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Lessons from the Ephesians – Don’t lose your first love!!!! – Revelation 2:1-7

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Lessons from the Ephesians – Don’t lose your first love!!!! – Revelation 2:1-7 – 06/28/2016

It has been a while huh? I bet most of you haven’t noticed but I haven’t put out a blog in nearly 6 weeks and I think that is some sort of record for me. In that time I have not been idle, I have been doing some reassessing and looking at myself and as the church at whole introspectively. This blog article is not dedicated to any particular group of Christians but to Christianity as a whole. The verses I want to look at today are a well-known passage in Revelation…

Revelation 2:1 (ESV) “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

I want to go to this church!

When I look at what the Ephesians had together I am amazed I would want to go to this church!!! They had …

  • Works
  • Toil
  • Endurance
  • Patience
  • A hunger for holiness
  • Enough doctrine to test what was good (They remembered the warning in Acts 20:17-31)
  • Judgment to call those false who were false
  • They were okay to endure for the name of the Lord/They were known as Christians
  • They did not grow weary/remained hopeful despite trials

Sounds like a solid bunch huh? I know from experience when I have been assessing churches to make sure that my wife and I are serving where we are called to be at this time by the Lord I have a list of “must haves” a list of “nice to haves” and a list that are “cosmetic purposes only” and this was from advice from a Pastor I trust that asked me once “what is your deal breakers?”.

Warning to the new church seeker

I say this because there maybe that guy or girl at the moment who is contemplating switching churches, perhaps for a good reason, perhaps not but I would encourage you to watch out for the Ephesian church, they may be the one with the biggest youth ministry, the best programs, the largest congregation, the best sounding worship, the best light display but outside the Sunday meeting they may be a group who never interacts with each other and are strangers apart from a warm handshake and a bunch of promises to meet (which never materialize).

They may have none of those things and may tick all of your intellectual boxes, they may not have worship down, children’s ministry sometimes happens and sometimes does not but the Pastor teaches some of the most intellectually profound, right on doctrine that flexes your spiritual muscles on a weekly basis, the exegesis and hermeneutics are phenomenal and the teaching is at college level theological seminary and new believers learn a lot of spiritual language but is light on application and you see quickly that apart from the weekly lecture, there is no mentoring, no feeding into one another and loving on one another apart from maybe one or two individuals but the culture of love is not present and you know that a year down the line you won’t know these people any better than today.

Those are two extremes of course and the church you are looking at will most probably be somewhere in the middle of those but what they have in common is that while each opposite have vital components that will get people through the door if they are Ephesian in nature and forgotten their first love then all else is in vain. As Shakespeare would say “it is all for nought”.

Beware of the Pharisee Christian

Let’s look at those vitals that are alive in this Ephesian church…

  • Works
  • Toil
  • Endurance
  • Patience
  • A hunger for holiness
  • Enough doctrine to test what was good
  • Judgment to call those false who were false
  • They were okay to endure for the name of the Lord/They were known as Christians
  • They did not grow weary/remained hopeful despite trials

However…you can fall victim to the human nature that thinks that as you progress as a Christian you become “too good” for the things you did as a baby Christian (or the basics) but I would remind you that you would not build a structure without a foundation and even if you become a master builder and have built many fine buildings, imagine turning up a new job and stating to the works foreman that we “would not bother with the foundation as this building will be great because I am the builder”. All you are setting yourself up for is a building that will fall and a reputation ruined… How is your relationship building with Jesus? Is the foundation sure?

Jesus had a lot to say to the Pharisees in the Gospels because they were the ones who know the doctrine, they were the ones who should have known better and they should have been rejoicing at the Messiah, the Pharisees had the works, had the doctrine, they were known as the holy ones, they were supposed to toil, have endurance and patience and many did but some did not… (see a pattern here?)

This I have against you…

God is not saying do not have these things in place but there is an important foundation to have in verse 4 and 5…

“V4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

The word “abandoned” is telling here, it is not like losing your keys, they had made decisions to leave their first love, that to me is the saddest part of the passage and even although internally they were like whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:25-28) They had left the love of God and the love for one another, they no longer had that first love of Jesus, like a marriage that both parties have allowed to become stale they no longer have that new romance spark and they did not allow it to mature so they have a broken relationship.

