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Where There Is No Law

I know I have been slack concerning my writing, but I hope this will partially make steps in the right direction in that regard. What I want to talk about is a pharisaical habit of making rules where there are none. The motivation for the Pharisees to do this seemed to be good. If there was no specific law, they could take a look at what was there and make their own rules and bind them on others. Never mind that this is an affront to God and says in effect that He forgot to tell us something.
There are numerous so called “gray areas” where things are just not spoken about in the Bible. I put these into some specific categories for your consideration. But please, throughout this post, remember Romans 4:15:

“For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either.” Romans 4:25 (NET)

1. Things we have now that didn’t exist in ancient times. One example I can think of is, “how much time should I spend working in my car?”. Well the Bible doesn’t address home mechanics because they didn’t have cars back then. Each one should research Scripture, and then pray about it. Determine what biblical principles might apply to the situation (i.e. Stewardship, family obligations, etc.) and decide what is best.

2. Things that the Bible mentions in both positive and negative lights. For instance wine with dinner. Some people can do this with no problem, and others have conscience issues with it. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If you are a recovering alcoholic, you should, not do this. But also don’t condemn those who are able to do so. We should just determine not to put a stumbling block in another’s way. (See Romans 14 for a more thorough discussion of this)

3. Things that have bee common for millennia, but are not spoken about in a positive or negative sense in Scripture. This can get a little dicey. But this is also where we get in trouble with God for calling things sinful that are not. Remember Romans 4:15

“where there is no law there is no transgression either.” As much as we think something is not good, we cannot out the sin label on it unless there is a law against it specifically. Since I tend not to shy away from controversy, let me give you an example – masturbation. (I’m 53, so this isn’t some young man out of control with raging hormones trying to justify his behavior.) Even though this practice has been common for centuries, the Bible never addresses it. There is no law against it. Therefore we cannot call it a transgression. Please don’t bring up Onan here, because this is not what he was doing. Ah, but you have to lust to do it! Wrong, especially for young men and women. They have the ability to do it based on hormone alone! Besides, lust is “desire with intent”, so unless there are plotting to steal someone’s spouse, they are not committing adultery in their hearts. But how many young people are taught the opposite and walk around with loads of false guilt from pharisaical teaching? 

We dare not accuse God of forgetting to mention a sin, or we are attacking the sufficiency of Scripture. Besides, that data shows that close to 100% of men and 60% of women do it anyway because it is a natural form of release prior to marriage.

So let’s stop making rules where God has not. The Bible is silent on this, so we must also be silent. But again, just because something is allowed doesn’t make it wise to do it. Prayerfully make your decision and then live with it without condemning those who decide differently.

John 10 & the Doctrines of Grace

At the end of chapter 10 in the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly sets forth the doctrines of salvation, or as some call them the Doctrines of Grace. These doctrines are true, because the Bible records that Jesus taught them. So based in the Bible, not any teachers like Calvin or Spurgeon, we are obligated to believe them. 

But you don’t believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I told you.

Here is something that Jesus did NOT say. He did not say “you are not my sheep because you don’t believe.” No, he said they did not believe because they were not his sheep. Do you see the importance of that distinction? In that one sentence Jesus lays out the foundations of total depravity and unconditional election. Can someone make themselves a sheep by believing, or are they believing because Jesus made them his sheep?

Well fine, then how do we know who the sheep are?

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. John 10:26

Those who are the Elect/sheep have the ability to hear the voice of Christ. He has a close, intimate relationship with them, which causes them to follow him. In that three part process, did you notice where we come into the picture? Our first active, rather than passive, part is to follow Jesus. He also gives us eternal life as a result.

They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. John 10:28

At this point, someone usually says that while no outside force can steal us away, we have the option of losing our own salvation. Tell me, are you “someone”? Are you so powerful that you can extricate yourself from the Father’s hand? The most powerful force in the universe is actively holding onto us. We are eternally secure because we hear His voice and persevere to the end. In fact, it is only because of Christ’s keeping power that we are able to keep following at all.

So in chapter 10 of John, we see the Doctrines of Grace laid out for us by Jesus Christ himself. I dislike the acrostic of TULIP because it is imprecise but here is how it is given to us in John 10.

Total Inability (i.e. Total Depravity) – But you don’t believe, because you are not of my sheep (vs 26)

Unconditional Election – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. (vs 27)

Particular Redemption (Limited Atonement) – I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (vs 11)

Effectual Call (Irresistable Grace) – Again, verse 27. His sheep hear his voice and follow him. Period.

Perseverance of the Saints – They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (Vs 29)
 

 Jesus proclaims the Doctrines of Grace in john 10, and we should interpret the rest of Scripture on this subject in light of Jesus’ own words.

Was Jesus A Street Preacher?

Was Jesus Really A Street Preacher?

