Category Archives: Christian Conduct

This category is for posts that specifically address Christian conduct and ethics.

Doctrinal Treatment of Divorce and Remarriage

This undertaking is the humbling response of my heart to being pierced by the truth of God’s word on the subject matter at hand.

There is no escaping the unpleasantness of this topic; to ignore it is to leave the door open among God’s people by which adultery will be perpetuated and multiplied, and to preach it is to offend a great many in the Church today.

Being aware of this terrible reality, I have elected to preach this message with as much grace as the Holy Spirit gives in Scripture.

The most illuminating truth for me in this study was the reality that the sin of divorce is not divorce itself, but adultery.  Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:31-32 on divorce is the second part of the greater context of His teaching on adultery from Matthew 5:27-32.

Divorce is a mechanism by which adultery is perpetuated and multiplied among God’s people and the whole world.  Divorce perpetuates adultery by the false notion that divorce legitimizes adulterous relationships.  Up to four people can be brought into adultery by one divorce.

If this is true that divorce perpetuates and multiples adultery in this manner, then divorce is far from being innocent; it is a destructive mechanism by which men and women are snared in the sin of adultery and the coming judgment of God.

Therefore, we will devote this doctrinal treatment to the topic of divorce-and-remarriage.

Divorce

I am preparing a doctrinal treatment on the topic of divorce for our Church and I felt compelled to share a small portion from this treatment here (I will post the full treatment online when I am finished):

Biblical doctrine is full of the glory of God; far from being cold and heartless, it vividly expresses God’s heart and illuminates His divine character in ways that call God’s true worshippers upwards to Him in spirit and truth! That is our highest aim here today, to bring the whole of who we are before God in the true worship of spirit and truth!

With this in mind, the reality that beloved brothers and sisters have deep wounds caused by divorce is of great concern. The purpose of doctrine is not to hurt wounded souls! Rather, sound Biblical doctrine calls the flesh and pride of mortal beings to the cross while restoring the soul and rejoicing the heart!

Psalm 19:7, 8 “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul… the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart!”

When we humble ourselves before the Lord and place our trust in Him, we have confidence that hope shall arise upon the hopeless! The following will be difficult words to accept, but those who do will enter the liberty of truth and find hope to carry them home.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Jesus places divorce in the greater context of adultery and confronts us with the reality that adultery is being perpetuated among the people of God through the mechanism of divorce.

Matthew 5:27-32 “27 You have heard that it was said by the ancients, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. For it is profitable that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell.

31 It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.

The Jews were defending themselves by saying that they were not adulterers because they had the written certificates of divorce. But Jesus preaches against their adultery by saying that adultery begins in the heart through lust and is multiplied in the land through divorce.

Jesus exposes the catastrophic sin of adultery among them and it is imperative that we grasp the goodness of Christ in doing this; adultery disqualifies from the kingdom of God (1st Co. 6:9-10), but the Pharisees were deceiving the people by mishandling the Law of God to justify illegitimate divorces that were bringing the people of God into exponential adultery!

The wickedness of adultery is evident to all who have been victims of it. Those who have lived in marital unions that have been compromised by lust readily understand the searing pain of adultery that comes as the heart of their spouse increasingly grows cold towards them; they are all too acquainted with the fights, arguments, and quarrels that arise from the increasing distance between their hearts. Likewise, those who have gone through a divorce know the terrors involved in dividing a family; it is a terrible, wretched, and violent process that leaves deep scars. And Jesus is preaching against this sin and fully exposing it for the wickedness that it is.

The holy union between a husband and wife must not be broken, and when it is broken, the consequences are very painful no matter how you slice it. Jesus merely exposes that divorce does not lessen the consequences and havoc wrecked by adultery, it actually perpetuates it!

But a closer look is warranted:

Matthew 5:31-32 “31 It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Mark 10:11-12 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Illegitimate divorce perpetuates adultery coming, going, and staying! When someone divorces their spouse and remarries, they commit adultery against their true spouse, they lay a stumbling block before their true spouse to cause them to come into adultery if they remarry, and they cause whoever they remarry to come into adultery! Rightfully God has said that, “He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence. Therefore, take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously!” (Malachi 2:16)

Perhaps the most shocking statement made by Jesus is in the first half of verse 32, where He says “whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery”. These are not easy words to accept at first, however, upon further examination the purity of Christ’s words become clear.

