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PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF!

One of my favorite quotes on prayer comes from Martin Luther. Here is what he had to say about the need for Christians to be people of prayer. “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.” I don’t know exactly when he made this quote but I was able to find it on the Internet. It has always been a meaningful statement to show the value of spending more time in prayer. For me, it also demonstrates a value in prayer that requires constancy and persistence.

Last week we looked at the startling request the disciples made of Jesus. Their request was, “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples”. Even though we studied that passage in my last blog it just amazes me that His followers, including the Apostles, felt the need for more training in prayer. Is your prayer life suffering? If so, is it because you have not been taught to pray? It seems to me that we all could use more training designed to enhance our prayer life.

After giving the disciples the Lord’s prayer, He gave them an example from everyday life to show the need for persistence in prayer. To gain more understanding on prayer please read the following verses from the gospel of Luke.

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:5–13 (ESV)

Notice the following helpful ideas on praying we can learn from what Jesus said in the example found in Luke’s gospel.

  1. When the need is urgent there is no such a thing as an inopportune time to make your request. Jesus used the example of a neighbor in need of help who was banging on the door of his friend’s house late at night asking for assistance. The first response was “Do not bother me, it is late, we are in bed and I cannot give you anything!” Isn’t that about how most of us would react under a similar circumstance? Yet, urgency compelled that the neighbor continue pounding on the door until he received a positive result to his urgent request.
  2. Persistence gets results. Furthermore, Jesus said that, at first, even though the man in bed would not give anything to his friend he quickly changed his mind because of his friend’s impudence (persistence). So he quickly arose from his bed and gave his friend everything he needed. Of course, God is not man and has none of the quick excuses we humans often make for not doing the right thing. However, the lesson is clear. If we persist in our prayers, and if they are according to God’s will, He will give us what we ask of Him, 1 John 5:14-15.
  3. God appreciates it when His people ask Him for blessings through prayer. He wants us to ask so that He can give. He appreciates it when we Then He will be sure that we find those good things that we ask of Him. When we knock on God’s door, He will open to us. One of the lessons on prayer from this passage is that God wants us to show the true depth of our requests. We must be persistent. We must ask, seek, and find in order to receive. When we avail ourselves of an audience with God by knocking on His door with persistence, then, we will receive His blessed answer to our prayers.
  4. If our earthly fathers know how to give good things to their children, how much more will God give to those who ask Him for blessings? For sure, God is a better Father than any human being. He not only wants to give His children His blessings, He also knows what is best for each of us. It would be nice if each of us who follow the Lord knew what was the best thing for us to ask of the Lord. But we don’t. Sometimes our prayers are filled with selfish desires. Other times we are full of pride like the man Jesus described in the story of the Publican and the Pharisee, Luke 18:9-14.. One thing we know for sure is that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” James 1:17.

Our prayer life will become better when we realize that without Him we have nothing. When it comes to prayer for God’s assistance there is no such thing an inopportune time to ask. You can go to God anytime day or night. Know that persistence gets results. Show God you really mean it when you pray. Oftentimes God wants to see just how badly we desire those things that we ask of Him. Do not think your prayers are a bother to God. Our Heavenly father delights in us when we ask for His blessings through prayer. As much as your parents, your spouse, your children or your friends have blessed your life they cannot compare to our Heavenly Father. Do you have some requests to make of Him? If so, why not make them right now. And ~ do so with faith and persistency.

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LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY

Lesson One

“Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples”, Luke 11:1

When I was the preacher in Seagraves, Texas, back in the 60’s, I met a remarkable man named Luther Savage. He was an old man who suffered from macular degeneration. Because of his affliction he could barely see. Yet Luther faithfully came to worship and always displayed a cheerful disposition. I will never forget the first time I heard this brother lead us in prayer. He had carefully thought out what he wanted to say and he did so with amazing eloquence. When Luther led prayer it usually took extra time, however, it was certainly time well spent. I always stand in amazement when I am in the presence of one of God’s prayer warriors!

A great number of the people who followed Jesus throughout his ministry were remarkable servants of God. Twelve of them were chosen to be the Lord’s apostles, Luke 6:12-16. Some of the women in His group financially supported the Lord and his disciples, Luke 8:3. Most importantly, the people who regularly followed Jesus were people who had a great faith in God. They were disciples of the Lord and they served as examples of godly living to others. Actually, they are also examples to those of us who are alive today. Most certainly they were people who prayed often. It is remarkable to me that these giants of the faith once asked Jesus to teach them to pray. It makes me wonder if we should be asking the same question.

Why would people of such strong faith, people who were sacrificing in order to follow Jesus, ask to be taught to pray? One would think, at the very least, the apostles would not need instruction on the topic. It seems to me they asked for this assistance because they had often heard the Master pray and they saw a difference in his prayer life and their own. They wanted to become more like Jesus when they prayed. So do I. How about you?

New converts learn quickly that offering meaningful prayers is a learned habit. Just because a person comes to faith in Jesus does not mean he knows how to pray. We should be grateful to Luke for recording the fact that John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray. Thus, even for disciples, prayer is a learned ability. The goal for this series of lessons on prayer is to help us, each and every one, to improve our prayer life. I fully expect to find my own prayer life improved and I pray you will experience the same. Therefore, for the next few weeks, we will be looking at prayer. I know for certain that I need to do a better job of praying to our Heavenly Father. How about you?

We will begin by looking at Jesus’ response to the disciples on the question of prayer. The Lord replied, “When you pray, say “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom comes. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us, and lead us not into temptation,” Luke 11:1-4. Contained in this slightly abbreviated form of what is often called the “Lord’s prayer” we can discover some rudimentary elements of prayer. Isn’t it wonderful to realize that when we pray we are actually talking to God? In like manner, when we read the Bible, God is talking to us. This vital two-way communication is needed if we are to experience a healthy spiritual life.

