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Let’s focus more detail on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, what He does for us and in us, and how we are involved in His work.

IV. Sanctifying Work of the Spirit

      A. Necessity

          1. Galatians 3:1-18

          2. Galatians 5:17

          3. Romans 7:14-8:4

      B. Transformative work of the Spirit

          1. Galatians 5:22-23      2. Romans 8:13

      C. How we are involved

          1. Romans 6:11    2. I Corinthians 10:13   

          3. Philippians 4:8  4. Galatians 4:24,26

          5. I Corinthians 6:18    6. II Corinthians 5:7

          7. II Corinthians 5:14-15

Study Guide

IV. Sanctifying Work of the Spirit

1. In what ways do the following verses point out that

    the work of the Spirit is necessary?

    a. Galatians 3:1-18

 

    b. Galatians 5:17

 

    c. Romans 7:14-8:4

 

2a. Based on Galatians 5:22-23, who produces the fruits?

 

b. List the fruits and then indicate on which one(s) of the

    following each one focuses:   inward, outward, upward

    1)

    2)

    3)

    4)  

    5)  

    6)

    7)

    8)

    9)

 

3a. According to Romans 8:13 do we have a part in the

       Spirit working in us? If so, what is it?

 

b. The following verses shed further light on the answer to

#3a. How do each of these verses say we may be involved?

     1) Romans 6:11

 

     2) I Corinthians 10:13       

 

     3) Philippians 4:8 

 

     4) Galatians 5:24,26

 

     5) I Corinthians 6:18

 

     6) II Corinthians 5:7

 

     7) II Corinthians 5:14-15

 

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The Divine Person of the Holy Spirit, as we have seen is evidenced by many characteristics of both divinity and personhood. Now we want to emphasize the aspect of this divine person’s work in the world and believers.

III. Work of the Holy Spirit

      A. In the World

          1. Creation  Job 33:4

          2. Inspiration of Scriptures  II Peter 1:21

          3. Miracles  Matthew 12:28

          4. Providence  Psalm 104:30

          5. Conviction  John 16:7-9

      B. In Believers

          1. Regeneration  Titus 3:5

                   a. Revealing and convicting of

                             1) sins         2) original sin (intentions)

                             3) failing of own works

                   b. Revealing of God

                             1) holiness  2) mercy

                   c. Revealing of Christ’s saving work

          2. Sanctification

               Salvation is a great gift

              Thought by the Father above

              Received by faith in the work

              Bought by the Son here in love

              In our hearts promoting change

             Wrought by the Spirit, the Dove

          3. Resurrection  Romans 8:11

          4. Teaches  Luke 12:12

          5. Commands  Acts 13:2

          6. Assurance  Ephesians 1:13-14

          7. Leading and filling

      C. Our Response

                1. Ephesians 4:3      2. II Timothy 2:15

                3. Romans 8:16       4. Revelation 3:14,22

Study Guide

III. Work of the Holy Spirit

A. The H.S. has worked and is working in the world.

     How is He at work in the following verses?

1. Job 33:4 

 

2. II Peter 1:21

 

3. Matthew 12:28

 

4. Psalm 104:30

 

5. John 16:7-9

 

B. How is He working in believers ? Titus 3:5

 

6. Regeneration 

a. What is the term in the verse for revealing problems in a

     person’s heart in John 16:7-11?

1) sins  2) original sin (intentions)   3) failing of own works

b. What is being shown the sinner when he/she is convicted

     of righteousness? What and/or who is being revealed?

 

    1) holiness        2) mercy

 

c. God is just and sin must be judged. How is the saved

    sinner’s sin judged?

 

7. Renewing (Sanctification) II Thessalonians 2:13-14

Salvation is a great gift

Thought by the Father above

Received by faith in the work

Bought by the Son here in love

In our hearts promoting change

Wrought by the Spirit, the Dove

8. What other important works of the Spirit are spoken of

     in the following verses?     

a. Romans 8:11

b. Luke 12:12

c. Acts 13:2

d. Ephesians 1:13-14

More on the following in the next days

e. Leading

f. Filling

Application.

9. Is God active in the world today? How?

 

10. Does the believer have a part in the work of Spirit or

      should we get out of the way so He can work?

      a. Ephesians 4:3

      b. II Timothy 2:15

      c. Romans 8:16

      d. Revelation 3:14,22

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The Spirit is both divine and a person. Let us survey the evidence from Scripture that He is indeed both, not subordinate and not a mere force.

II. Divine Person of the Holy Spirit

    A. Divine…not subordinate

         1.  Names

              a. Named separate from Almighty God

                   1) Exodus 31:1-5             2) Psalm 51:1

               b. Called God Acts 5:1-5

          2. Divine Attributes

                a. Omnipresence Psalm 139:7-8

                b. Omniscience I Corinthians 2:10-11

                c. Omnipotence Luke 1:35

                d. Sovereignty I Corinthians 12:11

                e. Eternity Hebrews 9:14

           3. Works

           4. Honors

                a. Unpardonable Sin Matthew 12:31

                b. In Trinity in position and action- I John 5:7

    B. Person…not force

          1. Name John 14:26

               a. Comforter- KJV, ESV

               b. Helper-  NASB c. Advocate- NIV

          2. Personal characteristics

               a. Intelligence- teach  John 14:26

               b. Will- Acts 16:7

               c. Affections- Isaiah 63:10

          3. Actions of a Person

          4. Stands as a separate Person

               a. I Peter 1:1-2          b. II Corinthians 13:14

          5. Separate from His power- I Corinthians 2:4

Study Guide

II. Divine Person of the Holy Spirit

1. What does the word divine mean?

 

2. Is He subordinate to anyone else?

 

The following are evidences that the Holy Spirit is divine. 

He is named separate from Almighty God, distinct from Him.

3a. How is the Holy Spirit separated from God Almighty in 

       these verses? 

      1) Exodus 31:1-5

      2) Psalm 51:10-11

 b. How is the Holy Spirit declared divine in Acts 5:1-5?

 

4. The divine attributes mentioned in these verses point to 

    the Holy Spirit’s divinity. What do each of the following 

    say about Him and His divinity?

a. Psalm 139:7-8

b. I Corinthians 2:10-11

c. Luke 1:35

d. I Corinthians 12:11

e. Hebrews 9:14

5. If the Holy Spirit could do things only God could do, 

   would that give evidence that He is God?

 

6. Honors

a. Why is speaking against the Holy Spirit an unpardonable 

    sin? Matthew 12:24,28-31

 

b. In what ways is the Holy Spirit honored as part of the 

    Trinity in I John 5:7?

 

7. Various names are used for the Holy Spirit in John 

    14:26:

     1) Comforter- KJV, ESV,       2)  Helper-  NASB,

     3) Advocate- NIV. How do these point to the Holy Spirit

          being a person instead of a force?

 

8. If the Holy Spirit has characteristics of a person that is 

     good evidence that He is a person. What personal

     characteristic does each of the following verses point out?

a. John 14:26

b. Acts 16:7

c. Isaiah 63:10

9. Actions of a person would also give evidence that He is a person.

10. In what two ways does the H.S. stand as a separate 

       person in each of the following verses?

       a. I Peter 1:1-2

       b. II Corinthians 13:14

 

11. Why does the Spirit’s power in I Corinthians 2:4

     indicate He is a person distinct from the God Almighty?

