.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO www.timeintheword.org

My Photo
Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Phillip's Phunnies - More Puns

A merry heart does good, like medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft it sank-proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.

This guy goes into a restaurant for a Christmas breakfast while in his hometown for the holidays. After looking over the menu he says, "I'll just have the eggs Benedict." His order comes a while later and it's served on a big, shiny hubcap. He asks the waiter, "What's with the hubcap?" The waiter says, "Well, there's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise."

When she told me I was average, she was just being mean.

A neutron goes into an ice cream shop asks, "How much for two-scoops?" The bartender replies, "For you, no charge."

Two atoms are walking down the street and they run into each other. One says to the other, "Are you all right?" "No, I lost an electron!" "Are you sure?" "Yeah, I'm positive."

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused his dentist's Novocaine during root canal work? He wanted to transcend dental medication.

A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree and reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter. The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows readers digest and writers cramp.

Two eggs are talking in a monastary. "I really don't like it here," says one. "Why not?" "Well, you know, it's always 'Out of the frying pan and into the friar'."

What is a frog's favorite thing to order at a restaurant? French Flies!

Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants? In case he got a hole in one.

Two American Football teams are on a tour of Europe and have a quiz to see which team can name most places in Holland. The game was won by a single Dutch Town.

He said he'd grown strong from all his dancing, but no-one believed him. It was obvious to all that he was bearing waltz fitness.

There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

Friday, September 29, 2006

How Many More?

During World War II the leaders of Nazi Germany planned and carried out the torture, mutilation, and murder of over 6 million Jews and over 5 million Christians. They were chosen for extermination based solely upon their race (Jews) or religion (Christians). We shudder to think about this many people being purposefully put to death. These events have led to a great many books, movies, research projects, and documentaries about Adolph Hitler and the scourge he unleashed on the earth.

Hitler is identified as insane, demonically driven, as evil incarnate, or worse. There are few that would try to defend him or justify his beliefs or actions. The world still suffers from trying to understand and explain what he did and why he did it.

And yet, when we are shocked and stand in horror at the thought of 11 million people being murdered over the course of a half dozen years or so, we are forgetting the war dead (25 million military deaths) and other civilian casualties (26 million civilian deaths, not including concentration camps). The tragic results of WWII leave us shaking our heads and wondering how it all happened. How is it that 62 million people on this earth died as the result of one man's evil ambitions?

And yet, is in not that the heart of every man is desperately wicked and indeed full of evil ambitions? The Bible tells us that men and women without Christ will live "in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." (Eph 4:17-19)

It is no wonder then that we have here within our own nation a class of people who have been singled out for torture, mutilation, and murder. While we shake our heads in disbelief at Hitler we approve a sentence of death upon the most defenseless among us. Who are these people that we have allowed to be killed simply for who and what they are? Unborn human beings. Babies still in their mother's womb.

Their crime? Conception. The motive for their murder? Convenience.

Now think about this. Don't stop reading. Let this sink in. For all that we say about Hitler and Nazi Germany what excuse do we have to offer and what justification do we have for the fact that since 1973 there have been over 43 million* babies slaughtered simply for who and what they are. We balk at 6 million Jews in concentration camps. We are moved and grieved by 5 million Christians murdered. We cannot fathom 62 million dead from the Second World War.

And yet we IGNORE 43 MILLION BABIES whose mothers and fathers have used a “medical doctor” to assassinate them!

Forty-three million.


Here are the cold, hard facts. The church in large part continues to hide from the truth. The church shuts up, sits down, and goes merrily on its way hoping not to have to talk about or even acknowledge the extermination of human beings to which they themselves are a party. Yes, the church is to blame. The church is responsible. The church has failed.

The reason? Because we have fallen for a number of lies.

Myth 1 - Elect the right people and abortion will stop. This is simply not true. Even with the hope of new Supreme Court Justices and the election of self professed Christians to political office we still have in this country a legal right to murder babies in the womb at will. But politics offers no solution, for even if outlawed we still have not attacked the root of the issue.

Myth 2 - Ignore it, after all it is not our business. The church must see that this is her business! Our nation is being judged by God because of our wickedness and we sit silently by, or worse, we justify this sin by saying that it is not our business and that there is nothing we can do to stop it.

Myth 3 - Kill those who kill. There are those who claim to follow Christ and at the same time feel that they are justified themselves to kill abortion doctors. There can be no such justification. The church is not called to conquer and subdue with violence or to kill the doctor, for this is to be guilty of the doctor's sin. Whether we kill babies or kill doctors, we are murderers. And unrepentant murderers do not inherit the kingdom of God.

Myth 4 - There is nothing we can do. This lie leads us to a false sense of safety and peace when there is no safety or peace. There is much we can do. Start with prayer. Outreach in the community and at pregnancy help centers. Why can't the church ACT like the church? (more on this later)

Myth 5 - It does not affect me. This is the grand deception, for we as a nation are indeed responsible for this sin. We think it is not that bad. Abortions are on the decline. We have a new Supreme Court so it is just a matter of time. How much time? How many more? The truth is God is already judging us. Looking at Sodom and Gomorrah it is a wonder we are still here! We will not escape just because we pretended that nothing happened or fell for the lie that there was nothing we could do.

There are more lies that we could discuss but instead let us talk about the solution. It is not political. It is spiritual. The only solution to the slaughter is the salvation of sinners! The answer we need to find is the church acting like who and what she is - the body of Christ! Let us preach the gospel with love, willing to suffer for our faith and our stand if need be. Let us be willing to pay the price - if we know a girl who is pregnant, befriend her. If she is in any way considering abortion, offer to help pay her medical bills for prenatal care. Bring her into our home and give her a safe place to live. Surround her with love and help her decide whether to keep her baby or give her baby up for adoption. We must SACRIFICE on behalf of these whom the world hates and wants to see destroyed before they are even born.

Does this sound radical? Would it upset our schedule? Would it mean we would not have time for games and entertainment and might have to miss a few television shows or movies? Would it mean our budget would be stretched? Our savings spent? Our sensibilities offended?

Good. The church needs a good kick in the teeth. The fake hypocritical smile that we put on for Sunday Show Time Religion needs to be shattered. God is not impressed with our Sunday finery and our sanctimonious games. We play at worship. The proof? The way we live the rest of the week. And God hates worship that is not sincere but instead impotent. This worship is not the worship of God - it is the worship of SELF. It is idolotry. It is not life altering it is self enhancing! True worship is DEATH to self. Worship that pleases God is worship that conforms us into the image of Christ and finds us more holy after worship than we were when we started!

This is about how we as the church live like the church day to day. We can ignore the problem and pretend it does not exist or affect us or we can get involved and help reverse the curse of the destruction of life from the very womb. Resources abound. Opportunities are endless. And the truth is that if we do not stand up for the dying then we are guilty before God of killing them.

How many more have to die before we decide that this is an issue that we cannot ignore?

We cannot marginalize it as a political debate. We cannot try to persuade or out debate and out argue the opposition. We must preach and live the gospel. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ provides a solution to this sinful dilemma. Why? Because remember, where does all of this sin and evil and wickedness come from? Our hearts. And the first thing God does when He saves a sinner is to give him or her a new heart, a new mind, and a new life.

The solution is not the outlawing of sin, it is the redemption of sinners.

And yet we have such a low view of God and His Word that we think that we must seek alternative solutions. God's Word is powerful, alive, active, effectual, sufficient, and unstoppable. And it is never sent forth without always accomplishing the purpose for which God sends it forth.

How do we stop the massacre? Live and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. BE who God called us to be. DO what He called us to do. And beg for His mercy. Perhaps He will turn us back to Himself as a nation. Perhaps He will destroy us as a nation. Either way, justice will be served. And when it is, let us make sure that we are not the ones standing with blood on our hands, the blood of over 43 million lives sacrificed to the spirit of the age.