The rudiments of prayer found in Luke chapter eleven are:

  1. Address your prayer to our heavenly Father.
  2. Say words that honor (hallow) the name of God.
  3. Pray for the progress of the Kingdom of God, the church.
  4. Ask the Lord for the daily necessities of life. Specifically mentioned is our daily food.
  5. Ask for forgiveness of our sins. Matthew chapter six adds the request that we not be led into temptation. We will discuss this in a later lesson.
  6. Acknowledge the fact that, we ourselves, must forgive those who are indebted to us. In Matthew 6:14-15 amplified this idea by clearly stating that we are to forgive those who trespass against us. Otherwise, God will not forgive us our trespasses against Him.
  7. Later in His ministry, Jesus informed the disciples they were to pray in the name of Jesus, John 16:23-24.

Next week we will follow-up with the teaching Jesus offered His disciples in response to the question on prayer found in Luke 11:5-13. Would you join me right now and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all the blessings He has given us through Jesus Christ our Lord? You will be glad you did!

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DO NOT FRET

   Have you ever been distressed over the actions of wicked people? We are certainly living in a time when evil people seem to be on the increase. More and more people are rampaging through the streets shooting innocent people. These shootings are taking place all to often. Most people hate to see anyone murdered. It is especially distressing when a deranged person goes on a rampage and kills innocent people. Of course, we all want to see these terrorist actions stop.

   Then there are the terrible killings in Syria and Iraq. Groups like Isis give no thought to murdering innocent people. We live in dangerous times. For many people it is difficult to find solace when such unthinkable events take place. While we hate the terrible murders of innocent bystanders we must not let the perpetrators of these evil deeds dominate our thoughts. Doing so will cause our spiritual lives suffer.

   The truth is, wicked people often prosper and seem to have the upper hand over the righteous. It is easy to focus upon the sad state of affairs of our modern age. It is easy to wonder where God is in all of this mess. The truth is, evil men have prospered throughout the ages. They often seem to get away with evil deeds. But, they won’t get away with their iniquity. In Psalm 37:1-9 King David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, addresses this very problem. What David wrote will help us to cope with the difficulties we face when evil men seem to have the upper hand.

ADVICE CONCERNING EVILDOERS: Psalm 37:1-2

  1. Don’t allow evil men to dominate your thoughts: “Fret not yourself because of evil doers”, Psalm 37:1. In this context David speaks of evildoers who are being more successful than the followers of the Lord. However, the thoughts expressed by the Psalmist helps us to cope with the terrible deeds perpetrated against innocent people. First of all, we are told not to fret. The Hebrew word for fret is “charah”. It means “to burn or be kindled with anger” The word can also mean “furious, distresses, fret, or to rage”. The teaching of the Apostle Paul seems appropriate for this word. He said, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Ephesians 4:26. Paul gave us good advice when he wrote “Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” Philippians 4:8. He is not saying we should bury our heads in the sand but he is saying don’t let bad thoughts dominate your mind.
  2. Don’t envy the “success” of evil men: God will take care of them at the proper time. “Be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb”. To a large degree we cannot control the actions of those who are determined to do evil. Often they seem to be in charge of this world. However, they are not. The time will come when God will take appropriate action against all evildoers.

ADVICE FOR BELIEVERS: Psalm 37:3-9

  1. Trust in God and do good: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness,” Psalm 37:3. We just have to realize that God is in control of our lives when we follow Him. We just need trust Him and do good. Don’t you love the idea that we are to “befriend faithfulness”? Of course this speaks of our firm convictions. We know that “for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28. That is true even if we must die for our faith in Jesus. Yes, it is true! Death is a reward for those who love and obey God.
  2. Delight in the Lord: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart,” Psalm 37:4. What is your greatest delight? Is it your spouse? Your children? Your wealth? For the child of God our greatest delight is in God and Jesus Christ our savior. Such a mindset will carry us though any difficulty evildoers can bring before us. In addition, when we delight in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart. The question is, “What do we desire?” Jesus taught that we should seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Putting the spiritual ahead of the physical provides us with the ability to withstand the actions of evil men. We will not fear them, Hebrews 13:5-6 and we will stand ready to fight against the evil deeds of men in high places. Paul makes it clear that we are God’s warriors and we must fight against the devil and his helpers, Ephesians 6:10-18. It is our “delight” to do so.
  3. Be patient; the Lord will act: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” 37:5-7.The idea is: we must be patient and wait upon the Lord. We must commit ourselves to Him, trust Him and realize that, at the proper time, He will cause righteousness to shine as a light. We must wait on the Lord, He will take care of evildoers according to His own timetable.
  4. Refrain from anger:Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil,” 3:9. It is difficult for us to wait for evildoers to be punished. Sometimes it appears that they are winning the battle. When wickedness increases we must refrain from unrighteous anger. Doing so will only cause us to dwell upon evil thoughts. Instead, we are to “rejoice in the Lord always”, Philippians 4:4.
  5. Trust God to bless your faithfulness: “Those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land,” 37:9. King David spoke of the land of Israel but there is a land for the Christian as well. Our rest comes when we dwell with God in heaven. Never forget that we are only sojourners on this earth. Our citizenship is in heaven, the place we all long to be. In our heavenly home we will not have to deal with evildoers anymore.

   The message of Psalm 37 clear. Do not fret over evildoers. As God’s children, we need to trust in God and do good. We must realize that God is truly in charge of this world. He will punish the evildoers in due time.

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IT GROWS ON YOU!

When my wife, my children and I arrived as missionaries to the country of Thailand we found ourselves in a totally different environment than we could have ever imagined. Many things were different from how they were in America. Automobile steering wheels were on the opposite side of the car and everyone drove on the “wrong” side of the road. Roads in Bangkok were always full of cars, trucks, and an abundance of motorcycles. At first, there seemed to be no order to traffic. Everyone seemed to be driving wildly and out of control. However, we soon got used to the rules of the road. In time it sort of grew on us.

