Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I am wishing Teampyro's online store had a "Thomas Watson is my Homeboy" t-shirt, because I have found the writings of this man to be wonderful pieces of Christian exhortation and admonition. Some time ago I read Jerusalem's Glory, in which Watson concerns himself with the people of God and what they should be like and lessons we may take from the Scriptures to live true and pure as that people.
Currently, I am making my way through A Godly Man's Picture - essentially a portrait of what a saint should (or must) look like in character and life, in order to be called godly in a Biblical sense.
The latter has so far shown itself to be a commendable work in the study of godliness, which those who have delighted in exploring eusebeia would find beneficial.
But it is the one I have read in the middle, The Great Gain of Godliness, which I wish to discuss here.
We have explored the Scripture from which the title is derived earlier on here, however the title is a modern construction by the editors of the version that I read (published by Banner of Truth Trust). Watson's title was Religion our True Interest and the book is more an exposition of Malachi 3:16-18 than 1 Timothy 6:6.
For your consideration, Malachi 3:16-18 reads:
Mal 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
Mal 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
Mal 3:18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
It is a concern for many committed Christians today that the fear of God is a topic, which considering its importance, has become much neglected in various circles. Sometimes it is beneficial to go back to something with a bit of "date" to put us back on the right footing. And Watson would certainly be a good option.
Great Gain of Godliness delves deep into this vital aspect of Christianity, observing the difference that the fear of God will make in a person's life and how it will affect their attitude towards other issues.
There is a chapter each on how the godly should speak of God (for the purpose of information, reproof and exhortation) and how they should similarly meditate on God's name and indeed God Himself (for reproof, exhortation and direction).
A great deal of the latter part of Great Gain of Godliness provides comfort for the godly by revealing the promises of the Scriptures. Watson reveals that the deeds of the righteous will be remembered by God and rewarded as surely as the deeds of the wicked will be remembered and judged. Furthermore, the saints are exhorted to look forward to the day when God makes His precious people the jewels spoken of in Mal 3:17. There is also the promise of distinction between godly and ungodly in the final age. It will be a wonderful thing for the saint and a terrible thing for the sinner to observe the great difference between those treasuring eusebeia and those who have no concern for the things of God.
Finally, Watson exhorts the godly to endure afflictions and the discipline of God, noting how God works goodness and kindness to His saints through these unpleasant but necessary occurences of life.
A thoroughly good discourse on godliness, worth digesting if you desire to live a life concerned with eusebeia and thanks to the new edition, readers need not be troubled by the age of the book when they contemplate reading it. Puritan authors may at times be a challenge for 21st century readers, but the benefit that can be gained from their study (especially in the area of godliness and reverence) outweighs any difficulties that may need to be overcome.
Monday, January 26, 2009
2Ti 3:11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
2Ti 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
2Ti 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
2Ti 3:14 But continue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them;
Recently, I have done some study in the area of New Testament lists of qualities and sins. Therefore I note with interest that this Scripture (which I intended to look at some months ago) begins with an outlay of things in Paul's life which have provided an example to Timothy and no doubt to millions of believers since the epistle was penned.
Some brief notes on these:
1) Paul's doctrine - The teaching of the Apostle was always centered around the revelation he received of Christ Crucified, Resurrected and Ascended on High. We too should be not only acquainted but well familiar with Paul's doctrine of Christ and the expansion of this to cover all areas of the Christian's life. In relation to eusebeia we ought to study Paul's teaching on godliness and seek to cling to it and apply it in life.
2) Paul's manner of life - The Apostle's manner of life was on display for all to see, but a companion to his ministry such as Timothy was undoubtedly able to observe this more closely. We would do well to look at the manner of life maintained by Paul and the other apostles, as documented in the Book of Acts and alluded to numerously in the epistles. It is important to have an example of mature Christianity to look upto in the spiritual walk. We in these last times are caught betwixt a wonderful company of examples from the perfect Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles and through to those God has used throught the ages to this very age, and the terrible crowd of wicked sinners that fill the public eye of the world today. We must decisively follow one and not the other.
3) Paul's purpose -
1Co 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
This reveals to us something of Paul's purpose. He would not carry out a crucial function of Christian ministry such as the frequent baptising of new believers, because Christ had charged him with a very particular purpose of ministry: the preaching of the gospel. There does not seem to be any greater directive for Paul's life and ministry than to proclaim Christ in areas where He had not yet been known (Rom 15:20) and to confirm the faith of disciples and churches (Acts 14:22 & 15:41). Timothy's purposes had some distinctions from Paul's, just as ours will. However some of us will have a very similar purpose to the Apostle and in any case we most be single-minded and focused in the Lord.
4) Paul's faith - If Paul did not have the astonishing faith that he did, his preaching of the gospel would have lacked the personal conviction that the Apostle always displayed. Paul intends for his faith to encourage Timothy and other believers as they endure the hardships he goes on to describe. John's gospel account of Jesus Christ's miracles was designed for us to recognise and believe in who Jesus was. When we read of apostolic faith and how it was answered by God Almighty, we can also take courage and be strengthened in our belief.
5) Paul's longsuffering -
2Co 11:23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
2Co 11:24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
2Co 11:25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
2Co 11:26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
2Co 11:27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
These verses demonstrate Paul's longsuffering: his sufferings were long and many indeed. Yet through it all he endures. Once again this is given as an example for all followers of Christ to take note of in the living out of their own faith. These are the kind of persecution and tribulation we are told to expect in the verses that follow.
6) Paul's charity -
1Co 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
1Co 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
1Co 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
The Apostle could not write these words and then neglect the matter himself. He is speaking in Corinthians 6 by revelation, but also in some sense by experience. Paul knew the great love of the Lord and he strove to live this out by charity throughout his ministry. His care and concern for fellowbelievers is demonstrated in how he begins his epistles and the affectionate terms he employs in reference to those who labour with him in the ministry. Paul knew about charity firsthand and indicates to Timothy that his own charity was also well known.
(7) Paul's patience - We often think of patience and longsuffering as somewhat synonymous, but patience reminds us that even an apostle has to wait to see the fruits of his work and that all profitable things take some time to come to pass. His patience reinforces his longsuffering and faith in all that he undergoes and also the purpose discussed above.
(8) Paul's afflictions and persecutions - This is one of the main issues in this passage. Timothy "you have known fully my... persecutions, afflictions." Paul gives details to bring particular incidents to Timothy's attention. Paul and Barnabas were driven out of Antioch (Acts 13:50). In Iconium they were treated violently and the people attempted to stone them (Acts 14:5) and in Lystra Paul was stoned by the crowds and dragged out of the city (Acts 14:19). This all happened in Timothy's neighbourhood (Timothy seems to be from Lystra according to the narrative in Acts 16) and so these persecutions were to be especially familiar to him.
Drawing on this "close to home" retelling of his missionary history, Paul declares to Timothy and every man of God to follow after him:
"YEA AND ALL THAT WILL LIVE GODLY IN CHRIST JESUS SHALL SUFFER PERSECUTION."
This is the huge statement that we are to consider. Godliness means suffering persecution and if that persecution is related to Paul's then we shall suffer at the hands of the religious and irreligious alike. The question I ask myself as well as you is, "Where is the persecution"?
And if no persecution, am I truly living godly in Christ Jesus? I think this has to do with speaking the gospel and opposing error and unrighteousness. Ungodly people are looking for our approval. We can give them love without giving their wicked lifestyle approval. This can also be difficult in the church. If one is operating in love, they do not want to cause division or unnecessary offense. But if someone is motivated out of a love for the comfortableness of their own state, they do not want to cause a shake up or any offense whatsoever, such as might disturb their convenient arrangement.
But if we do pursue a complete righteous and pure eusebeia attitude and reverence towards God and proclaim the gospel, live a life worthy of it's calling and seek a pure church with pure worship, doctrine, fellowship and sacraments...it follows that we ought to experience persecution at some point.
We see that evil deceivers shall abound in the name of Christianity, on the fringes of it and outside of truth completely. We cannot play nice in this area. We must live godly and suffer persecution in the face of this spread of evil.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Act 9:11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
Act 9:12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
Act 9:13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
Act 9:14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
Act 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
Act 9:16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
Act 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
Act 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
Act 9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
Act 22:11 And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
Act 22:12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,
Act 22:13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.
Act 22:14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.
Act 22:15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
Act 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Ananias is an interesting New Testament character. He emerges in the Acts of the Apostles for the first time in chapter 9 and then disappears from the Scriptural narrative, only to be mentioned again in the reference above by the Apostle Paul. Yet his role in the history of the church is undoubtedly incredible.
With our observance of Christmas having just passed, I cannot help seeing similarities between Ananias and Mary. Ananias is called devout according to the law by Paul (eusebes or 'godly' being the term rendered as devout, which is why we are looking at his character), while Mary is said to have found favour with God (actually at first I got this mixed up with Zacharias and Elizabeth, who were both said to be righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, which is more similar to the description Paul gives Ananias. But we will see a few similarities with Mary in any case). Both Ananias and Mary were initially startled or troubled by the communication God had with them. They both reasoned with the implications of the message when they had received it: Mary was a chaste virgin about to conceive without a natural chain of events and Ananias was puzzled as to why the Lord would send him to visit the fierce persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus.
But the striking feature of Ananias that many have observed in Mary, is the resignation of one's self to do the Lord's will when it has been clearly expressed. Many commentators have gone into great detail concerning the multitude of terrifying possibilities that would have confronted Mary, with her response being "
be it unto me according to thy word." (Lk 1:38). But consider for a moment Ananias, who fully expresses his reasoning to the Lord in the words, "Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name."
It is simple, Saul was a really bad guy if you were a Christian and he had been fully authorised to arrest anyone that named the name of Jesus Christ.
But the Lord gave His reply, telling Ananias that Saul was to be His chosen vessel and revealing some of the man's ministry activities that were to occur in the future.
There is no "yeah...but" from Ananias. He has 1) Heard the Lord 2) Been somewhat troubled 3) Reasoned within himself and with God 4) Again heard from God and now 5) Goes to do the will of the Lord.
This sequence is very similar to that with which we are more familiar in the Christmas narrative and the reason we can get something out of the comparison between Ananias and Mary is their primary roles and functions in the Story of God. As most of my readers will know, Mary is not some perfect semi-goddess figure that plays a crucial role in our salvation - as the Catholic perversion teaches - but her primary role in world history and in God's will was to be His vessel to carry the Son in her womb and birth Him into the world. Her importance is completely relative to the significance of the ministry and person of Jesus Christ. Similarly, Ananias is not depicted in the New Testament as a super apostle, prophet 0r evangelist, but instead the importance of his role in God's plan is related to the significance of the ministry of Paul the Apostle and the part he played in Paul's "birth."*
So we can see that Ananias is a wonderful example to us of godliness, in that although he did not find the Lord's directives to him completely reasonable by his own initial reckoning, he nevertheless waited on the Lord and as a servant of his Master, responded appropriately to Christ's command. This is birthed out of the man's cultivated attitude of reverence towards God and willingness to follow Him in any situation. In Ananias we do not find a perfect man, but like Simeon and Cornelius we see a godly devotion within his heart that pleases God and makes the disciple a suitable for the Master's use.
There is also an interesting progression with our three godly examples. Simeon is a godly Jew at the time of Jesus' dedication, to whom God reveals His Messiah. Cornelius is a reverent Gentile after the time of Pentecost to whom God reveals His Saviour and His Holy Spirit. And Ananias is a devout Christian disciple also in the post-Pentecost era, who God used in an amazing way to restore sight to Saul of Tarsus and see the beginning of God's workings in the life of a man who would become known as Paul. I think this progression shows that eusebeia has been important to God from ancient times through to now. It seems to please the Lord greatly to interact with those who have a genuinely devout attitude towards Him and His worship.
Is it any wonder why we are exhorted to add to patience godliness as we build up our Christian character?
*I love the fact that Ananias is only refered to as a disciple, without distinction of particular gifts or ministries, as it refutes the Mormon doctrine that only an apostle can lay hands on someone to receive the Holy Spirit. We see in Acts 9:17 that Ananias says he is laying hands on Saul that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Since there is no other record in Scripture of Paul receiving the Holy Spirit, it is safe to conclude that this is precisely where it occurred and God used the hands of an ordinary disciple to do it. Thus, Ananias' position in church history is defined by his being a devout disciple used by God in the development of one of the greatest apostles.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
May the revelation of what God has accomplished through this momentous occurrence be a rich blessing to you all.
