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JANUARY 2014

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Walk in Unity

Ephesians 4:1-3: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

Introduction
God desires to see His people united. He also desires to see them separated from sin. Satan’s desire is to see God’s people separated from each other and united to the world controlled by self-will and sin. I believe that people who are unified are people who understand each other because they speak the same language.

Man's Problem
Back in Genesis 11, the people that populated the earth at that time decided to build a tower to God. Apparently this was their own way of approaching God which involved worship of the sun, moon, and stars. God put a stop to it by confusing their language so that they could no longer be unified in what they were doing. This caused them to be scattered so that each language group could live in isolation from other language groups. Genesis 11 tells the story of why there are different language groups while Genesis 10 shows that as people populated the earth, the different languages were already in place. It is quite clear that people that spoke the same language lived together. It is obvious that Genesis 11 had to occur before Genesis 10 which means that the Bible story is not always written chronologically. Sometimes a story is developed and later details of the original story are explained. 

Today, we who are saved should all be speaking the same language. According to 1 Corinthians 1:10 that would eliminate divisions and would unify us. When people speak different languages, they tend to misunderstand each other and that leads to mistrust. In the natural world ethnic differences and prejudices arise. In the spiritual world a similar thing happens when we don't all find the Bible (and thus God) communicating to us in the same way. For example, some people who read the Bible see all of man's actions to be predetermined by God. Others see everything resulting from man's free will. In addition, some people think that Christians are just a replacement for the Israel of the old testament. Others see believers today as new and distinct from old testament Israel. 

Because of the way words are understood in the Bible, there is a distinct difference found in the way the Gospel is preached and in the way Christians are guided in their lives.. There is a difference in the way Bible prophecy is understood and in the way “judgment day” is preached. In addition, some people want to speak in unknown languages in the church not realizing that Paul actually wants everyone in the church to understand everything that is said if that is at all possible. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says that speaking publicly in languages that are not understood causes confusion. Paul says speaking five words that can be understood is better than speaking ten thousand words in a language that cannot be understood (1 Corinthians 14:19).

God's Solution
1 John 1: 6-7 makes it clear that we must be in fellowship with the Father in order to be in fellowship with one another. I would think that true fellowship would involve true unity. To obtain that unity, John says we must walk in the light. If we walk in darkness we are not practicing the truth. In chapter 2, walking in darkness is explained (just as Genesis 11 explains Genesis 10). Hating your brother is walking in darkness. 1 John 3:15 further develops this theme and shows us that those who hate their brothers are murderers and that murderers are not saved. Thus, in 1st John, walking in the light describes those who are saved and walking in darkness describes those who are not saved. So to have fellowship one with another and to be speaking the “same thing” we have to be saved or born again. This makes sense, since the Holy Spirit seals the saved and guides them into all truth (John 16:13). 

Division occurs when we want to worship God our own way. We speak the same thing and are unified only when we are saved and guided by the Holy Spirit. I know it is not politically correct to assume that a lot of the messages we are reading and listening to today come from unsaved teachers, but I personally believe that to be true. We need to be careful. Just because something appeals to us and “makes sense” doesn't make it true. As a matter of fact, that may be a sign that it is not true. For example, it doesn't make sense that God would ask His Son to die for us so that we can have our sins forgiven. But while it doesn't make sense, it is the Biblical truth. Speaking the same language has to start with understanding and accepting that Biblical truth.

 

Meditation for the week of January 5, 2014

Scheming instead of Trusting

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You." (Genesis 28:20-22)

The "new birth" in the Old Testament

I believe that Old Testament saints all had personal dealings with God at some point in their lives when they became true worshipers of Jehovah. Just as New Testament saints must be "born again," the same was true for Old Testament saints. The truths that were understood with regard to Jehovah may have been more limited, but the need to trust in the Lord and to develop a personal relationship with Him was just as real. I believe Jacob had that personal experience here.

Consecration after the "new birth"

Jacob had another experience in Genesis 32 where He wrestled with God. It was in Genesis 32 that His name was changed so it could be argued that He wasn't truly saved until that experience. However, I think that for Jacob and for many of us there is a point where we trust in the Lord and a later time in our lives when we wrestle with God and need to be "brought down" to be truly yielded to God. It is after this experience of consecration that we are truly blessed. Romans 12 describes the need for consecration on the part of one who is truly saved. We are only "born again" once but we are not really useful to the Lord until we have presented our bodies living sacrifices. For some people this may happen the moment they are saved. For many of us it didn't happen until later. For some it happens more than once, for some it doesn't happen at all.

