Archive for the ‘Biblical insight’ Category

Jesus’ fiercest opponents during His three plus years of ministry were the religious leaders of His day. It seems they tracked His every move and weren’t shy about quizzing Him at every turn. They would say things like “Moses said, such and such…what do you say?”

Reading Galatians in Sunday School recently, it has become very clear to me religious people had become Paul’s opposition too. The whole purpose of writing the letter to the Galatians was to reiterate that Christ is sufficient. You see the Galatians had received Christ but were being tempted by some religious leaders to put themselves under the Law of Moses. It seems the freedom Jesus and His disciples were enjoying was a bit too much for the religionists.

The more I looked at this the more I could see why “religion” is really the enemy of God. I guess I should clarify what I mean when I use the word “religion.” While there are several definitions, the way I would define it is “man’s attempt to get to God or make himself like Him.” In other words religion is a set of rules, rituals, traditions etc. that if closely adhered to will get you closer to God or even make you “like Him.” I pray that you don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying all rules, rituals or traditions are sinful or even bad. What I am saying is when you start to believe they can do anything, by way of getting you to God, outside of placing your faith in Christ, you’re deceived.

According to the scriptures “the Law” or Old Covenant was meant to point us to Christ. The Apostle Paul called it a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.” Once It has done that, we no longer need it, right? I mean if it’s whole purpose is to point us to Christ, and we’ve now come to Him and received Him by faith, we have no need to go back to the schoolmaster.

In Isaiah fourteen you discover the attitude behind the fall of Lucifer, and what I think is also in the minds of many religious people today. Isaiah 14:14 says, “I will make myself Like the Most High.” Wow! Did you catch that? Lucifer’s fall came about from his thinking he could “make himself like the Most High.” Remember my definition of religion? Man’s attempt to make himself “like God.” Now we might start to understand why Jesus and the early church had such trouble with the religionists. While believers had become one with God through His Spirit, the religious leaders were still attempting to make themselves “like Him” through laws, traditions and rituals. The deceived notion of fallen man is that they are independent, which is the very thing Lucifer claimed to be. He thought he could “make himself” like God. Do you see how diabolical this is?

Jesus called the proud religious leaders of His day “hypocrites, fools, blind men, cups clean only on the outside, whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones, etc.” He told them all the righteous blood that had been spilled all the way back to Abel was on their heads (Matthew 24:35). Elsewhere He told them their father was the devil and it was his lusts they were doing (John 8:44). You see Jesus wasn’t distracted by their antics; He understood exactly where their rigid, self-righteous religiosity came from.

The next time you read the letter to the Galatians just keep in mind it isn’t primarily sin Paul is dealing with rather it’s religion. His main goal in that letter was to inoculate the Galatians from the temptation to fall into religious observance rather than simple faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (bondage)–to religion that is” (Galatians 5:1). He goes on to tell them if they let themselves get caught up in “the Law”, the bondage to which he was referring, they have “fallen from grace.”

Fallen from grace is a term I think has been misunderstood for a long time. The scriptures in Galatians 5 make it clear that Paul meant if we are attempting to get in good with God by way of the Law we have turned from Christ. In other words, you can’t have both, you either trust in Christ and His work on the cross or you trust the Law which means your own power or ability to please God. If you are working for salvation it is no longer grace because grace is favor and favor can only be received not earned.

Louie

One definition of the word “law” is how something works. For instance if you let go of a book you will discover that it falls to the ground every time…every time. This is gravity. When you observe this take place time and time again and it never fails, we then call it a law, the law of gravity, right? Well, what if we took this same definition and applied it to God?

In the book of 1 John the Bible tells us “God is love.” If God is love then it is safe to say, love is God’s law or the way God operates. God’s kind of love is not necessarily the same kind of love the world thinks of. In fact there are several ways to define the word “love” but what we’re talking about is “agape” love which is an unconditional love which is a sacrificial love which is always for others.

If love is the law of God, or the way He operates, then anything that is attempting to operate apart from love is what we would call broken law. Therefore since God is love and we are made in His image, it just stands to reason that we were originally designed to operate in love, by love and for love. Sin therefore is something that defies how the universe was designed to operate therefore it brings in death.