*This from information compiled from two primary sources that keep track of abortion statistics: The Centers for Disease Control and Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fitting for Saints

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 5:3-4
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

Daily Scripture Reading - Romans 16

Puritan Catechism
Question #42 - Which is the first commandment?

Answer - The first commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3).

Devotional Thoughts
Yesterday we saw that there were things that we as Christians are supposed to avoid, to shun, and to flee. We must not participate in or think about fornication, uncleanness, or greed. Immorality leads to impurity and this lust is motivated by greed. As our flesh craves sin, and to be gratified, we are led into temptation (James 1:14), and when temptation is fulfilled we find ourselves mired in the works of the flesh. We forget sometimes that the wages of sin is still death - in other words, sin will kill us if we do not kill it!

Even as these things are not to be named or tolerated among us within the Body of Christ we learn in today's verse that there are more things we need to avoid! These things we are told are not fitting for saints. This means that the things we are studying this week that we are to avoid, those things that are not even to be named among us, they are literally "not proper for holy ones."

The word fitting refers to that which is proper. It is right. It is very much like clothing. When you try on a shirt it either fits or it doesn't. It is either proper attire, or it isn't. Even so, certain behavior is fitting for believers and other behavior just does not fit. It is improper.

Can you imagine the Queen of England or the President of the United States in frumpy, wrinkled, torn, dirty clothes at a State Dinner? It would not be fitting. This is what Paul is saying. For a Christian, for "saints" some behavior does not fit.

The term "saints" by the way means "holy ones." These are not a special class of beatified dead Roman Catholics. These are not famous dead religious people. These are not even Christians who have died and gone to heaven. The term is used for every believer! We are all saints. Because of the saving work of Christ we are holy before God - we are His saints. And there are some things listed here that clearly are not fitting or proper for followers of Jesus Christ.

What are these things that are not fitting?

Today we learn that there are three things not fitting for saints. They serve to illustrate what a life of immorality, uncleanness, and greed looks and sounds like.


We learn that filthiness is not fitting for saints. This is a general term for obscenity, or disgraceful speech. This is saying things that are profane, vulgar, shocking, or inappropriate. A clear violation of Eph 4:29 and an offense that reveals that the sins of the heart flow out of the mouth in what we say and how we say it. Dirty talk is not proper for Christians. We should not talk like the world. People should notice!

I remember seeing a movie years ago - one that I should not have seen - and throughout this action flick there was profanity and cursing all throughout every scene. I rather naively reacted and said that surely people do not really talk like this. A few years later I remember thinking about my reaction to that movie while at work one day. I was in a job where I was surrounded by people who made the movie seem tame! Boy had I been wrong about how some people talk. Even today I remember that and am amazed at how foul speech has become. Every other word vulgar, every thought profane, every figure of speech offensive. This kind of talk is common place. But as common as it is, it is not fitting for Christians.

If what comes out the mouth originates in the heart, and we sound just like the world when we talk, what does that say about our hearts?

Foolish Talking

Next we see that foolish talking is not proper or fitting for believers. This is silly talk, moronic speech, stupidity, or low (as in the gutter) speech. This does not refer to humor. It refers to foolishness. And there is a difference. One can have a great sense of humor and tell funny jokes and stories without resorting to foolish talking.

What motivates a fool? Remember that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God! This is talking about things as if there were no God and no consequence to the choice of words we use. We will give an account for every word to God! So let us be careful not to speak foolishly.

Words, some say, are a-moral. That is words are neither right nor wrong, it just depends on how you use them. I would say that this is not correct. There are words that can be good. There are words that can be bad. There are words that can be good or bad depending on usage. But to be sure, there are words that are never appropriate.

So not only are we to avoid filthiness and foolish talking, but these are not ever proper for "holy ones." Let us not forget that we should live like what we are - followers of Jesus Christ!

Coarse Jesting

Lastly today there is coarse jesting. This refers to innuendo, turning something said or done into the obscene where even the innocent is perverted and misused. Further this is not telling a joke, it is laughing at or about sin.

People who engage in coarse jesting can take any story or any event and make it dirty, or sexual in nature. They twist words and use innuendo to try and get a laugh. Don't laugh when you hear these things. I was going to say don't laugh even if it is funny, but then we must never forget that sin is never truly funny!

Some of the best of what we think of as humor is just pure sin and depravity. We need to guard our minds. We have been misinformed. And if we laugh at sin, we need to repent and realize what an affront to our Heavenly Father sin truly is.

Imagine if the weapon used to kill your child was thought of as a laughing matter by your friends and family! It is not that sin was used to kill God's Son - but it was the reason He had to die. And an all Holy God cannot be mocked! Sin is no laughing matter, it is deadly serious.

Here in these things now that are not fitting we find three things that involve our speech. Let us remember that the things we studied yesterday (immorality, uncleanness, and greed) are progressive. Greed when fulfilled produces immoral behavior thus making us unclean. Today we see then these things that are not fitting for saints are things that reveal the true nature of our heart. They are not proper because if we engage in them we prove or reveal that our hearts are sinful. Obscene speech, moronic talk, and innuendo prove the presence of sin. These things prove the condition of the heart. They reveal self-centeredness. They expose the corruption of the inward man. They prove that we are sinners.

Is that anything to laugh at?

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Treasury of David - Psalm 14 by Charles Spurgeon
Are You Holy? (Tract) by J.C. Ryle

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not Even Named

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 5:3
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;

Daily Scripture Reading - Hebrews 2

Puritan Catechism
Question #42 - Which is the first commandment?

Answer - The first commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3).

Devotional Thoughts
We are commanded to imitate God, to follow Christ, and to walk in the Spirit. This is a tall order but one that God empowers us to obey. By His grace He enables us to live as we should. Simply put, we are expected to live like what we are – redeemed and holy!

In obeying the command to imitate God, we have learned that we are to be holy by emulating God’s holiness. We are to love using Christ’s love as our model. And in bearing the fruit of the Spirit we must walk in good works and bear proper fruit. Otherwise we fall for the Devil's counterfeits. As we will learn today, we must be careful and keep a watch over our lives. We must avoid Satan’s counterfeits, those things which are the enemies of holiness and love.

Avoid These Things

These things which are listed in verse 3 are not even to be named among saints. There is to be no mention, no hint, no accusation, no speculation at all that we are bearing these works of the flesh as the fruit of sin and self indulgence. No one who names the name of Christ should live in such a way - through thoughts, speech, or actions - that would cause anyone inside or outside the church to think that we were living in this kind of sin. We must do whatever is necessary to stay as far from sin as possible.

Too many today like to use the liberty they have been given in Christ to get as close to sin as they possibly can without actually sinning. This is not the point or purpose of our liberty in Christ! When we see where sin is, we flee the other direction. We should want to be holy. Sadly, too many want to be happy! And they have believed the lie that sin and excitement equals happiness. I would submit that we can be no more happy or fulfilled or satisfied or full of lasting joy than when we are obeying God and walking in righteousness.

But back to our verse, what are these heinous acts that are not even to be named among us?

The first is fornication. The term means immorality, any sexual sin, a lack of sexual discipline, or a lack of self-control. The believer should not think, talk, dress, act, or encourage immoral behavior in any way. This is tough. Think about movies and TV. Think about books and magazines. We entertain ourselves with sin and yet these things are not even to be named among us as something that we would partake of or participate with. Why watch what we would not do?

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and 6:13-20 deal with the issues of immorality in the church. This immorality is a lack of discipline and control in the realm of sexual desires. That lack of control proves a perversion of true love. The desire is for self-fulfillment and gratification no matter the means necessary to fulfill those desires. Counterfeits, though, do not ever produce lasting satisfaction and the evil desire continues to grow and consume. The immorality leads to the impurity mentioned next. Lack of control leads to lack of purity. Love and holiness go hand in hand just as immorality and impurity. True love is never immoral and lust is never pure.

