Deadly Thoughts

In today’s reading Paul wrestles with his sin.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:14-15

Sin starts on the inside

When Jesus came he blew the lid off of religious pretense. The word became flesh (John 1:14), the word was truth and the truth could separate peoples’ thoughts and hearts from what is seen on the outside (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus knew what was happening on the inside and He called people on it. And the people were amazed! He did not raise the standard, He helped people understand that their religious leaders were blind to it. The Sermon on the Mount is not about virtuous living, it is about the truth and salvation. It is a true look at salvation. Jesus helps us understand how important the state of our thoughts and our hearts are when it comes to building the house of our life on a foundation of solid rock.

Thoughts, sin, death

Some call the book of James a commentary of the Sermon on the Mount. In James 1:14-15, we are taught the origin point of death. We are taught that death begins with thoughts, specifically lustful thoughts; desiring things of this world; wanting things for ourselves. When one lets their mind fix on getting things of this world, their heart follows after. The lust then graduates to sin as their life turns and shapes to take hold and position itself to claim what it desires (James 1:14). Sin, then fully mature, becomes death as it realizes itself (James 1:15). 

Battleground

Our thoughts are a spiritual battleground (Romans 12:2, 2Corinthians 10:3-5), on a realm of great importance (Proverbs 4:23). Thoughts mature into beliefs and beliefs shape our heart. The heart pursues itself with words(Luke 6:45) that then shape our lives (James 3:2-6). We must be aware of our thoughts and fight for the state of our hearts! Our hearts and our lives must belong to the LORD in truth. 

Foundation on the rock

As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, wise people will build the house of their life on the truth. The truth is our weapon against deadly thoughts (John 8:32, Ephesians 6:17). As we sharpen our swords consider with me the truth in Psalms 23:1:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

I have come to believe that this is not a verse about getting things. Instead, I believe this is a verse about giving our heart and thoughts to the LORD. Not a verse about us getting everything we want if we submit to the LORD as our Shepherd. Instead, a truth about not wanting anything because we trust in the LORD to provide us with everything. The rest of the chapter 23 goes on to help us understand what that state of perfect trust will look like in our lives.

So if sin and death have their beginnings in the desires of our heart and mind (James 1:14-15), and we know that trusting in the Shepherd will guard us from wanting improper things (Psalm 23:1), the question then becomes; what do you want? If someone asked you “if you could have anything, what would it be?”… What would it be? Would it be something to be realized in this world or in heaven? What are we trusting in, the promises of this world or God’s promises

God may we all trust in You with everything and not want anything this world promises. May our trust be wholly in Your promises. Amen.

Extra Credit.

  • Close your eyes and repeat Psalm 23:1 to yourself three times in a row:
    • The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    • First, I want to congratulate you on being able to read with your eyes closed. #Props
    • Now imagine how peaceful your life would be if you did not want. What would there be to stress about? 
  • I listened to this sermon from John MacArthur to prepare for this post. I highly recommend it: Sanctification and Sins of the Mind.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from August 17th, 2016’s reading: 1 Samuel 9; Romans 7; Jeremiah 46; Psalm 22

 

What’s up with Your Communication?

Looking for some answers on what perfect communication is? God has them. Let’s check them out. God would you help us understand how to communicate the way You intended when You created us?

I am reminded of the power of our words as I read Psalm 12:1-3 this morning. In James 3:5-6 we learn that the tongue is a small thing but how it can change the whole course of our lives. James helps us understand how our tongue can produce great evil (James 3:8-10). But there is more to controlling our tongues than simply not slandering or cursing others.

Jesus tells us we will give account for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36–37). He uses term idle to describe useless words. Words are powerful things, but words of these sort seem to be impotent and unprofitable. Indeed our words are powerful, King Solomon reminds us of this also in Proverbs 18:21.

The ability to speak is a gift from God, it makes us distinctly human and some point to Genesis 2:7 when God breathed the breath of life into man that with it came the ability to speak. If this is so, the question becomes how are we stewarding this gift from God? In Ephesians 4:29 we are given clear instruction on the objective of our words. We are told to avoid corrupt communication and that our words are to minister grace unto others.

As we allow the Word to test us and correct us let us consider for a moment on what to put off and what to put on.

