415:  The Curse of God’s Abandonment

415: The Curse of God’s Abandonment

There’s a time when the Lord gives us what we want: freedom, autonomy, independence, and to have no authority over our lives but ourselves.  That’s right.  God gives us over to our selfish, carnal attitudes and allows us to experience the consequences of our sins.  It’s like He says, “Ok, you want to go your own way?  Have at it.  I’ll be here when you come to your senses.”  It’s the story of the prodigal son played out in our lives in real time.

This is called the curse of God’s abandonment.  It’s when He removes His protecting grace from our lives and our nation and let’s us see how we like life without Him.  And the results are catastrophic.

Samson, after having his hair cut by Delilah, woke up to confront his enemies still believing he had the same strength as before because his God was with him.  But that was not the case.  He said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!”  But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him (Judges 16:20).  Samson was experiencing the abandonment of God.


God Gave Them Up

In Romans 1 we see three examples of this very act of God’s abandonment:

Therefore God also gave them up – Romans 1:24.
For this reason God gave them up – Romans 1:26.
God gave them over – Romans 1:28.

But who are the “them” in these verses?  The lost?  The unregenerate?  Those nations that reject truth and justice?  Yes.  But if you will study these verses closely you will find the object of God’s curse of abandonment is also the church.  It includes His wayward believers.  It includes you and me.

Does this seem strange to you?  Maybe hard to believe?  Then I suggest you keep listening and find out the truth for yourself.  And remember, “judgment begins at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).  Are you ready?

The following is a study on the Curse of the Abandonment of God.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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The Promises from Proverbs Four, Part One

The Promises from Proverbs Four, Part One

In Proverbs 4 the Lord reveals to us some promises that come with wisdom.  They are simple, direct, pointed promises, and each has a condition that must be met.  Fulfill the condition, receive the promise.  Refuse the condition, and you walk away empty handed and promise free.  It’s that simple.

The Proverb begins with the father once again giving sage advice to his young children. Watch how this unfolds.

Proverbs 4:1-2 – Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; (why) for I give you good doctrine: (therefore) do not forsake my law.

The father then reminds his children about his own upbringing and the words his father told him that he is now passing on to his own children.  He says:

Proverbs 4:3-5 – When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me:  “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live.  Get wisdom!  Get understanding!  Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.”


Get Wisdom!  Get Understanding!

The point the father is trying to impress on his beloved children is the importance of getting wisdom and understanding.  In fact, you can almost feel the urgency in the father’s words: “Get wisdom!  Get understanding!” (Prov. 4:5)  Later, he adds, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom.  And in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).

Wisdom (ḥoḵmāh) is defined as “skill, experience and shrewdness; with the beginning of wisdom and the supreme wisdom being to properly fear and reverence God.”1  Understanding (biynāh) means “comprehension and discernment, which is accompanied by righteous actions and it carries a strong moral and religious connotation.”2  So when the father says “in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7), he is imploring his children to add righteous actions to their reverence and fear of God.  It’s not a theological point to be debated.  It’s not a mere mental exercise.  It’s living in real time a life that corresponds to a reverence of God.  Like Jesus later said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Great question.  How would you answer Him?


The First Promise

Then comes the most exciting part of these few verses.  Wisdom is now personified as a woman and each of these promises about wisdom (her) is connected with a condition that must first be met.  There are three do’s and one don’t.  Let’s look at the don’t first.

Proverbs 4:6a – (condition) Do not forsake her (wisdom), and (promise) she will preserve you.

To forsake (ʿāzaḇ) someone is to “leave, neglect, or abandon” them, usually for someone or something else.3  And the idea associated with the word translated preserve (šāmar) means “to keep watch, to guard, to watch over carefully like a mother over her young child.”4

So the first promise from wisdom is that if we do not abandon wisdom or neglect the wisdom found in God’s Word, then wisdom will guard our life and watch carefully over us like a loving mother to her cherished young child.  Wisdom will become our protector, our safety, and our security in troubling times of trials and temptations and persecution.  She will preserve our life during the attacks of the enemy and reveal to us what is true and trustworthy.  And in doing so, we will be strengthened against the schemes of our enemy who speaks to us lies disguised as truth (John 8:44).

Wisdom will also protect us from falling prey to our own ideas about things.  She will help us bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) so we won’t confuse our selfish, carnal thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others and vainly think they come from the Lord.  If we hold on to wisdom and do not abandon her to our own self-centered sense of right and wrong, then she will guard us against the temptation of trying to create God in our own image by believing He thinks and feels like we do.

