Monday, June 30, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Charity

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.” (Romans 14:13)

The topic of Christian liberty and charity occupies that remaining verses of this section. The tense of the first command conveys the idea of cessation of an act already in progress, “Let us therefore no longer be judging one another.” The tense of the second command conveys the idea of commencement, “But this rather start judging.” Man's pride motivates him to sit in the judgment seat of God, and determine, based upon his own understanding and desires, who is, and who is not spiritual. The Holy Ghost commands the cessation of all such carnal behavior. Rather than condemn a brother for infringing upon perceived “rights” and liberties, it is high time that each man become more concerned about the spiritual welfare of his neighbor; even if that welfare involves the sacrifice of legitimate liberty. The text now makes it quite clear that each believer is ultimately exhorted to the higher calling of charity.

The word stumblingblock conveys the meaning of something which is causing a spiritual hindrance in a brother's life. The word translated an occasion to fall conveys the idea of that which has led him directly into sin. It is the word from which the English word scandal is derived. If the stronger brother is not careful, his liberty to eat meat offered to an idol could very easily lead a weaker brother into sin. The weaker brother, following the stronger brother's example, may partake of meat which he believes to be offensive, but he has chosen to disregard God in his thinking and eat it anyway. Even though the meat is morally harmless, that brother has been led into sin because he eats in rebellion against God, and not for God's glory. Even though the meat itself cannot make a man morally impure, the weaker brother has sinned because he has gone against God in his thinking, all because the stronger brother cared more about his liberty than a man's soul. This is what Paul meant when he said, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died (I Corinthians 8:9-11)?”

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Conscience (Part V)

But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10-12)

People are masters at criticizing. Where matters of true liberty are concerned, each man had better take heed that he judge not his brother lest he be found to be a hypocrite. The judgment seat of Christ will lay bare every believer's motives, and not only the actions, but also the heart behind the actions. This judgment seat is the same one spoken of in I Corinthians 3:11-15. The text does not indicate that this judgment will be a pleasant thing. God will not condemn the believer for his sins. They have been forever dealt with under the blood of Jesus Christ, but He will try every believer's works, separating the good from the bad (II Corinthians 5:10). This is a sobering thought. False teachers and carnal Christians take a lax view of God's holiness, and misinterpret the truth of “no condemnation” to mean “no accountability.” The text presents quite a different view. In fact, the judgment seat of Christ will be so frightening that the text compares it, in principle, to the second coming of Christ. The quote in verse eleven is from Isaiah 45:23. In context, this passage in Isaiah is not speaking of the judgment seat of Christ for believers; it is speaking of the fact that all nations will bow the knee to God when Christ returns; however, because the principles of judgment are the same, it is applied in principle to Christ's judgment seat for Christians. The world will bow to Christ as every man's heart is laid bare, and the knee of every believer will fully bow to Christ at His judgment seat when each saint's work is fully realized for what it truly is.

With such serious matters of personal accountability at hand, each believer must live with a clear conscience toward his Savior. Ultimately, the man who has a stricter view of food and holy days will not have to answer to the man who does not; he will have to answer to Christ; and the man who sees no evil in the meat, and no need for special observance of Old Testament days, he will answer to Christ for his conduct and his attitude toward those who do not feel that they have such liberties.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Conscience (Part IV)

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” (Romans 14:7-9)

The conscience and its Creator is presented last. A man is not his own authority, nor is he an island unto himself. He belongs to his Master. Whether alive on this earth, or with God in heaven, the believer answers to Christ; therefore, it is imperative that he live in a manner which allows him to have a clear conscience toward God, regardless of how others may view him.

Christ's sacrifice makes the believer entirely His. Every Christian is intended to be completely given over to Christ's service. Christian liberty enables the believer to perform this service for his Master in a manner that is not unnecessarily restricting. Liberty never enables the believer to please his flesh. Such is the direct opposite of liberty's intended purpose. On the contrary, it is specifically designed to enable the saint to serve more freely. Often times when arguments and divisions arise over matters of “Christian liberty,” a fleshly spirit pervades. This is because most of these arguments are motivated by some self-desire that is trying to find itself a loop-hole through the avenue of liberty. The believer must be very cautious not to misapply the purpose of liberty. It sets the believer free to “...serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6).”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Conscience (Part III)

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:5-6)

A Jewish Christian may not have liberty in his conscience to travel on the Sabbath day, while another may see it all as the Lord's will. The issue is not whether or not a Christian ritualistically observes the holy days of the Old Testament, but how he considers God in making such choices. God wants each person to live his life in a way that brings glory to God in all that is done (I Corinthians 10:31). If a believer takes his journey on the Jewish Sabbath for the purposes of fulfilling God's will for his life, let him do so with joy and thankfulness toward God. If another believer chooses to remain immobile on the Jewish Sabbath out of respect for Old Testament observance, let him do so with joy in thankfulness toward God. Each man's spirit must be in submission to God. Each man must be doing all things for God's glory.

It must be noted that a believer's conscience must be considered when it comes to their daily walk in sanctification; however, when it comes to matters of salvation through faith in Christ, no room exists for debate or difference of opinion. When battling the false teachers which plagued the churches of Galatia, Paul said concerning them, “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you (Galatians 2:5).” These false teachers were not trying to serve God with a clear conscience; they were trying to mix lawkeeping with faith in Christ for salvation. They promoted the false belief that a man had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses as well as believe in Christ for salvation; therefore, Paul dealt harshly with them. Theirs was not a matter of conscience, but rather a matter of motive.

Believers are often tempted to apply this subject of liberty to areas which are truly not a question of liberty at all, but rather questions of holiness. For example, the believer does not have liberty to dress as he chooses. He does not have liberty to entertain himself as he chooses, nor does he have liberty to listen to any style of music he should so choose. These things are issues of holiness, not liberty, and God has given clear principles to instruct His children in their dress, entertainment and music. These examples do not fully encompass all areas where Christian liberty is falsely applied; they simply represent some of the more typical areas of controversy. Pride and self-will can motivate the believer to falsely apply the principles of Christian liberty. Those who promote holy living are often labeled “legalists” when, in reality, all they desire is to be pleasing to God by being separate from the world and allowing the Spirit to control them. Legalism is the belief that salvation is gained and maintained by works as well as faith in Christ. A desire to be separate from the world in thought, action, and motive does not make one a legalist. The rebel falsely labels people with standards as “legalists” because he wants to remove himself from this commandment, “...Be ye holy; for I am holy (I Peter 1:16).”

