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.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Is There a Balm in Gilead to Heal the Sin-Sick Soul?

The hymn "There is a Balm in Gilead" begins:

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul ...

Is this true? Find out in my lastest post by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Circularity and Wholeness of the Ten Commandments and, Hence, God's Law

God is one, so His Word is one and His Law is one.  It can explain James 2:10:

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

James says offend one point in the law, offend the whole law.  It's like being controlled by the Holy Spirit. You are or you're not.  It's not like 57% control is control.  100% control is control.  Let me explain, using the ten commandments.

The first command is this (Exodus 20:3):

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The tenth command is this (Exodus 20:17):

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Paul writes that covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).  Is.  Breaking the tenth commandment is breaking the first commandment.

The desire for anything but God's pleasure is covetousness.  It's also having other gods before God.  The first commandment and the tenth commandment are the start and the finish, but they are also the same thing, as if it's all the same thing.  This is why all the commandments can be one commandment, love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart.  If you do that, you keep all the commandments.

If you are not coveting, God is before all other gods.  If God is not before other gods, you are coveting.  The key is the first commandment.  Have God before other gods.  Then you will not be coveting.  How will you know that you have other gods before God?  You will be coveting.  It's the means for knowing.

If you start your way through the other commandments, they are interchangeable in the same way.  The second command is a physical thing, an image, which is being coveted.  It's an idol, so it also breaks the first commandment and the tenth commandment.  Covetousness is idolatry.  And idol is before God.

Someone takes God's name in vain because God is too low in a person's estimation, so something is ahead of God, so again he is coveting.  That which is higher in estimation, even in attitude, is being coveted.  Vain taking of God's name isn't high treatment of God because something else is ahead of Him, so it is being coveted.

The Sabbath might seem like a difficult one, but it is like the others.  God could require every day of the week to be set aside, but He requires one.  If someone won't do that, something else is ahead of God and someone has a vain relationship with God.  You can't say, God is high, but I can't give Him just one day that He requires.

What about the second table of the law?  The nature of God as love is God putting others ahead of Himself.  This is why it isn't murder to kill someone out of the protection of another person.  In the case of the Sabbath, someone hasn't violated the Sabbath when he saves someone's life and protects someone's property.  If God does that, then you are not putting Him first when you don't do what He does.

All authority is of God with a special emphasis on father and mother.  It is hierarchical, so as long as it puts God first, then all of God's authority will be kept.  You can't say that you've put God first, when you don't honor those whom He puts in charge.  You want your own way so much that you are willing to dishonor your parents, that is covetousness.

God attaches a long life with honoring parents, which is getting something that you can't get through covetousness, even if you really want it.  It's not how life works.  God is the author of all life.  On average dishonor of parents, and God, who sustains life, doesn't allow the same length of life to enjoy what's more important than His authority.  You can say God is before all things when you dishonor His authority, father and mother, but you in fact do not.  One can say that anyone who does not honor father and mother does not honor God, even if he claims to honor God.

In Genesis 9, we know that murder strikes at the image of God in man.  That's before the law was written.  God created men in His image.  Murdering a man is to put another god before God.  God's prohibition against adultery we know was because God is holy and as a part of worship of Him, His people needed to be different than those in the land of Canaan, distinct and according to His design.  It's obvious stealing proceeds from covetousness rather than trusting God.  You've stolen a material thing, elevating a thing ahead of God, a kind of idolatry. 

God reveals Himself through the truth.  Bearing false witness is against God's identity as the Truth.  The revelation of God is dependent on truthfulness.  No one can know God and, therefore, worship Him without the truth about Him.

All of the ten commandments relate with one another to the extent that they are one.  If you offend one, you've offended them all.

Just a Reminder That This Blog Has Moved and Will Be Moving

Thanks for all the many readers of What Is Truth.  I want to remind you that the new site for What Is  Truth, where we will continue to publish, is https://kentbrandenburg.com/.   Everything here and more is there.  Bookmark or whatever you need to do in order to use that site and not here for the future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Place of Fear in a True Church and With True Worship

I've read recently, "Fear is not a virtue."  A company called, American Virtue Clothing prints "Fear Is Not a Virtue" on its clothing.  Heather Delapi argues that "fear" isn't found in the lists of virtues of scripture, hence is not a virtue.   The English word "fear" is found 385 times in the King James Version of the Bible.  I have read all of those verses, but I haven't sorted through everyone of them to find how many times fear is rebuked or admonished and how many times it is extolled or commended.  There are both.