They are prodigals or wayward sons that have still got to come to that afternoon in the pigpen eating swill and realizing that they could have it much better as the lowest servant in their father’s house. Like the father in that account in Luke (Luke 15:11-32) when they returned to the love of the father there was much celebration, forgiveness and absolution of the sin that cause the son to go so low.

Exhortation and application

We are all sinners and the Ephesian church did not always have it together, read the epistle to Ephesians if you do not believe me. We all need repentance; we all need forgiveness whether your sins are few or many and we all could do with being closer to Jesus and I commend you all to learn the lessons of the Ephesians, take the good in what they do and in the spirit of application we need to do the basics, repent, find our first love and then follow Gods plan!

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG

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Psalms Saturday #14 – Psalms 1 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked

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Psalms Saturday #14 – Psalms 1 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked – 05/07/2016

Psalms 1:1 (ESV) Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Thanks for looking at our Psalms Saturday article; I plan to go through this Psalm verse by verse starting in verse one…

V1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

To look at this appropriately we have to look at the Hebrew word “esher” which is the Hebrew word for “Blessed” and that talks mainly of happiness and contentment. Gives a much fuller meaning to the text don’t you think? If we replaced the word “blessed” with fulfilled or contentment then you will see what the Psalmist is driving at. I say that having read this Psalm many times and not bothered to dig any deeper than the words on the page. We see three things that make a man happy and content…

  • He walks not in the counsel of the wicked – The company you keep is important as you will modify your behavior to match the ones that you are trying to impress. When I became a Christian I slowly lost the friends that I had clung onto in my wilderness years because they did not want to do what I wanted to.

    Conversely now I take great delight in a Wednesday morning meeting I have at a local coffee house with likeminded believers as we sharpen each other and keep each other accountable. Finding friends like that is vital as you progress through your Christian life. The counsel you keep affects the way you think.

  • Nor stands in the way of sinners – Not just the counsel you keep but if you are living your life in the way of sinners then you will do what they do. The friends you have affect the way you behave. If you have trouble with alcohol will you still go to the bar rooms 4 times a week?
  • Nor sits in the seats of scoffers – If you dwell with the scoffers and mockers you will become just like them, you will start to belong there and it will erode your Christianity. How can you be happy and blessed in your Christian walk if you are always criticizing or tearing down (and often times this can be fellow Christians)

Like most Jewish poetry the Psalmist offers a contrast in the next verse and does not stop with what we should not be, but continues in what we should be. We see that “his delight is in the law of the LORD” that he is happy in the whole counsel of God, not just the first five books, that the word of God is a delight in his life and if you are not happy or excited to study the word of God then you may need to take a barometer of where you are as a Christian. Is there a hunger, a desire or even a willingness to get in the word regardless (and in some cases especially) of the circumstances?

This hunger us that real that “on his law he meditates day and night.” And that puts me to shame personally and that is something I want to do always, I do however ponder the word of God and a lot of thought and prayer goes into personal study as well as the articles here and I know that the crux of what he is saying is that we ponder it, understand it and commit it to our hearts and lives. I just wished that I did it day and night!

V3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

We see with the correct application of scripture the Psalmist uses the picture of a tree that if it is planted next to a place that will allow it to be fed, then it will continue in strength and it prospers and the application here would be that with that correct grounded knowledge of the word of God that has been meditated we will continue to grow and thrive in our Christian walk. Paul makes the same comparison in the letter to the Galatian church…

Galatians 5:19 (ESV) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

The fruit comes naturally from the tree because of what is going into the tree (streams of water) and I would ask would the same tree be as strong in say a desert where the water supply was a bit sparse? Or would it be more like a tree that is all withered and dead? Then you have to examine what type of Christianity you have, is it a by the cool streams or is it a desert Christianity? How strong is your tree? Will it withstand a few storms or will it break in the first sign of trouble?

V4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Again we see an example of the opposite. Have a look at this passage in Jude…

Jude 1:12 (ESV) These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

As strong as the tree is, the wicked are not strong. To understand what chaff is it is the shell that has to be removed before the grain is useable for the purpose intended, traditionally one of the ways of removing chaff from grain was to allow the air to go through and it separates on its own. I am convinced that this was not used in accident as it is the polar opposite and a good reminder that although we are in the world we are not of the world.