This passage does not give a man the right to manipulate others simply because he himself is “weak” or “offended.” It is not good to be weak in the faith. It does happen, but it is not ideal. Therefore, the man who attempts to corral others into doing his will while using this “weak brother” principle is exerting his own self-desire while wrongfully applying Scripture. Such people should be dealt with as rebels. Also, this passage is not giving a man liberty to be a glutton or to abuse his body through the consumption of harmful foods or beverages. God's people are commanded to be temperate, and to care for their bodies, because the believer's body and spirit belong to Christ (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

The text forbids a judgmental attitude on either part. The one who eats meat or does not observe certain days is not to despise his brother who sees it differently. He is not to use his brother's weakness as an excuse to deprive him of godly fellowship. On the other hand, the one who sees sin in eating meat or failing to observe certain holy days is not to view the other as living in sin. He is not to force his conscience on others as though it were doctrine. Acceptance is not in the presence or absence of these things; it is in the believer's heart attitude toward God. Is he thankful toward God in the decisions which he has made? Is he sincere in his service toward God as he abstains or partakes of these two activities? Sincerity of service through a clear conscience is the main concern, not the food or the holy day. The Christian need not please any man, only God, and if his motives are not sincere, God can judge him as needed. The Lord has allowed such issues of personal preference to exist in order that the believer's charity and obedience might be tested. Also, such issues of personal liberty encourage an attitude of humility as each believer is reminded that no one man has all the answers. God has allowed certain struggles to exist for the purpose of encouraging humility, faith, and patience.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Conscience (Part II)

For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:2-4)

There is room for conscience concerning one's food. The more mature brother is illustrated first. He understands that a certain food is not morally tainted because it was once dedicated to a lifeless idol. He understands that such things may be purchased in the meat market and used for God's glory. He knows that God may be sincerely thanked for providing such things. He is not having fellowship with the idol in its temple. He is not giving a public perception of compromise by boldly entering a place of heathen worship for the purpose of consuming things offered to idols. He is simply purchasing his daily food through the medium available to him and using it for the purposes of gaining the needed strength for God's service. On the other hand, a less mature brother may not understand these things. He is immediately offended by eating meat or seeing another eat it, because, for him, it is indisputably linked to something from which he has been redeemed. He cannot so much as taste it without feeling, in his conscience, that he has compromised his dedication to God.

The stronger brother is immediately commanded not to despise or reject another believer who struggles with such things. It is easy to become frustrated at those who make something out of nothing when so many more important battles exist, and yet, such things do happen. The weaker brother is still worthy of respect and fellowship. After all, does not Christ love him just as much? Does not God desire his spiritual edification and welfare? The stronger brother will never help the weaker brother draw closer to God if he himself withdraws. On the other hand, the weaker brother is also immediately commanded not to judge the other. God has received the brother who is eating meat just as much as He has accepted the brother who does not eat. A man must be careful not to let his conscience become the judge or the standard. It is permitted for a believer to live in away that allows his conscience to be clear, but he must never forget that his conscience is not the standard; the Bible is the standard.

God is the Master. Both the strong brother and the weak brother are His servants; therefore, they need only be concerned about pleasing God. At the end of the day, this is all that matters.

Friday, June 20, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Closing Admonition (Part II)

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)

The second part of the LORD'S admonition concerns the Day of the Lord. This is the day when God's final judgments are poured out upon sinful man. This is the day when this tired, sin-ruined old earth will witness the physical return of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that day, God will send His servant Elijah for the purposes of conversion. This is the same Elijah who was taken up to God by a whirlwind. Although John the Baptist was a forerunner of Elijah, his ministry is not the complete fulfillment of this passage. John came forth “ the power and spirit of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just...(Luke 1:17),” but he was not the full fulfillment of this prophecy. When the Jews sent to John and asked him if he were Elijah, he simply said “I am not” (John 1:21). After the disciples had seen Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, they asked Jesus, “...Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? (Matthew 17:10)?” Jesus answered them, and said, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed (Matthew 17:11-12).” Christ promised that Elijah would physically return himself even though John was the forerunner of Elijah's future ministry. These evidences, coupled with the context of the final day of the Lord, would strongly indicate that Elijah will someday return. He may be one of the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation, although, none can say with absolute certainty.

The Day of the Lord is described as being both great and dreadful. The word dreadful is the same word for fearful. As one examines this passage in the Hebrew text, he cannot help but notice the emphasis which is placed on these two adjectives. A literal rendering would be, “...before the coming of the day of the Lord, the great and the fearful!” The day when God's holiness is finally realized will be both great and fearful. No longer will men be able to misrepresent Him to others, because all will see their Creator for Who He is. His spotless character will precede Him, and no false professor will be able to abide His coming, as Revelation 19:12-16 declares, “His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Even so! Amen!

As this amazing book comes to a close, the Lord gives the reason for Elijah's future ministry. The reason is reconciliation. Although God's holiness is a fearful thing, and iniquity cannot stand in His presence, He is amazingly merciful, as Jeremiah exclaimed, “It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).” Right to the very end, God maintains a focus on the redemption of mankind. This passage breeds a sense of awe and dependency. If it were not for God working through Elijah, the hearts of the fathers, and the hearts of the children would remain unchanged, and hell would be their only alternative. Were it not for God's goodness leading men to repentance (Romans 2:4), were it not for His Spirit working conviction in the hearts of men, what chance would anyone have? Men need God. God does not need men. The Lord's saints must never forget how much they truly need God day by day.

When reading the end of this book, Orthodox Jews will typically repeat a reading of verse five or four after finishing verse six, because they cannot bear to end their cannon on the note of a curse. Rejection of God's righteousness through faith in the Person of Christ leaves no room for hope. Fearful judgments are pronounced in this book; yet, to the one who will repent and turn to faith in Jesus Christ, promises of deliverance abound, as Isaiah teaches, “Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off (Isaiah 33:13-17).”

