Saturday, May 28, 2011

Context and Forgiveness

Forgiveness and forgiving seem a popular topic among preachers today. Everybody is an expert, since relationships among people are constantly being challenged. Humans are vulnerable to error, no one disagrees with that, but our sympathy for our natural man natures has boundaries in God’s Word.

Probably the most often quoted verses of scripture on forgiveness lies in Matthew 18: 21-22:
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive (link) him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
I’m sure Peter thought he was being generous with seven times, but it really isn’t about the number of times one forgives, it is about the heart of forgiveness. It is about God's desire to help people. The heart of this is expressed a few verses earlier:
Matthew 18:11-14 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
In sharing God’s word it is easy to isolate scriptures and teach something that isn’t really the truth. Matthew 18 has beautiful context to draw from:
Matthew 18:15-17Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church (link): but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (The church are those who love and are humble to God's Word. When something is not right, people who love God want His Word to thrive. There's a great example in chapters 37-50 in Genesis regarding Joseph)
It is very easy to gossip about someone rather than being upfront and loving, but God is after hearts and if we are in fellowship with him we know whether we’ve done enough. Forgiveness may or may not result in reconciliation.We keep trusting God on what to do and expect Him to help us forget and move on when we need to.

Ananias was forgiving when he listened to God and went and ministered to the murderer, Saul/Paul in Damascus. God said he was a chosen vessel to Him, so Ananias believed and obeyed. Paul believed Ananias. Paul eventually was given the responsibility by God to reveal the mystery!

Many of the prophets of old had to pull away at times from the situations they faced. Each one of us today in the grace administration period, can have the spirit of God to tell us what to do in any individual situation. It will always flow with the guidelines of the church epistles.

In Acts 20ff, Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem to help his countrymen. God didn’t want him to and for a very good reason. Things did not turn out well. God didn't punish him or thunder indignantly when Paul decided to go. God did the best to warn him. Paul eventually figured it out and got out of there for his spiritual, mental and physical health. He got backed into a corner and had to let it go. Letting go is forgiveness too. It might hurt a little, but maybe that's all that can be humanly done in a situation. Sometimes in life, we too must come to the realization that there is nothing else to be done, so it is best to move out of the situation and in moving on, we leave it all in the hands of God.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ephesus or Galatia?

The seven church epistles are written to people who belong to the  body of Christ. The  first of these epistles is Romans. Romans is about why we needed a Christ (Messiah) and why we need to make him the authority in our life as our access to God. It is basically the book about believing. 

In  the next book, Corinthians, we read reproof  as to how the Corinthians mis-practiced Romans. Peoples' habits, old religious practices, and cultural and societal influences crept into how people lived. Man has a tendency to bring God down to His own level instead of rising up to God’s heart. Human love cannot match the true love God has for us. 

When man doesn’t respond and acknowledge the infinite wisdom of God, he makes his own adjustments and designs his own religion. If practically applied long enough, the original doctrine gets skewed. That is the reason for Galatians: to correct the doctrinal error that crept in due to the practical mixing of world and the right believing in Romans. The error can range from very subtle to very blatant.God is tough love in Galatians.

Read Galatians and then read Ephesians. Who would you like to fellowship with? The Galatians or the Ephesians? Yet today, every human being has to make that decision when you really start studying the Bible. The great apostle Paul had to make these same decisions.  His decision to go to Jerusalem instead of staying in the spiritually hot Ephesus is an example. God tried to shut the door several times but he just had to go (he thought he was being so sacrificial) and it turned out badly.
What happened when Paul got to Jerusalem is written in Acts 21:19-23:
 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
 The law, works, and religion are the major problems of  his trip and of the book of Galatians. We don’t perform for God, we love Him! We share His love with others based on His standard of love.  Our 'coming together' should be based on His Word. Our culture today is no different in this respect from those groups of the first century believers. It is God’s standard that causes His people to live exceedingly abundantly. It is not about sacrifice or self-abasement in certain religious minds. It is not dependent on the government or political winds of the times; not the far right’s, the far left’s or even the moderate middle. Read Romans 8 and then Ephesians to see true abundance and sufficiency. It is wonderful!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

So What’s the Big Deal About the Epistles?

The book of Acts is a description of the transition between the Old Testament and the New. The four gospels reveal the vehicle for this transition, Jesus Christ. The epistles, starting with the believing in Romans through the love in Ephesians through to the hope in Thessalonians, are absolutely what we need to really understand to apply truth to everyday life!