 

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Is the Holy Spirit a person or a force, coequal or subordinate, active or passive, divine or not, real or imagined, Old Testament or New, available or aloof?

These are but a few of the questions I hope to answer in a Scripture based study of the Holy Spirit. I hope you will read along and look up the references for your own benefit. The five studies will be divided up in to two parts, an outline and a study guide. The topics are not exhaustive on Scripture about the Spirit but I do believe they are thorough.

Is the Holy Spirit a New Testament invention?

I. Trinity- One God, three Persons      Deuteronomy 6:4

    A. Does the Spirit show up in the Old Testament?

         1.  Use of plural

               a. Genesis 1:26            b. Genesis 3:22

               c. Genesis 11:7

        2. God conversing within the Trinity

              a. Psalm 45:6-7             b. Psalm 110:1

         3. All three mentioned

              a. Isaiah 48:16        b. Isaiah 42:1-4  Who is “My Servant”?

B. Spirit spoken of more clearly after Pentecost

          1. Sent

              a. John 15:26               b. John 3:34

          2. Prophesied in the OT: Ezekiel 36:22-28

Study Guide

I. Trinity

*Is the Holy Spirit a New Testament invention?

1. What does Deuteronomy 6:4 say about God?

2. Does the Spirit show up in the Old Testament?

a. What about the following verses suggest the Holy Spirit?

    1) Genesis 1:26   2) Genesis 3:22   3) Genesis 11:4

b. What is happening within God in the following verses

    and what does it suggest about Him?

    1) Psalm 45:6-7 2) Psalm 110:1

c. Who are the three persons referred to in these verses?

   1) Isaiah 48:16    2) Isaiah 42:1-4  Who is “My Servant”?

3. Why is the Spirit spoken of more clearly after

    Pentecost?

a. Because He is _______     a. John 15:26   b. John 3:34

b. In the OT this was ____________    Ezekiel 36:22-28

Application.

4. Since the Holy Spirit is God, how should you interact

    with Him?

5. What are some ways you find out more about Him?

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I have thought about 2 Peter 3 extensively and even written about it (see “Four Singularities”). It is all amazing to me but verses 10-13 are just fascinating:

” But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned upSince all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (underlining mine)

Many of the words describing the demise of the created order as we now know it must certainly be metaphor. Indeed, they must be for our quantum mechanics and relativity still cannot fathom what God will do then. But our present understanding does align with what the Scriptures say and very possibly give us some insight into what God is saying through Peter. I am particularly interested as a student of science in the words I have underlined. I am fully aware that this passing away is not the main point of the passage but rather the certainty of judgment and the certainty of a future home where righteousness dwells and the result of compelling us to live for more permanent things. For these I am thankful. But I still muse on how God accomplishes His works. The word destroyed is variously translated as “destroyed” (NASB, NIV), “dissolved” (HCSB, ESV), and “melt” (KJV). The Greek (anytime I mention this it means I only have a dictionary to look it up in, not more knowledge than that) has the meaning of “loosed, released, dissolved”. “Intense heat” (NASB) is also rendered “burned up” (ESV), “fire” (NIV), “fervent heat” (KJV), and “burn” (HCSB). The word in Greek for “roar” means a “rushing sound”. The word rendered here as “elements” has the meaning of “in a row” as letters or bits of knowledge. These words strongly suggest to me properties of matter and energy. But since Einstein and E = mc2 matter and energy are really convenient descriptions of the same thing. E = m. Energy = matter.  c, the speed of light in a vacuum is a constant that relates the two. Since speed of light is so large and squared in the equation, matter is seen to hold “crazy” amounts of energy. When matter is destroyed it becomes energy, and when energy is organized just so it is matter. I like to think of matter as “condensed” energy. That suggests that energy is the fundamental “stuff”. But here is where science becomes vague. What is energy? We know what energy does but we do not know what energy is. It is as Feynman said an abstract idea. Could it not be that our lack of understanding stems from viewing a spiritual matter rather than a totally physical one? The elements roar with intense heat and are released. That sounds like the destruction of all matter into energy to me. All of the particles of matter, discovered and undiscovered (muons, electrons, strange, flavors, and so on) becoming intense abstraction. But the abstraction is real, and what is it? 

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And by the breath of His mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.”  (Psalm 33:6-9)

God spoke His word and it stood fast. Out of nothing, physically speaking, but out of a substantial word from God, everything. “In the beginning God created….Then God said,” (Genesis 1:1,3) His Word was condensed into physical creation and will one day soon be “melted” into His Word. When it happens will not this Scripture be fulfilled for Creation?

“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

It, that is His Word, will return to Him in an intense flame out, not empty or simply annihilated, but fully complete in His intention and accomplishment. So all of the elements, atoms in fact, lined up in their orderly fashion, controlled and compelled by fundamental forces will dissolve or melt back into energy. Am I saying energy = God’s Word? Certainly not. But God’s Word accomplishes energy and all His works return after fully accomplishing what He set out for them. It is so with man’s spirit as well:

“For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street. Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:5-7)

So it is with all things. God gets ultimate glory because all things proceed from Him and all will return to Him and be assigned to the place He has ordained for them to be in His presence or excluded from it. In the meantime His Word holds all things together. Is not this the Grand Unified Theory, the Fundamental Force?

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  (Colosians 1:16-17)

The physical world will be destroyed by thermonuclear annihilation, coming unglued as it were:

“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the works of Your hands;
They will perish, but You remain;
And they all will become old like a garment,
And like a mantle You will roll them up;
Like a garment they will also be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not come to an end.”   (Hebrews 1:10-12)

These words are spoken of Jesus, God the Son, who will not end as the created order will end. He endures and so does His Word. So in the transience of the what seems so permanent I see the permanence of what I have I have seen to be transient. God’s Word is permanent.

Wow! Roar on to completion.

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The resurrection is the pinnacle of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He exhibits power over death and sin. But it is the beginning of a the great transition of the glorious Son of God. There is a definite connection made between resurrection , ascension, exaltation, and the Holy Spirit being given. Peter makes this progression quite clear to the Council of Sadducees and Pharisees in Acts 5:30-32,“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” As “Prince and Savior” He is both ruler of all and priest to all who believe. Again Peter is explaining the Scriptures about David’s descendant and says, “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” (Act 2:32-33)  We need the bodily resurrection to understand the power of Jesus and to validate it to the world, but it is only the beginning of His show of power. Paul expands our idea of His power in Ephesians 1:  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will 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 surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.”  Why do we not see this overwhelming power exhibited in the world today? Jesus is working out the details of His victory incrementally through the filling up of His sufferings in us (Colossians 1:24). As Peter takes great pains to establish in chapter 1 of his epistle, God has established our imperishable inheritance to strengthen our faith so that we “prepare our minds for action”(I Peter 1:13) against worldly lusts and intense suffering. Many great shows of power will come and for the saints  bring great joy: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war”………Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years,”….. and…..“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death” (Revelation 19:11; 20:6; 21:3-4).  Yes, the resurrection demonstrates unsurpassed power overcoming death, but even as He is the first fruits of those from the dead so His resurrection power is a first fruits of His unsurpassed power in victory over death, the world, all creation, new creation. He worked at the cross to accomplish God’s plan; He marches in victory to complete all that plan reveals and enables. Let us follow in His train now as at His second coming!