Even though we were now living in a very hot and humid part of the world our vehicle had no air conditioner. Houses had no central air and heating. The smells and the sights were totally different to what we were used to seeing. And, the food! Well, that took some getting used to also. After our bodies adjusted to the heat and after we tasted the wonderful food we found ourselves enjoying our life in Thailand. It sort of grew on us. I believe the transition to living in Asia was easier for our children than it was for us. In any case, before long we were comfortable and happy in our new environment.

The Thai people are a friendly and loveable people. That was evident from our very first day in Bangkok. The customs, however, took some time for us to learn. In the 70’s, when we moved to Asia, there was very little mission training offered by our brotherhood. So, everything was strange and unusual to us. Even a simple meeting with a Thai was different than in America. They greeted us by holding their hands together as if in prayer instead of offering a handshake as we do in America. This was no problem but it was different. However, it sort of grew on us.

Life in Thailand presented us with many new friends and loved ones. However, the truth is, if we had done proper research and study before moving there everything would have gone much smoother. In any case, moving to Bangkok provided us with blessings beyond measure. We thank God for the opportunity to live and work for the Lord in Thailand and in several other Asian countries as well.

The Christian life also brings shocking differences to our lives that requires a bit of getting used too doesn’t it? It is no longer about serving our own needs first because we are to put others ahead of ourselves. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Phil 2:4. The new lifestyle promoted by Christianity grows on those who diligently seek to learn and follow the ways of the Lord.

Once the Christian experience takes root and begins to grow we begin to understand and practice a multitude of things that we never did before becoming a child of God. For this process to take place requires that we study the word of God so that we can learn how to live our lives the way God wants us to live. This new life takes some getting used to but it is certainly a blessed way of living. After we become students of the word of God and apply His teaching to our lives we become equipped for service. We will become lights shining in a world of darkness.

Read the following from Psalm 119:11–16 (ESV).

11    I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  12    Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14    In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.    15    I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  16    I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

This passage suggests several blessings that happen when we study the word of God with proper motives. These blessings will enhance our faithful Christian walk.

  1. Put the word in your heart, From 2 Corinthians 3:3 we learn that God writes His word on the tablets of our hearts. When that happens, we will know the difference between what is right and what is wrong.
  2. Let His word teach you, v12. This is so important because “it is not in man who walks to direct his steps”, Jeremiah 10:23.
  3. Speak up for God, v13. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” Psalm 107:2. If we don’t speak God’s word who will? It is up to us to tell the sinful world the Gospel message.
  4. Regard the word of God as a treasure, v14. Where is your treasure? While it is nice to have wealth and comfort for the body, the word of God is of much greater value. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” Matthew 6:19-21.
  5. Meditate on the word, v15. Each of us needs to spend time thinking about how our lives correspond to the teachings of the Bible. King David informs us that believers, “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night,” Psalm 1:2.
  6. Fix your eyes on God’s ways, v15. Strange as it might sound, we can only see clearly when we fix our eyes upon God’s way of doing things. Job gives us an example of this when he said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes: how then could I gaze at a virgin?” Job 31:1. Our behavior is often determined by how we look at things!
  7. Delight in God’s word, v16. How do you feel about spending time in Bible study? Is it drudgery or is it joy? The Psalmist wrote, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth,” Psalm 119:103.
  8. Never forget God’s word, v16. Of all people, the nation of Israel should have remembered God’s word – but they didn’t. God said “My people have forgotten me days without number”, Jeremiah 2:32. Such forgetfulness leads one to forget God’s instructions. Later the prophet Hosea wrote, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you,” Hosea 4:6. If we don’t remember God’s teachings we will surely fall into sinful practices.

In Acts chapters three and four Peter and John healed a lame man in the name of Jesus. Afterwards, the leaders of Israel confronted them. The leaders took note of the fact that these men had been with Jesus, Acts 4:13. When we put His word in our hearts we can show unbelievers who challenge our faith that we have also been with Jesus. When we do this over and over again, this bold manner of life sort of grows on us. God bless you as you grow in knowledge and understanding of the word of God.

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THE DAY GOD CRIED!

SUPREME COURT DECISION

Yesterday, the Justices of the Supreme Court of America rendered a decision stating that marriage between same sex lovers was something to be allowed and protected by the Constitution. A recent Gallup poll taken in late May, 2015, reported that 8 out of 10 young adults favor gay marriage. The poll said the trend for those approving such a union has been climbing rapidly for the last few years. The May report said that, across the board, 55 % of the Americans polled favored marital rights for gays (same-sex marriages).

Newscasts I saw yesterday evening lauded the Supreme Court decision (a decision decided by a vote of five to four) as being just. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, “No longer may this liberty be denied,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” One account reported that Justice Kennedy wiped tears of joy from his eyes as he gave his opinion of the decision. I cried too! His were tears of joy and mine were tears of extreme sorrow. I believe God cried tears of sorrow too!

President Obama welcomed the decision, saying it “affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts.” “Today,” he said, “we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we have made our union a little more perfect.” How is our union made more perfect when we disobey the laws of God?

Chief Justice Roberts responded that “people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they received from the majority today.” Chief Justice Roberts also said that only 11 states and the District of Columbia had embraced the right to same-sex marriage democratically, at voting booths and in legislatures. The rest of the 37 states that allow such unions did so because of court rulings.

This sad ruling is contrary to the Holy Bible and brings me to tears for the moral state of our Nation. Men of authority have no right to change God’s law on marriage to suit the wishes of the people. Doing so will only bring disaster upon our Nation.

MARRIAGE LAW?

The question must be asked, “Who has the right to decide who is eligible for marriage?” The answer is: God, alone, has the right to determine whether same-sex marriage is acceptable or not. The first book in the Bible, Genesis, gives the precedent for lawful marital union. The first marriage was between Adam and Eve, a man and a woman. God, Himself, gave divine approval on their marriage shortly after he created Adam. Adam, a manm was given Eve, a woman, to be his wife. Scripture says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”, Genesis 2:24. No authorization for same-sex marriage can be found in Scripture.