Many say, “God created everything from nothing”, and in a sense that is true, but the truth is everything came “out from” Him. We read in Hebrews 11:3 “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” So we see here things were made from “unseen” things which isn’t the same as something that didn’t exist. God is love and everything was created by Him, through Him, and for Him. Love is the fulfillment of the Law of God.

You might say, well that oversimplifies things a bit doesn’t it Louie? I would say, yes and no. Yes because all that is required of us is to “love God with all our heart, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves.” No, because without God Himself dwelling within us and loving others through us, as us, we are looking at an impossibility. The good news is “what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law (loving God and loving your neighbor) might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4 NASB).

Louie

The average Christian you meet seems to be preoccupied with sin rather than Christ. My question is “is that what God is after?” I don’t think so. Reading in Hebrews 8 you discover God’s plan for a New Covenant. In the New Covenant it says, “I will remember their sins no more.” Now that in itself is pretty amazing don’t you think? But let’s look a bit further.

In Chapter nine of Hebrews we see the gifts and sacrifices of the Old Covenant “cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience…” In other words they can’t take away the consciousness of sins. “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” You see the earthly Tabernacle was a copy, so Moses used animal blood but the real, actual Tabernacle in Heaven required the perfect, spotless man Jesus’ blood. According to Hebrews ten, while the animal blood couldn’t cleanse us and actually served as a reminder of sins, Jesus’ blood not only takes away the sins it actually removes the consciousness of sins in the worshiper.

The good news of this New Covenant is what gives us the freedom and confidence to approach the throne of grace in our time of need. “Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful…”

So while most of Christendom struggles to calculate and manage their sins, why don’t we focus on Christ instead? The Apostle Paul told us he wasn’t into self examination. In 1 Corinthians four he said, “To me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts…”

If a christian sins God will reveal it to you, and according to 1 John we have an “advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…” Our role, as a christian, is to be Christ conscious, not sin-conscious. If we keep our thoughts on things above, we can trust the Holy Spirit to direct us away from sin.

“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!” (Jude 1:24-25)

Louie

Paul’s letter to the Romans presents the case of our need for Christ in a pretty airtight fashion. He begins of course with identifying himself, as an Apostle set apart by God, and tells us the letter is written to all beloved of God, called to be saints in Rome. It seems this is a letter aimed at humanity as a whole, not simply geared toward Jews or non-Jews exclusively. He tells us rather quickly ungodliness in anyone brings about the same results which is a steady spiral downward away from God’s intended righteousness.

Ultimately Paul, or should I say the Spirit in Paul, sees all of us as having the one and the same trouble and that’s rebellion. “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). While the Jews were, and I believe still are, God’s special, chosen people He doesn’t treat them any different than the rest of us. To Him we are all in trouble and have absolutely no ability to recover on our own. This of course is why God Himself has to save us, which leads me to my point today. How exactly are we to be made “right”, or “righteous” with God?

If we look in chapter 4 of Romans we will discover Abraham is the Father of our faith, that is to all who believe. The Apostle Paul does a masterful job of explaining the circumstances in which Abraham was accepted by God. He says simply, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Wow! That’s it? Simply believing is what God is after? Of course this now brings us to question what exactly does “believing” God mean? Well I’ll tell you it is much more than believing He exists. In fact James tells us “the demons also believe, and shudder.”

When we read that Abraham believed God it means Abraham “believed into” God. In other words, Abraham trusted God, he had placed his faith, or trust, in who God was and what He had told him. You see God had promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations even before Abraham had any children. In fact from an earthly point of view Abraham and his wife Sarah, who was barren, couldn’t have children. So you see Abraham was believing something he couldn’t rationalize or figure out apart from faith. Apart from a miracle this simply wasn’t going to happen.

Romans four tells us “In hope against hope Abraham believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken…” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb…” If you think about it this isn’t that different than what we are called to believe is it? I mean Jesus was crucified and buried-He was dead! There was nothing that could be done to bring life into His body outside of a promise God had given which was, “You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow your Holy One to undergo decay” (Psalm 16:10). King David wrote these very words and Peter used them in Acts 2 to reiterate the resurrection of Jesus was prophesied long ago. The promise David had declared in his psalm had come to pass in the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.