V5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

And we are concluding with these remarks and the Psalmist uses terms that we are familiar with from the book of Daniel when he spoke to King Belshazzar…

Daniel 5:13 (ESV) Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. 24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” 29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed.

Scary stuff huh? How is your relationship with God? Have you taken up his free gift of salvation so you are not found wanting? We see that the Psalmist talks about sinners in “the congregation of the righteous” and we will see the ones who persist in their sins and do not wish to change their lives peel off from our church congregations in the short term, however I do also believe that we will be surprised with some of the folks that we thought we would see in glory who were as religious as religious could be and did not know Jesus as their savior, that is scarier stuff!

V6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

I have peace like a river that I am being guided by the creator of heaven. I know that whatever befalls me in this life and however I am chosen to be removed from it that I have a loving father waiting to welcome me home with the words I long to hear “Well done my good and faithful servant” but I do lament for those who are my neighbors, in my streets and in my city and the cities that are close by me who tonight are dying in their sins. One thing is assured is that you have that choice to choose heaven or to reject God and deal with those consequences for all of eternity. My prayer is that if you have not done so then please contact me and I would love to talk to you.

Lord willing, in our next article in Psalms we will look at Psalms 13 looks at the sorrow of David and trusting in the Lord through trials. I pray that you are able to join us as we go through the bible, line by line and precept by precept.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
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Abraham justified by faith – Romans 4:1-12

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Abraham justified by faith – Romans 4:1-12 – 03/20/2016

Romans 4:1 (ESV) What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” 9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

This is a series in the book of Romans, for the home page in our study and to see other studies then please click here or our main epistle page is here. My aim is to go through the Book of Romans as the LORD wills.

Let’s start in verse one of chapter four…

V1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?

Paul continues on what he was saying in Romans three and uses Abraham as an example to show his point. Abraham was known as the father of the Jewish people and was revered and esteemed by the Jewish people. Paul knew what he was doing when he chose this example. If Paul was looking at addressing the American people he would probably have used a similar analogy by using some of the names of the Founding Fathers.

V2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

After introducing Abraham he makes the question on whether Abraham was justified by works and whether he could boast in the good things that he has done, Paul comes back to Romans 3:23 and states that no he could not boast before God because we are all sinful by nature and have not and cannot attain God’s holy and perfect standard on our own.

V3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

And like any good teacher Paul bases his argument on scripture, he shows where it states that he was not indeed justified by works, but by belief and it was counted to him as righteousness. In context I have attached the scripture below…

Genesis 15:1 (ESV) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

I love how Paul takes away any notions that Abraham was somehow exempt from the rules that the rest of mankind had to follow and that by the same train of thought he would have had to look at the possibility that God makes exceptions from his holy nature which of course is preposterous.

Abraham is never mentioned as being “perfect” but only mentioned as being counted as righteous and the reason for the righteousness was based on the action of the belief of God. I would say that Abraham sought after God’s will before the Law was given in the same manner that we would make deposits in a financial institution Abrahams credit worthiness or righteousness was high with God because God saw the heart of Abraham and knew who he was and that is why he was declared righteous.

You will notice that it only mentions how God saw Abraham and not how his fellow man saw him. This is convicting for me because man will look at the external package first and I am no different. I have been surprised by who God has used in the past and it is very God to use someone whom the world didn’t think much of. I am very much in that camp because often times I have been passed over for things (both in the world and in Christian circles) because of assumptions that people have made on limitations they perceived me to have.

V4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

Paul uses the idea of a salary to compare and contrast the idea of grace versus works because as we know (those of us who have accepted Christ) that grace is a free gift given to those of us who does not deserve it. I often laugh internally if I hear someone praying “Oh Lord- give us what we deserve!” I then back away a little in case God takes them literally.

If a system of works was correct then that would mean that we were owed something by God, in which God would be in debt to us (in this case for a salary) I am uncomfortable with that because it puts you on some severely shaky theological ground. It is true that works will come as fruit of faith but I do not see that faith will come from God being in our debt.

V5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

Paul agrees with the above hypothesis by stating that belief is greater than works as the one who does not work but believes will have his faith counted as righteousness. Seems obvious huh? Not always though as Gods ways are higher than our ways. We are to believe in the one who justifies the ungodly (God himself) who grants grace and mercy to all who do not deserve it. God justifies us as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross where he took the punishment for our sins.

God is holy and hates sin, and he hates separation between his beloved creation and Him so he loves us enough to justify us despite our sin but we have to want to be saved. There is no “catch all solution” I do not doubt that God justifies the ungodly but I marvel at the sheer miracle that he does. (Going back to getting what we deserve!)

King David is mentioned and this is beautiful because he was described as a “man after God’s own heart” but he was a sinful man who committed murder and adultery but he was a man who strived after God and repented of his sins. (Sound familiar?) He was a man who understood sin, the impact and the repercussions of that sin and the relief and weight that is lifted off you when you are truly forgiven. If King David were judged based on his works, he would be sunk but the just God convicts him based on his belief as none of us can atone for our sins on our own.

V7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

And should God forgive your sins by belief (and He will for the truly repentant) then you truly are blessed because this forgiveness is based not on your nationality, genealogy, social status or where you were born it is based on your relationship with God. The sins are not just forgiven but they are covered and removed from sight! These verses are a quote from Psalm 32…

A Maskil of David.
Psalm 32:1 (ESV) Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Make no mistake about it God should count our sin but we truly are forgiven and regardless of how holy we think we are we all stink and reek of sin, some of us smell a little better than others but we are all in the same boat. I am reminded of the following parable by Jesus…

Matthew 18:23 (ESV) “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

We are all debtors to God in relation to sin, sin is the debt that we cannot possibly pay and without Jesus we are in that hopeless situation. The good news is that the gospel is for everyone. This is why David was quoted because if we could work it off then we would all be at it like little worker bees and that would be easier and more palatable for the human mind, however God has decided to bless everyone who will just have faith and turn to him. Paul continues…

V9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

The beauty of it is that we can do nothing for God but we have great joy in the grace of God. It truly is a blessing for us, not just the Jew but also the Gentile and uses Abraham as an example why circumcision, whilst it being a sign of obedience is not the be all and end all of entry into heaven. Paul asks a logical question if circumcision is the key to salvation and that question is “When was Abraham justified? Was it before or after circumcision?” and as we have looked at before we see that Abraham was justified in Genesis 15 and let’s now look at Genesis 17 when he was circumcised…

Genesis 17:9 (ESV) And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

As you can tell I like to back up the claims that I make with scripture to back it up! Paul states quite clearly that Abraham was circumcised AFTER the blessing and Paul closes this part of scripture with the following…

V11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

So the sign was exactly that A SIGN! He was to do this to show an outward sign that he was with God. As Christians we are reminded that the circumcision we go through is that of the heart and in remembrance of this please observe what Paul said in Romans 2…

Romans 2:25 (ESV) For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

You see if we wish to burden ourselves with the Law then we will be held accountable by the Law, Paul explains that in Galatians 5…

Galatians 5:1 (ESV) For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

The Christian faith is not a case of Christ+ (Christ and something else) What I mean is that Jesus was serious when he said “I am THE WAY” he is the definitive article, Son of God, part of the triune God and the only one who could be sacrificed for your sins. Just as today, the Jews of that day used circumcision to prove that they were in some way the true descendants of Abraham. Paul flips this on its head by asking “Why are you not walking in faith like Abraham did?” or “If you are Abrahams descendants then why are you not following in his footsteps?”

Lastly what Paul was stating was culturally sensitive as the Jews did not like the Gentile proselytes referring to Abraham as the father or their descendent. (That was their thing) And now Paul states that classification is available to all who are reconciled to God in Christ. That we have a share in Abrahams blessings, what a bountiful God we serve.

Lord willing, in our next article in Romans we will look at verses thirteen through twenty five when we explore the promises that we looked at today being realized through faith, which is really a part two of what we look at today. I pray that you are able to join us as we go through the bible, line by line and precept by precept.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
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No-one is righteous – Romans 3:9-20

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No-one is righteous – Romans 3:9-20 – 02/07/2016

Romans 3:9 (ESV) What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

This is a series in the book of Romans, for the home page in our study and to see other studies then please click here or our main epistle page is here. My aim is to go through the Book of Romans as the LORD wills. Let’s start in verse 9 of chapter 3…

V9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,

Paul has just finished the conclusion that being simply Jewish was really no better off than being simply Gentile. This is all building up to what Paul says in verse 23 that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. When the original sin was committed there was no such thing as “Jew” or “Greek” there was “man” and “God” and to take it back to its most basic level “man” sinned against “God” causing a division. All men are guilty before God. Paul says this as a Jew of pedigree; look at his credentials in the book of Philippians…

Philippians 3:4 (ESV) though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

He was, according to the Law at least “blameless” further on in these verses he goes on to say that when he became in Christ that whatever gain he thought he had as a Jew that it was now a loss. If you are still in your sin you are still in your sin, whether you were Jewish, Gentile, the worst sinner or the highly moral occasional sinner. It is all the same to God without repentance.

The words “under sin” are powerful and speak of a current slavery, a sin that has not been paid for or redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we have all been there at some point and some who read this are still under sin and some are repentant forgiven new creations, but the fact remains we all know what it is like to be under sin. Paul goes on with this thought and let’s look at verses ten through eighteen…

V10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Paul is right in what he states that “None is righteous” and takes a look at what he sees as the condition of man without God, let’s look at what he sees…

None is righteous, no, not one; – This is the base condition of man without God, an unrighteous mess that cannot save themselves. God is perfect and man is not, it is as simple as that, so much so that our righteousness to God is as “filthy rags” so even if we do righteousness it is like the cloth used to clean up a female issue.
No one understands; no one seeks for God. – On our own and left to our own devices we will not seek after God, this is shown by the many man-made religions out there that do not lead to the true God, there is only one way to heaven and it is described in detail in John 14:6, it is only through Jesus Christ.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Without God the harvest is bad, the fruit is rotten and the meal is worthless. It is a bad that will never become good again by their own efforts.
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” – They even break the ten basic rules that were set out in Exodus 20. They are liars and they have no words of life, they use the tongue to deceive, the mouth is used to lie with an emptiness that is pictorially described as an open grave.
“The venom of asps is under their lips.” – Their lips are used to sting and hurt like an asp, the asp is what we call a modern day Egyptian cobra, and do you want to play with one of those?

According to Wikipedia, this is what happens when you get bit by one of these animals…

“The venom affects the nervous system, stopping the nerve signals from being transmitted to the muscles and at later stages stopping those transmitted to the heart and lungs as well, causing death due to complete respiratory failure. Envenomation causes local pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, necrosis and variable non-specific effects which may include headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, collapse or convulsions along with possible moderate to severe flaccid paralysis. Unlike some other African cobras (for example the Red spitting cobra), this species does not spit venom”

Much more graphic picture huh?
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” – Just like the tongue and lips the mouth is a wellspring of evil, their mouths that were created to glorify God are debase in what they say and the attitude behind the terminology that is used. So far all the parts of the body are unified in their rebellion against God.
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, the way of peace they have not known.” – Without God we see what we see in Genesis 4, where the man who was descended from the first sinful parents looks sideways at his brother and Cain slew Abel, after that we see that the culmination of the sins lists a ever decreasing slant on morality. They choose bloodshed over peace, people ask “if there is a good God then why does he allow wars?” and the answer lies here, that God is good and men are evil.
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” – If the original thoughts were the walls of the house this statement is the roof. All of the above happens because there is no respect for God, no fear of God and everyone does as his own well desires with no thought of a consequence or thought of where the sin will lead. It makes us look like and reduces us to mere animals; can you imagine a zoo without barriers? That would be what it would be like.

Paul lists that extensive list and finishes his thought in verse nineteen…

V19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Paul has given us a list of what it was like to be without God, please remember he is writing to the Roman church so he would not have to imagine as he probably witnessed it in the city of Rome being the cosmopolitan capital of a very sinful empire which was very much not God centered, we can take solace in this as our world today is not God centered either. Think of it this way, this was God speaking to those who were trying to live his way under the law, can you imagine how he would address those living in lawlessness and rebellion?

V20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

And this is it in a nutshell, the law cannot save anyone! The law is like a flashlight in a dark room illuminating where you have erred in the sight of God it gives you knowledge of what went wrong. This is where Christianity and other religions part as most other religions require compliance to a set of rules and then if you do enough then you may be rewarded. Christians are reliant on God’s grace, we see the fruit of the grace of God by our desire to do the will of the Father but that is not what saves us! Or to be blunt, the Law can condemn us but not save us!

