to be neutral. In the first instance, the pronoun “he” is quite undefined. In the second, God is describing Pharaoh’s heart as hardened. In the third, we can actually infer that Pharaoh is hardening his own heart. The implication is that the success of the magicians in duplicating the miracles of Moses and Aaron caused unbelief in Pharaoh and this caused him to harden his heart towards God.

It is only at the fourth instance that we see a definitive source for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart: Pharaoh himself. The sixth occurrence states the same thing. It is only at the eighth instance do we find a statement concerning God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. This is followed by another instance of Pharaoh hardening his own heart. At this point in the process there appear to be parallel roles working to harden Pharaoh’s heart. The process has begun to be driven by God, but Pharaoh’s sin is also furthering the hardening of his own heart.

The last five instances state that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. At this point, Pharaoh has suffered so much unbelief, sin, and anger that he has been given over to enmity against God.

What does this teach us? It appears that hardening of your heart begins with you. Your unbelief and your sin cause your heart to begin to harden. As this continues, the process gradually shifts and you have yielded yourself to God hardening your heart. While it is rare that a person can be hopelessly lost, many can reach a point of unbelief and sin that they cannot conceive of how to escape from their position even if they wanted to. According to the way God created us, our heart continues to harden without our explicit choice. The best description of this for us to comprehend what is going on is that God is hardening our heart.

So, we can apply this to preparing your heart as well. Preparing your heart begins with you. Renewing your mind through study of the Word and continued commitment to prepare your heart begin the process. As this continues, the process gradually shifts and you have yielded yourself to God preparing your heart. You will never regret having made such a decision. At the end of your life you will look back and realize the impact that decision made on the remainder of your life. You will be (and will have been) happy, at peace, and satisfied.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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Prepare Your Heart: Part #8

Thursday, 22 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

In Part #8 of the series Prepare Your Heart, we look at a number of other scriptures with the Hebrew word kûn.

Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers. (II Chronicles 20:33)

Despite Jehoshaphat’s encouragement and reform, and the preparing of his own heart, the people of Judah in general had not prepared their hearts to seek the Lord.  This led them to continue practices that were evil in the sight of the Lord.

O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee. (I Chronicles 29:18)

David exhorts the Lord to prepare the hearts of the people to seek Him. This obviously occurs only to the degree that each individual requests and allows God to fix their heart on Him.

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. (Ezra 7:10)

We see that not only kings sought to prepare their heart to seek God, but also the prophets.

And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. (I Samuel 7:3)

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. (Psalm 40:2)

Allowing God to prepare your heart will generally lead you to prosperity, blessing, and stability.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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How to Find and Follow God’s Will

Wednesday, 21 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

Prepare Your Heart, Part #7.

There are many different ways of understanding and conceptualizing how a person submits to the Lord and finds and follows God’s will for their life. The process of preparing your heart illustrates one such way. The sequence below gives an example of allowing God to prepare your heart and lead you into finding and following His will. The sequence is actually a circular flow that becomes self-sustaining.

  • Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will put the desires you should have in your heart (Psalm 37:4).
  • By putting these desires in your heart, he is preparing your heart, or equivalently, directing your steps (Proverbs 16:9b).
  • These desires in your heart allow you to devise your way (Proverbs 16:9a).
  • You devise your way by letting the peace of God rule (umpire) in your heart (Colossians 3:15).
  • As you devise your way, commit your works unto the Lord and He will establish your thoughts (Proverbs 16:3, Colossians 3:17), which means He will prepare your heart thus circling back to step 2 above.

Various portions of Colossians chapter 3 relate to this process. One important point is the renewing of your mind (Colossians 3:10). It best fits in the first step above – part of delighting yourself in the Lord is renewing your mind to know who you are in Christ.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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Results of Preparing Your Heart

Tuesday, 20 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

Today we continue a series on Preparing Your Heart with installment #6.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. (Psalm 37:23)

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. (Psalm 57:7)

O God, my heart is fixed, I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. (Psalm 108:1)

When God prepares your heart, you are filled with joy and will praise and honor Him. You will be delighted in the way and path that He leads you in.

He [a good man] shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. (Psalm 112:7)

A prepared heart trusts God. Evil or negative circumstances do not move or affect him emotionally. He is stable, faithful, and trusting.

So [King] Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God. (II Chronicles 27:6)

When our heart is prepared, we can become mighty (in the Lord).

…But Hezekiah prayed for them saying, The good LORD pardon every one 19That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. 20And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people. (II Chronicles 30:18-20)

For various reasons, some of the Israelites were not purified according to the law during the Passover celebration, the first one performed in the proper manner in a long time (v. 5). So, King Hezekiah interceded for the people and implored God to pardon those who were not purified but had prepared their heart to seek God. This is a clear illustration that, even in the Old Testament, God looked at the heart and not only at the action (see also Psalm 51:16-17). This appears to be especially true of those who have prepared their heart.

Psalm 37:23-24 provides another illustration of this: “23The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. 24Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” If you have prepared your heart but you fall into sin, the Lord will not allow you to be lost and cast away – He will hold you in His hand. If this was the case in the Old Testament, imagine the grace that abounds under our superior covenant for New Testament believers who fix their hearts on God but fall short!

There are shades of the concept of New Testament salvation here as well. For those who are saved, God relates to you in the Spirit, which he gave you. For one who has fixed his heart on God, God looks at the heart, which he gave you.

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. (Psalm 37:31)

Following v. 23 in this psalm where the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, v. 31 says that the law of God is in his heart and that his steps are now stable. A result of preparing your heart is that God puts His law in your heart. This is something that is actually already true for New Testament believers (see Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, and Hebrews 10:16).

And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God. (Psalm 78:8)

For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. (Psalm 78:37)

These verses illustrate the negative side of not preparing your heart to seek the Lord. The Israelites who came out of Egypt had not fixed their heart on God and the result was stubbornness, rebellion, disobedience, and calamity. The word “stedfast” means to believe, to trust, and to be faithful. An unprepared heart leads to a lack of trust in God and a lack of faithfulness. In v. 36, the Israelites even lied to God and tried to flatter Him, all because their heart was not fixed on Him.

God loves us. He only wants the best for us. He is infinitely more knowledgeable and capable than we are. He is therefore able to plan and design a life for us that is infinitely better than we can do on our own. By preparing our heart, we enter into untold blessings and benefits and a life that brings joy and peace in our heart that we could never attain on our own. But, if we do not prepare our heart, at best we will not attain the level of joy and peace God desires for us and can create for us. At worst, our life could be a miserable mess.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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