We must at all times then be controlled by the Holy Spirit. This is our only key to effectively fight sexual sin. To be filled with and walking in the Spirit of God means that we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). Otherwise, if we play with the things that tempt us we will quickly fall into the mire of self indulgence and we will sin against God, our family, and ourselves.

Some think this only refers to acts of sexual perversion, or sex outside of marriage, however, it is high time that we in the church stopped trying to define what sex is and is not in order to sooth guilty consciences. It is not about sex. It is about morality! What is moral and what is immoral? That is where we must draw the line. Married or not, to participate in anything immoral is sinful.

Next we see that uncleanness must not be named among us. This is impurity, anything unclean, rotten, or decayed. It includes sexual corruption. The unhindered and selfish desires corrupt us further. The desires originate in the corruption of our heart and lead to the corruption of our mind and our body.

Once we have repented of our sin and trusted Christ we have learned that we have been given a new nature. However, living in these fallen sinful bodies still provides our flesh with ammunition for temptation. We are to be holy, remember? And yet this is temptation to be unholy, to be unclean, and to soil our garments before God so to speak. He provides for us robes of righteousness and we run through the mud!

Some people play with uncleanness. It is a joke or a game. But these things are not innocent. These things take our minds off of Christ. They violate Philippians 4:8. They draw our flesh into desires that must not be fulfilled! They grasp at our minds and manipulate our emotions. But keep in mind, sin never delivers what it promises. Uncleanness is only deception and sin brings guilt, conviction, and discipline.

Following this we are also told that we are to avoid covetousness. This is greed, self-will, and self-gratification. It is to take instead of give. The focus of any counterfeit is to promise the love and purity but deliver the perverse and unclean. Greed is at the root of impurity. We want for ourselves. We are self-serving. We have no regard for others. We actually use others to get what we want! This is covetousness.

Covetousness destroys friendships, families, and fellowships! Greed, that insatiable desire to always have a little more, will drive us into madness and despair. Why do we covet when God has given us everything we need that pertains to life and godliness? He satisfies us, so why do we think we need to look elsewhere for fulfillment?

These things, fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness, are not to be named, not tolerated, not to be even suspected among us. They are not things to play with or ignore. They are not things that we are beyond falling into! Don’t give anyone an opportunity of any kind to suspect these things of us. And of course we must never allow these things to be tolerated among His elect!

Too often we take a light view of sin. We joke about it. We excuse it. We entertain it until it turns on us and kills us! According to Colossians 3:1-17, we are to put these things to death if they “pop” up in our thoughts before they can ever gain a stronghold in our words or actions. We must never excuse selfish desires. We must instead crucify them. Execute them!

Let us determine that these things will not be named among us. Let us decide that we will deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Jesus. Let us today deliberately set out to imitate God!

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

The New Nature by Charles Spurgeon
Beware of Covetousness AUDIO - A message from Luke 12:13-21 by Pastor Way

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Walk in Love

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Daily Scripture Reading - 1 John 3

Puritan Catechism
Question #42 - Which is the first commandment?

Answer - The first commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3).

Devotional Thoughts
I spent some time already on this text from my post on Sunday, but I wanted to come back to this in the course of our study and spend some time today in 1 John 3. This chapter of Scripture begins by reminding us what a great love God has given us! He has loved us enough to adopt us as His children. This is no small love, for to fulfill this love in this way cost Him the life of His Son! Jesus was the price that God paid for us in demonstrating His love for us (Rom 5:8).

There are a few themes that John develops throughout this chapter and I want to quickly focus on two of them. Today we will see The Imperative of Love and The Outworking of Love.

The Imperative of Love

As we are commanded in the Scriptures to love (a decision of the will) and to walk in love (a way of life) we learn that Jesus told us that the greatest commandments God has given, the commands upon which the whole of the Bible rest, are both commands to love. The first and greatest is the command to love God with all that we are. The second is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

We see in fact that there is a way to distinguish between those who are lost and those who are saved. The children of God and the children of the devil are made manifest, that is, exposed out in the open for what they are, by two things. The lost man does not "practice righteousness" and he does not "love his brother."

To practice righteousness is to walk rightly before God. It is more than actions, it is a way of life from the heart attitude to the way we make decisions and live our lives. The child of God does not habitually and constantly walk in unrighteousness. And loving our brother is plain forward enough. If we claim to love God but hate our brother we are liars and do no know the love of God! This is a basic and fundamental command that we are to love our brother.

Cain is given as an example of one who hated his brother and we are told that to hate our brother is the same as to have murdered him. And no one with that heart attitude is regenerated, for that kind of abiding hatred is not a fruit of the Spirit to be sure.

We know that we have passed from death to life if we love the brethren. This is more than just loving our family members. This is love for the church, for the Body of Christ. We are after all brothers and sisters, adopted by our Father through the greatest act of love ever witnessed in heaven or earth.

The Outworking of Love

We see God's love proved and demonstrated in the death of Christ. And as a result we are to lay down our lives for others. Often we think that this means that we are willing to die for another. But that is not all that is included here. Surely it is noble to be ready and willing to die for Christ or to die for a fellow believer or family member. This is to be expected of every believer.

The difficulty is found in seeing that the true outworking of love is not dying for someone, it is dying to SELF for someone else! It is to deny self, talking up our cross and following Jesus. It is esteeming all others as better than our self.

And the true test of whether or not we love is found in 1 John 3:17. This is a frightening verse. It proves just how much we really do or do not love the body of Christ, our brethren. And that is frightening because an evidence of salvation is found in whether or not we love this way. The verse reads:

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

We understand that we in the body are responsible to take care of each other. If a fellow member of the Body of Christ has a need we are expected, commanded, and empowered to deny ourselves and do or give whatever it takes to meet needs! Let this sink in. The Bible asks us how we can be saved, how we can be a Christian, if we see a fellow believer in need and refuse to help in any and every way that we are able.

As we studied Sunday, the love of God was evident in the lives of the believers in the church at Philippi because when they heard that the Apostle Paul had a need, they sent him a generous gift. The most amazing fact here is not that they sent a gift. It is that they had great needs themselves and yet still collected and sent a considerable gift to Paul. They gave even out of their lack. They went without so that he would have his needs met.

We live in the lap of luxury and often forget how to really give. Giving is not an afterthought. It is not easy. True Biblical giving is an outworking of love. We give ourselves first (2 Cor 8:5) and then we give willingly, generously, sacrificially, and cheerfully (2 Cor 8:1-7; 9:6-7).

Giving is not only financial by the way. It is giving love, attention, counsel, encouragement. It is giving of our time and our energy. It is giving ourselves to others.

Remember, so often we think we have done our duty in giving, but how we give reveals how we love and how we love reveals whether or not we know God! It is not just about duty or habit. It is about how we demonstrate our love for Christ and His Bride.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

The Essential Second and Words to the Wealthy
by John MacArthur

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Monday, September 25, 2006

Imitate God

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 5:1
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

Daily Scripture Reading - 2 Peter 1

Puritan Catechism
Question #42 - Which is the first commandment?

Answer - The first commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3).

Devotional Thoughts
This week we are moving to the next segment of our study from Ephesians 4-6 titled Learning to Walk. We have spent time the last several weeks working through the previous segment Walk in Unity (Eph 4:1-16) and Walk in Truth (Eph 4:17-32), and now we will study how to Walk in Love (Eph 5:1-7).

Here is our text for the next section of our study:

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.

We see right from the start that while the theme of this passage is walking in love the steps for fulfilling this mandate center around learning to imitate God. The imitation of God is best understood as the process of sanctification, that is the provess whereby the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to conform us to the image of Christ. How are we sanctified? By the Word of God! How do we imitate God? “Follow” Jesus! (John 17:14-17).