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I realized when reading the following two questions in our Gospel Project lesson today that they lend well to a positive feedback loop in our lives:

“What role does hope play in our seeking to be faithful to God’s commands?

In what ways can we deepen ‘the roots’ of our hope in God’s promises?”  (Winter 2012-13, p.111)

Hope-Keep

When hope is applied to our lives through the working of God’s Word we are enabled to keep His commands. The Holy Spirit is always enabling and He uses the truth. Keeping His commands will result in confidence and hope that God is active in our lives and the promises apply to us as we review God’s Word. It is a positive feedback loop in that each one increases the other and is life giving.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wisdom Tree3Godly wisdom is rooted in the fear of God and bears foliage and fruit of godly living, contentment, and witness. Following are supporting Scriptures for the tree at the right:
0. James 1:5
1. Proverbs 1:7, Job 28:28, Matthew 10:28
2. Micah 6:9, Psalm 2:10-11
3. Job 12:12, Proverbs 3:1-2, 16:22
4. Song of Solomon 6:3, Proverbs 5:18
5. Job1:20-21, Proverbs 3:5-6
6. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, Psalm 73:17
7. I Corinthians 1:24,30, Ephesians 1:15-19
 
The following table contrasts the way of worldly foolishness
and the way of godly wisdom. Our lives as Christians should
exhibit God’s goodness by our wisdom gained from Him:
 
 

Contrast of

Worldly Foolishness

Godly Wisdom

Living

Selfish, destructive

Skill for living successfully

Path

Going your own way

Obey and seek God

Self

Be true to yourself

Renounce sin and self

Focus

Passion to please yourself

Passion for God and others

Restraint

Unrestrained passion

Directed, exclusive passion

Perspective

Blind optimism or pessimism

Sin is real; God is in control

Priorities

Survival, self-gratification

Fear God; obey His commands

Eternity

Can’t find it Eccl. 3:11

Trust in Christ->hope   &evangelism

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Consider Joshua and the children of Israel on the Plains of Moab just after the death of Moses. Are they asking, ‘What now?’ God doesn’t leave them in this position long. He is about to give them the land He promised to their fathers. Yes, there is much history behind this moment. God said to Abraham,  “I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:8) He puts no conditions on Abraham or his descendents and he calls it an “everlasting possession”. This covenant is as unconditional as they come as stated here. God had delineated the extent of this gift two chapters earlier (Genesis 15:18): “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates”. It is a literal land given unconditionally to the Israel. Later when Moses is talking through the law and its application, just before he dies, he says a curious thing in the light of the promise we have just seen: “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” (Deuteronomy 4:39-40) So God is giving them the land but the keeping of it is conditioned upon whether or not they obey God? How does that represent an unconditional covenant of everlasting possession when all sin and fall short of God’s glory? Is it possible for this promise to be both conditional and unconditional and God fulfill it both ways? I believe it is and mean to show how. What will God do if Israel obeys? “Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle. The Lord will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. You shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you” (Deuteronomy 7:12-16) It seems to me that this passage explains that possession of the land is representative of God providing prosperity, peace, and posterity. Prosperity is seen as abundant food and lack of disease while posterity is children. Peace is given by God’s initial defeat of enemies and continued peace is declared other places.

With this history of being promised the land of Canaan the book of Joshua begins, Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1-9) The application is as follows: We can take risks because His promises are sure. As Gospel Project author, Jonathan Leeman, says, “Knowing that God is generous and faithful to His promises helps us be strong and courageous because we can trust His character as we pour out our lives for Him.”

Judges 2:11-23 sets forth the cycle of God and Israel’s interaction during the days of the judges. Israel would forsake God for idols. God gave them over to their enemies. Israel cried to go in their distress. God raised up judges to both deliver them from their enemies and direct them to God. As soon as the judge died, the cycle began again. Israel was squandering the good gift God had given them so that the conditional nature of the promise overtook them. Was God unfaithful by not honoring His promise to Abraham? As Ezra and the Levites prayed to God, “However, You are just in all that has come upon us; For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.” (Nehemiah 9:33) “How does our sin cheapen God’s good gifts (creation, sex, family, etc)?” asks the Leeman (p.59). Using God’s gifts wrongly and pervesely is saying to God the gift was somehow not good enough the way He gave and intended it so I have to improve on it. The term used in Scripture is prostitution, selling ourselves to other gods to pervert God’s gifts for our own temporary pleasure and for hatred of God. God promises to cast such rebels off His land. I believe the land is representative of God’s provision of rest (prosperity, peace, and posterity as I said earlier) so that Hebrews 3:17-4:2 is talking about rest when it refers to God’s actions that cast Israel off the land “And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:17-19)

But God is gracious and faithful to His promises as is hinted at by the book of Ruth. In the second chapter Boaz is introduced as a part of the faithful remnant during the time of the judges who is prosperous, kind to His workers, acknowledges God, and is kind to this alien, Ruth (Ruth 2:1,4,8-9,12). Boaz has prosperity and peace but where’s the posterity? God provides the answer through Ruth (Ruth 4:13-17 ) in the form of their son, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of King David, the ancestor of Jesus. Boaz had become the kinsman redeemer of Leviticus 25 for the land of Elimelech (Naomi’s deceased husband and Ruth’s father-in-law) and raised up children for his name just as Jesus became the kinsman redeemer of all who will trust in Him to buy them back from the slavery and poverty of sin. By this means Jesus will fulfill the unconditional promise made to Abraham to provide and literal land forever. Micah 4:1-4 prophecies clearly what will happen, “And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains…..For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem….And never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” There most certainly is a spiritual aspect to the rest of God, a continual faith rest. But that does not exclude literal, believing Israel, past or present or future, and all those who have trusted Jesus, spiritual Israel ( ) from being included on a literal land. I firmly believe that God speaks of both literal land and rest in Hebrews 4:8-11,  “For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. so there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” The actual fulfillment of this promise is proclaimed in Revelation 20 and 21. “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (20:6) Reigning with Christ for a 1000 years is a literal reign on literal land since it delineates a specific time verse nine mentions the location of these events being earth. But 1000 years is not an everlasting possession. God is more than up to the task of completing His promise and remembering every little detail.  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (21:1-4) Literally amazing, everlasting peace, prosperity, and posterity provided by God in the everlasting possession for His people. Praise God!

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Our “Gospel Project” lesson today was about God’s nature revealed in the Creation story and in the results. I produced a table that summarizes the differences in how God’s nature is revealed in the two different (but not contradictory) stories of Creation in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis.