Can we Bargain with God?

Was Jacob bargaining with God when he uses the word" if" in his promise to the Lord to give Him a tenth if He actually fulfills the promise He has made to him? I don't think so. Jacob was running from Esau, the brother that he had deceived. I am sure that when he left the land of Israel to go to Padanaram, he assumed he would never be able to come back unless his brother Esau died. Even then Esau's descendants might be a problem. Yet, the Lord was telling him that he would come back. If Jacob did not come back, He didn't need a God on this earth to protect him, keep him and bring him back. But if God did all that He was promising Jacob, then Jacob would be able to worship God once again at Bethel and in the land. I know that the language seems to make his worship of Jehovah conditional but I think the only conditional part of Jacob's promise had to do with whether he would come back to worship God in the land and at Bethel. When he got back into the land, God would be able to be worshiped in the right way and God would be able to function as Jacob's God in a public way.

An example of this type of language is seen in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18. Basically the passage says to separate from unbelievers so that God can be our Father and we can be His sons and daughters. However, we became sons and daughters of God when we received the Lord and were adopted into God's family. But when we separate from unbelievers we allow God to function as our Father. In much the same way Jacob was saying that God would be functioning as His God if all this happened and he was brought back to the land.

Confession and Consecration

In Genesis 32, he wrestles with God about this same matter and this is where he has to yield his strength to God's promises. Part of his consecration was a confession of sin. When Isaac asked Jacob his name, he had answered that he was Esau. When God asks him his name, he says it is Jacob. Jacob means supplanter or one who takes another's place by intrigue or scheming. Some say the name means deceiver. So while Jacob was giving his rightful name, he was also acknowledging who he really was. He walks with a marked and different walk after that encounter with God.

Trust and Obey

God used all of Jacob's scheming to accomplish his promises to Abraham and to the nation. But I am convinced that God could have fulfilled his promises to Abraham without any help at all from Jacob. I wonder how often we scheme to get what we want when in fact we just need to "trust and obey." We need to let the Lord function as our God. After all, that is what He wants to do.

Meditation for the week of January 12, 2014

The Wisdom of Fearing God

 

Genesis 42: 18 Then Joseph said to them the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God: 

Joseph Fears God

Joseph’s dream had finally come true.  He had been sold into slavery in Egypt because of the hatred of his brothers.  As a result, he had become second in command to Pharaoh.  God had revealed to him years before that one day his brothers would bow down to him.  They had rebelled against that prophecy, but God always wins.  Now here they are, trying to buy food from Joseph, whom they do not recognize; but he has become the person in charge in Egypt.  Joseph wants to make sure that they come back after going back to their father.  Because of this, he treats them harshly and holds Simeon prisoner until they come back with his younger brother Benjamin.  At first he threatens to keep all of the brothers but one in prison.  He says he is going to send just one back for Benjamin.  However, after imprisoning them all for three days, he tells them that because “he fears God”, he will just hold Simeon while the rest go back to their father

The worship of God is often described in two ways in the Old Testament and even in the New.  Those who worship God “fear” Him.  Those who worship God also “call upon Him.”  

The Definition of Fear

Fearing God has been described as “reverential trust.”  But there are many places where fear is associated with terror , torment or dread.  Those who fear God, realize that one day they will give an account to Him.  The unsaved do not fear God.  When their works are judged, they will find out that their works proved that there was no fear of God before their eyes (Revelation 20:12). The saved may find out that much of what they did was not in any way useful to the Lord.  Their works may be burned up but the person who truly fears God and trusts the Lord will never perish.  (See 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 and 2nd Corinthians 5:10-11 where fear has been translated terror in the KJV).  The saved never need to fear the condemnation of God eternally.

A person who calls upon the Lord is a person who believes that God has taken a personal interest in them and answers their prayers.  This is in contrast to many people who call upon idols who simply have no power to answer.  

