Saturday, February 25, 2012

Several new studies added

I finished updating several of my studies. You can find the links to them here: Berean Bible Study

For those of you who are familiar with my studies, you know that I have many, many more to get back online. I will try to get more of them on soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Add to your perseverance, godliness

Last time, we covered perseverance. Now God, through Peter, tells us to "make every effort" to add godliness to our perverance.

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
   To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Making One’s Calling and Election Sure
 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

So, what is godliness?

Godliness: eusebeia {yoo-seb'-i-ah}
1) reverence, respect 2) piety towards God, godliness

It is a very important characteristic in these end times. Paul says to Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.


How is godliness different from goodness, which was earlier in the list? Goodness was the very first thing after faith, and meant "a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action, moral goodness, and any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity." A simple way to put it, is that goodness is being good rather than evil. The very first thing to do after being made alive through faith, is to get untangled from your grave clothes. Put off the things from your former life that hinder you. All of us have a list of those. Maybe it was sex outside of marriage or lustful thoughts, partying, drugs, being dishonest. Maybe, like me, it was mystical books or books that are practically pornography. Get rid of all that. That's what it means to "add goodness."

So, what is different about godliness? And, why is it so much further down the list - meaning much more difficult to get to? Godliness is having a reverence toward God, but it is also becoming more like God. This is not to be confused with becoming gods, which is idolatry at its worst. Remember, that was Satan's first temptation for Adam and Eve as the King James puts it, "Ye shall be as gods." No, God doesn't want you to try to take His place - either through literally trying to "become a god" as in the New Age, Mormonism or Christian Science - or more subtly, through trying to control your own life and circumstances and that of others. No, He wants you to become more like Jesus. That was His original intent, after all, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness." (Genesis 1:26)

We are meant to become like Jesus, to be Christ-like:

Ephesians 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 

Colossians 3:10 put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

So, how do we obtain godliness? It seems to come through the Spirit as we spend time in God's word and learn about Him. This very section that we're studying says that:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
 
And, it says that elsewhere as well:

1 Timothy 3:14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness
 
So, the Spirit uses God's word to work godliness - Christ-likeness - in us. God's Word has power:

John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  


That word "Sanctify" means to purify, to bring in line with holiness. You can study it more here.  "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."  What is this saying? It is saying that God's Word will bring purification; God's word will bring holiness. God's word will bring this Christ-likeness that we want.

Here, in John 17,  Jesus is praying to His Father before He faces His crucifixion. You can imagine that what He prays, in this last prayer before the cross, is very important. In this verse, the word "sanctify" is in the aorist tense, which means that, in a sense, it is outside of time all together. There is no real English equivalent. The verb is active. It is Jesus who is doing the action of asking and God the Father who will do the action of sanctifying. In other words, we're not doing the action here at all. If we are in God's word, HE is the one who makes it work in us. So, in this verse, He's asking God the Father to make the Word live in us, change us, transform us. He's really doing even more than that, though. The verb is also in the imperative. That means that God the Son is actually commanding God the Father to do this in us. So, does spending time in God's word actually change us? If it does not, than God the Father did not answer Jesus' prayer.

It is possible to have "pretend" godliness - such as you might see in the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons or even in Christian churches that have strayed into legalism. Things done in the flesh are not pleasing to God, even if they appear right and good to other men and even if they appear right and good to other Christians.

2 Timothy 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

Romans 8:8 (NKJV) So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

So, godliness comes through our knowledge of God - and knowledge of God comes through His word. It is real, it is powerful and, through the work of the Spirit, it will create in you all that God wants for you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Add to your self-control, perseverance

We've been working through the list that Peter gives in his second letter - because he says, "For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Again, not to be confused that we are doing ANYTHING that aids in our salvation. That is completely and totally done for us. And, not to be confused that we are even doing the things in this list in our own power. It is the Spirit who works in us to produce faith and fruit. These are simply putting those things into action  and showing both ourselves and others that our faith is real. It IS possible to hinder the Spirit, by chasing after the things of the world. Don't do that, but do these things instead, says Peter (and virtually every other New Testament writer):

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
   To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Making One’s Calling and Election Sure
 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So, we are up to Perseverance: add to your self-control, perseverance. What does that mean?

Perseverance: (KJ - patience) hupomone {hoop-om-on-ay'}
1) steadfastness, constancy, endurance a) in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings b) patiently, and steadfastly 2) a patient, steadfast waiting 3) a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

Where do we get perseverance? The Bible gives a number of ways. We ask for it:

Colossians 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

We gain it through God's word and the example of others who have persevered:

Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope

James 5:10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

We look eagerly for Jesus' return, which produces perseverance:

Romans 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Hebrews 10:35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay.

We gain perseverance by going through trials. (Don't worry - you don't have to seek them. They will simply come.)

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Romans 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

And, we simply trust God to provide it:

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

May God grant us all perseverance as we get ready for Jesus' return.