  God’s Nature Clarification God’s Name Exhibitied in Creation Response in us

toward God

 

 

 

Above

 

Transcendent

 

Separate

 

Elohim

“Stong One”

“In the beginning God” Have to

must have

-allegiance

-worship

-accountability

Powerful

 

Able to effect He spoke into existence

ex nihilio

(“out of nothing”)

Authoritative Rules

 

 

 

Beside

Personal Identity, relational Yahweh

“Pre-existent One”

Speaking Want to,

gladly

-desire

-seek

-trust

The lesson speaks of four ways that man is made in the image of God based on Genesis 1 and 2. I think there is clearly from the text a fifth way:

    “27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [a]sky and over every living thing that [b]moves on the earth.””

We relate- God gave us as male and female to have relationship and commanded multiplication so there would be many people to interact. In fact, all God ordained institutions (family, church, government) reflect the interaction within the Triune Godhead.

We rule- Both the words rule and subdue occur. This is a stewardship that should neither result in abuse of the creation nor worship of it, but care for our benefit. All authority we have is delegated from God and should be carefully dispatched as such.

We work- 1″5 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”  Work that is purposeful, creative, orders chaos, and work with God’s plan was ordained before the Fall and is a good gift. The type of work we dislike is the punishment on man because of sin and is toil (literally “pain” 3:17) that causes sweat (3:18).

We reproduce- It says “multiply and fill the earth”. When we procreate God provides the spirit so He is still active in creating and allows us to be involved in the process.  God is always involved in the process of giving life. 

We rest- “3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”  God was not tired but He was satisfied with the result of His completed work. Christ has completed the work of salvation in us so that we need to rest in Him, faith rest:  “10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”

I hope that you will consider how to bear the image of God in you in such a way as to point to Him rather than to yourself. It glorifies Him and satisfies you because you are at peace with Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The serious student of the Bible must take seriously the principles of interpretting the biblical text (hermeneutic). Many scholars who have a less than high view of Scripture want to dismiss it as a merely human authored book. Men were involved in the process but lead by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit did not, however, negate the personalities, languages, grammar, styles of writing, or contexts by which the texts were produced. It is the Word of God, infallible in the original manuscripts. We need to understand those human elements that were used to give God’s thoughts meaning. As a part of teaching a lesson in the “Gospel Project” and few weeks ago on interpretation of various genre of the Bible I produced the following page as a beginning to understanding Bible interpretation. I give credit where credit is due. The organization is wholly mine. Click on Hermeneutics for the Bible Believer to view the document.

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What negative images and ideas of God have you had or heard from the Old Testament? God is harsh; God is unloving.  It’s confusing and archaic so that God is not relevant to where I live. God is changeable and unfair. Has God changed from the Old Testament to the New? If He has why and how can I depend on Him? If He hasn’t why are the two different? Are they revealing different aspects of the same God or is one illustrative and the other explanatory? And because of these fears, dislikes, and misunderstandings do we act like the Old Testament is passe? Do we ignore it?

In Matthew 5:17-19 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (v.17) Abolish denotes doing away with its authority, usefulness, and relevence. Instead Jesus says He will fulfill it; He will complete and finish what is lacking in it. And in verse 18, “not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”  Again completion is in mind but I see more of Jesus meeting its challenge and living up to the requirements.

The Old and New Testament are different. What did he set aside? Juan Sanchez in the “Gospel Project” lists food laws (Mark 7:18-19), remember Peter and the sheet coming down from heaven, the temple (Matthew 24:1-2), remember the woman at the well and Jesus telling her how worhsippers would soon worship (John 4:21-24), and the sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:8-10), Jesus is the once for all sacrifice.

Jesus shows that the purpose of the Law is found in Him, by His fulfillment of it. But how is the law about Jesus, that is, how did He fulfill it? There at least 4 ways: 1) He is the fulfillment of prophecy. Christmas and Easter are particularly good times to remember this fact when we consider His birthplace, lineage, suffering, and resurrection. 2) He was, and is, perfect. Jesus has met the Law’s demands. He has accomplished every mark of righteousness and goodness stated and implied in the Law. 3) He has paid the price for our sins. Had He merely lived a perfect life He would have fulfilled the Law for Himself, but He has fulfilled it for everyone who has believed in Him as well. The price for a soul is high as we see in Psalm 49:7-9. Numbers 16:36-38 gives us a very tangible reminder of how costly it is for the sinner. Isaiah 55:1-8 nonetheless shows us it is freely given. So herein is another difference in the Old Testament and New. The Old seems to be asking, “There is a price; who can pay it?”, while the New says, “The price has been paid.” 4) He is the antitype of all types and the reality of the all symbols in the Old Testament. Following are but a few by way of example: a) the new temple- Emmanuel, “God with us”, b) Melchizedek, a priest forever without beginning of days or end of years and without a geneology, c) the bread (manna) from heaven, d) the Rock from which water flowed, e) the root of Jesse and seed of David, and f) the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Sanchez goes on to say that “the intention of the law was not about checking off a list of moral requirements but total obedience that flowed from a pure heart.” (p.77) Jesus ups the stakes in Matthew 5:20-22,27-28 if you feel you have kept the Law: “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses thatof the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell….You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Outwardly the Pharisees seemed quite righteous to the people of Jesus’ day, so that this would have been a surprise to them. But that is only the beginning. In terms of guiltiness before the law Jesus taught that intentions equal actions. Who among us has not been angry and thought similar things to what Jesus said. And how about the second example? That gets half of the population. But how about the women? How many of them have been guilty of enticing men with immodest dress?

The summary to all of this is that there are two ways to get to heaven. After another example about loving your enemies in Matthew 5:43-47, Jesus concludes by telling the first way to get to heaven, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (v.48) But only one person has reached heaven by that means and He was already there before He came to provide the second way, Jesus. If you are going to attempt heaven by works realize the height of the bar is perfection. Throw down all of your claims of ‘I’ve been a good person’ and ‘I don’t hurt anyone’. They are worthless and an affront to God. Realize that your only hope is trusting in what Jesus did on the cross in fulfilling the Law for you, if you will believe. As Spurgeon said, “The commands of Christ are not upon the legal tenor of ‘do this and live,’ but upon the gospel system of ‘live and do this.’ We are not to be attentive to the precepts in order to be saved, but because we are saved. Our master motive is to be gratitude to him who has saved us with a great salvation.” Jesus has fulfilled the Law for us; receive it by faith. Jesus will enable us to fulfill the Law as we trust in Him; work it out by faith. We aren’t teaching people to be good or lift themselves up by their bootstraps, but to trust the perfect example, Jesus, and trust His enabling power to do right.

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Following is a slightly expanded version of what I said at B and K’s wedding, mostly because I read only Matthew 22 since Ephesians 5 had been read before I got up to speak:

A Wedding is a day of celebration that has greater and deeper meaning than the happy couple, as significant as they are. God has designed and ordained the various types of human interaction to reflect His character and government within the Godhead and His interaction with His people: government, family, church, and marriage.  In the Old Testament God refers to Himself as the One who rescued and loved a wife, Israel. But she was unfaithful and preferred harlotry (a picture of idolatry rather than worship of God). Many passages present this scenario. Among them, Psalm 45 is a positive one that seems to speak of a king and his queen and the King of kings and His wife. We learn that the wife is the people of God who are frequently unfaithful, as in Hosea and Ezekiel 16. Hosea 3:1 clearly communicates God’s persistence at loving His wife despite her waywardness.

In the New Testament God shows us another ordained allegory which is not a plan B or afterthought in the light of Israel’s unfaithfulness but a long pre-determined picture of what He is about in this time, that of Christ and His Church. The clearest pronouncement of this picture is given in Ephesians 5:22-33. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;  for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,  because we are members of His body.  FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”

 To summarize the allegory, marriage between one man and one woman producing offspring and interacting through roles of leadership and submission by mutual commitment and sacrifice concretely demonstrates the relationship of Christ and His Church. This picture brings much glory to God.

Therefore, we should expect that the enemy, Satan, would like nothing better than to destroy this picture. By so doing he destroys people and a reflection of God’s glory. I think his tactic can be seen by an analogy: Even as the glare of the city lights obscure the beauty of Moon and stars, so the glitzy show of sexual perversion and marital unfaithfulness attempts to block the God glorifying purity of a man and wife faithfully and lovingly representing Christ and His Church through their marriage. How does this apply to you and me? Young men and old, I’m speaking to you. Have you made the covenant that Job did? “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job31:1) You must avert your eyes and work hard a being pure of eyes and heart. Young women and old, I’m speaking to you. Have you heeded the directions in I Timothy 2:9-11, “I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.”? Do you cover yourself? The passage does not just speak of modest dress, though. It also speaks of modesty in conduct. Do you flirt with your eyes? Do you manipulate with your speech? Men and women, give glory to God in how you act and speak.

So how does this picture of Christ and His Church work? The wife’s role is a responsive role. Why should she do this? “As the Church” (v.24), so the the wife is representative. I Peter 3:1-6 shows that her witness is foremost for her husband to win him over to doing what is right even when he is disobeying the word. And the epitome of this submission is seen in Sarah “calling him lord” (v.6). Because this relationship points to the relationship of God and His people, this degree of submission makes sense. Certainly the Church calls Christ Lord. Just now the world is speaking frequently of the leftovers of a “patriachal society”, referring to any degree of gender role, but the Bible clearly teaches it for the purpose of marital unity and glory to God. Consider the English word husband. It literally means manager. We accept managers in business because they bring order and profitability, so why do we reject them in God’s economy? The wife is responding to the husband’s headship role, representing how “Christ also is the head of the church” (v.23).  How did Christ carry out His role as Head? First of all as Savior (v.23).  “He gave Himself up for her” (v.25). I believe this refers to much more than committing His body to die on the cross. He took on the wrath of God which was our due, a much greater torture than physical pain and death. Why would He put Himself through this torture? That He set the Church apart for Himself, both cleansing and presenting her to Himself (v.26). He valued His people so much as to take God’s wrath. Having cleansed her from sin, He now continues setting her apart by His Word. Practically this is accomplished through Bible preaching, God-centered fellowship, Spirit-led praying, and Christ-centered evangelism. Then in the future at His wedding feast it shall be declared, “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready’. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7-9) The bride arrives dressed beautifully in white representing purity, the light of her husband’s eyes. She is glorious, spotless, without wrinkle, or blemish. Jesus has far more than just reversed death. The Church that the bride is representing is not rescued from hell and death to an ugly, scarred existence. The Church is called upon and must work with this pruifying work of Her Lord Jesus. He will present us to Himself cleansed, beautiful as this bride appears before you today.

The man is further to be a servant of his wife pursuant of the end of cleansing her. He accomplishes this role by loving her as himself (v.28-30). This is a difficult and daily role, who is sufficient for these things? And the relationship is intimate and permanent (v.31). To be sure that no one misunderstands that Paul is talking about the marriage relationship as representative of the Christ/Church relationship he interjects verse 32. Then he summarizes with verse 33. Why is there a different command for man and woman? Humanly speaking it is because each has different needs. The man’s greatest need is to be respected; the woman’s greatest need is to be loved. But again the picture of Christ and His Church is in full view. Christ did and is loving His Church. How can our response be anything other than respecting and reverencing and obeying our Lord?

One other passage that I would like to consider related to this picture is the Parable of the Wedding Feast found in Matthew 22:1-14:  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.  Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business,  and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.    But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes,  and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.” In this passage, Jesus assumes the picture we have been speaking of even before Paul had written about it. He goes further to deepen the meaning and change it slightly from what we have spoken of. The feast is initiated by the king who has a son getting married. But where is the bride? She is here, represented by the individuals. This idea is consistent with what we read in Revelation 19:9, “the fine linen [of the bride’s dress] is the righteous acts of the saints.”  And verse 14 says these individuals are both chosen and called.  

Not all of those called heed however. Some of those invited actively reject the invitation, refusing to come, scoffing, and beating and killing the king’s servants. Others more passively refuse, having other things to attend to which they evidently consider more important.  The King, obviously God, is angry at all of this God-hating and destroys them.  But there is another kind of person at the feast who is self-deceived. This person, representing many in the church today, has a more subtle problem. Unlike those who refused to come, he desires to be at the wedding feast. As revealed by the king’s question, he has a problem. He is not dressed in wedding clothes which those who attend must receive. Instead he is dressed in self-righteousness. If this represents you, you might be one who says, “I’m a church-goer. I’m a good family man. I’m a submissive wife. I’m a decent, upstanding citizen. I acknowledge God.” But God says of your good works, “All our righteous deeds are a filthy garment…” (Isaiah 64:6). The problem may be subtle but that does not make any less serious considering the results to the man. Hell is a real place.

The problem needs a bold solution. “For by grace have you been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is a gift from God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The wedding clothes are a gift. You must repent of your dead works. This means that you must turn away from your own righteousness and declare with God that it is sin and turn to what Jesus has done on the cross to rescue you from sin. This is God’s grace: ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.’ He gives those who trust in Him eternal life. Repent and receive the gift; you cannot buy it. I know that B and K would like nothing better than to know that someone came to receive the gift of eternal life from Jesus because of their wedding ceremony. May God bless B and K’s marriage and may He bless the Church’s purity and may He open your eyes to your need for the Savior so that you may be clothed and ready to come to the wedding feast that will be held one day. 

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Have you noticed something missing from conversations in all forms of media- personal, electronic, written-about the debacle at Penn State? How about from the discussion of failed politicians, NFL or Hollywood celebrities, or riots or divorces in hometown America?  Euphemistically entitled a condition, exceptionality, syndrome, genetic disposition, problem, societal ill, disease, tendency, aberration, failure, inequity, mistake, debacle, addiction, heinous crime against humanity, acting out to name a few, this banned word denies the similarities of the list above. These replacements share two qualities, one for most of the words in the list and a second for all of them.  In the smaller group, including terms like genetic disposition, syndrome, and tendency,  blame is shifted to a different cause.  The similarity of all of the words is a denial of the real cause.  Have you guessed the true identity and name of the banned word?  Am I allowed to write it?  The word is sin.  The problem it so clearly points out is rebellion against God perpetrated by the sinner. Because of our pride resulting in selfishness we don’t want to admit to sin.  But ignoring and denying the problem does not allow for the recognition of the solution, so we Christians must talk about it. But beware because you may talk about God and that He is love and that He is good and that we should act nice and so on but if you mention sin you will be shunned or worse.   But since “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin,” (Romans 3:20) sinners will not recognize their need for a Savior or be saved if they are not taught that there is a righteous standard that all have failed to meet from a righteous God to whom they are responsible. 

If you don’t believe me that this word is banned try bringing it up in conversation. You need not be so direct as to mention a particular sin or even a particular person’s sin. Just talk about sin in your community resulting in some ill like family break-up or eventual death or even flowers wilting and see how far it gets you. Why?  “Let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; for your people are like those who contend….” (Hosea 4:4)  But be warned, “Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” Hosea 4:6)

If you can add to my euphemistic list it would be instructive as to the depth of our….. tendency.

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A worthwhile study for anyone searching for truth either because you don’t yet have it or because you do and want a better grip on it is evidence that Christianity is true. Following is the first point of my six part outline for such evidence. It is only introductory on the subject but is a good starting place.

I. The Bible and Its claims are true

    A. Internal

            1. Eyewitness testimony

                a. Old Testament

                        1) Abraham gen 24:7

                        2) Isaiah 6:1

                b. New Testament

                        1) Peter  II Pt 1:16-18,20-21

                        2) John  I Jn 1:1-4

                        3) Jesus  Jn 17:17

                        4) Paul  Acts 9:1-9

                        5) Disciples  Lk24:36-43; I Cor 15:1-8

                        6) Soldier  Jn 19:35

            2. Declared God’s Word

                a. O.T.

                        1. God said  Gen 1:3, Mal 4:3, II Chr 36:22

                        2. God’s Word  Ezra 7:6,10; II Kings 17:13; Jer 36:6

                b. N.T.

                        1. Jesus’ words  Jn *:26,28

                        2. Paul’s writings  II Pt 3:15-16

                        3. Revelation to John   Rev 1:1-2

    B. External Historical Evidence

            1. Ante-Nicaean fathers

                a. Jn 17:20, 20:29

                b. www.creatorworship.wordpress.com

                    “A Canon of Truth”

                c. www.ntcanon.org

(following from “New Evidence That Demands A Verdict”)

             2. Roman

                   a. Thallus (AD52)- attempt to explain away darkness

                       at Christ’s death

                   b. Tacitus (Annals)- “Cristus, the founder of the name,

                        was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of

                        Judea in the reign of Tiberius, but a

                        pernicious superstition…broke out.” 

                       (implies resurrection)

              3. Jewish

                     a. Babylonian Talmud- “On the eve of Passover they

                         hanged Yeshu.”     (see Jn 19:14)

                     b. Josephus (Antiquities)- “Pilate…condemned him to

                          the cross”

             4. Earliest manuscript evidence

                     a. Ryland Manuscript P52 (Egypt)  

                                                 John fragment 130 AD

                     b. http://www.biblefacts.org/history/oldtext.html

             5. Historicity of Luke’s Gospel  

                 http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/index/The_New_Testament_Is_Verified_Archeologically 

                (many examples)

                   a. Recorded enrollment of taxpayers at censuses

                       every 14 yrs   

                   b. Quirinius Inscription (Antioch)-

                                               governor of Syriaca. 7 BC

                   c.Egyptpapyrus confirms return to ancestral

                                                                               place at census

                   d. Pontius Pilate Rock of Caesarea

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…or “Heavenly Thoughts” (or at least I desire so) or “Random Musings on the Life and the Afterlife” (which is more likely).

A number of different positive and negative details have brought me to thinking more than a few thoughts about heaven lately. Beauty in nature, sermon comments, Scriptures I’ve read, and various quotes I’ve come across have been among the positive inputs, while governments’ foolishness, review of my purposefulness, and personal back pain have been pointed reminders that this is not my home.

One of my least liked sayings is quite common to high school and college students: “These are the best years of your life.” When I hear some evidently less than content adult say this to a young person I want to explain to them how their words are an invitation to suicide for some segment of the young people they are saying it to. If it doesn’t get any better than this with the yelling parents, the sneering peers, the self-accusing mindset, and the “you can never be good enough” and “indulge yourself” advertising, why continue living? In some ways the saying is of course legitimate and Solomon agrees: “Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting. Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them….The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.'” (Ecclesisastes 11:9-12:1,13-14) So he is advising that you put away vexation while you are young and healthy and enjoy life. But how do you do that with all of the accusing elements I mentioned before these verses? You acknowledge your Creator by enjoying life and following impulses according to what pleases Him and in consideration of the fact that you will be brought to account hearafter concerning all that you do.

If all there is, as the Naturalist and Post-modernist say, is this life then the quote my 3rd son found the other day is indeed apropos for all time: “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears this is true.” (Branch Cabell in “The Silver Stallion”). It is a bit humorous until you think about it a second time. If “it doesn’t get any better than this” and “If the dead are not raised [no heaven], let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (I Corinthians 15:32) So the optimist and pessimist and Naturalist and Post-modernist are claiming there is no heaven but they don’t really believe it. Under stress they call out for God and wish for heaven. And if they were correct it would render false this claim, “He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  And I affirm the truth of the Word of God and say “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…” (Romans 3:4). But if man cannot find the work of God in the beginning, creation, or the end, heaven or hell, why even discuss these things? Modern man agrees with this statement and refuses to discuss anything that is not either from empirical evidence or personal feeling. But this is the very point of the statement that man can not discover God’s works from around him or within him but from God’s revelation only: “‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit…But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised…For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2: 9-10, 14,16)  These things not having entered the heart of man include the glories of heaven. The Spirit of God and the mind of Christ are one and the same, the discernment to understand and affirm the Word of God, the Bible. So by God’s revealed Word we understand that, as the song says, “Heaven is a wonderful place; filled with glory and grace; I want to see my Savior’s face; for heaven is a wonderful place.” That is indeed what makes heaven such a draw to His saints, not gold streets or reunions with loved ones or even lack of pain, but seeing His face. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. (Matthew 5:8)

Someone might say at this point, “All this talk of heaven when there is so much to do on earth” or “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” But to be truly heavenly minded, that is aligned with the thoughts of God, will most certainly propel one to be of the most earthly good. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (I John 3:2-3) Seeing God is our motivation for being pure in heart. The pure in heart will be at peace with God and at peace within themselves both of which cannot help but make them inclined toward pursuing peace in all their interactions with others. We cannot be pure of our own accord but “He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” (I John 3:5-6) So we pursue holiness to please Him and to confirm and affirm our relationship with Him in anticipation of our sight of Him; this brings good to us and the world around us as we minister God’s goodness to the world. So denying the motivation and need for considering heaven not only lessens the holiness of the believer it lessens the value to all mankind.  And Francis Bacon takes this up in another way, “They that deny a God destroy man’s nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts in his body, and, if he be not kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature.” (“Essays”) Not only the help to man is denied him by not focusing on God (and by extension seeing His face one day), but also the very value of man as made in God’s image and one for whom Christ died to save, so that he becomes nothing more than “a base and ignoble creature.”

We are in fact commanded to focus upward. “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Whien Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4) The whole rest of chapter 3 and on to 4:6 Paul promotes consequences of this focus being holy living within oneself, toward others and toward God. When He is revealed; we also will be revealed with Him. As the hymn says,”When by the gift of His infinite grace, I am accorded in heaven a place, just to be there and to look on His face will through the ages be glory for me. O that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me. When by His grace I shall look on His face, that will be glory, be glory for me.”

In the description of heaven in Revelation 21 and 22 I again select verses especially focussed on His beauty and desirability to us.  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’…I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life…There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 21: 3-5,22-27; 22:3-5) Why is there no pain and crying? He makes all things new. Why is there no night and no need of lighting? He lights them. What will we do there? We will enjoy Him and serve Him. Whose your Daddy then? “They shall be His people.”

But we are not home, yet, and so we look forward as it says in the Jeremy Camp song,

“I know the journey seems so long
You feel you’re walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering

There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always”

We can say in the most desperate of times with Job, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

How should we live until we leave? “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) “Let love of the brethern continue.” (Hebrews 13:1) “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” (Revelation 22:17) “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (I Thessalonians 4:17-18) ” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy4:7-8)

The God of heaven and His presence are worth dwelling on and living by in the light of His Word.

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     In eighteen concise verses of II Peter 3 the Holy Spirit by the apostle Peter gives the believer significant motivation for godly living and insight into God’s works. The historical scope of the verses is nothing less than ‘beginning to end’. 

     God, based on His authority and the worthiness of His person, could simply command man what to do with no further information or motivation.  But knowing our frailty and sinfulness He gives us every conceivable reason and motivation to enable us to please Him:            1)     Christ died for us.   2)  The Holy Spirit indwells us.   3)  He has     given many evidences of who He is through his teaching, miracles, and providence.   4)  He has given us promises.

We are privileged and responsible for what we do with these great helps. The passage I am considering refers to each of these motivations.

     v.1-3: Why is Peter going to write about the huge events of God’s workings?  First of all, Peter wants to remind these hard pressed believers of the teachings of God through the prophets and apostles.  They are all God’s teachings, what Peter later calls Scriptures (3:16, literally, “The Writings”). The apostles communicated that part of God’s teachings are commanded by Jesus, the One Who is Lord and Savior.  Even as he does later with Paul’s writings specifically, Peter here is declaring the apostles’ teachings to be equal with the prophets and clearly God’s teachings.  And is there a difference because Jesus commanded it? In time and voice (that of our Lord, Savior, Elder Brother, Friend, Gloried Son of the Father), yes, but in content, not really.  When Jesus speaks you feel at once as though you have heard this somewhere before and as though He is repeating Himself.  And of course He is as any frequent reader of the Old Testament will know. Peter’s letter is the second reminder he is giving, the first one fortifying them by way of attention to godly living against persecution and suffering. The second part of Peter’s purpose is the specific subject of His reminder, which is somewhat different in approach from I Peter. Chapter 2 spent much time revealing the false teachers within the Body who disturb the faith of many. The “mockers” (v.3) may be one and the same with the “false teachers” (2:1), as many commentators assume, but I rather think these represent a second threat, external scoffers rather than internal deceivers. Rather than gaining advantage by tickling ears (II Timothy 4:3) they combat sound teaching by supposed empirical evidence to the contrary.  “They all are not of us.” (I John 2:19) It is as true today as it was then. The content of the mocking now, as I hope to show, is amazingly similar though increasingly sophisticated. The underlying purpose of the mockers is the same then as now.  As Alduous Huxley so honestly confided, “The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do,… For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” He agrees with Peter that his purpose was to follow his own lusts.

          v.4-7: The mockers’ question concerning unfulfilled promise is not very intimidating by itself, but couched in the plausibility of empirical data’s absence, supposed historical evidence, and the implied principle of unchanging progress of phenomena with time, what answer might the beleaguered believers broach? And now we have a name for this ‘unalterable’ principle that reveals why history records no empirical data on promises fulfilled- uniformitarianism.  We are told that Nature is the “whole show” (“Miracles” by C. S. Lewis) and within that show the pace of processes (chemical and physical weathering for example) observed now is the pace at which they have always proceeded. That is, “all continues as it was” (v.4). In reality, if this is true, then God is not active in His creation and therefore didn’t create this “show” anyway. Therefore, the mockers today as well as then mean something else by “beginning of creation” than we do, for we are not Deists. Evidence that they believe something else about what creation means follows immediately in their willful ignorance of God’s creative process.

           Peter confronts the fallacy of the mockers’ argument not on the basis of unsound logic but on the basis of a willfully incorrect starting point.  Wrong conclusions are inevitable from wrong presuppositions regardless of how sound the logic. In fact the more sure the logic the more sure the wrong conclusions from the wrong beginning. So Peter sets the record straight by way of four unmistakable works of God, singularities if you will. A singularity is defined in various ways depending on the discipline of study. In math it means a point at which a function is not defined. In physics a gravitational singularity is a point in space where density is infinite and volume is zero (commonly called a black hole). In mechanics (physics again) and technology it is an event, position, or configuration after which subsequent behavior cannot be predicted. The event or place changes what would have happened in a way that cannot be immediately predicted.  Peter is talking about four such events that have and will change the consequences for nature and its creatures in ways only God knows.

           The first of these is the Creation (v. 4-5) whereby God made the rules of the game. Next was the Flood (v. 6) which destroyed the equilibrium by overturning all the pieces on the game board.  In the future comes the Day of the Lord (v. 7,10-12) with the return of the Game Designer and meting out of judgment, game over. Lastly arrives the New Heaven and New Earth (v. 13) which awards those selected as the winners- a new game with new rules. The game metaphor focuses on the reason why these singularities changed what happened afterwards.

     God has and will intervene in His Creation to fulfill His purposes.  The mockers may deny it or ignore it or explain it away but their blindness is willful and their deceit is shallow in light of the evidence.

           Peter reviews details of the 4 events some of which teach us brand new facts. The Creation comes about, as do the rest, by God speaking them into existence (Psalm 33:6). In the case of heaven He spoke it out of nothing (“ex nihilo” as the creationists like to say). The earth at this point it seems was a part of the heavens in the form of water. As it says, “the earth was formless and void” (Genesis 1:2), as fluids are apt to be, taking the shape of a container, if they have one. The solid earth or land was formed by bringing it up out of the water (Psalm 136:6) in which it now sits and is fully saturated, and it was also shaped by the water through erosion and deposition no doubt as the dry land was appearing (Genesis 1:6-10). The heavens, that is the atmosphere, were formed between two layers of water, and the Psalmist declares “Praise Him…waters that are above the heavens” (148:4). Evidently God formed the heavens, including all that came from nothing and subsequently the earth from water. God is the “Maker of all” who “stretched out the heavens” and “made the earth by His power” (Jeremiah 10:12,16).

     Peter rushes right on through the next big event, the Flood of Noah’s day. He is doing considerable clumping by saying “at that time” for an event that was 1600+ years later.  But it was all ancient history and the point seems to be that the agent God used for creating, water, could just as well be used for destruction, flooding. We know of course based on God’s promise and the symbol of the rainbow that God is not going to repeat this type of destruction, but that does not prevent or slow Him down from His purpose. His Word is just as powerful to destroy by fire as by flood, and He is not slack (II Peter 2:5). “Present” denotes that this heavens and earth are neither in its origin pristine form nor the “new” form to be later created. God has not forgotten nor has He been rendered unable. Rather it is reserved and kept for fire. The appointed destruction and judgment are determined for the ungodly, so mockers beware.

           v. 8-10: Verse 8 is frequently misused by the skeptic to mean that since God overlooks lengths of time then the days of Genesis 1 could just as well be ages of time in which great geologic and biologic changes took place by slow naturalistic processes. But the context of Psalm 90:4 from which this thought comes indicates the timelessness of God as compared to the short life span of man, not His inability to tell time. For God clearly gave Moses the record of numbered days in the Creation Week and evening and morning delineating literal 24 hour days. And because God is timeless, He can be patient and exact about the timing of fulfilling His purposes, which is not slowness. He gives a legitimate invitation to all “for whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved” (Romans 10:13), and yet only those He calls will be saved (Acts 13:48).

           He is patient now and many are being called to Him (3:15) but things will change suddenly and unexpectedly like a thief breaking and entering while you are asleep. The day of the Lord is usually referred to as a period of time in which judgment falls as in verse seven, but the suddenness and finality of this event speaks of one actual day or moment in time. The references to fire (v.7), pass away with a roar and intense heat and burned up (v.10), and burning and elements melting with intense heat (v.12) seem to the modern mind to so obviously  refer to thermonuclear annihilation of all matter. But how could Peter, who at best would have an Aristotelian view (earth, air, fire, water) of matter and more likely had none (untrained, Acts 4:13), give such an accurate description of matter’s demise? The prophet need not fully understand what God is giving him to describe. The Psalmist could not have understood the type of crucifixion Christ would undergo when he described it in such clear detail in Psalm 22. Ideas about God’s nature like the Trinity that we read in Scripture are still not understood. But there it is. In Christ “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17), but when He withdraws His hand it will cease to hold together and every fundamental force will cease its function as the physical world comes unglued and is no more. In the case of believers “this perishable must put on imperishable” (I Corinthians 15:53).

           Verses 11-18: God will then create a new heaven and new earth that are not perishable where believers in their new imperishable state of righteousness will see God and dwell with Him forever. All that the first heaven and earth failed to be because of Adam’s sin the new ones will be without the threat of being tarnished by sin. Peter has said that the Creation will be destroyed three different times, making clear his point that the mockers are totally wrong. This leads to the point of application for the believers. Peter is so intent on presenting the solution that he gives most of the answer in the question, “What sort of people ought you to be?” I see 4 applications in the final verses:

1) True awe brings about holy conduct, anticipation of glory, and working with His plan  (v.11-12)

2) The conduct will be characterized by a diligence for holiness permeated with peace (v.14)

3) This awareness will produce a guard against error (v.17)

4) and a life characterized by growing in grace and knowledge of Christ (v.18)

Verse 16 seems to be included by Peter as a last shot at those who disbelieve what God has said.  And in so doing he excludes modern positions about Paul’s epistles not being equal with the rest of Scripture.  Mockers, false teachers, whoever else is untaught and unstable distort what the “Writings” of the Prophets and Paul have to say. And since Scripture is spiritually discerned who would expect them to do otherwise, but Peter has pre-warned you, so that you may be on guard and grow.

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As I sought to choose hymns for the evening service at church I desired to choose one that suggested the text, II Peter 2:1-9.  I struggled to pick a song that spoke anything signifcantly about judgment. My wife said so simply, “Who wants to sing about that?”  Well, of course she is right, but people of the church did not always fear to sing about death and the consequences of rejection of Christ.  Having laid the foundation for strong faith in chapter one, remembering what makes for salvation and godly living, Peter sets out in chapters 2 and 3 to guard the believers against two threats to strong faith:      one within the church, namely false teachers, and the other outside the church, namely, mockers.  Early in chapter 2 reminds me very much of Jude who says in verse four of his short epistle, “Certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.”  If their judgment is so certain, I wonder, why should we even discuss it?  It is a warning to others for God says through Ezekiel, “Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus you have spoken, saying, “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?” ‘Say to them,”As I live!,” declares the Lord God, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?”‘” (33:10-11)  The following poem comes in lieu of the hymn that I did not find:

From hell to save my Savior came
To raise the dead and heal the lame
He taught of His Father full breadth
Of both eternal life and death

 

Second coming differs from this
Bought ones ascend to heaven’s bliss
While those who refused life in Him
Face an eternity that’s grim

 

Saints, pray and preach to your last breath
Hold them back who stagger to death                      Prov.24:11
O, Sovereign Lord lend us Your aid
Show us ones whose sin debt is paid

 

O, Sinners heed Christ’s pleading call      Ezek.33:11,Rom.10:13
Of rescue that goes out to all
Call for mercy with all your might
Escape your end of flame and fright

 

Jesus is the Savior and Judge
On His justice there is no smudge
Receive from Him payment for sin
Or ever hurt without, within

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I was encouraging my healthcare provider and Christian brother  who turned and encouraged me even more by several comments he made.  The one that struck me most was him holding his palm before his face and saying, “If we keep the Word before our face it keeps changing us.”  We listen rather than work because our sanctification is by grace through faith as surely as our initial salvation experience.
 

 

Keeping the Word before your face
Concept and meaning ever trace
Continual changes in you
Please God and better run the race
 
Setting your mind on things above
The things of God you learn to love
Cleansing your heart so it is true
Undivided heart like a dove
 
Eternity within the heart
Begun in Christ and not depart
When I’ve sinned and turned away too
By His Spirit I may restart
 
Learn to live life by faith alone
No schemes and planning on your own
By His Word guided by each clue
To heed the Spirit’s call be prone
 
When in danger for Him you call
Secure in Him never can fall
Peace with God is ever in view
Assurance of heaven’s bright hall
 
The Word before your face again
Best deterrent to prevent sin
Knowing that all to God is due
Forgiveness, glory, life you’re in

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Last Sunday the pastor preached a Bible-based, convicting and practical sermon. The text was John 18:12-27.  Early on he said the theme of this intertwined story was “the glory of Christ in His trial; the sinfulness of Peter in his denial.”  As the sermon progressed this sentence kept working on me.  It rhymed and it showed great contrast. I began to think there was a poem here that might help me remember the sermon ideas reflecting the text.

Glory of Christ revealed in His trial
Peter’s sinfulness in his denial
Contrast Christ abiding in the Father
With Peter wandering, to then falter

  

Not shrinking from truth in the face of death
Fearing man when expectations a myth
If I spoke “rightly, why do you strike Me?”
One of His disciples? Not I, said he
 

 

Dependence on God and Christ is the way
Reliance on self will bring much dismay
Cohorts, commanders, courts could not dissuade
A slave-girl side-tracked allegiance once made

 

“I have spoken openly to the world”
Not a cold heart while warming hands unfurled
Boldly speak of Jesus the Son of God
Or rooster crow pierce your heart like a rod

 

Trust in the Father through Jesus the Son
Don’t shift allegiance to serve number one
Return to your first love, know of His grace
Don’t wander and falter, finish the race

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