O sinner, take heed to the judgments proclaimed in this book, and flee to Christ in repentant faith! O child of God, arise and cast of the rebellion and the pride, and return to the unmovable foundation of The Fear of the LORD!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Christian and His Liberty: Christian Liberty and Conscience

This next section deals with a Christian's liberty and how it pertains to conscience and the higher calling of charity. Two areas are dealt with specifically- food and holy days. The world in which Paul lived was immersed in idol worship. Along with such worship went the practice of offering meat to idols. This meat could either be eaten in honor to the idol (I Corinthians 8:10, 10:28), or it could be sold in the meat market after having been offered (I Corinthians 10:25). The eating of meats offered to idols was a practice in which all unsaved Gentiles would have had a part. It was their unregenerate way of life; therefore, after salvation, many of these Gentile believers would still have been very sensitive to the issue. Many of them would have felt the sting of a guilty conscience when they tasted the meat which brought back such painful memories of idol worship. This was the thought process of Paul when he wrote, “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled (I Corinthians 8:4-7).”

On the other hand, the converted Jew, having been brought up with the strict nature of Judaism, would be more likely to struggle with no longer having to observe certain days in the physical sense. The holy days of the Old Testament such as the Sabbath, the Passover, and the feast days are fulfilled in spirit as the believer serves Christ. In the Church Age, a Christian is not required to physically observe these things since God is dealing with men in a different way. The principles which are embedded in these days and feasts are fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Their significance is fulfilled in spirit as the believer serves Christ in humility. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (I Corinthians 5:8).” However, having been so strictly brought up in the routines and rituals of Judaism, coupled with the fact that so much of these things were still observed, it would have been very difficult for many converted Jews to leave off the actual practice of these days for fear that they would be in disobedience to the law of Moses. Understanding the background of these things will aid in properly interpreting the many lessons of this passage. As the section draws to a close, it will be very evident to the humble-minded that Christian liberty is to be used, not for selfish reasons, but for the edification of others, “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God (I Peter 2:15-16).”

In order to prevent the mishandling of Scripture, Christian should be biblically defined before delving into the passage. In the purest and strictest sense, Christian liberty is freedom to simply trust in the finished work of Christ apart from the works of the law. This definition is established by the book of Galatians where Paul clearly lays out that salvation is by faith in Christ alone apart from any work of the law. Christian liberty allows each and every believer to cease from dependence upon his own ability and rest entirely in the righteousness of Christ, as Paul wrote, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1).” Yet, this liberty is not a license to sin, nor is it freedom from standards, because Paul goes on to say, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).” Liberty from the bondage of human inability to flawlessly keep God's law allows the Christian to rest in the ability of Christ and freely serve others with a self-sacrificing spirit.

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” (Romans 14:1)

Christian liberty and conscience is the subject of the first twelve verses. The conscience and its conduct is first presented. It would be very convenient if everyone's faith was mature and complete. Many unnecessary arguments could be avoided if every believer fully understood and obeyed the doctrines of Scripture; however, such is not reality. The truth is, every Christian is at a different point in his spiritual walk, and some are weak in the faith. In other words, they may see limitations or evil in certain actions which, in and of themselves, are not evil at all, but for some reason, their conscience is offended in such actions. God opens this discourse by commanding the believer to receive such people. Human nature would tend to reject someone with such struggles, but the love of Christ commands just the opposite. The context of this passage is not commanding a Christian to coddle the rebellious troublemaker, but to be patient and understanding of the person who does not understand the full impact of Christ's finished work.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Closing Admonition

Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.” (Malachi 4:4)

The remaining verses deal with the LORD'S closing admonition. The first part of His admonition deals with the Law of the Lord. God simply commands Israel to remember it. He points them back to the beginning, when, having delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, He gave His commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai (also known as Horeb). The Lord reminds Israel of the fact that this law is for the entire nation. The simplicity of this final exhortation is both conspicuous and powerful. From the very first, Israel had failed to apply God's law to their hearts, and here, near the close of the Old Testament, nothing had changed; yet, God offers them no alternative for spiritual healing. Their continuous rejection of God's righteousness as seen in the law did not alter the fact that they needed to bow the knee to it. If they had opened their eyes, they would have seen Christ in the law. They would have seen their own inability to live up to God's standard. They would have seen the need for a blood sacrifice, and the divine promise that God would provide Himself a Lamb for the reconciliation of mankind. Outside of God's word, there is no hope; therefore, the Lord simply commands Israel to remember it. He did not provide them with an alternative course of action simply because they proved to be disinterested in changing from the inside out.

God's dealings with mankind have remained the same down through the ages, and they will remain the same right to the very end. He continues to point man to His word. Even though man's heart rejects God's word, the Lord will not alter it. Men do not follow this principle. If people reject truth or standards long enough, men will alter them or forsake them in order to be accepted by their peers. If God's simple truth appears to be insufficient or unpopular, men will lay portions of it, or all of it, aside. Such are not God's ways. He has magnified His word above all His name (Psalm 138:2); therefore, nothing else could be more powerful. Nothing else can bring such lasting results. Nothing else can change people from the inside out.

The Christian church must be ever on its guard concerning such things. As apostasy becomes more prevalent, and God's truth becomes more distasteful to the world and to the professing church, God's people must beware of laying aside the simple and powerful truth of the Scriptures for some counterfeit alternative. This dispensation has witnessed a trend in the professing church, and this trend is to seek some alternative for man's behavior simply because he refuses to follow the fear of the Lord as found in the Scriptures. Rather than towing the line, and insisting that people get on board with God's truth or get off, the professing church has decided to provide fleshly alternatives to repentance. Such are not God's ways. Regardless of how much His word is rejected, the admonition is always the same- Remember the Law! The admonition cannot change, because nothing else but submission to God can bring everlasting redemption.

Monday, June 16, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Stout Words (Part VIII)

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 4:2-3)

In stark contrast to the destruction of the wicked, the deliverance of the God-fearing is presented. Since true conversion comes only through the avenue of the fear of the Lord, the redeemed are represented as you that fear my name. Victory through the person of Jesus Christ is promised to God's people. In this passage, Christ is likened unto the bright sun that brings light to the darkness. The word wings can also mean extremity. The wings depict the life-giving rays of the sun which represent the healing nature of Christ's person. To the repentant sinner, the light of Jesus Christ brings help and healing through the avenue of faith, but to the proud, His light means judgment and certain destruction. The word grow up means to spring about. In Habakkuk 1:8, the same word is translated spread. The picture is that of young calves who are full of energy and life. While running from the confinement of the stall, they kick their heals and throw about their heads with great energy. Such a picture vividly illustrates the joy and freedom of God's redeemed. Clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and having beheld His victory at last, God's people will break forth from the confinements of this wicked world and enjoy the righteous reign of their King. The main application is to Israel, but the principle holds true for all who have come to Christ in repentant faith.

Redeemed Israel is also given the promise that they shall tread down the wicked. As ashes which have no power to deliver themselves from those who would walk over them, so is the final end of those who resist God's doctrine. The main application of this may be realized by studying what God has to say concerning Israel's future victory. Though hated on every side, and consistently plagued with apostasy, Israel will someday be nationally redeemed, and the saints of God will be victorious when their Messiah returns. God's people will no longer be ruled by false religion. They will no longer be shunned and oppressed by a godless world. Instead, they will go forth in the power and authority of their Messiah, and in that day, they will be victorious.

It is important to note that such victory is only made possible through the person and work of Christ. Also, this treading down is not accomplished through a spirit of hatred and revenge on behalf of the believer. It is accomplished through the authority of God, and it is accomplished in God's time, and in His way. God's people are not commanded in this day to exercise physical warfare against unbelievers simply because they will not accept Christianity; however, there is a day coming when God's patience with the wicked will have an end, and in that day, the fire will fall, and God's people will enjoy the victory of their King.

The text never indicates that the people of Malachi's day witnessed a change in their circumstances. More than likely, they passed on into eternity without having beheld any repentance in their countrymen; yet, their end is not to be mourned. Through the eyes of faith, they held fast to God's commandments, knowing that better things lay ahead, as Hebrews 11:13 says, “ These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” God does not guarantee deliverance from present circumstances, neither does He promise that His people will see His revenge upon the wicked in their lifetime, but He does guarantee the final victory; and what a victory it will be!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Stout Words (Part VII)

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 4:1)

The destruction of the wicked is now depicted. The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the day which is spoken of here. It is the climax of all that entails the day of the LORD. It is the day when “...The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ...(Revelation 11:15).” As Paul wrote, it is the day when “...As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God (Romans 14:11).” This awesome and fearful day is described as a burning oven. Those who believe God will not judge them would do well to read this verse. God is longsuffering, but the day of judgment is very nigh. It will prove to be a fearful experience for the wicked and the proud. It is interesting to note how God views pride and wickedness on equal plains. Of the seven sins mentioned which are an abomination to God, pride is the very first (Proverbs 6:16-19). Pride is the direct opposite of Christ-like humility, and it is the archenemy of godly fear. The word for proud means arrogant or insolent. In Genesis 25:29, the verb form of this word is translated sod or boil. The presumptuous and raging sinner who walks with his nose up toward God will be brought low in that day. All of his earthly advantages will be stripped away. His politics and associations will not profit him. His possessions will be gone. Even his own wisdom and prowess will prove to be nothing more than vanity. As Psalm 39:5 declares, “...verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” As dry, useless stubble succumbs to the heat of the fire, so will the unregenerate man be overcome by the fiery wrath of Almighty God. His end will be so complete, that no trace of him will be found. The flames of hell will forever be his home. He will have no more name, no more posterity. God's judgment will leave him neither root nor branch.

Seeing that the end of pride is such a fearful thing, why should it be practiced by God's people? If it is so hated by a holy God, surely it ought not have any place in a believer's life. Most Christians would not admit to being proud or struggling with pride; yet, attitudes and actions speak for themselves. A person's response to correction is a tremendous thermometer by which the fever of pride may be checked. Pride can also manifest itself as complaining, disobedience, anger, prejudice, hatred, oppression, unthankfulness, discontentment and so forth.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Christian and His Authority: The Conduct Towards Authority (Part III)

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:11-14)

Submission to authority has an end goal. Soon the Lord Jesus will be back, and when He comes, His children need to be found walking in righteousness with a clear conscience before God and man. The judgment seat of Christ will be a fearful experience (II Corinthians 5:9-11), and every believer shall “...give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12),” therefore it is time for believers to stop acting like rebellious sinners, and to start acting like children of holiness. With each passing day, the saint's full salvation draws nearer and nearer.

In these verses, Paul uses the personal pronoun us four times. The English translation reveals only three; however, the fourth is found in verse eleven. A literal rendering would be “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time (for) us out of sleep to awake.” He then says three more times let us. This type of command enables the writer to put himself on the same plain as the audience. Paul was not asking these Romans to do anything that he himself was not either doing or willing to do. Humble subjection to God-ordained authority is for all believers. A man never becomes so great that he graduates from obedience to this principle. In context, disobedience to the commands and principles of this chapter would be synonymous with putting on the things of darkness; therefore, in complete contrast to the rebels clothing, God tells the believer to be clothed with the armor of light. The world would consider subjection to authority to be a trait of weakness, but God labels such as armor. Man's true strength lies not in his own abilities, but in God's. Though the humble believer may appear to be weak on the outside, he is actually clothed with the impenetrable armor of his Redeemer, but the rebellious Christian makes himself an easy target for the enemy by adorning the penetrable and untrustworthy clothing of darkness.

The Lord gives a list of behaviors that characterize a rebellious person. He is a troublemaker and a drunkard. He is sexually promiscuous (chambering) and lustful. He engages in strife, and he is envious of things which he cannot have, or chooses not to have. God's child should never be characterized by any of these things; yet, if he acts like a rebel towards authority, he is no better off than the man who makes these traits his own. He may not engage in all the sins listed here, but his attitude of rebellion is shared by the one who practices all these things; therefore, what is the believer's advantage?