Fear is a virtue.  No godly person lives without fear.  It is a necessity for pleasing God.  Just because it isn't listed as fruit of the Spirit doesn't mean that it isn't a virtue.  It is dangerous and wrong to say it isn't a virtue.  Why would I even write this?  I've taught through Acts all the way through once, and in great detail about halfway through the whole book about five times.  I'm teaching and preaching through it again right now as we evangelize and plant a church in Southern Oregon.  When Luke writes under the inspiration of God to describe the basics of the church of Jerusalem in that classic passage in Acts 2:41-47, he writes in Acts 2:43 an attitude of that first church:

And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

"Fear came upon every soul."  This verse got my attention again on this subject, so I'm writing on it.  This same morning as I was preaching the end of the book of Acts, in Sunday School I started a short series on "The Detection and Correction of Doctrinal and Practical Error."  In my introduction I quoted what Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 and elaborated about its part in that subject.

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.

The word fear used by Jesus in the second half of the verse is an imperative.  Jesus commands us to "fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  At the same time, Jesus says "not to fear."  The most important problem about "fear" is what you fear.  Everyone should fear, and not just God.  Some of the same people who say "fear is not a virtue" ironically "fear them which kill the body."  Actually less than that, they fear the "influencers" in the world and then they don't fear who they should fear, who the Bible says to fear.  They don't want to fear them even though they fear the world in many obvious ways by how they act.  They fear the opinion of Black Lives Matter, fear the woke crowd, fear the absence of an apparent worldly style, or fear irrelevance according to the spirit of the age.

The cure for a sinful fear is a righteous fear.  Many passages prove fear a virtue.  It's a terrible hermeneutic and contradiction to biblical teaching to say and teach that fear is not a virtue.

In Acts 2:43, fear characterized the Jerusalem church.  So also did love, but fear is the first listed.  Love isn't mentioned at all in verses 41-47, but it's described in the next three verses (vv. 44-46) in their communal living.  Fear comes first though.  It is the Greek word phobia.

Acts 2:41-47 provide the basics of the first church.  Success of that first church, and as a template for all other churches since, depends upon fear.  In the Old Testament, a crucial theme of the Old Covenant was fear, especially represented by the three words:  Hear and Fear.  God expected His people to hear what He said and to fear Him.  Sure, God wants other responses, but fear is non-negotiable.

There is a trickle down from there.  People who do not fear God will not fear their parents, will not fear their husband, and will not fear their employer.  Now, you read that, and you think, fear shouldn't be a part of leadership anywhere in the world.

The chastening of the Lord in Hebrews 12 is for the purpose of what?  Man doesn't want to be chastened, he fears it, so he changes in his behavior.  That's why in Proverbs the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  On Mt. Sinai, when God gave the law, He showed Himself in a fearsome way with lightning and thunder.  When Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God, great fear fell upon people.  This was what God wanted.

When Paul told Timothy that God hasn't given us the spirit of fear, He meant like Jesus, fearing he who is able to destroy body.  Like Proverbs 29:25 says, the fear of man bringeth a snare.  "Be not afraid," which is said so many times in the Bible, means "be not afraid of people, the enemies of God, those who criticize you to get you to stop believing and practicing the truth."

Anyone who tries to conflate fear of man with the fear of God and say that fear shouldn't be a virtue is either very deceived or lying.  He shouldn't be a teacher.  Ephesians 5:33 says to the wife that she should see that she reverences her husband.  That word "reverence" is the same word phobeia in Acts 2:43.  That word is found 93 times in the New Testament, so it is very common.  When Romans 13:3 says that 'rulers are a terror to evil,' that again is phobeia.  I've found that very often today professing Christians don't respond to the terror to evil except with rejection, but they respond to the terror of being canceled by worldly or liberal friends.

Ephesians 6:4 reads:  "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ."  That's right.  The boss needs to be feared too and trembling.  That seems even more extreme.  This is a fear that is a virtue, because it is a virtue again and again in scripture and there are many more places that teach this.

Fundamental to acceptable worship is that it is reverent, which always relates to fear.  The creatures in the throne room of God are reverent.  There is always an atmosphere in the presence of the Holy God, even though it is more than that.  Psalm 40:3 says, "And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD."  The saving response of an unbeliever to the true and sincere worship of God's people is fear.  Unbelievers see true biblical worship and they fear.  Fear goes along with keeping a place or an attitude of reverence to God.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

What Is Worldly Worship?

