Thursday, May 31, 2012

A true Christian will be a persevering believer…..

“The Holy Spirit says, “If you hear His voice today, do not let your hearts become hard as your early fathers did when they turned against Me.  It was at that time in the desert when they put Me to the test.  Your early fathers tempted Me and tried Me. They saw the work I did for forty years.   For this reason, I was angry with the people of this day. And I said to them, ‘They always think wrong thoughts.  They have never understood what I have tried to do for them.’  I was angry with them and said to Myself, ‘They will never go into My rest.’”

 Christian brothers, be careful that not one of you has a heart so bad that it will not believe and will turn away from the living God.   Help each other. Speak day after day to each other while it is still today so your heart will not become hard by being fooled by sin.   For we belong to Christ if we keep on trusting Him to the end just as we trusted Him at first.   The Holy Writings say, “If you hear His voice today, do not let your hearts become hard as your early fathers did when they turned against Me.”  Heb. 3:7-15 NLV

How can you be sure you are a Christian?

Well the ultimate answer that Hebrews gives is to look directly to Jesus and know Him as YOUR Bridegroom, YOUR Heavenly Husband. (Heb 2:9; 3:1; 9:28; 10:19; 12:2,3). The ultimate way to assure yourself that you are a Christian is to look nowhere else but to Jesus Himself and the Holy Spirit WILL assure you that He is not simply the Savior – but YOUR Savior.

Verse 14 outlines the answer: “For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.” (NLT)

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

The ultimate way is to look directly to Jesus.   But here is also another way. A true believer will show themselves by being a persevering believer.  

A true Christian will be a persevering believer, they keep going till the end – they persevere.

They hold firmly their confidence till the end.

One of the major concerns of the letter in Hebrews is that we stand firm in confidence till the end.

Perseverance is steadfast and holding fast, never giving up.

It is not about a moment of religious enthusiasm, and it is not about the rituals of religious externalism – the Christian life is about persevering faith.

It requires you to keep going by trusting day after day.  It is patient endurance through suffering.

That’s what this letter in Hebrews is saying to us again and again.   In chapters 3 and 4 we get the image of the wilderness to help us grasp faith and perseverance.

The Israelites were brought out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.  It was an incredible deliverance.

The Lord continued to lead them through the wilderness in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.  He fed them each day with the bread of heaven and filled their thirst with water from the rock. He guided them, cared for them, spoke with them, appeared to them and promised them an unimaginably sweet future.   But what happened?

In Numbers 13 and 14 the spies went into the Promised Land and reported back that it was indeed an exceedingly good land.  Caleb and Joshua were excited and confident to go but the people harden their hearts.

They had seen what God had done for 40 years. They had seen the incredible power and kindness and daily provision of God.  But they hardened their hearts and they rebelled.  In fact they decided they were going to appoint another leader to take them back to Egypt. God was so grieved by that. 

The King James Version translates verse 10 as “grieved.”   God is angrily grieved when He holds out His arms to His people and they basically spit in His face.

 I hope you can get a sense of the passion in God’s heart. This passage is so much about both God’s heart and ours, but we’ll never understand the Bible’s expectations for our emotions until we hear God’s passion.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

‘They always go astray in their heart………..

 “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you will hear His voice,
 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
And saw My works forty years.
 Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
 So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’”

 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.   For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said:

“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Heb. 3:7-15 NKJV

In this passage we see that the Israelites had seen God's gracious works; they had seen signs and wonders and miracles of mercy, they had tasted the heavenly gift, but instead of being softened to trust God in the day of trials when things were difficult, they became hard and unbelieving and did not trust God's goodness, but murmured.

The result was that God was angry and cut them off from the Promised Land.

Now the point is that this is what will happen to us, if -- the big "IF" of verse 6 and 14 -----If we harden our hearts in the day of trial and murmur against Him and throw away our confidence and hope in God.

The story of Israel is an example for the professing church.  Do not treat the grace of God with contempt -- presuming to receive it as an escape from the Egypt of misery, but not being satisfied with it as guidance and provision in the wilderness of this life.  There are many professing Christians who want the mercy of forgiveness so that they won't go to hell, but have hard hearts toward the Lord when it comes to daily fellowship with Him!

Note that the issue of perseverance is not first an issue of behavior.  Do not be asking first: What actions does God want me to do? The issue in this text is one of the heart.  It is a matter of believing or trusting in God.