Some will say, “times have changed”. Have they? In Jesus’ day the Pharisees came to the Lord and asked, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Matthew 19:3. Obviously this question refers to the marriage between a man and a woman. Jesus’ reply came from Genesis 2:24, the passage noted above. Therefore, it is obvious that from the time of creation until Jesus’ day marriage was to occur between a man and a woman. Jesus did not have same-sex marriage under consideration when He replied to the Pharisees.

In the New Testament, the church age, we learn that God condemns homosexual activities. The apostle Paul wrote, “For this reason God gave hem up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error,” Romans 1:26-27.

Nowhere does the Bible indicate approval for same-sex marriage nor does He authorize sexual activity outside of marriage. Unfortunately, our Nation long ago turned a blind eye to sex among consenting adults and is now more accepting of same-sex marriages. I am convinced unauthorized sexual activity brings tears of sorrow to the God of heaven.

However, there is something much worse than tears of sorrow. That is the wrath of God against those who follow a sinful lifestyle. In Genesis 19 God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sinful practices. You only have to read the text to see that some of the men of the city wanted to engage in same-sex relationships with the angels of the Lord who came to rescue righteous Lot. Ezekiel 16:58 informs us that residents of these two cities were engaged in lewdness.

I fear that America is going down the same path ancient Israel followed during their early days in the Promised Land. Just like the early Israelites, we have raised up a generation that does not know the Lord nor His Holy Book. Twice in the book of Judges we read, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” Judges 17:6; 21:25. Their efforts to serve God according to man’s wisdom brought the Nation nothing but sorrow and servitude. Only when they turned back to God and His will were they a blessed nation.

We need to realize that the men who comprise the Supreme Court are not Gods. They are mere mortals just like you and me. It is not for them to upgrade God’s law on marriage. They do not have the wisdom to do that. “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps,” Jeremiah 10:23. What was true in Jeremiah’s day is true today. Without God’s instruction book (the Bible) in our hands we cannot – we will not – make proper moral decisions. Man cannot improve upon what God has written. God commanded Moses to write, “You shall not add to the word that I command you nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God,” Deuteronomy 4:2. The words of Agur, son of Jakeh are, “Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar,” Proverbs 30:6.

The authorization of same-sex marriage in America is wrong. It violates the clear evidence that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman. We can make such marriages legal in America if we wish but we cannot make it acceptable in the eyes of God.

A CALL FOR REPENTANCE AND PRAYER! Yes, we as a Nation, need to repent and pray for a return to the morality found in the Holy Bible. Only then can we expect God to bless our Nation. Believers need to take a stand for God. Be like Peter and John who were commanded by the political leaders of Jerusalem to keep silent. Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than man,” Acts 5:29. Christians! Arise and speak clearly on God’s will concerning marriage. He would have us to be bold and clear on the matter. As for me, I must speak. I must teach that God only authorized marriage between and a man and a woman. That, and that alone, is acceptable to God. Were our nation to return to God it would be a day when God cried again. Only this time, it will be tears of joy! What do you say? Are you ready to make God happy? Doing so will make us a blessed people.

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UNBELIEVABLE BUT TRUE!

In Ezekiel chapter 8 the prophet is shown the religious apostasy of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. In this chapter the prophet is taken from Tel-abib, Babylon, to Jerusalem in a vision. It was not that he was physically taken to Jerusalem but his experience was exactly the same as if he were there. Ezekiel arrives at the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north. What he sees is an astonishing religious failure by the priests and Levites. What he sees is total religious failure. For a nation so blessed by God their actions are unbelievable but true!

THE IMAGE OF JEALOUSY

The first thing Ezekiel sees is an image called “the image of jealousy”. The image does not belong in the court of the Temple grounds. It did not belong anywhere in the land of Judah. This was the Temple area, a place dedicated to Jehovah. Yet when entering from the north a person could not enter without observing an idol to a pagan god. God is jealous over the fact that His people were worshipping a pagan deity rather than Him. God’s “bride” Israel was being unfaithful to Him. No wonder He was jealous. For this reason, God said, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary?” No wonder God called the image the “image of jealousy”. Don’t be deceived. God is a jealous God. Later He will say, “And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy,” Ezekiel 16:38. Unfortunately, there are still more abominations to be shown to the prophet. They are unbelievable but true!

THE HOLE IN THE WALL

Ezekiel is now told to dig through a hole in the wall located at the entrance of the court. After digging he finds a secret door and enters a room full of abominations. Engraved on the walls were images of loathsome beasts and all the idols of the house of Israel. Inside were 70 leaders of the people burning incense to these false gods. They thought their deeds would not be known because they were in a “secret room”. The seventy said, The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land,” Ezekiel 8:13. It is unbelievable but true that the religious leaders of Israel, those living in Jerusalem and serving at the temple, were secretly worshipping idols – gods made with human hands.

THE INNER COURT

Now the prophet is brought to the inner court. He sees about twenty-five men standing with their backs to the Temple of the Lord worshipping the sun. God asks Ezekiel the question, “Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Ezekiel 8:17. This statement points out the sad truth that the nation was not only a religiously perverse nation but they were also acting violently against their own people. Unbelievable but true!

A WARNING TO GOD’S PEOPLE

When you study the Bible you find that God’s people have had a very difficult time remaining faithful to Him. According to the apostle Peter, there have always been false prophets among the people, 2 Peter 2:1. People will generally follow their leaders. Unfortunately, when elders, preachers, and bible class teachers go astray a great number of the people follow their error. In some cases the people go ever further away from God’s word than their leaders. By the time Ezekiel did his work the Northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen (722 B.C.). Even earlier (745 B.C.) the words Hosea were written to a people who had fallen away from God’s word. Hosea wrote sad words that depicted a fallen people. Here are a few samples of what the prophet wrote:

“There is no faithfulness or steadfast love and no knowledge of God in the land,” Hosea 4:1.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will forget your children,” Hosea 4:6.

