Monday, April 19, 2021

Building Together in Love

When we observe how the local church functions and how many people are functioning in some capacity what do you see? Do we see all the members actively working with other members building up the church? Do we see 75% of the members actively working with other members building up the church? Do we see 50% of the members actively working with other members building up the church? How about 25%? No, statistics reveal that regardless of the size of a local church, less than 20% of the members actively get involved with its function and many of them are heading towards burnout. Why is this happening? Why does it seem to be almost impossible to mobilize the members of the local church? I am sure that there are numerous reason such as, a lack of leadership, a lack of vision, a lack of discipleship, people are to busy, and so on. But I believe the primary reason behind the limited mobilization of the members of a local church comes down to one thing. Swapping the Lords ingenious plan for man's faulty plan(s). Let's look at what the Holy Spirit spoke through the apostle Paul.

"Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8) "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Many church leaders for centuries have rejected the idea that the ministry gifts of the apostle and prophet have continued beyond those of the early church. Their thinking is that the gift or office of apostle and prophet have faded from the scene when the apostles and prophets of the early church died. This thinking goes even farther by saying that along with the passing of the apostles and prophets miracles, signs and wonders have also passed away. They site 1 Corinthians 15:8 which says, "Then last of all He (Jesus) was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time" to mean that Paul was the last of the apostles appointed by the Lord. They also use Ephesians 4:13-14 (shown above) along with 1 Corinthians 3:10; 13:11 to say that these gifts along with the miraculous only functioned as scaffolding while the church was under initial construction, and were removed or faded away once the structure had been completed because the book we call the Bible is the totality of God’s written revelation to the human race. Consequently, people now have access to everything they need (2 Peter 1:3) to enter into a right relationship with God via Christianity and the church of Christ. Without doubt, the Bible is the totality of God’s written revelation to the human race. However, if we look at Ephesians 4:8 again, some light will shine upon us revealing the truth, "Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men."

First, notice that it does not say that Jesus gave temporary gifts to men or that He gave gifts to men only for a season or a certain period of time. Paul tells us, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29) James tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17)  The Lord does revoke the gifts and calling that He gives to His church, because His gifts are good and perfect. Also, notice that James reveals to us something about God that Malachi also reveals, "For I am the LORD, I do not change..." (Malachi 3:6) The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) In other words, from eternity past to eternity future there is no change in Gods character, nature, purposes, plan or his mode of being. What He says is what He means, period. "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19)

If we say that the gift/office of apostle and prophet have faded away and have no need for them because we have the Bible, then we also have to conclude that the gift/office of evangelist, pastor and teacher have also faded away for the same reason. If we also say, "But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" meaning that the gifts of the Spirit, especially miracles have also faded away, because we have the Bible, then we also have to conclude that knowledge has also vanished. (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-10) The context of what Paul is conveying in 1 Corinthians 13 has nothing whatsoever to do with the fading away of gifts and the miraculous that Christ gave to His church. Paul is telling the church to grow up or come into maturity, especially to mature in love because without love the gifts will not function properly. He is telling the church that when Christ returns, "that which is perfect" there will be no further need for any of the gifts that He gave to the church. So, how do we grow up and mature especially in love until Christ returns? Let's reread Ephesians 4:11-16

Another thing that we must consider is found in Paul's description of the church, "And He (Jesus) put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23, also see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27) The church is describe as a body filled with the fullness of Christ the Head. So with this in mind, how would a person operate if two of their fingers, say their thumb and index finger, were missing from both hands? They could function, but they certainly would be limited. What about if a person was missing any two of their five senses? Again, they could function but they would be limited. With that said, how can we logically believe that the Lord would limit His body by removing two important gifts/offices along with the miraculous?
How can we honestly think this especially when he gave all five of these gifts/offices for maturing the church? His would not do such a thing! Do we honestly believe that for the last seventeen hundred years the church has reach or surpassed the maturity that Ephesian 4:1-16 is talking about? Do we suppose that the last seventeen hundred years of the church is more mature than the first three hundred years?