The word "imitate" is translated from the Greek word mimetas, from which we get the word mimic. It is to copy or to imitate. The NKJV, ESV, and NASB translate this word as "be imitators." In the Tyndale New testament and the KJV it is translated "be followers." This helps us gain a better understanding of what is being conveyed here. It is not merely that we copy behavior or attitudes or act in a similar fashion. Here it means that we indeed mimic God by following Him.

Jesus over and over again issues the commands (and the invitations), "Follow Me" and "Come after Me". He is asking us here to do what Paul tells to do in Ephesians 5:1. Be like Me. Walk like I walk. Live as I live. See things from My perspective and respond as I would respond.

The phrase has been rendered WWJD - or "What Would Jesus Do?", but I think in studying the Scripture we should amend that to WDJD - meaning that we should ask, "What DID Jesus Do? This takes the question out of the realm of speculation and lays it firmly in the arena of obedience to the Scripture.

If we are left to imagine how Jesus would respond and are then determined to act accordingly we might very well presume ourselves into sin. On the other hand, since Jesus in the Word has given us everything that we need that pertains to life and godliness, then our task is not to presume, but to read, hear, and obey the Word!

Jesus is also our example. He was tempted in every way as we, except without sin. And so as we examine the Scriptures we do not come away trying to presume upon what Jesus might do in a given situation. Instead we see what He did do, and we are told to do likewise. To follow.

To follow Jesus, to answer the call to "Come after Me", is not only taking His name and professing faith in Him. That is what we have studied through Ephesians 4. It is living like He lived. It is obedience, surrender to the will and ways of God, yielding ourselves as slaves of righteousness. It is also self denial and taking up our cross. Putting the flesh down and keeping it in submission to the spirit.

So what does it look like to imitate God? Surely we cannot be as holy as He is holy, at least not while still on this earth. But in truth, that is our goal. To be holy as He is holy. It is commanded, expected, and we are empowered to walk in holiness.

The command is repeated in Scripture in several verses. The two key verses for us to consider are found in Leviticus 11:45 and 1 Peter 1:13-16.

For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

We forget at times that God is perfect in holiness. He is holy, holy, holy. We need to remember, and fear Him, for we are unholy! But as we do remember how holy God is, as we gain a proper view of Him, we realize as Isaiah did that we are unclean.

Since we know that God is holy, and upon that basis He demands that we too be holy, then how can we obey the command? How can we imitate God by being holy? Here are a few of the ways that God is able to make us holy:

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust

Here in 2 Peter 1:3-4 we see first that He has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. So everything we need to live and be holy He has provided! Along with all of this He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises. This is the gospel, and through the gospel we become partakers of the divine nature. It is by this new life, this new nature that we are able to escape from the corruption of lust. So the first way that we are empowered to be holy is through the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Here in James 1:21 we are told to lay aside all filthiness. Similar to putting off the old man with his lusts we are to also continually put away from us wickedness and those things that defile and corrupt us. How? We are to receive the implanted Word - the Word of God written on our hearts (Jer 31:31-34 - " I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts".) This Word is able to save our souls! "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16). The second means of empowerment we are given then is the written Word of God, the Bible.

But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

God not only chose us for salvation and called us to new life through His Word, but according to 2 Thess. 2:13-15 He also has enables us to stand fast, or to stand our ground, holding to the traditions which we have been taught. This refers to the teaching of sound doctrine and traditions that align with Scripture. God has given us pastors and teachers, disciplers, mentors, parents, friends, and counselors in order to teach us the truth of the Word of God. As we are taught to live lives that please God we are being taught godly traditions, sound doctrine which leads to godliness. So the third enabling means for holy living is found in those who teach us the Word of God.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

According to 2 Cor. 3:18 we are told that it is the Spirit of the Lord that transforms us into the image of Christ. How does the Spirit accomplish this? Through the Word of God. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by truth, Your Word is truth." (John 17:17). And Paul wrote, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Rom. 12:1-2). We are transformed by the Word of God, as it enables us to keep our way pure and avoid sin (Ps 119:9, 11). So the fourth means of holiness is the wok of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 is often quoted in pieces but a look at all of these verses in context shows us that when all things work together for good this is speaking of our glorification. One day we will be sinless and unable to sin. One day we will be completely holy. Until we are glorified we have this hope - the final redemption of our body and spirit is being accomplished according to God's predetermined plan and nothing can stop His completing this work in and through Christ Jesus our Lord. The fifth way that God empowers us to be holy then is that it is by His own will that we will be made holy! God cannot lie. He cannot be thwarted. He cannot be foiled. And His will is going to be done in heaven and on earth!

If we are to imitate God then we do have a responsibility. We must follow Jesus. We must walk as He walked. We must come after Him. We must walk by faith. We must take God at His Word. We must seek Him in prayer. We must walk with God. We must read, memorize, meditate upon, be taught, hear, and do the Word of God. We must walk in the Spirit. We must take God at His Word.

These are not minor. They are not easy. But they will bear the fruit of holiness as God Himself transforms us into the Image of His Son. may we never again read the words, "Follow Me" and think it an easy task, or one that we can accomplish on our own. May it produce in us humility and a dependence upon the Holy Spirit so that He might then sanctify us with the truth of God's Word.

Let us imitate God. Let us truly follow Him!

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

The Folly and Danger of Being Not Righteous Enough by George Whitefield
The Holiness of God by AW Pink

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Loving as Christ Loves

Continuing on in our series Be Imitators of God this week we will hear the fourth message under the heading Walk in Love from Ephesians 5:1-7. We have learned from verse 1 that we imitate God by being holy, by hating what God hates, and by loving what He loves. Now moving on to verse 2 we will learn that we imitate God by Loving as Christ Loves. (The message will be available to listen to or download for free later today).

Instead of simply posting my brief preaching outline as I usually do, I want to get into some detail here and offer this outline more in a devotional format.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

In order to imitate God by loving as Christ loves we must do three things. These are our main points today. We must walk, love, and give.


First, we are to walk (live or conduct ourselves) in love. The word for love here is the Greek word agape and it refers to a pure love which flows from a decision of our will. We covered the definition of this kind of love in our message last week titled Loving What God Loves.


Secondly, we are to love as Christ has loved us. He is our example. He has loved us unconditionally. He has loved us humbly, condescending to take human form and become a man. He loved us obediently, keeping the Law of God perfectly and being faithful even to His death on the cross. He loved us completely. And He has loved us sacrificially.

John MacArthur writes about this phrase:
Divine love is unconditional love, love that depends entirely on the one who loves and not on the merit, attractiveness, or response of the one loved. Christ did not simply have a deep feeling and emotional concern for mankind. Nor did He sacrifice Himself for us because we were deserving. “While we were yet sinners,” He gave Himself for us purely out of sovereign, gracious love, taking our sin upon Himself and paying its penalty on our behalf. God’s love, and all love like His, loves for the sake of giving, not getting. God makes no condition for His love to us and commands that we love others without conditions. (Ephesians commentary, page 197)


Thirdly, if we are to love as Christ has loved us, then we must give as Christ has given. A direct result of His love for us and the Father motivated Him to give Himself completely for us. The word "given" means "turned over to, handed over, surrendered, yielded, or arrested." He has given Himself for us in the following ways:

He has given Himself for Us to God. Note that this is worded specifically in our text. He did not give Himself to us for God. He gave Himself to God for us! His sacrifice, as all acts of worship, was focused toward God. While we received a benefit from His sacrifice, ultimately in giving Himself for us His true gift was a gift to God.

He has given Himself as an Offering. An offering is a gift that is given freely, that is, without compulsion. His gift was not given by force. His life was not taken from Him, He gave it freely of His own will. In fact, as Christ died on the cross, we are told that He chose when He would die and He laid down His life and had the power to take it up again at the resurrection. The focus in the text is not on the act of giving, but on the substance and content of the gift itself. We learn that the act of giving is not nearly as important as what we give!