Lord willing, in our next article in Romans we are looking at the righteousness of God through faith and I pray that you are able to join us as we go through the bible, line by line and precept by precept.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
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No other gospel

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No other Gospel

Galatians 1:6 (ESV) I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Oh Foolish Galatians!

When people think of the Galatian church the first thing that people think of is the verse “Oh foolish Galatians” it is easy to think that as this letter to this church is very heavy on teaching and also very loving. Paul exhorts the church; he corrects and gives great instruction that is still applicable some 2000 years later.

The reason this is so prevalent today is that Paul marvels/is astonished (depends on the version of the Bible you read) that the Galatians have fallen into theology that is not correct. This is not a minor theological contention such as whether we sprinkle or fully immerse in baptism, whether we have one cup or many cups at communion or whether we wear suits or come as you are to church. They are turning away from the basic beliefs and tenets on the Christian faith, the building blocks of what makes them Christian.

They were embracing heresy based on confusion. Like so many of todays cults, they were trying to do “Jesus plus” what I mean was that Jesus was not enough, they had to do Jesus plus the law, Jesus plus something else, like the blood on the cross was not enough to atone for the sins of the world.

Works are good

Don’t get me wrong, as a guy who is very point by point, line by line, precept upon precept in my Bible studies, I find it beneficial to have certain works listed as good to do, but they should not be kept in the same line or same vein as what is required to be saved. Many of the things that we contend with each other these days are not Salvation issues, many are not even heretical, many are based on theological stances that attempt to help, but sometimes cause frustration.

Traditionally, (and my wife Chelsea would be the first to confirm this) I have been “works orientated” where I try to “tick the boxes” and try to (in Gods will and his power) live in a way that would befitting the title Christian. This is good, if you are a flaky person and need structure in your life then this is a good way to get some structure and have some way to grow as a Christian.

You have to be careful though, we have a tendency as humans to elevate the structure that we have as high as the reason we are doing this in the first place. Please do not allow the ritual to become the main thing and also by the same token do not worship the ritual, this leads to resentment of your mind on when you think of all the other stuff you could be doing with your time and then it leads to you dragging your feet and “going through the motions” with minimum effort.

God knows this, God knows your heart, he knows who has their heart in it and who does not.

If I don’t feel like it should I not worship God?

In the words of the Apostle Paul, God forbid. I read a really cool graphic on Facebook yesterday that read “There are two times to worship God, 1) When you feel like it 2) When you don’t.

I think this is an awesome reminder that worshipping God should be as natural as eating or drinking water, we were created to do so and if we allow our emotions to drive how we feel about God, it stands to reason that when things go badly, we will not be in a mood to worship God.

Paradoxically, when some people are in their deepest hole and when they have exhausted all other alternatives, that is when they find God. Those of whom are literally at the bottom of their “pit of despair”.

What if the hosts of heaven appear to me?

Paul states quite clearly, “if he or even an angel preaches any other gospel” and the instructions to go with that. This even happens today; I am sure you will remember about 6 years ago we had a guy called Todd Bentley who had his “Lakeland revival” in Florida. Part of this guy’s testimony was he was visited by an Angel called “Emma” who gave “new revelation” and advised that he was to do a spiritual outpouring and declare revival in the Florida area and beyond.

I am all for revival, however this testimony sounds like it is in contradiction to what is stated in Galatians. It is similar to the testimony by the founder of the LDS (Mormon) Church called Joseph Smith Junior, he was visited by an angel called “Moroni” and given golden tablets (that disappeared as soon as he translated them) in an ancient and forgotten language that he was given supernatural powers to translate into what is now called the “Book of Mormon”.

So what is the problem?

We are told that if they give a gospel contrary to the one of Jesus Christ, what Paul calls “no gospel at all” he will be “eternally condemned” If you want a picture of what that looks like, have a quick read of Revelation 20:7-10, doesn’t look like fun huh?

Trying to please men

Paul finishes by stating that what he states will not be popular among men and that if he had desired to be popular with men he would have stayed as Saul, the Jewish zealot who was a career persecutor and very popular hatchet man of the Jewish faith. Instead he had a zealous heart for what God wanted in his life, so when he was face to face with Christ (not angels as you notice) he followed what God wanted with scant regard for his own life!

LORD MAKE ME LIKE THAT PLEASE!

I hope and pray this was a blessing and please share this article and leave any comments as the LORD leads
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