 Look at verse 10: "Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, "they always go astray in their heart.'" Why didn't the people get to enter the Promised Land?  You could say, they sinned and they rebelled and they murmured. Yes. But look at how this writer ends the chapter. Verse 19: "And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief."

Persistent sin in the face of God's mercy is a sign of unbelief.

The people were embittered because of God's testing (v. 8); yes, they sinned (v. 17); but beneath all that was the root problem: they did not believe God, that is, they did not trust His goodness --- to lead and protect and provide and satisfy.

Even though they saw the waters of the Red Sea divide and they walked over on dry ground, the moment they got thirsty, their hearts were hard against God and they did not trust Him to take care of them.  They cried out against Him and said that life in Egypt was better.

That is what Bible was written to prevent.   How many professing Christians make a true start with God?  They hear that their sins can be forgiven and that they can escape hell and go to heaven and they say: “What have I got to lose, I'll believe.”

 But then in a week or a month or a year, the test comes -- a season of no water in the wilderness.  You have weariness with manna, and a growing craving for the fleeting pleasures of Egypt, as Numbers 11:5-6 says, "We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna."

This is a terrifying condition to be in, to find you are no longer interested in Jesus, His Word, prayer, worship and living for the glory of God.  It is a horrible place to find all fleeting pleasures of this world more attractive than the things of the God.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If you will hear…….

“That is why the Holy Spirit says,

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.

 There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years.
So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me.
They refuse to do what I tell them.’

 So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.  Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.   You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.   For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Remember what it says:

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”  Hebrews 3:7-15 NLT

As we read Hebrews 3: 7 - 19, we have another of God's warnings to the unredeemed man who is on a sinful course to turn to Jesus Christ before it's too late.

So when we look at the book of Hebrews we must be reminded that it was written with three groups of people in mind.  Parts of it are directed right at new Christians, parts of it are directed to non-Christians who are not really accepting anything and parts of it are directed towards Christians who have intellectual understanding, who know the gospel and are sitting on the fence.

And this passage is one of those critical passages by which the Holy Spirit wants to give a great big supernatural shove to anyone hanging on the edge of faith in Jesus and has not yet committed himself to that faith.

There are many people who intellectually have responded to the gospel. They believe it but they have never committed themselves to that faith. They have never gone all the way to commitment to Jesus accepting Him as Savior and Lord, repenting from their sins and turning fully and wholeheartedly to Him.

May I add that to know the truth and not to accept it brings upon a man a worse judgment than to really not know it in full and not to accept it. God does not think you have done Him a favor just because you like His gospel.  In fact, if you hear it and you know it and intellectually assent to it but never commit your heart to it then the retribution and the judgment of God on you will be much worse, much more serious than that on those who have barely even heard of the gospel.  

The writer of Hebrews has a great fear for these Jews because they have heard the gospel. They heard it right from the mouths of the apostles and the prophets but because of the love of sin and because of the fear of persecution which is the sin of pride they shrink back. They would fall away from an initial profession in faith or an initial statement of confidence in Christ and begin to fall back.  Maybe they had run up and said, “you know, I like this thing about Jesus this is great.  I might give my life to this” and then they started getting harassed by their friends and they begin to fall away from the initial statement that they made.

They are never willing to throw their whole heart to Jesus and as a result of that they become what the Bible defines classically as an apostate.

You know what an apostate is?   An apostate is an individual knowing the truth willfully rejects it and falls back into a lifestyle of sin.

Today signifies the present time of grace for man as in the time of the Hebrews and in the time of Moses and of David.  

Notice that verse 15 says, "If you will hear".  Hearing God is a matter of your own will but as always there's that possibility of hardening your heart as Israel did and seeing the sad results.

He wants the professing Christians to last, to persevere. Because that's the only way they will prove they are truly God's people and truly share in Christ's salvation.

So God says look at Israel and do not be like them.

Monday, May 28, 2012

God is not willing that any should perish……….

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you will hear His voice,

 Do not harden your hearts, as [happened] in the rebellion [of Israel] and their provocation and embitterment [of Me] in the day of testing in the wilderness,

 Where your fathers tried [My patience] and tested [My forbearance] and found I stood their test, and they saw My works for forty years.

 And so I was provoked (displeased and sorely grieved) with that generation, and said, They always err and are led astray in their hearts, and they have not perceived or recognized My ways and become progressively better and more experimentally and intimately acquainted with them.

 Accordingly, I swore in My wrath and indignation, They shall not enter into My rest.