Firstly, the sacred union between a man and a woman is God’s ordination and it cannot be undone by man, therefore, “whomever God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9). Jesus is demonstrating the glory of God’s work in holy matrimony that cannot be simply undone by the certificates of human courts. If someone divorces their spouse for any reason other than sexual immorality, their divorce is invalid; this places a stumbling block before the divorced spouse by giving them the false option of remarriage that would bring them into adultery if they were to go ahead and remarry.

While we cannot focus on the syntactical side of the Greek Grammar involved in Matthew 5:32, I will note that the verb for “adultery” is used twice in Matthew 5:32, once in the passive voice and once in the middle voice, which in English the nearest equivalent is the active voice (Gerhold L. Lemke , Dakota-Montana District Fall Pastoral Conference, Nov. 6th, 1973):

μοιχευθῆναι (moicheuthenai – moicheuo) – Aor. P. Inf. – commit adultery, seduce to
μοιχᾶται (moichatai – moichao) – Pres. P. Ind. 3s. (Durative) – commit adultery.

For this reason some translations have wrestled with how to demonstrate the Greek sense of differentiation between these two verb forms in a way that would not acquit the guilt of the “passive adultery” but that could convey its passivity.

Thus the Berean Study Bible’s offers this translation of Matthew 5:32:

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, brings adultery upon her. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Secondly, it must be noted that this teaching is not gender dependent.

The last half of Matthew 5:32 is repeated in Mark 10:11 and then directly reversed in Mark 10:12 to acknowledge that what is true of a man is likewise true of a woman. Therefore, “if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12). This indicates that the first half of Matthew 5:32 can also be read to say “if a woman divorces her husband, except for sexual immorality, she brings adultery upon him”.

Without fail the prophets give us their timely warning:

Malachi 3:5 “And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien – because they do not fear Me.”

God takes adultery very seriously, and divorce perpetuates and multiplies adultery!

The conclusion is that whoever divorces their spouse, except for fornication, and remarries another, enters into adultery and causes both the one they remarry and the one they leave (if he or she also remarries) to commit adultery! Jesus is not permitting them to deceive themselves any longer; He is ripping their lies to shreds in order to set them free by the truth!

Here is my chief aim in bringing this here: adultery is being perpetuated and multiplied among God’s people through divorce, and no one is standing up to lovingly, mercifully, and truthfully call the Church to account on this sin. We act like we are righteous if we just don’t have homosexuality in our midst. We must be fervent and bear fruits in accordance with our repentance!

To the one who is wounded by these words, my heart reaches out to you as one who has been pierced by the word of God myself; and I say “run to Christ”. You have questions that need the answers of the King!  Turn to His word and pay attention to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.

Sermon Series: Love and Holiness

1 Corinthians 13:1-4

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. If I give all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.

If I do not have love, I am nothing.

This lesson series on Love and Holiness is the most critical series I have ever preached. It is because love has fallen from the center of the Church’s preaching that Satan has claimed the word and we have fallen into disunity, chaos, and sin.

View and Download my PDF copy here:

love-holiness

Be Viscerally Compassionate

Luke 6:35-36 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Be therefore merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

Before I can get into the meat of this text I have to look at some definitions real quick:

MERCIFUL: Greek Cognate: #3629 οἰκτίρμων (oiktírmōn – an adjective, “express visceral-compassions”) – compassionate, experiencing deep pity and lamentation as God has for people who look to Him for help in their difficult situations.

VISCERAL: (adjective) coming from strong emotions and not from logic or reason

Therefore, we are told to be viscerally compassionate from the heart, just as God is viscerally compassionate from the heart!

Nothing except the call to the cross demands greater faith and necessitates greater love for God than Jesus’ call to this unfailing, unmerited, and merciful love. Certainly no other commandment confronts us with our own human inability more than Jesus’ commandment to supernatural-love.