I'd sure love to hear from you. I have no  idea if these blogs are answering a need in anyone's life. If you don't want to post here, please feel free to e-mail me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Trust is not a feeling

I am going to resurrect an older blog for the sake of a friend who is going through difficult days right now:

Do you trust God? Really trust Him, no matter what?

If we were honest, most of us would say that trusting is hard. We "trust" when our loved ones are safe, there is food on the table, our lives are secure. What does it even mean, anyway, to "trust" God?

Isaiah 12:2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

Fellow Lutherans will likely recognize this verse as one we sing often as part of our liturgy. It starts out "God is my salvation." Literally, it is God  ('el) is salvation ( yĕshuw`ah). For those with a bit of Hebrew knowledge, you may recognize the name of Jesus there. In other words, one way of understanding that first line is "God is Jesus." Yĕshuw`ah is salvation. You may remember the angel said to Joseph, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."(Matthew 1:21)

So, the verse starts out, "God is Jesus. I will trust and not be afraid."

I will trust (batach). It means: 

1) to trust
2) to have confidence, be confident
3) to be bold
4) to be secure
1) to cause to trust, make secure
2) (TWOT) to feel safe, be careless

It is a verb, but it's an ongoing action - an incomplete action. Something that happens again and again, sometimes extending from the past into the future. Although the last part of the definition can include "to feel safe," this is not a feeling. This is a conscious decision - one that has to be made again and again. I WILL trust. I will take confidence. In what? In the fact that Jesus is God, and, as the verse continues, "he has become my salvation." 
The "afraid" there is pachad and it means to fear or dread. The verse goes on: 

The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

The part that says "the LORD, the LORD" is actually Yah, he is Yĕhovah. The preexisting one - the "I am that I am." The voice of the burning bush. The all mighty, all powerful creator of the universe. HE is the one who is my strength. HE is the one who is my song (zimrath), my reason for praise, my reason for comfort, for life, for security - my reason to trust! Not a feeling at all - but a knowing of who your savior is!

That One, that all powerful, all knowing, all loving Yĕhovah, HE is my salvation. He controls all and is worthy of my decision to trust. Faith is a gift, and trust is certainly related to faith. Without faith, we cannot trust. However, trust implies action on our part. It flows from faith. But, don't get it confused with feeling. Trust is a decision based on your knowledge of all that your Savior is.

In the Hebrew, there is another way of looking at the verse, too. Yĕhovah, the all powerful One, is MY salvation. He is MY Jesus. He has connected Himself to ME, and to you - and to all who believe. The all powerful creator of the universe has intentionally connected Himself to each of us who believe in Him as savior. Yĕhovah is my Jesus. That's why you trust. That's why you can face each day and whatever it brings.

Do you understand that it doesn't matter what you FEEL? I WILL trust, regardless of what I feel. I WILL face this day and every day, no matter what it brings, because Yĕhovah is my salvation. He is my Jesus.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Desert days

I'm going to pause again in my going through Peter's list of how to be ready for Jesus and just ask some questions for you (and me) to think about.

Is your heart heavy? Do you feel like you're just trudging through your days? Or maybe you just feel kind of dead inside - spiritually dry, emotionally empty? Do you spend too much time trying not to think about the things in your life that hurt? Does God feel far away? Do your prayers feel like they're just bouncing off the sky?

I think I mentioned right at the beginning of this blog that my father was burned to death this past fall. I'm never going to be OK with that, but I would have had to be blind not to see how every aspect of that terrible time was orchestrated by God. My parents would have been married 53 years this Valentine's Day - and yet, as he lay there the first night in the hospital, my mother still didn't know what he believed.

I loved my father very, very much - but in all honesty, he was a stubborn, self-righteous man who thought he knew all the answers. He had grown up in the Christan Science church, and he never really left that behind. When I realized that, I wrote him a letter, to share the true Gospel and the truth about Christian Science, but I never knew whether he actually read it or not.


When I wrote that letter, I was desperately afraid that if my father died, I would have to stand next to my daddy's grave believing him to probably be in hell. But, thanks to God's great mercy and grace, my father believed before he died. It took until the very, very end. In fact, I guess he had to have a taste of the flames of hell. 

My father was welding on October 5, when his clothes caught on fire. By the time he could get the flames out, it was much, much too late. He had third degree burns over most of his body. I didn't know what happened – just to get to the Burn Center at UW Hospital in Madison as fast as I could. It took several hours to get there, and they let me in to say good-bye almost immediately, because they didn't expect him to live through the night. He looked at me, and said, “I love you, Jacqui. I'm going to miss you.” and then he slipped back into the morphine sleep.

After we had all said good-bye, they started cleaning up his burns, which took all the rest of the night. All that long night, my mother talked about him, and their marriage and how she still didn't know what he believed. In the morning, they let us in to be with him without restriction. We all knew (he knew, too) that he was dying. That first day, he was able to respond to questions. They'd ask him if he was in pain, and he'd say, “Not right now.”