Put off corrupt communication. First it says communication not simply talking but listening as well. With that said let us consider most dirty jokes and humor. If heard it will likely contain one of three elements. Two of them are things that humans make private but animals do not; sex and bathroom activities. The third is taking God’s Holy Name in vain. This genre of humor seems to fly in the face of God’s intended purpose for his gift of speech. Are we partaking, viewing, listening, joining in and laughing, exposing, or even sharing this type of ‘humor’? In the past I have found it difficult to avoid. It has seemingly poisoned most TV as heard in the infamous marketing  slogan “sex sells”. In the past, when I have avoided it, it was quite rewarding. Like all things trading in something that is empty and perverted for something that is full of truth fills us up and edifies.

Put on edifying communication. Again begin by considering what we are exposing ourselves to. God willing His Word is the primary stimuli in our lives and the lives of those we shepherd. God please help us. Then consider what we are communicating into this world. Our speech yes but also our non verbal communication; dress, accessories, demeanor, etc. Does it edify and build up? Is it productive and other focused? Is it from God? God willing, He is the primary thing we bring into this world.

God may You guard the gate of our mouths (Psalm 141:3). May You strengthen us with Your Spirit and bring to us the perfect remembrance of all things the LORD Jesus Christ has spoken (John 14:26) that we may edify the world and minister grace to it (Isaiah 55:11). May we love others with the love of Christ. May we walk in the everlasting ways (Psalm 1:1-3). Amen.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net form August 10th, 2016’s reading: Ruth 3–4; Acts 28; Jeremiah 38; Psalms 11–12

 

The Will of the LORD Be Done

 

In Acts 21 Paul ends up in Caesarea staying with Philip, the evangelist (Acts 21:8). While Paul was there a prophet from Judea came and prophesied that the Jews of Jerusalem would bind Paul and hand him over to the gentiles (Acts 21:11). Because of this Luke and those with Paul began to entreated him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12).

Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. – Acts 21:13

After they realized Paul would not listen to them, they submitted:

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. – Acts 21:14

Reflecting on today’s reading from Acts has me asking myself these challenging questions:

  1. Do I desire God’s will or my own? Is my will wrapped up in this world?
  2. Am choosing God’s kingdom over one a kingdom of my own in this world with the things I am thinking, saying and doing? Am I today? Will I tomorrow? Who can hold me accountable in this? Have I asked them to? Do I really want them to?
  3. Am I able to discern my LORDs will from my friends advice? How can I hear God’s voice? Am I listening for it? Do I desire to hear Him separate from my desires of this world?

What other questions might we consider in applying today’s reading the things we think, say and do?

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from August 3rd, 2016’s reading: Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30–31; Mark 16

 

Vipers, a Coin and 10 Virgins

 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. – Matthew 23:27–28

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In the preceding chapter Jesus had just finished silencing the Sadducees and Pharisees. At this point all Jesus’s opposers realized that challenging Him would mean public identification of their hypocrisy (see extra credit below). In the wake of their silence, Chapter 23 then is a clear warning to all, in their presence, not to follow them to hell (Matthew 23:15). Jesus warns us what to watch out for, how to identify them. Jesus tells us that they are all about profession; religious dress (Matthew 23:5), exalted places (Matthew 23:6), and phony titles (Matthew 23:9), but lacking true saving faith. Jesus then proceeds to indict them with eight specific accounts of their spiritual bankruptcy; the eight woes of the Pharisees.

In Mastering Self; to Lead Self and Others, Chief Hanna, holds that a Christian’s challenge in mastering self is to overcome our inherited corrupt nature expressed through the metaphors of the Pharisee, Philistine, and Pagan. He goes on to define: the Pharisee is preoccupied with pride and pretentious performance: hypocritical religionists with rules, rites, and rituals; Pagans are preoccupied with pleasure and all its passion and preference; Philistines are preoccupied with possessions and pursuits that do not edify. Discrimination, discernment and discretion or put another way; identification, understanding the truth, and freedom to chose life, are offered as the tools we need, and have in Christ, to overcome these destructive tendencies.

God would you help us to identify the deceiver’s lies, know your truth, and chose life? God would you empower us with Your Spirit so that we can live victoriously? We ask this in Jesus Name. Thank you God! You are good! Amen!

Extra Credit:

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The Coin. In the previous chapter several religious leaders challenged Jesus in the temple. It didn’t go so well for them. In fact, they were completely silenced (Matthew 22:46). Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s is possibly the most notable response in these series of challenges. The more we dig into history the more we can understand the implications of this public exchange. Just a few observations here to pique interest. When they tried to trap Him into opposing Caesar publicly, Jesus asks them a two part question about the coin: Whose is this image and superscription? (Matthew 22:20) They answered ‘Caesar’s’, identifying the image’s likeness but only the superscription’s author. They wouldn’t dare repeat the superscription, it was bad enough that they could even produce the coin, let alone that they brought it into the temple, for it read: “TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F AUGUSTUS,” which translates, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the god Augustus, himself now Augustus.” This is the guy the religious leaders were trying to align themselves with to condemn Jesus publicly. On the reverse side was the goddess of peace with the inscription “Pontif Maxim”, which translates to “high priest”; the person who gives access to god. Ironic. In the end the only begotten Son of God, King of kings, and Prince of peace was holding a little graven image with a king claiming to be the son of god and a goddess of peace claiming to be the high priest giving access to god. An entirely false thing in every way but one; it was seemingly a sound representation of the value of the Pharisee’s religious profession. Which brings us to the parable of the 10 Virgins.   

Five-Wise-and-Five-Foolish-Virgins

10 Virgins: 5 were wise, 5 were fools. In the upcoming chapter, Matthew 24 we have the story of the 10 Virgins. Given the context of the last two chapters consider how their lamps may represent Christian profession, symbols of their Christian faith. The five fools took their lamps, their Christian symbols but they had no oil. The oil makes the lamp work. It’s what’s on the inside. It’s what makes it all real. Having been surprised by Christ’s coming they scrambled to find oil but could not get any in time and so they were turned away. The virgins with not only lamps (Christian Profession) but with oil on the inside (real saving faith) were welcomed in. The takeaway: your faith better be real, on the inside. Not built to please men (John 12:42, Galatians 1:10). Know you are built to please God (Revelation 4:11) and live according to this truth. 

Interested to know if your faith is real? Read James and work through his book of faith tests. James helped the newly Jewish Christian people test their faith for authenticity. The Jewish people, in my estimation, were quite serious about their relationship with God. Which at the time, having just changed, presented quite the stir in their lives. James walks them through the most important question, “How do you know if you have saving faith in this new covenant?” Here’s a test of saving faith by way of wisdom. Interested to know if you are wise? John MacArthur leads us through James’s test: Earthy and Heavenly Wisdom

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 13th, 2016’s reading: Joshua 18–19; Psalms 149–150; Jeremiah 9; Matthew 23

 

How is your walk with the LORD?

 

I hear people asking each other, “How is your walk with the LORD?” I love when this is how we inquire of each other’s well being! Our pastor Mike Baker at Eastview likens our journey to a marathon as does another Pastor you probably know (1Corinthians 9:24). The key thing here in my estimation is the ‘with’ part. We do not try walk and run to win on our own. As we go we have a Companion, a Comforter, a Helper, who strengthens us (Ephesians 3:16). Today’s reading in Mark 9 had me thinking a lot about walking with Christ.In yesterday’s reading Mr. LaFrance asked several great questions. One that stood out to me, “Do I act in a way that I would in the presence of the Lord?” This led me to think on several other questions. What would walking with the LORD be like? How would I respond (Mark 9:5)? Would I know what to do (Mark 9:6)?  Would I walk with the LORD or would do my own thing and turn away? God says he is with us (John 14:16, John 14:26) so this is all still relevant today, but what does this all mean to me today? Immediately I began to recall several things.  

Grieving the Spirit. I once heard of a phrase called “grieving the Spirit.” Basically, my understanding is that it is when our thoughts, words and deeds choose and amplify self, we can push the Helper away and we enter into a state of helplessness.

The Fruit of the Spirit. We had a guest preacher at Eastview who helped me understand the proper response to the realization that I had grieved the Spirit. When I had realized that my thoughts, word or deeds had not been in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, or temperance, what should I do? I took away a powerful truth from his sermon, I AM the Vine:

“It is the fruit of the Spirit, It is not the fruit of anything you.”

The idea here is simple. If you realize that your thoughts were not longsuffering it is not a matter of getting better at longsuffering. “Mike you need to get better and be more longsuffering” is not the proper response. Instead, in truth, it is a matter of abiding in Christ. Getting closer to Him. He produces the longsuffering. It is the fruit of the Spirit, not of me. Praise God for helping us with this burden (Matthew 11:30)! I can not imagine if it were up to me to get better at all these things.

