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The Word and the Spirit

The Word and the Spirit

How does the Word of God and the Holy Spirit work together to make us complete in Him?  How do they interact?  What is their relationship one to another?  This is something I have often asked myself as I study His Word.  Yes, I know the Spirit of God takes His Truth in His Word and energizes it, makes it come alive, real, to me.  But is there more?

Today I read the following from a new book by JD Greear that perfectly summarizes the divine interaction of the Word and Spirit and I want to share that truth with you.  Enjoy and be encouraged and blessed.

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The Word is eternal and unchanging.  The Spirit‘s direction is temporary and varied.

The Word gives us promises.  The Spirit compels us to risk in certain situations.

The Word outlines the mission.  The Spirit inspires a vision.

The Word sets the standards.  The Spirit guides the operation.

The Word shows us the end game.  The Spirit points to a starting place.

The Word sets our expectations.  The Spirit inspires our dream.

The Word describes the character of God.  The Spirit pulls us into His emotions.

The Word recounts God’s acts of salvation.  The Spirit sheds abroad His love in our hearts.

The Word gives us the revelation.  The Spirit illuminates the explanation.

The Word provides the content.  The Spirit brings the convictions.

The Word helps us to know.  The Spirit enables us to learn.

The Word commands us to hear.  The Spirit empowers us to listen.

The Word commands us to obey.  The Spirit beckons us to follow.

After all, Jesus said:  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).

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The following is from Jesus Continued  by JD Greear.

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No Wheelbarrow, No Salvation!

No Wheelbarrow, No Salvation!

One of the greatest tightrope walkers the world has ever seen was a man named Charles Blondin— or, as he was known internationally, the Great Blondin.  Charles Blondin was born on February 28, 1924 and rose to international fame by being the first person to tightrope across Niagara Falls.  He was a master showman, highly skilled at his craft, and gifted with a unique, riveting flair for the dramatic.  For the better part of three decades he entertained huge, mesmerized audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

But his greatest feat took place on June 30, 1959, when he became the first man to cross the great Niagara Gorge or, as we call it today, Niagara Falls.

On that day over twenty-five thousand people gathered on both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls to watch the Great Blondin attempt the impossible.  He was to walk on a thin rope only 2 inches in diameter and made entirely of hemp, stretched 1,100 feet across the gorge, and suspended 160 feet above the raging river— all without any safety net or harness.  One small slip, one slight loss of concentration and focus, one unforeseen gust of wind, and the Great Blondin would fall 16 stories to his death.

The crowd watched with nervous anticipation and he slowly, carefully, step by step, one foot in front of the other, made his way along the swaying rope, crossing a distance of over three football fields in 23 minutes.  When he finally reached the Canadian side, the crowd burst into a roar of triumphant applause.

But the Great Blondin wasn’t finished.

Over the next few days he walked across Niagara Falls many times and each time with increasing dramatic theatrics.  Today’s walk, it seemed, must be greater than yesterday’s show.  One time he walked across blindfolded.  Another time on wooden stilts.  Still another while wearing shackles and another while wearing a gunny sack.  He crossed riding a bicycle, he crossed in the dark, and one time he carried a stove on his back and cooked and ate an omelet over the middle of the Falls.  With each crossing he pushed the limit of what the audience believed he could do and each time they responded in praise and adulation for the Great Blondin.  It seemed they believed he could do anything on a tightrope. “Nothing,” they said, “was too difficult for the Great Blondin!”

One day he walked across Niagara Falls pushing a wooden wheelbarrow.  The audience enthusiastically cheered .  Then he placed 350 pounds of cement in the wheelbarrow and made the return trip.  When he arrived back at the American side, the crowds broke into thunderous applause.

Looking at a man who seemed to be cheering the loudest, the Great Blondin asked him, “Do you believe I am able to carry a man across in this wheelbarrow?”  The man eagerly proclaimed, “Yes!  I believe you can.  In fact, I know you can!”  To which the Great Blondin replied, “Then get in.”

The man refused.

Blondin then turned and addressed the watching crowd.  “Do you believe I am able to carry a man across the Falls in this wheelbarrow?”  They all responded loudly, “Yes!”  And again, “Which one of you will get into the wheelbarrow and let me push him across?”

They all refused.

No one was willing to get into the wheelbarrow.  No one was willing to place their life in the hands of the Great Blondin.  No one was willing to have him push them across the Falls, yet they all firmly believed he could do it.  In fact, they’d just seen him push 350 pounds of cement across in that very wheelbarrow but refused, to the man, to get into the wheelbarrow themselves.  Why?  What’s the disconnect between faith and trust.  What’s the difference between simple belief in something or someone and trusting them with your very life?

Simply this: It’s the difference between saving faith and non-saving faith.  It’s the difference between true salvation and being deceived into thinking you belong to Christ.  It’s the difference between the wide road of destruction and the narrow path of eternal life Jesus warned about (Matt. 7:13-14).  And it’s the difference between a living eternity in heaven with Christ and all that means, or a horrid eternity of dark torment in hell.

It’s the difference between life and death, light and darkness, heaven and hell.


No Wheelbarrow, No Salvation

Are you one of the ones that believe the Great Blondin can do what you’ve seen him do, yet you refuse to place your life in his hands, you refuse to get into the wheelbarrow?

You see, eternal life with Christ does not come from simple, cognitive belief.  Just believing is not enough.  You might believe in Jesus.  You might even believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for your sins.  You may even believe He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.  You may even go so far as to believe Jesus will someday come again to defeat Satan and bring in eternal righteousness.  You may even believe that day is coming soon… but none of that belief alone leads to salvation.  None.

Why?  Because Satan also believes the same things about Jesus (James 2:19).  In fact, Satan doesn’t just believe, he knows Jesus is the Son of God.  Satan knows He rose from the dead and he knows Jesus is coming soon to judge the living and the dead and that thought makes him tremble (1 Tim 4:1).  Yet Satan defiantly refuses to bend his knee to the Lordship of Jesus (Rom. 10:9) and Satan will spend eternity in “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).  Do you believe like Satan believes?

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Your life now and your future eternity can be different.  But please know, your time is running out.

Head knowledge, mental assent, is not enough for salvation.  Believing the Great Blondin can take a man across Niagara Falls in a wheelbarrow is not enough— unless you are willing to be that man.  You’ve got to be willing to get into that wheelbarrow.  You can’t watch from the sidelines and think you’re saved.  You’ve got to place your faith and trust, your entire life into the hands of the Lord Jesus, for salvation to take place.  You’ve got to surrender your will to Him, everything.

Jesus’ terms are simple:  It’s all or nothing.  Jesus gives you all that He is for all that you are.  It’s called the Great Exchange: His Perfect Life for Your Broken Life.  You give Him your life, all of your life, the good and the bad, and He comes to live in You.  Permanently.  Forever.

You must die for Him to live.  It’s called being born again and it’s the most amazing thing this side of heaven (John 3:3-4).