From then until he died, we shared Jesus with him. We shared the Gospel, over and over, in all different ways. We prayed out loud; we read the Bible to him; we sang hymns to him. He lived for nearly three full days, when he was expected to die in a couple of hours. He waited for my brother from New Mexico to get there.

I told my dad about Jesus and what He had done for us. I shared everything I knew about heaven. Towards the end, a pastor who actually understood what it means to be saved (the hospital chaplains are very kind men, but until then, not one of them understood salvation but assumed that everyone goes to heaven) stopped in to visit with us. At that point, it was me and my husband, and one of my brothers who was there. My father was not responding any more. My brother held my father's unburned hand and I had my hand on his unburned shoulder (really the only two places we could touch him that hadn't been burned). The pastor asked, “Where is your father, spiritually?” I answered, “Well, we have shared the Gospel with him over and over. I have prayed for years for his salvation. I know that it is God's will that he be saved, and I have asked repeatedly in Jesus' name that he be saved, so we are trusting and believing that he believes.”

As soon as I said that, my brother said, “Hey, he just squeezed my hand!” So, then, I said it right to my father, “Daz, DO you believe?” and he squeezed my brother's hand again.

So, I guess it took a taste of hell's flames to put my father in the right frame of mind to listen – and then days to lay there and think about it. And, with absolutely nothing to lose and eternity to gain, I was bold to share God's truth over and over again. Laying in that hospital bed, wrapped in bandages, my dad couldn't get away from me even if he wanted to! And, so he heard and he listened, and glory to God – he believed!!

So much of my father's passing was a miracle. Even the staff there at the hospital believed it could be nothing but God who caused him to wait days for my brother to get there. The nurses told me they were all talking about it. His vital signs were all dropping, dropping. But, when I told him my brother was only six hours away and could he hold on a little longer, all of them went right back up to normal. The nurse came running in, exclaiming, “What just happened in here?”

Finally, on Saturday morning, I kissed him on his head and said, “Daddy, I'll never be ready to say good-bye, but it's just going to be for a little while. We'll all be with you soon. Go be with Jesus now,” and in just a couple of minutes, he did just that.

I had said many times during those days that it would just be a little while until we were all together forever. I know my family believed that I was just talking about our lifetimes as being just a little while. And, in light of eternity, that is absolutely true. However, I really did mean “just a little while.”

What's troubling to me, personally, is that while I absolutely believe that Jesus is coming soon - really soon - my heart is still heavy. I'm grieving my father's passing, still, even though it was obviously arranged by God to save him. I'm grieving my daughters' absence from my daily life, even though I wouldn't have it any other way. They need to be out there, becoming the women God intends them to be. I'm grieving my work life, which is very, very stressful right now. I have to pray my way into going each day.

So, the truth, is that all the while I'm here, writing to you about getting ready for Jesus - about being daily in God's word, about spending time in prayer - about connecting in a real way to your creator - I, myself, am running on empty. I, myself, am failing to do what I am telling you to do. Funny, huh?

Yesterday, I read something that really hit home with me. It was about finding God again when you are spiritually dry and empty. If I can find it online, I will post it for you. Basically, it was the account of a man - a well known preacher - who was going through a desert time. He had a contest with his will and his emotions. His emotions didn't want to connect with God, because they were telling him that God was far away, not listening, and that praying and studying God's word was pointless. But, he determined by his will that he would pray anyway - that he would study anyway. And, that if his emotions ran contrary to that, he would ignore them. And so he did. It seems like it might have taken a long time, but eventually, his emotions caught up with his will - and then, once again, God felt close and dear.

What he learned is that emotions lie. They tell us that God is not near, not listening. Nothing could be further from the truth. I must, once again, relearn the truth from Psalm 42: I will yet praise Him!!!!

Psalm 42

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
   When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
   day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
   “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
   as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
   leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
   among the festive throng.
 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and 6 my God. 



One of my posts was on this subject, and I wrote a whole study on it (Trusting God in a Night Season). So, you'd think I'd learn, wouldn't you? Still, God knows where I'm at, and what He wants for me and for you:

Psalm 139

 1 O LORD, you have searched me
   and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
   you know it completely, O LORD.


I'm sorry, Lord, for avoiding You. I'm sorry that I felt, even for a second, that You weren't listening, and that You didn't care. Please, Father, in Jesus' name I ask, bring me back to the relationship You want me to have with You.  Please, bring anyone reading this into that close relationship with You. Make us ready for Jesus' coming. Please, if He really is coming shortly, encourage us with that. Put that truth inside us and let it bring us joy. I am thirsty for You, Lord. I don't want to be in this desert any more. Please, help me to come meet with You, to read your word. Please, strengthen my will to do that and help me ignore my emotions. And please, Lord, please, let the emotions catch up soon. In Jesus' name, I ask these things for me - and for anyone reading this. Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Make every effort: Who does the work?

