Tuesday, November 9, 2010

#36) Justified By (________)

Justified By (______)

Tonight, we are going to be looking at a doctrine that has divided the Church for roughly 500 years and has been an issue for even longer. It isn’t a subject that can be brushed to the wayside or compromised on. It is a matter of extreme importance and we all need to know where we stand on it. It is the topic of justification. Tonight, we are going to touch on some of the different views as well as what the Bible says on the matter.

R.C. Sproul defines justification as “a legal action by God by which He declares a person just in His sight.” Dictionary.com defines it as “to declare innocent or guiltless; absolve; acquit.”

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.

Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

Romans 6:23a
For the wages of sin is death,

Scripture makes it quite clear that none of us are innocent. We have all fallen prey to sin and all of us are blemished before the glory of God. In fact, Scripture declares that, because of our sin, we are all worthy of death and Hell. None of us are righteous enough to deserve Heaven. According to God’s Word, we are all wretched sinners. How is it then that we can possibly be declared justified by God? Is it something we work toward? Is it simply by His love that He overlooks our sin? Is it temporal and constantly being renewed with a chance of forfeiture or is it a permanent and once-for-all action? This is what I hope to touch on tonight.

Romans 3:28
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

James 2:24
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Why the apparent contradiction? Is it by faith alone or is it by faith plus works? While only having one true answer, the response will vary depending on who you ask. Ask a Protestant and he will tell you one thing. Ask a Catholic and he will tell you another. To really understand the doctrine of justification, we also need to understand what it is not.

The Roman Catholic view of justification is seen as taking place in the sacraments. Roman Catholicism has 7 sacraments that are delivered through priests alone. They are baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion, confession, marriage, Holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. The one I want to touch on tonight is baptism.

Roman Catholics and Protestants hold a very different view of baptism. While Protestants hold that it is symbolic of our dying to self and rising in Christ (an outward sign of inward faith), Catholics believe baptism justifies an individual of all prior sins and makes him, at that very moment, cleansed before God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sec 1, Ch 3, Art 2
Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy.

Here, we see baptism is spoken of being the thing that inwardly justifies. It is important to note that baptism is also viewed as being an act of faith so, while being a work, it is also viewed as a work done in faith that was already present in the individual. In other words, according to Catholicism, justification is achieved through both faith and works with neither one being sufficient in and of itself apart from the other.

(Review hand out.)

Not only does the Catholic Church believe in justification through both faith and works together, they also teach that it can be lost through the practice of mortal sins. The Council of Trent was held during the Reformation in the 1500’s. Its main purpose was to stop the Reformers who were protesting the Catholic Church. In fact, this is where we get our name as Protestants and it is important to know the history behind it. James Montgomery Boice says, “the evangelical church is either dead or dying as a significant religious force because it has forgotten what it stands for.” Trent made many declarations against the Reformers in an attempt to slow down the crowds who were rapidly converting to Protestantism.

Council of Trent
Against the subtle wits of some also, who “by pleasing speeches and good words seduce the hearts of the innocent” (Rom. 16:18), it must be maintained that the grace of justification once received is lost not only by infidelity, whereby also faith itself is lost, but also by every other mortal sin, though in this case faith is not lost; thus defending the teaching of the divine law which excludes from the kingdom of God not only unbelievers, but also the faithful [who are] “fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners” (1 Cor. 6:9f.; 1 Tim. 1:9f.), and all others who commit deadly sins, from which with the help of divine grace they can refrain, and on account of which they are cut off from the grace of Christ.

In other words, if you commit infidelity, or unbelief, you lose not only your faith but also your justification. If you commit any other mortal sin, you may still have your faith but your justification will be lost and, therefore, must be regained through the deliverance of the sacraments by a priest as well as other acts such as penance.

As I said in the beginning, the doctrine of justification is the key doctrine that divided the Church during the Reformation. Because of this, you can probably imagine the Protestant belief is quite different. While the Catholic belief is a hybrid system of faith plus works, the Protestant belief has always been justification by faith alone, or sola fide.

The French Reformer, John Calvin, believed that all sins are mortal just by the simple fact that Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death. However, he argued that, while being worthy of death, no sin could cause a believer to lose his justification. The large difference is that Catholic teaching is that man must actually BE just within while Protestants teach that man must be DECLARED as just by God.

Romans 3:24
being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Romans 5:1
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 5:9
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

Galatians 2:16
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

Works do not justify. We are justified apart from the Law. Justification comes only by faith through the redemption in Christ Jesus by His blood! There is no other way! It is by the grace of God alone that He chose to send His innocent and spotless Son to die on the cross so that we could become heirs of the kingdom of God instead of heirs of Hell.

R.C. Sproul
On the cross Christ paid the price for our sin. This was both a work of expiation and propitiation. By expiation he “took” away” our sins from us. By propitiation he satisfied the justice of God by undergoing the penalty for our guilt.

In Christ, we are declared spotless. His blood has washed us clean. However, righteousness is not the same as cleanliness. We are called to obey God and to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1). Of course, none of this is possible within ourselves. This is yet another act of Christ. Whereas Catholic doctrine teaches an inerrant or infused justice which makes the person truly inwardly righteous, Protestantism teaches if imputed righteousness in which the reward of Christ is given to us and our wages of sin are given to Him.

2 Corinthians
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Christ was worthy of all of the kingdom of Heaven yet he gave it up so that we could acquire it. It is not by our works that we earn merit. It is solely by our faith in Christ that his merit is imputed unto us and that our justification remains.

James Buchanan
…the righteousness of Christ considered as the merit of his mediatorial work must ever continue, even when it is imputed to us, to belong primarily, and, in one important respect, exclusively to him by whom alone that work was accomplished. It is his righteousness in a sense in which it can never be ours: It is his, as having been wrought out by him; and it is ours, only as it is imputed to us.

R.C. Sproul
By faith the justified person receives all the blessings of God due to Jesus for his perfect obedience. In this regard Christ is our righteousness.

The Roman Catholic doctrine of faith plus works simply does not jive with Scripture. To claim we become just by any act other than the imputation of Christ’s merit is to say we are saved by something other than Christ alone. Salvation is not in the hands of priests nor is it in the sacraments. There is not enough of our own merit in the world to save us and the blood of Christ alone is sufficient.

R.C. Sproul
We are justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.

Knowing the Scriptural stance on the cause of justification is critical to the Gospel message. However, knowing whether it is temporal or permanent is equally as important. Hebrews 6 is a much debated passage that both sides appeal to for their beliefs. Listen closely:

Hebrews 6:4-6
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Those who believe in losing your justification and salvation appeal to this passage by saying those who have been saved can fall away and never again to be renewed unto God. This is NOT what is being said in this passage! In fact, this interpretation completely destroys everything the Gospel teaches of justification and the complete work of Christ.

