Category Archives: God’s will

Obedience leads to preaching the whole Gospel which leads to Obedience to God

Jer 7:22-24 For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. (23) But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ (24) But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

When it comes to pleasing people, we often want to know “What is the most important thing you want?” We like to prioritize and assume that if we do the most important thing that we will be O.K. even if we don’t get the other “lesser important things” done. Sometimes though, we elevate the less important things above more important things.

In Jeremiah’s message, God reminds Judah that when He brought Israel out of Egypt, that his first words to them were not about burnt offerings and sacrifices. This is not to say that He didn’t command sacrifices. He most certainly did! However, here in Jeremiah and in other places such as 1 Sam 15:22, the message is clear that it not the Sacrifice by itself or in and of itself that God wants…..what God wants is Obedience to His commands.

1Sa 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

The problem in the days of Jeremiah, Moses, the Judges, most of the Kings, the days of Christ, and well….even today is that people want to offer sacrifices but not obedience.  People will spend time, money, and resources in sacrifice to God, they will do many things in the name of the Lord, even teaching people about Jesus,  but I am afraid they also forget the words of Jesus:

Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

I wish to challenge everyone who reads this to be obedient to the Gospel of Jesus and, for those who preach the Gospel, to be obedient to the commission of preaching the Gospel which is God’s power to save. How will they be saved if no one preaches it and how can they obey it if no one tells them what is required?

Obedience never earns salvation. If you obey the traffic laws, you don’t get a reward but you do avoid the penalties of disobedience. Salvation is God’s gift and it is from Grace not by works but if God tells you He wants to you to write 500 times “I will not sin” to be saved, even after you do it…guess what? All you did was Obey…you didn’t earn salvation. In the same way, Obedience to the Gospel message does not EARN you salvation, it shows your faith and trust in God, it shows your obedience to Him, but doesn’t earn it. Yet, again, just because salvation is not earned by obedience, doesn’t mean you don’t have to obey!

Jesus will return to bring judgement to those who do not obey the Gospel…

2Th 1:7-8 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

The Gospel is the power of God unto Salvation:

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Peter preached the Gospel on the day of Pentecost and told those who believed his message what to do:

Act 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Those that received his word were baptized:

Act 2:40-41 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (41) So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

And notice WHY Peter told them to repent and be baptized: Jesus told him to.

Mat 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Yes, that is right: Somewhere between the Resurrection and His ascension Jesus gave the above command.

Peter was obedient to the command to make disciples baptizing them in His name. The hearers were obedient by being baptized based on their faith in the Messiah.

So when preachers are disobedient to Christ’s command today, people cannot be obedient to the Gospel.

There is a command to make disciples by baptizing them. There is an example of a Spirit led Apostle, commanding hearers to repent and be baptized.

There is NO command, or example of anyone being told by a preacher to pray a sinner’s prayer to be saved or of anyone in the scriptures doing so.

Will you offer sacrifices? or will you be obedient?

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Learning the way of the heathen

Jer 10:2 Thus says the LORD: “Learn not the way of the nations…

Do not learn the way of the heathen God says. How hard it is to live in a culture that says that it is “Christian” but lives in a way that shows it is clearly not.

Our styles of dress, venues of entertainment, ways of speaking, goals and purposes for life are all things that the world has an opinion on. The problem is that the world’s opinion is not going to promote the Glory of God.

We need to consider these things, but not by asking the world what is acceptable. We need to ask God what is acceptable.

2Tim 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We can learn from God’s word what things are good works and what are not.

We may not agree at this moment on what types of dress or entertainment we should avoid but…if we can agree that God has an opinion on the matter and search the Scriptures to see which things are spoken about, then I believe we eventually will agree.

It may not be easy to avoid the influence of the world. It may take work to learn what God wants (i.e. reading more than a couple of chapters from the Bible every so often) but the change in your life will be worth it and the praise you will get from God will be worth it too!

2Cor 6:17-18 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Compromise and the Christian

Compromise is a necessity in many aspects of our life. Spouses, business men, boyfriend/girlfriend, salesmen, bosses, employees, neighbors, politicians all find themselves in situations where compromise is necessary.

Compromise is, in essence, a negotiation. The negotiation entails each party giving up something that they want (or strategically speaking “want less”) in order to get a deal that they view to be more valuable than the item given up.  In a finance negotiation where two parties are $10,000 apart, the negotiation may see one party give up $2500 and the other $7500 or they may just split the difference down the middle. It is the compromise that says “you give up this, I will give up that”. If the two parties agree, the compromise is agreed to and the deal is struck.

When it comes to the Christian life however, compromise becomes a source of danger and needs to be guarded against. I am not, of course, talking about issues which do not matter to the heart of the Christianity. If some members of the congregation want to have 3 songs before the sermon and others want 5, perhaps 4 might be a good compromise. Peace can be maintained in areas where doctrine, Biblical teaching, is not contradicted.

Satan, of course, is a devious foe and I am convinced that compromise is one of his most effective tools. The biblical account of Moses and Pharaoh, highlight 4 compromises that the world offers to Christians. I would like to take a look at them in four separate posts.