 We've been working our way through Peter's list in his second letter of how to get ready for Jesus. At the end of his list, he says,

2 Peter 1:10 For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Now, it's easy to start in the middle of this and somehow get the idea that it's all up to us - that if we DO these things (which is what it says, after all), we will receive a rich welcome into heaven.  A new believer, starting here with these verses might get very confused:

2 Peter 1:3  His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Because, this DOES say "make every effort," which is in the active tense - something we do and keep on doing. To back up, and just remind ourselves of where this all started:

Galatians 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. 

It is God, working in us through the Spirit that produces this fruit - not something we do on our own. As Jesus put it:

John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

You are IN Christ if you believe the Gospel. That is absolutely the first step in being ready for Jesus' return. If there is ANY question in your mind about what that means, please, please, review these studies:

The Gospel, Part 1 - What is the Gospel? The three ways the Gospel saves us. Jesus is the Messiah.
The Gospel, Part 2 - Christ DIED. Jesus is fully man.
The Gospel, Part 3 - Christ died FOR OUR SINS. Jesus is fully God.
The Gospel, Part 4 - Jesus was buried and rose again. When we are resurrected, we will be like Him.


How do you remain in Him? How do you remain connected? By staying in His word - by feeding that new person inside of you, and starving the old one.


So, if you remain in Jesus and allow the Spirit to work, you WILL produce fruit. It just comes naturally. The vine is not straining to produce fruit. It just does. It soaks up the sun (Son!) and drinks in the water (of the word!) and the fruit just grows.


But, Peter's list DOES say, "make every effort." It DOES say, "For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  So, how do you reconcile that? Is it a direct contradiction? No - not at all. It is putting into action the things the Spirit is doing in you. It is ALLOWING the Spirit's work to actually make a difference in you. You can hinder the Holy Spirit. You can actually grieve the Holy Spirit - by constantly turning from His guidance. After awhile, you won't even notice that you are. If you keep choosing the things that are contrary to God and His will, you will be feeding the old person inside of you. Meanwhile, the new person grows weaker, and finally, puts up no fight at all.

What do I mean? Well, what do you watch on TV? What movies do you see? What games do you play? How do you spend your free time? What music are you listening to? And, by writing this, I am by no means saying that I myself always choose the right thing. I don't. In fact, I recently read part way through a book from the library before I finally heard the Spirit saying, "What are you doing? This book is virtually pornography!" Wow - was I convicted. I'm supposed to be a child of God and there I was - reading something like that. So, I closed it and brought it back to the library without reading one more word.  Good for me, right? Better for me if I hadn't checked it out in the first place. These verses speak to that:

Ephesians 5

 1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.
 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
   “Wake up, O sleeper,
   rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Like a newborn baby, the new person inside us needs to be fed. We need to stay in God's word, which is our pure food. We need to "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" as it says above. Philippians says more about how to feed that new person and starve the old one:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Stay in the word. Listen to godly music. Think about pure, wholesome things. Have nothing to do with darkness. That's how you feed your new person. It's the Spirit who does the work inside you, but you CAN hinder His work. And, it is up to us to cooperate with Him to put our faith into action.

Tomorrow, we'll go back to Peter's list and work through "Perseverance."

I'd love to hear from you - either here or e-mail me.



 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A few days off

In my real world job, I am a caregiver, and the lady I care for needs extra care for the next few days. So, unfortunately, no posts for a bit.

Meanwhile, you find some of these studies interesting:

http://www.christianconcerns.dreamhosters.com/BereanBibleStudy.html

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Add to your knowledge: Self Control

We've been working through the list in 2 Peter, and are now at #4, self-control:
 
2 Peter 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your (1) faith (2) goodness; and to goodness, (3) knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, (4) self-control; and to self-control, (5) perseverance; and to perseverance, (6) godliness; 7 and to godliness, (7) brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, (8) love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

What does "self-control" mean?

4. Self-control: (KJ - temperance) egkrateia {eng-krat'-i-ah}
1) self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites)

In other words, self-control is not giving into temptation. Do you remember Joseph and Potiphar's wife? Joseph was handsome, and Potiphar's wife was probably beautiful and bored. She wanted him to sleep with her. Again and again she asked him, even going so far as to attempt to trap him. Finally, he had to run away, even though she was grabbing onto him:  She caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside (Genesis 39:12). So, I'm guessing that whatever this garment, he was probably naked without it - especially as she used it to get back at him by accusing him of attempted rape to her husband. (which in case you ever wondered - Potiphar certainly didn't believe her or Joseph would have been immediately killed, not sent to prison). The point is, Joseph did whatever it took to avoid falling into sin, even fleeing naked.