Many proponents of the extinction of the apostle, prophet and miracles will say to those who know that the Lord has not removed from His church apostle, prophet and miracles , beware "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works"  (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) not even considering that it is they that Satan has deceived. Certainly the church must beware that false apostles and prophets can appear, but the context in which this passage appears is Paul defending his apostleship. He is not insinuating or alluding too at all that when he leaves this life there will be no more apostles.

Next, we also see another fact that sheds light on the existence of apostles (maybe not recognized) today. Paul, tells us the all of the ascension gifts were given "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." How can any church leader look at church history for the past 1700 years and honestly believe that the church. has arrived any time, "to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Do we honest believe that what we call the church is unified? That the church operates in the full knowledge of the Son of God? That the church completely functions in the fullness of Christ? Let's be honest. What we call the church today is not even close to just being united, let alone these other important issue that makes the church one in Christ.

So, why do statistics reveal that less than 20% of the members of most local churches do all the work while 80% remain idle? I truly believe it is due to eliminating the gift/office of the apostle and prophet by church Pharisees who have embraced the philosophies of men over the word of God. They have been blinded by the god of the world, Satan, who is still at work against the church to do what he did in the beginning, that is, discredit God and His Word. (Genesis 3:1-5) Jesus gave to the church "some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, to work together,  "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry." Their is not one verse of scripture (other than ones taken out of context) that says that the gift/office of the apostle and prophet have faded away and are of no long any use once the early church apostles and prophets died  We do not seem to understand the harm that we have done to ourselves by eliminating these key gifts/offices for our "better ideas." Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Thank You Lord Jesus

Once you have been in the church enough years and are exposed to Christians from the many denominations that exist, you will find that not to many of them realize the oneness that we have with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For most, Jesus was beaten, condemned, crucified, died and raised from the dead and by confessing Him as Lord and accepting Him as Savior who paid for our sins one escapes judgment and will spend eternity in heaven. Although this is true, what most believers have missed is what happened in the spiritual realm. It was what Jesus did for humanity in the spiritual realm far surpasses what happened to Jesus in the natural. All the people who surrounded the cross could only see the physical man Jesus, hanging on the cross, beaten, bleeding and physically dying. In the same way, all the people who watch movies depicting the life and death of Jesus only see the same. However, man is a spirit with a soul in a body and in the spiritual realm God the Father, the angels and demons could see the real man hidden in His body. So let us look at what took place beyond the beating and crucifixion of His physical body. 

"He has made Him who knew nothing of sin to be sin for us..." (2 Corinthians 5:21) But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and by his bruises we are healed. We all, like sheep, went astray; we turned, each one, to his own way; yet Adonai laid on him the guilt of all of us." (Isaiah 53:5-6) "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree") (Galatians 3:13) On the cross not only did Jesus become sin, but He became a curse also. Is it any wonder that the Father had forsaken Him, "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46)

As this awful drama continues we see that, "Surely He has borne our sicknesses and carried our diseases..." (Isaiah 53:4) Another translation says, "In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered..." Laid upon Jesus as He hung on the cross was the sin, diseases and sicknesses of the human race. Through the years the ignorance of some would blame the Jews or even the Romans (Gentiles) for what had happened to Jesus. But we see that, "it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief." (Isaiah 53:10) another version says, "it pleased Jehovah to crush Him; He has made Him sick." Finally, upon the cross Jesus' physical life was extinguished, "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit." (Matthew 27:50) Notice that He yielded up His spirit, not the Spirit. All of the sin, sickness, disease and pains were not place on His physical body, but upon His spirit. Once this happened He became mortal, that is, subject to death. Remember what Jesus said,  "...I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again..." (John 10:17-18)

No one could take His life from Him, He could not be killed. This may be hard for some to believe, but even after He turned Himself over to be put to death, His body could not die until sin had been placed upon His spirit making Him mortal. In other words, Jesus had to die spiritually, as Adam did, before He could die physically, as Adam also did. Once He became one with fallen man in weakness, in sin, in disease and spiritual death, He physically died and His spirit went to hell for three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:40) Now let us look at what this all means for the believer. To do this we must look beyond the natural realm and think on terms of the spiritual realm.