The claim from the “you can lose it” camp is based on the phrase “those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They say one cannot partake of the Holy Spirit or be enlightened unless they have first been saved. This is based on verses such as 1 Corinthians 2:14 which says,

1 Corinthians 2:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

The problem is that the above verse is being taken out of context to support an erroneous argument. While a non-Christian will never have the Spirit reside in them, this does not mean they are incapable of partaking of the blessings of the Holy Spirit or being affected by Him.

Matthew 5:45
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Here, we can see what is commonly referred to as common grace or common blessing. We see that even the evil men receive a certain level of blessing from God. Moving on, we see something even more specific in 2 Peter 2:20-21:

2 Peter 2:20-21
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.

It would be easy to think this is referring to a back-slidden Christian. However, the full context shows that this is not referring to a believer at all. It is referring to a false prophet. Despite this, it uses phrases like "escaped defilements of the world" and "knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." It even speaks of them as having known the way of righteousness. Again, all this would lead someone to believe it is speaking of one who has lost their salvation; their justification. But we all know this is not the case regarding the reference to false prophets. It is merely referring to someone who has all the head knowledge possible yet does not clinch the eternal bond of the Spirit. While it is true that only a Christian can truly understand the things of the Spirit, it is not true at all to say only a Christian can taste the things of the Spirit. A great point was made by Paul in 1 Corinthians on this subject.

1 Corinthians 7:14
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

The use of the word "sanctified" does not mean that the unbelieving spouse is saved based on the believing spouse’s faith. It simply means they receive the blessing of the Spirit through the faith of the believing spouse. They may not receive salvation or the forgiveness of sins but they do receive a blessing nonetheless. It is in this sense that a non-believer can still partake of the things of the Spirit without ever having obtained regeneration/salvation from the Spirit.

So what does it mean by “those who have once been enlightened”? The Greek word used for enlightened is phōtizō and is being used in the sense of being intellectually enlightened to Spiritual truths. The people being spoken of in Hebrews 6 had been made aware of Spiritual truths and they saw them for what they were but it does not give any indication to a response to the call of salvation. Furthermore, nowhere in Scripture is this phrase used to speak of salvation. It simply means they had mental knowledge of the things of the Spirit. To some extent, I am sure they also tasted the things of the Spirit albeit never tasting salvation or regeneration. It would be impossible to have been so involved in the things of the Church and not have been affected. Even the people following Christ in Matthew 5 were affected by the Light yet they did not believe despite this.

I do not believe it is referring to believers who have fallen away and lost their salvation and justification because of some mortal sin or infidelity. I fully believe it is referring to unbelievers who are on the verge of salvation. They have all the knowledge they need. They have seen the power of the Spirit. They have received a partial blessing of what the Spirit has to offer. If there was ever a time to believe, this was it! If one fell back after all this, it would be lost on them. There would be a sense of hopelessness, an impossibility, that they would ever see Christ for who he is. With all that knowledge, if one still rejected Christ, all hope would be lost that they would never see the Light.

Again, in Hebrews 6:6 where it says, “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame,” it does not refer to those who were once saved and had fallen away but rather those who were on the fence and finally stood their ground among those Jews who crucified Christ. Even if they never would have physically done so, the author of Hebrews does not water it down when he places them in the same category. It shows the seriousness of their rejection. We know Christ was crucified once for all (1 Peter 3:8) as the final act of completion never again to be repeated. They never chose Christ even after all they had tasted and, in their rejection, had lost all hope of ever choosing Christ and now stood among the rest of the crucifers.

Once we have been justified by Christ alone, there is no turning back. If one turns back, it is because they never truly had saving faith to begin with. They were as the first 3 seeds in the parable of the seed and the sower. Eternal life is exactly that.

John 10:27-29
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and 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; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

Romans 8:35, 38-39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Philippians 1:6
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 1:4-5
to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Romans 5:10
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

So, going back to the very beginning of the lesson:

Romans 3:28
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

James 2:24
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

By now, we should clearly be able to see that it is not the works which help justify us but that it is the works which show evidence of our salvation and justification. If works do not follow salvation, it is evident that salvation is absent. If salvation is absent, justification is naturally absent as well.

Sola fide (justification by faith alone) is a key doctrine that cannot be ignored. It is essential in the life of every believer. Without it, there is no salvation, no justification, and no glorification. To stress its importance, I would like to close with another quote by R.C. Sproul:

R.C. Sproul
sola fide one does not have the gospel; and without the gospel one does not have the Christian faith. When an ecclesiastical communion rejects sola fide, as Rome did at the Council of Trent, it ceases being a true church, no matter how orthodox it may be in other matters, because it has condemned an essential of the faith.

Sola Fide!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

#35) Reminders For Life

Last week, we went over Jude 1-13. While we learned that Jude was the brother of Jesus, we also learned this was not a point that Jude felt he should brag about. In fact, he doesn’t even mention it in his letter. Jude felt his calling was to be a bondservant of Christ. He felt it necessary to teach of a certain group of men within the Church. These men were apostates and false teachers who, though appearing to belong in the Church, actually acted as nothing more than weeds dragging everybody else down.

Tonight, we are going to move on to the other half of Jude’s message. He was not content telling us what to beware of. His message was not complete until he also told us how we are to live for Christ. He tells us what to watch out for and then goes on to tell us what to become.

Read Jude 14-25.

Jude 17
But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Note how Jude refers to us. He calls us beloved. This was not merely an impersonal message to church members. It was not a memo to be passed around. It was a deeply personal message written to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no stronger bond than that of Christ. In calling us “beloved” we can feel the sense of love and concern that he is putting forth.

He stresses the importance of remembering the words spoken by the apostles. In Jude’s day, this was done through verbal traditions. These words would have been passed on by word of mouth and held on to dearly. If anything, we are in a much better position because we have the Word of God. Jude didn’t have a New Testament to turn to whenever he felt the need to recall something. He was helping to create the New Testament and probably never even realized it.

Many people say Scripture memorization is only for smart people with great memories. This is completely untrue. If this were the case, it would not be commanded by God in His Word. This isn’t to say we need to know all of Scripture verbatim. It just means we are to be able to recall the teachings of Scripture as a whole.

Psalm 119:9 & 11
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word……….Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You.

Jude tells us to remember the words spoken before us by the apostles. Psalm 119 tells us by keeping the Word of God in our hearts, we can avoid sinning against God. This is because it is by His Word that we are to live. It has been said that BIBLE stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth but it is so much more. It is our only true and unchanging guideline and standard by which everything else must be judged.