The only righteous alternative is to be clothed with the character of Jesus Christ. He consistently submitted Himself to the authority structure of His day while maintaining faultless obedience to Scripture. He was consistently under the ultimate authority of His Father, and when government commanded disobedience to that authority, Christ stood firm on the truth. What was the end result? He triumphed over principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15). The rebellious Christian will never experience such victory, because he is fighting against that which God has ordained. His spiritual life will be plagued with turmoil. The peace of the Holy Ghost will not be evident in his life, and at the last, he will be held accountable for robbing men of that which he most owes them, the love of God.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Christian and His Authority: The Conduct Towards Authority (Part II)

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:7-10)

In the context of righteously submitting to God's authorities, the Lord says, Owe no man anything. This sentence is often taken out of its context and used solely for a “proof text” concerning financial debt. Financial debt is sinful, and the book of Proverbs has much to say about it. Also, the principle of this verse may be applied to financial debt; however, the main thrust is to warn against failing to meet one's obligations of showing Christian love toward all. The saint who rebels against authority, and does not show the love of Christ to ungodly individuals of government, makes himself a debtor to man. Why? Because he has failed to pay them that which he owes them the most, the love of God. The love which Christ has bestowed upon His people brings with it the responsibility to reach others. The believer owes the lost man the love of Christ, and submission to authority is required in order to demonstrate this love. The rebel doesn't care about the souls of government's ministers; he cares only for himself. He is hateful and proud; he stews over the injustices of those in power while forgetting that, in this very act, he is guilty of the root sin of pride. By subjecting himself to the powers which God has allowed to be, he is able to fully demonstrate Christ's love. He is then free from the bond of pride and hatred. Undoubtedly, he will experience great injustices at the hands of government, but such is not the main point. The main point is that God be glorified through an attitude of faith and charity. When government fights against God's people, they fight against God, and God can take care of His children. The believer need not preoccupy himself with such matters, lest he be found to be usurping God's authority.

The verb behind the phrase hath fulfilled is in the perfect tense. It represents that which is fully complete and eternally effective. The five commandments listed here represent those of man's responsibility to man. The Christian who demonstrates the love of Christ completely satisfies the Law's spiritual requirements of man-to-man conduct, but the rebel is plagued by the fact that he is a debtor, not only to man, but ultimately to God Himself.

Christian charity cannot possibly harm the unbelievers of secular authority; therefore, the man who exercises it receives the commendation of his Creator. Humility manifests itself in Christian love, but pride is the favorite attire of the rebel. How many people have been won to Christ through hatred? Not a one. However, the demonstration of God's love has been the helper of millions; therefore, the saint who practices it truly owes no man anything. God's people need to stop viewing the individuals of authority as the enemy. Satan is the true enemy. He simply uses the lost men of governments. Christians must view these people as objects of God's love. They must show Christ's love through humble submission, and when government commands disobedience toward God, say with boldness and humility, “...We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).”

These verses are not negating the need for righteous indignation; they are not forbidding the act of self-defense, nor are they forbidding all acts of war. The Scriptures make it clear that such things have a time and a place. These verses are simply dealing with the heart attitude of submission. All too often, believers rebel against authority, unjust or not, and label such sin as “righteous indignation” or “self-preservation” when, in reality, it is nothing more than a lack of the fear of the LORD.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Stout Words (Part VI)

Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” (Malachi 3:18)

In context, the return spoken of here seems to refer to the Jewish migration back to Israel in the millennial kingdom. The national salvation of Israel will be followed by Christ's kingdom and the return of the Jewish people to their rightful inheritance. The Lord says that spiritual discernment will be present in that day. Their will be a clear distinction between the righteous and the wicked. God's redeemed will be made manifest, and so will the rebel. The wicked will no longer be permitted to hold a place in God's inheritance; they will be rooted out.

God desires for His people to be discerning. If discernment will be a chief characteristic of the believers in Christ's kingdom, how much more should it be exercised in the present day? Practicing discernment is not the same as practicing a judgmental spirit. One who is critical and judgmental toward others is not primarily concerned with God's holiness and the restoration of mankind. His primary interest is himself. On the other hand, the man who employs spiritual discernment is showing a concern for God's holiness and the reconciliation of others. Making judgments is biblical, as long as those judgments are according to truth. Christ said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24).” Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (I Corinthians 2:15).” Concerning hypocritical judgments versus just judgments Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye (Matthew 7:1-5).” God does not want His people to be self-centered hypocrites who make judgments which are motivated by pride, but He does want His people to employ righteous discernment which will aid them in holy living. He wants the believer to recognize the wicked and the righteous. He wants him to separate from ungodliness, not mingle with it. A belief system that opposes judgments of any kind is designed to enable the rebel to cast off God's authority so that he might become his own authority.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Christian and His Authority: The Conduct Towards Authority

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.” (Romans 13:5-6)

The remaining verses deal with the conduct towards authority. The believer is to subject himself to God-ordained authority not only for the sake of God's wrath, but also for the sake of conscience. A Christian cannot have a clear conscience toward God without obeying this command to be in subjection. Christians who rebel against authority are miserable people indeed because of this very principle. They lack the peace of God in their souls, because they are grieving the Holy Spirit by their rebellion. The approval of one's peers is a miserable substitute for the peace of the Holy Ghost.

With having a clear conscience in mind, the text commands the believer to pay his taxes as is appropriate. The word for pay is actually the word for fulfill or finish. God is telling the believer to fully pay the required tribute. This command is quite contrary to many people's thinking. Sadly, most believers put more energy into finding a way out of their responsibility than they do simply obeying this command. When a believer lies concerning his taxes and cheats the government out of tax money, let him not label such things as “blessings from God.” God does not help people sin, nor does He appreciate having His holy character dragged through the mud. The text calls the authorities of government God's ministers. Most people would not consider them to be such; however, they are, because they are being used of God to work out His ultimate will. It should be noticed that their character does not have any bearing on the matter. Even though the governments of man are plagued with evil, they are still being used by God for His purposes. The man who opposes these principles opposes the God who ordained them. By means of taxes which had been collected, God supplied the Jews with the required materials to rebuild His temple (Ezra 1). By means of tax money, God allowed an advanced Roman roadway to be constructed, and such was used by Paul and the early church for the spreading of the gospel. God knows what He is doing. If the Lord Jesus Christ thought it necessary and right for God's children to pay taxes, surely His servants have no excuses (Matthew 17:24-27).

