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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.
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.
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).
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
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.
for the week of January 12, 2014
Wisdom of Fearing God
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
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.”
A healthy fear of God is
wise. I hope we are all making our decisions in the “fear
for the week of January 19, 2014
Question, Wrong Answer!
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!”
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
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.
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.
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
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
Albert B. Simpson stated this so eloquently in the chorus to the hymn,
“What will you do with Jesus?”
will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
Someday your heart will be asking,
“What will He do with me?”
for the week of January 26, 2014