He has given Himself as a Sacrifice. To sacrifice is to willingly give something up to another. Here it refers to allowing injury for a greater cause. It is to forgo something valued for the sake of something that has a more pressing claim. In other words, to sacrifice in the Biblical sense is to yield something that is valuable because there is a more pressing or urgent need that this surrender will meet. With all sacrifices there is a cost to the one making the sacrifice and there is an exchange. There is a benefit received for the sacrifice given. However, the sacrifice is not worthy or good if the sacrifice is given with the purpose of receiving the benefit. In other words, if we give in order to get then our gift is not given freely but out of greed and selfishness. We do not give to get. We give to give, and anything we get is an added blessing along with our obedience.

He has given Himself as a Sweet Smelling Aroma. There were five sacrifices ordained by God in the Old Testament. Three of the five are said to be sweet smelling to God when they are offered. Let us look at those five and see what they were ordained for and what they resulted in when offered.

1. The Burnt Offering - For Atonement - Leviticus 1:3-9, 13, 17
2. The Grain/Meal Offering - For Consecration - Leviticus 2:1-3, 9
3. The Peace Offering - For Reconciliation - Leviticus 3:1-5, 16
4. The Sin Offering - For Propitiation - Leviticus 4
5. The Trespass Offering - For Repentance - Leviticus 5

The first three specifically are said to have been a sweet smelling aroma to God, meaning that in these offerings especially He was pleased.


In our application of this we need to answer a question:

"How do we give ourselves as an offering and a sacrifice to God for others and thus walk in love as Christ has loved us?"

The answer is found in our three main points today - Walk, Love, Give.

1. Walk in Victory - 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

When we walk in victory over our sin we are showing forth the power of God as He triumphs over the power of sin in our lives. And through us He diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge. This is the influence we have on others through our walking in victory. When younger or weaker Christians see us walk in triumph it encourages them to also walk and live in victory and gives them determination against temptation and sin.

This verse in fact makes reference to the Triumphal Parades when a Roman general would return from battle in victory. There would be a great parade through town that would lead a procession into the presence of Caesar where the victory would be announced for his credit. As the general and the soldiers marched and rode their horses through the street in this parade, the people would throw flower petals into the road. It is said by historians that the flowers were thrown in such abundance that the whole city would be filled with the fragrance as they were crushed under foot.

When we walk in victory we fill the whole church and the world around us with the fragrance of a Christ honoring life.

2. Love through Actions - Philippians 4:18-19

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The church at Philippi was a poor church, suffering hardship for the gospel. And yet in the midst of their own hardship and even as they themselves lacked much, they responded to Paul's needs and sent him a gift by the hand of Epaphroditus. This sacrificial offering was a sweet smelling aroma to Paul. They gave even in the midst of their great need. This is love!

We must love one another in the church with a love that is not hindered by our own needs. This is a love focused on others instead of on self. It is a love that gives even if that means the giver will do without. In the midst of the luxury in which we live today too often we are satisified to give a little, but rarely do we see sacrifice in the church. This is to our shame. It is time that we learned to do without for the benefit of others in the body.

3. Give as a Holy Priesthood - 1 Peter 2:5

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We are “being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Let us look at what this means for us as we learn to give within the framework of our priesthood as believers.

Note first of all that the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer does not mean that anyone can pick up a Bible and interpret it however they please. I have heard this more times than I can count. A person in a church I pastored years ago stopped coming to church. When asked why they were missing church and if they needed any help with anything, the response was, "Oh, pastor, we don't have to come to church to worship God. After all, I have read my Bible and it says that we are under grace and not under the law, so since I am saved I can do whatever I want." When I asked for clarification the reply was, "Since I have decided to accept Christ as my Savior the Bible tells me that once I am saved I am always saved. I am not going to hell no matter what I do, so that means I can do whatever I want for the rest of my life and it does not matter."

This is a serious and dangerous misinterpretation of many texts of Scripture. So we are not saying that as a "priest" that we are able then to interpret the Bible any way we want. The truth is that a passage of Scripture has one correct interpretation. This is a simple understanding of the rules of interpretation (hermenuetics). Though that passage may have only one interpretation we can be confident that there may be many applications for what we read and learn.

But let us look at this verse in 1 Peter 2:5.

We are a spiritual house (Hebrews 3:6), and a Holy Priesthood. So let us look at a few of the things the Bible tells us about priests of God.

To be a priest is an elect privilege – Ex. 28:1; John 15:16
Priests are cleansed of sin – Lev. 8:6-36; Titus 2:14
Priests are clothed for service – Ex. 28:42; Lev. 8:7; Ps. 132:9, 16; 1 Peter 5:5
Priests are anointed for service – Lev. 8:12, 30; 1 John 2:20, 27
Priests are prepared for service – Lev. 8:33; 9:4, 23; Gal. 1:16; 1 Tim. 3:6
Priests are ordained to obedience – Lev. 10:1; 1 Peter 2:4
Priests are to honor the Word of God – Mal. 2:7; 1 Pet. 2:2
Priests walk with God – Mal. 2:6; Gal. 5:16, 25
Priests impact sinners – Mal. 2:6; Gal. 6:1
Priests are God’s messengers – Mal. 2:7; Mt. 28:19-20
Priests have access to God - Eph. 2:18

And as priests, each believer has access directly to God through Jesus Christ our Mediator. And the work that we are called and equipped to do is the work of offering spiritual sacrifices, that is God honoring works done in obedience to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through the guidance of the Word of God.

So in answer to the question, "How do we give ourselves as an offering and a sacrifice to God for others and thus walk in love as Christ has loved us?" we answer:

Offering Oneself to God – Rom. 12:1
Praising God – Heb. 13:15
Doing Good – Heb. 13:16
Sharing Resources – Heb. 13:16
Bringing People to Christ – Rom. 15:16
Praying – Rev. 8:3
Sacrificing for Others – Eph. 5:2

Here then we see what is required of us to love as Christ has loved. We must walk in love, love unconditionally, and give as Christ has given Himself for us. In our daily lives that means that we are to walk in victory, love through our actions and not just our words, and give sacrifically to others, freely and even if we ourselves are lacking and have needs.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Forgiving One Another

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 4:31-32
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Daily Scripture Reading - Matthew 6

Puritan Catechism
Question #41 - What is the sum of the ten commandments?

Answer - The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40).

Devotional Thoughts
In summation of Ephesians 4:17-30 Paul writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we who are saved are duty bound to forgive one another. This is significant. The lost world around us only knows forgiveness in the sense that it is seen as therapeutic for victims. The analysts and psychologists tell us that if we are to deal with grief, stress, and victimization and if we are move beyond the hurt and heal then we must learn to forgive. Often the lesson is built around the importance of forgiving ourselves and more often than not the whole motivation for forgiving others is that doing so will bring an immediate and lasting benefit to us.

A simple reading of a few key Scriptures proves rather quickly though that forgiveness is not only necessary for the believer, it is commanded. Before we were saved we did not have proper motives for forgiveness and likely could not understand why we should forgive. Just think about the way forgiveness is perceived and compare that with the culture's view of revenge and violence. How many television shows and movies have made how many millions of dollars portraying revenge, violence, and outright refusals to forgive wrongdoers? How is it that we in the church turn a blind eye or even actively support such notions as vengeance?

Again, the Bible is clear. Vengeance is not our concern. Vengeance is God's job (Rom 12:17-19). He is perfectly just and also eternally merciful. We, reacting out of the hurt or the loss are often quick to seek the destruction of our enemies without thought for the consequences of our motives, thoughts, and actions.

As believers we are not told to forgive for the benefit it gives us. We are not told in Scripture that we cannot heal or will not have "closure" if we do not forgive. Instead we are commanded, as new creatures by grace, to live to a higher standard of conduct and thinking. That means we set self aside and forgive others. The standard of forgiveness is to forgive as we have been forgiven. That is incredible is it not?