And nothing could be further from the truth.  Why?  Because He doesn’t.  God doesn’t live in our box.

As the Lord says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

I think that should settle it, don’t you?

There are three more promises granted to those who embrace the conditions associated with wisdom.  We’ve only looked at the first one, the don’t.

Tomorrow we’ll continue with the three do’s.

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Endnotes

  1.  Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 337). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  2.  Ibid., 130.
  3.  Ibid., 819.
  4.  Ibid., 1171.

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411:  We Will Not Be Equal in the Kingdom of God

411: We Will Not Be Equal in the Kingdom of God

We will not all be equal in heaven.  Now we’re not talking about salvation, but of rewards.  All of us are equal in regards to salvation because it is a gift given freely to those who believe.  In this, there is no question.  But what we do with our salvation is another matter.  And we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to Him in this life.  Consider the following:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with (1) gold, silver, precious stones, (2) wood, hay, straw, each one’s (personal) work will become clear; (how) for the Day will declare it, (how) because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s (personal) work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures (gold, silver, precious stones), he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned (wood, hay, straw), he will suffer loss (of reward); but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Charles Stanley also spoke of this in his book, Eternal Security.  He said, “Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not.  Some will reign with Christ; others will not (2 Timothy 2:12).  Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (Luke 12:21, 33).  Some will be given true riches; others will not.  Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not.  Some will rule and reign with Christ; others will not.  Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life.  It is true that there will be equality in terms of our inclusion in the kingdom of God, but not in our rank and privilege.”

Does this sound troubling to you?  Maybe confusing?  If so, keep listening to learn more.

The following is a study on the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage Ceremony of the Lamb.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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Day Fifteen:  Proverbs 15

Day Fifteen: Proverbs 15

These are just a few of the encouraging truths found in Proverbs 15.  I pray they will be a blessing to you today.


Truth One: God is Sovereign

In your times of trouble, remember these encouraging words:

Proverbs 15:3 – The eyes of the LORD are in every place (He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and so much more), keeping watch (beholding, guarding as from a high tower) on the evil and the good.

After all, He is sovereign. And nothing catches Him by surprise.  As someone once said, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?”  Rest in this truth today.


Truth Two: Actions Matter

How important is prayer and a life of striving to live righteously before Him?  It’s the key to becoming the beloved and delight of the Lord.  Consider the following:

Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice (offering) of the wicked is an abomination (disgusting, unclean, wicked, horrendously offensive) to the LORD, but (by contrast) the prayer of the upright (straight, just, pleasing, in a moral and ethical sense) is His delight (pleasure, will, deemed acceptable).

It gets more intriguing.

Proverbs 15:9 – The way (path, journey, manner of life) of the wicked is an abomination (disgusting, unclean, wicked, horrendously offensive) to the LORD, but (by contrast) He loves him who follows (to chase, run after, pursues) righteousness (blameless in conduct, integrity).

Note the distinction.  The difference between becoming His delight or being horrendously offensive to the Lord is the condition of your heart.  Wickedness brings pain and rejection.  Living upright, holy and righteous, as He is upright, holy, and righteous, bring His pleasure and delight.  And He loves the one who pursues, in both actions and attitude, His righteousness.  You see, actions do matter.

And just in case you’re not yet convinced your actions and attitudes have eternal consequences, look at who gets their prayers heard:

Proverbs 15:29 – The LORD is far (distant, remote, far away) from the wicked, but (by contrast) He hears (to listen, have regard for) the prayer of the righteous (just, those blameless in conduct both morally and ethically).

God hears the prayers of those who live like Him.  But for the wicked?  He’s moved on, out of town, not interested.  That’s scary.


Truth Three:  We Don’t Have All Day

Looks like it’s a choice we make to determine which team we want to play on:  the righteous or the wicked.  I don’t know about you, but my desire is to live righteously for Him and to become His delight.  Is that your desire also?  Are you chasing after Him in hot pursuit?  Then let’s get to it.  We don’t have all day.

Maybe this will give you something to shoot for this week.  After all, nothing else really matters, does it?

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Jude:  How Can Grace Become Sin?

Jude: How Can Grace Become Sin?


How Can Grace Become Sin?