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Stout Words (Part V)

And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Malachi 3:17)

Undoubtedly, the day of judgment is being referred to here. It is the time when Christ returns in the clouds with great splendor to set up His rightful kingdom. In that day, God will not forget those who are truly His. The false professor, the apostate, and the religious hypocrite will all be condemned together, but the God-fearing will be delivered. It is worth taking note of the fact that God does not promise a present deliverance from the circumstances which these believers were facing. The believer is never guaranteed that he will be physically rescued from the hands of the wicked; however, he is guaranteed that the one who saved him will keep him all the way into glory. The word translated jewels has the idea of personal property which is very valuable and unique. God considers each one of His people to be of the utmost value since each one is individually purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

As wickedness abounds, and mankind drifts further and further from God, it is easy for the Christian to lose sight of what the future holds for him. It is best for the believer to constantly keep Christ's return in view. Not only will it be of great encouragement, but it will also encourage a godly fear which brings about righteous living, as I John 3:2-3 declares, “...but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Christian and His Authority: The Purpose of Authority

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:3-4)

The Holy Spirit now focuses the believer's attention on the purpose of authority. The addresses found in these verses are in the second person singular form. This makes them extremely personal. It is almost as though the Holy Spirit is sitting down with each of His children on an individual basis and tutoring them concerning these vitals truths. If a believer misses the admonitions of this chapter, he will be a spiritual disaster.

In principle, God designed governmental authority to keep man's sin in check. After the flood, God invested human government with the right to capital punishment (Genesis 9:6). Without authority, man's sin nature would run wild. Even the most perverse authorities have some affect on how freely man exercises his violent and wicked behavior. Authority was not designed by God to be a threat to the righteous. The man who keeps God's law need never fear divine retribution through authority, because he has done that which is right. These verses are not addressing the injustices of authority, nor are they addressing government's persecution of the righteous. They are simply stating that the righteous man can be free in his conscience.  If a man is obeying the speed limit, he is not threatened by the policeman's presence. If a man is paying for merchandise, he need not fear the security camera. Authority is a true threat only to the wicked. Twice in this passage, authorities are labeled as God's messengers. God holds sway over the earth's governments. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” The kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon and Persia were all declared to be God's servants in one form or another, and every one of these kingdoms was wicked, oppressive, cruel, and haters of the righteous. Here, God is also declaring the Roman government of Paul's day to have been His servants, and this kingdom was extremely wicked and cruel. It was and is the Beast spoken of in Daniel's visions; yet, all belonged to God, and such can be said of all present day authorities. When authority crosses the boundary and becomes a terror to good works, God is well able to deal with His “servants.” He does not require the feeble intervention of His saints. God is able to establish kingdoms and throw them down, and He will do so in perfect justice and with perfect balance. The believer need only rest in this thought, “If I do that which is righteous, I need not live in fear of authority; and if I am persecuted for my righteousness, then God is able to exercise righteous judgment between me and my oppressors.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Stout Words (Part IV)

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16)

There is always a remnant! God's saints are often few, and, at times, it may appear as though they have been completely wiped out, yet God knows who they are and where they are. Elijah discovered this to be so, when he cried out in self-pity, “...I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away (I Kings 19:10).” But, God responded, “...I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him (I Kings 19:18).” This blessed remnant is described as they that feared the LORD. The fear of the Lord has always, and will forever, be a mark of the true believer. Perhaps above all else, this particular trait divides between the false professor and the truly redeemed.

The word then means at that time. It is not a conjunction, but rather an adverb which describes the time at which the speaking occurred. While most of the nation was abhorring God's service and exalting the wicked, a small remnant of humble people were speaking truth one with another. A literal translation of this first sentence would be, “At that time, they which feared the LORD spoke, each man with his friend....” One can almost picture this small group of God-fearing people. Perhaps their words consisted of quotations from the Psalms or the Prophets. Perhaps each man and woman reminded their neighbor of the promises contained in the Proverbs, promises such as, “The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot (Proverbs 10:7).” Whatever the nature of their exhortations, the Lord hearkened (paid attention to), and heard their righteous words. O the glorious nature of divine condescension! God is not required to hearken or to listen to anyone; yet, He chooses to acknowledge those that seek Him in faith, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him (II Chronicles 16:9).” This truth gives great hope to anyone who has had enough of his own wickedness and the wickedness of the world in which he lives.

The Lord demonstrated the genuine nature of His hearing by commanding the writing of a book. This book is called a book of remembrance. This word may also be translated memorial. Concerning his own trials, David wrote, “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book (Psalm 56:8)?” God keeps perfect records. Books are spoken of as being present in heaven. God keeps books by which He will judge the works of unregenerate men (Daniel 7:10). He has a book of life which houses the tally of the redeemed (Revelation 3:5), and, as this passage declares, God has a book which records the righteous pleas of His people. God does not keep such records for His own edification. His memory needs no assistance. Such records are kept for the sake of man. When judgment day comes, every mouth will be stopped at the righteous judgments contained in God's faultless records.

To these humble and hated saints, it must have seemed as though hell itself would swallow them up, as they beheld the entire nation uttering such perversity; yet, the Creator of all was hearkening to their broken hearts, and logging down every last righteous complaint. They were not left destitute. The man who seeks God in faith is never alone, because, “...If God be for [him], who can be against [him] (Romans 8:31)?”

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Christian and His Authority: The Source of Authority

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13:1-2)

The source of authority is the first matter to be addressed. This Source is none other than God Almighty. The word used for powers is the same word often translated authority. The powers spoken of here are those who sit in the place of government. The word let is not asking the reader for permission. It is stating a simple fact. God has decreed that governmental authority will be so; therefore, let it be so, and each and every soul falls under the reality of this divine institution. Man cannot alter this; regardless of how frustrated he may become with its abuse by wicked men. The text makes it clear that every authority, good or bad, is allowed to exist by God's decrees.  The believer is not exempted from obedience because an authority is not righteous.  The tense of the Greek verb which has been translated are ordained is conveying the idea of an irreversible action. God has ordained authority, and it is not going away. Someday it will be cleansed and restored in righteousness, but it will forever be.

The word for resist means to wage war against. The picture is that of the man who digs his feet into the ground and takes a fighter's stance against governmental authority. The text makes it clear that the man who does this is actually taking a fighter's stance against the Almighty. Most believers would not consider their hatred of authority (good or bad authority) to be such an offense toward God; but such is the case. If a father were to entrust his little boy with a message for the other siblings, and these siblings were to disregard the message, they would, in reality, be disregarding the authority of their father. Such is the case when the believer rebels against the principles of government and takes matters into his own hands. He will never be successful, nor will he have peace in his soul, because he is waging war against the very One who has permanently ordained such things. Often times, the Christian believes he is honoring God with his hatred and rejection of authority; but all he is doing is handling matters in the flesh and resisting God's decrees. The word for damnation is the same word often translated judgment. God will see to it that the rebel, lost or saved, will be duly rewarded for his disregard of godly fear.