Romans 10:9-10That if thou shalt confess (homologeo- saying the same word or logic) with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved(made whole). 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession (homologeo- saying the same word or logic) is made unto salvation (wholeness).

The book of Romans is about God’s logic in Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1-5 (Amplified) Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith (believing the logic of God), let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
 Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God's favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.
Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope NEVER disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God's love has been poured out (link) in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.

God’s love is poured into every nook and cranny of our hearts. It goes where is has an opening, just as water goes everywhere it can get to when it is spilled. It is living water and is the power in our lives to wholeness. It is that wholeness we can share with others remembering that it is God that pours it on.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Free Heart

The  book of Galatians was written in approximately 57 AD. Galatians is a correctional epistle written to correct the failure of people to adhere to the wonderful principles of basic believing. It  corrected errors in doctrine held by the judaizers who  interjected conflicting beliefs with the doctrine of Romans. We can read in the book of Acts that Paul encountered this often.

E.W. Bullinger says on page 1748 in the COMPANION BIBLE: “Galatians has been happily likened to a sketch for the finished picture, Romans. In both is maintained the fundamental truth that there is no difference between Judean and Gentile before God, There would be many Judeans among the churches of Galatia, for Paul ever went to the Judean first; yet the majority would be Gentiles, apparently too ready to yield to the persuasions of judaizers who taught the necessity of circumcision.”

According to II Timothy 3:16 all scripture is inspired by God to help us to know what is right. It is profitable for doctrine, which lays down the basic understanding of what is right. God utilizes reproof (in epistles like Corinthians and Philippians) because people take doctrine and misapply it in practice. Eventually mis-practice can lead to false doctrine and God utilizes correction to get back to what is right (such as in Galatians and Colossians). God is a forgiving God and correction is a vital part of that. It brings us all back to the right doctrine and His great power.

The Doctrine of Romans makes it clear that we are saved by believing and it is by grace, not works. Circumcision or any other outward work doesn’t save anyone. One is made whole by believing in Jesus Christ and that God got him up from the dead. It is God’s justice that provided a way to His companionship and deliverance from any obstacle thrown in our face. Jesus Christ was the perfect substitution. It was perfect justice. By believing in the finished work Jesus Christ, we are a part of God’s eternal Facebook, we can contact him any time of the day or night.
Galatians 5:1-6 Stand fast therefore in the liberty (unshackled) wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled (no longer held in, closed off from the power of God) again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised (substitute any word that indicates works), Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law (by bootstrap theology, bootstraps being the law); ye are fallen from grace (who turned out the lights?)For we through (by) the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness (return of the righteous one - Jesus Christ) by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision (or whatever); but faith which worketh (energized) by love (God's love).
 Read Galatians and see the walk in the spirit and how important it is and then compare it to Romans 8, the ‘Magna Carta’ of Christianity! It is the confidence and assurance that the whole world is trying to find! Life is not always nice but we NEVER have to be overwhelmed because God has a biblical answer ALWAYS.  Maybe life is not always so nice but it is exceedingly abundant. Ephesians 3:20 is doctrine!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Once you have tasted and lived even a smidgeon of the richness of the mystery talked about in Ephesians 3, there is no return to the lackluster humdrum of everyday religion. Loving God  is a moment by moment walk of confidence and true freedom. The  joy of enjoying the same confidence and freedom with others is an irreplaceable treasure not to be treated lightly.
 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me(Paul) the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;9And to make all men see what is the fellowship (link) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness (link) and access with confidence by the faith of him.
-->  Camaraderie, friendship, community are all examples of groups of people relating together; but genuine fellowship based on God’s Word is the highest form of relationships. It is what the mystery is all about. It is Christ in every believer functioning together, openly and honestly believing together, respecting together, and accomplishing great things together. It does not happen without the ‘unity of the spirit’. It cannot be fabricated, manufactured, forced, or compromised by untruth.
1 John 1:5-7 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship (link) with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship (link) one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
I have participated on many, many, many teams during my lifetime, and the only truly effective ones were those based on acting on the principles in the Word.   Some of the people I worked with may have not even been aware that they were utilizing Biblical principles but they still worked regardless. Light is light no matter which room it is in. God's methods and practices, whether He gets the credit or not, absolutely work! It is pure joy to do things God's way.