Running to the cross. I once heard a sermon about what the deceiver wants when we realize our sin. The preacher said the deceiver wants us to feel shame that keeps us separate from God. Like in the garden of Eden he wants us to hide and distance ourselves from God. Actually, the answer and the truth is the opposite. Run to the cross! Run to God! Do everything and anything to get closer to God! Praise God that He bore our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-5)! Praise God that He invites us to Him. Praise God that He loves us even though we are sinners (Romans 5:8)! Praise God His love is unconditional!

Abiding in Christ. I was in a small group setting once where a friend had a whiteboard and in the middle he wrote the word “God” and drew a circle around it. Then he started asking the group “How can we get closer to God?” The group responded one after another as we started to brainstorm. One person replied, “Reading the Bible.” “Good!” he replied and wrote down, ‘Reading the Bible’ circled it and drew a line to God. Another, responded “Listening to Christian radio”, another “Praying”, each time he wrote down the response circled them and drew a line to God. One after another the group responded and eventually there was a web of thoughts, words, and deeds that helped us abide in Christ:

  • Reading the Bible
  • Listening to Christian radio
  • Listening to the Bible
  • Listening to a sermon
  • Praying with others
  • Praying for others
  • Thinking positive thoughts
  • Encouraging people
  • Being thankful
  • Going last
  • Loving people

Extra Credit

  1. Bring a blank piece of paper to the dinner table and write out God in the middle and circle it.
  2. Ask your family, “How can we get closer to God?” If it helps ask specific questions like “What can we (think/say/do) to get closer to God?” 
  3. Write down everyone’s responses, circling them and drawing a line back to God.
  4. Put it on your fridge.

Extra, Extra Credit

  1. Snap a picture of the drawing, post it on facebook and tag BibleJournal
  2. Consider also the principle of replacement. What are daily habits we have that we can replace to get closer to God? i.e. replacing watching TV with reading the Bible or replacing talk radio with listening to a sermon, etc. Pull it off the fridge and consider this with your family. Check in a few weeks back and ask each other how it is going.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 27th, 2016’s reading: Judges 10–11:11; Acts 14; Jeremiah 23; Mark 9

 

Victory Plan

 

As I read Matthew 16: 21-28 I can not help but echo @BakerPastor’s sermon from this past Sunday. Victory is Christ changes everything! The sermon series; Victory, the sermon; Victory Plan. The key takeaway for me was a key question: Do I still love this world? It came by way of Pastor Baker referencing John 16:33. With this perspective of truth in mind he paraphrased a prayer that many may have prayed, “God let us stay in this place that hurts longer.” He prefaced it with a challenging rhetorical question, “Isn’t it weird to you? how much we want to stay in this world?”  

The key question above used the word still in it because in Christ’s victory, everything should be different. Before Christ I certainly loved this world. All my hope was of this world. I pursued its worthless promises and hurt more and more every time I realized them empty. Now though, through victory in Christ, my hope is restored and strengthened in truth, backed by the power of God’s word in His promises. Why then do I still struggle with trusting in this world (Romans 7:15)? God make us complete (James 1:4). God give us discernment to know truth from lies (Philippians 1:9-10). Empower us with Your Spirit LORD and light our paths (Psalm 199:105). Protect us from the evil one (Ephesians 6:12).

In Matthew chapter 16 just after Jesus established His identity with His disciples, He began to talk plainly with them about the victory plan. How He would suffer, be killed and raised in three days (Matthew 16:21). This was quite contrary to the the victory plan Peter (and presumably most of Jesus’s followers) had in mind. Their’s was one of the world. A great warrior king to overthrow the Roman empire, etc. Peter quickly begins to rebuke Christ upon hearing His non worldly victory plan. Christ then tells Satan in Peter to take his proper place, behind Him, as He gives clear instruction on how to live with an enlightened perspective in victory. He makes clear that the victory plan is above the world (Isaiah 55:8):

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. – Matthew 16:24–27

I often hear this scripture misused, in my estimation, due to a lack of context. I hear of a call to take up one’s cross, as if it were some sort of burden to bare. Instead consider it a release from the burden and bondage of this world and its downward spiral of empty promises (Galatians 5:1). Keep in mind that someone carrying a cross in this time was literally a dead man walking. Would they not be looking to things past this world? Christ tells us to live this way today. Run the race this way today. Where is your mind stayed today? What do you have your eye on? What are you hoping to accomplish today? … Do you love this world? 

