Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Signs of the Times?

I believe in imminency, which means Christ could return any moment.  That's enough for me to be as ready as I can be ready.  You can't get more expectant than possibly right now.  However, I believe God allows us to see more to get us even more ready for His appearing.  Any moment is difficult to sustain and everyone reading here knows that.  Are these signs of the times?

In a technical sense, the signs of the times are all related to the second coming of Jesus Christ, not the rapture.  The sign that Christ's coming is near is a sign for His return to the earth, not believers being caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4:16-17).  Nothing has to happen on earth for the rapture to occur, no signs needed.  No signs have to occur before the rapture.  So are these events and circumstances  to occur before the catching up of the saints?  Are they signs?

Let me illustrate.  The coronavirus might be at least pestilence-light.  It's not on the level of what we see in the tribulation period as a sign of the second coming of Christ, but it hearkens to that event.  If this level of disease does what it has done, what will something much worse be like?

For a long time, I have thought that disease would be the factor that starts bringing the whole world together.  It won't all be together until later, but what we see occurring today could be moving us closer to the final event.  Every country has this common cause of fighting disease.  Physical life takes prominence.  Health becomes more important than national interests.  Citizens show willingness to give up personal autonomy for purposes of safety.  It's easier to control the many with only a few.

All the forms of media cause people to more vulnerable to deceit.  Temporal interests become preeminent and break down resistance to lust.  This puts apostasy in the fast lane.  Anyone who knows the Bible can see how evil this world has become.

As a sign during the tribulation, Israel will be saved.  Well, Israel exists now, when it didn't between 70 and 1948 AD.  The rise of the nation Israel isn't a sign, but it is an occurrence that makes way for several signs in the future.

We don't live in an age of signs.  They have occurred in the past during certain periods.  Signs will arise to confirm to the Jewish people that the Messianic age, His kingdom on earth, is soon to come.  These will authenticate another baptism of the Holy Spirit during that future age.

Events and circumstances today remind us of signs which are to come.  They aren't here yet, but we could say that this increasing knowledge relates to what Daniel prophesied in Daniel 12:4.  Prophetic knowledge will increase as mankind gets closer to the end.

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Command in Scripture and in the Real World

The Bible is full of commands.  A command is an order from authority.  In a colloquial way, it is being told what to do.  It is distinguished by telling, not asking.  In the military, it is a statement that might be followed by "and that's an order."  In a grammar, the command is an imperative mode of verb.  When studying commands, it's under the heading of imperatives.  Out of all the imperatives in the Greek New Testament, there are 1357 commands, which include prohibitions or negative commands.  A command is the language of superiors in authority to subordinates.

The fact that the Bible uses so many commands justifies commands or commanding.  Commands need to be made.  The first statement of God to mankind is from the Lord God and Genesis 2:16 says, "And the Lord God commanded the man."  With the command comes a consequence, disobedience to the command results in death.

With the above being said about just the New Testament, we live in an era, even when someone is superior in authority, he doesn't tell, but he asks nicely.  A command implies authority.  It also calls for subordination and obedience.  It says that someone can tell someone else what to do.  It implies that someone might know more than someone else too.  Someone should be listening to someone else and doing what he says to do.

One of the greatest commands in the New Testament is the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.  I start with verse 18, because Jesus says that "all power," which is all authority, is given unto [Him] in heaven and in earth."  Therefore.  Based upon that authority, verse 19, "Go ye, and teach all nations."  In the Greek, only "teach" is a command, and "go" is a participle.  Jesus has all authority and He commands those that day, "Teach," which is to "make disciples."  With all authority, Jesus commands, "Make disciples."

Have you "made a disciple"?  Why not?  Some professing Christians, who barely even try to make a disciple, put very little effort to obey that command, still judge themselves to be superior spiritually for other reasons.  They are still not obeying that command.

What are other New Testament commands?  Follow me, Jesus commanded.  Rejoice.  Fear not.  Bless them that curse you.  Love God.  Love thy neighbor.

Jesus used commands all the time, because He has and had authority.  He speaks with authority in part as seen in His commands.  He also showed His authority by the consequences He guaranteed.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He said, "The meek shall inherit the earth."  Who could make that statement except the Person who owns the earth?  That is who we should listen to.  He speaks with authority.

We live in a world where people don't want commands.  They don't want someone in command.  They chafe at being commanded.  This is not the atmosphere or environment well-suited to follow Jesus Christ, because He commands all the time in the New Testament, and then even those who call themselves Christians don't obey what He commanded.

I am not going to command you, but I ask you to think about your relationship to commands and, therefore, to authority.  Can you be told what to do?  When you are told what to do and by authority, do you obey it?  Do you become angry with it?

When people are children, parents and other adults need to start commanding.  "Give me that."  "Stop it."  "Come here."  "Don't touch."  "Eat."  "Pick that up."  "Make your bed."  "Go get me that."  "Mow the lawn."  "Pull those weeds."  "Finish your homework."  "Put that down."  As children, they need to start learning to obey commands.

If someone, who says he is a Christian, is going to obey the New Testament, obey God's Word, and obey Jesus Christ, he needs to be fine with commands.  He needs to embrace them.  God works through authority.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The Detection and Correction of Doctrinal and Practical Error, pt. 2

 Part One

In the first post in this series, I started with the motivation for detecting and correcting doctrinal and practical error.  It needs to happen, but it won't happen if you don't know something's wrong.  If you know something's wrong, it's probably because you know what's right, so you also know the correction.  Scripture is clear that detection must occur.  The Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 writes this:

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

There are three commands in these two verses and they all relate to this subject.  The first part is most important, because you can't obey the other two without obeying the first one.  First you prove everything, which is to test everything, the Greek word, dokimazo, which is a metallurgical term.  Metals are tested for impurity and then purified.

I like to call the "testing," "keeping my grid up."  The grid portrays a kind of mesh that catches error.  Error can't get through.  The grid represents some kind of criteria by which judgment is made.  Why would I think this "proving" relates to doctrinal or practical error?  The flow of the chapter indicates it, considering the previous verse, which says, "Despise not prophesyings."  Prophesying or preaching, forthtelling of the Word of God, should not be despised.  It should be proved though.  It presents a balance for the listening to preaching.

Once something has been proven or tested, if you don't despise it to begin with, you will hold fast that which is good.  Paul starts with the positive.  True doctrine and practice should be embraced.  It reminds me of the part of 1 Corinthians 13, "Love rejoiceth in the truth."  "Good" is morally good.

The second command is what someone does with doctrinal and practical error.  He abstains from it.  The language is "all appearance of evil," and "appearance" is not something that looks like something or appears like it.  The Greek word and the English word mean "form."  It's simple.  "Abstain from all form of evil."  "Evil" is the opposite of "good," so morally bad or wicked.

The Apostle Paul commands the members of the church at Thessalonica to do what this series is about.  Doctrinal and practical error is not good.  It is evil.  It first must be detected by having the grid up.  The good must be embraced and the evil jettisoned.

What is the standard for detection and correction?  Jesus in Matthew 22:29 said, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures."  Error comes from not knowing the scriptures, according to Jesus.  The standard for detection and correction is scripture, and that is the grid that is kept up in order to prove all things.  When Paul spoke about the error in Jerusalem in Acts 13:27, he said the reason was that they knew not the voices of the prophets that they read every Sabbath.  In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says that error comes when unstable and ignorant men wrest the scriptures to their own destruction.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

The Detection and Correction of Doctrinal and Practical Error

Not meant as an understatement, detection and correction of the coronavirus has become serious to the whole world and the nation.  I don't remember anything treated as importantly in my lifetime.  Coronavirus kills the body.  It doesn't kill everybody or even necessarily a large percentage of those who get it, but the fear of it is that it destroys the body.  The importance of detecting it and correcting the coronavirus relates to its killing people's bodies.  The Lord Jesus said the following in Matthew 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.
With eternal knowledge, which includes eternity past all through eternity future, the Lord Jesus can judge with perfection what to fear.  Jesus says that we should fear the one who can destroy body and soul more than the one who can destroy just body.  The detection of that which can destroy both body and soul in hell forever is far more important than the one who can destroy just body.  With this contrast Jesus reveals the truth about the priority of detecting and correcting doctrinal and practical error.  Even though people do not treat it as such, there is so much more at stake with it.

People stress personal protective equipment.  When the virus first started its spread, there was a shortage on this, and it was a big deal to have it for obvious reasons.  It was very important to protect people.  The virus kills.  But it only kills body.  Doctrinal error specially, which is also practical, is more important to detect and stop or correct.  Much doctrinal error and a diverse, large variety of it, is enough at least to destroy both body and soul in hell forever.  Forever.  This is very serious.  If Jesus says it is this serious, it is this serious.  Destruction of body and soul forever blows away mere destruction of body.  Jesus said in Mark 9:47 it would be better to pluck out your eye and enter into the kingdom than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

False teachers (Matthew 7:15) are the first reason people take the broad road to destruction.  They aren't pointing to the narrow road with their false teaching, but to the broad road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).   Jesus says they're wolves in sheep's clothing and they want to destroy sheep, obviously by destroying their souls with all sorts of what 2 Peter 2:1 calls, "damnable heresies."  Jude 1:11 calls this destruction of the soul, perishing in the gainsaying of Korah, which in the next chapter of 2 Peter (3:17), Peter speaks of those who will fall from their steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked. 

Those who save those from the damnable teaching of false teachers, James says convert from the error of their way and save their souls from death (5:20).  Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:16 says that by taking heed unto true doctrine, they will save themselves and those who hear them.  Those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ, John says they have not God (2 John 1:9).  In some cases, believers are deceived through the false teaching of false prophets, which is enough to distract them from service or at least effective service (1 Cor 15:33, Col 2:9).

The detection and correction of doctrinal and practical error has eternal ramifications for the souls of men.  An error in need of detection and correction from the onset is one of proportion, when the fear of him who can destroy only body extinguishes or overshadows the fear of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell forever.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Beginning of a New Church and the Place of Discipleship In That

When you arrive into a town or city as a missionary, let's assume it's just you.  You don't have anyone else.  You start with evangelism.  You start with preaching the gospel.  You really don't know that anyone will be saved, but that's how you start if you are a missionary.

A church is built on the gospel, which is seen in part when Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church."  The grammar of Matthew 16:18 refers "this rock" to the confession of Peter, which could be described as his faith in Christ.  The church is built on the gospel, belief in Christ.  A church is built with saved people by their hearing the gospel and receiving it.  The goal in an area is to get the gospel to everyone who is willing to hear it.

Something else you can do is let saved people know that you are in town.  If you are there with a goal of a church starting, then you think there needs to be a church there.  That is in part because you don't think you could say, "Just go to that church."  Depending on the size of the area, there are probably believers there that need your work and you want them to know about it.  They could join you.  However, no missionary should think that he's coming somewhere to take people from other churches.  He's there to evangelize first.

If the gospel is going to be preached to everyone, that could be done by the missionary doing it himself.  He never stops preaching the gospel until everyone hears it.  Is that the way intended by God for everyone in an area to preach the gospel?  It isn't.  The command of the Great Commission is "teach all nations" in Matthew 28:19.  The word "teach" comes from a Greek word, which means, "make disciples."  The priority in evangelism is making disciples.

The first amount of time, let's say, year, emphasizes evangelism especially.  The goal is to evangelize as much as possible and to disciple those believing the gospel.  As soon as someone is converted, you start with discipleship.  A main goal of discipleship is to train an evangelist.  Your disciple at least by year two himself starts evangelizing.  What you've done then is multiply the number of evangelists.  For that reason, discipleship is the priority.  If you had a choice to go evangelizing or spending time in discipleship, you disciple someone.  Get in as many discipleships as possible, really disciple everybody.

You disciple even the people you meet, who are already believers.  When someone claims to be saved already, he also is discipled.  This way everyone is prepared to be an evangelist.  You want to take everyone as far as they can spiritually.

Yes, everyone needs to start assembling for church.  A church is starting.  You start to get everyone you are discipling into every meeting.  You will be preaching on all the things from the Word of God these new believers and new members need.

As you move along the first year, you will be baptizing new believers.  That is part of discipleship, teaching them on baptism and then baptizing them.  Each of them will be baptized into the church.  Baptizing is part of discipleship even as seen in Matthew 28:19.

