Archive for July, 2012

The Anointed One

The Anointed One
Jesus of Nazareth was and is truly the Son of God. Of this the Bible leaves no reasonable doubt. The angels proclaimed on the night of His birth that He was to be Immanuel, which means “God with us.” John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was “The Lamb of God.”
He has always been Jesus. But when did He assume the title “Christ”?

Contrary to what some may assume, Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It is in fact a title which means “anointed one” in Greek, and is the Hebrew equivalent of “messiah”. While Jesus had been chosen to be the Messiah from the foundation of the world. It’s like someone who has been hired for a position but has not started work.
Let’s look at the biblical narrative to see what we can discover.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17 ESV)

So Jesus insists on being baptized, but not for repentance, for He has to sin. What was needed was for Jesus to begin His messianic ministry. Up until this time, He was growing up “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52 ESV)”. His baptism was the point at which he offered himself to God. It was a point of reference in his life, where His life as a carpenter ended and His true mission began.

As Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened to Him. At this point He has full recollection of His existence in heaven with the Father and all that His mission would entail. How significant that the act that began his ministry would prefigure the end of his earthly mission as he was buried in the watery grave and rose again to a new type of life.

The Holy Spirit then descended upon Him, anointing Him as the Christ/Messiah. So, while he had eternally been the Son of God, at His baptism He became the anointed One. Jehovah God sealed this anointing with an audible, spoken blessing, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Years later, that same Holy Spirit would descend and signal the beginning of the church. And now as members of that church, we can say with the Apostle John, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:” (1 John 3:1 KJV)

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A Learning Experience

Jehovah God is omniscient, knowing all that is, all that has been, and all that will be. He has always been that way because it part of His divine nature. Jesus, in whom the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, shares this attribute (Colossians 2:9). So why would the writer of Hebrews say something like this?

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation”, (Hebrews 5:8, 9 NASB)

Jesus did something His heavenly Father had never done — He learned! As Almighty God, Jehovah had never needed to learn anything! But since Christ had “emptied himself” of His divine prerogatives in order to be incarnate and come to earth as a man, He grew and had to learn obedience. God has never needed to obey anyone, either!

If Jesus was without sin (and He was), the what does the writer mean when saying Christ was “made perfect”? Perfect here in the Greek is not talking about sinless moral perfection, but about completeness. To be our high priest, Jesus had to not only be fully God, but also fully man. He would have to be tempted in every way men are, yet without sin. This could only be a completed by learning to be obedient.

And because of the obedience He exhibited, Christ is the source of eternal salvation. To whom? Those who say a prayer of salvation? Those who, deep down, believe? Those who He has elected ahead of time and regenerated before they decided either way? No! He is the source of eternal salvation to only one group of people — those who obey Him! As I have said in previous posts, I am not saying we are not saved by faith, but rather that obedience is a part of faith, and without it faith is dead. Can you imagine how something dead and lifeless could transmit eternal life? Of course not!
If I were a reporter, I would summarize salvation this way:
Who saves us: Jesus Christ
What saves us: grace
How grace saves us: faith
When and where faith saves us: baptism
Why: His love for us.

I cannot think of a better way to summarize my thoughts than what was written by John Sammis in 1887 –“Trust and Obey”.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

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Our God Sings!

Throughout the Bible, those who serve God are encouraged to sing. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the psalmist wrote the following:

Praise the Lord!Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!
… Let the godly exult in glory;let them sing for joy on their beds. (Psalm 149:1, 5 ESV)

In Ephesians 5 believers are instructed this way:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; (Ephesians 5:18-20 NASB)

But what about Jehovah God? Does He sing, too? According to Scripture, the answer is “yes”!

