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Are you Cain or are you Abel?

Cain and Abel both brought sacrifices to God. One of them was well received and the other was not. While we do not know specifically why Cain’s was not regarded by God, we do know that Abel offered his sacrifice by faith and the implication is that Cain did not.

Hebrews 11:4 ESV By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

When I discuss with some people the nature of a worship service, that is a sacrifice that we bring to God when we assemble on Sunday’s, I will be told in so many words that what is important to them about a worship service is that they “feel good” or “enjoy it”. If that is their criteria for deciding is a particular worship service was good or not, there is a serious danger of crossing over into the sacrifice of Cain.

For a sacrifice to be acceptable to God it must be done by faith. The only way to make a sacrifice by faith is to do it the way God tells us to do it. If we do we want to and what we enjoy are we doing what God has asked of us? The two may not be exclusive but we need to start not by asking the worshiper what they want to do but by asking of God: How may I worship you in a way that pleases you?

Are you worship sacrifices regarded by God or rejected by God?

The secret things belong to God

In Deuteronomy 29:29 Moses tells Israel that the secret things belong to God. Certainly there are somethings that God allows man to find out in the course of time but there are some things (many more things?) that God does not reveal. What was Jesus like as a boy? How long were Adam and Eve in the garden before they sinned? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? We often spend so much time and effort trying to figure out what can’t be known, we don’t spend time on what God has revealed!

His Word to us tells us so much if we would only read and follow the things that are clearly understood.

From “Just as I am” to “Just as I was”

We often sing a song entitled “Just as I am”. The song conveys the idea that Jesus accepts us in any condition that we find ourselves. This is a true statement and yet we need to look a little deeper.

Probably one of the best examples of accepting a person “just as I am” would be the apostle Paul. A devout Jewish believer and a diligent persecutor of the Church, Paul was given an up close and encounter with the Risen Lord. Ananias was sent to Paul (then known by the name Saul) to heal the blindness and share with Paul what it was that the Lord had in mind for his life. (Read Acts 9, 16, 22)

The thing worth noting, of course, is that Paul did not continue to live his life persecuting the Church. Quite the opposite, he began to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah and completely changed his actions. As he puts in in Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

English Standard Version

Today, it is not uncommon to see those who say that they are Christians but whose lives have not changed. They say that they are saved and are glad that God saved them but they don’t attend services, they don’t read their Bibles, they don’t help promote the cause of Christ. Their dress, language, and entertainment are aligned not with modesty, edification, and purity but rather aligned with the ego, pride, and sensuality of the world. If you were to ask them what is different about their life now as compared to before, they wouldn’t be able to answer you.

A few years ago, I ran into an acquaintance of mine who claimed to be a Christian. He appeared to be bothered, so I asked him how he was doing. He said that his family was upset with him because he was living with his girlfriend. He seemed upset at such judgement. Then he said “But they don’t know how the Spirit is leading me!” Obviously, he was under the impression that God would make an exception for his admitted and unrepentant immorality.

It is the greatest news the the world has every heard. God will save sinners. He will save murderers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, the envious, gossips, foolish, faithless, ruthless, prideful, rapists, molesters, and in other sinner whether he engages in small sins or big sinners (I speak in human terms) HOWEVER, even though God will save such a person, he does not and will not continue to extend His glorious grace to the one who will not change his life.

We preach the Gospel to all. We are not to judge who will and who will not respond to the call of obedience. Those that respond and obey the Gospel message are baptized into Christ, they put on Christ. They submit to the waters of baptism a repentant sinner who believes the message and come up out of the waters a Saint, granted mercy from God “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16)

As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 6:11 “and such were some of you…”. Notice the past tense. “WERE” not “ARE” or “continue to be.” We are now to be friends of God not friends of the world. Because as James says:

James 4:4 ESV You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

The life of a Christian needs to move away from what the life of the sinner was in the world and towards what the life of a saint is in Christ. God will save any and every sinner just as he is so that we can truly sing the song:

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”

But then we want to start living and singing: “Just as I was, you received, welcomed, pardoned, cleansed, relieved….” Let us not continue to be of the world, rather let us live as lights among the world in which we shine as an example of God fulfilling His promise in us and the hope that He can do the same for them.