But before we examine the extent of the forgiveness we have been given by grace, let us see how Paul tells us about the way we are expected and empowered to walk, think, live, talk, and act as disciples of Jesus Christ. As we learn the importance of forgiveness and the extent of our showing of mercy to those who sin against us we start by learning that there is a list of things that we must get rid of in our relationships with other people. We also see that there are a few things that we must be and do in order to live in the newness of life we have been given in Christ.

Let us examine these then:

Put Away - Getting Rid of Relationship Ruiners

Bitterness - This is smoldering resentment that usually results from hurt prIde. We are commanded to get rid of it, to put it away. Bitterness, as we have studied, is the result of prolonged anger. It drives us to impure thoughts and wicked motives. We hold a grudge. And while we may say that we forgive we proclaim just as quickly that we will never forget!! (more on that in a moment). By a root of bitterness many are defiled. So beware of bitterness in your relationships.

Wrath - This is rage. It is sinful, selfish anger that is expressed in uncontrolled emotional outbursts, including verbal and physical violence. Wrath certainly does not promote unity in relationships! In fact, it always drives a wedge between people. One we have blown up on someone it is difficult to regain trust or move to deeper levels of emotional or spiritual intimacy.

Anger - Specifically here this is holding onto internal hurt. It is not just being angry, it is a willful decision to hold on to and nurse hurt. We keep the pot stirred so to speak, just waiting for an opportunity to get back at the one who hurt us.

Clamor - A loss of control or outbursts motivated by hate, that is, thinking of someone as if they were an enemy about to attack and so preempting that by attacking first. Whether our "victim" is an enemy or not, we treat them as such and literally lose control toward them in speech or actions. This is an obsessive kind of hatred.

Slander - From the Greek word blasphemia, this is defamation. We defame. We seek to ruin one's reputation or cause them harm by belittling them. This also refers to using the truth is a way that causes pain. Worse than gossip, the motive here is not sharing private or embarrassing information. It is instead the desire to destroy a person through shame or the exposing of their sins.

Malice – Here a general term for all kinds of evil. Remember that evil is that which causes harm. What kind of relationship do we have with someone when our desire is to harm them in any way possible?

These sinful attitudes and actions are not fitting for a saint. This is not the way we should be thinking, talking, or acting if we are trusting Christ. Yet it is easy to fall into these things when we are hurt. It is only a thought away and we can plunge into the depths of sinful and hateful thoughts, words, and actions. So how do we guard against these things in our relationships and in our daily walk?

Be Kind and Tenderhearted - Living the Fruit of the Spirit

The only way to live as we ought is for Christ to live through us! Let on our own we would always fail because left on our own it is surely easy to become offended or seek revenge when we are sinned against. We do have a new sense of justice since our conversion, but often we forget who the Judge is! We are not responsible for dealing with tares and goats! God will take care of it.

Our responsibility is to walk in the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit, to not grieve the Spirit, and to bear the fruit of the Spirit. This is summed up for us when we are told in our verse for today that we are to be kind and tenderhearted. Literally we are told to be gentle and compassionate.

This is best understood in the command to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us. This does not seem a natural response, and it is not for the lost man. But it should be a trained and practiced reflex for Christians. We will be sinned against just as surely as we will sin against others. And our duty when we sin is to confess and seek reconciliation. Our duty if we have been sinned against is to deal with it Biblically. This does not mean we roll over and invite abuse. But it does mean that when we are hurt we lay self aside and act like what we are - new creatures in Christ.

One of the best illustrations I can use for this is again taken from the life of Corrie Ten Boom. While in a Nazi concentration camp with her sister they saw a guard beating another prisoner. Corrie cried tears of anger and hatred. She wanted to kill the guard and save the fellow prisoner. Her sister also cried, but she cried tears of sorrow. She was grieved that the guard could be so filled with hate and sin and declared that he needed to know the forgiveness of Christ!

Much of how we respond to the world around us depends upon our perspective. Do we see evil doers and sinners as people who need to be punished, or as people who need to be saved? Yes, sin and crime deserves punishment. But it is also evidence of the great need for salvation that fallen men and women have. And our reaction to them when they hurt us with either further the cause of the gospel or it will enslave us in malice and bitterness.

And now we finish where we started:

Forgive - Forget About It

You have heard the phrase "Forgive and Forget." There is truth there. When God forgives us He forgets our sin! It's true. God, who knows all and is all powerful purposefully forgets our sin when we confess it and He forgives it! Don't believe me? Read Psalm 103:12; Jeremiah 31:34; and Heb. 10:17. As a result of understanding this there is no place in the mind or heart of a believer to ever say to someone that we forgive them but will not forget. If we forgive, really and truly forgive, then we will try to forget! We will not harbor the pain or hold on to the hurt. We will let it go and let God comfort us. We leave judgment and vengeance to Him, for we are not capably of meting our justice righteously.

Finally today, Matthew 18:21-35 tells us why we should forgive. It is not so that we can have closure. It is so that we can be obedient to the Word of God and at the same time live out the fruit of the Spirit even in difficult circumstances. This really does not need comment, so let us read the passage together and see what Jesus tells us about the need for forgiveness.

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

When we walk in love we walk, think, live, talk, and act like Christ! We have been given a new heart, new mind, and a new way of life. And the root of this new life is found in forgiveness. We have been forgiven so much by Christ that we have no just reason to complain or to act sinfully toward those who sin against us. We could never repay the debt we owe because of our own sinfulness, and yet Christ has paid it all. As a result, we are capable of doing things, thinking things, and saying things that before we trusted Christ were impossible.

We need to remember the price that Jesus paid to redeem us. And out of gratefulness and love we need to obey His Word and forgive those who sin against us, no matter how much that means we must forgive. Because even as a new creation in Christ we will never forgive others as much as we have already been forgiven by Him.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Forgiveness by J.C. Ryle
Forgiveness Made Easy by Charles Spurgeon

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Speaking Edification and Grace

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 4:29-30
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Daily Scripture Reading - Matthew 19

Puritan Catechism
Question #41 - What is the sum of the ten commandments?

Answer - The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40).

Devotional Thoughts
If we know Jesus Christ, if we have repented of our sin and believed in Him, we are a new creation. We have been born again. And evidence of this new life is found as we examine the way that we walk, think, live, talk, and act. We have seen this week that those who have put on this new man in Christ speaks the truth, is able to be angry for the right reasons and at the right time without sin, and called to forsake our former life of sin. Specifically yesterday we learned that we are no longer to steal but instead to work at what is good so that we might provide for our family and give to those in the church who have needs. Today we find ourselves back in the arena of speech. Not only do we not lie, speaking the truth in love, but we also learn how to edify with our words.

Corrupt Communication

We start by hearing the Word of God as it instructs us to "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth." The term corrupt means that which is rotten and putrid. The term can be expanded to include that which is corrupted, no longer fit for use, worn out, of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, or worthless.

The trouble is not found in defining these terms. The trouble we have is that the words we speak come from our heart. Sadly there are those who are preaching and teaching today that we should use shocking and worldly terms when we converse with people, especially the lost. But this misses the whole point of what Jesus taught about our words. If it comes out the mouth it first proceeds from the heart.

James warns us that the tongue is not tamable. It is a fire that easily burns out of control. But we know that as we have been given new hearts and new minds we can rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to keep our mouth, and our hearts in line with the Word of God. So if we do hear corrupting, unfit words coming out of our mouths we need to check our heart, because obviously there is a problem that needs to be confronted and confessed.

Edification and Grace

Paul continues in the verse and he moves from telling us what not to say to giving specific instruction about how we talk. We are to speak "what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." Remember the word good denotes that which promotes health. So we are to speak those things which promote health, specifically things that edify.

Edification means to build up or encourage. This reminds us of our study about church growth - where we see that we each play a part in "building up" the church as the Word of God is taught, applied, and lived in the life of the congregation. Our words have the power to build up or tear down. Too often we use it to destroy and uproot instead of thinking before we speak so that what we say can minister edification to those who hear us.