At least twenty years ago, from scripture I came to the following as a definition of worship.  It is my definition, but I believe it reflects what the Bible says.  "Worship is acknowledging or recognizing God for Who He is according to His Word and giving Him what He says that He wants." If I were going to add a secondary important aspect, "worship necessitates coming to the right God and in the right way."  You aren't worshiping God if He isn't actually God and then you're not worshiping Him if you are doing it your way.  God doesn't accept just anything.

I googled the two terms "worldly worship" and it produced 12,300 results.  Those were not all articles written by me, although I found I had used that terminology in some online writings.  It is a known concept though, worship that is worldly that is not acceptable to God, which is of the nature of the world system and not the nature of God.  I went ahead and googled "syncretistic worship" too, because I think it's a related concept.  That showed up 6,060 times.

Syncretize means:  to "attempt to amalgamate or reconcile (differing things, especially religious beliefs, cultural elements, or schools of thought)."  When referring to syncretism in worship, many have pointed to the practice in Israel of bringing aspects of the worship of paganism into the worship of God, mixing the two.  Many examples of syncretism are seen in the nation Israel (Exodus 32:1-8; Leviticus 10:1-7; Deuteronomy 12:30-31; 1 Kings 3:5-10; etc.).  The way Israel syncretized is not the only way to syncretize.  Mixing something impure with purity makes it impure.

Speaking of worship, Paul commands, "be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2).  Because God accepts only holy worship, not profane, then it can't be conformed to this world system, the spirit of the age.  Obviously, everything we do occurs in this world or on this planet, on earth.  The world system clashes with God.  It is represented by darkness and all the characteristics described in scripture as seen in many places, one of which as an example is James 3:15:  "earthly, sensual, and devilish."  There are many more.  One should assume that all of these can be understood and applied.

The world is attractive to sinful flesh.  Satan shapes the world system to lure people away from God.  Because the world is a lure, it also works when a church uses it.  Satan designs it as a lure and if a church takes that lure and uses it, it's still a lure.  That's the temptation of using anything worldly.

Varied aspects of this world are filled with meaning.  Many of those meanings are not congruent with God.  One should even expect that they are not.  Whatever it is that will please God has already been around.  One should question any new style or method, especially that has proceeded from worldly lust, which Titus 2:11-12 says that the grace of God teaches us to deny.  I contend that rather than denying worldly lust, most churches today promote it.  They might argue that this new way is neutral, neither good or bad.  God's people didn't originate it, actually rejected it, and then after a period of time, accepted it, then used it, arguing now that God also wants it.

Someone may ask, what basis do I have that churches are using worldly music?  I haven't been in all these churches, so how do I know?  Not only have I been all over the country, but I've looked at websites of churches all over.  I know enough.

Every church and their leaders should want accountability as to whether they are using worldly worship.  They should look for constructive criticism.  People are deceived in many different ways as they relate to God.  The broad road to destruction has many religious people on it.  When I read the materials of the church growth movement used as a model for thousands of churches, they encourage worldly worship as means of church growth.

God doesn't accept worldly worship, so why would churches still do it?  Why would Nadab and Abihu offer strange fire to the Lord?  I would contend that the strange fire of Nadab and Abihu is a lesser perversion of worship than most worldly worship, and God killed them for offering it.  They were still offering incense. They just changed the recipe.  They offered something God didn't say that He didn't like.  They offered something different than what God said He wanted.  It seems that Nadab and Abihu just didn't take God seriously, what could be called, not fearing God.  We know what they did was bad and wrong and sinful, but it was still not something that God had said was wrong.

Worldly worship we know God doesn't want.  There are two obvious motives for giving God something He doesn't want, and they are seen in scripture.  First, the one offering it likes it.  This is the serving the creature of Romans 1.  He's not really even giving to God as much as he's doing something for himself that he likes.  I've seen this again and again in churches I've visited.  It can happen anywhere.  Second, other people will like it too, so it will make the church more popular.  The people wanting that worship don't like what God likes, but they either convince themselves or are just deceived into thinking that God will accept it.  A third reason is deceit.  The feeling the worldliness causes often is mistaken for a spiritual experience.

Worldly worship parallels with a worldly life.  The world offers what the flesh desires.  There were times in church history that a wide chasm existed between the worship of the Lord in the churches and the world.  That gap has shrunk to where there isn't much difference.  It's worse that that.  The churches like the world and they expect God to like it too.  It shows an amazing lack of understanding of God and what He wants.