“And it shall be like people, like priest, I will punish them for their way and repay them for their deeds,” Hosea 4:9.

TAKE GOD’S WORD SERIOUSLY

Don’t you love the people in the city of Berea? Paul and Silas entered their city with some “strange new teachings”. To their credit, the Bereans did not accept what they were told based upon the charisma and speaking ability of their teachers. When Paul taught, the people of Berea “were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so,” Acts 17:6. This should be the attitude of everyone who claims to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. We must compare the words spoken to us by our religious leaders with the Holy Scriptures. If the two conflict, take what the Scriptures say instead of the interesting new doctrines spoken by men.

FOLLOW JESUS

Finally, we must not allow society to dictate our lifestyle. The morality and practice of most people is in direct opposition to what is written in the word of God. It is not enough to know the truth – we must practice it. Mold your lifestyle after the moral principles and teachings found in the Bible. Build your faith upon the rock and it will stand firm when the storms of life appear, Matthew 7:24-27.

When we take our faith seriously we will not be led astray. True religion is not just mental belief. We must live a lifestyle of obedience to the commandments of God. The key is to follow Jesus and His teaching. After all, it is through Jesus that sinful people like us are saved. When we obey the Gospel of Christ we are saved by the sacrifice made by our Lord Jesus Christ. His blood atones for our sins! From that point onward it is up to us to remain faithful until death, Revelation 2:10. As unworthy as we are, God loves us, and will save us, when we love Him and obey His commandments, I John 5:1-5. That is unbelievable but true!

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FINDING GOD’S PLAN

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans

for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future

and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

Do you remember when you were young and older people would come up to you and ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Isn’t it interesting what children say in response to that question? “I want to be a fireman”, or “I want to be a millionaire”, or “I want to be a teacher”. I always answered that question with “I don’t know!” And, I didn’t! I was 25 years old before I realized that I wanted to become a gospel preacher. That realization was not yet clear in my mind when I enrolled in the Sunset School of Preaching (Now Sunset International Bible Institute) in Lubbock, Texas. My primary goal in attending Sunset was to gain bible knowledge. The realization that I wanted to serve the Lord fulltime came later in my first year of study. For some of us it just isn’t easy to find the best plan for our lives.

Last week I began teaching a Sunday morning Bible class on the book of Ezekiel. As I prepared the lesson one thing became very clear to me. That is, God was going to change the direction of Ezekiel’s life drastically. God spoke to him he was 30 years old, Ezek 1:1, and a captive in the nation of Babylon. Scripture tells us he was a priest. If you know the Old Testament you will realize that 30 is the age when a Levite priest began his ministry. Levites would continue serving until the age of 50. Ezekiel didn’t know it but God had a different plan in mind for him.

Thus, for 30 years Ezekiel planned upon serving God as a faithful priest. It was a noble plan, a good plan, and a route taken by countless others who were descendants of Levi. However, God has a better plan for Ezekiel. He was to become a prophet of God. That was to be his calling. God appeared to him in a vision and charged the priest to become a prophet and the human author of the book of Ezekiel. He served as a prophet for least 23 years. That was not the direction Ezekiel envisioned for his life work. However, it was God’s plan.

When you read the first three chapters of his book you get the sense that Ezekiel was a bit overwhelmed when God gave him his new job description. Here is a sequence of events that are recorded in the first three chapters of Ezekiel:

  1. The word of the Lord came to him, 1:1-3. Through Scripture, the word of the Lord can also come to us.
  2. He beheld the glory of God in a vision, 1:4-27. In this vision he saw cherubim and above them he saw the Lord in His glory sitting upon a throne.
  3. Ezekiel fell on his face when he saw the glory of the Lord God, 1:28.
  4. He heard God saying, “Stand up, I will speak to you”, 2:1. The Spirit helped stand Ezekiel up.
  5. God then gave Ezekiel his job description, 2:2-7. He was to speak to a rebellious nation, living in exile, who for the most part would not listen to his faithful proclamation of God’s message.
  6. For the first part of his ministry the message was that Jerusalem would fall, chapters 3-24. The fall came to pass in 586 B.C. About six years into Ezekiel’s ministry.
  7. God supplied Ezekiel with his message on a scroll he was commanded to eat, 2:8-3:3. This sweet tasting scroll symbolized the inspired word of God that Ezekiel was to eat so that it would become part of who he was. He pronounced God’s message to the people.
  8. To help persuade him of the source of his new mission, Ezekiel heard a sound like an earthquake and the sound of a mighty voice. The hand of the Lord was strong upon him, 3:4-15.

After returning to the exiles in Tel-Abib on the Chebar Canal the prophet was completely overwhelmed for seven days. His life was taking a drastic turn from what he had imagined. God chose a better plan for Ezekiel: He was being appointed to be a prophet.

After the seven days were over God gave him his commission to be a watchman for the house of Israel, Ezek 3:16-21. It was time for Ezekiel to get up and get to work. God had given him a job to do. He was commanded to be a watchman with a charge to deliver God’s message to the wicked and to the righteous who had fallen from their righteousness. The message was so important that if the prophet failed to give them warning the people would be lost but their blood would be on Ezekiel’s hands. Once he accepted the Lord’s assignment his life was changed forever!

Can you think of others whose lives were drastically altered when God provided them with a better plan for their lives?

  1. How about Abraham? He was called to leave his home and family and wander in the area that became the Promised Land. God had a better plan for him and when he accepted God’s plan he was selected to be the one through Christ would be born.
  2. How about Moses? After fleeing from Egypt at the age of 40 he became a shepherd for yet another 40 years. At the age of 80 God called him to lead His people out of Egypt to the Promised Land. God had a better plan for Moses than shepherding sheep. Thus Moses became one of the most important people in the Old Testament.
  3. How about David? David was a shepherd boy called to be a king. God had a better plan for David than anything he could have imagined. His Son, Christ, would become king forever and ever.
  4. How about Saul of Tarsus? This godly man who was mistaken about the Messiah was a brilliant student of the word of God yet he had missed the most important message contained in scripture. That is: the coming of Christ and His gospel message. At first Saul persecuted the church. He thought that was his God given mission in life. That all changed when he saw the Lord on the road to Damascus. God had a better plan for Saul (Paul) and appointed him to be the apostle for the Gentiles. Was there ever a missionary as great as Paul? I don’t think so!