3 areas of focus for the Christian.

As we begin the new year of 2019, just like with any year’s beginning, it is common to focus on making improvements in our lives. Whether it is increasing our financial stability, our health (and shape), or simply being a ‘nicer’ person, the resolutions we make as Christians need to be well founded on Biblical principles.

For example, weight loss and getting in shape are two very common resolutions we make. Without a doubt exercise is good for us but so often we focus on the physical and forget about the spiritual.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; (8) for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Now, don’t use this as an excuse to NOT exercise; you will note that “bodily training is of SOME value” but it is very clear that the emphasis and better focus is on the Spiritual. The reason for this is easily understood by the spiritually minded. When we see with spiritual eyes we will always keep in mind three things.

First, life is short and unpredictable. We do not know how much time we have left so…

James 4:13-15 ESV Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— (14) yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (15) Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Second, we are one year closer to our death. No one wants to think about this but how ever much time we do have—if you finished last year, you are one year closer to death than you were last year. But for the Christian that means “salvation is nearer than when we first believed” Romans 13:11 So we should use our time building spiritual 401k rather than ONLY building the earthly ones. (Luke 12:33; Matt 6:19-21)

Third, We will all stand in judgement before God. (2 Corinthians 5:10) On our own we will fail but IN CHRIST, we will succeed. So making sure we are IN Christ and STABLE in Christ is important.

So here are 3 good resolutions for a Christian to adopt this year (and even on a permanent basis) because these three will have a positive affect all the other resolutions you wish you make.

Resolution #1 Improve your relationship with God.

In the last year, has your relationship with God improved or declined? James 4:8 ESV Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. One should expect a better spiritual maturity from the Christian who is 5 years in Christ over a babe in Christ. But we should continue to draw nearer to God and further from the world. To this end, we should:

Read our Bibles every day! Now I know that things come up that may prevent this but far fewer excuses can be given for not not reading/listening to the Scriptures than 20 years ago. With all the Bible apps and audio versions, hearing God’s word is easier than ever. Here is a link to a post that will give you 7 reasons to read the Bible daily.

But, Read our Bibles for understanding! Do NOT just read to check off a box in your annual daily reading list, read so that you can learn and remember and understand. What was written was written for our understanding and learning, (Romans 15:4) so let’s learn something not just read something.

Also, we need to be diligent in prayer to improve our relationship with God. Jesus, as our High Priest, is ready and willing to help us be we do need to ask. Additionally, we need to be thankful in our prayers not just asking in our prayers. There is so much to thank God for. (1 Chronicles 29:14, Phil 4:6)

Resolution #2 Become closer to the brethren.

Unfortunately, the things of this life and sometimes the resolutions of this life can keep us from such important relationships. Mark 4:19 ESV but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. What prevents us from being fruitful are the everyday things of this life when we focus on them.

Perhaps we need to resolve to invite over or have dinner with 6 people/couples this year. You may be surprised how that will help bind you together.

Resolution #3 Become closer to NON-Christians.

While we are to do good to the household of faith in particular, we also get to, and should, do good to those not in the household of faith as well. (Galatians 6:9-10). Again, eating together can be a good way to encourage and build a relationship. We do this in order to influence them not to be influenced by them. We shine as lights in the dark. (Philippians 2:14-15) so if we do not shine in their lives, how will they see the way to go?

A follow up to this blog should center around self control. The stick-to-it-ness that we need to carry these and other resolutions to accomplishment. Until that blog post happens, keep in mind what God said of Man in Genesis 11:6


And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

We can accomplish great things when we set our mind to it, so let us set our mind to these three resolutions!

What resolutions have you made for this year?

3 thoughts from Genesis 9

As we look at Genesis chapter 9, there are many thoughts we can take away from it. This post will mention three. We see the apparent beginning of mankind eating meat, the covenant of the rainbow, and the cursing of Ham. While this will make the post extra long, I can’t decide which one to omit.

Should we be vegetarians?