 [Therefore beware] brethren, take care, lest there be in any one of you a wicked, unbelieving heart [which refuses to cleave to, trust in, and rely on Him], leading you to turn away and desert or stand aloof from the living God.

 But instead warn (admonish, urge, and encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called Today, that none of you may be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [by the fraudulence, the stratagem, the trickery which the delusive glamour of his sin may play on him].

 For we have become fellows with Christ (the Messiah) and share in all He has for us, if only we hold our first newborn confidence and original assured expectation [in virtue of which we are believers] firm and unshaken to the end.

Then while it is [still] called Today, if you would hear His voice and when you hear it, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion [in the desert, when the people provoked and irritated and embittered God against them].

 For who were they who heard and yet were rebellious and provoked [Him]? Was it not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?

 And with whom was He irritated and provoked and grieved for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose dismembered bodies were strewn and left in the desert?

 And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who disobeyed [who had not listened to His word and who refused to be compliant or be persuaded]?

 So we see that they were not able to enter [into His rest], because of their unwillingness to adhere to and trust in and rely on God [unbelief had shut them out].”   Hebrews 3:7-19  AMP

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is full of warning signs and they are meant by God to deter people from the inevitable wrath of God if they continue in the course of sin. All the way through the Bible in different settings and by different phrases and words God warns us. 

The Old Testament tells us that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.  The New Testament tells us that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  Because it was not the purpose of God in the creation of man that man should be doomed to hell, God then, throughout all of His revelation continues to warn man.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Talk is cheap…………

“They claim that they know God, but their actions deny it. They are hateful and disobedient, not fit to do anything good.”  Titus 1:16 GNT  

How do you get to the place that you can feel comfortable to live in sin, but yet, say you know God?

There is a lot of “Christians” that "professes" that they know God.  They say they know what's right, and what the Bible teaches, but yet they live a wicked, vile, abominable, disobedient life. They have learned how to work God to their advantage, and figure they can back God into a corner and hold Him to His Word, and then they can live like they want to live.

They "profess" that they know God, that they claim Him as their God, and that they have done what He told them to do - they made a profession of faith.  So they think they know what to say to God, and what He requires to be said in order to please men.

"If you believe God's Word and His promises," they say "He's got to do what He said, God can't go against His Word, God cannot lie, He's got to do it!"  So they think they are secure, safe and sure they are Heaven bound, it is sealed, regardless of how they live.

They think it doesn't matter how they live, all their righteousness is filthy rags, so there's nothing they do that is really right anyways. They have made their profession, their claim, done what God's told them, so they have God bound to His Word.  He's going to HAVE to let them enter into Heaven.

If you can convince your mind of that, and defile your conscience until you think that you can bind God to a sinful lifestyle by using His Word like that, then you can convince your conscience to believe that you can live like you want to, and that you are going to Heaven no matter what.

There are millions of people that are living that way. They can point the Bible verses out to you and tell you what needs to be said, they are just as sure as can be.  Any security that gives you security while living a life of sin is not Bible security.

Another reason people live in sin and profess they know God is they just do not love Him, and that's the bottom line.  If you cared about Him at all, if He were really precious to you, if His work were sacred and holy to you, if He is Lord, your Redeemer, your God, and you loved Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you would NEVER want to sin against Him.

You would hate every sin that ever came out of your life. You would be embarrassed, ashamed, and godly sorrow would grip your heart.

Though many in this life profess to know God, they fail to show it through their life.

 In Paul’s letter to Titus he says, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works”. He then goes on to say they are “detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work”.  It’s all about the life we live not what we profess.

Bottom line here is that professing or claiming to be something does not make it so. 

If we want to please God in our life we must be showing it by what we are doing.  We must be willing to work hard for the Lord and give Him the service and dedication He truly deserves.

As the old saying goes, “Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk”.

Talk is cheap and it will not convince God.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Unwise virgins…………

“They say they know God, but by the way they act, they show that they do not. They are sinful people. They will not obey and are of no use for any good work.”  Titus 1:16 NLV

Who are these, who "profess that they know God; but in works they deny him?"

These are the priests of "the leaven of malice and wickedness," the professors of compromise (I Cor. 5:8).   They are the prophets and followers of falsehood, who "know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2Ths. 1:8).

They carry their Bibles to church.  They say "Amen!" and shake hands with others, while "transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood" (Isa. 59:13).

It is hard to imagine that these are some of us.  But they are, no doubt, if we are willing to believe what the Bible says. These are the unwise virgins, who find no time to buy oil for their lamps, until it is too late (Matt. 25).

Counterfeit Christians are simply unwilling to frame their lives with the Word of God. They desire the blessings, without making the sacrifice.

They covet the rewards, without denying the flesh. They want the end result without submitting to the means of getting there. They refuse to "put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).

These counterfeit Christians are unprofitable servants, who are cast "into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:30).

 "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20).

Sadly, there is a class of "unwise virgins" within the Church today, who are counterfeit Christians.  "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him."  There is nothing you or I can say or do that will turn these people and move them off the path of their own self will and destruction.

Through their works, they "deny me before men." Of these, Jesus says, "him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:33).

These are not the same as genuine Christians, who sometimes backslide into sin, and whom God will restore through chastisement and further conversion.

Exposed and identified, how can we be certain we are not among these "workers of iniquity," who will be cast "into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41)?

The proof is in the fruits, which no counterfeit Christian is able to bear.

It is true, every good tree has good fruit. Every bad tree has bad fruit.”  Matt. 7:17 NLV

What are the fruits of a genuine Christian life, in contrast with counterfeit Christians?

“……the fruit (the effect, the product) of the Light or the Spirit [consists] in every form of kindly goodness, uprightness of heart, and trueness of life.”  Eph. 5:9 AMP

“But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness,

Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence).  Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].

And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires.”                   Gal. 5:22-24 AMP

Friday, May 25, 2012

Many people will say…………

They profess to know God [to recognize, perceive, and be acquainted with Him], but deny and disown and renounce Him by what they do; they are detestable and loathsome, unbelieving and disobedient and disloyal and rebellious, and [they are] unfit and worthless for good work (deed or enterprise) of any kind.                 Titus 1:16 AMP

There is nothing in this world as vital as really knowing God.

The people Paul had in mind professed to know God. The word "know" means more than merely believing in the existence of God or having some insight into his will. The word means to have full knowledge, that is, to know God in the forgiveness of sins, to walk with Him and have a heart knowledge of who He is.

Why is it that people profess to know God, but in works they deny Him? Their life shows that they really don't know God. Your life really does give evidence and your works tell whether you're telling the truth or not. It is not what you say – it is what you do, that tells whether or not you really are a Christian.  It is not what you know, it is what you do.

Literally millions of people profess to know God. They claim even to know Jesus Christ as Savior, but their lives are little changed for their discovery.

Mass evangelistic meetings invite tearful newcomers down their aisles, to know God, and to profess His Son Jesus Christ.  But do the majority of these people go away to live genuine Christian lives?

Is it possible to hold a counterfeit faith, to feel saved, yet still be lost in sin?

Though we ourselves profess to know God, how can we know for sure that we are not deceived, with a profession of faith based on superficial emotions, and not on the substance of God's Holy Word?

 They claim to know God, but they deny God by the things that they do. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified to do anything good.   Titus 1:16 CEB

Jesus warned of a specific class of people who claimed to be His followers, who even performed great works and miracles in His name.

“……….. He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’   Luke 13:27 NKJV

Who are these "workers of iniquity," whom Jesus rejects so plainly?

These people certainly defend themselves: “….. you will say, ‘We ate and drank with You when You taught in our streets’”  Luke 13:26 NLV.

These people claim to come in the name of the Lord Jesus, no less. 

Of these, Jesus warns: “Many people will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not preach in Your Name? Did we not put out demons in Your Name?  Did we not do many powerful works in Your Name?’”  Matt. 7:22 NLV

Then I will say to them in plain words, ‘I never knew you. Go away from Me, you who do wrong!’”  Matt. 7:23 NLV

Many people claim to be Christians, but their faith is counterfeit.  Many have prophesied "in the name of the LORD" (Deut. 18:22), but "they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD" Jer. 23:16 NKJV.

They look the part, even speak the part and often act the part, of a Christian.  But their faith is not real, not genuine.  Their faith is based upon feelings.   By their words and actions; “They keep saying to those who despise my word,
‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’” Jer. 23:17 NLT.

These are called "workers of iniquity."  They serve God in their own self will, "every man [doing] whatsoever is right in his own eyes" Deut. 12:8 AMP.

The problem of sin remains unresolved for these counterfeit Christians, because they refuse "to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God"  Deut. 13:18.

“They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him."  Titus 1:16

Of such counterfeit Christians, Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.”  Matt. 15:8 NLT

How can we be sure we are not among these counterfeit Christians, who profess to know God, who prefer their own opinions to the Word of God?

How can we be assured to not be counted among "This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them" Jer. 13:10?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Doing good things cannot transform a corrupt heart……..

“………there are many who are rebellious people, loudmouths, and deceivers, especially some of those who are Jewish believers.   They must be silenced because they upset entire households.  They teach what they shouldn’t to make money dishonestly.   Someone who is one of their own prophets said, “People from Crete are always liars, wild animals, and lazy gluttons.”    

This statement is true.  Because of this, correct them firmly, so that they can be healthy in their faith.   They shouldn’t pay attention to Jewish myths and commands from people who reject the truth.   Everything is clean to those who are clean, but nothing is clean to those who are corrupt and without faith. Instead, their mind and conscience are corrupted.   Titus 1:10-15 CEB

The apostle Paul had a mission to instruct Titus who would take action against the false teachers, and thereby give an example for the elders on how they were to care for the churches under their charge.

What happens when this is neglected in the church?

Leadership becomes a solo act where one man/woman becomes center stage and they are controlling the Church.   They soon manipulate, deceive, charm and flatter their way into being “god” in the lives of the congregation.

They do not encourage others to use their gifts, anointing or abilities for fear they may be out-shined so they control every detail of the church.  They do not trust their leaders therefore they lead every function, teach every service, lead every prayer gathering and make all the decisions.   They surround themselves with “yes” men/women so they are seen as the most anointed, powerful and intelligent.  They want people to believe they are the only one who hears the voice of the Holy Spirit.   They believe they are more spiritual than anyone else and they should never be questioned or challenged.

You can identify them quickly because their words do not line up with their actions. 

As a result something happens to the spiritual lives of the people in their church. Instead of a holy people "zealous for good deeds and a true revival," they become self-absorbed, self-centered, religious people. When the church has no testimony of the purity and priority of the gospel in the community, it is shipwrecked.

Is this not the danger in our day?

We have so many people professing to be Christians, and yet we have so little impact on our communities.  Morals continue to slide. Ethical practices continue to erode.  Marriages constantly implode. Work ethic spirals downward. Rather than salt and light in the communities, Christians seem to be joining the world and its lifestyles.  Our goal must be soundness in what we believe and how we practice the Christian life, not falling for subtle distractions or men's opinions or the leanings of the religious crowd.

Unless the foundation of one's faith is built solidly upon Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead, then it is a misplaced faith built upon a crumbling foundation. For so many, the foundation of their faith is in their profession or their baptism or a prayer they prayed or the assurance given by a parent or a pastor rather than in Christ alone.

Here's the grave danger that has been promoted even among evangelicals.  As long as you profess to know Christ, then all is well. But note Paul's warning. "They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless [disqualified] for any good deed."  The emphasis that Paul places upon the gospel is that it is not simply a profession-it is a life.

There are those that do lots of seemingly good things.  But doing good things cannot transform a corrupt heart.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Empty talkers and deceivers………

“For there are a lot of rebels out there, full of loose, confusing, and deceiving talk. Those who were brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst. They've got to be shut up. They're disrupting entire families with their teaching, and all for the sake of a fast buck. One of their own prophets said it best:

The Cretans are liars from the womb, barking dogs, lazy bellies.  He certainly spoke the truth. Get on them right away. Stop that diseased talk of Jewish make-believe and made-up rules so they can recover a robust faith. Everything is clean to the clean-minded; nothing is clean to dirty-minded unbelievers. They leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act.”   Titus 1:10-15 The Message Bible

So how can a church recognize unqualified leaders?

Paul calls them "rebellious men," that is, men that refuse to submit to the authority of God's Word and the truth of the gospel. They rebel against the gospel of Christ and the divine intention in the gospel.

"Rebellious men" not only reject the sufficiency of Christ alone for salvation, but also the evidence of good works that follows true faith in Christ.  Instead, they put their emphasis on outward show and rituals that gave pretense of spirituality, but have no substance.

Rebels are easily spotted since they are "empty talkers and deceivers".

They use a lot of words but when all is said and done, there is no substance to it. Yet through the smoothness of the tongue, the convincing arguments of human reasoning, or the browbeating manipulation of legalism, they are able to deceive.

Evident in their tactics is found in vs 11b:

These "rebellious men" used a teaching platform to carry out their intentions, which Paul described as "teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain."  They wanted to extract something from those under their power and influence, whether money, power, or material goods. "Sordid gain" translates into two words that mean “dishonest profit”.

They teach "for the sake of" or by reason of gaining something for self without regard for Christ and His kingdom. They were spiritual mercenaries, fleecing the flock in order to make a personal profit.

The same kind of motivation for the sake of grabbing money or power or attention or even sexual favors shows up far too often in our day.

"Rebellious men" are just that-rebellious against the gospel, rebellious against God's law as a standard and guide for Christian living and rebellious against depending upon the grace of God in Christ alone for merit.

Paul recommends that we take a look at their lives to see if the gospel has made a distinct difference in their behavior, in their conversation, in their desires, and in the way they treat others. The testimony of the gospel lives in those whom Christ has redeemed and set apart for leading the flock.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

False Teachings have invaded the Church……..

 Even one of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, “The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons.”   This is true.  So reprimand them sternly to make them strong in the faith.  They must stop listening to Jewish myths and the commands of people who have turned away from the truth.

 Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.   Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.”  Titus 1:12-16 NLT

Titus is not the only place in the New Testament where the importance of contending for the truth is emphatically stressed.  The Lord’s brother, Jude, began his letter by saying,

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

Many NT books are arguments against false teaching that has intruded upon the mind and heart of the church.  Galatians is such a book, so is Colossians and Hebrews.

The truth is subject to attack at every turn; corruptions of it are constantly being insinuated into the mind of the church.  To deny and refute those corruptions has from the very beginning been the first duty of the church’s leadership.  

Now we have only to read these seven verses aloud to appreciate how strange, even how unpleasant they sound in modern Western ears.   To characterize people with a different opinion of things as rebellious, empty talkers, and deceivers; to say of them that they are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for anything good; to order that they be sharply rebuked sounds not only very un-modern but harsh, cruel, judgmental, and arrogant.

Who is Paul to claim that he alone is right and all these other men are wrong?  Who is he to cause doubt and slander the motives of these men, as if orthodox Christian preachers and teachers never have false motives?   But, fact is, it is a shame to take offense at Paul’s stern portrayal of the false teachers as charlatans and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The language Paul uses here makes perfect sense and is appropriate.

Stop and think of how many churches there are, where congregations sit Sunday after Sunday without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

 Think of how many congregations there are that come on a Sunday to their church and leave again still in the dark about God and salvation. Think of how many so-called Christian congregations there are who have generation after generation lost almost all their children to the world because they no longer proclaim a message sufficiently different from the world’s to justify any continuing commitment.

False teaching kills the church and it also means that it kills human beings forever.  No wonder Paul speaks of these false teachers and the need to refute them and root out their teaching in the stern and uncompromising language he uses here.

But heresy, false-teaching in the church is far more deadly because it not only destroys the souls of people in the church but cripples and sometimes renders entirely impotent the church’s witness to the world. Who is to speak the truth to the world if the church, the foundation and pillar of the truth, has lost it?  How is the world ever to find the salvation of God if the church herself no longer knows where it comes from, what it is, or how it is to be obtained?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wolf in sheep’s clothing………

“For there are many disorderly and unruly men who are idle (vain, empty) and misleading talkers and self-deceivers and deceivers of others. [This is true] especially of those of the circumcision party [who have come over from Judaism].

 Their mouths must be stopped, for they are mentally distressing and subverting whole families by teaching what they ought not to teach, for the purpose of getting base advantage and disreputable gain.

 One of their [very] number, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, hurtful beasts, idle and lazy gluttons.

 And this account of them is [really] true. Because it is [true], rebuke them sharply [deal sternly, even severely with them], so that they may be sound in the faith and free from error,  14 [And may show their soundness by] ceasing to give attention to Jewish myths and fables or to rules [laid down] by [mere] men who reject and turn their backs on the Truth.

 To the pure [in heart and conscience] all things are pure, but to the defiled and corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are defiled and polluted.

 They profess to know God [to recognize, perceive, and be acquainted with Him], but deny and disown and renounce Him by what they do; they are detestable and loathsome, unbelieving and disobedient and disloyal and rebellious, and [they are] unfit and worthless for good work (deed or enterprise) of any kind.”                 Titus 1:10-16 AMP

False teachers promote legalism, not God’s grace.   Paul says that these false teachers promoted “the commandments of men” (1:14; Col. 2:20-23).   Legalism involves emphasizing certain non-essential external matters to the neglect of essential heart matters.  Legalism focuses on outward conformity to man-made rules, rather than an inward conformity to God’s righteous commands in Scripture.