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4

In this verse, Jude tells us four things about these “certain men who have crept in unnoticed” in the church: (1) their condemnation or judgment was determined long ago, (2) they are ungodly, (3) they turn the grace offered by our God into a license to sin, and (4) they deny the Lord Jesus Christ.1

This is the inevitable outcome of someone who only sees one side of God’s character— grace.  When we only believe the nature of God is grace alone, we tend to see Him as an all-forgiving Father who puts up with the sins of His children and is either too afraid, weak or insecure to confront their behavior.  He becomes nothing more than a Get Out of Jail Free card whose only purpose is to clean up our mess, pay for any damages, and continue to give us access to His unlimited American Express to fund our carefree lifestyle.

He becomes, in effect, a bad parent by showing only grace to the willing sins of His children and not demanding repentance, accountability, responsibility, and retribution.

But God is anything but a bad parent.

When Jesus confronted the woman caught in the act of adultery, He first offered her grace, then repentance.

John 8:10-11 – “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, (grace) “Neither do I condemn you; (repentance) go and sin no more.”

Grace is only one side of the character of Christ.  The other side has to do with the consequences of rejecting grace.


Wrath of the Lamb

There is a chilling verse in the Revelation that should strike fear in those who take the grace of God for granted and use it as an excuse to sin.  This verse shows a different side of Jesus.  There’s no more “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” as the children’s song goes.  Jesus, referred to as the Lamb of God, now comes with something we’d never expect from a lamb— wrath.

Revelation 6:15-16 – And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

Did you catch that?  Those under condemnation for the sin and rejection of the truth were trying to hide from the wrath of the Lamb, the wrath of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

Jesus, with His judgment, also brings wrath.

And He brings His wrath explicitly on those who take His marvelous, undeserved grace and turn it into lewdness.  The word for lewdness is asélgeia and means “debauchery, sexual excess, the absence of restraint, perversion, having an insatiable desire for pleasure.”2  It speaks of unrestrained vice, the very worst of sins.3

Jude was compelled to warn us to watch out for those who will embed themselves in the church, under the cloak of darkness, like a satanic sleeper cell, to turn the church away from the purity of holiness and run after lust, sexual sin, and deviance.  And the bait is a perversion of the grace of God.  It goes something like this:

“You can do anything you want because God loves you and must forgive you if you ask Him.  You can go and sin to your heart’s desire just as long as you remember to say your prayers when you go to bed and ask God to forgive you for what you did today.  As soon as you say ‘I’m sorry’ BAM!— your sins are forgiven and your slate wiped clean.  Then go and sin all you want tomorrow and say ‘I’m sorry’ and you’re forgiven.  You can do it again the next day. And the day after that.  As long as you say, ‘I’m sorry’ you can do anything you want. It’s all grace, grace, grace from a pushover God.”

This perversion of grace now becomes our motivation to sin— which is the very thing that nailed Jesus to the cross.


Repentance

Grace offers us the blessings of forgiveness.  And for forgiveness to take place, there must be repentance.  True repentance always, without exception, involves a change of behavior.  In other words, if there’s no definite change in action and attitude, there is no true repentance.  The grace we’ve been given to have our sins forgiven, when we repent, must include righteous living.  Otherwise, it’s just mere words.  Verbal garbage.  Smoke and mirrors.

But it gets worse.

Those who turn the grace of our Lord into an excuse to sin also “deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).  They mock His sacrifice, pain and suffering He endured to bestow grace to us.  Because of Christ, we have unearned, undeserved and unmerited favor with God who gave us His only Son to die in our place.  And then to twist this grace into an excuse to partake of the vilest of sexual sins is the reason Jude calls them “ungodly men” (Jude 1:4).  In fact, the term denotes a moral outrage against God and not just disbelief.4  We see more of them in vs. 15 where Jude uses the word “ungodly” four times to describe their shameless deeds and again in vs. 18 where he speaks of their “ungodly lusts.”5

Please understand, if Jude was warning the church in his day of this danger, he is also warning the church today.  There are these same ungodly men who have slipped in under the radar of your church and, by their actions and words, are attempting to amplify the lust in each of us to draw us away from the holiness of God and tempt us to do what we deem right in our own eyes (Jud. 17:6).

Be aware.  Guard your heart (Prov. 4:23).

And as “He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

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Notes

1. Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 437). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
2. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (p. 270). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
3. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (p. 161). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
4. Davids, P. H. (2006). The letters of 2 Peter and Jude (p. 44). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
5. Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 18, p. 187). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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Jude:  Mercy, Peace, Love, and Multiplied

Jude: Mercy, Peace, Love, and Multiplied


Mercy, Peace, Love and Multiplied

Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Jude 1:2

It looks like this verse presents us with a few more Greek words to define.  First, there’s the three-word salutation Jude employs: mercy, peace, and love.  In Paul’s general epistles, his opening salutation usually only involves grace and peace.1  In the pastoral epistles and 2 John, mercy is added to the mix.2  Now, in Jude, love replaces grace.  We then find the Holy Spirit choosing to amplify the blessings of mercy, peace, and love by using the word multiplied instead of given or added— which is breathtaking in its implications.  Let’s take a look at each of these.