 

Compromise #1 ” Sacrifice to God in the Land” Exodus 8:25

Pharaoh offered (and I use ‘offered’ in a loose sense) to Moses to let the Israelites perform their sacrifices to God in the land where they lived. This is similar to Satan telling us that we can worship God and stay in the world; that no movement on our part is necessary.

Many times people say, “I don’t need to go to church services.” Others say, “I don’t need to give up the activities of the world.” Some even say, “We will make this change so that we are less inconvenienced.”  Jeroboam led the northern tribes into this compromise:

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. (1Ki 12:28-29)

Why should worshiping God be a hard thing for you? You can have your cake and eat it too. Some congregations are known for changing their worship times on Super Bowl Sunday so that their members can enjoy the game. Some cancel services altogether!

There are many passages which show we are to be different. Staying in the land and partaking of the things in the land does not tell the world we value Christ, it says we have compromised.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Mat 5:13-16)

We are to be salt to the world, a light to the lost and this we cannot be if we are friends with the world. James 4:4 says:

Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God. (Jas 4:4)

We must separate our lifestyle from that of the world.

Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, (2Co 6:17)

When God told Pharaoh through Moses “Let my people go”, it was not in His plan for the people to say to Pharaoh, “Oh, OK, we will stay and sacrifice in the land”  When God through Jesus says to Satan “let my people go”, He does not expect them to tell Satan “Hey, it’s nice here, we think we will stay.”

 

Choosing to Press on

The choices we make in life can be very important and some of them have eternal consequences. The life of a Christian is sometimes compared to a race and, as in all races, enduring to the end is important and necessary. When one feels like stopping or giving up, it is always important to press on.

But what if you didn’t know if you had quit? You might not have planned to but the end result is the same. Here are four things to consider and ask yourself to help determine if you are still pressing on.

  • Which path are you following? You need to follow the strait and narrow path rather than the broad and wide one.
  • What do you take along with you?  Do you carry along the sin and distractions of the world or do you lay them aside?
  • Do you turn back at the sign of difficulties and struggles? Are you like the rocky soil that wilts at tribulation?
  • Do you allow distractions to catch our attention? Are you like the thorny soil that allows distractions to keep it from bearing fruit?

These are some questions that we need to ask to help determine if we are indeed pressing on. But they are external to the process. A more internal one can be found in Philippians 3:13:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:13-14)

Paul’s famous statement here shows one other thing that we need to do: Let go of the past. The past can entangle us in a lot of problems such as regret for past mistakes.  Choosing to forget those things and press on will help ensure us that we finish the race.

The point is though that it IS a choice to press on, or to stop! Which choice will you make?

This mornings sermon was entitled “Choosing to Press On” and you can listen to it if you wish.

 

Three reasons to do good works

good worksIn wanting to develop a closer walk with God, it stands to reason that we would walk in the same ways that He does and do the same things.  As Amos asked “Can two walk together except they be agreed?

Of course, we understand that God’s ways are the only true and correct ways so if we want a closer relationship with Him, we will begin to act more and more like Him and become partakers of the Divine Nature.

Here is a list of three reasons why we should do good works. By doing good works  we will find ourselves more like God and more like Jesus who went about doing good (Acts 10:38)

Reason #1: God receives the Glory by our good works.

We are not here to bring honor and praise to ourselves. It isn’t that God will not honor us but our lives should be ones that bring Glory to Him. By our good works, men will give glory to God.  (Matt 5:16) We show the type of people God wants us to be and who can be opposed to Godly love? We are to be proclaimers of His excellencies and as Christians, gratitude alone should be a motivator.

Reason #2: Unbelievers can become more receptive to the Gospel by our good works.

Peter tells wives who are married to unbelieving husbands to be respectful to these men and supposes that by their actions, not by their words, that these men may won to the Faith.  (I Peter 3:1-2)  The love of a Christian spouse can be a powerful force but it doesn’t have to be only spouses. As we move among the world, we can turn people away from God if we live like the world but we can also draw them to Him by our good works as we become a type of  salt to the world.

Reason #3: The type of Faith we have is demonstrated by our good works. (James 2:14-17)

If you want to know what your faith is made of, consider how you deal with adversities, trials, and persecutions. Do you get angry over small things? Do you lose your temper if someone cuts you off on the road? Do you show by your good works that you trust God to provide for you? If our faith can stand up under the bumps and bruises that life brings our ways, it is a lasting faith indeed.

What are some other reasons why you think we should do good works? Leave your comments below!

Additionally, here is a link to a sermon that speaks to these topic.

Does our relationship with God prompt change in our life?

Be HolyTrue statement: We are all God’s children.

We are, too! However, does being the child of God mean anything to us? The statement that we are all God’s children is true in the sense that he created us, made us in His image and cares for us by providing the things which we need.  However, there is a sense in which that statement is not true. There are those who are the sons of God and those who are the sons of Man. The difference is not physical, nor even of the spirit (since we are all made in His image), but of the mind and heart.

When we become disciples of Christ, there is a change made by God. We are removed from the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of His son (Col 1:13). We are made to be part of the household of God (I Tim 3:15) and, of course, being in that household we understand God is now our Father and what a wonderful blessing that is. (1 John 3:1). Unfortunately, sometimes, the change made by God is not followed by a change made by us.