HOW CAN I express visceral compassions towards even my enemies when I find in my heart only apathy, distrust, ill-will, or even hate? God’s word tells you that you can’t; only the Holy Spirit working in you can take your cold heart and make it burn with compassion for even your enemies (Galatians 5:22)! Whoever tries to produce this kind of love in their heart by the strength and will of their own flesh will meet failure time and time again (Romans 8:4-9; cf. 13:8, 10).

Am I then acquitted from any and all responsibility to be merciful as God is merciful? Let me quote Paul by saying “By no means!”

Because of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you – if you are born of the Spirit – you are doubly responsible!

Let me encourage you not to embrace the lie that says “love is only action and does not include emotions at all”. Love is to be unhypocritical (Romans 12:9) – which means “unfeigned and sincere”. Love must not be only an intellectual exercise that leaves the heart behind, wallowing in bitterness against those you are trying to love!

A believer may ask “what do I do if my heart does not feel love like this towards my enemies?” Do not be content to continue in heartless love! Cry out to God; weep and mourn for your heartless condition! But “love in action” all the while. Yes – if your heart does not “feel” love, then you must lead your heart by the truth of God’s word and repent before God that your heart remains so unregenerate. God will renew your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit and create in you the fruit of love.

CLOSING EXHORTATION

I cannot make my heart express visceral compassions for others when all my heart possesses is selfishness, apathy, and enmity! If you despair of your inability to love due to the coldness of your heart, then you need the renewal of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit! Turn away from the temptation to accomplish this by your own strength and look to Christ to create in you a pure heart!

You must fight the desire to become content with your lovelessness; love your enemies and your brethren in action, and cry out to God to renew your heart so that you can also love in truth!

Once you begin seeking God to renew your heart in love He will begin to send opportunities to love your enemies, neighbors, and brethren to you; I call these “opportunities” because God has shown me that they are truly opportunities, but they may look like trials and tribulations at first. Arm yourself with the mind of Christ (please read Philippians 2:5-10), and prepare to walk by faith through these trials and exercise love in action while you cry out to God to renew your heart so that you can likewise love in truth.

Finding Mercy

Proverbs 28:13 “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy”

One of the demarcations of the children of God that separates them from the children of the Devil is that God’s children confess and forsake their sins, whereas the children of the devil cover their sins and flee from the light.

Nahum 1:3 “The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.”

God gives abundant mercy to whomever confesses and forsakes their sins – but He will not justify the wicked who refuse to acknowledge their ways.

I believe the Lord will walk the extra mile with anyone who is confessing their sins and seeking to turn away from them; the Lord’s mercy is shown in abundance and with great patience to such as this. But there is no mercy to those who cover their sin and try to justify themselves. Though they plot deep into the night, they will not prosper!

QUESTIONS FOR SELF-EXAMINATION:

  • If I am struggling with sin, am I confessing my sin and openly turning from it in the Light?
  • If I am struggling with sin, am I covering my sin and protecting my self-interests?
  • Do I use God’s word to justify myself or to seek God Himself?

 

How Should We Correct Our Brethren?

With all the current events the church faces today and the deep, deep, divides in our midst, there is one question that needs to be asked: “what is the Biblical means of correcting brothers and sisters who are in error within the Church?”

We must ask ourselves what is our aim in bringing correction, and how do we handle our brothers and sisters when we find ourselves in gridlock and unable to come into agreement with each other?

PASSAGES TO CONSIDER:

2 Timothy 2:24-26 “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

This passage gives us great wisdom in knowing both “how” and “to what end” we deal with those who have been “taken captive by the devil to do his will”. We need to make sure that those we find ourselves at odds with are, indeed, at odds with God and have truly been taken captive by the devil to do his will; we must not mistake a brother or sister being at odds with our position as the same as being taken captive by the devil to do his will. If our opposition to a brother comes from strife within our own heart, then we must humble ourselves and seek peace with our brothers and sisters before our sin consumes us whole.

James 3:13-18 (esp. v18) “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show his works by his good life in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, do not boast and do not lie against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish. For where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Another passage that speaks volumes. Here we find that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (v18). The mightiest debater will loose the kingdom of God with each argument that he or she wins, but whoever is faithful to Christ will win the kingdom of God in peace!