Although Peter says "make every effort," about acquiring self-control, which is very active and something you consciously work on, it is also listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, which was completely passive:

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

When you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit works in you to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

Why does Peter list it in an active sense? This is acting on what the Spirit has given us - making use of it. We each have two natures - the sinful nature and our new nature. They are always at war with each other. Whichever one gets fed the most is the one that will be strongest. So, how do we get self-control? We stay connected to Jesus (the vine) so that the Spirit can produce fruit in us, of which self-control is a part. We "feed" our new man and starve our old one.

This exact word, translated "self-control" here, only appears three times in the Bible. The first two were above. The third is below:

Acts 24:24-25  Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 

Do you notice that Paul spoke on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come? What's the connection there? Self-control is not giving into temptation. When you hear that word, what do you immediately think of?

Matthew 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

That word, translated "temptation" in the New King James Version is peirasmos . Here is what Strongs says:


1) an experiment, attempt, trial, proving
a) trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition, since condition served as to test the love of the Galatians toward Paul (Gal. 4:14)
b) the trial of man's fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy
1) an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances
2) an internal temptation to sin
a) of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand
3) of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness
4) adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one's character, faith, holiness
c) temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men
1) rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves

Guess where else that exact same word is found?

Revelation 3:10 "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

That "hour of trial" that is coming on the whole world IS the judgment to come. It is THE temptation. Why? Because more than any other time on earth, men will be tempted to follow the false Messiah who is really Satan. With all lying signs and wonders, he will attempt to fool us, and Jesus warns that the deception will be so good that if possible, the very elect would be deceived.

But - that is not you, not if you are in Christ and allowing His Spirit to work in you. Make every effort to add to your knowledge, self-control.

And, remember:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

When you are tempted to sin, God will provide a way out. I speak to myself just as much as you here - Look for that way out!

While there are only the three places the exact word translated "self-control" appears, there are many places where God talks about that same concept:

Bible Verses about Self-Control  and, a different link, but with the same title: Bible Verses about Self-Control 





Monday, February 6, 2012

Add to your goodness: Knowledge

We've been working through Peter's list in his second letter of how to be fruitful Christians - and how to be ready for the coming of Jesus.

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


We talked about starting with faith - and to that faith, adding goodness - shaking off our grave clothes. The next step is add to your goodness, knowledge. That same word in English was used in verse three:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 

However,  that word is epignōsis . As it's used in the New Testament, it means precise and correct knowledge of things ethical and divine according to Strongs. The tense in verse 3 is the perfect tense. This has already been done for us. Basically, it's saying that our belief is based on true knowledge of our savior, and that God did that for us. In verse 5, add to your goodness, knowledge, a different word is used: gnōsis . According to Strongs, it means,
1) knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding
a) the general knowledge of Christian religion
b) the deeper more perfect and enlarged knowledge of this religion, such as belongs to the more advanced
c) esp. of things lawful and unlawful for Christians
d) moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living

In other words, learn what pleases God. It's a step beyond that knowledge that leads to saving faith. This is a step toward sanctification - the process of becoming Christlike. It's kind of like as in Hebrews 6:1: Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.

So, where does that kind of knowledge come from? From God's word, of course! Why does goodness come before knowledge? My guess is that we will not have time for God's word if our lives are filled with things of the world. When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, what was the first thing that had to happen afterward? Lazarus had to be loosed from his grave clothes.

So, how do we add knowledge? We dig into God's word - and keep on digging. Just as we need to eat every day to feed our physical bodies, we need spiritual nourishment every day, too.


A question - just for my own curiosity. Do you find it easier to believe in prophecy if it is for the distant future? For example, is it easier to believe that God has a purpose for the Tribulation to come (the Day of the Lord) than that He had a purpose for the Holocaust in the 1940's?

OR - a different question - Is it easier to believe in the literal plagues that lead to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt than that the plagues to come, possibly on our near horizon, are also literal? In other words, is it easier to believe in things that don't really affect us?

Just curious. You can answer here or you can send me an e-mail.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tangled in grave clothes

Yesterday, I spent a bit of time on Peter's admonition to "make every effort to add to your faith goodness." Before I move on from there, I just want to make one more point. When we believe, when we come to faith, we have moved from death to life.  We were dead in our sins and then we "come to life." That's the first step, and absolutely nothing can happen until we have done that. The Bible is full of both plain language about that step and also pictures. As soon as we're done with Peter, here, I'll go through one of those from the Old Testament, because there's a lot to be learned.

One of those pictures is Jesus' raising of Lazarus. I can't resist going through more of the story than is really necessary to make my point, but it's Sunday. Hopefully you won't mind something a little longer?

You remember the story, right? Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha, and all three are dear friends of Jesus. Lazarus gets very, very sick, and the sisters send word to Jesus:

John 11:1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

So, Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick, but waits two more days. There is a picture right there, too, that maybe I'll explore some day. I find it interesting that Lazarus, a Jew, is sick, but Jesus stayed where he was for two more days. Do you see the potential picture in that?