I hope to have the final few posts up shortly, but until then God bless!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I have decided to complete the series I began with Simeon and after looking at Cornelius and Ananias and possibly some other uses of the terms for 'godly' and 'devout', the blog will be put on ice indefinitely. When starting this site, I did not anticipate running a personal one, but a team one. Since this has not proved possible due to unforeseen developments and the various commitments of myself and others, I have made the decision to leave the blog as an archive of articles and to continue serving its other intended purpose as a hub for numerous Christian sites I have found interesting or beneficial.
But more on that later and on to Cornelius.
Act 10:1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
Act 10:2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
Act 10:3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
Act 10:4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
Immediately we note that Cornelius was a centurion, a man of authority in the Roman Empire. But he was not an oppressor of the Jews, but one who honoured the God of Israel. What we see accompanying the quality of being devout in the description of Cornelius is the example he set that we ought to take note of in our considerations. 1) He feared God with all his house. This centurion of the Italian band feared God, which Proverbs calls "the beginning of knowledge" (1:7). He was neither a Jew nor an idolater, but a Gentile who honoured God and - as we see by following the passage - was honoured by God. Also worthy of note is that all the members of the centurion's house were also aligned with his right attitude towards God. We see this as an aspect of godly headship in the home through other Scriptures such as: Joshua 24:15, 1 Timothy 3:4 & 12 and also in the households of certain new converts being baptized along with the named member: Acts 16:15, 16:31-34.
2) He gave much alms to the people. Charity expressed in generousity and donation-style giving is a very basic religious exercise and indeed many professing irreligiousity also practice some form of giving to the poor. Regardless of this, Christians cannot afford to neglect this issue, since it is clearly a good thing to be practiced and our Lord taught on how to give alms (Matt 6:1-4) and made further mention of giving them in the Gospels (Lk 11:41 & 12:33). Cornelius was not slack concerning generousity, but he involved himself in it to the extent that it could be remarked about him by Spirit-inspired Scripture that he gave much in his alms.
3) He prayed to God always. Again, the inclusion of always emphasises that the man in question committed himself to regular, consistent prayer. He did not pray to Roman idols or pagan spirits of another land, but to the One True God. He also, it seems, prayed in the manner of the Jews, since an angel appeared to him during his prayer at the ninth hour, which was the Jewish hour of prayer (see Acts 3:1). It is also evident from Cornelius' own account, that he was practicing fasting in conjunction with prayer (Acts 10:30).
God remembered his prayers and alms and arranged for him to hear the gospel by the Apostle Peter. It is obvious that this incident can principally be understood as an example of God's plan to fill Gentiles with the Holy Spirit, but since we are looking at the example of godliness here, I will little else of that matter, since it is the main focus of discussions on the passage.
Cornelius was also described as a just or righteous man in verse 22 of this chapter, as well as it being noted that he was of good report among all the nation of the Jews. Many of the Jews no doubt were willing to accept this man as a righteous Gentile and may have had great personal regard for him on account of his conduct and almsgiving. Nevertheless, he still would not have been wholly accepted by the Jews in a religious and social sense, as Peter's response suggests in verse 28, "Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation..."
Not so in the Kingdom that God was establishing through the gospel. When the Holy Spirit came upon those in Cornelius' house who heard and believed, it revealed what God's decree was on the issue. As Peter concluded, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (10:47).
Being baptized meant being accepted into the Christian community and thus, the gospel and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not exclusively for Jews, but for all who believed and were quickened by the gospel.
Cornelius' devotion did not make him a Christian, but as we can see, the centurion in Caesarea was already desiring to worship God in the right manner and with the right attitude. We can hardly expect him to have prayed less, become less righteous and forsaken almsgiving when he received the Holy Spirit, but rather to have gone on in the empowerment of God to do even greater things that were pleasing to the Lord.
Our lesson is simple. We are saved through no merit of our own, only receiving the precious gift through faith and repentance. However godliness is a quality to be sought after for our Christian life after coming under Christ's authority and the example of Cornelius is one we would do well to consider when pursuing it.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I would like to take a look at the men of the New Testament described as being devout, as examples of godliness from the Holy Scriptures.