The apostle Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ..." (Galatians 2:20) This means that Paul (all believers) were judged, condemned, stripped naked and nailed to the cross with Jesus, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Romans 6:6) Next, Paul also tells us, "do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death..." (Romans 6:3-4)  When Jesus died and His spirit went to hell, we died and went to hell. "For my soul hath been full of evils, and my life hath come to Sheol. I have been reckoned with those going down [to] the pit, I have been as a man without strength. Among the dead -- free, As pierced ones lying in the grave, Whom Thou hast not remembered any more, Yea, they by Thy hand have been cut off. Thou hast put me in the lowest pit, In dark places, in depths." (Psalms 88:3-6)

Now look at the reality of what took place at the end of the three days and nights that Jesus spent in hell, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18) In the dark regions of hell Jesus was made alive by the Spirit. Concerning the believer Paul tells us, "even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ..." (Ephesians 2:5) "And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him" (Colossians 2:13) When Jesus was made alive we were made alive.

Next, we see another incredible truth concerning the believers identification with Christ, "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." (Ephesians 1:19-21)  "and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6) When Jesus was raised from the dead and sat down at the Fathers 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, we too were raised from the dead and sit together with Christ.

For Christ to sit down at the Fathers right hand after being made sin and for the believer to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places could never happen for Christ or the believer if something miraculous did not happen first. "For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:17-19)  "God has fulfilled this for us their children, (the seed of Abraham) in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm, You are My Son, today I have begotten You. And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption..." (Acts 13:33-34)  Jesus became mans substitute and was declared righteous because He had satisfied the claims of justice. He was made so righteous, that He could enter into the presences of the Father as though He had never been made sin. But it doesn't stop there. 

"Therefore, having been justified (declared righteous) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1) "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) Because Jesus was made righteous, then all who confess Him as Lord and accept Him as Savior are automatically made the righteousness of God in Christ. We also become completely new, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) This all means that Satan and all of his forces of darkness no longer have dominion over the believer. The believer is a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and therefore sin, disease and sickness no longer belong to the New Created, Born Again believer. The Father has made us one with Christ. (John 15:5) Hallelujah!

So, if you have been told or are still being told things such as, you are still a sinner who was saved by grace; that you do not have the ability to please God; that you have a dual nature, one of sin and one righteousness; that God does not heal, deliver and make one whole today, then you are struggling with "The Doctrines of the Dark Ages" and do not live the abundant life that Jesus said He came to give. (John 10:10) Paul tells us, "And the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is  liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17) and "It is for freedom that Christ set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not again be held under the yoke of slavery." (the fallen nature that you had before you were born again, Galatians 5:1) Also, "For you learned with regard to your former way of living that you must cast off your old nature, (the fallen nature that you had before you were born again) which, yielding to deluding passions, grows corrupt; That the very spirit of your minds must be constantly renewed; (with God's Word) And that you must clothe yourselves in that new nature (the born again nature) which was created to resemble God, with the righteousness and holiness springing from the Truth (God's Word) (Ephesians 4:22-24)

It is OK to listen to what others say, but every Christian must do what they did in the City of Berea (located in southwestern Macedonia) where Paul and Silas preached the gospel, "...they welcomed the Message with great readiness, and daily examined the Scriptures to see if what was said was true." (Acts 17:11) May the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion with the Holy Spirit, be with you all.    

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Blessed Freedom

Freedom is defined in many ways, but I like to define it from the position of what Jesus announced as His mission on earth to those in the synagogue in Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:18-19) In other words, to be free is to be released or rescued from being confined, enslaved, captured, or imprisoned either physically, emotionally or spiritually. Many believers talk about their freedom in Christ without having a true biblical understanding of it. Many seem to think that freedom in Christ is to cast off all restraint and do whatever they "feel" like doing once they have made a profession of faith. This means only obeying the scripture that they "feel" they should and or that they can continue in their sin because after all "I am free." Freedom is not based on our feelings or what scriptures "I" decide to obey. Freedom finds its anchor through faith in Jesus Christ.