We focus solely on the blessings  of having God as our Father.  Our Father loves us and only wants good for us, we are on our way to Heaven. Here on Earth, He will provide for us, He will comfort us, He will never ever leave us, He will chastise us….What? Wait!  Chastise?

Yes, chastise, as in punish, discipline, rebuke, and cause a little discomfort.  The Hebrew writer tells us that God does this for our own good but the question I want to ask is “Why is there a need to chastise?”  The need is there because we are not doing what He wants us to do.

Many do not think that God cares how they live their life. They think they can call Him their Father and still live however they would like to. In other words, their life does not change. They may claim to be a Christian or they may simply state “We are all God’s children” (i.e. God loves us anyway) but the bottom line is that they do not want to change. They have no desire to stop doing what they were doing before they began to call God their Father and Christ their brother.

However, Peter is very clear on this point.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
(1Pe 1:14-17 emphasis mine)

The Prodigal son found out that he could only enjoy his father’s blessings by leaving the world he had made for himself and returning to the father and living with him. Had he continued to stay where he was at, his father’s love, concern, desire for his best interest would not have gone away, but the blessings of being his father’s child would never be realized.

We need to remember that we have responsibilities in our relationship with God. Among those responsibilities is the need to be Holy, not worldly.

Love is not irritable

Another version of the same passage says that Love is not easily provoked. I don’t think there is one of us with an older or younger sibling, who does not understand the meaning of the word “provoked”. Either we were the provoker or the victim! Hopefully, as we grew older, in most cases, that type of early childhood provocation died away.

Yet, we know people today, adults, who will, with the slightest hint of provocation, unleash a whole barrage of anger. They then turn around and say “YOU make me so angry” or “That’s the way I am”. Some even blame their heritage or hair-itage. “I am Irish” or “I have red hair”, they say.

Love does not rush to wrath. In fact, if we were to follow the advice James offers us: be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath, we might avoid a lot of problems in our own lives and create fewer difficulites in the lives of others.

James says that the “wrath of man” does not work the righteousness of God. Perhaps I am incorrect, but in the context of James, I think he contrasts “man’s wrath and will” with “God’s will” and implies God’s wrath is different.

We understand that God does show wrath but after how long of a time? The patience he showed while the ark was being built, while the sin of the Ammorites increased, with Nineveh during the days of Jonah, with Israel….all through their existence, teaches us two things very clearly. God’s wrath is slow in coming and is not something you want to experience.

Love does not allow the little things to provoke it. Love is bigger than the petty things that those who have not learned to love are interested in. Love will show wrath at appropriate times but the childish provocations of children and worldly people are not the times to let loose.

Can you imagine if Jesus had displayed the wrath of man?

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1Pe 2:22-23)

How would the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17) been shown, if Jesus had been so easily provoked! (I hasten to add, that I speak in hyperbole when I say “easily provoked”, He showed remarkable constraint) What if He had called those 12 legions of angels? Where would the Gospel be?

Question: What causes you to get angry the quickest? Is that trigger mechanism something you have prayed to God about?

Photo Credit: Matt Erasmus

The Gift from above

 lots of gifts in boxesEvery good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (Jas 1:17-18 ESV)

As God finished each day of creation, the text says that his creation was “good” and when finished, the whole thing was “very good”.  When we think of the gifts that people give to other people, sometimes those gifts are not so good. Sometimes they are inadequate and sometimes not appropriate to the person who is recieving the gift.

However, God gives us good gifts, things that are necessary and adequate for us. He meets our needs, not always our wants. Sure, we may not have as much as we think we need but when we serve God, even if we were to die of hunger, there is a feast waiting. The struggle we have oftentimes is to trust God and wait for him.

James has just told his readers not to attribute to God bad things (temptations) and here he reminds them why: God doesn’t give us bad things! In fact, contrast HIS WILL with OUR WILL and you see a big difference. When left to our will, we bring forth all sorts of hurts, lusts, desires that come from our heart.  These are not good gifts for the benefit of others but, rather for our own benefit. (Wait till we get to chapter four!)

However, God not only provides for us the things that give us life in this world (food and clothing with which we should be content 1 Tim. 6:8), he provided us the greatest gifts from above that will give  us life in the world to come: first, in the person of Jesus who modeled His will, and second, in the person of the Holy Spirit who reminds us of his will, having first inspired the Apostles to write it down for us and second by dwelling in us.

The heart is the source of a person’s quality and character. When you look at how God choose to manifest HIS desires, qualities and characters, we see that it resulted in bringing us forth through the word of truth.   By obedience to the Gospel (the word of truth), we are born again. 

 We are now a kind of firstfruits. Certainly that would be more true of the Christians to whom James was writing but it is also true of us. Much can be said about the firstfruits but one thing is certain: If there are firstfruits, there will be secondfruits. We not only have the joy of being brought forth by God’s word but we have the opportunity to be the source of spreading that same word to have others brought forth too. If only we would not try to do our own will. 

James will have more to say about how to mold our will to His next.

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