Well, that's for another day. Meanwhile, Lazarus is sick, and actually dies while Jesus waits - in fact, probably died before the messenger even reached Jesus. Eventually, Jesus and his disciples get to Bethany.


John 11:17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

OK, Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. It's about a day's journey between Bethany and Bethabara. It took one day for the messenger to get to Jesus. Then, He waited two days, and then probably traveled one day to get to Bethany. So, Lazarus must have died and was put in the tomb the same day the message went out, perhaps even immediately afterwards. There was apparently a large crowd now gathered in Bethany.

It's another thing I find interesting. Jesus stayed where He was for two days, and when He comes, He's met part way there by a female believer. Are there hints of something else there? We won't know until Jesus tells us. Until then, we can only wonder.

John 11:21 "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 

Don't just skim past those verses because you've heard them so many times. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."  The wonder of that!!!!! And, as he asked Martha, let us ask each other, "Do YOU believe this?" Really, truly believe???


John 11:27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

When she says, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." It sounds like she's rebuking Him, but she isn't. She knows that Lazarus died before the messenger even got to Jesus. She's simply saying, in faith, her belief that Lazarus wouldn't have died if Jesus was there - which is undoubtedly true. She goes on to say, maybe hesitantly, that she believes "God will give you whatever you ask." Is she asking for Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead? I think she is.

So, Jesus answers, "Your brother will rise again." Could it be? Oh, it's too much to hope for, so she gives Him the careful, theological answer: "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." And, certainly he will, as will we all. Just think - we will actually be able to meet Mary, Martha and Lazarus on that day. But, in giving the careful, theological answer, is Martha actually showing a lack of faith in what Jesus can do?

I'm asking that question, because I find myself doing the same thing so often. It's much easier to believe things that are far off in the distant future. It's easier to be the wise, mature person who knows that God often says "No" to our prayers - or at the very least, "Not yet." So, we don't ask for too much - we don't expect too much, so that we won't have the disappointment.

You know what's much harder? It's much harder to have the eager, expectant faith of a child. It's hard to have a living, breathing trust that believes in miracles in the here and now. I don't want to be a "secret doubter," and hide my doubt behind careful answers. It's a personal struggle at the moment - to regain that eager, expectant faith of a child.


Flipping through my commentaries, it seems like others might have had the same thoughts. Here is what J. Vernon McGee says (McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary Series: John. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1991):


Martha believed in a resurrection. But listen, it makes less demand upon faith to believe in a future day we shall receive glorified bodies than it does to rest now on the assurance that they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. It is easier to believe that the Lord is coming and the dead shall be raised than it is to believe that tomorrow I can live for God. It is so easy to comfort people who are mourning and say, "Well, you'll see your loved ones someday." That doesn't take much faith. It takes a lot of faith to say, I have just lost my loved one but I am comforted with the assurance that God is with me and He does all things well." You see, although Martha knew from the Old Testament that there would be a resurrection from the dead, she didn't believe that Jesus could help her now.
So, Martha runs and gets Mary and they show Jesus where Lazarus is buried.

John 11:39 "Take away the stone," he (Jesus) said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

Or, as the King James puts it, by this time he stinketh. Isn't that a great way of putting it? Martha cannot help being Martha. She wants her miracle, but she can't help worrying about what people will think about the odor. It's kind of like you might feel if you knew you'd see a miracle, but first you have to open the garbage can where you threw the raw hamburger four days ago, and it's been 90 degrees every day.

There is also an element of "Can even you do something about this? He's been dead four days and he's ROTTING now."

John 11:40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"

He had to name Lazarus, otherwise all the dead would come out. Remember this verse:

John 5:28 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

John 11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

Here's a picture so that you can visualize this better.


There is another place in John that talks about this:

John 19:40 Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

Basically, the dead person is wrapped up. Lazarus would have to have hopped out of the tomb. Here is one explanation, from here:


"The corpse would have been placed on a strip of linen, wide and long enough to envelop it completely. The feet would be placed at one end, and the cloth would then be drawn over the head to the feet, the feet would be bound at the ankles, and the arms secured to the body with linen bandages...."
When you're sharing the Gospel with someone, you need to reveal the stink in their lives. Gently, lovingly, you need to point out exactly why that person needs a savior. You need to point out his or her sin. Sometimes, it might be a fellow believer that has fallen into sin. With all the love in your heart, you need to reveal his or her "stink." Many years ago, a friend needed me to do that, and I didn't. I should have told her that what she was doing was wrong, but instead, I said nothing. I guess I thought a friend should be supportive, regardless, but now, I realize that you can't stay quiet when someone you care about is headed down the wrong path. Fortunately, God turned her back another way, but to this day, I feel like I failed her. I should have revealed her "stink."