In Luke 17:1-4 Jesus teaches the apostle about offenses. He says, "It is impossible that no offenses should come..." The apostles response should not only be a learning experience for every believer, but also something that should be applied daily due to what Jesus said. Their response was, "Increase our faith." (Luke 17:5) This is the only place in the New Testament where the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. They were not asking for more faith to heal the sick, cast out demons or preach, but the faith to not offend as well as the faith to deal with offenses when they come. Remember, Jesus said that offenses would come and then He them the power of faith, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you." (Luke 17:6)

Next, Jesus continues to speak to the apostles by asking them three questions, "which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, come at once and sit down to eat? But will he not rather say to him, prepare something for my supper and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterwards you will eat and drink? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?" (Luke 17:7-9) What does this have to do with dealing with offenses? Much, if you understand that "the Spirit of God dwells in you." (1 Corinthians 3:16), that "you are not your were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that "you are a new creation; old things have passed away..." (2 Corinthians 5:17), that "you are a  new creation created according to God in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:24) (for the lack of space I will not site the numerous verses of scripture that reveal who the believer is in Christ)

Finally, Jesus concludes this matter, "I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which are commanded, say, we are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty." (Luke 17:10) What does Jesus mean, "We have done what was our duty?" When it comes to dealing with offenses, what is the believers duty? If we know who we are in Christ, we won't offend others nor will we become offended by others, even if the offense comes from another believer. Look what the Holy Spirit speaks through Peter, "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, (and sisters) be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:8-9) 

This is the believers duty when it comes to dealing with offenses. First, we should never offend another person, period! Our duty is to have compassion for one another; love as brothers, (and sisters) be tenderhearted, be courteous. If we do our duty as shown here, we will never offend another person whether a believer or unbeliever. Next, if you are offended by anyone, your duty is not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this.  Believers are not to claim, receive or hold on to an offense. If they do, and unfortunately many do, they will fail doing their duty and unfortunately, open the door of their heart for the devil to hold them captive which prevents God from blessing them.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us what believers are to do when someone brings an offense. No matter how small or large the offense is, believers are to forgive, period. (Matthew 18:21-27) As Peter said, believers are to bless (forgive) not curse (hold unforgiveness). Jesus also tells us what happens when a believer holds on to unforgiveness. The believer is tormented because he/she has given place to the devil (torturers). (Matthew 18:28-34) The sad thing is Jesus' conclusion to this matter to believers who have unforgiveness, "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matthew 18:35)

If you have been offended and are dealing with unforgiveness, you can be totally free from the hurt, torment and or ill feelings that you have towards another person right now. First, let the offense out by speaking what the offense was and who it was that offended you. Secondly, you must completely forgive them no matter how difficult it may seem. (Colossians 3:13) Next, purpose not to think (2 Corinthians 10:5) or speak (Ephesians 4:29) anything concerning this matter ever again. In doing so, you will not "give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:27) Also, ask the Lord to forgive you for holding on to unforgiveness (1 John 1:9) Finally, let 1 Peter 3:8-9 have place in your heart and speak blessings over the one(s) who have offended you. In doing these things, you not only release the one that you have held captive in your heart through unforgiveness, but you also will free yourself from being tormented due to unforgiveness. Although Jesus said, "offenses will come" by applying these simple principles by faith you will walk in freedom overcoming all offenses. With that said, I have one final thought. Time does not heal wounds, only forgiveness from the heart does. So let it all go and become the blessing that you are called to be to others, so that you may inherit a blessing.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Perfect Mediator

Now that resurrection Sunday 2015 has been celebrated, let us live everyday never forgetting where we came from and mostly let us never forgot what Christ did for us. Due to the fall of man in the Garden, all mankind has paid the price for Adam's act of treason, "just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men." (Romans 5:12) Man has lost his approach to God and is described by Paul as "without Christ...having no hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12) Think about this. Man without Christ is hopeless, Godless, and in the world where Satan has the power of death. (Hebrews 2:14)

To take this sorrow even further, man is described as having become a partaker of Satan's nature. He is not only a subject of Satan politically, but he is vitally united with him. Jesus pointed this out to the Pharisees when they feverishly tried to defend their self-righteousness, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." (John 8:44)

Job had a startling encounter that also reveals man's state without a mediator before God, "Now a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a whisper of it. In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence; then I heard a voice saying: Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?" (Job 4:12-17) 