According to verse 2, there is going to be a dread of mankind from the animals; the same animals that went into the ark with Noah. Just the wording of the verse indicates that this is a new thing.  In fact, if we go back to chapter 1 we will see this:

Genesis 1:29-30 ESV And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (30) And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

In Genesis chapter 9 verses 3 and 4 read this way:

Genesis 9:3-4 ESV Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (4) But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Here we seem to have a clear indication that originally man was a vegetarian and so were the animals. This, of course, does not mean that we should be what we were (if we were) before the flood but it does show a difference between how we lived before the flood and what God allowed after the flood.

In addition to this allowance of eating meat were two restrictions. One, not to eat meat with blood. That seems to continue even to this day.

Acts 15:20 ESV but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

The second restriction involved the death of  either man or beast who kills a man. The reason? Man is created in God’s image. To kill man is to kill the image of God. This is the basis, as I understand it, for capital crimes. The death penalty seems to be enacted here first.

The covenant of the Rainbow

What does it take to make a rainbow? Well, it takes two things: Rain (water particles) and Sun. This is one reason why I think that perhaps, it really did not rain in the world before the flood. Two passages before the flood and one from here in chapter 9.

Genesis 2:5-6 ESV When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, (6) and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—

Hebrews 11:7 ESV By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Genesis 9:13-14 ESV I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (14) When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,

If you look at all this verses, you might come to the conclusion that it had never rained on the earth when God told Noah that he would bring a flood by having it rain 40 days and 40 nights, to which Noah said “What’s rain?” (concerning events as yet unseen-never before seen) and afterwards God brings clouds and with the clouds come rainbows. A reminder of the flood and a promise never to do it again.

The cursing of Ham

So Noah got drunk. Then he went into his tent and uncovered himself.  It certainly doesn’t seem to be the type of thing a righteous man would do. But we will focus on what happened. The text tells us the following:

  • Ham saw his father’s nakedness
  • Ham told his brother outside what he saw
  • Noah realized what his younger son had “done” to him
  • Noah cursed Canaan (the son of Ham)

Much speculation has been written about this and I am afraid that I could only add to such speculation. However, in such speculation, let us at least look at what the text says. From verse 24, Ham DID something to Noah while Noah was drunk. If the Genealogy given in chapter 10 is in order, Ham was Canaan’s 4th son, meaning he was born many years after the flood. That Ham was cursed seems to give cause for us to believe that he was somehow involved in this incident. So, since we are speculating because the text is void of details. I offer this. Ham (a younger man and perhaps subject to the follies of youth) saw grandpa Noah in a drunken stupor and told his dad. His dad rather than covering his father up decided to share the disgrace and further uncover his father’s reputation with his two brothers.

Proverbs 25:9 ESV Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret,

His brothers did right by Noah and hid the shame rather than further spread it. If the thing Ham ‘did’ was a simple as that (though many suggest much worse), it would be bad enough and if one is correct is assuming that Canaan had a part in it, then the curse on him is not unjust at all, but becomes a punishment his father should have inflicted which Noah did in the absence of such punishment.

There is much we can look at in this chapter and discuss. Do you have an opinion as to what happened between Noah and Ham? Whether it rained before the flood or not? Whether men were vegetarians or not? please share your thoughts….

Don’t let the world influence you.

In a recent sermon which I have entitled “Salt and Light”, we talked about the need for Christians to be an influence in the world. Sadly enough, it is often the world which influences the Christian. Sometimes is is abrupt and sometimes more subtle.

I would like to use two of the illustrations from that lesson in this post. (If you want to hear the whole lesson, you can click here.) The first one, we have all heard, I am sure. The second one, I am guessing, you have not thought about before.

In 1939, Gone with the Wind, was released into the movie theaters and there was ONE…SINGLE…SOLITARY…profane word in it. The nation blushed. Now, that same profane word is common place and even used, on occasion by some who affirm that they are Christians.  Of course, it isn’t just the one word anymore. Many such words are heard in our entertainment; our books, our movies, our music and even, perhaps, our own private thoughts.   Brethren, these things ought not to be. (James 3:10)  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)

The second illustration may cause some eyes to roll in that way that we do when we think someone is either kidding or making a big deal out of nothing. “Seriously!?”, the eye roll says! While it might seem to be harmless, and not nearly has shocking as some of the ways in which the world influences us, perhaps it is that very appearance of harmlessness that we have to be most careful about.