1 Peter 3:8-9, 15-16 “Finally, be all of one mind, be loving toward one another, be gracious, and be kind. Do not repay evil for evil, or curse for curse, but on the contrary, bless, knowing that to this you are called, so that you may receive a blessing.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and fear. Have a good conscience so that evildoers who speak evil of you and falsely accuse your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”

Today we find that those who preach the truth may be falsely accused as much within the “church” as without; but this reality does not change how we minister to the Lord, rather, it forces us to purify how we minister to the Lord. It forces us to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, or be given over to bitterness and strife.

Galatians 6:1-2 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I suggest this passage requires us to acknowledge the “humanness” of the person that we are dealing with. By “humanness” I do not have in mind any humanist worldview, nor do I have in mind that we consider their sin and excuse it “because they’re only human” (which is a humanist viewpoint as well). Rather, I have Genesis 1:27 and 1 Peter 1:18-19 in mind; we must have God’s purposes in mind as we approach our brethren. We must never view our brothers and sisters as anything less than those made in the image of God and redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. To approach one another with any lower view is to de-humanize our brothers and sisters in Christ and insult the integrity of Christ who gave His blood as a ransom for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

To any brother or sister who thinks he or she is walking in Christ, and yet, who does not bear the burdens of his or her brethren, I ask you to reconsider whether or not you are fulfilling the law of Christ. We cannot fulfill the law of Christ if we do not “restore one another in a spirit of gentleness”.

2 Cor. 6:11 & 10:1 “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open!”
“Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ- who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, exhort you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you were called. With all humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another in love, be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

I believe it is with closed hearts and a spirit weary of unity that often dominates the affairs of the Church today. And for this my heart will never cease to mourn- as I believe Christ’s heart is broken and will not be satisfied by anything less than unity within the body.

1 Peter 3:1-4 (for a word to our beloved sisters in Christ) “Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, so that if any do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, as they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not let your adorning be the outward adorning of braiding the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine clothing. But let it be the hidden nature of the heart, that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

Isaiah 32:17 “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.

I believe there is reason here to be forward-looking in our approach with our brethren. We do not minister for people with the present alone in mind, but with eternity in mind. So shall we see the necessity of “peace” when we begin to see eternity.

Hosea 10:12 “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness upon you.”

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS

Scripture teaches us not to be quarrelsome when correcting one another, but to do so in humility and with hearts wide open. This means that there is potential to be “hurt” when you come to someone with your heart wide open- they can wound you deeply- but our aim in correcting our brethren is not self-preservation, but rather, the edification of the whole body. The manner of our conduct towards the brethren we seek to correct should be in gentleness, patience, and peace.

I strongly urge careful and diligent consideration be given to the above passages.

We can never forget that “it is God who works in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure”; we must offer ourselves to the Lord as instruments of His healing, but never try to supplant Him as “the Great Physician”.

May this strengthen the hands that hang down who are weary from brokenness. And may God give wisdom as we learn to be peacemaker in a bitter and spiteful world so that Christ may be glorified according to His last petition. Amen!

 

The New Man: The Miracle of Regeneration

I have recently seen the necessity to think and speak rightly about the miracle of regeneration; for the slightest derivation in our thinking and speaking about this subject can lead to traumatizing spiritual maladies in our personal relationship with Christ.

Because of this I felt compelled to begin a series in our church on the topic of being “born again”.

I can’t ignore the reality that so many Christians today are perilously besieged by Satan’s lies on this subject; many in the Church today believe that it is normal for divorce rates, fornication, adultery, racism, and abortion to be as prevalent within the Church as it is in the world- nothing could be farther from the truth! But Satan’s attack is not one dimensional. Unfortunately, many Christians, seeing this deception for what it is, have been besieged by another one of Satan’s lies about regeneration; namely, that it is impossible to sin once you become born again.

What I have recognized during this series is just how much discipline is required to think and speak rightly on this subject. It is remarkable just how easily influenced our belief’s on this subject are by the various trends and currents of today’s events: but we must not be so easily tossed to and fro by every wind and wave of doubt. We must believe what God has promised with all our heart and mind!