I have heard it said by some that “Jesus was a street preacher”. We should not assume this, or anything, is accurate until we examine it in the Scriptures, no matter how good it sounds. Now by “street preacher”, I am talking about someone who stands there yelling or shouting into a bull horn at people whether they are listening or not. I am not talking about preaching in a public place to a group of people who have gathered to hear what you have to say. So let’s begin in the Old Testament with a messianic prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 42:1-2. 

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.

I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the nations.

“He will not cry out or raise His voice,

Nor make His voice heard in the street.”

Wow! It says specifically that Jesus would not be a street preacher, crying out in the street at people! Just in case anyone questions whether or not this verse is speaking about Jesus, it is quoted directly about him in Matthew 12:19.

“He will not quarrel nor cry out,

Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.”

We have numerous examples of Jesus teaching publicly to those who had come to hear him, who got his attention, or privately to others whose homes he visited. What Jesus didn’t do, however, was stand on the street shouting at passers by to attract attention. To do so would have meant that he was not fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 42.  

So if you want to preach to a group of people publicly, where you can be overheard, then fine. Teach people one to one? Great! But standing on the street yelling at people is not what Jesus did! Don’t like that? Your argument is with the Bible, not with me.

Naked People in Heaven

Thoughts about priorities and heaven on this 9/11.

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Instant bad mood.  I search around for my screaming phone on the floor under my bed.  The damn alarm clock continues to scream at the top of its lungs.  Slowly gaining control of my sleeping body, I step out of bed, pick up my phone and turn off the alarm.  The pain of waking up.  In heaven, I will roll over and enjoy the waking up process just as much as snuggling into bed and drifting off to sleep.  (That is if we sleep in heaven.)

My world runs about me in fast forward.  Honking impatiently at the slow moving car, spending what we don’t have for the newest item that hits the shelves, driving around our children to some place other than home.  Why do I join the insanity of the crowd?  I do believe in busying oneself with hard work, but that is not what is happening here…

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Remarried People

There is a fact that cannot be ignored in today’s society. A lot of people have been divorced, and quite a few have remarried. Not the ideal situation by any means, but still this is the reality in western culture. More often than not, it is the children, not the parents, who end up being the victims in these divorces, which I believe is a big reason God hates divorce.

But there are some today who, in their zeal to enforce biblical standards, have gone too far, and in some cases we are talking “Pharisee far”. They would say, based on an encounter Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 19, that in order to be saved, a married couple where one or both were previously married and divorced for reasons other than adultery must divorce as part of the repentance process. Otherwise, it is argued, they are in a perpetual state of adultery and will be lost. 

Well let’s take a look at what is recorded in Matthew 19, and also look at another passage where Jesus actually engages in a dialog with a divorced person and see what we can glean from it. 

Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her A certificate of divorce and send her away?” He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

First of all, in context, Jesus is answering a question specifically about the Law of Moses that was put to him by the Pharisees. His answer is specific to the Law and the covenant which they were under at that time. If we can’t use the thief on the cross to discuss salvation because it was said under the Old Law, then we can’t use this, either to condemn those whose marital lives have been marred by the pain of divorce. Furthermore, NOWHERE in the New Testament does Jesus or any of the Apostles tell someone to get a divorce prior to baptism or else they could not be saved! To add that as a requirement is to add to the Scriptures! 

Rather than use Matthew 19’s conversation with the Pharisees, let’s look at an episode where Jesus actually addresses a divorced person’s life situation and see what he says to her! 

John 4:16-18

He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

In this woman’s life, she had been married five times, and was now cohabiting with a sixth man. Now according to the modern day legalists Jesus would have told her to be a eunuch for the kingdoms sake and never remarry. In their view, she would be an adulteress to remarry because God doesn’t recognize divorces that don’t involve sexual immorality, and she would in effect have five husbands simultaneously. But notice carefully what Jesus says to her. “You have had five husbands”, not you “have” five husbands. Jesus, who only said what the Father said, addressed her as an unmarried woman. He spoke nothing of perpetual adultery, a phrase unknown to Scripture. 

We’re some of her divorces due to immorality? Possibly, but we cannot read into the Scripture something that is not there. Such practices are dangerous and hermeneutically unsound. No, Jesus met her where she was at and talked about a new life. 

The Roman world was replete with divorce and remarriage, and yet the Apostles, who earlier had witnessed this encounter in Samaria, never once told someone to divorce their spouse prior to baptism. Not one single time in Acts or in the Epistles! That is a fact that is significant by its absence. Do we really want to imply that murdering your spouse is preferable to divorce because then you are free to remarry?

So what do we say to those who have gone through the pain of divorce and have remarried? We should live them and point them to Jesus. Make disciples and show them how to pray and study the Word of God. But to tell them to divorce will bring shame and disrepute upon the name of Christ, as we gain a reputation for splitting up families. If they are now married, they should pray and discern whether or not they have the ability from God to stay single for the Kingdom, or to remarry. But support their decision and don’t attempt to persuade them either way to violate their renewed conscience. 