Even beyond edification here though we see a tremendous and often overlooked truth. When we speak words that are good for edification the result is that it ministers grace to the hearers! Did you catch that? Now think with me here. How are the lost saved? By grace. What can we impart to people with the words we speak? Grace. We, by virtue of the way we talk, are grace dispensers!

So often we simply "run at the mouth" or "shoot our mouths off" and say the first thing that pops in our heads. We speak rashly and quickly and with little thought. And at that moment those words are not grace filled. No, they are corrupt! For what can be more corrupt, more useless, more putrid that words that are absent all grace?

We must be aware of the condition of our hearts and we must think about what we say. Our words are able to carry grace, so this is a heavy burden that we carry. We can destroy, or build up. We can edify or tear down. We can be used of the Spirit to impart grace to the hearers or we can drive people further away from God and the church. All by the words we speak.

Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit

Paul concludes these verses today with this statement, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, truly and completely God, is described to us as the Comforter. We also know that He is the One who calls us to life from the dead when we are born again. He is the seal of our salvation. He convicts us of sin, convinces us of truth, and empowers us to live the Christian life. And He indwells us.

What would grieve the Holy Spirit? Let us think about His role. He indeed indwells us and fills us. We are told to "walk in the Spirit" so that we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. He is our Guide. He lives through us.

And look at this verse in context. If we neglect verse 25 then we will lie and live in dishonesty. This grieves the Spirit as He has been given to lead us into all truth. If we neglect verses 26-27 we will be sinfully angry and allow the devil an opportunity to use us for his purposes, taking advantage of us. And this grieves the Spirit because the Spirit convicts us of sin and to remain in anger or to become bitter is to neglect that conviction. If we neglect verse 28 we will steal, furthering our sin by being dishonest and grieving the Spirit who has promised to provide for us all that we need. We would fail to walk by faith and this grieves the Spirit. Now we see that if we reject the truth and allow words that are barren and corrupt and graceless to proceed out of our mouths then we do indeed grieve the Spirit.

To sum this up, to fail or refuse to walk in this new life, like the new man that we are, then we grieve the Spirit. He has been given to seal us and keep us and sanctify us as we grow in grace. And we grieve Him when we reject His Word and Way. The Spirit after all empowers us to obey the Word of God, so we are without excuse.

Why would we do such a thing? Because although we are saved we are still sinners. We are still in need of grace. And where can we get more grace? When we edify one another and speak the truth in love we impart grace! Let us not forget the role that we play in this daily life of following Christ - we are able by the words we speak, by our motives, by our actions, and by the way that we think to be used to minister grace to those around us. Let us not ever think that grace is only for the lost. We each need His grace daily. And we have been given the opportunity and ability to poor out His grace upon one another.

No wonder the devil would have us be bitter and harsh with our words! Today - think before you speak. And examine your hearts, minds, and mouths for thoughts and words that minister grace to those who hear you.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Grieving the Holy Spirit by Charles Spurgeon
Preaching God's Word by William Gouge

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Working for Good and Giving

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 4:28
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

Daily Scripture Reading - 2 Thessalonians 3

Puritan Catechism
Question #41 - What is the sum of the ten commandments?

Answer - The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40).

Devotional Thoughts
Continuing in our study, today we pick up with the question, "How does a saved man walk, think, live, talk, and act?" Specifically we have been examining Ephesians 4:17-32 to see how a saved man walks, thinks, lives, talks, and acts differently that the lost man. He has different motives, a different attitude, and a different outlook on how he lives his life. Not only is the saved man endued with a new heart, a new mind, and a new spiritual life, he is also empowered to fulfill God's purposes.

After seeing how a saved man speaks the truth and can be angry for the right reasons and in the right way, we now see in verse 28 that a saved man is to work with the right attitudes and for the right reasons. The admonition begins with the command, "Let him who stole steal no longer." As lost men and women we often steal. We take what is not ours. Whether it is money, possessions, or some other thing, or perhaps we take the credit and the praise when it does not belong to us. The temptation is there for the saved as well, but we have been given reasons not to steal.

First, of course, stealing is a form of deception. Taking what is not ours out of selfish greed and envy. The root is pride and the fruit is theft. This clearly violates God's law. "Thou shalt not steal" (Ex 20:15) is only one of the Ten Commandments, but it is nonetheless a Law of God. Do not steal. It is indeed tied with deception in Leviticus 19:11, "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another."

Secondly, while we know that stealing is an easy way to fulfill our needs, we must not forget that God has ordained that our needs be met through work! Ah, there it is. A four letter word in its own right. W-O-R-K. How many of us detest our job? We do not always enjoy hard work. It's HARD after all, and it’s WORK. But we must be careful. There are some who proclaim that work is part of the curse - that after Adam and Eve sinned they were put out of the garden and it became necessary for them to work to survive. And that is where many are today - they work to survive. But let's look at this, shall we?

The Bible is clear in showing us that God had assigned work to Adam and Eve before the fall (Gen 1:15, 19). Work has always been part of God's plan for us. Of course, since Adam sinned now we have a wrong attitude often toward work since it is after all God ordained! What changed?

In the curse for sin, the work that Adam was ordained to do became difficult. Now Adam was doomed to die, for the wages of sin is death, and God told Adam and Eve that if they trespassed His command they would indeed die. In seeing the result of sin then we hear God tell Adam:

Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

Now work was hard. It was toil. It required sweat. But none of this changes the fact that in order to provide for the survival of the family, it was necessary for people to work. This is God's ordained plan for us. That is why we are told in the New Testament to work as unto the Lord, because ultimately as believers we do all that we do for Him! We do not work to please our earthly boss - we work to glorify God. As John MacArthur put it, our jobs give us a place to earn a living, meet our family’s needs, and it gives us a daily mission field in which to live and proclaim the gospel.

Paul elsewhere in the Scriptures examines work. He writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11, "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies." And in 1 Timothy 5:8 he wrote, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

The way that we work and our attitude toward work both say much about our spiritual maturity and our faith. In the church we are to minister to one another to be sure, but we are also to encourage each other in working and providing for our families. But there is another reason we are to work, and our verse for today tells us exactly why God has ordained that we work, and that we work hard.

The Scripture tells us to labor and work doing "what is good." In other words we should not just take any job we can find. We are required to be picky in our job search and in choosing our career, because we are exhorted to work at what is good. The word "good" means that which is healthy, or promotes health and goodness. We cannot engage in a job that is evil, that harms, or that is not good. And if there is a doubt about whether our job is good or not then we should err on the side of safety. A believer should never engage in a job that promotes evil or sin or causes harm wrongfully to others.

The foundational truth that we see here is not that we work at what is good only to survive. Working to survive is in actuality quite selfish. The Bible here teaches us that we work at what is good so that we "may have something to give him who has need." Our motive in working is to provide for our family and the family of God! It is to care for orphans and widows, the needy and poor in our midst, the "least of these My brethren."

This is not a social gospel or a focus on giving to the world. That is different. This has a specific application within the church! We should be good stewards and work hard so that when a need arises in our midst we can pitch in and help meet that need. Have you ever thought about your job as an opportunity to meet the needs of those around you in your church?

This is the New Testament example though, is it not? In Acts 2:44-45 we see that early Christians would even sell their own possessions in order to meet the needs of others in the Body. And to take it a step further, beyond working to only survive, Paul commended the Philippian church because they sent a gift to the church at Jerusalem. The church at Philippi was poor and needy. But they saw that the church in Jerusalem was being persecuted and so they gave, even as they had needs of their own.

Can you imagine working to give away what you made even while you yourself still had needs? What kind of faith is this? It is a faith that sees that God promises to meet our every need. He is the Source for meeting every need we have. And He uses His bride, the church, as the Resource to provide what is needed. Even if we are needy ourselves we can work and give so that other’s needs are met. And we will wait on God in faith trusting that He will meet our needs too.