Friday, June 6, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Stout Words (Part III)

And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (Malachi 3:15)

Their perverted hearts had led them to perverse conclusions. In this verse, they make three declarations, all of which are directly opposed to biblical truth. First of all, they say that proud people are happy people, but Scripture declares, “The LORD will destroy the house of the proud...(Proverbs 15:25).” Secondly, they say that people who work wickedness are set up, established, or built. However, Scripture declares, “The LORD...casteth away the substance of the wicked (Proverbs 10:3).” Lastly, they declare that the man who tempts or tests God will be delivered, but Scripture says, “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest (Psalm 95:8-11).” The unconverted conclusions of man's black heart are consistently against the unerring truth of Scripture.

Because of their lost state, these people had arrived at such a belief system; however, a Christian is not above being tempted with the belief that God's service is vain, or that the wicked are better off than the righteous. When a believer loses sight of the fear of the LORD, he becomes very susceptible to such reasoning. The human heart is hateful, and desperately against the things of God; therefore, the believer who allows his heart to guide his steps rather than relying upon the Spirit of truth, will soon find himself uttering such perverse thoughts as these. Does this mean that such a man was never saved to begin with? Not necessarily. The believer is still with his old flesh. He is still just a sinner saved by grace. He still needs the daily guidance of godly fear and faith. He is not above serious mistakes. An illustration of this may be seen in Psalm 73. In this Psalm, godly Asaph had wandered from the fear of the Lord and had allowed himself to believe that the wicked were better off than the righteous. Commenting on the disastrous effects of such thinking, he says, “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:2-3).” At the end of the Psalm, he declares how God delivered him from such reasoning, “...I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction...But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works (Psalm 73:17-18, 28).” Once Asaph's focus was back on the fear of the Lord, all was well.

When a believer finds himself questioning the worth of God's service and envying the apparent prosperity of the God-hater, let him humble himself immediately and flee to the truth of Scripture! It is never vain to serve the Lord, and just when a man thinks that he has shown great piety toward God with no reward, he may find that he has been living in self-deception.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Christian and His Conduct: Conduct Guided by Charity (Part V)

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” (Romans 12:15-16)

Christian charity is also multifaceted. The love of Christ is sufficient for anyone in any circumstance. The saint who is truly exercising charity will see the need to accommodate different people depending on the situation. This is what Paul meant when he said in I Corinthians 9:22, “...I am made all things to all men....” This passage is often quoted in an attempt to justify loose behavior and associations; however, it is speaking of condescending to the needs of others by means of charity while maintaining holy conduct before God.

The believer is consistently reminded to avoid a “high-and-mighty” mindset. Verse sixteen is not forbidding the exercise of one's intellect. It is forbidding the exercise of prideful thinking. David described this same thought in Psalm 131:1 when he said, “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” Human nature enjoys exalting itself above others; therefore, people will often be tempted to seek relationships with other proud people. The Lord forbids such behavior in His children. The word condescend literally means to be carried away with. Christ wants His people to be carried off with humble individuals. Humility is inseparably linked to saving faith (Psalm 34:18, Isaiah 57:15); therefore, the Christian should value this trait, and seek to surround himself with others who value it. A failure to do so will result in destruction (Proverbs 16:18).

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

The preposition for means instead of or in place of. God wants the Christian to stop stacking evil on top of evil. Human nature's first instinct is to “get even,” but this behavior is directly opposite to the Spirit of Christ who said, “...Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” Provide consists of two words whose combination renders the meaning think beforehand. Instead of being dominated by vengeful thinking, God wants the saint to think beforehand about providing good and honest things in the sight of people. This behavior will not come naturally; it is made possible by the Spirit's presence.

Peace is not always possible; however, it should always be the believer's first choice. A hateful and spiteful spirit is a trait of the damned (Titus 3:3). Contempt for government and all forms of authority is often commonplace among God's people, but such behavior is wicked. Not all men will accept peace. War and conflict have their proper place; yet, it should never be said of God's people that they instigated ill-will.

Deuteronomy 32:35 is first quoted, followed by Proverbs 25:21-22. God is the only one who is capable of completely righteous judgment. He made all things; therefore, vengeance is His. The saint who consistently struggles with bitterness and revenge has failed to reach the conclusion that God alone is enough. He is in control. He sees all, and He judges all. The man who will not let God be judge is indirectly accusing God of some insufficiency. Heaping coals on the head is not implying the infliction of some vengeful pain; but rather, it is picturing the purifying effects of repentance. As the enemy beholds a loving response to his ill behavior, God's burning Spirit of conviction will work in that person's heart for the purpose of driving him to repentance.

Rather than be the one who is defeated by the evil, the believer is commanded to conquer through the goodness of Christ. The sweet taste of vengeance is short lived. Like sugar candy, it leaves a terrible and unsatisfying aftertaste. Vengeance can never bring long-term satisfaction. The flesh is very deceitful, and it can temporarily fool a man into thinking that he is the victor through revenge. Time will soon reveal that such is not the case, and that man will find himself to be the one who has been defeated; therefore, God commands the believer to submit his will to biblical truth and continuously return good for the evil shown. Such a man will always prove to be the conqueror in the end, and who knows if he shall deliver a fellow soul from hell in the process?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Stout Words (Part II)

Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?” (Malachi 3:14)