This is the age old problem. This is the eternal problem that has confronted the thinking man of all ages. Can mortal man be justified or acquitted before God? Shall fallen man be pure in the presence of his Maker? Job also paints  a graphic picture of an aged man on his death-bed facing eternity and the approach of judgment. Job continues and speaks out of the agony within his soul. "Now my days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good. They pass by like swift ships, like an eagle swooping on its prey. If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face and wear a smile, I am  afraid of all my sufferings; I know that You will not hold me innocent. If I am condemned, why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and cleanse my hands with soap, yet You will plunge me into the pit, and my own clothes (self-righteousness) will abhor me." (Job 9:25-31)  

Job knows that he cannot face God, for God is not mortal and He is not under the bondage and guilt of sin as Job is. Job then utters the saddest words that ever fell from the lips of a human. "There is no mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both." (Job 9:33) In other words, there is no Mediator between man and God who has a legal standing with God and at the same time can sympathize, understand and represent man. This is Job's cry for a mediator. But it is not the cry of Job alone. It is the age old cry of man, who in vain has worked hard to sooth their guilty sin laden conscience by creating various religions and or acts of the flesh. Some of the ways man has tried to appease his conscience come in the form of so called Christian cults such as Russelism, Mormonism and Christian Science. Others such as, eastern religions of idolatry, human and animal sacrifices and the beating of the flesh. Worshipers of Satan as well as others who go about committing murder and mayhem in the name of Allah which are considered good works. 

All of these twisted means are an attempt to get right with God. However, even in all of these things, God's character has not changed and man's fallen nature is still the same. Man today can no more approach God without a Mediator than he could throughout his entire history. Some men will even tell us that if they live a good moral life, that this is all God can require of them, and that if there is a heaven they have as much right to it as those who trust in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth, the one and only Mediator. Paul tells us, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:5-6) Peter tells us, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Only the people who have welcomed Jesus Christ as Savior and have received the life that He brings from God, have an assured confidence that they can once again can approach God without guilt, condemnation or inferiority. Let no one deceive you. It is only by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone that one can, "...come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) "...and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3) The writers of the Bible all teach one great truth, "Man needs a Mediator." Today, scholarship if it is scholarship, knowledge if it is real knowledge, should lead all minds to the same goal. "How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman?" (Job 25:4) As with Job, it is still the cry of the human heart, man needs a Mediator and that Mediator is Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God.

Please take some time to ponder the words written here. There are people that you know who need Jesus the Mediator. He is the only one who can set people free from the guilt of sin. He is the only one whose sinless blood has paid in full the crimes of humanity. He is the only one who came to give life and give it more abundantly. Never forget what He has done for you. So, now go and tell another person the Good News, Jesus is alive and "this is the promise that He has promised us, eternal life." (1 John 2:25) May the grace and peace of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all...

Monday, March 22, 2021

Amazing Grace

God spoke through two of the major prophets in the Bible, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, revealing His plan to establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. However, this New Covenant would not be limited to Israel and Judah alone, but it would also open the door for the justification and restoration of all mankind (John 3:16, Romans 1:16) God calls it a New Covenant because it would fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant and also accomplish what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to. The most incredible thing that this New Covenant reveals is that it has absolutely nothing to do with any human endeavor. 

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD, ' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."  (Jeremiah 31:31-34) 

"Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God...For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them." (Ezekiel 11:19-21, 36:24-28)

I have emphasized the key component of the New Covenant. God says, "I Will." Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with any human endeavor. God has made Himself responsible to establish and uphold the New Covenant. (Hebrews 7:22) The New Covenant will no longer be laws and commands written on tablets of stone but a covenant placed within a new transformed heart of flesh as and object of His infinite love. (2 Corinthians 3:3)  He is not going to become our God only in a general sense, but all that there is in God will belong to those who are in this New Covenant with Him, (John 16:15) He has also made Himself completely responsible to keep us, bless us, honor us, provide for us and love us, etc. (Matthew 6:25-32). As much as He is our portion, we are also His portion (John 15:5) Those under the New Covenant shall know God as Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They will come to know Him personally as a man knows his wife. They will know His will, nature, character, purposes and plan all because He will open the door of communion and fellowship with Him and those under this New Covenant. (John 14:5-10, 26, 17:3, 20-26, 1 John 1:3)