In 2 Corinthians 8:14 we see that when we are blessed we can give to help those with lack. And then when we have lack, others who have abundance can give to meet our needs. We have made the church such a market driven business that we have completely overlooked the purpose for God's blessing, for work, and even His purpose in our neediness!

So work is not a bad word. It is God's program for providing for our needs and for giving us an opportunity to minister to others. By working at what is good we can then give to help those who are in need. The outlook and attitude here is not inward. It is not selfishness. It is not working only to survive. It is working to fulfill God's purposes and to be used of Him to meet the needs of others. It is a view that instead of being inward is in fact upward and outward.

Do you view work like a lost man or a saved man? Did you know that there was a difference? Remember this the next time you are tempted to complain about your job. And instead thank God for giving you an opportunity to meet the needs of others and obey Him in your attitudes, actions, and in your work. Thank Him for placing you in a mission field where you can be a Resource to others in the church and a witness of the power of the gospel to those with whom you work.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

John MacArthur on:
Wisdom for the Working Christian - Part 1
Wisdom for the Working Christian - Part 2
Wisdom for the Working Christian - Part 3

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

BONUS - Be sure and read through this list of great quotes from the godly missionary C.T. Studd. He served on the mission field in China, India, and Africa.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Being Angry Without Sin

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 4:26-27
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.

Daily Scripture Reading - Matthew 5

Puritan Catechism
Question #41 - What is the sum of the ten commandments?

Answer - The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40).

Devotional Thoughts
How does a saved man walk, think, live, talk, and act? We have seen that it is a different walk than the Gentile, that is, the one without Christ. It is new. It is empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is radically different than the world around us. And as we learned yesterday, part of the new walk for this new man is speaking the truth. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are to love the truth - to crave it! And we are to abhor deceit and shun lying.

Today in the next two verses we see that not only is our speech different, but even our attitudes and motives are changed. We are told matter of factly, "be angry and do not sin." This is something we need to think through. You see, this reveals yet another victim in the war of political correctness. We have been led to believe that anger is bad, destructive, evil, and sinful. We as Christians are told that we should be passive doormats who never raise our voices or act out of anger.

As a result many in the church today feel guilt when they become angry even if they are angry at themselves for their sin. The self-help puff me up at all costs doctrine has been bought hook, line, and sinker. And so we are afraid to be angry.

What we fail to realize is that anger is a natural response to wrongdoing and injustice! In fact, if we are to define the term anger specifically, the word used in the Scripture means "deep determination and conviction." It is not wrath. What is wrath? Wrath is what most people think anger is. Wrath is uncontrolled, seething, explosive rage. And while wrath is listed several times in lists of sin, anger is not the same thing! It is true, no doubt, that anger can be sinful. But let us not fall for the lie that all anger is sinful and bad.

Anger - Good or Bad

The quality of our anger, meaning the way we tell if it is good or bad, is determined by two factors. The first is motive. What is the motivation behind why we are angry? What is it that has resulted in our becoming angered? The second factor is purpose. In other words, why are we angry? What is the purpose for our anger? What do we seek to accomplish through being angry?

If we have a right motive and a just purpose then we are justified in our anger. It is right to be angry because of sin. It is right to be angry for the purpose of protecting the innocent and upholding justice. Good anger is anger that is motivated by a love for truth and a purpose of upholding righteousness.

Bad anger is anger that is motivated by selfishness or pride. Sinful anger is anger that has as its purpose inflicting pain or vengeance on someone.

Now remember, we are fighting this idea that tells us that all anger is sinful and has no place in the life of a believer. Can we demonstrate from the Scriptures that there is a good anger, a sinless anger? Can we really prove that it is possible to be angry without sin?

Consider David when in Psalm 69:9 he writes, "zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me." He is zealous, that is stirred up and angry. Why? What is his motive? Upholding the holiness of the habitation of God. And his purpose? To share in the reproaches of those who mock God. This is a good anger.

We see that David was angry with just cause. But to make the case even more plain I hope that we would all agree that Jesus never sinned. So if He never sinned and yet He became angry could we then say that anger is not always sinful? Let us look at a few verses from the gospels.

When Jesus met a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day, Jesus knew that the crowd and the Pharisees were watching His every move. He knew that they believed that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. And yet Jesus who cannot sin sees their attitudes and their hearts, and in Mark 3:5 we read, "And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’. And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other."

His motive was a desire to glorify God and heal this man. His purpose was to discount the false teaching of those who were watching Him so critically. And their sin and false doctrine made Him angry!

We also see in Matthew 21:12 that Jesus approached those who were defiling the Temple by making it a marketplace (interesting, isn't that exactly what the church growth and seeker sensitive movements are doing?) and He acted out of anger! "Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves." This was no meek and mild Jesus. He was MAD. He turned tables over. He chased people out of the Temple porch.

Likewise in John 2:15, a report from an earlier time when He also cleaned out the Temple (yes, He did it twice), tells us, "When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables." He made a whip! He used it!

These are examples of righteous anger. There was no sin. There was no out of control wrath. But there was passion, negative emotions, and violent action. But no sin.

So where does sinful anger come from? How can we tell the difference?

Sinful Anger

First, sinful anger is exposed by the very things we have already been discussing. Sinful anger flows from a wrong motive and a sinful purpose. We see the best example in Matthew 5:21-22 where we are shown the ultimate expression of sinful anger from the motive through to the action.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

We know it is sinful to murder, to unlawfully kill an innocent person. And most of us would certainly stop far short of actually choking the life out of someone. But murder begins with the motive of sinful anger! To be angry without a cause - for no good reason - is to be angry in a sinful manner. To belittle or demean, to hatefully and vengefully talk down to someone, to call them a moron or an idiot, of worse, a fool, that is to be speaking and feeling out of the same motive that drives us to murder!

We also see secondly that sinful anger has a focus on self. Righteous anger has a focus on sin, or on others. But sinful anger is focused inwardly. It is selfish and conceited. Are we angry because someone sinned against God or are we angry because they sinned against us? If they sinned against us are we right to be angry? Maybe. But if we are spiteful and vindictive then this is the first clue that our anger has transgressed the standard of God's Word and has moved into the realm of sin.

Prolonged Anger

One more point to think about before we finish today is that we must beware of prolonged anger. Even if we are right in being angry, we must not allow ourselves to continue to be angry. Prolonged anger quickly turns to bitterness. This is why we are given the command that we not allow the sun to set while we are angry. In other words, work it out before the end of the day and do not hold on to it overnight for days at a time.

Bitterness, in the words of 2 Cor. 2:11, let's Satan take advantage of us. And if we are angry, even for the right reasons, but hang on to that anger, we are prone to see that anger turn from good to bad very quickly. And this gives place to the devil! Another way to say that is that we do not give the devil an opportunity to use us for his purposes. If we are ignorant of the devices of the devil, if we are failing to discern and are dull of hearing, then Satan will take advantage of us. He will manipulate us emotionally and as we are angry he will seek to find a way to bring that anger to bear the fruit of bitterness.

And bitterness, as we will learn later this week in detail, is dangerous! Hebrews 12:15 tells us, "looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled." Bitterness is an enemy of grace. It defiles many. It traps us in hateful and vindictive emotions, thoughts, words, and actions.

So remember today, there is a right way and a wrong way to be angry. When you find that you are angry throughout the day stop and take a close look at your motives and purpose. Why are you angry? What do you think your anger will accomplish? And if you find you are angry for the right reasons you can rejoice and then move on. Don't linger. But if you find that you have been sinfully angry then you have transgressed the Word of God and must confess your sin!

Don't write all anger off as bad. Don't excuse sinful anger. And learn to tell the difference. We really do need more people in the church to be angry for the right reasons!!

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

The Wisdom of Patience by Thomas Goodwin
Treasury of David - Psalm 4 by Charles Spurgeon

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship