Archive for the ‘The teachings of Jesus’ Category

“Perfect love casts out fear”

May 27, 2017

We have heard this often when “fear” is mentioned or talked about. At first, this seems to be a “cure-all for fear”. Any time we fear anything, perfect love takes it all away, right? It also has been said that “perfect love is God’s love”. While this is a true statement, it leaves us questioning just what God’s love is, or more important, what is “perfect love?”. To understand what it is that casts out fear we must understand what exactly is perfect love. For when we see (understand) this, we are then on the road to overcoming fear. As always, we need to go no further than God’s word to understand it. He has given us His Spirit, and thereby together with His word, we understand.

The apostle John, who beneath Jesus, understood “love” like no other. And where better need we go then to his love letter to “little children” (the church, brother’s and sisters in Christ).

Our main text is found in 1st John 4:18.

“There is no fear in love: but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has torment.  He who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

First, we need to get some word definitions in their original Greek language for “fear”, “love”, “perfect”, “casts”, and “torment”. Word study is key into getting understanding of a particular verse or passage.

Our first word is “fear”. Just what kind of fear was John talking about here? The word is “phobos” .  This is where we get the word “phobia” from, which is commonly known as an anxiety disorder. “Phobos” comes from the word “phebomal”, which means “to be put in fear”; alarm or fright – be afraid + exceedingly, fear, terror” . Here we see that this kind of fear is at the top of the chart, so to speak. It’s dreadful, frightening, and haunting. Can you see how this type of fear could work havoc in our lives? Talk about not having “peace”. Talk about something that would keep you bound up and keep you stifled. This would be it to the max. Yet how many live their lives this way? Also, for those of us that think it never comes knocking on our door, consider this. All worrying can be traced back to “fear”. And if we are honest, we all worry from time to time. It might be ever so small, yet it’s  still worry.

Our second word is the most often word used, liked, and talked about more than any other word. Ah yes…..”Love”. But just what kind of love is the apostle John referring to here? This is extremely important for us in this world of everything falling under “love”. Love everybody, love everything, be it right or wrong, just love, love, love, right? Well, this kind of love is way different. The word is “agape”, which means, “i.e affection, or benevolence (disposition to do good, an act of kindness, a generous gift)”. John further spells this out in his discourse on love by teaching us that God’s agape love is a sacrificial love that was exemplified by the giving of His Son for the sacrifice for our sins. Thus John went on to say that because of this kind of love for us, “we ought to love one another”. (see 1Jn.4:7-11)

Our third word is “perfect”. This word can take on a lot of definitions. However, it is important to be reminded that we are talking here about “perfect love”. The word, “perfect” is key here, because it is the type of love that is necessary to “cast out fear”. Not just love, but perfect love. This word “perfect”, in the Greek is “teleios“. It means “complete, completeness”. A further study into the word comes up with “i.e. (literally) accomplish, or (figuratively), consummate”. Also, “the conclusion”. Here we can safely say that “perfect agape love” is a love that is complete, i.e. final, and conclusive. Sounds like there is no greater love than this, bar none, right?

Our next word is “casts” (or casteth, in the KJV ). In our text, it says that “perfect love casts out fear”. This is key because this is what perfect love does. It “casts out”. This word is “ballo”.  It means “to throw”. It has to do with “violent, or intense”. Also, “strike, or “thrust”. This word is not used as a little soft way of dealing with fear. It is intense. It leaves no room for “timidity”. There must be some power involved here. Something beyond our fleshly, easy way of dealing with things.

Our fifth and final word is “torment”. This word is huge because it is what “fear has”. You might say this is what fear produces, or this is its outcome, or fruit. In the Greek, the word is “kolasis”. Its meaning might surprise you. It has to do with “infliction”. And that of “penal infliction”. Penal? Yes. And it involves “punishment, penalties, or punitive institutions”. Most of us have heard the word for a prison as a “penal institution”. Considering this, it is safe to say that “fear” locks you up as if you are in a “penal institution”. Inside here there is punishment and infliction to be had and penalties to be paid for. This is not a place you would want to live your life in for sure. Yet how many do, day in, and day out?

Ok. Now that we get some better understanding of these five important words, let us now break down each verse that contains the word, “perfect”, or “perfected” love. It appears five times in 1st John. That’s actually quite a bit. This will unlock “perfect love”, and “love perfected”. This will lead us into application, i.e. how we are to live out this kind of love to overcome or prevent fear from coming into our lives.

Let’s first back up in the book of first John, and go to the 2nd chapter, verse 5. In this verse he is teaching just how it is that the “love of God is perfected in us”. And remember that this kind of love throws out (casts out) fear.

“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know we are in Him.”                                                                                                                        

In context, the apostle John is referring to the keeping of the words of Christ. If we back up to the starting of this chapter, in verse 1, he is telling us that Jesus is our mediator. In verse 2, he states that Jesus is the “propitiation for our sins” and the whole world. Verse 3 is key into understanding that he is talking about the commandments of Christ because he says “by this (that Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins) we know Him. Verse 4 also states this as well. We will see more as we go that the commands of Christ are what we New Testament believers need to heed and follow.

So by keeping His commandments, His words, His doctrine, His teachings, the love of God is perfected in us. This brings up something that most Christians seemly have a hard time with. And what is that? “Obedience”. Somehow God’s grace takes away, or covers for our obedience? Well, if that’s the case, we mise well go upstairs and open the bedroom window and chuck the word of God out. Because His word is full of obedience that must be done by us if we are to be followers of Christ. A simple reading of the word will bring this to light. In fact, John later writes in 2nd John, verse 9, that if we do not abide (dwell) in Christ’s teachings, then we do not have God. Wow! That’s pretty heavy.

The words of Jesus speak for themselves……

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.” (Jn.14:21)

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word: and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.                                                                       “He who does not love Me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” (vs.23-24)

Here we see just how Jesus wants to be loved, and how God will love us, and how they will reveal themselves to us. This is often never taught or looked at. But it’s huge. This is Jesus commanding us here.

Now since we are looking here into just what is “perfect love”, and our text (1Jn.2:5) states that it has to do with keeping the words of Christ, it is necessary to hone in on a particular commandment in regards to this perfect love.

The apostle John makes this very clear when he speaks of God’s love being “perfected (completed) in us”“No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” (1Jn.4:12). This verse is pretty self-explanatory. The key? “Love one another”. And this is the commandment that Christ taught from the beginning. “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, (1Jn.3:11). John here is referring to Jesus when he gave this commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another”. (Jn.13:34). He also, when teaching on “Love” and “Joy” being perfected, said this, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. ( Jn.15:12). He goes on to say that there is no greater love than one giving their life for another. Loving one another through sacrificial love is “perfect love”, it is “agape love”.

Just how important is this commandment according to Jesus? Well, he addressed this question to one of the “Pharisees” as he asked, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”. Jesus replied with, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the great commandment”. (Mt.22:36-38). Then Jesus goes on to say, “And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (vs.39). It is important to note the word here “like”. It means “similar”, and it comes from the Greek word “homos” which means “the same”. We can safely say that these two are to be combined, i.e. Love God, Love you neighbor. “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, he cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1Jn.4:20).

Jesus finishes answering the Pharisees question of “which is the great commandment in the law?” with “On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets.” The word “hang” here is very important. It means “suspend, summed up”. So if we want to talk and debate over commandments, we best get these two down. We could literally spend the rest of our days “obeying” this commandment. I say “this” because they are combined.

Ok. Let’s move on in this quest for “perfect love”. We have looked at two (1Jn.2:5, 4:12) of the five verses that deal with “perfect love” or “love made complete”. Our next verse is 1Jn.4:17. “Herein is love made perfect in us,”. I purposely stopped here at the first part of this verse. Why? Because, to get a proper understanding of what John is saying here we must look at context and back up to see what “Herein” is. In the five verses leading up to this verse, we see the word “dwelleth” (dwell). It has the same meaning as “abideth” (abide), which means “to stay”. Ok. So where does abide fit into perfect love?

Let’s read it. In verse 12, John says that If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. Then he says, “by this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us,”. By this? By what? By loving one another. It’s the out working of loving one another that His love is perfected in us. And through this we abide, or stay. He goes on to say that “because He (God) has given us His Spirit”Remembering that “it’s the Spirit that bears witness” (1Jn.5:6) to us to confirm everything that God has given. In the verse leading up to 1Jn.4:17, we see some more regarding “abiding” that leads to us understanding “perfect love”. John says that we have known and believed the love that God has for us, God is love,”. And what love is he referring to here? “that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.” (1Jn. 4:10). Do you see the tie here? Loving because of what God did for us? “Herein is love!”The apostle John then finishes verse 16 with, “he who dwells (stays in) in love dwells in God, and God in him”. Bing! I think it’s safe to say that “perfect love” is loving because He first loved us, and thus, we love our neighbor as ourselves.

Now, we certainly can’t leave off here without finishing the last part of this verse 17. “that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as He is, so we are in the world”Here in the middle of the Apostle John’s discourse on love, he drops the word “boldness”. We must ask why? How is boldness tied into “love?”.

First, let’s look into this word. It is “parrhesia”, which by implication means “assurance”. It is also the same word as “confidence”. So we can say that by “abiding/dwelling” in Christ, i.e. abiding in his commandments, which namely is loving God through loving others, we will have assurance/confidence at His return. Yet, most importantly for the now, we can have this as we live out through love. And to add to this “boldness”, it also means, and has to do with, “speak”. Another definition is “all out-spokenness”. So when we our walking in His perfect love, i.e. living it out, we have out right boldness to “speak the truth in love”. Who by the way, was the perfect example of this bold love? You got it! The Christ! “because as He is, so are we in this world”.

Now, just after this look into “boldness”, guess what comes next? What would be one good word that would be the total opposite of boldness? Any suggestions? Our next and main verse has this word in it……

“FEAR”

Remember our main text for this study?

“There is no fear in love: but perfect love casts out all fear, because fear has torment. He who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

The apostle John starts off with a blanket statement here. He says that “there is no fear in love”. Remember that we are not just talking about any kind of love here. And what we mentioned at the beginning of this study, it’s not “worldly love”, or “fleshly love”. This is “agape love”. Through the studying of this kind of love, the teacher, i.e. the Holy Spirit, gave us this definition, “affectionate benevolence through sacrificial giving”. When this is in you, and you are living it out, fear will not be present. It cannot abide in the house where this perfect love takes up residence. So there is absolutely no need to even think on fear. It doesn’t even exist in this agape love. Period!

This agape love not only has “no fear” in it, but it “casts” it out. We must ask why did John put this here? If there is no fear in love, then why would it need to be cast out? Well, are you ready for this? Can your ultra spirituality take this on?

Fear does not abide in us if perfect love abides, right? However, we are all in this flesh. And we all get tempted with “fear”. It is just like the unlimited temptations that come upon us all the time. If you don’t think this is so, then take inventory of the last time you worried about something or someone. It’s a fact that worry can be traced back to fear. So this is why John brought up this “casting out”. If it wasn’t needful then he wouldn’t have brought it up. It absolutely needs to be addressed.

In simplicity, we can say that if we are abiding in Christ, and His words are abiding in us, and we are living them out through perfect love, then all temptations of fear will be casted out. “Perfect love casts out fear”. There is no fear in perfect love.

This verse 18 ends with, “But he who fears has not been made perfect in love”. Here we see that it is possible and needful to be made perfect in love. Another way to say this would be that it is possible and needful to be “completed” in love. Even though this agape love is to be a process for us to be lived out, it is, and has, already been completed in us through Christ in us. We have within us everything that is needed for life and godliness (2nd Peter 1:3). It is just up to us to use, so to speak, everything that we have been given, i.e. His perfect (completed) love within us. But we must walk it out, i.e. apply it to our everyday living through “loving one another”.

We end our study with verse 19 of 1st John. It is obvious that we are creatures that need to be reminded continually. In reality, isn’t the Holy scriptures a book written for our remembrance? And this being so, the apostle John states, “We love because He first loved us”. This is our continual reminder. This is why we love in the first place. This puts it all back into perspective. Do you remember what John said was love? “In this is love, …. He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”(4:10). And, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” (Jn.3:16). And if this was so…… Then…..

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another”(1Jn.4:11).

We could go on in this study. There is much more to be found in the word of God regarding this “perfect love”. Actually, there is a whole lot more regarding “obedience” that ties right into this love. Jesus himself taught just how important obedience to His teaching was. A good study on this would be found in the gospel of John, chapters 14-15.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this study. We spent five weeks, hours upon hours, hammer and chisel in hand with the Word and Spirit. I hope and pray that you were blessed into understanding more of just what is “perfect love” and how it does “cast out fear”. Hopefully the next time that you are tempted to fear, you will apply perfect love into the situation and thus there will be no room for fear. Remember…… fear cannot abide in perfect love! God bless you!

 

 

 

A simpler life. It’s a “must” in God’s Kingdom

April 11, 2010

The simpler our lives are, the more we can be available and used in His Kingdom for maximum potential.

By experiance, I have learned a few things in my walk with God as far as the need to simplify goes. One of the best things that I have experienced and learned, is simplicity of  life lends to spirituality. By this, I mean that the more one can simplify his or her life, the more freer one can become to move with the Spirit. Not only is our physical body better off, but most importantly, our minds are freed up. In teaching on “walking in the Spirit”, one of the most important things to learn is, freeing up the mind. Emptying the mind of all cares and concerns. I am not talking about some “new age” teaching here, but through God’s Holy Spirit. Big difference. I have never had to use “yoga” or the like, to get into the Spirit and calm the mind and body. The Holy Spirit is more than capable. It does take some effort and it is certainly a process, but doable.

Now, I am certainly aware of  personal circumstances and personal responsibilities that enter into the picture. It was not all that long ago that I had a large family, a large home and a business. I know what it is to work 100 hour weeks with three to fours hours sleep.

I also know the process of “selling out” for Him. The process of “forsaken all” for Him and His kingdom. What I have learned, I want to share. I want to help and encourage other disciples to also get in the “process”, if not currently there.

We must take a hard look at our lives. We must take inventory of our time, our resources, our money etc. If we have a family, we must be leading by example. Showing them how to live a life less complicated, less stressful and with less material possessions. Yes, I said “less material possessions”.

We must face the fact, that the more we posses, the more it can and usually does, posses us. The more responsibilities we take on, the more our minds, the more our bodies become involved. Our lives become complex  many times by the choices and the purchases that we make.

Do we ever STOP and ask ourselves before making a choice to take on more responsibility or before making a purchase, and ask ourselves, “how is this going to affect me for God’s Kingdom”. By that, I mean, affecting me physically and mentally. Oh, you might say that by making this decision, I will be more affective for God’s Kingdom. If it involves more stress, more care and concern, more worries, I would say, forget it. If it is going to clutter your mind up more, I think not. If it is going to take more time out of your personal time alone with God, I think not. If it is going to take you away from your family more, you best be sure that it’s the Spirit leading, and not your own desires.

One of the biggest problem areas is fiances. We always think that by making the choice to make more money that it will solve the problem. Not usually the case. At what expense will it cost me if I do? In my relationship with God? With my family? It usually requires a high price tag. I speak from experiance.

Now most of us are not out to “gain the whole world”, and thus, “lose our soul”. We are well acquainted with that one. However, it is not the question of out to gain the world, but to try and solve our problems with money. Yes, it does take money to live. But at what standard are we trying to live at? This is the question.

What do we base our contentment on? Our satisfaction on? Are we even contented with spending time alone with God? Quietly? Are we satisfied with an evening without the computer, TV, stereo or phone? What about gathering the kids together to pray as a family? Often? What kind of example would this be setting? Or reading the Bible together?

Another monumental problem that we face today is DEBT. I also am well acquainted with this one. Let’s suffice it to say, tens of thousands of dollars.  And I’m not talking about including a home mortgage in that either.

I found out through the simple teachings of Jesus. About “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness”, that in his timing and way, He could supply all that is needed to get out of debt. I found it so. He can do things beyond our wildest imagination. He can give us favor with debt collectors. He can cause debt to go away. He can cause debt to be settled for pennies on the dollar. He can increase your pay at work without increasing your time at work. He can drop money into your lap. There is millions of ways that He can do it.

We limit God.

We think that the only way to solve our problem of finances, is get out and work more. Get another job. Put the wife to work. Forget about the kids, we need money. Where is the trusting God? Has it gone by the wayside? Was it only for the 1800’s or early 1900’s? Was it only in all those old books we read?

The bottom line is, we have promises given to us from God. Now, are we going to believe them, or not? Are we going to live them out or not?

Pray and trust God to help you simplify your life. Then trust Him to provide as you seek Him and His Kingdom (the extension of His Kingdom). It works!  Amen.

Knowing and doing the will of God (Part#1)

March 17, 2010

We are in one of these three categories today.

1. I don’t know God’s will for me.

2. I know God’s will for me, but I am not doing it.

3. I know God’s will for me, and I am doing it.

Which category are you in?

Seemly, many believe that we can’t know for sure what is God’s divine purpose for us on this earth. What was I created for, to do on this earth? Just eat, sleep and work? How about, eat, sleep, work and go to church? How about, eat, sleep, work, play, go to church and raise a family? That has to be right, doesn’t it? What else could be God’s will for me?

Is it because many are not taught that we can not know for sure? Or is it that many are taught something else, such as………………

Are we taught that we get “saved” and then find a church to become a part in. Then God’s will is that we invest a part of ourselves in that church. Our time, our money? Then, we are free to do what we want to on this earth as long as we go to church and tithe? As long as we are there every time the doors are open?

Is there a form of satisfaction in knowing that we belong to a church and that some of our money goes there and by doing that we are free of any other obligation to God? Is this all that God requires of us? Does this relieve us of any responsibility to God for His plan and purpose for our lives. Could it be that He is more concerned about you fulfilling what you were created for, than just following the masses in religious routine?

By studying the life of Christ, is “religious routine” what He is asking of us? Can we find it in there? Is it what He taught?

It must all come back to Christ and His life, and what He taught. We must follow Christ, not what seems to be the norm of Christianity out there today.

Christ is our example. He came to “do” the Father’s will. He did not spend all of his time in seclusion, behind four walls. He went out and “did” the Father’s will. Just as Christ knew the Father’s will, we can also. The God who created us for His purpose while on this earth, is certainly able to reveal to us personally, as to what His will is for us.

Review again the categories that each one of us will fall into today.

I know one thing for sure, time is short to find out what His will is for us, and to do it. “Night is coming” when we will no longer be able to work the will of God on this earth.

What are two main things that prevent us from knowing God’s will?

Continued in part #2

“Hear Him!”

December 21, 2009

Where do you spend most of your time in reading, studying and listening?

If our time is not found in Christ and getting back to reading and studying what He taught, then we are in trouble. It doesn’t make any difference how long we have been saved, we should still be looking at His commands and teachings and following them foremost above all. Studying His life to gain understanding about how to live.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;”

(Heb.1:1-2)

Many today are following man. Man has lots of good things to say and teach, but he is not Christ.

Do you spend more time in reading books that are written by some men than you do in the Gospels? Do you spend more time in listening to some man’s sermons than letting the Spirit minister to you through the very words of Christ? Christ said himself, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (Jn.6:63)

Sure there are lot’s of popular Christian book authors out there, and we can gain some wisdom and understanding  by reading an occasional book now and then, but we must not “camp” there. We should take inventory of our time and devotion.

Do you spend more time reading the writings of Mark Driscoll, John Piper or Paul Washer? What about John MacArthur? These men are certainly good teachers, but not The Christ. Yes, called of God and used by God, but not The Christ. Mere Men.

Jesus was more than a man like us. He spoke the very words of God. (Jn.14:10, 24). If this be the case, shouldn’t we be found there? If His words are “spirit and life”, shouldn’t we be partaking in this “spirit and life”?

More importantly, if God said we should “hear him” don’t you think we should?

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, Hear Him!” (Matt.17:5).

Not only are many putting man’s writings and teachings before Christ, but it would appear that they are building “tabernacles” for them just as Peter wanted to do for Elijah and Moses. Christ turned to them and said, “Hear Him!” Basically, don’t worship Elijah and Moses, hear my Son and worship Him.

Even Moses said 1451 years before Christ, “Him you shall hear.” (Deut.18″15)

Also what did God say to Moses? “I will raise up from  them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” (vs.18)

So, the very words of Christ are what God has spoken to us in these last days. There is no need to take up with anything else. By the words of Christ and God’s Spirit, we have all we need. The problem is that many have become too sophisticated.

I will end with a quote by Don Everts (I think he hits it on the head).

“It’s hard to remain focused on Jesus because we have become too sophisticated. The Gospels are so simple and straightforward that we sort of graduate on to Paul (or I might add, Paul Washer, Driscoll or Piper) where the meaty theology lies.”

So it is.

Remember Jesus!

December 12, 2009

“The call to focus on Jesus is a call to life” (a quote from the book “God in the flesh” by Don Everts, InterVarsity Press).

For the past few month’s God is calling me to a deeper, more clearer and more simplified relationship with His Son, Jesus. I am also falling in love with Him like never before.

I am not one that goes around recommending all kinds of books out there to read. I believe that the Bible should be our main book to read and study. If we are not careful, we can spend all our time reading everything but His word and thus be deceived by man and His teachings. So we need to be very careful. I have only read a few books over the years outside of the Bible.

I felt a stirring in my spirit a few weeks ago when I began to search, read and study the life of Jesus in the four Gospels. I sensed that He was going to also lead me to some other books on the subject. Last week during a lunch break, I went over to the book section, and found a book titled, “The greatest words ever spoken” by Steven K. Scott. It is an awesome book that deals only with the words of Jesus. I spent my lunch hour checking it out.

Today, I went by a local book store where I minister out front from time to time. I tried to find this book, but they were all out. However, I found this book, “God in the flesh” and sat down with it for a while. What a fantastic book. If your interested in more about Jesus’ life, I highly recommend it.

Here are just a few quotes from it:

“It’s hard to remain focused on Jesus because we have become too sophisticated. The Gospels are so simple and straightforward that we sort of graduate on to Paul. Where the meaty theology lies.”

“It’s difficult to remain focused on Jesus because we too often give in to a culture that gags on Jesus. Over time we let his name slip from our vernacular. Jesus has always been a stumbling block.” (I might add, so get over it)

“So we become all about Jesus and the end times.” (or I might add, Jesus and the sabbath). “And our curriculum shifts, ever so slightly, away from the person of Jesus. Or maybe it’s Jesus and gifts of the Spirit, or Jesus and the church growth theory, or Jesus and worship styles. It doesn’t matter what specifically we are tempted to focus on, it’s the trying to focus on two things at once that enters us into dangerous ground.”

The Apostle Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth. “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor.2:2) “Paul knew that next to knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified, all else paled in comparison.” “Paul was a simpleton, when it comes right down to it. He wanted to know Jesus. And to know Jesus crucified. In the end nothing else mattered to him.”

Yea Jesus! He’s the best who ever lived! Let’s all get to know him more! We won’t be disappointed!

The process of “giving up”

October 6, 2009

True followers (disciples) of Christ will “take up their cross” and follow Him.

I have noticed and learned in my time here on earth walking with the Lord, that He has and will lead us in a personal “giving up” process. This process, like many processes that He leads us in, will be a life long process.

This giving up process is certainly not for everyone. Many will embark upon this road and will soon find themselves looking back at what they gave up. They will turn back and try and regain what they have lost, only to find out that they will never be able to reclaim all of what they gave up. Their struggle to regain will become one of the fiercest battles they will face. Why is that? Because they fighting against the Lord and his will for their lives.

A very familiar story in the Bible is the one about the “Rich young ruler”
(Mk.10:17-27). This is of course about one who had “great possessions”. However, the story is much deeper than that if one continues on reading to the end of that chapter. If we continue on we will see the true meaning of what Christ was trying to teach here.

In verse 28, after Christ told about the rich young ruler, Peter (one of his disciples) says, “But Lord, we have left all and followed you.” In other words, we are not like this rich guy, but we have given up all for you. Then Christ hits at the real example of “giving up” all to follow him and the gospel.

Verse 29 lists the examples of giving up.
Christ talks about those who have given up “houses”. WHAT! Give up my house?
Then He goes on and lists “family”, such as “brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers.” WAIT! Just a moment! He is certainly not talking literally here!
If that is not enough to swallow. How about a “wife” or “children”? No this can’t be!
He also says, “lands” (or fields as it was in those days). Today this would mean a “business” or if your a farmer, your farm.

And why would one be led to “give up” those that are stated above? Christ has the answer. He says, “for My sake and the gospels”. This would be the only reason that one would be required personally to “give up”.

We should not read this text and say, “Ah, there it is, He is requiring me to give up my “house”, my “sister” etc. No. Christ is listing these as examples of some of the “giving up” that might be required by you personally in this “giving up process”.

Remember, that He started this story with the rich young ruler. He ends it up with his disciples. These are the ones who were called to follow him. A personal calling to follow him will require giving up that which He shows us personally to give up. And it will indeed be a process. A life long process.

So one must ask himself, “do I want to be a follower of Christ?” Why can’t I have all I want in this life and still follow him?
Would this not contradict what Christ taught in the Gospels?

And now a word of encouragement to all those who maybe have found this post a little discouraging.

In verse 30, Christ says that if we do give up that which he is requiring for us to give up, we will receive “a hundred fold more”. When? “in this life!” WOW! That’s good investment! That’s good dividends!

However, I must be honest. Mark’s account of this story says that Christ says, “with persecutions”. Oh, so it’s not going to be easy is it? NOPE!
But, He will give us all that we need to endure the personal road that he has paved for us to walk in. All of what we need is found in Him! We can endure this “process”.

And now for the best news yet!
And in the end, the final reward will be “eternal life” In the end it will be worth it all! Eternal life to all those who have been obedient to the process of giving up all of that which has been required of them. All for following Christ in this life and spreading His Gospel.