THE MIRACLE OF REGENERATION

There’s a trend today to divorce the moral teachings of Jesus from our desperate need for atonement. As Oswald Chambers put it, “people talk pleasant, patronizing things about Jesus’ teachings while they ignore His cross. But the teaching of Jesus apart from His atonement simply adds an ideal that leads to our despair. What is the good of telling me that only “the pure in heart shall see God” when I am impure? Or of telling me to love my enemies when I hate them? I may keep these thoughts down, but the spirit is still there. Does jesus Christ make it easier? He makes it a hundredfold more difficult! The purity God demands is impossible unless we can be remade from within, and that is what Jesus Christ undertakes to do through the Atonement.” (Biblical Ethics/ The Moral Foundations/ The Philosophy of Sin: Principles for Christian Living, chapter 1: Moral Imperatives 1).

We must understand something about the moral imperative of God’s law that has been placed on the heart of all mankind: God’s moral requirement of humanity does not make itself weak to those who are weak, nor does it palliative our shortcomings; it does not take into account our heredity, infirmities, or cultural disadvantages. God’s moral requirement upon humanity requires that we be absolutely moral because God created us as moral beings. This is what separates us from animals; we feel moral indignation over transgressions and injustices that they simply cannot entertain in their animal senses.

But, through sin, death has separated us from our Creator and thus fractured in us what it means to be fully human. And as soon as we realize our human brokenness and inability to attain to God’s standard, we begin to equivocate: “of course God won’t demand it; of course God will make allowances”. But, as Oswald Chambers wrote, “God’s laws are not watered down to suit anyone; if God did that He would cease to be God. The moral law never alters for the noblest or the weakest; it remains abidingly and eternally the same.” (Biblical Ethics/ The Moral Foundations/ The Philosophy of Sin: Principles for Christian Living, chapter 1: Moral Imperatives 1).

ROMANS 2:11-12, 15 (MEV) “for there is no partiality with God. As many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned under the law will be judged by the law, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, while their conflicting thoughts either accuse or excuse them.” (see also Romans 3:23).

There is no human being that does not have some remnant of a moral imperative within them that makes them say “I ought to do this”, or “I should not do this”. This remnant of the human moral fiber exists in every person, even in the most degraded human specimen, and the Bible tells us exactly how it got there- it comes from God (Genesis 1:27).

Oswald Chambers wrote, “the modern tendency is to leave God out and make the moral standard whatever is most useful to people” (Biblical Ethics/ The Moral Foundations/ The Philosophy of Sin: Principles for Christian Living, chapter 1: Moral Imperatives 1). Nothing has changed since his time in the late 1800’s.

The prevailing moral thinking today says that morality has evolved by human beings for the benefit of humanity- the greatest good to the greatest number- but nothing could be farther from the moral reality each of us experiences on a day to day basis. A thing is not “moral” simply because it benefits the greatest number of people, a thing is moral because God is behind it! This is why philosophies of eugenics are so abominable to the human conscience; only a human conscience that has been seared beyond human recognition finds the rational practice of eugenics to be “moral”.

However, our problem is that we find in our brokenness this disposition: “I ought to do this, but I won’t; I shouldn’t do this, but I will.” This universal human problem removes from the realm of possibility all moral philosophies that teach us that we can simply “teach people what is right and they will do it”- they simply will not. The Scripture tells us our problem, that “we are carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. What I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:14-15). Fittingly this discourse in Scripture ends with the despairing cry “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) But the human spirit revives at the revelation “I thank God- through Jesus Christ our Lord! There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 7:25- 8:1).

Again, Oswald Chambers nails it; “what we need is a power that will enable us to do what we know is right! We at say, ‘Oh, I won’t count this time’, but every bit of moral wrong is counted by God. The moral law exerts neither coercion nor tolerates compromise. ‘For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all’ (James 2:10). Once we realize this we see why it was necessary for Jesus Christ to come. The redemption is the reality that alters our inability into ability!” (Biblical Ethics/ The Moral Foundations/ The Philosophy of Sin: Principles for Christian Living, chapter 1: Moral Imperatives 1).