As you have read this, reader, perhaps you wanted to know more specifics.  "Give me a specific of worldly worship."  I could say, using the world's music in worship.  To get more specific, I could go further, using rock music in worship.  There are many other specific examples.  It's better to start with the principles for discerning what is worldly and that God doesn't want something worldly.

To accommodate worldliness, I have heard evangelicals give a very narrow understanding of worldliness as internal only, that nothing external is worldly.  However, Paul wrote, "Be not conformed to this world."  There is internal worldliness, the love of the world in the heart, but conforming by definition must be external.  God doesn't want something we can see and hear is worldly.  He rejects it.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Love of an Unsaved or Unconverted Person: What Is It?

Going door-to-door this last week -- I've started that in earnest again with the change in weather -- I went to a door that was wide open at an upstairs apartment.  I could see the two twenty-something men, who were inside, and as I started to talk to them, one of them said, "No thank you, we're not a religious family."  He also gave the obvious body language that the conversation was over.  I offered a gospel tract and he said, "No."  I then knocked on the next door, then after that the two bottom doors in a fourplex.

As I stood waiting for people at the other three doors in that fourplex, I could hear these two men talking to one another, and as I walked to the next set of apartments, they both told each other they loved each other.  I thought about the concept of "love" in the world and how people use that term in a normal way.  Many homes where I live have the leftist value sign that says, "Love is love, and kindness is everything."  It crossed my mind at this point to write about the love of an unsaved or unconverted person, and the eagerness to use the term in our culture.

As I finally sat down to write today, I checked the few online sites I visit, and at one there was a link to article online at the Christian Post, "Former Desiring God writer Paul Maxwell announces he's no longer Christian."  This is happening a lot now, even as Gallup recently mentioned that for the first time, less than 50% (47%) of Americans are members of a church of whatever kind.  A few paragraphs in the article about Maxwell read:

“What I really miss is connection with people,” Maxwell said on his Instagram feed. “What I’ve discovered is that I’m ready to connect again. And I’m kind of ready not to be angry anymore. I love you guys, and I love all the friendships and support I’ve built here. And I think it’s important to say that I’m just not a Christian anymore, and it feels really good. I’m really happy.”

“I can’t wait to discover what kind of connection I can have with all of you beautiful people as I try to figure out what’s next,” he added. “I love you guys. I’m in a really good spot. Probably the best spot of my life. I’m so full of joy for the first time. I love my life.” . . . . “I just say, ‘I know that you love me.’ I know, and I receive it as love. I know you care about the eternal state of my soul and you pushed through the social awkwardness of telling me this because you don't want me to suffer. And that is a good thing. That's a loving thing to do. And I hear where you're coming from, and I respect your perspective.”

He renounces Christianity, but he says, "I love you guys, and I love all the friendships and support I've built here. . . . I love you guys (again)."  He refers to what his former colleagues have done in the way of preaching to him as their loving him.  He also says that he is "so full of joy for the first time."   According to him, he also has "joy" as a consequence of ejecting from Christianity.

Reading this article dovetailed with my thoughts at that door last week, when I heard the two men express "love" to each other.  My thought is, what do they think love is?  I know what love is.  It is of God.  It is fruit of the Spirit.  Love is a biblical concept, that originates from scripture.  It entered the English language from the Bible.  What comes to my mind related to these thoughts is 1 John 4:7 and 16:

[E]very one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. . . . God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Scripture teaches that an unbeliever or an unconverted person cannot love.  Love is of God.  If he is not dwelling in God and God in him, he can't love.  To love, someone must be born of God and know God.  Even if those two men and Maxwell are all using the term, just like most people in the world use the term, it doesn't mean that they love.  They don't.  They can't.  It really is the same thing with joy.  Maxwell says he has joy now that he never had before, since he gave up Christianity.  I can interpret him as feeling perhaps less vexed now, because he's living how he wants without the restraints of Christianity.  This is the pleasure of sin, not joy.

I don't like hearing the word "love" outside of its actual meaning and the original context of its definition.  My dislike isn't going to stop people from using it in a false way.  However, I think it needs to be pointed out.  If these people are going to reject Christianity or renounce it, they don't get to hijack it or borrow from it, as they do with love.  They are not of God and they do not love.  The practice some kind of transactional relationship, where they express feelings they call love, but it isn't love.  Love stays with the Bible and with Christianity and not with them, even if they claim otherwise.

