Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Faith Responds

If you have not been feeling well and can’t seem to get better, you go to the doctor to get checked out. He then runs tests and discovers that you have a life-threatening disease. He calls in a prescription of the medicine you need that will save your life. You obtain the medication and what do you do? Do you take the medicine? If you have understood the doctor's instructions and you believed what the doctor has told you, you will take the medicine.

What you have just experienced is belief in action, better known as faith. What made animal sacrifice work in the Old Testament? It derived its power from the faith of the believers. The followers of God understood His instructions and they believed that killing the animal would remove their sins. So they acted and performed the animal sacrifice according to the instructions God had given them. One couldn't just believe in animal sacrifice any more than merely believing in medicine will make one well!

The origin of true faith is, and always has been by the instruction of God. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Additionally, sacrificing without understanding why, would have been useless. Sacrifice derived no power from superstition, tradition, or ignorant obedience. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). This defines genuine faith as having two elements – belief and action: without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Obedience from the heart is the type of faith that God has always desired.

Here are some Old Testament examples of this type of faith as seen in Hebrews 11:

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice” (v.4).

“By faith Noah...moved with fear, prepared an ark” (v.7).

“By faith Abraham...obeyed...and went out” (V.8).

“By faith Abraham...offered up Isaac” (V.17).

We see clearly that the kind of faith required by God is action based upon belief. Saving faith has always required this belief-based action. James asks rhetorically: “can such faith (without action) save a man” (2:14)? James points out that even the demons themselves were believers! If belief alone saved, then the demons would be saved (James 2:14-26)! No stronger argument can be made against “belief alone.”

The action of obedient faith is not accomplishing some work that earns anything, but is doing what God has told us to do to accept His gift. True faith is made complete by action (obedience) from the heart (belief). God wants all of us to be saved and be with Him in heaven. However, only those who truly believe in Him and do His works of righteousness will be saved “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Poor Examples

In Matthew 23:13-36, Jesus pronounced various “woes” on the scribes and Pharisees. Let us first begin with what Jesus said in the first twelve verses of this chapter: “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.' But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).

I read a story about a woman in Oregon who was caught driving 103 miles per hour with her 10 year old grandson in the car. When she was stopped by the police, she told them that she was only trying to teach him never to drive that fast. I suppose she wanted him to do as she said, not as she did. The Pharisees and teachers of the law seemed to have a similar problem. Jesus had a scathing assessment of them: They were spiritually bankrupt. He held these two groups directly responsible for this sad spiritual condition.

As the successors of the lawgiver Moses, they were responsible for expounding the law so that people would walk in God's ways and have a genuine and vibrant relationship with the Lord. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)? Their personal interpretation and application of the law became more important than God's law. They did not practice what they preached! What they did observe was done not to bring glory to God but to honor themselves. Jesus exposed who they were – image managers, posers, and hypocrites.

The true test of the effectiveness of following Jesus is not just in what we say, but in how we live. Are we telling others God’s Word and doing what He says? We must model our lives by the words and actions and what it means to really follow Him. Peter wrote: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Christians, remember you bear His dear name,
Your lives are for others to view;
You are living examples – men praise you or blame,
And measure your Savior by you.
— Anonymous

“Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3).

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Be Not Conformed to This World

Every Christian should take note of what is recorded in the Word of God, penned by the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2. “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.” This instruction given to the saints at Rome is greatly needed by Christians today. We live in a world which subjects us to various pressures, calling upon us to “conform” to the world’s standards. Just because “every one else” dresses immodestly, uses vulgar language, is involved in the mad pursuit of material things, is intent on the things of this life that are pleasurable, etc., etc., Christians should not involve themselves in these things.

The word “transformed” is the Greek word “metamorphose” which means “to change into another form, transfigure, transform.” The metamorphoses is often illustrated in high school biology by the changing of a worm into a butterfly. Transformed is also used of Christ to describe His transfiguration (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2). As Christ was transformed into a divine radiance, Christians are to be transformed into the image of Christ (Colossians 3:8-11).

Let us always be aware that no matter how popular and widespread sin and ungodliness may be, it doesn’t excuse it or make it more acceptable. In Exodus 23:2 it says “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.” In the New Testament we read these words; “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). It is very important, in God’s eyes, that Christians continue to live their lives in such a way that others see us denying ungodliness, worldly lust, and striving to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. We must do this regardless of what those around us are doing. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The life of the Christian is to be different - a pure, clean, wholesome kind of difference that others may constantly see. It’s terrible when our conduct can’t be distinguished from that of the worldly people around us – we should know better! This is why we must be very careful to conduct ourselves correctly in all our relationships in life. Always strive to keep our lives clean and pure. Let us not be conformed to this world, but be transformed into the image 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” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Truth

Proverbs 23:23 says, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” Whatever the truth may cost (time, money, lands, houses, family, friends, or physical suffering), it is well worth the price; and once obtained, should not be sold for anything.

Truth Is Necessary in the Practice of Pure Religion. It matters little what we think, feel, imagine, suppose, or would like to believe; the truth is what counts. Apollos was an eloquent man, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, bold, convincing; however, he lacked the one thing which all need in order to be successful in preaching - the whole truth. Priscilla and Aquila had to take him aside and explain the way of truth more accurately (Acts 18:24-28).

There Are Many Deceivers in Our Religious World Today. Ephesians 4:14 says: “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” Like people who find themselves victims of professional gamblers, so are the unlearned before the winds of error. Dishonesty and trickery are the name of the game for false teachers. They use an assortment of trickery, craftiness, and deceit to disguise their teaching as divine truth. Ephesians 4:15 says: “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—.” Let us always be on guard against those who lie in wait to deceive. Continue to speak the truth in love and grow in Christ.

Do Not Ignore Error. Let us not think that by ignoring someone's error we are being kind to them. The truth, and only the truth, can make us free from the bondage of the traditions and doctrines of men. If anyone has been overtaken by error, let us seek to save them from eternal death (James 5:19-20).

To disregard, neglect, ignore, reject, shun, or deny the truth can prove fatal to our souls. Let us have a genuine love for the truth, daily seeking to be thoroughly acquainted with it, for only the truth can make us free, and lead us to the joys of heaven. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).