Jude 18-19
that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

As we covered last week, these men are in the Church but they are not true believers. They are not followers of Christ. They follow after whatever doctrine fancies them at the time. They blow about with the wind. They crash like wild waves. They are dead both inside and out. However, we also have to remember that they were appointed by God for this condemnation long beforehand as verse 4 tells us. Last week, we learned how to spot them. This week, we are learning how to not become like them.

Jude 20a
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith,

Colossians 2:7
having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Ephesians 2:20
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

We are called to build ourselves up. Simply residing on a foundation is not enough. Imagine buying a piece of property. You seek out the absolute best contractors to get a perfect foundation laid. You ride them day and night to the point where they are exhausted. You refuse to give them water when they are thirsty and you beat them when they show signs of weakness. In the end, the contractors achieve what they set out to do; create the perfect foundation. There isn’t a crack or imperfection to be found. It has been finished. Would you be content with this foundation by itself? Would you set up a tent and then call it a day knowing that you had the perfect foundation and needed nothing else? The purpose of a foundation is to prepare for a building. The better the foundation, the stronger the building will be able to hold up to the ground beneath it.

Jesus is our perfect foundation. We beat him to the point of exhaustion and, when we appeared to be on top, nailed him to the cross. We may not have been there in person but we still shout “Crucify him!” on a daily basis in our actions. We murder our Savior day in and day out when we are called to build upon him as our perfect foundation.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Romans 14:19
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

Not only are we called to build up ourselves but also to build up one another. We are to encourage one another and care for one another. This is the exact opposite of what the apostates were doing. They cared only for themselves. This is because they lacked the one thing needed to truly care for someone other than oneself. They lacked love.

Ephesians 4:29
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

1 Corinthians 8:1b
Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

The Greek word used for “edifies” is oikodomē (oi-ko-do-mā'). It literally means to build up. We are to constantly be in a state of building. We are to build ourselves but we are also to build our neighbor. It is through love that edification can occur and it is only in Christ that we can truly love as it is meant to be.

Jude 20b
praying in the Holy Spirit,

Ask congregation what they think it means to pray in the Spirit.

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

John 14:16
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;

Romans 8:26
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;

Praying in the Spirit is simply having the Spirit pray through us. The Spirit is not some foreign deity that we have to seek out.

1 Corinthians 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

The Spirit resides within us as Christians. God is a Holy God. There are many times when we may feel like we fall short and don’t deserve to go before such a Holy God. The great news is that Romans 3:23 confirms this truth yet God wants us to come before Him regardless. When we have absolutely no idea what to pray for, just pray that the Spirit will show us what to pray about. He will intercede on our behalf as the Helper. Even if there are no words to be expressed, God knows our hearts. The Spirit will move us to be holy; set apart for God. To pray in the Spirit is simply to have the Spirit pray in us.

Jude 21a
keep yourselves in the love of God

Note the change in instruction here. Building ourselves up in faith and praying in the Spirit are things we are to do but this is not the end point that Jude is making. Everything he urges us to do points to the end goal of keeping the faith. He does not simply say “Keep the faith” while leaving us in the dark. How do we keep the faith? We keep the faith by building ourselves up and praying in the Spirit. We keep the faith by keeping our focus on God at all times and growing in Him.

Acts 13:43
Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.

Philippians 2:12
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

While keeping in the love of God, know that it isn’t a system of legalism that does it. We can’t work our way into God’s favor. It is by the grace of God alone that we can enjoy being in His love. Working out our salvation does not imply works will earn us salvation. It means we are to live for God each and every day under His grace.

John 6:37
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

John 10:28
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

While we are to keep ourselves in the faith, it is God that keeps His children. He has promised to never let any of His children go. He has promised eternal life. Not only is it a promise to His children but it is a promise that has already been fulfilled. Those who are His have eternal life. However, there are many who supposedly fall away from the faith, not just for a short time, but for real. The fact of the matter is that these men never had real faith, were never children of God, and were only deceiving themselves. This is why we are called to not only build ourselves up but to also build up one another. Edify one another.

Jude 21b
waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Titus 2:13
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,

Hebrews 9:28
so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

1 John 3:2-3
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

While living each day for God, we have a greater hope of the future in the return of Christ. We are made in the image of God and there will be a day when we will be glorified as Christ was also glorified following his resurrection. John says the one who anxiously looks forward to the Second Coming purifies himself to the same degree in which Christ is pure. Keeping our sight on God with anxious expectation is a sure fire way to sanctify oneself, edify the Church, and keep ourselves for God.

Jude 22-23
And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Jude tells us we are to have mercy on some. The “some” that he refers to appear to be broken down into 3 different groups of severity. They all deserve mercy but they are all for different reasons and require different precautions when handling them.

Jude 22
And have mercy on some, who are doubting;

These people appear to be your typical lost person. They have their doubts and aren’t quite ready to take the leap of faith just yet. Just as God was merciful on us, we are to be merciful on them. As Christians, we are called to be fishers of men. By showing mercy and compassion, we are showing them the love of Christ. These men would fall under your basic evangelism and witnessing.

Jude 23a
save others, snatching them out of the fire;

These men are also doubters but to a much severer degree. They are on the fast track for Hell as we all once were. These men need emergency intervention. They need a bit more focus and dedication to be swayed to Truth.

Zechariah 3:2
The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?"

1 Corinthians 3:15
If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Again, at one point in time, we were bound for Hell. All mankind has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of this sin is death. However, God saved us from the flames. Shouldn’t we turn around and do the same for others by spreading the Gospel and teaching Christ crucified at any opportunity?

Jude 23b
and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

This third group would be the false teachers and apostates that we spoke of last week as well as the beginning of this lesson. These men are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Instead of building others up, they tear them down. We are still to have mercy on them in that we preach the Gospel to them but we are to do so with a certain sense of fear. When handling these types, be careful not to be dragged down in the process. How many relationships have you heard of where the girlfriend dated an unbeliever hoping to convert him only to be dragged away from the faith as a result of being unequally yoked? Take an instance such as that and multiply the dangers. We should hate everything that these doubly dead men stand for but we should not let that get in the way of our mission of being fishers of men. Personally, I do not recommend a new believer speak with these people. Should a new believer come across one of these types, I would urge him or her to be loving but get away and refer him to a more mature believer in the faith.

Jude 24-25
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

After everything that Jude had to say to us, he finishes it out with praise to God. All of these are reasons for us to worship the Living God.

God has promised to keep us for Himself. In fact, even verse 1 tells us we are kept for Christ. We may face temptation but this does not mean we have to stumble. When God is our foundation, we can stand firm in Him. When we stand firm in Him, we will follow His ways and His commands which will result in standing blameless before Him. Think of the joy of Christ telling us, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.” It is only through Christ that we are reconciled to the Father. To God, through Christ, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority. In Christ, it is finished and eternity awaits us.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

#34) Doubly Dead

Doubly Dead

Tonight is going to be a little different from most nights. Instead of a sermon, I’d like this to be more of a Bible study. Instead of bouncing all over Scripture we will be primarily going over the epistle of Jude. Jude is a small epistle consisting of only 1 chapter. However, in that 1 chapter is a very important lesson that we all need to learn. It is the subject of apostates and false teachers within the Church.