There is Simeon (eulabehs), Cornelius (eusebes) and Ananias (eusebes) as well as groups of men who were described in such a way. We will begin by looking at Simeon...
From the Scripture above we see that "devout" was part of a package that made up Simeon's character. He was firstly just (dikaiaos), the same word elsewhere for righteousness, meaning that Simeon was judged to be in accordance with the law of God. We know that only Jesus kept the law perfectly, but some Jews, such as Paul were able to claim a strict adherence to the law that gave them a form of righteousness. As Christians we know that our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ by God's grace through the faith we place in Him and this element of justness and righteousness is also revealed in the rest of Simeon's character.
In being devout, Simeon had a specific reverence and fear of God that determined the reality of his life. This kind of devotion and reverence (eulabehs) is connected closely with the attitude factor of eusebeia. It is also inseparable from his righteousness, as Simeon's deeds are measured closely by his consciousness of the holiness and awesome majesty of the God he served and he lived his life accordingly.
Two other things about Simeon are revealed in this verse.
1) He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.
Israel, God's chosen nation was in distress, under Roman rule and yearning for something else. The religious programs of the Pharisees and Sadducees attempted to demonstrate the justness and devout posture of life described above, while the Zealots were keen to throw off the shackles of Imperial rule with an armed revolution. But there was a hope that God would free Israel from its predicaments and that promise in proper theology was centered around the figure of the Messiah. Simeon lived in expectation that God was to do something wonderful in Israel in the midst of the situation of the day and he had a messianic expectancy for his lifetime as we see later.
2) the Holy Ghost was upon him.
This is crucial in the journey between covenants, as the Holy Ghost had been present in many great instances throughout the Old Testament, but was coming in a new and marvelous way in the age brought in by the Messiah. But the presence of the Holy Ghost in Simeon's life demonstrates God's favour and election in his life, as seen in the Old Testament prophets and others.
Luke 2:26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
Like the prophets, Simeon had a specific revelation from the Spirit of something that was to come. The Anointed One of God was to come during the life of this devout man. It is amazing to see that with his just and devout character, expectation of the fulfillment of God's promise and the presence of the Holy Ghost in his life, God chose to involve this man in the early days of the greatest life upon the earth - the life that was cut off for the eternal salvation of fallen mankind.
Luke 2:27-28 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Here at the same time, we see a simultaneous obedience between Mary and Joseph carrying out their duty for the Holy Child they had been entrusted with and Simeon following the lead of the Holy Spirit in obedience and expectation with relation to the promise of God in the Scriptures and the personal revelation God had entrusted to him by the Spirit. Simeon is given the immense honour of taking up the Saviour of the world in his mortal hands and his response is to give glory to God, blessing his Lord - a sign of his attitude of holy reverance before God.
Luke 2:29-30 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
The earnest expectation of Simeon's just and devout life before God was now fulfilled in the coming of Christ. Likewise as Christians we have seen God's salvation in Christ and should find great fulfillment in this. But in another sense we are like Simeon, in that we await with earnest expectation the coming of Christ in glory and many older Christians long to see this awesome event before their time on earth expires. How wonderful that day shall be to see God's salvation with our own eyes and depart with Him from the corrupt age we now live in!
Luke 2:31-32 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Here the nature of Christ is described by Simeon as the realisation of God's promise. He is the ensign of God to all people (Is. 11) and a light to the Gentiles for God's salvation all over the earth and the one who restores the preserved of Israel (Is. 49:6). Jesus Christ is unmistakenly recognised as the Messiah Simeon had been waiting for.
Luke 2:34-35 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this [child] is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Our last account of Simeon is his blessing to others and his glorification of Christ. He further identifies Jesus as Messiah in this revelatory message to Mary.
Simeon gives us an example of what it means to be devout as a part of being godly. We can see how his character was built upon that which bought pleasure to God and that he was chosen both to have the Spirit upon his life and to bless his expected Messiah as part of God's plan.
We must rightly conclude with this final description of Christ, being amazed that He transformed the world with His coming, becoming the demise (fall) of those who rejected Him as Messiah and remained in their sins and the resurrection (rising up) of those who placed their faith in Him.