Not What We Say, But What We Do

If you claim to be a Christian, you’re probably pretty mad right now that I would be so bold as to “judge” you and your spiritual life.  And I know that if you had a Facebook page, you would probably put “Follower of Jesus” or “Christian” or something like that as your religion tag.  But look at your life.  Look at the fruits of your years of living.  How much of it has any eternal value or significance?  How much of what you do every day gives glory to the God you claim to serve?  How much of your actions and deeds are good, holy, just and righteous?  Jesus called them fruits, “spiritual fruits” that the Holy Spirit alone gives those who belong to Him (Matt. 7:16-20).  In fact, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

Did you get that?  It’s not those who say they believe in Jesus that will enter the kingdom of heaven, it’s those who “do the will of the Father.”  It’s not our words, but spiritual fruits that only the Holy Spirit gives.

Examine yourself.  Are these the spiritual fruits you have manifest in your life?  If not, be honest with yourself.  You know you’re not a Christian.  And if you would let yourself think beyond the immediate, you know you’re not going to heaven.

And that breaks my heart.  I know we, the church, have failed you many times and haven’t lived the Christ-like example we should before you.  I ask for your forgiveness for our failures. But I also ask you don’t judge Jesus by me or any other Christian.  We’re a poor example of who He is.  He’s all love and, as you know, we’re not.  He’s gracious and forgiving, and we’re not. He’s more than I can describe and more than you’ll ever need or want— but you must put your trust, your entire life into His hands and let Him change you from the person you are into His own image, the person He created you to be.  He doesn’t want to make you better, He wants to make you new.


Just Ask

All you have to do is ask— and then get into the wheelbarrow and let Him take you wherever He wants.  You must put your entire life into His hands and hold nothing back.

My dream and prayer is for you to know and experience Jesus for who He really is and not who you think He is or who the church has portrayed Him to be.  He’s far more than anything you can imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).  In fact, my prayer for you has been the same as Paul’s prayer for those he loved.  He says to those he loves the same thing I want to say to you:

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Eph. 1:17-21).

Don’t wait.  Get into the wheelbarrow.  Give everything to Him.  Ask Him, beg Him to be the Lord of your life and watch the transforming power of His Spirit change everything about you and make the rest of your life a blessing to many.

Ask Him today.

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Malachi:  What Side of the Fence Are You On?

Malachi: What Side of the Fence Are You On?

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

What Side of the Fence Are You On?

“But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings;
And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.”

Malachi 4:2

After three chapters of blistering rebuke towards the people and priests of Malachi’s day, the Lord now begins to wind down the book of Malachi and the Old Testament in general with a question and a choice.  The question is simple: Where will you stand on the great day of judgment, on the great Day of the Lord?  And the choice is simpler still: What are you prepared to do about it right now?


The Day of the Lord

Four times in the last eight verses of Malachi we find that great and powerful day referenced (Mal. 3:17; 4:1, 3, 5).  The Day of the Lord is a day of judgment, of wrath, and of great calamity and describes some horrific events that take place at, or near, the close of history.  Zephaniah describes it as “a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zeph. 1:15).  But it’s also a time of great rejoicing when God fulfills His promise to true, believing Israel and ushers in His Kingdom.  It’s a time when “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26) and a time when God will forgive their sins and restore to Israel the land He promised to Abraham.  In other words, the Day of the Lord is the time when God will punish evil, disobedience and unbelief but also a time when He will fulfill all His promises to those who are “called by His Name” (Isa. 43:7).

It will be a day of great dread and fear or a day of great joy and rejoicing— and all that depends on what side of the fence you’re on when the Day appears.

After God encourages His faithful remnant by reminding them “they shall be Mine on the day that I make them My jewels (or, special treasure)” (Mal. 3:17), God then begins to unpack exactly what the Day of the Lord will be like for those on both sides of the fence.


That Side: The Lost and Unbelieving— the Crowd

For those on the lost, unregenerate, unbelieving side of the fence, the Day of the Lord is described as a scorching, consuming fire, much like a furnace or great oven.  So intense is God’s judgment fire that it “will leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4:1), no present and no future.  It’s a frightening picture of the total destruction of those who speak harshly against the Lord (Mal. 3:13) and defile and despise His Name (Mal. 1:6-7).  Jesus speaks of it as a “furnace of fire where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42).  Paul says that day will come “as a thief in the night” (1 The. 5:2) and Peter concludes by stating, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).  Get the picture?  Intense fire, scorching heat, wailing and gnashing of teeth, a massive furnace, a red-hot oven, great noise, consuming flames, total destruction.

And those on that side of the fence?  What does God say about them?  He calls them the “proud, yes, all who do wickedly” and describes them as “stubble or chaff” (Mal 4:1).  They are the short dry stumps of grain left in a field after harvesting, highly combustible, ready to be thrown, discarded, consumed in the great fire of His judgment.  It’s not a pretty picture for those on that side of God’s fence.


This Side: Those Who Love and Fear the Lord— the Remnant

Note what the Lord says to those on this side of His fence, to those who fear Him and offer to Him “an offering in righteousness” (Mal. 3:3).

“But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves” (Mal. 4:2).  They will rejoice when they see the wicked judged and God’s Name held high and glorified.  They will sing for joy when the righteous are brought into the Kingdom and they hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).  And they shall praise His Name when God exalts His people over the wicked who have oppressed and persecuted them for so long.  The Day of the Lord will be a day of great rejoicing, a day of singing and dancing, for those on this side of God’s fence.


The Question: What Are You Prepared to Do About It?

That’s right, what are you going to do?  What’s your plan, your next move?  The Lord has revealed two great groups of people (Mal. 3:18), two separate and distinct paths (Matt. 7:13-14), two options, two destinations, and only one choice.  What will you choose?

Joshua told the people in his day to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15).  And the words of Malachi are telling each of us to do the same: Choose.  Choose whom we will serve?  Choose what side of God’s fence we want to live on.  Choose heaven or hell, life or death, blessing or cursing— just choose.  Why?  Because all eternity rests on that very choice.  So choose wisely.

And to help us choose correctly, the Lord ends the Old Testament with these words of warning and encouragement.  First, the look back into His Word: “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb (or, Mt. Sinai) for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments” (Mal. 4:4).  Remember the Word of God, the Law, the promises, the prophecies, the foretelling of the Messiah, the blessings and the warnings, remember all God has done for you and how much He loves you (Mal. 1:1).  Stop what you’re doing, turn around, look back and remember.  This is the same God who says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Mal. 3:6).  He has loved you then, He loves you now.  Remember.

Then, look forward to the day of His promise, to the day of the coming of His Son, Jesus. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.  And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).  Before the Day of the Lord dawned it was promised that Elijah would first come and preach a message of repentance to prepare the way for the Messiah (Isa. 40:3).  That day has already come.  The promise has already been fulfilled.  John the Baptist, according to Jesus, was the very fulfillment of that promise and, for those who “have ears to hear,” was the “Elijah who was to come” (Matt. 11:14-15)  And who was this Messiah?  His name is Jesus.

So now, it’s your choice.  Do you remain on that side of the fence, the easy side, the sinful side, laughing along with those who arrogantly reject the sacrifice of Christ and strive to be a god in their own eyes?  Do you throw your lot in with them?  Are you part of the massive throng— blind, yet so proud, traveling aimlessly on the wide path that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13)?  Is the cross of Christ, the only way to escape the curse, foolishness to you (1 Cor. 1:18)?  If so, Malachi has clearly told you what your future holds, and it’s not a pretty sight.  Actually, it’s dreadful, gruesome, and terrifying.  Or, are you one of the elect, the chosen, the few, the faithful remnant, the blessed beneficiaries of an incredible inheritance in Christ (Rom. 8:17) that is beyond description (Eph. 3:20-21)?