God would you give us a single eye for Jesus’s Kingdom? Would You send Your Spirit to empower us to run this race to win and finish strong? God we ask this in Jesus Name. Thank you LORD. Praise Your Name! Amen.

 

Extra Credit.

If you missed it, consider reading this post: This way to happiness, trust me – Satan

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 6th, 2016’s reading: Joshua 8; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16

 

The Gospel is absolutely unique and complete

 

JK’s sermon this Sunday, Victory Realized, made clear the prophecy of the Great White Throne from Revelation 20:11-15; you are in or you are out. The decision is final and perfect. In Mark 2:21-22, Jesus helps the Pharisees along to with this idea. They were struggling. Their religion, passed down from generation to generation, was quite comfortable to them (Luke 5:39). They had it figured out. They lived according to the law of Moses, or at least they thought they did. They certainly had each other thinking they were good to go (Matthew 6:5, Matthew 23:5).  Judaism did not recognize Jesus as the Christ. They were constantly trying to fit what Jesus did in to their ideas of their salvation plan: saved through works. A heart wrenching denial for me to read about (Matthew 23:37). God’s children, His chosen people, chose themselves and their adherence to the law to save themselves (John 12:43). God would you rescue them? Please God?

Jesus was constantly fulfilling their law. The fruit of the Spirit filled it all up (Galatians 5:22-23); check, check, check; and this confused them. They confused the fulfillment of the law with breaking the law (Matthew 5:17). It was as if they never really knew God (John 8:9). It became more and more obvious to those that followed Jesus that the Pharisees did not know the law after all (Matthew 23:24).

In the scripture for today, Jesus had just called Matthew Levi, a despised tax collector that the Pharisees would not associate with, to follow Him as a proclaimer of the Gospel. As if they could not stand this outrage, the followers of the Pharisees challenged Jesus with a question in an attempt to illuminate how He and His followers were out of step with the law. “How come your followers do not fast?” Jesus used one of their manufactured documents to help them understand. The Rabbi’s produced a document called the Megillat Taanit, translated as the scroll of fasting. While Yom Kippur, or day of atonement, was the only prescribed day to fast per the law, and certainly voluntary fasts to accompany life’s circumstances seemed true to the spirit of a true fast, they had manufactured other prescribed fasts. Some even subscribed to a twice a week fast on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, etc. When they fasted they fasted to please men (Matthew 6:16), they fasted publicly and because of this, this scroll of fasting set out rules that would be sure not to let fasting interrupt with other important celebrations, like a marriage feast. Apparently a public fast meant showing up to a celebration looking disheveled. Perhaps they thought drawing attention to oneself at a celebration centered on someone or something else would be in bad taste.

And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. – Mark 2:19–22

John MacArthur explains it this way in his sermon The Matchless Distinctiveness of the Gospel:

So our Lord is simply saying, in effect, the Messiah’s here, this is not a time to fast. It is completely inappropriate for Jesus’ disciples to fast and moan while He, the long-awaited Messiah is present. He has come. He has arrived this day as He said in the synagogue in Nazareth, the Scripture is fulfilled in your ears, He is present. The fasting of the Pharisees, the fasting of the followers of John the Baptist, that’s what’s out of place, completely out of touch with God’s purpose and what God is doing, completely out of touch with the reality that the Messiah was there.

Jesus makes clear that He was the Christ, He brought with Him a new covenant, and it stood on its own. It could not fit into their ideas of salvation through works. It would break them. It would not work. They were incompatible. So then the decision is yours, do you believe or don’t you? Will you abandon your salvation plan for Christ’s or won’t you (Acts 13:39)? Like the pearl of great price, Jesus’s invitation requires you to sell everything to buy it. All your beliefs of how you might be saved, how you ought to live, what is right and wrong, who you are and who God is, what is the truth and what are lies. You have to give it all up, have faith and trust in God. Are you in or are you out?

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 20th, 2016’s reading: Judges 3; Acts 7; Jeremiah 16; Mark 2