Mercy

The word mercy (éleos) refers to “compassion, kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted; it’s a state of active pity, accompanied by a sense of piety and innate goodness.”3  It’s not getting what we deserve, which is pretty much the opposite of justice.

Some teach that mercy is just another word for grace.  But that’s not true.  There’s a gulf of difference between these two words.  Mercy is when God chooses not to punish us for what our sins rightly deserve (Rom. 6:23).  We are spared the chastisement we’ve earned.  And grace, on the other hand, is when God chooses to go a step further and bless us in spite of our sins.  One is the removal of just punishment, and the other is the pouring out of undeserved blessings.


Peace

Next, the Greek word for peace (eirḗnē) means “to be in a state of tranquility, harmony, and accord; it’s the opposite of war and dissension and arises from the reconciliation with God and a sense of divine favor.”4  Psalm 7:11 says “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”  But not with us.  We are at peace with God due to the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf.

But Jesus spoke about another peace.  Jesus promised us this peace when He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace (eirḗnē) I give to you” (John 14:27).  Note, it’s His peace.  It’s the very peace He experienced in the midst of His pain and suffering, that He now gives to us.

A few chapters later Jesus said the only peace that can overcome the tribulation of the world is found in Him (John 16:33).  And this is just a taste of our inheritance as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).


Love

Then we have agápē, the Greek word for love. Agápē is the love God has for each of us and is not based on performance or perfection.  It’s a type of love that doesn’t come naturally, but is imputed to us by the source of that love, which is God.  The word means “love, goodwill, and benevolence; it’s God’s willful direction toward man.”5  It’s the highest, most unselfish, and graciously giving form of love imaginable.  Especially when compared to érōs (erotic or sexual love) or philéō (brotherly love or friendship).

And just think, Jude begins his letter by praying this trifecta of blessings on each of us, his brethren: “mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you” (Jude 1:2).


Multiplied

Which brings us to the last, and the most encouraging, truth in this short verse.  It’s the word multiplied.  Not added.  Not combined.  But multiplied— in greater, ever-increasing proportions.  The word multiplied (plēthúnō) means to “make full, increase, to have much or too much, to abound exceedingly.”6  The implication is that mercy, peace, and love will come upon the believer in waves of ever increasing blessings.  They will be multiplied upon each other, like compound interest on steroids, and grow to exceedingly abound.  It’s a hint of what Jesus meant when He said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  The word for abundantly refers to “more than enough, over and above, surpassing, super-abounding, much more than all.”7

The Father doesn’t say: “Here’s one for you.  Oh, let me give you another one.  And another one, which makes three.”  Instead, He says, “Here is one for you.  Then two more.  And then four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four”— and on the numbers go!

Jude’s prayer for the children of God is that they would find His blessings multiplied to them, in ever-increasing, super-abounding portions, regardless of what turmoil they may be suffering.  And the blessings of God are found in His mercy, His peace, and His love— which are all revealed through His Son and lavishly imparted to us by the Spirit.


How Much Does the Father Love Us?

This is where it gets so exciting it’s hard to grasp, let alone believe.  But it’s truth, nonetheless.  Jesus, in His last prayer for His disciples, prayed for unity among all believers (John 17:21-22).  He then concluded His prayer by saying:

John 17:23 – “I in them, and You in Me (unity); that they may be made perfect in one (unity), and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

Did you catch the last part of His prayer?  Jesus wants the world to know that God the Father loves us, His children, as much as He loves His own Son.  Let that sink in for a moment.

How much does the Father love you?  As much as He loves His own Son?  What can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus?  According to Romans 8:38-39, pretty much nothing.  And when you come to grips with the reality of God’s love, in all its magnitude, intensity, and mercy, it gives you what nothing else can, peace.  It’s the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).  This amazing peace can belong to you.  All you have to do is ask.

Rest today in His mercy, peace, and love for you.

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1. See Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes, 1:2.
2. See 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; 2 John 1:3.
3. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (pp. 564-565). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
4. Ibid., 519-521.
5. Ibid., 66-67.
6. Ibid., 1175.
7. Ibid., 1151-1152.

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