God said, "I will forgive them and will remember their sin no more" that is all sin, transgression and iniquity will be blotted out and never mentioned again (Isaiah 43:25, Acts 2:38) He will take people from among the nations, because salvation is for all people (John 3:16, Romans 1:16) He will sprinkle clean water and cleanse His New Covenant people with the water of His Word. (Ephesians 5:25-28) His people will be given oneness of heart manifested through God’s love (John 13:34, John 17:21) He will put a new spirit in these New Covenant people, that is, God will transform the dead human spirit and completely recreate it (2 Corinthians 5:17) and to put the icing on the cake, He will put His Spirit within them. (John 14:16-17) What does this all mean to you and I? The New Covenant is based on pure grace and nothing else but grace. According to the Bible, grace is defined as, "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) another translations says it this way, " For it is God Himself whose power creates within you the desire to do His will and also brings about the accomplishment of the desire."

Basically, God's grace is God giving us what we do not deserve such as, forgiveness, healing, provision, long live, eternal life, His ability, etc. However, it was Him, He alone made the decision to do everything it would take to satisfy justice and completely restore humanity to what He had intended before the fall. Not only did He do what He said He would do as He spoke through the prophets, but the amazing attribute of grace is He has given the believer His ability and the desire to do His will. Well, how can we implement this wonderful, amazing grace into our daily lives? "Therefore, having been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2 )

Every believer can walk daily in the abundance of grace that God has if we are willing to "walk by faith and not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7) Notice carefully to what Paul says, "walk by faith." Simply reading and meditating on God's Word is not enough to build our faith. It only creates a capacity for faith. Faith is only built when believers acts upon God's Word through their daily lives and daily speech. James says it this way, "...I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18), that is, acting on God's Word. This is the kind of faith that pleases God (Mark 11:22-24) As we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit giving us revelation of God's Word we will become completely convinced that His Word is one hundred percent true and we no longer base His Word on experiences or a manifestation. We believe and act on God's Word because God’s Word says so, period. All believers must be fully convinced of this fact, "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19) May, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.    


Monday, March 15, 2021

Front Line Leadership

One of the greatest need that is lacking in almost every area of every society is effective leadership. Whether governments, businesses, organizations, churches or families, the rise or fall of them lies upon the effectiveness of those who lead them. The life of the church today depends on leaders who fully depend upon the builder and leader of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) Although this is meant for all believers, it should be the highest priority in the life of church leaders.

There are some things that we should take note of in this verse. First, the vine (Jesus) does not bear the fruit, nor does the Holy Spirit. The branches (believers) bear the fruit enabled by the Holy Spirit. Next, as a branch cannot survive without the vine, the vine needs the branch to bear the fruit. This speaks of an incredible oneness that believers have with Christ. With this in mind let's look at some of the characteristics that make a good leader.

"This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

Although the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul is revealing the qualifications for an Elder in the church, the leadership (government) of the early church was first through Christ, then the Apostles and after that through Eldership (and deacon as the need arose). When talking of Elders I mean the leaders of the church. Those who are called by the Lord to oversee, lead, make decisions and build up the church. We can clearly see from the passage above that Elders must be qualified men before being accepted into leadership. God demands moral and spiritual qualifications to be met before a man can lead His people. As you can also see, being a church leader has nothing to do with vocation whether a physician, attorney, educator, being involved in public office, etc., because these vocations can be held by men without spiritual or moral integrity. Now let's look at the qualifications of an Elder (church leader) as shown above. (There are other qualification and much more scripture that I could share concerning church leaders but for the sake of space I will only share the contents of the above passage in a more exhaustive way)