Many who think they are going to be first, will be last. But Christ says the “last shall be first”. Those who have given up all shall be first. Sorry, but this flies in the face of today’s teachings about following Christ. It’s best to stay with what Christ taught about following himself. Not what Doctor so in so says. Or this book and that. Stay with what Christ taught and you will not be deceived.

Bless you!

Knowing the purpose for which you were created

October 10, 2008

It is no unknown fact that we were created to glorify God here on this earth. However, when we talk about glorifying God, we get a lot of different ideas as to what that might mean. Does it mean to dress nice, say all the right things and smile? Does it mean that we need to tell everyone that we go to church and then invite them? Does it mean to be successful in this life?

By acquiring all the fine things of this world such as houses, cars, furniture etc. is this how we glorify God and show others that we are blessed of God? Is this how people know that we love and serve God?

To really answer this question we need to look to our example, Jesus Christ. Many times we can get our answers to our questions about life by studying what He taught and how He lived. All to often we look to man by reading his books or listening to his messages with hopes of trying to find answers to the most basic questions of life.

I say, let us look to Christ. Lets “take his yoke upon us and learn from Him” (Matt.11:29)

Back to our subject of “glorifying God upon the earth”. Our example is Christ. How did he glorify God when he was upon this earth?

In the book of John chapter 17, Jesus is praying to the Father. In verse 4 he says, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do”. This is how Christ brought glory to God. He finished the work that God gave him to do.

Do you know that you also have work to do while your here on this earth?

Christ did not just go around and do nothing for God and his Kingdom. He did not just spend all his time in worship, all alone while here on earth. Lets look at the part of his life that also pertains to us. It is the “work” that Christ was involved in and also should be our work.

John the 4th chapter has the answer. After meeting the woman at the well, the disciples rejoined him and asked the question, “Rabbi, you need to eat something” (vs.31). He turns to them and says, “I have food that you know nothing about” (vs.32). “Did someone give him food?” the disciples said.

HERE IS THE KEY THAT UNLOCKS OUR QUESTION OF “HOW CAN I GLORIFY GOD ON THIS EARTH?”

Christ says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (vs 34)
Here he says “Do” and “Work”. They are not bad words as some may think. They are indeed words of action. They involved doing something. They involve work. As I have said many times, “we are not saved by doing works, but we are saved to do works”. Salvation and works cannot be separated.

Jesus is our example. Did he spend all his time setting in his Fathers presence? Did he spend all his time in the synagogue worshipping? No. We need to again read the Gospels and get familiar with his life, our example.

Now after Jesus says his food is to do and finish the will of the Father, he explains to his disciples and to us what that is. True disciples of Christ will take notice of this and be “doing” this.

What is this “doing” the will of the Father? What is the “work” Christ was involved in and we are supposed to be also? In verse 35 he talks about the Harvest. Christ says to us today, “open your eyes, and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” The “fields” are the nations, the world out there.

It is all about the harvest! The will and the work of the Father is the harvest of souls! It should be our main objective, shouldn’t it?

How did Christ bring glory to God while he was on the earth? By completing the work that God gave him (Jn.17:4). The souls that God gave him. That was his work. The harvest of souls. Gathering souls unto eternal life.

Whatever gifts and callings that God has blessed you with, they should be used for this same purpose. They must have to do in some way with the harvest of souls. If your life is not “harvest” related, it should seriously be questioned. If we are truly followers of Christ (disciples) then he will endeavor to make us “fishers of men”.

It is high past time to take inventory of our lives. Which way are you headed? Are you doing the will of the Father? Whatever you are doing, does it have anything to with the harvest of souls? Can it be traced back to souls?

Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working”. (Jn.5:17) Are you working in the harvest? Jesus says to us today in 2008, “The harvest is plentiful….
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life,” (Jn.6:27)

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (Jn.9:4) NIGHT IS COMING! DOES THAT MOVE US! SOON TIME WILL BE NO MORE!
ONLY WHAT WAS DONE FOR CHRIST WILL LAST!

THIS IS A WAKE UP CALL! LET US BE ABOUT OUR FATHERS BUSINESS, SOULS FOR HIS KINGDOM!
AMEN!

The example of a child

September 11, 2008

Today while I was preaching at the local square, a child of about two years old came up to me and stood at my feet and looked up at me as I was sharing The Gospel.

I have seen this before and it is very precious to say the least. It just goes to show us how God can move a little child to come up and be an example, but adults often stay away. The child is not bound by fear, or what other’s may think. He just steps out and gives it no thought.

I handed him a tract as his parents looked on and smiled. He ran back and handed it to his mom.

What a perfect example of what Jesus taught about in Matthew chapter 18.

There were people all around this area where the child was. People from all walks of life. The rich, the poor, the homeless. The only one at that time to come up and grab a tract was a little boy. The only one who was humble enough to receive, was the child. What does that tell you?

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matt.18:1-4)

There is a humbling of ones self to be able to walk up and take a tract from someone who is preaching The Gospel. We know that the Spirit has to first draw them, but there is a stepping out by faith that also takes place. A step of faith and humbling ones self is action that follows the moving of The Spirit of God.

I asked God to bless that little one today. May he rise up and be all God has chosen him to be.
Amen.

Is the “Great Commission” hard to understand?

September 16, 2007

Is it complicated? Should we add or take away from it?
No. Just do what it says, period. If we do, some awesome things will take place.

In the book of Matthew it says, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to obey all things that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the world.” (28:18-20)

In the book of Mark it says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
And these signs will follow them that believe; In my name they will cast out devils; and they will speak with new tongues;
They shall take up snakes; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (16:15-18)

GO – TEACH – PREACH – BAPTIZE

What is so hard to understand about these? We have all heard them over and over, haven’t we?

GO means to get off your bottom and get out into the world.

TEACH (in this context) means to teach them whatever Christ commanded. I won’t get into that in this post, but it would do us all some good to review what Christ commanded in the gospels.

PREACH means to “herald” or “cry out” or “proclaim” the Gospel (the good news of Christ) to every person (yes, it does say “every”).

BAPTIZE means to get them “fully wet” or “cover wholly with a fluid” in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.

Help me out, is this hard to understand?

And you know what? If we DO this “Great Commission”, Christ said himself that he would be with us and that signs would follow them that believe. What would these signs be?

Devils would be cast out of people. Speaking in new tongues would happen. If we handle any snakes, IE any “sly cunning” or “malicious persons” or “satanist” they shall not hurt us. If we drink anything that’s deadly, IE poison etc. it shall not hurt us. Isn’t this comforting to know? What should we be afraid of?

Now here is a really good one. “They shall”. This is no maybe, they will. THEY SHALL lay their hands on the sick and THEY SHALL recover. Don’t you love this?

Well, there you have it. It’s pretty self explanatory, isn’t it?
May God help us all.

Everlasting Punishment

February 13, 2007

Everlasting Punishment

(The following study is unedited. I did not want to bother someone with the task of editing this. I hope you can overlook the editing errors and get some good out of this study.)

Preface

I have always believed in Hell as a place of everlasting or eternal punishment. It never crossed my mind to believe otherwise, until last year when a brother in the Lord mentioned to me, “you do know that in the end, Hell is going to be destroyed and everyone that doesn’t make heaven will just be destroyed. They will both just cease to exist. You do know this, don’t you?” I must admit, I was a little shocked at the question. I had always thought everyone had believed otherwise. So, I just sat there listening to him explain his beliefs on the subject, still dumbfounded and in shock.

Since that time, I have heard two other believers say, “How could a God of love send anyone, or punish anyone to everlasting Hell?”
So, for the past several months on and off, I have been studying on the subject of Hell. I cannot find completely, where we could come up with such a belief, as to say there is no everlasting punishment. There are a few scriptures that could lead one to think or believe so, but in the end I have found that the over all consensus of the word of God is that there is such a place of everlasting punishment, called Hell.

I believe that this day and age we live in, we have lost some of our biblical understanding of the character of God, as contained in both the old and New Testament. We have let the churches and the world shape our view of how God is. Whether we like the fact or not our world, our media, our music both secular and Christian has played a big but subtle part in shaping our understanding of God’s true character. We have been influenced more than we realize. God’s true character can only be found in His word. I believe its past time that we study the character of God, with a prayerful heart and an unbiased mind. It’s going to be very important in the days that lye ahead.

I would also like to mention that my motivation for this study was not because I’m a hell-fire and brimstone preacher. I love to share about God’s love, grace and mercy, and I do so almost daily. Over the years, this  understanding of Hell has helped me to have the love, care and concern for the lost. It is my hearts desire to know God and understand His ways, not mans, nor the worlds ways.
May God bless you in this study.

EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT

Understanding the word “Hell”

To try and understand this subject of “everlasting punishment”, let’s look at the word “Hell”. The Hebrew (Old Testament) word is “Sheol” which means, “The world of the dead, as if a subterranean retreat, grave, pit”. In some scripture contents it makes reference to, “beneath” or “down”. Also, death is mentioned in a few cases along with “Sheol”.
In the New Testament we have, “Gehenna” which means, “a place or state of everlasting punishment”. We also have the word, “Hades”, “unseen, the place or state of departed souls, grave”. The word closely resembles “Sheol”. In one scripture (2 Pet. 2:4), it mentions the word, “Tartarus” which means, “the deepest abyss of Hades, to incarcerate in eternal torment, cast down to Hell”.

To begin to understand “Hell”, we see where there is a difference between the two words, “Gehenna” and “Hades”. It is important to note that, “Gehenna” speaks of “everlasting punishment”. The word “everlasting” means, “Perpetual, eternal, forever”. “Hades” on the other hand means, “the place or state of departed souls, the grave”. There appears to be a big difference between the two words. The differences here are very important to note as we look into many scriptures that speak of both types of “Hell”.

What did Jesus teach?

First off, I am of those that believe that what Jesus taught or spoke about is of most importance. It doesn’t really matter what I say or think. What did Christ say or teach, that should be the most important. Good books, good teachers and good preachers are all fine and well, but Christ is what should really matter the most.

Regarding our study on “everlasting punishment”, should we not go to the word of God and see if Jesus spoke or taught on the subject? If He did, should we not obey or believe it? Should we call it truth? Let us proceed on.

Jesus spoke twice about “everlasting fire”. In Matt.18:8, warning against becoming stumbling blocks he said, “….it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather that having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire”. In Matt. 25:41, the parable of “the sheep and goats” he taught, “Then shall he say also unto them (the goats) on the left hand, depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”(see also,Rev.20:10) We need to understand here, that this is Jesus teaching about what will happen when he returns at the last judgment. Those who did not feed the poor, those who didn’t take in strangers, cloth the poor, visit the sick, they will say, “when did we see you in these conditions?” Then Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” And then, he finishes with these piercing words, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment:” To refresh our memories, “everlasting” means, “perpetual, eternal, forever”.