How about you? Have you found God’s plan for your life? We should not expect God to speak to us in a vision like he did to Ezekiel and others. Nor should we expect to hear a voice from heaven like Abraham and Moses. God speaks to us today through His holy word. For some it is relatively easy to discover God’s plan for their life. Consider the ease with which Samuel became a prophet and leader of his people. Others of us have a more difficult time finding His plan for our life. That plan might cause us to change everything we thought we would do with our life. Finding God’s plan for your life will definitely lead you to a better way of serving the Lord.

If you are struggling to find His plan for you own life, you might consider the following steps. You can begin by being faithful to Him in every possible way. When God says something in the Bible we believe it and if it is a command for us to do we obey it. You should pray for guidance and His leading in all of your prayers. You should Worship regularly, read and study your Bible faithfully, and look for opportunities to serve Him. When we diligently seek to follow the path God has laid out for our lives we will find it.

It might take more time for some than others but the path will be found. After all, Moses had wait for 80 years before God called him to lead the Israelite Nation out of Egypt. For others finding God’s plan might be easy. I think of men like Andrew, Peter, James and John as examples of people who discovered the path they should follow very quickly after meeting Jesus. Perhaps others are somewhere in between the examples we just considered. We should strive to be clay in the hands of a loving God. He will mold us into the servant He wants us to become. The truth is, if we do our dead level best to serve Him, He will direct us down the path He wants us to follow.

“Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

“Thou art the potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me; after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still”

                       Adelaide Pollard

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KING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

“You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek,” Psalm 110:4

Hebrews chapter seven can be difficult to understand. This chapter presents Jesus as a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Were you aware that Hebrews is the only book in the Bible where Jesus is called a High Priest, Hebrews 3:1, 7:26 and 8:1? Check it out and you will see that this is true. Who was Melchizedek? We know he was a king and priest but was he a man? Was he an angel? Some believe he was manifestation of Christ in the Old Testament? For certain, he was a type of Christ.

We first meet this great king and priest during the days of Abraham. Read Genesis 14:14-17. In the entire Old Testament he is only mentioned twice. He is mentioned in Genesis and in Psalm 110:4, a psalm of David, (cited above). In the New Testament Melchizedek is mentioned in Hebrews 5:6, 5:10, 6:20, 7:1, 7:10-11, 7:15, 7:17. Those citations in chapters 5 and 6 quote Psalm 110:4. For such an important Old Testament King and priest, we are not given very much information. The teaching found in Hebrews chapter seven must be studied very carefully because it can easily be misunderstood. If you have studied this passage in the past you will likely acknowledge that it is difficult to comprehend. I confess that I have often been confused by this important passage of scripture.

Over the years I have bounced back and forth in my efforts to understand it’s meaning. In recent weeks I read an explanation of Hebrews chapter seven from a commentary on Hebrews written by Arthur W. Pink. It has helped me immensely. I think he is right on target when he defines Melchizekek as a human being just like other High Priests in history.

SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Before going any further into our study of chapter seven it is important to consider the writer’s purpose in writing the book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews was written to warn Jewish Christians against forsaking Christianity and going back to the Law of Moses. The book presents the superiority of Jesus and the New Covenant by presenting the following truths:

  1. Jesus is superior to the angels, Chapters 1-2.
  2. Jesus is greater than Moses, Chapter 3:1-6.
  3. Jesus delivers a greater (promised land) than the one delivered by Joshua, 3:7-4:13.
  4. Jesus is a greater priest than Aaron, 5:1-6:20
  5. Jesus’ High Priesthood is after the order of Melchizekek, 7:1-28.
  6. Jesus offers a better covenant than the one given to Moses, 8:1-13.
  7. Jesus’ kingdom offers better ordinances than Moses Law, 9:1-10.
  8. Jesus offers true redemption through His perfect sacrifice (His blood), 9:11-10:18.
  9. Do not forsake the new covenant – endure – Don’t shrink back to destruction. 10:19-39.
  10. Examples of faith from ancient worthies, 11:1-40.
  11. Do not grow weary because of earthly trials, 12:1-17.
  12. Jesus established a better kingdom, 12:18-28.
  13. Some requirements for those in Jesus’s kingdom, 13:1-24.

This outline is my own and it clearly shows that the Hebrew writer was encouraging Jewish Christians so they would not go back to Judaism. When the book was written the Christians were suffering persecution from both Jewish leaders and from Rome. It appears they were considering a return to their former religion with the expectation they would have more peace and comfort. The book of Hebrews shows that the Way that Jesus brought to us is far superior to the one delivered to Moses. The Old Covenant has been removed and we live under the New Covenant that brought us salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The emphasis of Hebrews is: Do not go back to your former religion – Stay the course! It is only through the one who is better than angels, better than Moses, better than Aaron and Joshua who can save us from our sins. Only the great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Jesus) was able to offer the greatest sacrifice for sin. The old ways are over and the new covenant has come. When times are difficult, stay the course. Going back to your former way of life is not the answer. Jesus is the answer! That is the thrust of the book of Hebrews.

THE KINGLY PRIEST

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” Hebrews 7:1-3.

The word “Melchizedek” is not a name but a title. It means “King of righteousness”. During Abraham’s day he was King of Salem, meaning “peace”. This city is none other than Jerusalem. The term “Jeru” means city. Thus, through the passing of time, Salem came to be known as Jerusalem.