I am speaking of the calendar that so many of us use. Many calendars at home will still show the first day of the week as Sunday. However, many new calendars, particularly, in day planners formats show Monday as the first day. Where is Sunday? It is relegated to a shared space with Saturday. It is part of the “week-end.”

Now, I know that for most of us, we use the ‘work week’ as a Monday through Friday or Saturday event. We schedule our life around our work. The caution that I am going to point out is that our lives do not revolve  around our work but around the Son. (Sunday/Sonday) When we use the term “weekend”, which is a term I still use having grown up with it for so long, we need to make sure we don’t forget that Sunday is actually the week start.  

In elementary school I thought Monday was the first day of the week because that when my school week began. Many of us think that the week begins on Monday today because that is when our work begins. Even easier when we say “How was your weekend?” or “I can’t wait until the weekend so I can rest” and we think of not just Saturday but Sunday as well.

For Christians, who gather on the first day of the week to worship God and remember Jesus’ sacrifice (Acts 20:7; I cor 16:2), we need to keep this in mind and not let worldly distractions enter into our thinking.

Things along this line: “Sunday is the only day I can sleep in.” or “it is a day that I can spend with family, recreating and enjoying some down time.”

Worse, perhaps, we allow our thoughts to be secularized to where Sunday completely loses it’s meaning to us, to our kids, and in the world, the light that we could shine, slowly goes out.

We know in our own mind, of course, that Sunday is the first day of the week. But if we do not live like we believe that it is, then it will not be long before we become like those who although “knowing God…did not glorify Him as God, neither were they thankful.” Romans 1:21

Remember, you were a slave

Five times in the book of Deuteronomy, God commanded the people of Israel to “remember” that they had been slaves in the land of Egypt. In those passages, the context of the command deals with their service to God and their relationship to their neighbor, especially, the poor or needy neighbor.

Remembering that they were slaves in Egypt and rescued by God would help them keep a good perspective in life so as to not forget their need for God or to be generous to their needy brother.

We too can benefit from such a command. We should always remember that we were once slaves too. Slaves to sin and the ways of the world.

Galatians 3:25-4:9 ESV But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (26) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (4:1) I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, (2) but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. (3) In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (4) But when the fullness of tofe had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (8) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. (9) But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

English Standard Version

We, who are IN  Christ are now sons of Christ and freed from sin. However, it is beneficial to remember that we once were slaves.  In this way, we can avoid mistakes like thinking more highly of ourselves than we should and forgetting God, or treating in others with contempt as if we are privileged ones and that God is lucky to have us on his team, while others are not worthy.  (Luke 18:9ff)

Yesterday’s lesson deals with this need to remember that we were slaves in a little more detail. you can listen to it here if you wish. In the mean time, there is one other good reason to remember that we were once slaves of sin, owing a debt that could never be repaid. That is, it will help us be more forgiving. No sin or crime against us matches up to the sins we have done in marring the image of God He created us in. If God forgives us…we can and should forgive our fellow man.

Baptism–so misunderstood

Baptism is practiced by many in the Christian world. But do you know why? I do not think baptism is hard to understand but some people make it more difficult than it should be.

The first thing about baptism that one should be able to understand easily is that is a command to be obeyed. In two of the Gospel accounts, Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ last instructions to the disciples were to preach the Gospel to the whole world. As you read these, notice where baptism falls in the context.

Matthew 28:18-20  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) 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.”

English Standard Version

Mark 16:15-16  And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (16) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

English Standard Version

Now in these two passages, there is only one command that needs to be obeyed in regard to baptism and the command is not “Be Baptized” but rather “Baptize.” It is not a command  given to the person who hears the Gospel but rather to the person who preaches the Gospel.

Notice that Jesus in Matthew 28:19 says “Go….Make disciples…baptizing them…” Today, you will find many people who are willing to “Go” but not to baptize. That is to say, they will teach about Jesus and not even once mention baptism. They are content to teach about Jesus and when a person says they believe in Jesus then they move on and consider their preaching is done. (To be fair, some will tell these people that they ‘should be baptized’ at some point but “it is not necessary.”) Jesus then follows up his command to the Apostles by telling them to teach the new disciples all of his commands, one of which is to “Go…Make disciples…baptizing them…”

In Mark’s account, the message is a bit clearer. “Go…proclaim! Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…” In this command, the Apostles were to proclaim the Gospel. The purpose of proclaiming the Gospel is so that people can be saved. Paul tells us in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is “God’s power for Salvation” and so it makes sense that Jesus would have them preaching the Gospel. Then he tells them who will be saved from their preaching efforts: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”

But let me ask two questions here. Who will be baptized? and “Why would they be baptized? The answer to the first question should be fairly obvious: Someone who heard the Gospel message and believed. And for the second question: They would be baptized because they were TOLD TO BE BAPTIZED. There would be no other reason. Whatever the purpose is for baptism (that is, whatever reason God has for us being baptized) is completely separate from a command to be baptized.

Think about it like this: An insurance salesman comes to you and shares with you your need to have his free insurance policy, you believe him and he gives you the policy which, he says, contains all the benefits. Now what? Well, if you are not told to do anything with it, then you might put it a filing cabinet or you might file it in the trash, the thing is, you don’t know. What if, what you don’t know is, the policy says that you need to sign the policy for the policy to be valid? How would you know?

Your first, and best opportunity, would be when the salesman offers you the policy for him to TELL you. (Salesman: It is free but you need to sign it for it to be effective.)  Your second opportunity would be when you READ the policy and notice the words “Policy valid only with customer signature”. In either case, your signature would make it valid, even if the salesman ‘forgot’ to tell you.

I hope you understand what I am suggesting. If you preach the Gospel and you fail to inform your listener of his need to be baptized, you have not given him all the information.

We can infer a second command that applies those who hear the Gospel.  That is, that the one who hears and believes must submit to the baptism.  We infer this because if the preacher is going to “Go…and baptize”, someone has to be willing to submit to being baptized.  A preacher might preach the Gospel to all creation and only wind up with people who hear. But what these preachers are looking for are people who hear and believe. These are the people who will submit to baptism….if they are told to be baptized.

Acts 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.

English Standard Version

Only those who received (accepted or agreed to) Peter’s preaching were baptized. Peter was simply following the instructions of Jesus and those 3000 souls were simply following the instructions of Peter: Repent and be baptized (verse 38)

So again, the first thing about baptism that needs to be understood is to be understood by the preacher of the Gospel. When you preach the Gospel, you baptize the believers. Whether you do it yourself or someone else does it does not matter, we are not keeping score because Christ did not send us to baptize but to preach the Gospel. Still, as a result of the preaching of the Gospel, believers are baptized.

Question: If you share the Gospel with someone and do not tell them to be baptized, why not?

 

 


2 things we can learn from Genesis 7

Gen 7-22Noah also takes center stage in chapter 7. There are 2 things to learn from this chapter. One corrects a childhood lesson and the other teaches us a very important lesson.

NOT two of every kind of animal

If you grew up like I did, you think that Noah had two of each kind of animal. It is an easy way to remember the lesson without over complicated it for a small child but for an older child or adult, the text reveals something else. Gen 7:2

Genesis 7:2 ESV  Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate…

It was 2 pair for the unclean but 7 for the clean. Otherwise, what happened to the animals Noah sacrificed in chapter 8? (Some of you are thinking: Oh , that is what happened to the Unicorns!) No!

Genesis 8:20 ESV  Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

 

Now they did go in 2 by 2 but somehow every picture shows 2 giraffe, 2 hippos, 2 lions, etc. When we read the text we can understand the actual count of animals.

Only 8 persons were saved in the ark.

How sad it is to see that Noah, a preacher of righteousness, had to enter the ark with only his wife, sons and daughter in laws. 8 total people saved from the flood.

Genesis 7:7 ESV  And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.

 

The lesson to be learned from this is that the world was so bad (Gen 6:5) that Noah had no success in convincing them that a flood was coming. This is one passage that reminds us that few people will be saved. In the midst of a lot of teaching which states that “everyone will be saved, ” we need to take note that same God who wants to save everyone, let everyone else drown.

