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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Often times when we read the bible, we do so with presuppositions that have been implanted in our minds based on teachings we have heard or read.  While there is a lot of good teaching being done, there are also a lot of errors being promulgated. That is why it is important when you read the bible to keep open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings while you study in context. 

It is wise to read a book over many times before you break out the study tools.  Well, perhaps it is a good idea to have an understanding of who wrote the book, and who it was written to, as well as the historical setting.  But most bibles have a preface for each book that gives you a thumbnail of that information.  You can also glean that information readily from such sites as www.biblestudytools.com.

When you read the book, try not to chop it up according to chapters and verses, or the subheadings provided in your bible.  Read it as though you were reading a letter from a friend, or a novel.  There is an overall message to be learned, and pulling chapters and sentences out of the whole and building a doctrine on them is not wise.  You have to read through the whole thing in order to understand what is being said or taught. If you built your doctrine just on the first chapter of Romans, you would be teaching condemnation.  But as you read the whole book, you see that the message of Romans is not God’s condemnation, but God’s incomprehensible grace.

Pay attention to the “therefore’s”.  That means that the following statement is directly dependent upon the preceding information.  A good example is Matthew 6:24:

24“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

This verse is usually quoted on its own, followed by a lambasting sermon against riches.

But the following verses say:

25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The “therefore” tells us that this section is directly related to the previous, and the message becomes completely different.  You can’t be a slave to money and be a slave to God.  We tend to be slaves to money when we are dependent on our own earning capacity to provide for our needs.  It is our Heavenly Father who provides for us, because He IS our father and he loves us.  As we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness (bestowed upon us by His grace), all our needs will be provided for.  That kind of plants a kick in the head to teachings that suggest we have to give money to God in order to have a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies.  Here is a great lesson on the topic of God’s provision: 

From Sharecropper to Sonship

24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 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. 30 I and the Father are one.”

 John 10: 24-29

 

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

John 14:9  

 

21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

 Mark 2:21-22

In the New Testament Gospels, we see Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise of God hidden in the Old Testament.  He is God the Son, and His words are important. 

But do not ignore who he was talking to, and the full context of what he was saying. 

To the multitudes, Jesus showed them God as their loving father, who loved them, cared for them and provided for them.

But Jesus’ harshest words were for the Scribes and Pharisees, whose error was that they believed they were perfected by the law, and through their own efforts to keep it.  Jesus was often rebuking them, showing them how their own efforts failed the standard that the law was given to set.   In modern terms, they thought they were “all that and a bag of chips.”  Jesus proved to them that they were not.  And instead of their hearts softening, they were offended by the rebuke of this man whom they perceived to be a lowly carpenter from the backwater town of Nazareth.  Who was He to tell them anything?  And this self-righteousness became a bitter root that grew to the point that they determined to kill him rather than hear His words.

Many preachers commit the error of pulling Jesus’ teaching out of that context, with the result that they teach the old law in a new setting (new wine in old wineskins).    The Gospel then becomes a new series of “does and don’ts”, rather than the rebirth with a new nature, based solely on the reconciliation with God, in unmerited grace, by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And rather than focusing our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) so that we grow in His nature and likeness, the teaching of the Gospel in the form of a new law focuses our eyes on our selves, which will only grow the bitter roots of self-righteousness or defeat.

A good way to test to see whether you are living in the law or walking in the Spirit is to note where the major focus of your thoughts are.  Are you looking at yourself, or are you gazing upon Jesus?

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills.

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 31

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and dif I deliver up my body to be burned,1 but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures (protects) all things.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

God has given (as in free, through grace) each of us in the body of Christ gifts.  The purpose of these gifts is not to exalt one believer over others, but to serve in the building and maturing of every member of His church so that we can look like Him and minister like Him. The gifts and offices are given by grace.  Grace is unmerited favor, something that is not bestowed because we “earned it,” and it does not make us “better” than others. When we get caught up in self pride in our office or gift and forget the purpose, we take what is meant to be exercised in love for the building up of others and instead turn these gifts into a wrecking ball, crushing spirits and destroying the body.

1 Corinthians 13 is strategically placed after chapter 12, which is a discussion of the gifts, and chapter 14, which discusses orderly worship.  Love is to be the “more excellent way.”  If we are behaving in such a way as to confuse or hurt someone, whether inadvertently or purposefully, we need to take heed. 

Alistair Begg in his Truth for Life sermons has presented an invaluable series on Christian love in the church this week.  I would encourage all to listen to the series.

www.truthforlife.org/broadcasts/archive/

 

 

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:19-26

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:5-6

17 Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another

Proverbs 27:17

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:22-26

None of us are perfect.  We all mess up from time to time, and hopefully, are consciences are tender enough for the Lord to lovingly correct us, pick us up, and send us on the right path.  But sometimes our hearts have been hardened, and we don’t want to hear correction.  The mere suggestion that something might not be right is met with our flesh rising up and lashing out in anger.  The flesh is fighting for its life.  It does not want to lay down and be over taken by the seed of image of Jesus Christ, planted in us by the Holy Spirit. It will convince us that we are right, and that our discomfort is because of the other person, and our anger is a “righteous indignation”.

This is why James tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”  When we refuse to listen to others, cutting them off before they can finish their thought, we can miss what the Lord may be trying to tell us.  When we get angry quickly and allow ourselves to be offended by the message, then we trample the opportunity for the Lord to correct us, or prune us.  And that behavior does not produce righteousness.  Self-righteousness is not a fruit of the Spirit.  It is a work of the flesh, and we must be vigilant to shut it down when it rears its ugly head.

The Lord uses each of us in the body of Christ to sharpen, or hone, each other.  Paul says in Romans 12:3:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

We must be careful not to surround ourselves with an entourage who will only tell us what we want to hear.  A faithful friend will try to tell us the truth in a loving way.  It is up to us to be willing to receive it in a loving way. 

Finally, God loves us so much, that he won’t give up on us.  If we rebuff correction time and time again, He will keep at it.  If you find yourself in the same ugly circumstance time and time again, that would be a clue.  Stop and listen.  And be quick to love.