The greatness of Melchizedek is seen when Abraham, “the friend of God” and the one through whom Christ was to come, gave a tenth part of everything to this King. Thus this man, the king of peace, who was not descended from Abraham, was greater than the patriarch Abraham, Hebrew 7:7-10.

So far so good, Right? However, the meaning of verse three gives great difficulty to those of us who attempt to explain what it means. Arthur Pink (mentioned above) gives great insight when he explains this verse. Basically, the difficulty comes when one misunderstands just what the writer is talking about in verse three. Here it is again, He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever,” Hebrews 7:3. According to Pink, this verse is not talking about the person of Melchizedek but it is speaking of his office as high priest. This helpful observation helps us understand the verse more clearly. It is the priesthood of Melchizedek is eternal not his person.

Under the Law of Moses the Levite priests (and High Priests) had to be of the lineage of Aaron. Otherwise they could not serve. Thus from Aaron onward it was necessary to establish one’s father or mother or genealogy in order to serve. Without such proof they could not serve as priests. Read Ezra 2:62 to see some of the difficulties among the priests who returned to Jerusalem after the 70 years of Babylonian captivity. Those who could not prove their pedigree were excluded from serving.

However, when God placed Melchizedek as a High Priest He did so without any consideration of his genealogy. Hebrews 7:3 points out the difference between the Levitical priesthood and that of the King of Salem. The priesthood of Melchizedek was not dependent upon his lineage. In that sense his office was without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. No one preceded him as High Priest and no one followed him after he was gone. This made his priesthood perpetual. Consequently, he is a type of the Son of God who continues as a priest forever. The office Melchizekek is what continues forever in the book of Hebrews not his physical life.

Some people interpret verse three to mean that Melchizedek was an angel. It is evident that the King of righteousness was not an angel. Read my blog from last week on angels and you will learn that angels were created beings. Those who interpret Hebrews 7:3 to teach Melchizedek was an angel use the lack of genealogy as a proof text that he was not a man. However, since angels were created this argument fails completely. Yes, there was a time when there were no angels. God created them sometime before He created the earth.

There are others who believe that Melchizedek was some sort of Divine being. Perhaps he was even Christ Himself. Hebrews 7:3 states Melchizedek resembled “the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” Note the text says, “resembling” and not that he “was” the Son of God. It is more likely that the phrase merely means he is a type of Christ. While we all want to know the meaning suggested by this verse, it is irreverent to speculate on areas where the Bible is silent, Deuteronomy 29:29.

Since Melchizedek was not an angel or some other Divine being, who was he? Do we have biblical evidence that Melchizedek was a man? Yes we do. Reading Hebrews 5:1 completely destroys all arguments that Melchizedek was not a human being like the rest of us. “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” Read the text again! It says, every high priest chosen among men is appointed to act to behalf of men in relation to God”. Melchizekek was a High Priest. He was chosen among men. Therefore he was a man, a human being. “See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils”, Hebrews 7:4. Based on the verses cited our conclusion it is evident that Melchizedek was a man. The Bible verses mentioned confirm this reasonable conclusion.

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THE HEAVENLY HOST

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” Hebrews 13:2

Throughout the ages, even among religious people, there has been controversy over the existence of angels. Some say “Yes” and others say “No”. Even in the days of the apostles this difference of opinion was a real issue. When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem he brought up the existence of angels in his argument to the Jewish leaders. The Sadducees did not believe in angels while the Pharisees did. This issue caused a heated debate among them and they lost sight of their purpose in bringing the Apostle to trial.

The fact is, angels do exist. Jesus declared this truth in Matthew 22:30 when the Lord informed the Jews that dead people do not marry but “become like angels in heaven”. For me, that settles the issue. Angels DO exist. There is no biblical evidence that people who die become angels. Jesus said the dead become like angels – not they become angels. The Bible is full of angelic appearances in both the Old and New Testaments. Lets look at Scripture to see evidence that angels do exist, to learn their origin and to discover some of the work they do.

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE THAT ANGELS EXIST

Below are some examples of the appearance of angels found in the New Testament.

  1. An angel appeared to Mary, the mother of Jesus, announcing the birth of Christ, Luke 1:21-36.
  2. An angel appeared to Joseph to inform him of the origin of Mary’s pregnancy, Matthew 1:20.
  3. Angelic beings appeared to some shepherds when Jesus was born, Luke 2:8-14.
  4. The apostle Peter was delivered from a prison cell by an angel, Acts 12:7-11.
  5. Jesus once said that He could call more than 12 myriads of angels to deliver him from being arrested by the Jews, Matthew 26:53. According to Holman’s Illustrated Dictionary a myriad in the time of Christ consisted of six thousand, exclusive of horsemen, who were in number a tenth of the foot-men.” That would be more than 72,000 angels by His side. The important part of the passage is that Jesus acknowledged the existence of angels.
  6. On the day Jesus rose from the dead, an angel stood at the tomb to announce the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Matthew 28:1-6. Luke 24:4 informs us of the appearance of two angels on resurrection morning.
  7. The second coming of Jesus will be announced by an archangel and the sound of a trumpet, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

There are many more appearances of angels in the New Testament in addition to those listed here. We have not looked at any of the angelic appearances from the Old Testament. You might want to research some of them in your Bible concordance. Angels were actively delivering God’s message to men in both the Old and New Testaments. Beyond any doubt, the Bible presents the truth that angels exist. Where did they come from?

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE GOD CREATED ANGELS

When God created this world there was joy in heaven, Job 38:4-7. Who did the rejoicing? According to Job 38:7, “All the sons of God shouted for joy”. The NIV says “All the angels of God”. The NRSV says “heavenly beings shouted for joy”. Since creation is being addressed in this verse it seems evident that it was the angelic host who shouted for joy. Therefore, angels were already in existence when God created the world.

“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you,” Nehemiah 9:6. The heaven of heavens speaks of the place where the heavenly host dwells. The phrase “host”, “host of heaven,” and “heavenly host” refers to, or at least includes, angels.

