The Great Commission

The Christian community understands that the Great Commission refers to the charge of Jesus to evangelize the world.  The main Scripture that is associated with this commission is Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  It was also recorded in Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, and referred to in several other scriptures.

A commission comes with certain implications.  First, it is a command and not a request.  It is not based on whether or not you feel like it or if it fits into your schedule.  It is your schedule.  Your life is to include this task as a main theme.  It is of prime importance and not to be regulated into a lesser importance.  People’s eternities are at stake and our love for our Lord as well as our love for others are our motivators.

Second, we are to go into all the world with the gospel message.  God’s message is for everyone and everyone is important to Him.  The Bible declares that it is not God’s will that any perish, but that all come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)  There is no specific plan as to priority of order of importance but ‘as you go’ or maybe ‘where ever you go’ or everywhere you go is the order of the day.  Further, it is an all inclusive plan to include all places.  From the early church it was Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.  Your Jerusalem is where you begin and includes that environment.  Your Judea is the region just beyond your Jerusalem.  Your Samaria goes beyond your Judea to include the more difficult places for you to include your prejudices, or your enemies, or some other barrier you will need to cross such as distance or finances.  Your uttermost part of the earth extends to include all peoples in all places and all circumstances.

The third implication is that we are to go in His power and not our own.  It is so often said that I cannot afford to go on missions.  God will finance His missions.  I am not saying that it is a free ride and you have no responsibility in this.  What I am saying is that all resources belong to God, they are not ours.  The first place to go is to the Lord in prayer and seek His power to deal with this situation.  Don’t attempt to do it on your own for you are commissioned to look to Him for the resources to go and the power to do His will.  If you can accomplish the task without His power then it will frustrate the grace of God and you will get the glory.  God has commissioned us to the ministry of reconciliation for more purposes than you can guess.  It is partly for the ministry to others, but just as importantly, for us to grow in our own faith and love.  The struggle to reject our own efforts as the solution and to tap in to God’s power is equally important for us as it is to them.

The final implication that I will address is our witness.  The apostles said that they were witnesses to what they had seen and heard.  If you testify to that which you did not have first hand knowledge, then you become a false witness.  Instead of revealing the God of glory, you now obscure the view and work against the Lord.  You cannot give what you do not possess.  You have to be real and cannot go beyond your own personal revelation.  It is important to remember that you are in partnership with the Lord in this work and as you are being transformed into His image, He then uses you as His illustration of the message.  It is His work and you are a part of that plan.  The success of the word is not on you, but on Him.  You are a witness of that success.

Precious and Magnificent Promises

2 Peter 1:4  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

If you read yesterday’s post of Great Expectations, you caught a glimpse of what God expects from us.  He doesn’t expect for us to succeed in our efforts to please Him because He knows that the old nature cannot please God.(Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.)  It is God that enables us to live holy (separated) lives, but just to be able to do the right thing still comes short of God plan for our lives.  It is one thing to know what is right.  It is still another to do what is right.  It is still another to have your nature altered so that you do what is right naturally.  If it were possible to do what is right all the time, it would still leave you unprepared for eternity.

Doing what is right is great and I do not want to minimize it.  Being right is even better because it is not performance oriented.  When you nature is changed, doing what is right is what you do naturally and takes no effort at all because your sin nature is being put to death daily and you find less and less in common with it.  So how does this transformation take place?

Our scripture gives us the initial clue to how this takes place.  God gives us exceeding great and precious promises to use in this process of transformation.  It is by our standing on these promises and rejecting the old nature that we begin to take on the divine nature.  For example, after I accepted the Lord as my Savior, I noticed that I couldn’t hold the same views that I previously held.  I began to understand things in a different light and my attitude toward others began to change.

Here is a partial list of just some of the promises to get you started in claiming them for your own.

  1. Eternal Life
  2. Nothing shall be impossible with God
  3. God will NEVER leave you or forsake you
  4. Nothing shall ever separate you from the Love of God
  5. God Loves you
  6. God is for you
  7. All things work together for good, to them that are the called
  8. All the treasuries of God are available to you
  9. Forgiveness
  10. Grace
  11. Mercy
  12. Spiritual Gifts
  13. Love (agape)

God would have us to take on His characteristics (likeness and image and dominion) to enable us to interact with Him through out eternity.  We become partakers of His divine nature as we make these promises our own life.

 

What Is Your Handicap?