Read Jude 1-13

Jude 1
Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:

First of all, we see that it was Jude who wrote this epistle. As it is written in verse 1, we can see that Jude is the brother of James. However, James was not his only brother.

Matthew 13:55
Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

As we can clearly see, Jude was also the brother of Jesus. Some doubt Jude’s family ties by saying he would have mentioned Jesus instead of James in this verse. However, it is commonly held to that James was simply practicing humility. He could have clearly bragged about his relations with Christ but instead, he lowered himself to nothing more than a bond servant. If we look at James 1:1, we can see James describes himself in the exact same way.

Knowing who it is written by is equally as important as knowing who it is written to. Verse 1 tells us it is written to believers. This was not a message for anybody who had ears. It had an intended audience. Jude had a word for believers and, by God’s grace, we are able to read it tonight. Notice how it describes believers. It does not simply give an Arminian tag such as “one who chose Christ” or “one who sticks around.” It goes much deeper than that. Anybody who has ever had the chance to speak with me knows that I am a 5 Point Calvinist through and through. This is because I firmly believe this to be the Truth of Scripture. In fact, even Jude 1 appears to stand in favor. It says he is writing to those who are called and those who are kept for Jesus Christ. What exactly is meant by these words?

1 Corinthians 1:1a
Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,

John 10:3
To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Revelation 17:14
"These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."

Romans 8:30
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

We can see those who are called are much more than just publicly invited to something. As per Revelation, they are also chosen. As per Romans, they are predestined. Jesus is the Shepherd. He knows his sheep by name. He chose us before the foundation of the world to be His. We have been called by God.

John 17:11
I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.

John 10:28
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

1 Peter 1:5
who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

John 6:37 & 39
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out…This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Not only are all believers called by God before they come to Him, once called, they are also kept by God in Christ. No one can snatch us out of God’s hand. It is His will that, if we are given to Christ by the Father, we will also be raised up on the last day. Our salvation begins and ends with God.

Jude 2
May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.

This is a very common opening that we see in many of the other epistles. However, it is not merely an introduction. They are all promises of God. It is only by His mercy and grace that we, as wretched sinners who were bound for Hell, are saved at all.

Ephesians 2:13-14a
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace,

Philippians 4:6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

1 Peter 5:7
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We can clearly see that Scripture calls God our peace. We are called to be anxious for nothing. If we have any concerns at all, we are to cast them on God. He cares so much for us that He wants to take every bit of anxiety away from us so that He can be our complete peace.

Jude 3
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Here, we can see Jude is urging his fellow believers to contend earnestly for their faith. Paul used similar wording in his epistles.

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of faith;

1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Though we are contending for our faith, it is not something that we are striving to obtain.

Hebrews 10:10
By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Romans 8:30
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Notice that it speaks of sanctification, justification, and glorification in the past tense. Saving faith is something that has already been completed in us through Christ once and for all. The faith for which we are contending is simply our walk with God. Paul urges us in 1 Corinthians to not continue in sin for the sake of abounding in grace. We are to increase in our love for God, walk with God, and knowledge of God. This is only accomplished by continually staying in the Word as well as being in fellowship with other mature believers.

Jude 4
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

False teachers were all over the place. In fact, they are still all over the place. We see numerous places in Scripture where they are spoken of as having infiltrated the Church in a silent manner.

Galatians 2:4
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

2 Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

Their goal was to learn about our ways so that they could pretend to be like us while pulling others astray. They introduce destructive heresies and teach things that take glory away from God and place it elsewhere. These people were getting to know their enemy so to speak even if they may not have thought about it in that way.

1 Peter 2:8
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

Romans 9:22
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

John 17:12
While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

These men were not here by accident. They were appointed by God’s sovereign will to be the foul apostates that they were. Even Judas Iscariot is described as the son of perdition. His whole purpose was to be destroyed. The Greek for “of perdition” is apōleia (ä-pō'-lā-ä). It literally means annihilation. He was created to betray Jesus and then be completely and thoroughly destroyed. It goes so far as to say he was a child of utter annihilation. He was born to it. In all of this, God’s glory is made known through his power and wrath.

Jude 5
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude speaks of the future of unbelievers. This goes hand in hand with my lesson last week on God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Though all things are set in motion and held in place by God, the unbeliever destroys himself in his rejection of God and constant state of sin. We don’t hear about Hell very often in the Church today. Jonathan Edwards gave a sermon in 1741 called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Over the years, while being acknowledged as one of the most powerful sermons of all times, it has been the subject of backlash among bitter Christians who desire a feel good Gospel. Not only is this a doctrine that we should know but it is also a doctrine that needs repeating.

2 Peter 1:12
Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.

A pattern you might notice in my lessons is that I quote many verses over and over again over a period of time. I also touch on many core doctrines repeatedly. There is nothing wrong with this. Both Peter and Jude were under the impression that despite already knowing a teaching, it is important to repeat them and remind fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jude 6
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,

Here, Jude refers to another group who rebelled against God and will one day be destroyed for it. It is the fallen angels who followed after Satan.

Isaiah 14:12-15
How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
But you said in your heart,
'I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.'
Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.

Revelation 12:4a
And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth

2 Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;

Most of us know the story of the fall of the angels. Lucifer was an angel who rebelled against God and, in fact, wanted to be God. As a result of his disobedience and rebellion, he was cast out of heaven and 1/3 of the angels were cast out with him because they chose to follow Satan instead of God.

Jude 7
just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

Jude continues with his theme of the relationship of rebellion and destruction. Just as God will destroy the fallen angels, He also destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah by fire for their perverted lists, homosexuality, etc. We will be held accountable for our actions. While sin can be satisfying to the flesh at the time, we will reap nothing but death from it.

Jude 8
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.

The “these men” that Jude speaks of are the same men he spoke of in verse 4. They are the apostates who are in the Church posing as brothers and sisters in Christ. Jude just finished speaking poorly of the fallen angels as well as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Note that he now refers to these men as performing many of the same acts. Yet somehow these men are within the Church! It may seem hard to believe that someone like this could possibly blend in among us but it happens all the time. This is why we need to know how to spot them. We need to stay grounded in the Word so that we can know what the Truth really is.

Jude 10
But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.

Verse 8 said these men speak harshly of angelic majesties and of God. Verse 10 goes on to say that, despite being in the Church and acting like a Christian, these men do not understand the ways of the Church. If they truly understood, they wouldn’t have been acting the way they were.

1 Corinthians 2:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

All they know is the evil of their unregenerate nature and that is the very thing that destroys them. In the end, they will be held accountable. This man sins abundantly so that grace may abound. Paul tells us this is the exact opposite of how a Christian is to live his life.

Jude 12-13
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

There is a lot to be said in these 2 verses. On the surface, a lot of it can be confusing due to all the metaphors. Because of this, we are going to break it all down.

Jude 12a
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves;

Ezekiel 34:2b
'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?

These men care only for themselves. They don’t care about the Christians within the Church nor do they help them when in a time of need. They blend in with us but only take for themselves. They look out for #1 so to speak.

Jude 12b
clouds without water,

Proverbs 25:14
Like clouds and wind without rain
Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.

Just like clouds without rain, these men are empty on the inside and serve no purpose. They revile the things of God yet often claim to be holier than thou.

Jude 12c
carried along by winds;

Ephesians 4:14
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

They are not rooted in the Word but go with many new doctrines and blow every which way. Look out at the overgrown grass in a field on a windy day. The grass will sway in one direction for a little while but, before you know it, it begins swaying in a different direction. As the wind changes direction, so the grass changes with it. The same is said of the men Jude is referring to. There is no absolute truth to these men. There is only what tickles their fancy at the time. There is no root. We are not to be like these men. We are to be rooted in the Word.

Jude 12d
autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;

Now picture the trees toward the end of autumn. The leaves begin to fall off. In fact, most trees can even look as if they are dead. If you didn’t know any better, you would guess it was never going to be green again. However, in time, leaves begin to sprout and flowers begin to blossom. It is not so with these men. Not only do they appear to be dead on the outside, they are truly dead on the inside. They have no root in Christ at all. This should not come as any surprise.

Matthew 15:13
But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.

If we remember earlier, Scripture plainly told us that these men are not here by accident. They may be responsible for their current status but they were appointed by God long beforehand to bring God glory through His wrath. They may be silently wreaking havoc within the Church for now but there will come a day when God will uproot every one of them and destroy them. Though they may not be physically uprooted, spiritually speaking, they are already dead. In fact, Scripture refers to them as doubly dead; dead on the outside and dead on the inside. There is no fruit on a plant that has no root. These men are the ones Christ refers to when he speaks of the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12. They have no hope. They have seen the grace of God in the Church. They have broken bread with Christians. They have enjoyed the blessings of the Church. Despite all of this, they do not understand the things of the Spirit, do not have faith in Christ, and revile the things of God. There is no hope whatsoever of them ever coming to repentance and there is no other way to deal with them but to cast them out of the Church as one would pull a weed from a garden. The problem is spotting them.

I am reminded of the garden my wife was trying to grow. She had planted a few different types of seeds and flowers. Over time, the seeds sprouted and things started to grow. She was particularly proud of one of them that seemed to grow more than the rest. She didn’t remember planting it but she thought it was a wild plant that happened to land there somehow. She looked it up and came to the conclusion that it was a certain type. This thing grew to be as tall as our children. One day we had a neighbor over. He asked us why on earth we had a weed that was as tall as that one. My wife was shocked and slightly embarrassed. Neither of us knew what it was. In fact, we thought it was something it wasn’t. Yet somehow, this friend was able spot it for what it really was; a weed. Sometimes things are able to blend in and seem like the real deal while, in reality, they are doing nothing more than killing what is around it while thriving on its own.

Jude 13a
wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam;

Isaiah 57:20-21
But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
For it cannot be quiet,
And its waters toss up refuse and mud.
"There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."

These men are not at peace. Jude calls them wild waves of the sea. They have no control or order to them. They crash about randomly on their own with no guidance.

Romans 1:22
Professing to be wise, they became fools,

Philippians 3:19
whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

Proverbs 15:21
Folly is joy to him who lacks sense,
But a man of understanding walks straight.

They boast in their own folly. They profess to be wise as if it will make them look prominent. However, it is this same “wisdom” that brings them shame and destroys them.

Jude 13b
wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

As we covered in the beginning:

1 Peter 2:8
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

John 17:12
"While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

Romans 9:22
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

Not only are these false teachers/apostates bound for Hell but, in God’s sovereignty, it is actually reserved for them!

Do not be like these men. We are called to live for God and serve Him with everything we have. If we say we love God, truly act it out in our every day lives. Be careful in the things you teach to another and always check yourself to make sure that you are God-oriented and not self-oriented. Learn to spot those whom Jude was speaking of so that you can accomplish what he so strongly urges.

Jude 3
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

#33) Choose Responsibly

Choose Responsibly

Tonight’s lesson is going to cover quite a bit regarding the sovereignty of God. In particular, we are going to go over man’s role in regards to the sovereignty of God. There are 3 basic positions on the subject.

1) If man has free will, God cannot truly be sovereign
2) If God is sovereign, man cannot be held accountable for his actions as he has no free will
3) God is sovereign yet man is still accountable for his actions

I cling to the 3rd option. By the end of this lesson, it is my hope that all of you will as well. Before we get into man, we must begin with God. We know God is sovereign because the Scriptures tell us so. Before we go into the Scriptural backing, let’s define sovereign. Dictionary.com defines sovereign as “having supreme rank, power, or authority.”

Psalm 103:19
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.

Ephesians 1:11
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

Job 42:2
I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

2 Chronicles 20:6
and he said, "O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You.

We can clearly see that God is in control at all times. All things work after the counsel of His will according to His purpose and His purpose can never be thwarted.

John Piper
It is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things but that He does so always and without exception.

This sovereignty flows into all areas. Nothing escapes it. Psalm 103:19 said His sovereignty rules over all.

Proverbs 16:33
The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD.

Matthew 10:29
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

Psalm 135:6-7
Whatever the LORD pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.

Galatians 1:15-16a
But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles

Most people don’t take issue with the teaching of God’s sovereignty so long as it is spoken of in these terms. Up until now, all the verses have been describing God and leaving man out of the picture. Man naturally likes to live a guilt free life. Nobody likes a buzz kill. It is unfortunate that, even in the Church, God is viewed as sovereign so long He does not interfere with our own free will. This concept is unbiblical. Not only does heaven and earth fall under the sovereignty of God but so do we as people. The Lord rules over all things; even mankind.

Acts 2:23
this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

Even the crucifixion was ordained by God. Notice what is taking place in the verse above. It says that godless men will put him to death. Godless men will nail him to a cross. Both of these things imply man will make the choice to perform a wicked act. However, take note that it only takes place because of the predetermined plan of God. It also speaks of His foreknowledge. Don’t be confused. God didn’t ordain His plan based on choices He knew man would make. Rather, He knew the choices man would make because He foreordained it to be so.

Acts 4:27-28
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.