He will surely be spoken against (and certainly is today, perhaps more than ever before) and bring out into the open the things which men imagine to be secret in their hearts. If Simeon's example does not provoke us to godliness and reverential fear, then this account of our Lord and Saviour surely should!
Thursday, April 3, 2008
MacArthur writes in the face of increasing haziness over the "evangelical" (now a term of uncertain usage itself) church about the most basic of issues, from salvation to sanctification. All of these aspects of Christian life centre around the gospel - God's clear communication to the fallen (hu)man on receiving His grace through Jesus Christ instead of His everlasting wrath, which is each person's due reward.
It is precisely the clearness of this message given to us gradually in the Old Testament prophets and explicitly after the Resurrection of Christ through the proclamation of His teachings, which has been eroded by spiritual deception in recent times. This is the very thing I believe MacArthur is getting at in composing this book.
He demonstrates that just as God paid a great price to give us salvation and the gospel, through the sacrifice of His beloved and only begotten Son, so too is there a cost paid by everyone who accepts the Great Message. Indeed, as MacArthur puts it the "high cost" is offset by the "infinite value" of the result.
I bought this book because I was very confronted - as I have been on different occasions - by the "strait gate and narrow way" of Matthew's gospel and the need for us as disciples to be producing fruit if we are truly abiding in the Spirit and the True Vine of God.
If you are having struggles in some areas of your faith, are concerned with the modern methods of "disciple-making" in churches or have put your faith in a gospel that requires nothing of you but road-trip in cruise-control, you need to go back to Scripture and even look through the ages to see what the truth is in the matter.
I think MacArthur has done a good job in pointing us in this direction.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Mat 10:27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Last night I was watching Way of the Master on television and Ray Comfort presented the viewer with a challenge I had heard before, but since forgotten about.
He said that if someone offered you $1000 for each person you shared the gospel with, could you overcome your "fear of man" more easily? Most people answered yes. If you are honest with yourself, you would probably have to conclude the same thing. Comfort's conclusion was that people could overcome fear of man for love of money, but not out of their love for God and love for their neighbour.
This got me thinking about the verse above...We are failing to be motvated by our love for God, but also showing a lack of belief through our lack of fear.
You see, if we were truly conscious of that which we theologically assent to, our fear of a terrible and holy God who is wrathful towards unrighteousness should always cancel out the fear of a mortal, limited and relatively impotent man facing us.
It is the same with hell. If we had any real concept of hell, or moreover the lake of fire, it would motivate us into action far more often than is presently so.
I believe this is the symptom of a naturalistic mindset. We see the man in front of us and are intimidated, we forget how mighty God is because we have our eyes fixed upon the natural.
Likewise with hell. Human circumstance and natural consequence block out consideration of supernatural judgement. It ought to be the other way around!!!
The concept of holy and godly fear is frequently neglected and logically so from the perspective of darkness, for it creates a horrible kind of condition where one takes being at peace with God for granted and as a result takes no appropriate action.
One of my favourite worship songs contains the verse
"O Lord, please light the fire
that once burned bright and clear
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear"
We need the fear of the Lord to be a major point of focus for our life and actions. It isn't popular, easy or comfortable, but it is most necessary.
Man has the power to take your life, God has the power over your eternal existance. We need a reality check.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Today, I feel we lack adequate training in godliness in many churches and adequate training in manhood in society and the home. It is somehow refreshing to find an attempt at composing a handbook that deals with these deficiencies.
Friday, February 1, 2008
As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: [so do].
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned:
From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
Remember in the initial series we looked at 1 Timothy 4:7? "But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself [rather] unto godliness."
It seems like fables are at enmity with a godly life, based on these two Scriptures. I think it is fairly evident why. Placing a high value on truth is essential to maintain a godly outlook on life.
Fables are not based upon truth. They are either false/made-up or unverifiable in nature and thus conducive to doubt. The greek word is mythos - a myth or story.
The passage caught my attention because it included endless genealogies as something contrary to edification. I have been working on an extensive new discovery in my family tree over the past couple of days, so you can understand why. But considering another Scripture dealing with this issue of fables, I think we can gain a better understanding of what is meant here.
Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
The Jews have a few fables that are outside of the authority of Scripture. These would have been a source of confusion to Jewish and Gentile believers alike as they grew in the faith in the early Christian church. Genealogies have an important place in the Scripture. We find them in Genesis and Exodus at the beginning of the Bible, as well as Chronicles in the middle and Matthew & Luke in the New Testament. However creating elaborate genealogies to justify positions and theories could have led to trouble. I'm not part of the camp who won't read Chronicles because of the genealogical lists not being "relevant" to my personal life. But I can see how endless references to genealogy by a learned person can overwhelm a person and cause confusion or doubt rather than edify someone in their faith.
One thing I find of concern as of late is certain traditions and histories, which may be fables, being used to "fill in the gaps" of Scripture. This is dangerous, given the deliciousness of the temptation to gain a more "complete" point of view, so to speak. But accepting the Scripture as the whole story is one of the first tests of faith we face.
There are many such fables out there: the urantia book fascinated me as a young teenager with its accounts of the early life of Jesus, not to mention the super-astral origins of God's creative work. Of course it is pure fiction, akin to Scientology and the beliefs portrayed in the video circulating about mormonism.
But I have also seen genealogies detailing the descent of Queen Elizabeth II from King Solomon. While I believe it is possible that the Queen is descended from the Israelite Royal House (as she is from many of the ancient royal houses in the wider European area), I can't place much faith in that genealogy. Of course we also then have the Merovingian bloodlines that have emerged as the foundation for numerous occultic conspiracies.
All of these things do indeed distract people from the truth. The bottom line here is that fables and genealogies breed questions, while godly edification builds the faith of a brother or sister.
One more thing about edification before I conclude. I was impacted by the following Scripture this week.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
This is a crucial Scripture for today. It is our duty as Christians to provoke each other into love and doing good. We can't afford not to come together as the church of Christ and we must do so more as the day approaches. Brothers and sisters, I see the day coming - fast. So now is not the time to get caught up with the fables and stories of this age, but to build one another and encourage each other to look forward to the age that is to come.
Monday, January 28, 2008
You don't have to look far through the links on our sidebar to see that a great deal of "churches" have shifted in focus from eternal life to entertainment.
Dealing regularly with young Christians and non-Christian youth in my work, it is terribly difficult both to resist the popular usage of entertainment in ministry and also to find a legitimate place for recreation in fellowship that does not degenerate into hype-driven entertainment.
It is frightening that floodgates have been opened for this phenomenon to spill over violently into the wider church out of our youth ministries.
What is the problem with entertainment? It is, after all, a very normal and essential part of today's popular culture. Herein lies the beginning of the problem. What is important to the world should be far less important to children of God.
The main issue is that entertainment focuses on occupying our attention and stimulating positive emotions. In some ways it is totally opposite to worship, where we are completely focused on God with our mind and affections in devotion.
So, entertainment could be said to be permissable on occasion at best as a form of recreation, however it should not be the driving force of our lives and CERTAINLY NOT the central aspect of a church meeting.
I feel that often in my own life there is a drive to seek out entertainment for some kind of fulfillment. But if this takes over my life or yours, we need to make a change.
Another way entertainment detracts from godliness, is the forms of entertainment we indulge in. Secular comedians are almost always crude or at least insinuative and often take the liberty of slandering our holy faith. Secular movies are full of blasphemy, bloodthirstiness and worldly philosophies. Popular music is more and more sexually explicit in nature, with the catchy beats hooking people in to be subjected to whatever message the artist wishes to promote. Partying and revelry leads to drunkenness and worse situations and if believers involve themselves, they will get taken along for the ride.
But we all know someone who professes Christ and indulges in one or more of the above activities and most of us would not have to point the finger away from ourselves.
I think the early church found its satisfaction in communion and fellowship with their God and one another. When we meet our base desires for pleasure in forms of entertainment at church events, are we not substituting a deeper communion for a cheap thrill and quick fix for the flesh?
2 Timothy 3:4 tells us that in the last days men will be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. When entertainment replaces God as the center of a church community, we have surely seen this Scripture fulfilled before us.
Let us therefore strive for a new dedication to piety and devotion instead of chasing after every new fad and craze that sprouts up in the fallen world.