Which one are you?  Which side of the fence are you on?  And how will you describe the coming Day of the Lord?

Will it be a time of great blessing, of continuous rejoicing and singing, a time of childlike wonder and awe?  Or will you, like so many others, try to run and hide, foolishly thinking you can somehow escape the burning, scorching, all consuming red-hot fire of His judgment?  Will you be one of those that cry out to the very mountains and rocks to “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16-17).

Which side of the fence are you on?  And what are you prepared to do about it?

Choose quickly.  Because time is short and He’s coming soon (Rev. 22:12).  The clock is ticking.  Time is running out.  Choose today.

Come Lord Jesus.

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The Fatal Sin of Self-Deception

The Fatal Sin of Self-Deception

Sometimes, living in the land where tolerance is deemed the greatest virtue— sometimes we as Christians fail to realize just how lost our lost friends and family truly are.  Often we consider them “good” people that would be better still if they would just add our Jesus to their own intrinsic, innate goodness.

“Frank is such a good person.  Just think how much better he’ll be when he gives his life to Jesus.”  Or, “My boy is a good boy.  I know he gets into trouble a bit, but he’s got a good heart.”  Or, “I feel pretty good about myself.  Why do I need Jesus to make me better?  I’m doing OK just as I am.”

When we try to tell them about Jesus we go to great lengths to skirt the offensive issue of their sin and instead play up their value and virtue and inherent righteousness and then try to sell them on Jesus “who will take what is good in them and make it even better.”— like pitching a new and improved model of themselves.  “Step right up and come to Jesus.  He will take the parts of you that you don’t like and change them right before your very eyes.  He’s the Master Fixer-Upper.  Just what the doctor ordered.  So who needs Jesus to bless your life?  Come on, step right up.  Who wants to be first?”

Sound familiar?

But none of this is true, Biblically.  It may be the way we do things in our culture and the way we try to live out the great commission without being offensive or intolerant, but none of it is true.  Jesus never promised to make our life better on this earth.  Never.  He never promised to make us better.  He promised to make us new.  The old man is not improved, he dies.  And in the old man’s place a new man is born again, created in the image of Christ, for the glory of the Father (2 Cor. 5:17).

Everything changes.  Including you and me.

God doesn’t take our old heart and make it better.  He makes it new.  Why?  Because there’s nothing of value in our old heart to update or improve.  Jeremiah 17:9 states: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  Get that?  Deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.  Not much good to salvage here.


The Plague of Spiritual Ignorance and Self-Deception

But our lost friends are deceived in thinking their sin is not bad enough to merit judgment or Hell.  They’re duped into thinking they don’t need to change.  After all, they do plenty of good things they feel good about and the good things they do outweigh the bad things and they net, at least in their own eyes, on the good side.  Hence, bottom line in their thinking, they’re OK with the Big Man in the Sky, just like they are.

This is exactly the crowd Jesus was speaking to in John 8:33.  Jesus had repeatedly told the unbelieving Jews they were separated from the Father (John 8:19) and lost in their sins (John 8:24) and by believing in Him, and in Him alone, they would “know the truth, and the truth would make them free” (John 8:32).  But lost people chaff at the thought they’re in bondage.  They reject it because it assaults their self-image and inward sense of self-righteousness.  They hold fast to the lie, their false sense of security, that something in their past, something they have done or accomplished, something they are or will become will be sufficient to satisfy God on the day of judgment.  And for the Jews, that something was being a physical descendant of Abraham.

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” (John 8:33).  In essence, they didn’t need what Jesus was offering because they, in their own minds, already possessed it.  The major obstacle to discovering the life and truth Jesus offers is thinking you already possess it.  And, as we and Jesus both know, they didn’t possess the “truth that will set them free” (John 8:32, 36).  Do you?

So. just how lost is a lost person?  How ignorant are they of their spiritual condition?

AW Pink says: Tell the sinner that there is no good thing in him, and he will not believe you; but tell him that he is completely the slave of sin and the captive of Satan, that he cannot think a godly thought of himself (2 Cor. 3:5), that he cannot receive God’s truth (1 Cor. 2:14), that he cannot believe (John 12:39), that he cannot please God (Rom. 8:8), that he cannot come to Christ (John 6:44), and he will indignantly deny your assertions.  So it was here in the passage before us.  When Christ said “the truth shall make you free”, the Jews replied “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to anyone.”

Today spiritual ignorance focuses on our desire to make Jesus into anything we want and to create our own religion and our own system of righteousness.  If it goes contrary to the Scriptures, then we either ignore the Scriptures, or try to explain them away by some sort of theological sleight of hand, or conclude the Scriptures are “living and breathing” and therefore do not apply to us on this point.  Whatever the reason, the outcome is that we are right and God is wrong.  After all, “we have never been in bondage to anyone!” (John 8:33).


How Lost is My Lost Loved One?

When you share your faith with a lost loved one remember just how lost, Scripturally, they truly are— regardless of how much you love them or how many charitable deeds they have racked up in their own ledger books.

Consider the pitiful state of those we are sent to love in Christ:

One, your lost family member or friend is, according the Bible, a fallen creature, totally depraved, with no soundness or goodness in him from the sole of his foot even unto the top of his head (Isa. 1:6)— regardless of how he views himself or how much self-esteem he has.

Two, your lost son or daughter is completely under the dominion of sin, they’re a “slave to sin” (John 8:34), a slave to “various lusts and pleasures” (Titus 3:3), so much so they “cannot cease from sin” (2 Pet. 2:14) no matter how hard they try.  Only the cross of Christ can free them from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:18,22).  You must tell them about Christ.  And you must tell them today.

Three, your lost husband or wife has “been taken captive by the devil, by Satan, to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26).  They now walk “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).  They now live to fulfills the lusts of their father, the devil, Satan, even though they vehemently reject that claim (John 8:44).  They are completely dominated by Satan’s power, the “power of darkness “(Col. 1:13).

And nothing can deliver them but the power of Christ.

Our mission field, our own families, are self-deceived into thinking, like the Jews in Jesus’ day, that they need nothing.  That they possess all.  They are ignorant of their spiritual condition and it’s up to you and me individually, and the church collectively, powered by the Holy Spirit, to make disciples of those He has placed in our paths (Matt. 28:19).

Are you up for the challenge?  Are you prepared for rejection and persecution?  Are you ready to be counted worthy of suffering for our Lord (Acts 5:41)?  And are you ready to fulfill the very reason God chose you from the foundation of the world to be made in the likeness of His Son (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29)?

They let’s get busy being who we were created to be.

Come Lord Jesus.

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Malachi:  The Book of Remembrance

Malachi: The Book of Remembrance

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

The Book of Remembrance

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them;
so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name”

Malachi 3:16

For the seventh and final time the priests in the days of Malachi demand God be more specific in how He was chastising them for their apathy, disrespect and sin.  First, God said He loved them.  And, like spoiled, ungrateful children they responded to His love by saying, “In what way have You loved us?” (Mal. 1:2).  From there, six more times, God lovingly corrects His priests and people and yet they have the arrogance and gall to call God’s hand and demand He provide them proof of what He was saying about them.  They said:

“In what way have we despised Your name?” (Mal. 1:6).
“In what way have we defiled You?” (Mal. 1:7).
“In what way have we wearied Him (God)?” (Mal. 2:17).
“In what way shall we return?” (Mal. 3:7).
“In what way have we robbed You?” (Mal. 3:8).