God is not inconsistent. Repentance and Faith in him are required to have a relationship with Him. If we do not repent at the preaching of the Gospel today, and enter the ark of safety (known as Jesus), then when the next flood (of fire) comes, we will be caught up in it.

 

 

3 ways to Discern good and evil

heb 5-14In our quest to mature and become conformed the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29), it is essential that we can distinguish between good and evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,  (13)  for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  (14)  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

In our lesson from Sunday, November 26th, we looked at the growth process that this requires. In the sermon which you can hear here, we also noted that Satan is trying to get us to shortcut the path God has in mind for us. Obedience brings to our lives the things that will bless our life. Adam and Eve choose a shortcut and it was a disaster.  In an abbreviated blog post here are the main points.

Discernment can and should be achieved over time.

It is expected that we will grow to be able to discern good from evil. The Hebrew writer says that his audience OUGHT to already be teachers but have continued in a state of immaturity and perhaps even regressed a little.

Growth is expected. If you are not growing, you are dying. In our walk with God, stopping or turning back are not options for the Christian. We need to develop an ability to see good and evil for what they are. This comes from practice.

There are no skills which we learned that we did not need to practice. Everything learned from using a fork, tying our shoes, dressing ourselves, riding a bike, learning to speak, learning another language and YES….learning God’s Word takes time and practice to become competent at.

I believe that we have some discernment built into us by God.

Romans 2:14-15 ESV  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  (15)  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…

However, beyond murder and stealing there may not be as much agreement. Sexual immorality is one of those sins that gets clouded and even many professing Christians have little or no problem living together before getting married or approving of many different variations of this in their life, the lives of those they know, or in their entertainment.

What follows are three things that will help us discern Good from Evil.

#1 Is it clearly condemned?

The easiest way to know if something is good or evil is to see if it makes the list!

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  (20)  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  (21)  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If it is on that list, don’t do it. Discernment is easy in such cases. Perhaps we might need to check with a dictionary for proper definitions but for many people this will settle the question when we ask “Is it evil?” This isn’t the only list of “evil” things. But it is a start.

Sometimes, knowing the opposite of something helps. So the other list is good to know too.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

If it is on this list, go for it! These are good things.

But what if it is not on either list?

#2 Your conscience and wisdom from another may help.

The conscience when properly trained is a wonderful tool. We should never violate it. However, even Paul, who persecuted the church in good conscience was not doing good! At the very least, if your conscience calls into question what you are doing, you should stop and consider it carefully and perhaps….

Get help from another.

Philippians 3:17 ESV  Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

After all, the Hebrew writer wanted his audience to reach a level of maturity where they would be able to discern right and wrong. Find someone who can do so and get their help.

#3 As always consider ALL of God’s word.

This is the ultimate source for knowing right from wrong.

Gambling is NOT specifically forbidden but a search of the Scriptures will show that the principle of putting your money up for chance is not a good activity.  So let’s ask the questions.

Does it violate my conscience? If yes, then don’t do it. If no, well, you are still not done asking questions.

Ask a mature Christian. Again, not a definitive source but I venture most mature Christians are going to discourage gambling.

Ask the Bible. Though not specifically condemned (and this is not a full study on gambling) here are two passages to consider.

Proverbs 13:11 ESV  Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

1 Timothy 6:10 ESV  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

While small increases in your income which come over time from salary increases and savings allow a person to adjust to wealth. The rapid and sudden endowment of it can be a problem. (It also can happen in inheritances but more so in gambling winnings.)

Many will say that I play the Lotto in order to help the schools out. It would be much better to  give the school the whole dollar because they only get 19 to 29 cents of that money.  “What?!”, you say, “But why waste that money when you might win?” Yep…and now we see the “love of money”; helping the schools then becomes a justification and not the real reason.

The best way to grow to maturity and being able to discern good from evil is by learning and knowing God’s word. Then, of course, you have to put it into practice to become better at it.

What are some things that you understand better NOW which you were a bit unsure of as a new Christian?

 

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