I love the commercial where children from St. Jude hospital, who have varying disabilities refuse to be called handicapped.  Though they recognize that they are limited in some ways, they also believe that they are blessed in other ways.  They refuse to allow their limitation to make them a lesser person.

One of my grandchildren was a born premature and along with that came the disease, cerebral palsy.  This disease left her with major problems with her legs and has had to have surgery to give her more mobility.  Yesterday I was talking with her and she just made my heart leap.  She said that last year when we were here and she became a Christian, she decided to not let her disability make her a handicap but she had decided to turn it into an asset.

This attitude is the key to living a rich and full life.  It is the product of Christ working from within you to give you victory over your circumstances.  Everyone has limitations and circumstantial problems of one type or another.  I have never met a woman who felt she had no flaws nor a person who felt they had enough wealth not a star who was secure in their fame.  All of these things are temporary.  Age will steal a person’s beauty, the spotlight is only for a moment, and wealth is limited and will be gone at death.  What a person becomes in their victories are what make them more than what they were.  It is in the struggles that they are stretched into  greater capacities.

One of the greatest examples of this transformation process is the Apostle Paul who started out persecuting the church and was the leader at the stoning of Stephen.  After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles and wrote 9 books of the New Testament.  At one point in his ministry, he was given “a thorn in the flesh” and asked the Lord three times for it to be removed.  The Lord refused to remove it and stated “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

1John 5:4 For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.  Note: the eth ending on the word overcome.  It means that it is a contentious action and not a one time event.   Also, note that the faith referenced is faith in Jesus as Lord of life.  When we entrust ourselves to Him and follow in faithful obedience; then He uses His power to enable us to overcome whatever we face.  We can take life head on without fear and live it as it was intended.  Our struggles become the tools that God uses to deliver us out of this sin filled world.

Update – 5/7/18

I am currently on vacation in Colorado and just attended our family reunion.  This year it also included my sister Charlene and her husband Bernard’s  50th wedding anniversary.  This is an event worth celebrating as not too many actually make it together that long.  There are a lot of major events during that time.  Some are derailed by the events of life and refuse to continue on together.  Some face tragedy and one of the mates are lost.  Some may survive physically but loose there capacity to continue their marriage because of mental limitations.  On and on the reasons go but when one is actually able to celebrate their golden anniversary then it is a major accomplishment indeed.

So it is with the Lord and his saints.  One day we will stand in an all to gather different place after time for us is no more, and we will celebrate another occasion that is even greater than this.  That occasion will be that we have finished our course, kept the faith and received our crown from the Lord.  Just as faithfulness to one another is vital in a marriage, faithfulness to the Lord is even more important.  The Bible notes that times will wax worse and worse and we will face many hardships and difficulties.  How we face these times can be a strength to others.  How we stand will be a testimony to the Lord.  Our faithfulness is rewarded with strength to overcome and comfort beyond understanding.

One of these difficult times has come during this time we are on vacation.  One of my daughters and her husband adopted two boys who were damaged goods when they arrived at her home.  Their problems have not been diagnosed properly and they are having a very difficult time.  I am asking my readers to pray for this family to find the help they need so desperately need.  Thank you ahead of time and I will post the answer they receive at that time.

Who’s Servant Are You?

Ro 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

In my last post I wrote about self deception.  This post is a follow up on how to self check on where we stand.  There are way too many professing Christians who claim to belong to Christ but their actions are those of this world.  They are understood to be hypocrites because they say one thing but their actions betray their hearts.  Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” John 10:27  When rebellion and stubbornness consistently override obedience, one of two things must be true.  Either the continued rebellion will bring a course correction through some form of correction or there is no correction at all which means that there has been no new birth and Satan is still their father.

Matthew 6:24 and Luke16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.  The Scripture is clear that there is no middle of the road in this matter.  You are either moving toward the Lord and His ways or you are moving away from Him and charting your own course.  To those who are rejecting the Lord and His ways, I ask you this question, How is that working for you?  Do you have peace in your heart or is there a restlessness and uncertainty to life as you know it?  Is there a nagging question that says, Is this all there is to life?  Are you finding that your plans are constantly being frustrated with surprise circumstances that deprive you of your blessings?  Could it be that the Lord is trying to turn you from destruction to His grace and blessings?