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

Let’s take a look at what else this verse says about our God.
1. He is in our midst. While God is high and exalted, far above the heavens, He is also close to each of us. For those who will turn to Him, He is always just a step away. As Paul put it on Mars Hill in Athens, “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ (Acts 17:27, 28 NASB)

2. Jehovah God is mighty, and He uses that might to save us. In the future, at the last day, God will mightily judge the world. But now, in this age, His efforts are directed toward salvation.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17 NASB)

3. Jehovah God rejoices over us, is glad, and exults over us. This is characterized by gladness, love and loud singing! God is celebrating over those who accept His offer of salvation! At the judgment, those who are saved will be invited to “enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:23)
This is also why there is such rejoicing when a sinner repents. God and the angels literally have a celebration when someone is saved!

I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7 NKJV)

It is important to have a balanced view of God. He is not looking for reasons to condemn, nor is He grudgingly granting salvation. Ours is a God of joy, who is ecstatic about His children, and is overjoyed at the spiritual birth of every one that comes to Him. Let’s make His day and seek out those in need of His salvation. And then we can rejoice along with Him!

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Doctrines Of Demons

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to sit and be taught by Christ in the flesh? How awesome it is that the Holy Spirit did as Jesus promised and brought to mind everything Jesus had taught them so they could pass those teachings to us in the New Testament!
On the other hand, what kind of teachings would we hear if, instead of Christ, a deceiver who had gotten his teachings straight from demons tried to pass him or herself off as a messenger of God? What kind of things would they teach as doctrine? Thankfully, the Lord, through the apostle Paul, told us how to recognize demonic deception when we hear it!

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

Paul here says what is at stake if we are deceived. It constitutes “departing from the faith” and we must be on our guard to make sure we don’t let it happen to us or those we love. But how do we recognize such teachers? How do we discern that someone is a liar with a seared conscience? By what they teach as doctrine.
1. They teach abstaining from marriage. This can apply to two different types of teaching. First and foremost in the history of the church is the teaching of celibacy. While some choose to remain single, to bind upon those who would be elders (bishops) a requirement of celibacy flies in the face of the qualification listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that they be the husband of one wife and rule their households well.
But the other, contemporary application is those who teach that physical intimacy is permitted before marriage. They even recommend living together to see if couples are sexually compatible. By advising couples not to marry, they teach doctrine that Paul describes as demonic!
2. They teach that dietary laws are binding for today. Now please don’t misunderstand me. If you choose to follow a kosher, vegetarian or vegan diet for some health benefit, you are free to do so. You can even tell others how you think it is healthful to do so. But when anyone begins to advocate these dietary choices because it is a command of God, they have crossed over into the demonic. I know that sounds harsh, but don’t blame me. I’m not the one who wrote it!
In fact, these verses loose us from all dietary restrictions, as long as we receive the food with thanksgiving, because God has said we can eat it, and we have prayed over it. What more reason do we need to pray before meals? But remember this is for those who know the truth. A weak brother or sister that would be made to stumble is more important than exercising our rights to eat whatever we are served!

I would encourage you, if any of the demonic teachings described here sound like what you are being taught, to get out of there right away. Doctrines of demons are spiritually poisonous and lethal to your soul and your diet needs to change if you are to survive!

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We All Have A Heart Condition

Despite accumulating more medical knowledge than any generation before us, heart disease is still the number one killer of adults. A variety of new advances have come about which has enabled doctors to do intricate surgery on hearts and fix them, or even transplant in a new one! Things are being done now which would have been science fiction 50 years ago.

But God has been in the heart transplant business for thousands of years!
He sent Jesus to “heal the broken hearted” (Luke 4:18). Way back in Ezekiel’s day, God promised that someday He would be performing spiritual heart transplants.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV)
Then how do we check on our heart health? How do we know what kind of shape our hearts are in? By the way we hear and receive the Word of God, and by looking to see if it is bearing fruit in our lives.

Jesus Christ described different heart conditions in Matthew 13 in He called the Parable of the Sower.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:3-9 NKJV)

Unfortunately, there is a problem with this parable. Actually, the problem is with us. We have heard this parable so many times that there is a tendency to say, “okay, I know this part” and skim over it without digging deeper for more. For there surely is more for us here. So let’s try to take a fresh look at tis parable and find some things to apply to ourselves.