Finally, God says to His servants, “Your words have been harsh against Me.”  And they quickly reply, “What have we spoken against You?” (Mal. 3:13).  In effect, we reject what You are saying about us, God, and demand You produce evidence to support Your claim.  Really?

So God, gracious and loving, ever patient and forgiving, presents the evidence they demanded.  He has heard what they have been saying to each other about Him.  He knows their demeaning words spoken in the shadows, in silent whispers, in gossip, about His love, His justice and His faithfulness.  He knows all and hears all.  And their words about Him have been harsh, cutting, and hurtful.

It began in Malachi 2:17 where God’s sense of justice and fairness was questioned and condemned by the people and priests. But God heard their talk, their hushed conversations to each other, and was wearied by their words.  “Everyone,” they claimed, “who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord.  And He delights in them.”

Ouch.  That’s calling the very nature and essence of God into question.  And that’s not a very wise thing to do

Then, they continued in the next chapter by saying, “It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of hosts?” (Mal. 3:14).

Excuse me.  Let’s just get a few things straight before we go any further.  First, you haven’t kept His ordinance.  Not one little bit.  Have you been listening to what He has been telling you about robbing Him (Mal. 3:8), breaking covenant with your wives (Mal. 2:14), offering defiled food on His altar (Mal. 1:7), and despising His very name (Mal. 1:6)?  And second, saying you are walking around like mourners at a funeral makes one want to laugh.  There’s no mourning over your sin or over the disrespect of your God.  None.  You’re knee deep in guilt and self-delusion thinking God doesn’t know your heart and hear your words.  He is, after all, God— the always-present, all-powerful, and all-knowing God.


But What About Those Who Do Right?

But what about the others?  What about those who have stood firm in their faith, those who have presented themselves as a living sacrifice to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2), those who, like Paul, have fought the good fight (2 Tim. 4:7)?  What does God say about them?

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name” (Mal. 3:16).

The other group, those who feared the Lord, the remnant, spoke to one another and the Lord heard what they were saying (Mal. 3:16).  In fact, He was so taken by their words and their devotion to Him, in contrast to the harsh, hurtful words spoken by the priests and people, that He had their words written in a book of remembrance and set before Him.  Did you ever wonder why?


The Book of Remembrance

What is the book of remembrance that was written before God? (Mal. 3:16).  And what was written in it that needed to be remembered?

Several places in the Scriptures we find a reference to God’s book (Ex. 32:32; Ps. 56:8; Dan. 7:10; Rev. 13:8, 20:15).  Some of these references speak of the book of the living or the book of life, but they generally mean a book of righteous people or righteous deeds.  In fact, the Persian kings kept such books that recorded services rendered to the king so those services could be rewarded in due time.  Remember King Ahasuerus, Haman, Mordecai and Esther for example (Esther 6:1-3).

As with Mordecai, often rewards are delayed.  And sometime they are delayed to the point they seem like they will never happen, like they’ve been forgotten or intentionally overlooked.  When that delay continues indefinitely discouragement, depression, rejection and despair often occur.

But the Bible also teaches that faithfulness to God will never go unnoticed and will be rewarded in due time.  The book of remembrance is God’s way of telling those who might grow weary in doing well (Gal. 6:9), those who faithfully suffer alone in trials and tribulation (Jas. 1:2-3), those who may become discouraged or depressed, that God remembers and He sees and “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).


Are We Written in His Book of Remembrance?

God has a reason for His book of remembrance.  It’s to show the world the distinction between “the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (Mal. 3:18).  It’s much like the plagues on Egypt, during the days of Moses, where the Lord made a clear distinction between His people and those who were cursed, the Egyptians (Ex. 9:6, 26; 10:23).  Or, in I John 2:19 where it says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”  Again, the goal is to show a crystal clear distinction between “the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (Mal. 3:18).

Hence, the book of remembrance.

But there’s also another reason for God to write the names of His righteous children or their righteous deeds of faith in a book of remembrance.  It’s not to help God remember because He is, after all, God and remembers all— but it’s to help us remember that God never changes (Mal. 3:6) and He will not forget those who don’t forget Him (Mal. 3:16).  And for those whose names and deeds are written in His book and not to be forgotten, for those who “feared the Lord and spoke to one another” God has a special promise.  A special promise He doesn’t want us to forget.

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I make them My jewels (or, special treasure, personal possession).  And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him” (Mal. 3:17).  Did you read that?  Can your mind wrap around the glorious, indescribable, uncontainable blessings He has for those who are His?  Just think, those who love the Lord with all their heart, those who serve and revere Him above all others, those who are called by His Name, those who live in the awe and wonder of who He is will be His personal possession and He will make them His own special treasure, His own jewels.  Can you think of anything more glorious than that?

Is your name written in the Lord’s book of remembrance?  Has He recorded your service rendered to the King of Kings so He can reward you in due time?  Is there anything in your devotion to the Lord Jesus worthy of remembering?  If so, praise to the Lord.  All glory belongs to Him.  But if not, why?  Why waste another second of your finite life living for the trinkets and toys of this fallen world when you can live for the praise and adoration of the King and be called His special treasure.

After all, God does not change and His Word is true. Always.

And this is the promise to those whose name and deeds are written in the book of remembrance.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Come Lord Jesus.

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Malachi:  Are You Part of the Remnant?

Malachi: Are You Part of the Remnant?

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

Are You Part of the Remnant?

“”Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them.”

Malachi 3:16a

In the last part of Malachi 3 God shows us a clear distinction between two groups of people: those who complain and speak harshly about the Lord (Mal. 3:13-15) and those who fear the Lord (Mal. 3:16).  And the difference between the two groups is profound.  So profound, that the Lord took a book of remembrance and recorded the words of those who feared Him, those who held Him and His name in reverence, respect and awe (Mal. 3:16).

This second group, this faithful minority about whom God has written in the book of remembrance, is the remnant of God.  Are you part of that remnant?

A remnant is defined as a “small, remaining quantity of something.”  And that something could be food, or materials, or people— almost anything.

Biblically speaking, Noah and his sons were a remnant saved from the great flood.  They were a “small, remaining quantity” of the population of the earth (Gen. 6).  Lot and his family were a remnant saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19).  God told Elijah He had reserved a remnant, “seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18).  These are just a few examples of the remnant of God.

In Scripture, the faithful in Israel are also called a remnant.  Paul, quoting Isaiah 10, says: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved” (Rom. 9:27).  This means a small portion of believing Jews will be taken, by the sovereign grace of God, from the great multitude that makes up Israel and be saved— literally, a “small, remaining quantity” of Jews will come to faith in their Messiah, in their Christ.  This again is the remnant of God.

But for us, the church, there is also a remnant that will be saved and redeemed.  That’s right, just a remnant.  Why?  Because Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).  Note, that’s not everyone who says— but everyone who does.


Who is the Remnant?