Here's something from Jon Courson (Courson, J. 2003. Jon Courson's Application Commentary . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN):


No doubt in that hot climate, the body of Lazarus took on a distinct odor. That is why Martha said, "Lord, just let it be. Don’t ask me to roll away the stone. It stinks." The same is true of you and me. The Lord wants to do something in our lives. But before He does, oftentimes He’ll say, "Roll away the stone. Expose the problem. Let Me have total access to the situation."
"Oh, Lord, not that," we say. "Do we have to deal with that? I’m embarrassed about it. I’m ashamed of it. It stinks."
The Lord said, "I gave you a promise, Martha. But here’s the prerequisite: Roll away the stone." Do you think Jesus could have rolled away the stone Himself? Later on, He did—His own stone. But here He says to Martha, just as He says to me, "The promise is given, but here’s the prerequisite: Roll away the stone. Even though what’s inside stinks, let Me deal with it."
What happens next? Jesus calls Lazarus to life. Only He can do that. We can share the Gospel with people, we can point out their sin, but only Jesus can call them to life. Only He knows when the time is right. It's not our job to make someone respond. That belongs to the Lord and the Lord alone. The Gospel is effective, but only God knows the full situation in the person's life. It might not be the right time. So, we can point out sin, share the Gospel - and leave the "calling to life" in God's hands. Of course, you can pray! Never stop praying!

What's next? Jesus says, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." Jesus leaves that part in the hands of others. Lazarus probably came hopping out in response to the call to life, and there he was, alive, but totally encumbered with his grave clothes. Is that actually a picture of us?

We were dead, but now we are alive:

Ephesians 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Those things that we used to "gratify the cravings of our sinful nature" are our grave clothes.  If we do not put them off, we will never be free. We will still be as bound as Lazarus was. He was alive, but completely ineffective until the grave clothes were removed. Faith comes first - and with that faith, we are made alive. We have moved from death to life, from hell to heaven. But, then, we must shake off the grave clothes. Leave them behind, as things that will only entangle and drag you down. As Peter puts it, "make every effort to add to your faith goodness." 


Remember, that "make every effort" means:
1) haste, with haste 2) earnestness, diligence a) earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything b) to give all diligence, interest one's self most earnestly

The tense is Aorist, which is active and ongoing. Do this and keep on doing it.  Make every effort to leave those grave clothes behind. They stink with the smell of death. Add to your faith goodness. Remember the point:

1 Peter 1:5 make every effort to add to your (1) faith (2) goodness; and to goodness, (3) knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, (4) self-control; and to self-control, (5) perseverance; and to perseverance, (6) godliness; 7 and to godliness, (7) brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, (8) love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Add to your faith: Goodness

The very most important thing - spiritual prep - that you must have is faith:  rock solid, living, saving faith. On that foundation, the Holy Spirit will begin to work in you to change you, ready you, make you as God would have you be. 

Philippians 1:6  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

So, it's God who works in you - God who will change you.  And, yet, there is still that "make every effort":

2 Peter 1
1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 
 
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your (1) faith (2) goodness; and to goodness, (3) knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, (4) self-control; and to self-control, (5) perseverance; and to perseverance, (6) godliness; 7 and to godliness, (7) brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, (8) love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

You start with faith, and now you "make every effort" to add to that faith.  Add what? You start with "goodness." What is that?


2. Goodness: (KJ - virtue, NASB - moral excellence): arete {ar-et'-ay}
1) a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action, moral goodness, 2) any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity

Used five times in the NT - four by Peter. The other is here:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.


So, how do you go about adding goodness? The verse above is a great start! Feed the new man; starve the old one.

With your faith, you were born anew, born again. There is a new person inside you. But, that old person is still there, trying to drag you down.  It's kind of like being twins - all inside the same body. Martin Luther said, "the Old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil desires, should be drowned through daily sorrow and repentance, and be put to death, that the New Adam should come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God's presence."
 
Starve the old person you were - feed the new one. Stay away from the things that entice you to stray. Concentrate on things that help you stay "good."



Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.


As Jon Courson says, from the BlueLetterBible.org commentary on 2 Peter 1:
      . . . giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue . . .
      'You have faith,' says Peter. 'Now go for virtue, or moral excellence.' This means that the darkness of our culture as portrayed on the screen or in print, in song lyrics or in the questionable jokes around the water cooler has no place in our lives.
 I think the key is in the last part of the verses from Ephesians above:

Ephesians 5:10  and find out what pleases the Lord.


Find out what pleases the Lord. How? By reading and studying His word. Unlike every other book in the world, it actually has the power to change you.