A bishop (Elder) then must be blameless, have unquestionable integrity. He must be the husband of one wife. This does not necessarily mean he needs to be married, but if married it must be to one wife. He must be  temperate, that is disciplined, exercising self-control. He must be sober-minded,  having a sound mind. He must be of good behavior, have a respectable life-style. He must be hospitable, have a fondness and willingness to receive people into his house.  He must be able to teach, skilled in the Word of God both in word and action. He must not be given to wine, not addicted to alcoholic beverages or even allowing them to impair his  physiological functions in the slightest He must not be violent, lash out with the hand or mouth. He must not be greedy for money, work at acquiring money by any means. He must be gentle, patient, considerate have the ability to remain calm. He must not be quarrelsome, contentious, argumentative or one who gets involved with fist fights. He must not be covetous; that is not controlled by the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh or the pride of life. He must be one who rules his own house well, he must preside over and manage his household in an excellent manner. His children must be in submission with all reverence, he must have his children under control showing respect. He must not be a novice, that is he must not be new to the faith but have wisdom, understanding and experience in the things of the Spirit and the Word of God. He must have a good testimony among those who are outside the church, neighbors, fellow employees, etc.

As you can see, God has set up qualifications for church leaders not only for the leader himself but for the protection of the believer. As it was in the early church we seem to be faced with the same lack in the church today, quality, spirit filled leaders called by God to lead His people. The apostle Paul said, "For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers..." (1 Corinthians 4:15) A modern interpretation of this verse could be, "For though you might have ten thousand professional clergy, yet you do not have many who nourish, protect, uphold, and lead." Not one Bible college or seminary can produce qualified leaders. This does not imply that a formal education does not have its place or have any value, but it is God Himself who truly raises up and qualifies church leaders. (Acts 4:13). Church leaders must be men who are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. They must be men of godly character, divine ability, and possess the wisdom of God "to lead His children in and out that they not be like sheep which have no shepherd." (Numbers 27: 17)

I believe that even now God is restoring true New Testament leadership to the church. The problem that the church faces is dealing with the many non-biblical concepts of leadership that have infiltrated the church. God will eliminate these concepts by changing the hearts of His people and preparing them to accept scriptural principles and patterns of true biblical leadership. How about you? Are you one of those who God is calling, raising up and qualifying to be a leader? If so, then keep looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and He will qualify you to lead the way.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Prevailing Through the Storms

 One of the many exciting stories recorded in the gospels of the life of Jesus is found in the three synoptic gospels. Although the following account is very similar in detail in all three gospels I will still share some parts from all three. 

"Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, "Let us cross over to the other side of the lake." And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another,"Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!" (Luke 8:22-25)

There are many interesting aspects to this story. First, we notice "a windstorm came down on the lake." Naturally, windstorms do happen because storms are the result of the fall of man. However, I believe this particular windstorm had demonic origins. Why do I say this? Before the fall, Adam was given dominion not only over the creatures that were on the earth, but God made him to have dominion over all of the works of His hands. (Psalm 8:6) Also, prior to this incident Mark records, "Jesus healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, "You are the Son of God." But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:" (Mark 3:10-15)   Think about it, at this particular time all those on earth who either had direct authority or delegated authority over the forces of darkness were in this boat. The devil may have thought if he could take them out he would still have the authority that Adam forfeited to him. (Luke 4:6)

Although the storm was filling the boat with water to the point that they were in jeopardy, Jesus was still asleep. This is a very important key for believers to understand if we are to walk daily in victory over every circumstance in this life no matter how insurmountable they may seem. We must keep in mind that Satan is defeated (Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14), that we have authority over all of the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19), that we also have been given the power of attorney to use the Name of Jesus which carries with it all authority (Matthew 28:18, Mark 16:17-18, Philippians 2:5-11), that we also have God's Word that is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and the we are God's Children (John 1:12, Romans 8:15-16)

We all of these mighty weapons of God available to us. By using them, we too can rest in the midst of the storm. However, do we apply to our lives what Solomon said, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6) You see, walking in victory comes down to whose words you are going to believe, the words of man, the words of the devil or the Word of God? (Matthew 16:13-23)  Naturally, we must believe God's Word over man's and Satan's words, but how can we cause God's Word to work in our lives?

We must first understand that although reading the Bible and confessing scripture is a great thing, if we are not acting upon it, then we are not really applying faith. Simply put, this is how true Bible faith works, we believe God's Word and then act upon it. James tells us, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves...But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 1:22, 2:18) So how can I be a doer of the Word? How can I show my faith by my works?