They are the ones who “count the costs” of following Jesus and give all to Him (Luke 14:28).  They are those who “deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him” (Matt. 16:245).  The remnant are those who consider everything in this world rubbish, except knowing and gaining Christ (Phil. 3:8).  They are the ones who are singly focused on Jesus, totally devoted to Him, and do not want to know anything but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

Are you part of the remnant?

The remnant is the seed that sprouted some 30, 60, 100 fold and not the seed that fell on the path or in the shallow, weed-infested soil (Matt. 13:1-9).  The remnant endures to the end (Matt. 24:13; 1 John 2:19).  The remnant bears the spiritual fruit of God (John 15:1-8) and also bears the brand marks of Christ (Gal. 6:17).  The remnant proudly proclaim, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Are you part of the remnant?  Or are you simply a member of a church?

There is, like the distinction God made in Malachi 3, a huge and profound difference between the two.  One is the wide road that leads to destruction and the other is the narrow gate that leads to life.  And Jesus said, “there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).


Choose Today Whom You Shall Serve

Which road are you on? Both have signs, bright flashing billboards that say, “This Way to Christ!”  But only one leads to true salvation.

Are you part of the mass, the unbelieving crowd, the deceived multitude of those who “have a form of godliness but no power”? (2 Tim. 3:5).  Or, are you part of the remnant of God?  Are you a child of His, “and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

Which are you?  Because the answer to this simple question is the difference between eternal life or eternal death.  It’s not something to trifle with, to ignore, or to blow off.  You must “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Jos. 24:15).  And you must “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?— unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Why?  Because all eternity is at stake!

“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15).

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Fire by Night, Jesus by Day

Fire by Night, Jesus by Day

After redeeming the woman caught in the very act of adultery (John 8:4), Jesus proclaims to the crowd, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).  This was the second of His seven “I Am” statements in John.  To recap the scene, the woman’s accusers, the scribes and Pharisees (John 8:3), brought her to Jesus demanding He decide what was to be done with her (John 8:5).  “Does she live or does she die.  What do you say, Jesus?”  They were not concerned about her or her sin, but had used her to set a trap in order to test and discredit Jesus among the people (John 8:6).  But, as usual, Jesus was one step ahead of them and would not take their bait.

He simply wrote in the sand while they spewed their self-righteous, hypocritical venom towards the woman.  Finally, when He had heard enough, Jesus stood and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).  Conviction set in.  Her accusers realized they were unfit, in the eyes of God, to judge her adultery since their sin was much greater.  And they “went out, one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last” (John 8:9).

Jesus then turned to the woman and spoke the words of redemption to her.  He said, “I do not condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11; Rom. 8:1).  It was at this point our Lord proclaimed His second “I Am” statement.

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).


I Am the Light of the World

This description should not surprise us since Jesus has been compared to light since the first chapter of John.  “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).  He spoke of the light six times in that context.  In John 3:19 we read: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  And again, light is used another 5 times in this context.  John MacArthur says: Jesus Christ alone brings the light of salvation to a sin-cursed world.  To the darkness of falsehood He is the light of truth; to the darkness of ignorance He is the light of wisdom; to the darkness of sin He is the light of holiness; to the darkness of sorrow He is the light of joy; and to the darkness of death He is the light of life.

But there’s even more.

During the Feast of Tabernacles there were two main ceremonies the Jews celebrated.  One ceremony took place each morning of the eight day feast when the priests of Israel joined with others to draw water from the pool of Siloam in golden pitchers.  Then, when they returned to the temple, the priests poured the water on the altar of sacrifice while singing and chanting Isaiah 12:3 and Psalm 114:7-8.  This water ceremony was in remembrance of God providing water from the rock during their wilderness wanderings.  And it was most likely during this ceremony, on the last day of the feast, that Jesus stood and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

There was also a lamp lighting ceremony whereby, after the sun had gone down, four huge candelabras were lit in such a way the light would illuminate the sky like a searchlight.  This ceremony, accompanied by singing and dancing and holding torches, served as a reminder of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that guided the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex. 13:21-22).  And it was against this backdrop Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the “light of the world” (John 8:12).

But most amazing is the structure of John’s gospel that presents Jesus as manna (John 6), then water (John 7), and now light (John 8).  Jesus is the manna that fed God’s people in the wilderness, He was the water flowing from the rock to quench their thirst, and He was the light of fire by night to guide their way.  Jesus is our Provider, our Source of Strength, our Protector, our Guide, and our Light along the way.

This is the mighty God we serve.


Fire by Night

When we examine the cloud that protected the Israelites during their wanderings we can learn much about Jesus.  For example, the first time the cloud is mentioned in Exodus it is associated with and identified as the literal Presence of God (Ex. 13:21-22).  This means the Israelites, all during their generation of wanderings and troubles and doubts, always had the Presence of God with them.  All they needed to do was look up and they could visibly see God in their midst.  They were not alone (John 14:18).

And neither are we.  Why?  Because Jesus now dwells among us (John 1:14).

The cloud, the Presence of God, also protected the Israelites from their enemies and from the elements themselves.  We see the cloud standing between Pharaoh’s armies and God’s people— protecting them until they could safely cross the Red Sea (Ex. 14:19-20).  The cloud also provided shade for them as they camped in the desert for close to 40 years.  With temperatures during the day reaching 140 degrees and at night falling below freezing, without the cloud, the very Presence of God, they would have all perished.  Without Jesus, we likewise would perish.  After all, “He is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

The cloud also communicated to the Israelites when they should go and when they should stay.  It was the primary means by which the Lord guided His people during their wanderings.  When the cloud moved, they moved.  If they stayed when the cloud moved, they would die from the scorching heat since their protective shade was removed. If they ran ahead of the cloud— same problem.  In the same way, Jesus said we live and breathe when we stay connected, abiding, in the vine (John 15:4).  “For without Me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing (John 15:5).

When Jesus said He was the light of the world He was proclaiming to them, and to us, that He is the very Presence of God, their source of protection, and the One who guides in all truth.

Again, that is the mighty God we follow.


What Does it Mean to Follow?

But what does it mean to follow?

The last part of Jesus’ second “I Am” statement reads:  “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).  But what does that mean?  The Greek word for follow means “to accompany, to go with” and can apply, in a general sense, to the thrill-seeking crowds that followed Jesus just for the entertainment value (John 6:2).  But it also can refer to a true disciple (John 1:43, 10:4, 27).  In this context, Jesus is speaking about true discipleship and not casual followers.  He’s talking about coming to Him on His terms, and on His terms alone, and not like the ones who said:

Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:19-22).

Or the conversation between Jesus and the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-27.  As you recall, the rich young ruler walked away from following Jesus because the cost was too high.  Remember, we come to Jesus on His terms— and nothing else.

Jesus summarized what it meant to follow Him like this:  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

Are you following Jesus?  Is He the Light of your world?  Have you denied yourself, picked up each day the instrument of your own death, and faithfully followed Him?

You should.  You need to.  Why?  Because He is our Protector, our Provider, our Light, and Our Guide.  If He’s not your Lord, you will spend eternity in Hell, in torment, alone, separated from the love of God, paying the penalty for your own sins.

And, in case you didn’t know, eternity is long time.

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Malachi:  Dealing Treacherously with Those We Love

Malachi: Dealing Treacherously with Those We Love

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

Dealing Treacherously with Those We Love

“For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence.”
Malachi 2:16

Beginning in Malachi 2:10, there is a shift from God’s chastisement of the priests to His reproof of the people in general.  Lack of priestly leadership, it seems, is no excuse for unfaithfulness to the Lord.  However, sheep follow the shepherd.  So judgment begins, as the Scripture states, in the house of the Lord, with the shepherds, the priests, and the preachers of today (1 Peter 4:17).  Malachi employs some strong words in this chapter to convey God’s dealings with His people and their attitude towards Him.  He uses treacherously five times in 8 verses.  We also find profane or profaning, abomination, and God saying He literally hates something.  Those two words alone, God and hate, should get our attention.

These are strong words for erring people.


Why Do We Deal Treacherously with Each Other?

The first question God directs to the people in Malachi’s day, and to the church today, is “Why do we deal treacherously (or, unfaithfully, deceitfully, traitorously) with one another?” (Mal. 2:10).  Why do we betray each other?  Why do we deceive, mislead, and victimize each other?  Why do we hold each other, especially within the Body of Christ and in our own marriages, with such contempt, disdain, and disrespect?  Why do we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as family, heavenly siblings, those chosen by God and created in His own image, profane the Lord by destroying His children, those for whom He died, by our unfaithfulness to each other?  Why would we do that?

Our answer is, of course, we don’t.  We categorically deny any responsibility or knowledge of the offense.  But God sees it differently.  He says all of His people, Judah, Israel, Jerusalem, have “profaned the Lord’s holy institution which He loves.”  And what institution is that? we ask.  Marriage.  And how have we profaned marriage?  We have “married the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11).

At this point, most of us would look at the national statistics and our own experience and know we stand guilty regarding our rejection of the sanctity of marriage.  We, the church, divorce each other as fast as those outside the church, sometimes even faster.  It’s now so hard to find someone who is still the “husband of one wife” to serve as our pastor, deacon or elder that we go to great efforts to redefine what “husband of one wife” means so more people in our congregation can qualify (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6).  And, as the church, we do this to our own shame and peril.


One Man, One Woman, One Lifetime

This passage, primarily, deals with the marriage covenant— one man, one woman, for one lifetime— and how the people and priests in Malachi’s day, and in our own day, have forsaken and profaned it (Mal. 2:11).  Divorce is the greatest betrayal most will ever experience in their lives.  And the children of divorce, those who suffer the most, carry the scars of that betrayal to their graves, often inflicting their pain and hurt on their own children.  Divorce becomes a generational curse, children suffering for the pain of their parents.

Because divorce has become such a part of the fabric of our church life, we’ve become desensitized to it.  After all, every family I know has been impacted by divorce.  Everyone, including my own.  My parents divorced.  My wife’s parents divorced.  My only brother divorced, and on and on it goes.  And since “familiarity breeds contempt” we have turned a blind eye to what God says about divorce.

Malachi is our wake-up call.


Worship, Church-life, and Divorce

The permissive, tolerant, “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude towards the sin of divorce by the priests in Malachi’s day, and from the pulpits today, is the reason the church is in the shape it’s in regarding marriage.  Pastors today tend to shy away from controversial topics that may incite the congregation and divorce certainly is top of the list.  But truth is to be proclaimed from the pulpit and from the man of God regardless of how uncomfortable that truth may be.  Pastors, priests, and shepherds are to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and not simply what the people want to hear (2 Tim. 4:2-3).  Pastors today should view the sanctity of marriage much like Nehemiah did when he rebuked the marital infidelity of the priests and drove the grandson of the high priest from his presence because he had “defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites” (Neh. 13:29).  His crime?  He had divorced his wife to marry another woman, a foreign woman (Mal. 2:11).  Where are the men of God today who will not allow divorce as an option among those he shepherds!

When Malachi speaks of the “daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11) he is referring to a woman who is not from Israel nor holds to the beliefs and values of the people.  He’s talking about a pagan woman, one the Lord warned would lead His people to worship foreign gods (Ex. 34:11).  It’s a classic case of mixed marriage, being unequally yoked, a believer with a non-believer, which God explicitly forbids (2 Cor. 6:14).  God is speaking about a believer, one under covenant, who divorces his own wife to marry a pagan, a heathen, someone who is not a believer (Mal. 2:10).  And this sin, dealing treacherously with your spouse, had crept into the camp of Israel while the priests, the watchmen and shepherds of God’s people, did nothing to stop it.  In fact, they encouraged divorce and were divorced themselves.  Same can be said of the church and the pastors today.

But why is this so important?

Simply put, as hard as it is to accept, God says He will not receive your worship if you are unfaithful to the “wife of your youth” (Mal. 2:13).  Why?  Because “He hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16).  Cut and dry.  Not open to negotiation or compromise or political correctness.

God says the man who divorces his wife and marries the “daughter of a foreign god” will be “cut off” from Him and His people since he is fully aware, willfully aware, of what he is doing.  Then that very man, while showing such contempt to His covenant, has the arrogance, the audacity, the blatant hypocrisy to come and bring an offering to the Lord and expect God to be pleased (Mal. 2:12).  Not gonna happen.

Malachi 2:13 reads:

And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.

Regardless of how much emotion you put into your worship of the Lord, even with tears and weeping and crying, God will not hear you nor receive your worship as long as you profane His covenant.  In what way are we profaning His covenant? you ask.  “Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously (or, unfaithfully, deceitfully, traitorously); Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14).

In other words, until this sin of treachery and betrayal against our spouse is made right, God and the church can go no further.  They stop at this point.  The pride and belligerence of those who are called by His name (Isa. 43:7), those who defiantly refuse to change their attitudes about something God calls an abomination (Mal. 2:11), must be confessed and repented of.  Must.  Why?  Because God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). He hates divorce because it is the breaking of a covenant between a man and a woman (Mal. 2:14), between two who are now one flesh (Mal. 2:15; Gen. 2:24), and the violation of an oath given before God of our vow, our pledge, and our solemn promise of faithfulness in marriage (Mal. 2:14).  It’s the very definition of dealing treacherously with each other (Mal. 2:10).

There’s no middle ground with God on this issue.  None.  In fact, it might be that the anemic spiritual condition of the church in the West, and of you and me as Believers in Christ, is caused by our willing acceptance of divorce as a viable option in relationships covenanted by God— which is the furthest thing from the truth.  In fact, the Bible gives us only two acceptable reasons for divorce: sexual immorality (Matt. 5:32, 19:19) and the abandonment of a believer by an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15).  No where do we find popular phrases like: irreconcilable differences, incapability, or lack of fulfillment, as reasons for divorce.


How Did We End Up Here?

How did we get in this place?

By lowering our standards and accepting the political correctness of this fallen age more than the unchanging truth of Scripture (James 4:4).  By leading our churches via consensus and not by the truth of God’s Word.  In essence, as our congregations begin to experiment with divorce, instead of standing tall and strong for the truth and offend those who are sinning, we change our preaching and morph our Biblical standards just enough to keep those in dire need of repentance coming back.  We want to make church comfortable, even for those in the very throes of sin.  And in doing so, we systematically diminish the holiness of God and the covenant relationship of marriage.  “After all,” we say, “it’s the loving thing to do.  We don’t want to offend anyone.”

Really?  Looks like the only One offended is the Lord.


Courageous

There’s a conversation that takes place in the movie Courageous that sums up the attitude of the church today regarding divorce.  If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize the following.  And if you haven’t seen the movie, you need to watch it today.

David:  I had a good dad, I guess.  I mean the guy wasn’t perfect.  My parents split up when he had an affair.  But I think he regretted it and I struggled with it for a while.  But, you know, divorce just comes with the territory now.

Nathan:  I disagree, man.  Divorce happens because you make it an option.

David:  Nathan, you don’t always know what’s gonna happen.  People change.  You can’t always work stuff out.  Sometimes you need to part ways.

Adam:  I think I agree with Nathan.  People don’t fight for their marriages anymore.

The church needs to step up, to take charge, to boldly lead in the fight to save our marriages.  Why?  Because divorce can no longer be accepted as an easy option for the believer in Christ.  We, as the people of God, desperately need the blessings of God to once again freely flow in our churches, families, and in our nation.  And tolerating what God calls an abomination is not the way to make that happen.


Evil is Not Good in the Sight of the Lord

One final thought.  Are you tired of hearing and reading messages like this one?  Are you weary of preaching that makes you feel bad, uncomfortable, or uneasy?  Would you rather come to church, or read a post, and be blessed and told how good and wonderful you are?

Sure you would.  Most people would.  In fact, that’s what they wanted in Malachi’s day.  But God had another idea.

Malachi 2:17 reads:

Statement:  You have wearied the Lord with your words;

Question:  Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?”

Answer:  In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,” or, “Where is the God of justice?”

Just so you’ll know, the Lord doesn’t delight in those who sin and do evil.  In fact, His Word says just the opposite, “God is a just God, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).

Just.

Angry.

But, forgiving.

Repent of the sin that separates you from His blessing and enjoy the freedom only He can give.

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Acts of the Apostates

Acts of the Apostates

Hidden Reefs

Shipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
Reflections on the book of Jude

Chapter Two
Acts of the Apostates

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.
Jude 1:16

If the Acts of the Apostles show how the Holy Spirit moved in the lives of the early church, then Jude can be aptly called the Acts of the Apostates, and for good reason.  Jude is a blunt, explicit warning against those who would burrow into the church unnoticed, under the radar, in stealth, masquerading as true believers and then slowly and deliberately lead the unsuspecting church astray.  The book of Jude serves as an “in-your-face” warning against the apostates in the days of the infant, early church, and even more so now.  Why now?  Because under the mantra of tolerance and cultural sensitivity the church today has let down its guard and opened the gate for any and all who give lip-service to Jesus.  And in doing so it has euthanized the watchmen on the wall (Eze. 3:17).


What is an Apostate
?

Simply put, an apostate is one who willfully renounces or abandons Christian truth.  An apostate openly rejects the faith they once held dear.  Apostasy is, in a word, the rejection of Christ by one who had once claimed to be a Christian.  A pagan or heathen cannot, by definition, be an apostate.  That term is reserved for those who were once part of the body of Christ and drifted away, sometimes violently (1 John 2:19).  The term apostate is reserved for those who may have exercised faith in Jesus at one point, yet it was non-saving faith, and did not involve trust, dependence or the confession of Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9).  Apostasy is the exact opposite of conversion.  It is, as some put it, a form of deconversion.

And apostates are everywhere in the church.  They seem to breed like rabbits.

For example, Judas was one of the Twelve, an Apostle, yet rejected Christ, turned his back on the truth, and betrayed the Lord (Matt. 26:14-16).  He was an apostate, actually much worse.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul speaks of Hymenaeus and Alexander “whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:19-20).  They were members of the church yet had become apostates— and so much so Paul was to remove them from the congregation.

Paul writes to Titus about those who ” profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work (Titus 1:16).  This is a good definition of an apostate.

In 2 Timothy, Paul again instructs Timothy to “shun profane and idle babblings” (2 Tim. 2:16) because “their message will spread like cancer.  Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim 2:17-18).  Note, they “strayed concerning the truth” and refused to return.  And, as you can see, one of the greatest dangers of an apostate is that their false teachings and sinful lifestyle will “overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:18).  These are the ones Jude passionately warns about.


Demas

Probably the best New Testament example of an apostate is Demas.  We see him mentioned three times in Paul’s letters and he was obviously, for a time, a trusted friend and fellow minister with Paul.

In Colossians, at the close of the letter, Paul sends greetings from those who were with him, those who were his friends.  He sends greetings from Aristarchus, a fellow prisoner with Paul, Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, (Col. 4:10), Jesus, who is called Justus (Col. 4:11), Epaphras (Col. 4:12), and then from “Luke the beloved physician and Demas” (Col. 4:14).  This is a pretty impressive crowd that Demas found himself in— even if he was mentioned last.

By the time Paul writes to Philemon the order of names change.  Now we have “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers” (Philemon 1:23-24).  Demas is now mentioned before Luke which might not, on the surface, indicate anything.  But it gives the impression that his status in the heart of Paul and in the eyes of the others may be increasing.

Much time passes and now Paul is facing certain death.  His second letter to Timothy is his most personal and reflective.  He begins to close the letter with a bold affirmation of how he spent his life for the Lord and the faith he had in the Lord.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

He then speaks from his heart, expressing the personal sadness he feels during these last hours.  Paul is lonely and troubled.  He implores Timothy to “be diligent to come to me quickly” (2 Tim. 4:9).  Why?  “For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10).  Demas, one of the trusted faithful, had forsaken Paul!  The Greek word for forsaken means “to abandon, desert, leave in straits, leave helpless, leave in the lurch, let one down.”

Another word to describe what Demas did is apostatize.  And that makes Demas an apostate.

But why?  What compelled Demas to do such a thing?  Paul said it was because “he loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10).  The word for love means “to esteem, love, indicating a direction of the will and finding one’s joy in something or someone.”  Demas loved this fallen world more than he loved Christ.  His desire was to be a friend of this world and not a friend to Christ, Paul and others.  And, in doing so, he made himself an enemy of God— which is a frightening thing to do (James 4:4).


Current Apostates

We can see individuals, and churches, and entire denominations becoming apostate right before our eyes.  Take, for example, the move to change the Bible to suit gender-neutral wording.  This is a rejection of Biblical truth for the adulation and acceptance of the world.  Once orthodox and conservative denominations now reject Biblical truth and embrace homosexuality because it is politically correct and the darling issue of the media: the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, just to name a few.

In addition to this, the airwaves are full of false pastors and teacher, apostates, who preach a prosperity gospel essentially reducing the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to nothing more than securing my right to health, wealth and a great parking place at the Mall.

But this should not take us by surprise.  Paul, in the last letter he wrote before offering his life to the Lord, said these things would be a sign of the end.  He said to Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith:

“Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (why)  For the time will come when they (the church) will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they (the church) will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:2-4).

After all, some of the largest churches in America fit this bill.


Acts of the Apostates

Finally, Jude presents the most chilling assessment of the apostate in all of Scripture.  Notice how he describes them:

Jude 1:4 – Ungodly men who are marked for condemnation and deny the Lord Jesus.  Apostates!

Jude 1:7 – Men who have given themselves over to sexual immorality and homosexuality.  Apostates!

Jude 1:8 – Men who defile themselves, are rebellious, and blaspheme those in heaven.  Apostates!

Jude 1:12-13 – “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.  They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”  Apostates!

Jude 1:16 – “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.”  Apostates!

Jude 1:19 – “These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.”  Apostates!


Keep You From Stumbling

The warnings of Jude are just as current today as they were when he penned his short, 25 verse letter.  And the encouragement from Jude is probably needed more today than at any other time in the history of the church.

Be encouraged as we dig deeper into the muck of past and present apostasy.  Why?  Because our Lord soon comes and our redemption draws nigh (Luke 21:28).

Keep looking up to Jesus who, as Jude says, “is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).

Come Lord Jesus.

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Coming next – Chapter Three:  The Hidden Structure of Jude

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Malachi:  Excrement and the Clergy

Malachi: Excrement and the Clergy

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

Excrement and the Clergy

“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces,
The refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it.”
Malachi 2:3

In the second chapter of Malachi we find one of the most chilling and sobering warnings to the priests of Malachi’s day, and to the preachers of our day, found anywhere in Scripture.  Malachi gives us just a glimpse of how our Lord views His priests and preachers and pastors— literally anyone who claims to speak for Him, who fail to give glory to His name (Mal. 2:2).  And the actions of God against the clergy are disturbing, if not outright frightening.


No Honor to My Name

In Malachi 1:6, God begins to chastise the priests because of their disdain and hypocrisy for Him.  They bend over backwards to offer praise and homage and respect to everyone on earth but Him.  He says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If then I am the Father, where is My honor?  And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name.”

Later on in the chapter God again chastises the priests for offering polluted, defiled, worthless sacrifices to Him and trying to pass it off as true worship (Mal. 1:8).  By the time we get to Malachi 1:10, God is telling the priests to “Shut the door of the temple and go home.  You’re wasting your time and My time.  No worship is taking place and I have no pleasure in you.”  Why?  Because they profane His name (Mal. 1:12), seem bored with the task of worship (Mal. 1:13), and greedily keep the best for themselves and give the scraps to God (Mal. 1:14).


The Rebuke of the Clergy

This is where it gets scary.

Remember Who is speaking: God Almighty, the great “I AM”, the Sovereign One, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, the Great and Final Judge.  And remember who He is speaking to: the priests, the preachers and clergy, those who have been called and chosen by God to give Him honor, respect, obedience, love and awe.  Before you sit back and smugly think this warning doesn’t apply to you since you are not a preacher, remember Revelation 1:6 where Christ has made each of us “kings and priests to His God and Father.”  In other words, you and I are also priests of God and, like all priests, should spend our lives glorifying God— whether we have a seminary degree or not.  This warning is for each of us today.

“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you” (Mal. 2:1).

What commandment?  Does the word “this” refer to the commandments from chapter one or do they look forward to the commands of chapter two and following?  Answer: both.  And what happens when the priests fail to heed God’s warning, fail to repent, and give Him the glory due His name?  What happens when preachers, pastors, evangelists, and teachers in the church become selfish, greedy, self-centered and self-seeking, narcissistic, nothing more than egotistical glory-seekers for themselves and begin to lead His sheep astray?  What is God to do then?

“If you will not hear (or, listen, obey), and if you will not take it to heart (or, commit, consider), to give (what) glory to (what) My name,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.  Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart” (Mal. 2:2).

What is God commanding His priests, you and I, to do?  Give glory to His Name.  The term glory means the weight or gravity of God’s presence.  It defines His importance and the honor He is due as God.  The word name is mentioned 6 times in the first 16 verses of Malachi and is the summation of all the attributes of God: His character, reputation, everything.  God is saying if they, we, do not give Him the glory due is name, He will send a curse upon us and our blessings.  In fact, He says, that curse has already begun.

So how bad will the curse be?  How serious is God about all of this?  Is He more serious than He was in Revelation 3:16 where He “vomited them (the church) out of His mouth” for being apathetic, lethargic, and lukewarm?

“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants (or, offspring, children) and spread refuse (or, dung, fecal matter, excrement) on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it” (Mal. 2:3).

Really?  God can’t be serious.  Does God really mean He will spread, or smear refuse, or dung, fecal matter, excrement, on the faces of His priests and their descendants.  I can’t believe God would do this?  It seems so harsh, so hard.  I didn’t think not giving glory to His name was that big of deal.

Well, it is.  You’d better think again.

One of the natural byproducts of animal sacrifices, in addition to a torrent of blood, is excessive excrement or refuse or dung.  Just like what happens when a frightened dog is put in a cage and taken to the Vet, the same thing happens to the cows, sheep, goats and other animals awaiting their death.  The place where the animals were sacrificed reeked with excrement.  According to Levitical law, the excrement, along with other parts of the sacrifice, was to be removed, carried outside the camp, and burned (Ex. 29:14; Lev. 16:27).  They were considered disgusting, defiled, and had no place around the holiness of God.  Of great offense to the priests would be to get fecal matter or dung on their clothing, sandals, or on their skin.  God is saying to the priests He would take this same fecal matter, this animal excrement, and smear it into the creases of their faces.  Why?  Because refusing to show glory and honor to the Lord is not something He takes lightly.  And then the priests are removed, outside of the camp, with the excrement, to be disposed of.  This is what God thinks of those who hypocritically proclaim His name.

After God chastises His priests as such, He then says, “Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you” (Mal. 2:4).  Then you’ll know how truly disgusted I am with you.  Then you’ll know exactly how I feel about your hypocrisy and apathy and contempt for Me.  Yes, then you’ll know how you smell to Me, not as a pleasing aroma, but as excrement.  The animal refuse from your “solemn feasts” (Mal. 2:3).


How Should the Priests Repent?

“My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear Me; so he feared Me and was reverent before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity” (Mal. 2:5-6).

God then uses Levi and as example of how He expects His priests to live and function and fulfill their duty as examples of holiness, righteousness, and sanctity before the God and the people.  What God said to the priests in Malachi’s day, He also says to us today:  We would be wise to listen and obey (Mal. 2:1).

One. the priests must live in contentment with God (Phil. 4:11-13), satisfied with the “life and peace” given them (Mal. 2:5).

Two, they must learn to live in the fear of the Lord, learning how to honor and revere Him above all else (Mal. 2:5).  They must show profound respect for God, His glory, and His name.

Three, they must live and preach the truth.  They must stand for God’s Word, His righteousness, justice, and equity (Mal. 2:6).

Four, they must spend their lives for the sake of others, as a watchman on the wall (Eze. 3:17), turning many away from iniquity by word and deed (Mal. 2:6).

Five, the priests must “walk with God” (Mal. 2:6).  Not walk after God, but walk with God, like Elijah, like David, like Daniel, like Enoch.  They must have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and care about nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

Finally, the priests then and the preachers today must seek and speak the knowledge and truth of God.  Why?  For he, you and I, are a messenger of the Lord of Hosts.

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 2:7).

We, as preachers, as priests, as believers in Christ, as heirs, as joint heirs with the Lord (Rom. 8:17) must seek with every breath in our being the glory of God and the honor of His name.

For if we fail, it may take more than just a few handy wipes or a swipe of antibacterial lotion to wipe the excrement of our sin off our faces.

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