When all is said and done, whether we are Jewish or Gentile, religious or non-religious, God sees us all in the same position of hopelessness if left to ourselves. The good news is He has provided a solution to our conundrum. Paul, a self-proclaimed Zealot for the traditions and religion of his people, the Jews, came to this conclusion. In his letter to the Philippians he said, “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…”

In another of the Apostle Paul’s letters, 2 Corinthians the first chapter we read another astounding statement. Paul said, “we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” Like Abraham and Paul, we have to come to the same conclusion. Apart from God’s promise, which is fulfilled in Christ, we are doomed. Everything depends upon the trustworthiness of God and we simply have to believe Him.

Louie

 

Many people have heard the gospel message in part but when they hear it fully they seem shocked. This past week I have had the privilege to share the gospel during our weekly Bible study on Wednesday, our monthly visit to prison on Saturday, Sunday School class and in our local jail Sunday night. During each of these opportunities there was at least one person truly enlightened through the sharing of the full gospel message. There is nothing better than getting to be a part of what God is doing in people’s lives and the joy of watching the lights come on in their eyes as they begin to understand God’s love for them on such a deep level.

As I prepared for bed on Sunday night, I found myself reflecting on the past five days and was simply amazed. Since I’ve been teaching the Bible I have had many memorable moments but this week has really been extraordinary. Wednesday night Bible study found us discussing Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6. For those unfamiliar with these verses let me just say I think they are the core of the gospel message. They establish for us that through the cross we, that place our faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, are to consider ourselves as having been joined with Him. In other words, we too have been crucified with Christ! While this is plainly taught over and over throughout the letters of the Apostle Paul, I saw clearly this week many have never really heard this. One lady in our Bible study was so effected by this understanding she chose to stay with us rather than go to a meeting she previously planned to attend. She simply couldn’t tare herself away from the scriptures.

On Saturday night I shared Romans six with the ladies in prison and the response was the same. All but maybe one of them never took their eyes off of me as I talked. I joked with them saying, “Isn’t it amazing how this has been in your Bible the whole time?” You see while many may have read Romans 6 not many really believe what it says. For instance one of the ladies made the comment that “We, meaning Christians, still sin everyday.” While she’s not alone in this view, I simply asked her the same thing the Apostle Paul asked in Romans 6:2-3, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” As our time at the prison came to an end, a few of the ladies excitedly said, “I’ve never heard preaching like that before!” While I’m not sure what she specifically meant, I think it’s because we didn’t berate them to do more, and try harder, instead we shared with them that God loves them so much He has done it all through His Son Jesus Christ and by faith we have become one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). As we left them one lady said, “You need to tell everyone that message, I know that’s what I’m going to do right now!” as she made her way back to her dorm.

For the sake of any who misunderstand, let me just say, no one is advocating that a Christian can’t sin we are simply saying we don’t have to. While the gospel to many means we have come to God in repentance and He has forgiven our sins in order for us to enter Heaven one day, the gospel message is really much more remarkable than that. According to the scriptures, we who have received Christ have been joined to Him in an inseparable, eternal union. God sees us as having died in Him and been raised back as a brand new creature in Christ. This is not just an old sinner who has been washed off, patted on the back side and told to try a bit harder this time. This is a creature in which God’s Spirit is joined to your human spirit in a way that has never existed before.

One reason many have such difficulty with counting themselves as dead to sin is because we far too often live from our natural senses rather than simple faith in the Word of God. What the Bible calls walking in faith or walking in the Spirit is a foreign concept to the natural man. In fact the Bible tells us the 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 discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Maybe we’ll discuss that a bit more some other time. For now I pray God will clarify for you what being born-again really means according to the scriptures.

Louie

There is an interesting verse found at the very end of the book of Judges which says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words there was no one to govern or decide the direction of the nation so “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Although this is a verse taken from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, it remains true even today.

As I watch society unravel at its core my mind follows the trail backwards to attempt to understand where things went off the rails. According to the Bible, the root of our problem hasn’t changed a bit. It all started in a Garden as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. God says one thing and the enemy says, “did God really say?” Amazing!

If we want to discover meaning we must look back to the one and only who gives everything meaning. If we want to attempt to redefine reality, well that’s another thing. Let’s look for a minute at the meaning of one particular word, the word marriage.

The world is clamoring for what it calls “Marriage equality”, or “the right to marry.” Where do rights come from? Who says? The first thing we have to do is define the word “marriage.” Merriam’s dictionary says,

a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>

b: the mutual relation of married persons: wedlock

c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage

2: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially: the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3: an intimate or close union <the marriage of painting and poetry 

Now the question arises, “who defines marriage for us?” Everything I see throughout the scripture tells me marriage is between one man and one woman but as you can see above there is the added “the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.” If we, as a society, continue to redefine reality in this manner destruction has to be the result. What’s interesting to me is the enemy, that old serpent, hasn’t got any new tricks. From the beginning his strategy has been based on one question; “Did God really say?”

If we refuse to take God at His Word we will continue to reap the horror of a confused society. We will inevitably continue to see “men” and “women” who don’t know who they are. When I say, “Don’t know who they are” I mean they won’t even know if they are a man or woman. After all, what makes you a man or woman? I heard recently someone in the news say, “Male and female aren’t determined by our physical makeup; there’s more to me than my body parts.” This is what’s leading many to push for “unisex” bathrooms, even at an elementary school level. If this isn’t madness I don’t know what is.

As you may have already realized, it’s quite difficult to write something about how one defines words and meaning. I mean, how can you understand me if you define these words differently than I do? How does anything have any meaning at all?

If we look back, even beyond the fall in the Garden in Genesis, to Isaiah 14 we will see the real cause of the confusion. Isaiah 14 describes what, for many, is the mind of Lucifer (satan). His plan all along was to be in charge. He said, “I will make myself like the Most High.” But we can reduce this a bit and just say, “I will make myself…” This I think strikes at the root of what is going on in our society today. We (the ruling authorities, or man as a whole) are doing “what is right in their own eyes”, because fallen man is so deceived they have gone astray “like sheep” and think they can “make themselves” whatever they want, even to the point of men transforming into women. With this type of reasoning our society will unravel. Will you pray with me for God to restore sanity to our world? In the words of Jesus himself let us pray, “Thy kingdom come thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”

Louie

Jesus said, “It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!”

Sometimes I think we might need to change the name of this country to “The United States of the Offended.” No matter what you do , what you wear, how you speak, the color of your skin, etc. there always seems to be someone to get offended by it. Of course the rational person simply says to himself, “Life isn’t fair, and it doesn’t ask my permission on most things, so I guess I’ll take it on the chin and move on.” On the other hand, for those who think the universe circles them and everything is supposed to go their way it’s another story. They’re the ones who walk around with a chip on their shoulder expecting everyone to live only to please them. That reminds me of a quote I once heard from Mark Twain. He said, “The world doesn’t owe me anything it was here first.”

Jesus, being the practical guy He was, never sugar-coated anything. He always said, “The world’s going to hate you because it hated me first.” Then He would say something like “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

As I thought about being offended of course I had to go a bit deeper and look into the definition. According to the Strong’s Concordance the word “offence” in Greek is the word “skandalizo” and this of course is where we get our English word “scandalize.” It means “to entrap, i.e. trip up (fig. to stumble or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure). If you look a bit further into the root of the word the picture of a trap using a bent over sapling is given, like to catch a rabbit or other small game. In other words being offended is Satan’s way to entrap us. If he can get us offended you can be sure bondage is coming.

After Jesus warned about offences which were sure to come, He went on to tell His disciples “If your brother sins against you seven (seventy) times a day, and returns to you seven (seventy) times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Let’s think about this for a minute. The disciples had seen some pretty amazing things being with Jesus. They watched Him cast out demons and heal people but it wasn’t until He told them to forgive that they responded by saying, “Increase our faith!” So it seems forgiving others takes more faith than casting out a demon or healing people. What is it about forgiveness that is so difficult?

Of all the things in life we have to confront forgiveness has to be one of the biggest. The Apostle Paul told us in Ephesians “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity (foothold).” So, Paul understood having anger and unforgiveness is an open door for the enemy to move in. It’s his favorite lure and once we take it we’re in trouble. Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”

So what do we do then? According to Hebrews 12:15 we “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” In other words we always live towards others with grace because of the grace God has shown us. When someone is doing something that is offensive we see them as God sees us. Or maybe you don’t think you might be a bit offensive to Him at times. Thank God He deals with us with mercy and grace. What do you say we take Paul’s advice and “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Louie