I try to evangelize every day and do most days.  I will do less evangelism as more people are saved, because I have to disciple these people.  Also part of what I do is to take new converts to evangelize, part of discipleship.  Maybe you think that spending less time in evangelizing will mean less evangelism.  Over a longer span far more evangelism will occur if new converts are baptized.

New converts need to be made disciples.  This will result in more evangelism.  When it comes to the church planting phase of the history of a church, discipleship must occur for a church even to start.  You aren't going to have a church without discipleship, so no new church will occur.  Even more so, not related to a new church even starting is the glory to God that will go through the increased obedience of a discipled saint.  God wants to be followed and new converts don't know what to do.  They need to be taught.  They have to be taught so they will live like God wants people to live.

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Circularity and Wholeness of the Beatitudes As a New Covenant Corollary to God's Law

Part One

God is One and His Law Is One.  One could say the Old Covenant is One.  The New Covenant doesn't differ than the Old Covenant.  It is a corollary to it, so in the same way the Law is circular and whole, the Beatitudes of Jesus are.

The New Covenant assumes that man has broken the Old Covenant.  Is he now hopeless?  Is God's purpose for man now permanently ruined?  When God went to find Adam and Eve in the Garden, He introduced the New Covenant to them as the only pathway forward.

While Jesus' ministered on earth, His audience tried to force the Old Covenant into something it could not do without the New Covenant.  Jesus didn't come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it through the New Covenant.  He starts the Sermon on the Mount with the New Covenant enablement of Old Covenant success.  Blessing can come as promised in the Old Covenant, but first, poor in spirit.

Just like the first commandment and the tenth commandment mirror each other, the first and the eighth of the Beatitudes do.  The first, poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and the eighth, they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The first four and the second four come at the New Covenant from two very important different directions.  The first four are the front end of the New Covenant and the second four are the back end of it.

The front end is not works, but grace alone.  The back end exposes what the first four were necessary to produce.  If someone starts from the back, he is led to the front.  If someone starts with the front, he receives the back.  If someone is not persecuted for righteousness' sake, he is not poor in spirit.  If someone is poor in spirit, he will be persecuted for righteousness' sake.  The truly persecuted are because they are poor in spirit and theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When someone sees he's not persecuted, not peacemaking, not pure in heart, and not merciful, he recognizes his poverty of spirit, he mourns over his sin, subjugates his will to God in meekness, and hungers and thirsts after righteousness.  The Jewish teachers of Jesus' day were justifying themselves, unlike the tax collector in Luke 18:13, who didn't tout his own righteousness, but in poverty of spirit cried out, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.  They reasoned that they could justify themselves by ignoring the weightier matters of the law, the ones so heavy, so difficult, that they were impossible to keep.  Someone could keep trying to keep them with his heart of stone, but never succeed.

You're not saved by being merciful, but only those poor in spirit, mourn, meek, and hunger and thirst after righteousness can and will be merciful.  Don't think that you will obtain mercy without being merciful, but don't think they you'll be merciful until you take the path through the first four of the beatitudes of Jesus.

To receive the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus His Lord, the Apostle Paul must count all his own law keeping efforts as dung or as loss (Philippians 3).  He sees, I'm not merciful, I'm not pure in heart, I'm not peacemaking, and I'm not being persecuted, but I'm a persecutor, so he becomes poor in spirit.  He has no confidence in his flesh, so now he rejoices in Christ Jesus.  The Old Covenant did its proper job and then the New Covenant did its.  You can start at the front or the back, just like with the ten commandments. They are all interrelated, just like God Himself is one.

James said that God gives grace to the humble, those who humbly submit themselves to God.  Those who do won't be praying to consume it upon their own lust and they won't go presumptiously into a business endeavor, ignoring the good that God wants them to do in His will.  In humility they are submitting themselves to the God of grace, who enables them to pray in His will and live in His will.

When you receive the grace to be saved, you are persecuted for righteousness' sake, righteousness that you hungered and thirsted after, because you knew you were without it.  You were poor.  The pure in heart see God, but that comforting purity will never come to you without your mourning over the impurity, not just external impurity, but the impurity of conscience that true salvation cleanses.  Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  The Apostle Paul was impressive before religious leaders before his conversion, but he knew that was not true before God.  The Lord Jesus provided that for him, not righteousness obtained by works, but by the faith of Christ.