With what we have studied so far, how can we say that there is no “everlasting punishment?” What did Jesus teach or say? He mentioned “everlasting fire”, “everlasting punishment” for a reason; there must be a place such as this.

Fire, in relationship to Hell

Without a doubt, scripture revels that in Hell there will be fire. Jesus talked about “fire” in relationship to Hell around twenty times in scripture. He even mentioned about “hell fire” in a couple of verses. He talked about “unquenchable fire” What does that mean? Does it mean a fire that cannot be put out?
The Greek meaning for “unquenchable” is “not extinguished, perpetual, not to be quenched”. Jesus talked about “the fire that shall never be quenched” and “where their worm dies not” in Mark 9:43-48. Why would Jesus say in regards to Hell, that this fire would never be quenched, if it was not going to be?

More about “Hades”

A very important factor in understanding Hell and it’s meaning, is the word “Hades”. Its meaning again is, “unseen, the place or state of departed souls, grave”. It appears 10 times in the New Testament. It is important to note that “Hades” is not a place of “everlasting punishment” where “Gehenna” is.

In the story of “The rich man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31) “the rich man died, and was buried; and in Hell (Hades) he lifted up his eyes, being in torments,” Here we see that those in Hades will be tormented in body as was the rich man. Also, this was no cool place; he was “tormented in this flame”. It speaks of “his eyes”, “he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom”. “Send Lazarus, that he may “cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame”.

The book of Revelations reveals some things about “Hell”.

First off, we notice in Rev.1:18 that Jesus is speaking of himself and says, “I have the keys of Hell (Hades) and of death”. The word “keys” is taken from the Greek word, “Kleio” which means, “to close or shut up”.

In Rev.6:8, John “looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell (Hades) followed with him.” In these two scriptures we see that “Death and Hades” are mentioned together. If we continue on in the book of Revelation we see the final deciding factor about “Hell” (Hades) and “Death”. John here is describing “the last Judgment”. This is crucial in our understanding about “everlasting punishment”. In verse 12 of the 20th chapter we read, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works”. Here we see the importance of our life. Our life works which are contained in the “books”, we will be judged out of these. The most important question here is, “Is our name written in the book of life?”

Continuing on in verse 13 we read, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works”. In this verse we see that “Death and Hell (Hades) delivered up the dead which were in them”. Just as a reminder, “Hades” is an “unseen place, the place or state of departed souls, the grave”. Verse 14 explains what will happen to both “Death” and “Hades” in the end. “And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death”. This may be where people get the thought, “don’t you know that in the end, Hell will be destroyed, it will be no more?” Yes this is correct, but let us remember it is talking about “Hades” not “Gehenna”. This is the major difference here. It is important that we understand this verse. The “lake of fire” is the “second death”. In the next verse, verse 15 we see who else will be cast into this “lake of fire” besides “Death and Hades”. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”. I cannot find anywhere in the scriptures that says, “the lake of fire” will be destroyed, will cease to exist in the end. This lake of fire and brimstone is the second death, according to Rev.20:14 and 21:8.

I would like us to be reminded, that God’s word does talk about “God’s wrath”. Again, it would be good for us to study the complete nature of God, as far as the scriptures reveal him. In the book of John, chapter 3 verse 36, John the Baptist says, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him”. Outside of the Son of God, if we don’t believe on Him, we shall not see life, and also God’s wrath in the end will come upon us. Wow! Let’s face it the fact, we don’t like to think along this line. It’s way too harsh! There is no love in wrath! It is truly the opposite of love. However, it is a part of the nature of God, like it or not. How can this be? We must remember the many scriptures that describe God as Righteous and Just. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about studying the “balanced character of God”. It’s needful now more than ever.

Back to the “lake of fire”, the second death. In Rev.20:10 we see that the devil will be cast into the “lake of fire and brimstone” along with the false prophet and the beast. Now we need to notice that this “lake of fire” torment will be “day and night for ever and ever”. If we jump down to verse 15 of the same chapter it says, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”. My question here is, How can this “lake of fire” that will be “day and night for ever and ever” be any different than the “lake of fire” contained in other passages of scripture? The “lake of fire” which is the second death will burn for “ever and ever”. This goes right along with all the other scriptures that speak of “everlasting fire”, “everlasting punishment”, and “everlasting burnings”. Again, Jesus himself mentioned, “unquenchable fire”, “everlasting fire” and “everlasting punishment”. If it were not so, why did he teach it?

In the end, I will have to go with what Jesus taught on the subject. And also with what is found in the book of Revelation as regarding the final judgment. It does make since to me. I know it’s very hard to imagine that “everlasting punishment” is real, but the Word of God is clear.

May God help us to have a proper understanding of Hell and what it is going to be like. In having the proper understanding, it should help us to “rescue the perishing” and “care for the dieing” and “snatch them in pity from sin and the grave”.

Just as a foot note, the most popular verse in the New Testament is often said to be, Jn.3:16. In this verse, it says, “should not perish”. The word “perish” here means, “to destroy fully”. This was Jesus speaking here, not Dr. so and so. or pastor so and so, this was Jesus.

May God bless you all,

Richard