The LORD'S reply occupies the rest of chapter three as well as the first three verses of chapter four. The Lord answers their question by simply declaring that which their hearts have uttered. Man's thoughts and motives are not hidden from God. He sees everything, and the most delicate cogitation which a man might entertain is that which God openly declares to him (Amos 4:13). In their carnality, the people had come to the point where they believed God's service to be absolutely empty. The word vain means empty, meaningless, or without value. Man's heart will always tell him that God's service is useless. This reasoning is completely contrary to the righteous teaching of Scripture. Psalm 1, among many other passages, clearly describes the blessedness of the man who serves God. Psalm 144:15 declares, “...happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.” When Israel walked with God, they were well aware of the benefits of His service. However, when they attempted to serve Him in the flesh, they soon arrived at the conclusion that such service was vain. The problem did not lie in the worth of God's service, but in the wickedness of the people's motives. The service seemed dead because it was being performed with an unconverted spirit. Zechariah 7 declares such to be the case. In this chapter, the elders of Israel send to inquire as to whether or not they should continue their rituals of mourning. Since the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews had been carrying on a ritual of repentance once a year. This process had lasted for seventy years, but with the temple rebuilt, they question the need to continue such behavior and ask, “Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years (Zechariah 7:3)?” To the outsider, such an inquiry may seem very pious; however, God saw through the deception and replied directly to their heart attitude. He says, “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?...Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart (Zechariah 7:5-10).” Even in captivity, the people were serving themselves and not God, and now, back in the land, they still served themselves; thus, they came to the conclusion that God's service was useless.

They claimed to have kept God's ordinance and to have walked before Him with an attitude of mourning; however, all these things had been done in pretense; therefore, they were not profitable. They were simply dead works, void of repentant faith.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Christian and His Conduct: Conduct Guided by Charity (Part IV)

Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)

Distributing is the word from which fellowship is derived. It means to have a share in. Having a share in the needs of others is actually a privilege since this allows the Christian to experience the love of Christ in a sacrificial way. Given to is a word which means to persecute or pursue. The same word is used in I Corinthians 14:1 where the believer is commanded to follow after charity. As a man would pursue and assail his enemy, so the saint is to chase down hospitality.

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” (Romans 12:14)

The saint's ability to bless those who are against him is certainly a hallmark of the Christian faith. This ability comes only through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The Lord embodied this principle as He hung on the cross and spoke concerning His persecutors, “...Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” The verb bless means to speak well of. This response is completely opposite to what the flesh desires; therefore, it is an excellent indicator as to whether or not a believer is filled with the Spirit, and a complete inability to honor this command is an indication of the Spirit's absence.

Monday, June 2, 2014

An Indictment Against the People of Israel: The LORD'S Declaration Concerning Stout Words

Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?” (Malachi 3:13)

Israel's words were previously declared to be wearisome, and now the LORD'S declaration concerning stout words is presented. The word stout means hard, strong, or, in this case, severe. Though bearing the very name of God in the title of Israel (he will prevail with God or prince with God), the nation's thoughts, motives, and actions were against the Lord's purposes. The nation of Israel is not alone in this sin. From the Church age to the present day, thousands of false professors have taken upon themselves the title of Christian while their hearts, and minds have remained unconverted and diametrically opposed to the doctrines of Scripture. False prophets, false teachers, and false professors have plagued the earth since the very beginning, and they will be here until the very end, but, as the text will soon declare, they shall all come to their rightful end.

Israel's presumptuous question follows hard on the heals of God's declaration. To the very last, they persist in refuting all divine accusations. This is the last time that the text indicates any reply from the people. After this, God will speak up until the close of the book. At this point in history, dark days lay ahead for the nation. Persia's rule is coming to a close. The reign of Xerxes I, the last significant Persian emperor, came to an end in 465 B.C. Assuming Malachi was written close to 400 B.C., it would be less than eighty years before Greece takes over the entire middle east and the struggle of the Seleucid empire (Daniel 11) begins. Israel's future is to be fraught with destruction, persecution, and moral and spiritual degradation; yet, all they can say is “What have we spoken so much against thee?” May people learn to be responsive to God's merciful rebukes. He will not plead indefinitely, “...behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2).”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Christian and His Conduct: Conduct Guided by Charity (Part III)

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;” (Romans 12:12)

The Christian is commanded to be continuously rejoicing in Jesus Christ. This is a heart attitude. The man who is most controlled by the Spirit is not necessarily the one who is always smiling. In and of itself, a continuous smile is not wrong, and may indeed be indication of the Spirit's filling; however, there is a danger in equating the Spirit's filling with a smile. Some of the most carnal, miserable Christians have a constant smile. The rejoicing of this verse is a result of allowing Christ to be all sufficient. The Lord Himself is the best example of how a man can continually rejoice even though he may face extremely difficult circumstances. The believer is enabled by the Spirit to rejoice in the sure and solid hope of Jesus Christ, but he will have to make a choice to do so (Psalm 57:9). The flesh does not delight in praising God regardless of the situation. The flesh is self-centered, and enjoys attention and sympathy from others. Rejoicing oftentimes will not draw in people's attention in the way the flesh desires; however, rejoicing will bring the favor of God, and, in the end, this attention will prove to be the only type which truly sustains the soul.

The word patient is comprised of two parts, which, when put together, give the meaning of remaining under. Human nature encourages a man to remove himself from the pressures at hand; therefore, one's own feelings cannot be the guide by which decisions are made, especially during trials. God commands the Christian to remain under the trials which He has allowed. God permits such things so that He might work out profitable chastening. Such chastening encourages the believer to focus on Jesus Christ. During the course of such events, the believer is being sanctified by the Spirit as he is taught to disregard his own feelings and live by faith in biblical principles (Hebrews 12:5-11). This doctrine is contrary to what the flesh wants to hear; yet, it is biblical. Trials build positive Christian character while encouraging the saint to look for the “...blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).”

Continuing instant has the idea of being busily engaged in or devoted to. This powerful weapon of prayer is often the last to be wielded in battle when it should be the first. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, though God in the flesh, busied Himself with an attitude of prayer. A man need not be constantly on his knees throughout the day in order to be in obedience to this command. Prayer can be a frame of mind as easily as anything (I Thessalonians 5:17). Times for stopping all else and bowing in prayer are right and good, but why not carry this heart attitude right into the daily actions? Would God be displeased with the man or woman who chose to seek His approval in all that they do throughout the day? Would He be bothered by the child who considers his responsibility to the higher Authority while completing his chores? God's presence and life-giving principles may be considered and meditated upon at any time. God's approval may be sought at any moment. A prayer of dependance and godly fear may be uttered at any hour. Let the saint of God spend time on his knees in devoted prayer, and let him continue this attitude in his business for the day. With such a lifestyle, the flesh will truly have a more difficult time in getting the better of a man.