In the end, it is your choice, so that there is no excuse to miss God’s best.  You can have your own way but that choice ends in certain death.  Eze 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.  That choice is confirmed every time you endorse either righteousness or unrighteousness.  There is no such thing as being neutral.  You will either love the one and hate the other or you will cleave to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both, God and mammon or unrighteousness.

 

Self Deceived

It has been said. You can fool some of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the people all of the time.  But of all of the people, don’t fool yourself.

1Jo 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1Co 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

To see things as they really are, is truly an art.  Few there are that can properly appraise things objectively.  We see things through the eyes of various prejudices, preferences and presuppositions.  We set the standards of acceptance and tolerance.  Our perspective is often based on half truths or even untruths in some cases.  Because of this, we are often self deceived.

Failure to acknowledge the truth about ourselves is another way we deceive ourselves.  It does not matter if that failure is because of misinformation or because of stubborn refusal to accept the truth about ourselves, the outcome is the same.  Unless and until we come to acknowledge (not just admit) the truth about ourselves we will remain with only a partial view of reality.

Another way that we can be self deceived is when we have an inflated view of ourselves.  We call it “prideful”, “a superiority complex” or even “arrogant”.  Regardless of what we call it, it remains a false and incomplete assessment of the truth.  Based upon the above scripture, we must accept the truth that we have a sin problem and humble ourselves before the Lord so that He can make us more than we presently are.  It is vital that we have a proper assessment of our condition in order for us to properly respond to the world, ourselves and the Lord.

Preparing the Clay.

Isa 64:8 But now, O Jehovah, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

Jer 18:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith Jehovah. Behold, as the clay in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel.

Ro 9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?  Ro 9:21 Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?

I was on Youtube the other day watching a video on making primitive pottery and it made the point that it is not enough to just put clay on a pottery wheel and shape it into something useful like a bowl.  The video made the point that the clay must be “cleaned” from foreign matter such as rocks and sticks so that the object made doesn’t crack and ruin it.  The more critical it’s use, the more critical it is to “clean” the material.

We are compared to the clay and the potter is God (Eph 210)  Our purpose is for the Master’s use and must be prepared in like manner of the clay.  When we come to the Lord we are like the clay with foreign matter mixed with the clay.  We bring our misinformation, our false ideas, our weaknesses, and our rebellions as the raw product to be molded into vessels of service.  Prior to molding, comes the removal of the impurities.  So many times we seek to be used before this refining process is done and become frustrated because we do not see the necessity of refinement.  We could not stand the stresses required if we do not first go through the refinement process.  Nor would we be able to be the blessing that is needed.

Another interesting point of the video was that for some uses, highly refined clay is not needed.  A simple screening of impurities would suffice in making things like bricks or feeding trough but a highly refined process is required for vessels of more delicate use.  The highest level of refinement requires the removal of foreign matter as well as even the smallest grains of sand, then the clay must be worked to get even the particles of clay aligned and the removal of even small amounts of air.  This process requires a lot more work but once completed, the clay is fit for molding into the most delicate vessels of use and beauty.  We must yield to the Master’s hand, in His preparing us for service.  If we will not yield to His refinement, then we settle for being made into vessels of lesser value.  It is ultimately our choice as to how mold-able we are, and it is God’s choice as to what specific vessel we become withing that level of clay.

Pain

My oldest daughter has a low pain tolerance.  Once, when she was in grade school, she was stabbed in the hand with a freshly sharpened pencil.  It became infected immediately and was causing her great pain.  When I tried to look at it, her fear of me increasing her pain level was so great that she couldn’t even allow me to even look.

I have know many people who have endured great pain and have even endured great pain myself.  Pain can cause great fear and is difficult to endure.  So why did the Lord include it as a part of life?  I submit the following reasons in answer to this question:

  1. Pain is a warning of danger. The Lord has provided amazing healing powers that are built in to our bodies, yet not all healing is automatic.  Sometimes your healing will require assistance beyond what is built into your body.  For example, if you break a bone it may need a splint, or cast, or even surgery and screws to hold the bone in place.  Failure to address the issue will cause extenuated limitations, even to the point of death.
  2. Pain demands attention.  It needs to grab your attention, which is does quite well.  It doesn’t matter what you are involved with, when pain announces itself it cannot be ignored.  It gives the situation an importance that it demands.
  3. Pain is a demonstration of love.  One of the things about love is that it does what is best, not what is easiest or the most enjoyable.  God’s love for us mandates that He provide the means to insist on our care for our bodies as it is the temple of God.  He wants the best for us and is more intent in our completion according to His standards, than He is on our own success rate.
  4. Pain is trans-formative in that it makes us mold-able.  It breaks down our resistance to change and cause us to become willing to move in a given direction.  People who endure great pain often say, I have no choice.  You become pliable like plastic that is forced into a mold.  It causes us to go where we would not go and become what we would not become
  5. Pain is a teacher. Consequence is a great instructor and guide. Often we hear with our ears but not our hearts.  Instructions have to find a lodging in our hearts in order for us to learn.  When we suffer the consequences of our actions we learn its importance.
  6. Pain helps the memory.  Because pain is so repulsive, we will take great care to avoid it when possible.
  7. Pain highlights the importance of the details.  Often we tend to major on the big things and to minimize the minor details.  Greatness is in the minutia, or the seemingly unimportant details.  The major things are obvious but the minutia is essential.

Wisdom speaks and says that it is good to make friends with pain.  You will not enjoy pain but you can be benefited by it.  Pain is for our good.

Word Study – Love

Love is a word that merits study in the Greek language, the language the New Testament was written in.  Note the following quote from Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

In NT times three words for love were use by the Greek speaking world.  The first is eros, referring to erotic or sexual love.  This word is no used in the NT or in the Septuagint.  It was commonly used in Greek literature of the time.

The word phileo (and its cognates) refers to tender affection, such as toward a friend or family member.  It is very common in the NT and extrabiblical literature.  It is used to express God the Father’s love for Jesus (John 5:20), God’s love for an individual believer (John 16:27), and of Jesus’ love for a disciple (John 20:2).  The word phileo is never used for a person’s love toward God.  In fact, the context of John 21:15-17 seems to suggest that Jesus desired a stronger love from Peter.

The word agapao (and its cognate agape) is rarely used in extrabiblical Greek.  It was used by believers to denote the special unconditional love of God and is used interchangeably with phileo to designate God the Father’s love for Jesus (John 3:35), Bod the Father’s love for an individual believer (John 14:21), and of Christ’s love for a disciple (John 13:23).

In English we have just the one word, love, and it can mean a lot of different things.  We have to look at the context and subject matter to discern its meaning and even then it may not be clear.

The NT is repleat  with multiple scriptures on love.  Biblical love has God as its object, true motivator, and source.  I Corinthians 13 (known as the love chapter) list the characteristics of love and concludes with the statement about the three everlasting qualities of the believer, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of the three is love.  It is the fruit of the spirit and the quality that exposes Christ in us to the world that we are Christians.

We are to love in four directions.  First, we are to love God. Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  Second, we are to love thy neighbor.  Mr 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.  Thirdly, we are to love one another (the brethren).  Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  Finally, we are to love our enemy.  Mt 5:44 But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Word Study on Subtil

Today’s word study is taken from Genesis 3:1 and is the word “subtil”.  The Hebrew word is aruwm and is pronounced ‘aw-room’.  It is usually translated as cunning but also includes the idea of crafty, prudent, and sly.  It is usually meant in a bad sense.

This is the word that is used to describe the serpent that spoke to the woman and the serpent is understood as a reference to Satan. Notice the strategy.  The ability to deceive increases in effectiveness as the separation from the source increases.    Satan did not attack Adam as he had a close relationship to God so he came to the woman who in turn, had a relationship to Adam.

The second level of attack was not to defy God, but only to put a question on the motive of God.  He took a partial truth and twisted it to imply that God was not looking to your best interest and was holding out on you.  By asking a question about God’s instructions he implied a lack of understanding on the part of Eve and introduced the idea that there was more to it than she knew.  When she responded, In her effort to show her knowledge, she added the part of even touching it and fell into Satan’s trap.  She was now guilty of adding to or changing God’s instructions.  Her insecurities opened her up to other trickery  At this point Satan challenged God’s follow through saying “ye shall not surely die”.  In other words, surely God won’t destroy His own creation.  To this he offered another partial truth about knowing good from evil . . . and ye shall be as gods.  And the when she saw. . . (the possible benefit) . . she took and ate and gave to her husband and he did eat.

Oh! What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice To Deceive” Sir Walter Scott.  Because of the sin of Adam we now live in a world of twisted values, empty promises, partial truths and self justification.  We walk in this dark world until we take God at His word and follow Him.  Until then we practice deception like the Father of lies.  Out of the mouth proceeds the intent of the heart and as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.  Mt 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.