The law of God is “the great equalizer”; everyone comes to it clothed and beautified by their wonderful accomplishments of pride, and everyone flees from it naked, bruised, and bloodied! Some flee from God’s law and quickly redress themselves in their vain accomplishments and pride; others, hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, humbly kneel before their creator with a broken and contrite heart. The former flee into eternal damnation, the latter kneel into everlasting life and are raised into newness of life and clothed in the white garments of Jesus Christ!

Jesus did not come to make things easier, as some preachers erroneously claim, He came to supernaturally lift us onto another plane! Remember Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will in no way enter the kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus goes behind the law to the heart of our very disposition. As it is written, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets, for I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

As Oswald Chambers wrote, “The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount penetrates our very heart and soul! Jesus didn’t simply say, ‘you shall not do certain things’, rather He demands that we have such a condition of heart that we do not even desire them! Every thought and imagination of heart and mind is to be utterly pure!”

We must make absolutely certain that we do not err in our thinking and be led to believe that “salvation” is at all separate from “atonement”: the purity God demands is impossible unless we can be remade from within, and that is exactly what Jesus Christ undertakes to do through the atonement!

Jesus didn’t come to tell people that they “ought to be holy”- everyone of us has already been born of a moral fiber and intuitively knows that there is an “ought” to which we are accountable- He came to put us in the place where we can be holy. This is the miracle of regeneration, and it is where humanity stumbles the most because it is out of our control. I can intellectually acknowledge various truths and realities; I can perform various sacred sacraments like baptism and the Lord’s Supper; but I cannot lift myself out of the fractured state of separation from God and place myself onto the high plane of justified fellowship with my Creator in true and unending holiness! That is the one thing I simply cannot do on my own.

Read Hebrews 9:14 (MEV), “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

What is fractured in our carnal condition is restored in the regeneration of Christ. Though every human being has a moral conscience, only those who are “born of water and spirit” have clean consciences. The carnal man’s conscience is fractured; it is not complete because he has been separated from God through sin. But the new man’s conscience is restored because he is in Christ Jesus and walking according to the Holy Spirit who now miraculously abides within him.

Therefore it is not a question of first applying Jesus’ teachings to your actual life and then trying to live them out, but rather, it is a question of applying them to your relationship with Him; then as you keep your soul open towards Him, He works in you to bear then fruits of your new life!

When we read “blessed are the poor in spirit”, this is not to say that we then attempt to become paupers towards the world! There are enough mortally poor in spirit souls in the world as it is. Rather, it is to say that we must become utterly poor in spirit before our God; then will we the “kingdom of heaven be ours”. Likewise with out mourning, meekness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, and purity. Such teachings of Christ must first be applied to our relationship with God before they can be realized in our walk upon this earth.

Therefore the best expression for us is found in Psalm 139:23: ‘Search me, O God’; I cannot make my own heart pure, I cannot alter my heredity, I cannot alter the dress of my mind; ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart.’ That is the poverty of spirit Jesus has blessed; if you are in that condition, He says the kingdom of heaven is yours! Why? Because God gives teh almighty gift of salvation from sin to paupers; He gives the Holy Spirit to them who ask as those who are destitute (Luke 11:13).

Unity: Wisdom is Justified by her Children

Unity in the body burns in Christ’s heart so much so that it consumed His last prayer before His crucifixion (John 17:20-23) and by the Holy Spirit who speaks only what He receives from Christ instructed the Church to reject a divisive man (Titus 3:10). For my part, through the communion of the Holy Spirit, my heart has been broken over the disunity that plagues the Church today. The Scripture certainly hit the nail on the head, saying, “know that the divisive man is warped and sinning” (Titus 3:10).

But I am not without hope! The very nature of “love” always hopes, and I believe that those who love Jesus will be broken over the state of disrepair the Church’s love for one another has fallen into, and we will all be compelled together again someday; even that one day tears will run over the time and fellowship that we needlessly lost!

Does this make me ecumenical? By no means! I believe the Church will unite in sanctification and honor. I believe that in humility and meekness we will one day endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Perhaps it will be through trial and tribulation that we will have our pride and arrogance purged from us and learn to walk in the grace of God, rather than just being content to talk about the grace of God. But I am certain that through the work of God love with be revived in the Church again and unity restored to our Body!