If what unbelievers have and use isn't love, then what is it?  Love isn't a feeling or an emotion.  I'm not saying it is bereft or disengaged from emotion.  True love is not an emotion, but it is emotional.  It isn't first emotional, but the emotions will come, just like repentance brings with it sorrow.  Emotion is a necessary component of biblical love, but it isn't an emotion.

Unbelievers are using the term love in a naturalistic way, when it is a supernaturalistic term or concept.  Very often what they call love is really lust or just an expression of human care.  It's like a greeting, have a good day!  It means I've got some kind of commitment to you.  It isn't love, but it is sharing a human camaraderie.  It can't be love though, because it isn't going to provide or supply the greatest or the most essential needs the person has.  It's to say that I will provide you some well being as we both head towards a temporal life of pleasure that will end in eternal torment.  The highest value will be human.  It won't be divine, so it will be vain or superficial.

This "love," that isn't love, is what men think they want.  It is Esau trading his birthright for a mess of pottage.  It sacrifices the permanent on the altar of the immediate.  It anesthetizes someone against the vexation of the harmful effects of the curse, helping deaden the pain of the rejection of God.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Divorce is wrong, but not "legal separation"?

 Does Scripture teach that "legal separation" is OK, although divorce is not? Find out in my newest blogpost here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Psalm 106: Becoming Your Worship

Reading Psalm 106 this week, a psalm accounting the history of Israel, I came to verses 19-20:

19 They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. 20 Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.

Man was made in the image of God.  Since he is made in God's image, God is to be his glory.  Let's go through it.

First, they made a molten calf.  Second, they worshiped it.  Third, by doing those first two things, they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox.  It wasn't even an ox, something God made.  It was an image that they made to look like an ox.  Instead of being in the image of God, they took on the glory of the ox, which is significantly less.  It eats grass.  It doesn't self-exist.  It needs grass that God makes.

This activity lessens the man.  It reminds me of the young man loitering around the "whorish woman" in Proverbs 6:26, who is "brought to a piece of bread."  The relationship of the young man to the woman is similar to the people of Israel related to their molten calf.  The woman has power over him through her seduction, leading him, and his acquiescing to her diminishes him to something akin to a slice of bread.  I often like to say that she turns him to carp bait.

Their glory, which is the summation or aggregation of their attributes, who they are, is changed by what they worship.  I want to take it a step further.  The God or god you imagine is what or who you become.  When the true God is imagined in a lesser way, a way not according to his attributes, that is who you become.

You take on the image of who you worship.  You are made in the image of God, but perversion is that the person becomes what he worships.  This is seen in the use of the term, "holy" (qadosh קָדוֹשׁ) in the Old Testament.  The masculine noun קדש (qadesh) denoted a male temple prostitute (Job 36:14, 1 Kings 14:24) and the feminine קדשה (qadesha) described a female religious prostitute (Deuteronomy 23:17).  They became what they worshiped.  They were separated unto the nature of their god, taking on their god's image, its attributes.

These evangelical churches using the world's music aren't worshiping the true God.  The lust with and by which they worship indicates they are becoming who they worship.  It is sacred in the sense that it is separated unto the god of their imagination, which would be pleased by lust.  The ecstatic worship of Babylonian mysticism carried with it sexual prostitution in Corinth and in Ephesus.  True worship is not ecstatic.  It worships God in truth, which is to worship God according to the revelation of scripture.

Your children very likely will become the worship of your church.  When they turn into that worship, don't be surprised.  Even if it is true worship of the true God, that doesn't mean that they will still turn out as the glory of God.  They will still need to choose that for themselves.  It is very tempting to change into the glory of the creature and not the Creator.

What or who someone worships designates his highest value.  If the value is diminished, his values are too, and so he is.  He is reduced.  Worshiping the one and true God in the beauty of His holiness brings glory from the One he worships.  The glory of God is the glory of man.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Evangelical Psalms of David

Part One

In an earlier post, I pointed to psalms that served the cause of evangelism from the Old Testament.  Even as I wrote that piece, I knew there were more.  Two circumstances coincide in my life:  one, my reading through the Bible twice this year, so that I'm in the psalms now, and two, we sing through the psalms from our psalter in church and we've been singing in the last few months on Sunday in Psalms 32, 33, and 34.  It's been obvious that David writes about salvation in these.