First, we we must be people who abide in God's Word (John 8:32-33) To abide in God's Word is to accept it wholeheartedly with exception, to believe it without doubting, to stand upon it without wavering. We must be convinced that what God has promised He is also able to perform (Romans 4:20-21). Now we find scripture that is directly related to the circumstance, confess it with our mouth, believe it in our heart and then thank Him for the answer even when there is not one shred of physical evidence. You see, by thanking God for the desired results (which must be according to His Will which is His Word 1 John 5:14-15) I am acting on His Word. I thank Him not because of a manifestation, but because I agree that His Word is true and it never fails. (Isaiah 55:11) Jesus said it this way, "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." (Mark 11:23-24)

Mark 11:23-24 is one of the most controversial passage of scripture to most in the church today. However, this is the epitome of true Bible faith. Doubt will always neutralize faith. Peter had faith to walk on the water, and he did, but doubt caused him to sink. The doubt was brought on by fear. Doubt neutralized his faith!!! (Matthew 14:28-31) Jesus tells us that we must believe that those things we say will be done. Finally, Jesus tells us that we must believe that we receive what we have asked for and you will have them. Believe that you receive, not receive and then believe. True Bible faith receives what God has already said. What God has already promised. What God has already work through Christ, even though there is no physical  evidence.  "Now faith is a well-grounded assurance of that for which we hope, and a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

The apostle.Thomas did not exercise faith even though Jesus told His disciple that after His death He would rise. (Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22) Nor did he believe even after many reported that in fact Jesus was risen. Not only did Thomas have to see the risen Lord, but he had to examine Him (the holes in His hands and feet, evidence seen) before he would believe. (John 24-29) This is the greatest struggle for most believers, believing that you have received without any physical evidence. Why? Because most believers have been taught to be skeptical of the supernatural. They have been trained to only accept things that their five senses can understand. This is exactly what Thomas did and Jesus rebuked him for it. He did not believe the Lord's Word concerning His resurrection. If he had, once he heard that Jesus was risen, he would have believed and acted upon it by rejoicing even though he himself had not seen the Lord. Instead, he had to see the Lord to believe that He was risen.

As the story winds down we see Jesus take control of the situation, He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. This should be the response of every believer when facing the difficulties of life. James tells us to count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2) In other words, do not let the trial have control, let joy rise up and then stand on God's Word remembering that God did not bring the trial (James 1:13) Also remember, believers are not called to fight the devil, Jesus defeated him. We are called to fight the good fight of faith. (1 Timothy 6:12) It is our faith in the integrity of God's Word that puts us over, not physical manifestations.

Think about this. If you are struggling with physical pain or some sort of sickness in your body, do not deny its existence, that would be lying. What you do, is deny its right to exist in your body which has been purchased by Jesus and is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Why do you take this position? Because God's Word says, "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness, by whose stripes you were (past tense) healed." (1 Peter 2:24 also see Isaiah 53:4-5)  You believe what Peter says, (it's God's Word) denying the right of the physical manifestation of pain or sickness to have place in your body. As Jesus rebuked the storm, you rebuke the devil and the symptoms that he is trying to put upon you or has manifested in your body.

Finally, Jesus confronts the disciples asking them, "Where is your faith?" The other accounts of this story say, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith." (Matthew 8:26) and "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" (Mark 4:40) In either case, it comes down to an issue of faith. Will we exercise faith in God's Word or will we let fear and or doubt have place? Will we believe only if we see a manifestation or will we believe because the Word of God says so? For most, this can be an arduous ordeal. Why? It is because church leaders continue to teach believers through a somewhat subliminal message to trust in their senses and not God's Word. The only way to reverse these faithless words of doubt, fear and unbelief that have filled the hearts of God's beloved children, is to renew the mind with God's Word. (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23)  Renewing ones mind and dealing with these stronghold takes a process of time. It comes down to each individual and just how deep these strongholds have captured their mind.

But be of good cheer, because God has given you a measure of faith (Romans 12:3) Through reading, studying and most importantly meditating on God's Word your faith will grow. (Romans 10:17) So, if you find yourself in the midst of a storm, "Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." (Galatians 6:9) Don't lose heart. Don't give up "Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23) God is faithful. His Word never fails. "It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) and always keeping in mind, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (that is, the Word of God) (Revelation 12:11)