Most of this was taken from my Bible study called Living by the Spirit.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting ready for Jesus, 2

Yesterday, I wrote about faith. If we're going to get ready for Jesus' coming, we HAVE to start with faith. And, since the Bible says that faith comes from hearing the message, I turned to the place where the Gospel is explained the clearest, by Paul in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15

 1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

If any part of that Gospel is unclear, I strongly encourage you to review the Bible studies I posted yesterday. Yes, it's long if you read all four, but being IN Christ is the NUMBER ONE THING you need to be ready for His coming. 

 

Paul is very thorough in his writings. In fact, he's so thorough that many, many books have been written on each of his letters. Very valuable - very worthwhile. But - if we want to jump to the very heart of the matter in short order, the guy to turn to is Peter. 

 

I kind of picture Paul as the ultimate nerd (in a good way), the kind of man who could probably tell you anything you wanted to know on almost any subject. I picture Peter as a big, burly guy - like someone you might see at the lunch counter in a truck stop. Someone long on action and short on talk, but with a heart of absolute gold. He didn't write much in the Bible, but what he did write is straight to the point. 

 

In his second letter, he says exactly what we need to hear:

2 Peter 1:10  Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

That's exactly what we need, right? So, let's back up and see what "these things" are all about:


2 Peter 1

 1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
   To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Making One’s Calling and Election Sure
 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 


I'm going to tackle this step by step over the next few days.  Let's start with verse 5:



2 Peter 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your (1) faith (2) goodness; and to goodness, (3) knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, (4) self-control; and to self-control, (5) perseverance; and to perseverance, (6) godliness; 7 and to godliness, (7) brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, (8) love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
 

Is this active or passive?


Make every effort (KJ - giving all diligence, NASB - applying all diligence)
1) haste, with haste 2) earnestness, diligence a) earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything b) to give all diligence, interest one's self most earnestly


To add (NASB - supply) epichoregeo {ep-ee-khor-ayg-eh'-o}
1) to supply, furnish, present 2) to be supplied, ministered to, assisted


Tense: Aorist, active - ongoing - do this and keep on doing it


This is completely active. Yet, the list is very similar to one in Galatians, the book which explains about not being driven by law. Is there a contradiction? No - this is the putting into practice the things given us by the Spirit. It says if we do these things, it will keep us from being unproductive.


James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.


True faith will manifest itself in works, because someone with true faith has the Spirit of God within him or her. Yet, it is the Spirit that directs the works. And, as Peter says, it all starts with faith:


1. Faith: pistis {pis'-tis}
1) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it
a) relating to God - the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ
b) relating to Christ - a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God


Where does faith come from? How do we get faith? Faith is a gift:


Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.


Not everyone has the same amount.


Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.


Will you always have the same amount of faith? Have you had ups and downs in your faith? How do you get more?


Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith !"

Mark 9:24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief !"


Faith will also grow as you spend time in God's word. As we've gone through before, God's word has the supernatural ability to change you. Now, just a note. In the two examples above, the people asked for more faith. However, if you spend zero time in God's Word and just ask for more faith, will God grant it to you? Remember, Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is the word of Christ.


Tomorrow, we'll tackle what it means to "add to your faith goodness."  As always, I'd love to hear from you. If not here, then e-mail me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Getting ready for Jesus starts with faith

Jesus is coming! Be ready!


It's easy to enough for me to sit here and say that - but, how, exactly, are we supposed to get ready? Well, the first thing needed is faith - rock solid, living, saving faith. Do you have that kind of faith? How do you get that kind of faith?

Well, remember that faith comes from hearing and believing the Gospel:

Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. 

We don't do it - it is something God does IN us:


Ephesians 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--

But, what IS the Gospel? It is spelled out most clearly here:

1 Corinthians 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

This is the Gospel that saves us. If you believe this, you are saved. You are IN Christ Jesus. This is what saves you, simply believing that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. That's it! Please note what's not in there - nothing about angels, the age of the earth, what Christians can and cannot do, and on and on. In other words, there are plenty of things people can be confused about and still be saved.

Yet, there are things that are absolutely essential. Jesus could not have died for our sins if He wasn't God (and not "a" God, but truly GOD). He didn't just die, but died for our sins. He couldn't have DIED if He wasn't human. Those are all absolutely non-negotiable. Another absolute is that Christ was raised from the dead. To deny any of those is to deny true Christianity. What makes a cult a cult is that they call themselves Christian, yet deny some part of this gospel.


Understanding this Gospel is so important, that I actually wrote four Bible studies on it:

The Gospel, Part 1:  What is the Gospel? The three ways the Gospel saves us. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.

The Gospel, Part 2: Christ DIED. Jesus is fully man.

The Gospel, Part 3: Christ died FOR OUR SINS. Jesus is fully God.

The Gospel, Part 4: Jesus was buried and rose again. When we are resurrected, we will be like Him!


So, that's enough homework for one day, huh? See you tomorrow!

As always, I'd love to hear from you. You don't have to agree with me! If not here, then e-mail me!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bible studies online

I have many of the Bible studies I've written back online, with more to come soon:

Berean Bible Study