The difference between the move of God towards unity and the apostate ecumenical movement is that the latter is made on man’s terms, on man’s timetable, but the former is according to the infinite wisdom of God who works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose; one is made in the peace of Christ, and the other is made in the peace of the world.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (MEV) He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so we may no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, by craftiness with deceitful scheming. But, speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him, who is the head, Christ Himself, from whom the whole body is joined together and connected by every joint and ligament, as every part effectively does its work and grows, building itself up in love.

“Teachers” were given, in part, for the purpose of building up the body until we all come into the unity of “faith” and “knowledge of the Son of God”. Though teachers today are more known for accomplishing division rather than unity, it is my hope here to offer something by which the body may be strengthened according to the timely work of God for the “unity of the faith and the knowledge of His Son”.

WISDOM IS JUSTIFIED BY HER CHILDREN

Matthew 11:18-19 “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a wine bobber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Luke 6:43-45 “A good tree does not bear corrupt fruit, nor does a corrupt tree bear good fruit. Each tree is known by its own fruit. Men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a wild bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bears what is good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bears what is evil. For of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. ”

Perhaps one of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christian unity has been in knowing how to exercise unity in light of faithfulness to God. There can be no doubt that many of the “divisions” that have occurred in Church history have followed great moves of the Holy Spirit to separate His children from various apostasies (1 Cor. 11:19 & 1 John 2:19). But the vast majority of divisions within the brotherhood throughout our history have come from contentions over the appearance of godliness, but which in substance had nothing to do with godliness.

If we will humble ourselves and wait to observe the fruits of a matter, perhaps we will not be so easily divided against one another. In waiting- and praying- for the fruits of a matter to be revealed we will more clearly see the hand of God at work in our midst, and we will be slow to form harmful and unrighteous judgments against one another. But one thing may be said of this that I can see no way for the boastful, the proud, or the mighty who are puffed up with knowledge to practice this kind of patience; I believe this practice will only bear fruit worthy of the Holy Spirit when it is received with the meekness of wisdom, then we will see the fruits of righteousness that are sown in peace by peacemakers in the church of Christ again.

Perhaps the Lord will create the platform and provide the environment for the Church to be strengthened by what every joint and ligament supplies for the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God; perhaps we will again see the love of God awakened and rekindled to a fervent pitch in the heart of the Church until we can no longer stand to walk in the darkness and be divided against one another like we were enemies (1 John 2:11).

The Glory of Christ

I am yet again arrested in my study by the splendid contemplation of the glory of Christ!  And surely it is by the Spirit of Christ who dwells within me that I can sense Christ’s own zeal to reveal His glory to me! 

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with me where I am”, Jesus prayed, “that they may behold My glory…” (John 17:24)

I must wonder, do I know how strongly Christ desires to reveal His glory to me?  For surely if I knew, if I was really convinced and convicted that Christ longs for me to see His glory, I would be renewed in my faith daily and my love would not grow weary! 

But there is a terrifying thought that plagues my mind; it is more frightening than any other nightmare I have ever had: it is the thought that the human mind and human spirit might become altogether inhospitable to the glory of Christ!  What I mean by that is that the mind might become so inhospitable to the glory of Christ that it simply cannot endure the contemplation of His glory by faith anymore; that the human spirit might become altogether adverse towards the glory of Christ and could no longer abide before the face of Jesus Christ!  Oh God what a frightful thought! 

A second frightful thought to me is this; that some poor soul could hear what I’ve just said and be so unmoved as to say within themselves, “well I never think on the glory of Christ and I’m ok, so what’s the deal?”  That someone could come to the point of realization where they perceive that they do not think much on the glory of Christ and have such darkness in their mind so as to reassure themselves in this condition that they are still ok is a truly terrifying thought to me! 

What’s the big deal?”!  I’m not embellishing my speech right now; I really do have to ask myself how “carnal” and how “dark” have our minds become today that we are not struck by how little Jesus Christ is glorified in the Church. 

What’s the big deal?” is that God has divinely and extraordinarily shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6); to glorify Jesus Christ is the great work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:14)!  And sometimes it seems like we don’t at all seem disturbed that Jesus is not being exalted and glorified among us!