  

Why Weekly Communion?

At the outset, let me say that I think there is more depth to, and power in, the Lord’s Supper than many of us realize. It’s not that we are not being fancy enough about it, or that it needs to become a complex religious ritual. But in its simplicity we can dive deep into the symbolism and significance of the bread and the wine and derive much benefit from it. So here are my reasons for deepening our understanding of Communion, and doing so weekly.

Reason #1: this is a “communion” feast.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. (I Corinthians 10:16, 17 NKJV)

The word Paul uses in verse 16 that is translated “communion” is koinonia. This is not just something we do simultaneously. It is a reinforcement of our bond together as members of the Body of Christ. This bread and wine symbolize our joint participation in the Body, and with each other. Why would anyone NOT want to do that every week? Our fellowship, or koinonia, was purchased on the cross and we need to be strengthened in that as we remember the source of our fellowship, Jesus. For that reason, I believe it is entirely appropriate and even desired to wait until all are served and then partake together. It’s not some legalistic requirement, but does drive home the point.

Reason #2: This blessing can become a curse if taken lightly!
Our fellowship together and our joint sharing in the divine nature with Christ are very important to God. After all, look at what this cost! Because of that, this very “cup of blessing” from chapter 10 can turn into a curse for those who fail to discern that fellowship and its importance. Paul prefaces his warnings in chapter 11 of First Corinthians by addressing their lack of true fellowship.

For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. (I Corinthians 11:18-20 NKJV)

They were eating a supper all right, but it was not the Lord’s supper! No, the Lord’s Supper was not to proclaim their own worthiness, but to proclaim the Lord’s death, which is the basis for that worthiness!

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (I Corinthians 11:26 NKJV)

(By the way, those out there who claim Jesus returned in 70 AD and won’t be coming back, why do you still partake of the Lord’s Supper? Does His death no longer need to be proclaimed?)
I frequent and/or casual observance of the Communion meal will lessen its importance in the minds of those who partake. This is a sin against God with serious repercussions. Paul goes on to tell them what communion around the Lord’s Supper is truly about, and ends with this warning:

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:27-32 NKJV)

Not discerning the Lords body, the one broken on the cross and His body in those sitting around you, can be lethal! God will discipline His children, and He is not going to let one of us be guilty of the body and blood without judging it.

I realize that this is a heavy subject, but we need to take the weekly observance of the lord’s Supper/Communion very seriously. To those who judge themselves and discern the sacrifice that was made and our basis for fellowship because of that sacrifice, it will truly be a “cup of blessing”. But if you don’t know The Lord and are not saved and part of His body, it would be better for you to abstain from taking it. It would be BEST to come to Christ, become part of His body, and the partake every week!

We should approach Communion with a deep sense of joy, gratitude and awe. Not in a somber, “religious” way, but in true appreciation for our own salvation and that of those around us who, together with us, are parts of the Body of Christ.

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Drinking From A Rock

Thirst is a great motivator. Inherently, we know that to go without water will lead to death. Indeed, without water life cannot be sustained. There is no life where there is no water. The Israelites were in a thirsty predicament in the wilderness. There was no earthly way to find any water, and grumbling and complaining soon set it. These people were ready to kill if that is what it took to get a drink of life giving water. The events are documented for us in Exodus 17.

Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord ?” And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:1-3 NKJV)

Things are not looking good for Moses. In fact, without divine intervention, he was in for a painful death. But God intervenes on behalf of Moses and the people.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17:5, 6)

Moses did as God commanded, and the people’s thirst was miraculously quenched. It’s a nice story, but what does it mean for us? Well let’s look at three places where this incident was a shadow of the ministry of Jesus; two in the Gospels and one in the letters of Paul. In the Sermon in the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus said,

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

He makes a promise that those who are seeking divine nourishment will one day have their hunger and thirst quenched. Jesus alludes to this again in John 4 when speaking about water to the Samaritan woman at the well.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13, 14)

So where is this water going to come from that Jesus is promising to not only provide, but to fill us up with? Paul talks about the Exodus account we read earlier and ties it together for us.

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (I Corinthians 10:1-4)

Jesus himself was the Rock from which would flow waters that would give eternal life to all who drank of it. When He was on the cross of Calvary, Jesus our Rock was struck by a Roman spear, and out flowed blood and water. As He was pierced for our transgressions (Isaiah 53) eternal life was made available to all. The veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom and eternal life became available to all who would receive it.

Jesus also foretold at the great feast that the river of water would not stop there. It would be an unending stream that would flow out as the Spirit to fill and satiate those who come unto Christ.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

So if you are spiritually hungry or thirsty, come unto the Rock who was stricken for you and receive this living water!

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