This just drives home the previous point. Both Herod and Pontius Pilate had gathered together to go against Christ. In fact, they were not alone. It says the Gentiles and people of Israel had gathered as well. There were countless people rising up against Christ. This was of their own doing and their own choices. They had made the decision to put Jesus to death for his claims. Again, however, notice that it says they were only doing whatever God’s hand and purpose had predestined to occur. While they were making their own choices in life, there was only one way it would play out. God had decreed it to be so and that was the end of it.

Another example in Scripture of God’s sovereignty mixing with man’s choices is in the story of Joseph.

Genesis 37:18-22
When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. They said to one another, "Here comes this dreamer! "Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!" But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, "Let us not take his life." Reuben further said to them, "Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him"--that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.

This entire discussion is between Joseph’s brothers. There discussion is not being coerced or pushed in any direction. It is not being moderated. They are freely coming up with a plan to murder Joseph. At the same time, Reuben takes it upon himself to talk them into sparing his life and throwing him into a dry ditch instead. On the surface, it appears they are free to do as they wished with nothing else to lean on other than their own desires. While it is true that they were coming up with this plan on their own, there is more to the story.

Genesis 50:20
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

Joseph was rescued, sold into slavery, and eventually took on a prestigious position under the pharaoh. None of this was by accident. Scripture is clear that God had a plan and that plan was good.

Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

While Joseph’s brothers were free in the choices they made and the actions they took, they only made these choices because God had decreed it to be so. God is always in charge. Sometimes he actively takes part in an event such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah whereas most times, He allows man to freely make decisions and choices. However, even when left to freely make decisions, they are always within the constraints of God’s sovereign plan and purpose.

Ask congregation if they believe God’s sovereignty is limited in any way.
Ask congregation if they believe God’s sovereignty is limited in salvation.

A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God
To argue that God is "trying His best" to save all mankind, but that the vast majority of men will not let Him save them, is to imply that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.

Acts 13:48b
and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

While I firmly believe salvation falls under the sovereign decrees of God, I don’t intend on getting into a lesson on God’s Election tonight. While it is true that only those whom God has called unto Himself will respond to the call of Christ, I want to focus on those whom He does not call unto Himself. Are these men condemned because of God? Should they be given a free pass? Can they possibly be guilty if they were never given a fair chance or opportunity? No, no, and yes!

While they are indeed condemned, it is certainly not because of God. These men will never choose Christ because God has ordained that they will not but this does not mean God is responsible. Each man is still held accountable for his actions as we saw earlier in the cases of the crucifixion as well as Joseph. There is no free pass to be given because each man is guilty to begin with. The term used to describe man’s responsibility despite God’s sovereignty is compatibilism.

Ezekiel 18:20
The person who sins will die The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.

Matthew 12:37
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

John 9:41
Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.

James 1:13
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

We can see a clear distinction being taught between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. While there is no doubt that God is sovereign and all things only come to pass because He ordained it to be so, it is equally as true that man makes his own choices without being forced. His choice will always be the outcome that God decreed but man will gladly make it. This is because man is bound by his nature and that nature is wretched and fallen.

Genesis 8:21b
for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth;

Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

John 3:19
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

John 3:20a
For everyone who does evil hates the Light

We simply follow our nature. Before salvation, Romans tells us we were slaves to sin. We had to choice but to give our all to sin. However, this was not a grudging state as we did it with pleasure. Our hearts were evil. Our hearts were deceitful. Our deeds were evil and we hated the Light. We hid from the Light lest our evil deeds should be exposed (John 3:20). Our natural inclination was to sin. We were in bondage to sin but we enjoyed every minute of it. This is why we are still found guilty for our sins despite following God’s sovereignly decreed plan.

Romans 6:22-23a
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death,

While once enslaved to sin, we are now enslaved to God. The unregenerate man, despite being in full accord with God’s sovereign decrees, is still found guilty and deserves death. He works as a slave to sin and, as a result, he will be paid death for wages. It is what we all deserved as we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, God chose us and called us unto Himself. This does not make us perfect but it does make us His own. When we sin, we are covered by the blood of Christ.

Romans 5:9
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

Romans 8:30
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

We still sin daily in our battle with the flesh but we will not see Hell for it. We have been justified by the blood of Christ. His blood alone has fully atoned for our sins. There is no more debt. The blood was substitutionary.

Romans 6:1-2
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Just because we are covered by the blood does not mean we are to abuse our justification. Paul makes it very clear that we are not to sin so that the grace we fall under may increase. We are free from sinning. This is where we differ from the unregenerate man. We have a new nature in Christ whereas he does not.

Ask congregation if they love God.
Ask congregation if they feel they are being forced to love Him unwillingly.

Just as we love God and desire to serve Him with all we have so does the unregenerate man hate God and desires to hide from the Light. Even if an unsaved individual says he is not at war with anyone, his refusal to submit to the authority of God proves otherwise. A man cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). He is either for God or he is against God (Matthew 12:30). Both sides serve their masters willingly yet both sides do so only because God has declared and ordained it to be so. God is sovereign yet we are responsible.

John Calvin, Bondage and Liberation of the Will
…we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.

Friday, June 18, 2010

#32) Christian Olympics

Christian Olympics

The Olympics are an exciting time. Countless people come together to watch everything from basketball goals to gymnastics to figure skating. Despite all of these events being very different from each other, they all share one common theme. That theme is discipline. Many of the contenders devote their entire lives to training for one particular event in hopes of winning the gold.

Ask congregation how many have ever thought of ourselves as Olympic athletes.

We actually have a lot in common. At least, we should have a lot in common. The unfortunate truth is that many Christians today don’t think about the personal discipline required of us if we truly desire to have a strong walk with God. Many of us go about our lives, go to church on Sundays, pray before meals, and read our Bibles when we can remember to do so. It is a tragic reality that I’m sure many, if not all of us, can relate to. The fact of the matter is that Christianity requires a strong form of self discipline.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Paul has a lot to say in that passage. We are going to break some of it down as well as add to it. Hopefully, by the end, we will all be of the same belief that being a Christian should be no easy task but that the reward is well worth it.

1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Is this saying that all Christians are competing against each other and that only one of us will be saved in the end? Of course not! The great news is that we are only competing with ourselves and the trials that stand in our way. Picture an Olympic athlete who has trained all his life for the very race he is competing in. As soon as the gun goes off, this man takes off like never before. He has every intention of winning this race even if it kills him. He isn’t going to let anything stand in his way. This is the same way Paul urges us to run our race. Run in such a way that we may win. Our race is certainly not the short point A to point B type. We have all sorts of twists and turns that seem to go on and on. Just as any long distance runner, we must have endurance in order to run so that we may win.

Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 6:1
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God

Hebrews 12:1b-2
And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set out before Him endured the cross,

We are not to be content standing still. There are far too many complacent and stagnant Christians who have little to no growth and have almost no desire to learn the Word of God for all it has to say.

Ask congregation to silently answer how often they study their Bible.

R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, pg 77
You can never have a Christian mind without reading the Scriptures regularly because you cannot be profoundly influenced by that which you do not know.

Paul urges us to press on to maturity. He spoke of this very same maturity to the people of Corinth.

1 Corinthians 3:1-2
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as spiritual men, but as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,

Psalm 119:97-98
O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine.

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

The people of Corinth were infants in Christ in many ways. If we don’t even know what God is telling us in His Word, how do we ever expect to mature? Too many in America today would fall under the same “infant” category that Paul used to describe the Corinthians.

James 1:2
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The only way we can run the race is with endurance. The only way we can build our endurance is to press on through the trials of life by fixing our eyes on Jesus. The only way we can fix our eyes on Jesus is through maturity and discipline by diving into the Word.

1 Corinthians 9:25
Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

2 Timothy 2:5
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.

Take a moment to think about the weight room on the ship. There are quite a few amateur athletes in there who are trying to bulk up. They spend hours per day lifting weights. They spend countless dollars on protein shakes. They count every calorie that enters their body. Now take someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime and multiply it by infinity. In order to get the intended result, self-control is a necessary rule that must be strictly followed.

The Olympic athletes of Paul’s day would train from day one all in order to win the wreath. This wreath carried with it a sense of popularity, respect, and pride. It is the equivalent of the gold medal that we have today. You win the gold and you are almost guaranteed to get a magazine article, a commercial, endorsements, etc. While all of this is wonderful, Paul’s point is that we are competing for something so much greater that it does not even compare. All of those rewards are temporary and will one day perish whereas ours are eternal and imperishable.

James 1:12
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

1 Peter 5:4
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Matthew 6:20
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;

1 Peter 1:7
so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

If Olympic athletes can maintain such level of self-control for something perishable, why is it so difficult, as a Christian, to maintain the same, if not an even greater, level of self-control?

1 Corinthians 9:26a
Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim;

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;

Paul always had a goal in mind. Just as an Olympic runner would never run aimlessly, Paul never ran without a purpose. He knew his calling and he ran full force toward the finish line. He never lost sight of it.

1 Corinthians 9:26b
I box in such a way, as not beating the air;

Just as Paul always had a goal in mind, he also always had a very real plan of attack. He states very boldly that he never shadow boxed. He always fought very real opponents.

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

We are in a spiritual battle whether we like it or not. Satan and his demons are always attacking us. Most often, the attacks come in the form of temptation. Whether it be a temptation to sleep in instead of going to church, speak spiteful remarks out of pride instead of keeping our mouths shut, or any other combination, a battle is always waging. The only way to know our opponent is to stay in Scripture. The battle plan is laid out in Scripture. The enemies’ weak points are laid out in Scripture. Our battle strategy is laid out in Scripture. An Olympic boxer doesn’t enter the ring swinging at an imaginary opponent. He looks for the opportunity and takes action. He stays a step ahead and swings with a purpose.

1 Corinthians 9:27
but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Discipline has to be one of the most difficult things to perform and perfect. It is so easy to set discipline aside for a moment and then forget to pick it back up. Part of the reason for this is because discipline often hurts. We are creatures of comfort who tend to avoid pain if we can help it. I think back to the days of seeing my friends come back from football practice looking like they were ready to drop to the floor. However, as time progressed, they became less weary after practice and instead, became more disciplined. They knew their maneuvers inside and out. They had more endurance than ever. Their hard work and discipline paid off.

Paul speaks of making his body his slave. We have to realize that he is not necessarily speaking of a literal body as much as he is the Christian faith. He spent so much of his time teaching others and preaching Christ crucified that the very thought of neglecting his own walk and being disqualified was unthinkable. Just as the Olympic athlete needs to maintain a certain standard to qualify, the Christian has his or her very own set of standards. Paul uses the word “discipline” however, a better word to use would be “bruise”. The NIV uses the phrase “beat my body.” The Greek word used is hupopiazo (hoop-o-pee-ad’-zo) which means to hit under the eye or to disable an antagonist. Paul was willing to give himself a black eye so to speak if it meant keeping himself in check so that he might not only qualify but also run the race to completion.

1 Timothy 4:7b
Discipline yourselves for the purpose of godliness;

We are very limited in our wording with English. It is difficult to get the full effect of what is being conveyed without going back to the original Greek. In English, we see Paul uses the word “discipline” yet again. Before, it meant to hit below the eye. This time, a different Greek word is used. That word is gumnazo (goom-nad-zo) which means to practice naked. It is where we get our word for gymnasium. The word has always implied a sense of discipline.

One way Greek Olympic athletes ensured peak performance was to perform their events naked. This would prevent getting caught up in any loose clothing. We have to remember Spandex didn’t exist back then. Their loose robes would be a hindrance so they cast them off without even thinking twice. It was just normal practice.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Romans 6:12
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,

Romans 13:12b
Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness

Ephesians 4:22
That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

Just as the athletes would strip their burdensome clothing, we should lay aside our old selves and any forms of sin that hold us down. Cast it aside and run the race with endurance! Here are a few ways that we can all practice with purpose and produce the results we seek out.


Revelation 1:3
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.


Romans 10:17
So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.


2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


Psalm 119:11
Your word I have treasured in my heart that I might not sin against You.


Joshua 1:8
This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.

Psalm 1:2-3
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither,; and in whatever he does, he prospers.


James 1:22
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.


John 14:15
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

John 15:10
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.


2 Timothy 4:2
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

My prayer is that each and every one of us will be able to quote Paul in the end and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

#31) Creatures of Comfort

Creatures of Comfort

If there is one thing we are all guilty of, it is that we love comfort. We love the feel of silk sheets. We want our houses to be the perfect temperature. Our cars have climate control. We have all sorts of fits for clothing so that every person of every shape can be comfortable. Unfortunately, our quest for comfort has also extended into our Christian lives. Many Christians search for a new church if theirs challenges them in their faith. We want to give God control but only if it doesn’t require much from us in return. We desire to be strong in our faith yet we neglect the discipline of daily Bible reading.

(Show video #1)
Ask congregation how many can relate to the video.

It all boils down to us asking ourselves, “Who is Lord in my life? Me or God?” Until one answers that question, it is impossible to grow in our faith or strengthen our walk with Christ. Before we can correct the problem, we need to identify the problem.