When Joseph says he fears God and that is why he is going to release everyone but Simeon, the brothers are being rebuked.  Most of them had no fear of God when they sold Joseph into slavery.  Now the brothers are beginning to realize that there were consequences to their decision.   While they may have felt quite self-confident when there was no famine and they thought they were in control, now when they stand before a man that they do not know and who has the power of life and death, they begin to “fear”  God just as they should have long ago.  Their consciences start bothering them as they consider that this is their punishment for what they did to Joseph.  Reuben seems to think Joseph is dead because he says that they are now being held accountable for Joseph’s blood (or death, see Genesis 42:22).

Those who Do Not Fear God

One of the charges that Paul makes against the Roman society in general is that there was no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18).  This is also the condition of the wicked in Psalm 36:1.  It was obviously the problem of Judas when he betrayed the Lord and it had to be describing the religious rulers who convinced the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas and for the crucifixion of the Lord.  This charge can obviously be made against our society here in the United States.  I believe that this charge can be made against “the many” in all societies of this world.  It is the few that truly fear God.  However, those who fear God have the privilege of coming into the presence of God without fear and trembling because God’s perfect love has cast out the fear that involves torment.  For them fear is simply reverential trust.  We can have boldness in the Day of Judgment.  I love the promise of 1 John 4:17-19,  “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”

Conclusion

A healthy fear of God is wise.   I hope we are all making our decisions in the “fear of God.”

Meditation for the week of January 19, 2014

Right Question, Wrong Answer!

Matthew 27:22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”

The Jews were Clever but Cruel
The religious leaders of the Jews had cleverly maneuvered Pilate so that he was between a rock and a hard spot. Pilate knew the Lord had done nothing worthy of death. In fact he had done nothing wrong since He was not trying to establish an earthly kingdom which would have been a problem for Pilate. But the Lord said in John 18:36 while standing before Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” However, while Pilate knew that the Lord was innocent, he also knew that he had to keep the Jews under control in order to maintain his position. What could he do?

The Most Important Question
He asks the Jews the question, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ (or Messiah)?” I believe that is a question every person who comes into this world is confronted with at some point in their lives. Only those who die in infancy and the mentally incompetent are released from answering this question. Everyone else has nature and conscience speaking to them. If they reject the God of nature and do not want to know Him and if they reject the pangs of conscience that occur when they sin, they will never meet the Lord the way Pilate did. However, they will be answering this question without fully realizing it. The Lord says that when He was crucified He drew all to Himself (John 12:32). All are drawn, but not all respond. Those who do not respond are giving the wrong answer to this question.

Some have said that when the Jews said, “Let Him be crucified,” they were actually answering the question correctly since God had to have a sacrifice for sin that satisfied Him. All through the Old Testament, prophets spoke of the coming Savior. The animal sacrifices prefigured the death of the Lord at the cross. But the Jews were not saying that he needed to be crucified to be the sacrifice for their sins. Instead, they were rejecting Him and all that He represented. That is why they gave the wrong answer to this most important question.

The Simplicity of Salvation
Salvation is simple but we make it difficult. Salvation simply depends on our answer to this question. We tend to think this is too simple and we add other requirements to salvation. Some add church ordinances and church doctrine. Most add some kind of good works. Some would rather trust in science than in the Lord and some would like to believe that any old religion will satisfy God. But the Lord finished the work that saves and now we all have to deal with this issue of trust. Can we trust the Lord or are we going to reject the Lord? It really is as simple as that.

I hear someone saying, “That is way too easy.” And all I can say is that trusting someone is never easy. We all have trust problems. Our parents may have failed us, our friends may have failed us, even the Lord’s brothers and sisters did not trust Him before the crucifixion, though at least some did after the resurrection. Because we judge the Lord by our experiences with people in this life, we all find it difficult to trust the Lord. In addition, when circumstances seem to be against us, Satan, who if very real, tries to convince us that God is absent, or that He doesn’t love us, or that we have sinned so badly that He has forsaken us. The last thing Satan, the deceiver and the murderer, wants us to do is to glorify the Lord by simple trusting faith.

Challenge
Albert B. Simpson stated this so eloquently in the chorus to the hymn, “What will you do with Jesus?”

What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
Someday your heart will be asking,
“What will He do with me?”

Meditation for the week of January 26, 2014