I am not talking about the emotional experiences, exuberant demonstrations, or the magnificent performances that have become the cheap external substitutes for the glory of Christ in our day.  I am talking about the heart-bending, faith-building, strength-giving, hope-rising, love-purifying glory of Christ that captivates the soul with the beauty of His holiness!

John Owen wrote the following:

Let us live in the constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and virtue will proceed from him to repair all our decays, to renew a right spirit within us, and to cause us to abound in all duties of obedience.

It will fix the soul unto that object which is suited to give it delight, complacency, and satisfaction… when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and his glory, when the soul thereon cleaves unto him with intense affections, they will cast out, or not give admittance unto, those causes of spiritual weakness and indisposition.

And nothing will so much excite and encourage our souls hereunto as a constant view of Christ and his glory. 1

1. The Glory of Christ, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, 1850-53, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), I, 460-461

I came across this quote from something John Piper wrote on the glory of Christ, and I cannot raise any more apt response from my heart than  “amen!”

The soul that is fixated on the glory of Christ is not so easily rattled!  Such a bond with Christ will, as Owen wrote, cast away or give no place to our spiritual weaknesses and indispositions.  But such a bond with Christ will also draw in and give sanctuary to those divine attributes of God that give us great spiritual strength and inclination that we find utterly lacking in our flesh!

Why, when such a delight awaits us in Christ, might we feel so burdened by deep contemplation of the glory of Christ? 

It may be that we are driving the Holy Spirit from His sanctuary in our heart.  Consider carefully Ezekiel 8:6 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,19 & 20.  If we drive the Spirit from the sanctuary of our heart by sin, we drive away Him who is appointed to glorify Christ from the very place in this fallen world where Christ’s glory is revealed! 

It may also be that we have not exalted God to glory in our own lives, nor have regarded Him as holy.  Consider carefully Leviticus 10:3.

Whatever we find that drives the glory of God from our minds so that His glory cannot abide long in our hearts and in our minds, my heart is stirred today to call on the Lord and ask for the grace of the Spirit to reveal Christ in glory to me!

“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts…” (1 Peter 3:15)

From The Evil One

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” ~Matthew 5:37

Jesus said empty and meaningless words are from the evil one.  They lend themselves to his purposes; to hypocrisy, lying, deceit, and an unstable mind. But our society is very comfortable with empty and meaningless words.  In fact, many of our social customs are built on them! 

Once we become accustomed to speaking meaningless words, and we get comfortable with the idea that our word is empty, we pave the way for all kinds of evil; we can “let slip” all kinds of malicious, slanderous, and evil speech against our neighbors and our brethren, and we allow Deceit to plot a course straight through our heart because we believe that we can speak one thing, and do another! 

I believe one day on the day of judgment that all these “little commandments” that we ignored will be revealed in glory as the pure wisdom of God!  Yes, I believe every Word of God will be exalted in its due glory, and we will look at these “little commandments” and lament for what we have lost because we did not give them a proper ear!

Moses was a man “slow of speech” (Ex. 4:10), yet the heavens listened when he spoke because he proclaimed the name of the LORD (Deut. 32:1, 3); so also ought it to be with the Church who are charged by the intent of God that His manifold wisdom might be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:10)!

It may be that the reason we the Church often ignore this commandment is because we do not know that the altar of our lips are holy to God.  Perhaps we have not yet consecrated our lips unto the Lord, nor understood the power of our words.  Indeed, what is so grievous about the “Word Faith” movement is that they have so defiled the teaching that our words are holy, that many in the Church cannot receive God’s Word on the subject!  Their judgment is just.

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

Much of God’s message has been lost because the Church no longer understands the beauty of holiness!  We do not get what it means that we have been purchased by the blood; that we are not our own, but His (1 Cor. 6:20).  Therefore, our words are common, and our praise profane (James 3:10).

May I exhort the brethren, then, to consecrate the altar of worship as holy unto God.  Let your words be pure and full, that you may proclaim the name of the Lord, amen!

Therefore, 

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath.  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’, lest you fall into judgment.” ~James 5:12