One of the major contributors to the problem of self-centered Christians is the “health, wealth, & prosperity” gospel that is preached in churches all across America today. It teaches that God wants us to be happy. It teaches that God wants to bless us with great wealth. It teaches that God has many blessings ready to be poured out if only we are faithful enough to ask for them. An unfortunate result of this doctrine is that it teaches God from a selfish perspective. Instead of focusing on the fact that we are to serve God with all our being, it places the focus on the teaching that God wants to bless us with all His being. God does indeed bless us daily. He blesses some more so than others. He blessed Job immensely. Despite this, God really never promises earthly blessings anywhere in Scripture. In fact, God blessing us should never be the focus or our motivation to live for Him.

Luke 14:33
So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

This is not saying one has to give up everything. It is not even saying God desires for all people to be poor. We can see this in Matthew:

Matthew 19:21-24
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Being poor is not the answer. However, seeking treasures on Earth is not the answer either. Jesus did tell the rich man to give up all he had but he was not trying to make the man poor. The rich man desired money. He heard about the treasures of God and that was the reason he was seeking Christ. He already had abundance of wealth but he wanted more. Our faith is supposed to be about serving God wholeheartedly. It is not supposed to be driven by financial gain or physical health but out of love for the one we call Master. Notice Jesus did not say it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. He simply said it is difficult. This is because we are naturally selfish and do not want to break free from our comfort zone. We want blessings, we avoid conflict, and we hope for trials to end quickly before they interrupt our schedules too much.

James 1:2-4
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Christianity is unique in that it is one of the only religions that does not promise something that will tickle the ears. It promises pain, heartache, and difficulties in this present life. However, it does not promise them in vain. It promises them with the hope of the perfect result of endurance. While perfection is promised, it requires us to break out of our comfort bubble.

Ask congregation if they are willing to break out of the bubble.

2 Corinthians 11:24-27
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

Just how far are we willing to break out of our comfort zone? Are we willing to lose a little sleep to make it to church or are we willing to be killed if it means proclaiming Christ as Lord? Jesus was willing to go through the torturous death of crucifixion so that we might have eternal life but we are often too comfortable to even roll out of bed to go be in fellowship with other Christians while worshiping our Lord. Is He really our Lord or is that just a name we have grown used to saying? How far are we willing to go to follow Him?

Luke 9:59-62
And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

Here, we can see Jesus inviting some to follow him. However, I do not believe this was a display of Jesus’ ignorance but actually a display of his divine knowledge. He knew the hearts of these men and he knew it was a prime time to use them as an example for his teaching. The requests made by these men are not really extreme by our standards. One man wanted to follow Christ but his dad had just died. All he was asking was that Jesus give him time to bury his father first. The other man simply wanted to say goodbye to his loved ones at home before starting on their journey. This sounds very reasonable to us yet it was a mark of unworthiness in the eyes of Christ. While none of us are worthy of Heaven, these two in particular displayed it prominently. Jesus tells the one man to let the dead bury their own and tells the other man he has no reason to look back at what he is leaving behind.

Matthew 4:21
Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.

To get a better understanding of what Jesus is asking here, we must get an idea of the culture back then. James & John were fisherman. We see they were in their boat with their father, Zebedee. Back then, it was customary for the sons to enter the family practice just as the daughters, if not already married, would often stay at home with the mother to help the rest of the close-knit community. If the sons were to leave their father, he would be forced to do the entire job by himself which would be next to impossible. As a result, their father would not make any money, would not have any food for the table, and would fail to be able to continue providing for his family. Did James & John take time to weigh their options? Did they weigh the pros and cons? Not at all.

Matthew 4:22
Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

There was no time for deliberation. There was no fear of what might happen if they left the security of their job. They didn’t even stop to worry about what might happen to the family they were leaving behind. This is exactly what the two men in the previous example should have done. We are called to serve God and follow Christ with all our being!

Don’t get the wrong idea about family. Scripture is not telling us to hurt our loved ones or cast them out of our lives.

1 John 2:11
But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 3:15
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Ephesians 6:2
HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise),

The Bible takes our treatment of family very seriously. In fact, it teaches of family being such a close bond that it even refers to our salvation as adoption into the family of God. However, it takes our obedience to God even more seriously.

Luke 14:26
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

Again, this is not saying God wants to us literally hate our family. This would be in violation of everything I just read and we know Scripture never contradicts itself. In the proper context, we can see it is telling us that as important as family is, everything pales in comparison to Christ. As much as we love our family, when compared to our love for Christ, it will appear as if we hate them. As much as we would do for our loved ones, if Christ calls us elsewhere, we won’t even think twice about where it is we need to be and we will have no reason to look back with regret. We are to honor our father and mother but not at the expense of neglecting God or failing to follow His calling. There should be nothing in this life that we choose over Christ. After all, isn’t he our Lord?

Matthew 6:33a
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness

(Show video #2)
Ask congregation how many can relate to the video.

How many decisions do we allow God to make for us and how many do we try to make on our own? Do we really think our own decisions will work out better than God’s?

1 John 3:20b
God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

Jeremiah 32:17
Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,

Colossians 1:17
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

The simple fact of the matter is that God is in control at all times whether we realize it or not. There is nothing outside of His grasp. There is nothing beyond His knowledge. Nothing exists outside of His will. We know this. In fact, if I were a betting man, I’d even say most of us even believe it to be true. The only reason we normally fail to let God take control is because, more often than not, it hurts. It takes us out of our comfort zone and throws us right into the fire.

We are about to get back home in a couple days after 6 months of being at sea. There is going to be a lot thrown at us in an attempt to drag us down. Satan and his demons never stop attacking. Some do it boldly while most do it with subtle temptation. Not to mention, we are fallen beings who even give into ourselves most of the time without any outside influence of Satan even being necessary. We can learn all we can out here on deployment but the time to really put it into practice is going to be once we get back home. Are you going to live for yourself or are you going to live for your Lord? Are you going to make your own choices or are you going to seek God’s righteous will? Are you going to submit to His calling or are you going to pretend you can’t hear Him and walk away before He can snag your heart?

James 4:7
Submit therefore to God Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Job 22:21
Yield now and be at peace with Him; Thereby good will come to you.

Matthew 11:28
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

John 17:13
But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

Philippians 4:6-7
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Acts 9:31
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.

2 Corinthians 1:5
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:6a
But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation

James 1:2-4
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

God does indeed want us to be comfortable but we have taken it to a whole different level. Our version of comfort has created complacency and selfishness. God’s definition of comfort requires absolute submission to His will. Yes, it can hurt up front. Yes, it can be scary. Yes, it can be mysterious. Yes, it can differ from our own finite ideas of what is good. However, none of this really matters. God has promised us a comfort greater than anything we can ever imagine if only we submit it Him. The churches in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria all enjoyed the peace of God and their comfort only increased. Oddly enough, it says they obtained this through a fear of the Lord. They knew who the Boss was. They knew who was in charge. They knew who made the best decisions. They knew who they had to follow. My question tonight is do you?