The Apostle Paul refers to Psalm 32 in his argument for salvation by faith in Romans 4:6-8:

6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

This quotes Psalm 32:1-2:
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is] forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
The New Testament teaching of salvation does not contradict the Old Testament teaching of salvation.  One could and should argue that the gospel of the New Testament proceeds from the Old Testament.  "New Testament" doesn't mean "new" as in, never seen before, of very recent origination.

When Jesus describes salvation in His Sermon on the Mount, He describes the ultimate fulfillment as "blessed" in what we call the beatitudes.  These correspond to the blessings promised in the Old Testament, including in the psalms, and David starts Psalms 32 with "Blessed."  For man to be saved, which is to be blessed, he needs atonement for or removal of his sin.  He might try to do good and David already wrote in Psalm 14, that is hopeless.

Later Paul argues in Romans 4 from Psalm 32 that David was trusting the Lord for his salvation, not in his own works.  I always like to say, works can't get rid of your sin, even if you did them.  If you really determined to be good from now on, to be saved, you still need the cleansing of the past sins.  While you're attempting to do good works, you are still failing, so you also need those sins taken away.  Salvation by necessity requires what David describes in Psalm 32.

Psalm 32 is most known as David's confession of his sin, adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah.  The first two verses though are not a confession.  They are, however, a prerequisite for confession.  First comes conversion, then comes confession.  In 1 John 1 and 2, the Apostle John communicates that we don't hide our sin because we do have cleansing and propitiation.  The sins aren't forgiven because of confession. They are forgiven because of the salvation that is the basis of the confession.

The experience of blessing doesn't come from confessing sin.  It comes from a believer confessing sin.  An unbeliever could confess sin, but he will not receive forgiveness, covering, or imputation of righteousness for mere confession.  Confession is a lifestyle or a habit of a believer, because he receives forgiveness of sin by grace through faith as a prerequisite for confession.

Three terms designate the dimensions of human evil:  transgression—acts reflecting rebellion against God, sin—the most general term, designating an offense, or turning away from the true path, and iniquity—indicating distortion, criminality, or the absence of respect for the divine will.  In the context, the three terms should not be viewed per se as pointing out just three specific kind of sins, but taking all three as a whole to specify the full dimensions of human evil from which someone requires deliverance.  It's too overwhelming to dig himself out of it through confession.

The person's spirit has no guile, because he is truly repentant.  This is not a game that he's playing, showing up to his confessional booth week after week.  He can't confess as a means of experiencing the blessing and forgiveness without a spirit that has already been changed.  He doesn't like his sin.  He doesn't mean to keep sinning.

When one arrives at the end of the psalm in verse 10-11, David writes:
10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about. 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
David contrasts the wicked with "he that trusteth in the LORD."  Mercy compasses him.  From this mercy proceeds gladness, rejoicing, and shouts of joy, not because of what he has done, but because of what God has.

Psalm 33 begins like Paul in Philippians 3, when he describes his own salvation:  "Rejoice in the Lord."  Paul may have been quoting Psalm 33.  Habbakuk later writes (3:18):  "Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."  He relates joy to the salvation of God.  With the Apostle Paul, rejoicing in the Lord meant not boasting in himself and putting confidence in his flesh, counting as dung and loss all things that he might win Christ.

The psalm ends with these verses:
16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. 17 An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. 18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; 19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. 22 Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.
The king is not saved by his own strength of that of a horse, but through the fear of the LORD and hope in his mercy.  He waits on the LORD for his help, rejoices in Him, trusting in His holy name.

Similar to Psalm 32:1-2, David writes in Psalm 34:8, "blessed is the man that trusteth in [the LORD]."  In the end of that psalm, he says in vv. 18 and 22:
18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.  22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.
Here are the components of a salvific response to God.  God does the saving, and He saves those of a broken heart, a contrite spirit.  He redeems their souls and when they trust in Him, they will not be desolate.

Trusting God means not trusting one's own self.  The Lord redeeming means his not redeeming himself.  The offering that God accepts is not his own works, but as David writes in Psalm 51:17:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
This is the soul that God will redeem, the one offered to Him, broken and contrite.  He can though depend on God for salvation.  "O taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psalm 34:8).

Friday, April 02, 2021

Jesus-a "mighty god" but not the Almighty God, according to the Watchtower

 The Watchtower Society claims Isaiah 9:6 teaches the Lord Jesus Christ is a "mighty god" but not the Almighty God. Is this the teaching of Isaiah 9:6? Find out here.