I believe that one major mistake we have traditionally made with the parable is to only apply it to those who are hearing the Gospel for the first time. We use it to show why not everyone responds to the salvation message, or to show why they do respond but then fall away. But Jesus does not limit the interpretation to salvation, and neither should we. This parable applies to the heart condition every one of us have on a daily or weekly basis when we read the Word or hear it preached and/or taught! So with that in mind, let’s take a fresh look at the explanation Jesus gives for the symbols and apply them to ourselves instead of others.

Therefore hear the parable of the sower:
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:18-23 NKJV)

In this short discourse, Jesus reveals the heart conditions of those who hear His message.
Hard heart = characterized by the habit of hearing the message but refusing to take it in and apply it to ourselves. Doing this for an extended period may cause you to lose the ability to understand the message and how it applies to you at all. Can you remember the last time a Bible passage or a sermon changed something in your life? If not, or if you do remember and it was awhile ago, you have symptoms of a hard heart. This can only be cured by repentance, so that your heart soil is prepared to have the Word planted in it.
Heart Stones = also a dangerous condition. This is caused by not preparing your heart to receive the word by growing deeper in your walk with God. Only by prayer, diligent study of the Word, and the encouragement and fellowship of other believers can we put down deep roots. The more we practice these things, the more the Word becomes a part of us and we do not stumble when trials and tribulation comes. Ever read something in the Bible or heard a truth and said, “that’s okay, but no need to get radical about it”? One big symptom of this condition is a string of enthusiastically learning things, but just trying them out to see if they work instead of totally trusting God and doing what His Word says for us to do.
Distracted Heart = also known as spiritual ADD. This happens when we hear or read the Word and say that it is great, but are afraid of what people will think of us if we put it into practice. Or even hearing the truth about something and refusing to change because it might cost us wealth or position if people found out we were sold out to Jesus. A warning sign of this is when you see the truth but the first thought that goes though your mind is, “what would people think if I did that?”. The cure for this condition is the fear of the Lord. Our first thought, upon understanding the truth, should be one of joy at the opportunity to be obedient to God. It should not occur to us to disobey the commandments of God because we love Him more than anything on earth, and even life itself.
Healthy Heart = this is characterized by striving to find something about ourselves in every message and Bible reading that we can change to become more like Christ. Or to find something new that we had not known that will equip us to love and serve Him more fully. Results of this condition will be fruitfulness in our walk with God and ever increasing growth in our spiritual lives.

So how about it? What kind of soil do you have right now? Does your heart seem to go through different phases of soil quality and preparation? Mine does. Let’s be ever diligent to keep our hearts right, and in so doing keep our lives healthy and our doctrine sound, that we may be fruitful in His Kingdom!

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV)

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At All Times!

Wouldn’t it be great to always know the right thing to do in any situation you encounter? To know that, no matter what else you do, that there is something that brings God on the scene for our good? Well there is just such a thing you can do. In fact, it’s never the wrong answer! Let’s let the Apostle Paul show us what it is.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18 NASB)

Both “pray” and “be on the alert” are participles in the Greek text. That means they are instrumental and connected with all the proceeding instructions. As such, they are not additional commands to do, but instead are the means through which the previous instructions are carried out. Without alert prayer, none of the things in the previous verses are possible! So if we are reading the prior verses about the armor of God and using the sword of the Spirit and asking ourselves how we are supposed to do all of this in a practical sense, then here is our answer in verse 18; pray and be alert. So when, in the present context, Paul says to pray in the Spirit, he is talking about how to wield the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. There is something powerful about praying over the Word as we are reading and studying, and about using the Word of God in our prayers themselves!

We can also see that the word “all” is used four times in this verse.

ALL kinds of prayers and supplications are to be used: public prayers, private prayers, silent prayers, spoken prayers, long prayers, short prayers, intercessory prayers, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of intercession, and every other kind!