Colossians 1:15-17 provides more confirmation that angels are created beings. From this passage we learn that by Jesus “all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible”. This passage clearly says things in heaven (Including angels) were created. It appears that angels were created sometime before God created the physical universe in which we live. As we have already seen, the heavenly host rejoiced when God exercised His mighty creative power.

While God created the angels, He also created man who is a “little lower than angels,” Hebrews 2:7. These messengers of God are not eternal in the same sense that God is eternal. That is evident from the fact that there has never been a time when God did not exist. However, there was a time, sometime before the creation of the earth, when angels did not exist.

THE WORK OF ANGELS

Angels are messengers of God. The Hebrew word “angel” means: “messenger”. To be a messenger presents their major assignment. That is, to deliver messages to men. Therefore, it is not surprising to see, that throughout history, angels often came to earth from heaven to deliver messages of importance to key people of God. Angels came to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and a host of Old Testament believers. Angels also appeared to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, Paul, Peter, and other people of the New Testament era.

Angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation,” Hebrews 1:14. I doubt we know all of the areas where angels minister to God’s people today. Jesus informs us that little children have angels in heaven, Matthew 18:10.

Another major work of angels is praising God. Revelation 4:4 clearly says they never cease to say “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty”. In Revelation 19:1-5 the angels say hallelujah to God for punishing the wicked. Angels are real and they have many responsibilities to accomplish before God and man.

While angels often made earthly appearances there is no Biblical evidence that any one of them ever lived on earth for an extended period of time. The Bible is silent on that subject so we dare not make unfounded conclusions on the topic. Many times men realized when an angel appeared to them. On other occasions they did not know that an angel was in their presence, Hebrews 13:2. Here is what we know for sure:

  1. God created the angels.
  2. Therefore, angels do exist.
  3. Angels have work to do in heaven and on earth.
  4. Men do not always know when an angel appears before them, Hebrews 13:2.

PSALM 103:20-22

“Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word,

obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts,

his ministers, who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works,

in all places of his dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!”  

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IS CHRIST YOUR LIFE

COLOSSIANS – LESSON SEVEN

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1–4 (ESV)

Of all the statements found in the book of Colossians this is my favorite. Every time I read these verses my heart is touched with the awesomeness of Jesus Christ. I also stand in awe of the progression of spiritual life one can achieve when he has been raised with Christ. The words of the song, “This world is not my home” well expresses the expectation of those who are faithful children of God.

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;

The angels beckon me from heaven’ open door,

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

The assurance expressed by Paul in Colossians 3:1-4 begins by reminding us that we have been raised with Christ. He is not speaking of the great resurrection day when Christ returns and the dead bodies will be raised from the dead, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He is speaking of the resurrection of our sinful soul, an action that occurs when we are baptized (immersed) into Christ. “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:12 (ESV). You might want to read Romans 6:1-7 to better understand the type of resurrection being discussed by Paul in our passage, Colossians 3:1-4.

Here are some thoughts prompted by Colossians chapter three that cause my spirit to soar:

  1. Seek the things that are above: 3:1. The word “seek” is the Greek word ζητέω zēteō meaning “demanding, inquire, strive to find”. It looks to me like the Lord expects us to expend a lot of effort looking for heavenly things. When we are new in the faith we are like babies. We naturally seek the spiritual milk of the word so that we may grow up in the Lord, 1 Peter 2:2. My wife and I had 4 children. Two of them were twins. When they were babies they seemed to become hungry at the same time. So, in the middle of the night they would cry out loudly demanding someone feed them. Only milk could supply their needs. That is how it should be for the newly converted Christian. Actually, all of us should continually seek for the milk and the meat of God’s word. We should demand satisfaction for our spiritual hunger just like a newborn babe. Once full we are content. However, before long we are hungry again – and again – and again!
  1. Finding Christ: 3:1-2. When we seek the things that are above we will find the place where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Jesus Christ our Lord must reside in the center of our heart. When we seek the things that are above we will not find just a place but a Savior. No wonder the child of God seeks to find the manifold blessings of God in the heavenly places. We live in this world but worldly things are not what we seek. We seek to find Christ.
  1. Jesus is everything to the Christian: 3:3-4. Consider the following: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” Philippians 2:21. Does that verse describe you? It should!
    1. ESSENCE: The essence is the smallest particle of something. It is the core that makes something what it is. Jesus is the essence of our life. The Christian’s life is so bound up in Christ that we can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” Galatians 2:20. Jesus Christ becomes our everything!
    2. MODEL: Jesus is the model to the Christian. We seek to imitate the perfect example given by the Lord. He left us an example to follow and we seek to do just that! “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” 1 Corinthians 11:1. The word “Imitators” comes from the word, μιμητής mimētēs. We get the word “mimes” or “mimics” from this word. We are not content to profess His name. We want to be just like Jesus in every way.
    3. GOAL: How powerful is it to say, “for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”? Can YOU say that? When someone is your life you devote everything you have towards pleasing and serving that person. No wonder Jesus said, Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39. Think about the demands of this relationship. Strive to achieve such a relationship with Jesus.
    4. REWARD: The person who hides his life in Jesus Christ will also appear with Him in glory! This is the greatest prize of all. This reward only comes to the one who finds the essence, who follows the model that has been given, who sets as his goal to die to self and to hide his life in Christ. The reward is only fully realized when we go to be with the Lord. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life,” Revelation 2:10.

Here is how Paul felt about giving the effort that was needed to receive the prize: ”But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . . 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-8; 9-14.

The apostle Paul penned some magnificent thoughts in Colossians 3:1-4. Of course, they were given to him by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thank you, dear God, for giving us such a clear and powerful passage explaining our need to seek the things that are above. These things will equip us so that we can make Jesus our everything. How about it? Will you join me in the quest to “die” to self and make Christ Himself our life? It will be worth the effort. Those who overcome will “eat of the Tree of Life which is in the paradise of God”, Revelation 2:7.

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