ALL seasons are the season of prayer: all times of the day, all conditions and circumstances, all occasions, all states of mind, etc. There is no time that it’s the wrong time to pray!

ALL perseverance: through times of discouragement or defeat when it seems that all is lost, when victory has smiled or when it has failed …. let nothing hinder the prayer life.

ALL the saints are to be remembered in prayer. What an intercessor was Paul. His letters abound with the word that he is praying for those whom he remembers and for those who will receive his letters. He considered it his spiritual obligation to continue in constant prayer for his brothers and sisters in Christ. It is hypocritical in many ways to ask others to pray for us if we are not willing to also be in prayer for them as well.

Even though the Christian has put on the whole armor of God, he cannot win the victory except through a constant reliance upon prayer. A prayerless Christian is a contradiction of terms. When attacking an enemy, one of the first things that is taken out is the communications network. If you can cut off communication with their commanders, you render an army powerless to know how to fight. Satan has the same tactic. He wants us to cease communicating with the captain of our faith so that we become confused and powerless to recognize his tactics and resist him.

Prayer is not glamorous. Prayer is something largely done in private. But prayer is the tool that God has chosen to use to accomplish his will on the earth. Do you want to see God active in every one of your life situations? Then never think for a moment, in any circumstance, that “all we can do is pray” because prayer is the best, most powerful thing you could be doing!

Prayer — Just do it!

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Who Is Your Joshua?

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NASB)

While this verse is fairly straightforward, I like how it is translated for the Amplified Bible.

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 AMP)

There are literally shelves full of books on how to do this. Of course the first one, by the Author of family relationships is the best. Look for a moment at Deuteronomy 6.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NASB)

The first part of these verses are called “The Shema” in Hebrew. THE SHEMA is the central prayer in the Jewish prayerbook (Siddur) and is often the first section of Scripture that a Jewish child learns. During its recitation in the synagogue, Orthodox Jews pronounce each word very carefully and cover their eyes with their right hand. Many Jews recite the Shema at least twice daily: once in the morning and once in the evening. Parts of the Shema are written on a small scroll which is then rolled up and put inside a mezuzah. Thus the literally put this on their door posts.

A godly heritage is a most precious gift, and is something that should be treasured by those of us who had godly fathers who taught us the Word. That is why there is such a huge emphasis on this in Hebrew culture. Notice that this teaching was to occur while normal everyday conversation took place. This assumes that fathers are talking to their children. The way to provoke a child to resentment and wrath is to have rules without relationship. Only when there is a trust built up will a child believe that rules are for their good and spoken in love, rather than arbitrary. In that context, this generational passing down of the law of God is very intentional. I believe it is no accident that Jehovah is not just referred to as “the God of Abraham”, but calls Himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

But what about those who did not have the advantage of a Christian father? Is there provision for them? Yes!

There are many examples in scripture of young men being mentored in the things of God, or discipled, by those who are older in the faith. We have examples from the Apostle Paul of Silas, Titus, and Timothy. Barnabas even took John Mark under his wing and turned him from an unreliable travel companion to someone who was “useful in the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11
Paul differentiates between these relationships and those of strictly a teacher. In 1 Corinthians Paul wrote,
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:15-17 NKJV)
In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 3:27-28, Jehovah instructed Moses like this.
Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.
I like the way Phil Ware from Heartlight describes what happened in his “Today’s Verse” devotional.
“Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and in the wilderness, but did not get to enter into the Promised Land because of his sin. Yet, for all those years, Moses nurtured and prepared the person who would do what he could not do. That person was Joshua. Who are you training, molding, encouraging, motivating, and calling to do what you won’t be able to do? What successor will take your dreams farther than you can? Who is your Joshua?”

May we make it our mission to come alongside those who have had no spiritual heritage and disciple them. As we help them to grow in the things of God, we will also reap an eternal benefit!

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