Legalism always appeals to the flesh. It feeds the proud human heart that thinks that it can attain righteousness apart from being humbled before the cross. Legalists congratulate themselves for doing their religious duties and they self-righteously condemn those who do not do these things.  But they do not judge the sin in their hearts or seek to please God from the heart.

That’s what verse 15 refers to: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.”  Paul does not mean that if you think something is not sinful, then it is okay. Rather, he was referring to the Jewish ceremonial and dietary laws.

The false teachers claimed to be pure because they kept these rules, but in God’s sight, they were unclean because their minds and consciences were defiled.  Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse our consciences so that we can serve God (Heb. 9:14; 10:22).

Paul is making the same point that Jesus made where He indicted the Pharisees because they kept all of their manmade rituals, but their hearts were far from God.  Jesus said that external things, such as eating certain foods, could not defile a man, but rather, what defiles a man is the sin that comes from the heart (Mark 7:1-23) .

Bad doctrine always results in evil behavior.  On the surface, false teachers often seem like nice, moral people. Sometimes, the veneer of morality is due to their legalism.  But as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, legalists look like beautiful, whitewashed tombs, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness (Matt. 23:27).

Their hearts remained corrupted because their trust was in what they did to make themselves pure rather than relying upon the righteousness of Christ on their behalf.

Note how Paul describes the behavior of these false teachers:

They were “rebellious” (1:10).   This is always at the root of false teaching.

Sinners refuse to submit to God’s Word, so they invent teaching that fits with their sinful lifestyles.  Paul went on to say, they were empty talkers and deceivers (1:10).   Like a dishonest salesman, they could talk well, but their motive was to deceive for their own advantage.  These men were greedy (1:11).  

False teachers often exploit their followers, milking them for more money while the false teacher goes first class all the way. Furthermore, Paul continues to say, they are liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons and they are defiled, unbelieving, detestable (the word means to stink), disobedient and worthless for any good deed (1:12, 15, 16).

False teachers are not usually so honest as to say that they are atheists or the antichrist.   However, “they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him” (1:16).   As first John makes clear, the true test of genuine faith is our behavior; “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.  The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:3-4).   Jesus said that you can identify these wolves in sheep’s clothing by their fruit (Matt. 7:15-16).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

There are many rebellious men…….

“For there are many, especially the converts from Judaism, who rebel and deceive others with their nonsense.   It is necessary to stop their talk, because they are upsetting whole families by teaching what they should not, and all for the shameful purpose of making money.

It was a Cretan himself, one of their own prophets, who spoke the truth when he said, “Cretans are always liars, wicked beasts, and lazy gluttons. “  For this reason you must rebuke them sharply, so that they may have a healthy faith and no longer hold on to Jewish legends and to human commandments which come from people who have rejected the truth.

 Everything is pure to those who are themselves pure; but nothing is pure to those who are defiled and unbelieving, for their minds and consciences have been defiled. They claim that they know God, but their actions deny it. They are hateful and disobedient, not fit to do anything good.”   Titus 1:10-16 GNT

You all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. When she went to visit her grandmother, the Big Bad Wolf knew that she was coming. So he got rid of Grandma and disguised himself to look like Grandma in bed.

Little Red Riding Hood may have suspected that something was out of order, but she kept inching closer, commenting, “My, what big eyes you have, Grandma!” “The better to see you, my dear,” answered the wolf.

“My, what big ears you have, Grandma!”  “The better to hear you, my dear!” answered the wolf.

Finally, Little Red Riding Hood said, “My, what big teeth you have, Grandma!”  To which the wolf replied, “The better to eat you with, my dear!”  He leaped out of bed to grab her, and Little Red Riding Hood barely escaped with her life.

The moral of that story is that without discernment, you put yourself in serious jeopardy.  Discernment will keep you from flirting dangerously with enemies who want to destroy you.

Many Christians need to take to heart the lesson of Little Red Riding Hood. Many wolves in sheep’s clothing prey upon God’s flock. Some are masters of deception and disguise. They talk like Christians. They use the Bible. They seem like nice people and they appear to be so loving!  But they will draw you in to eat you for dinner!

Because the enemy is so active in promoting destructive heresies, elders must be godly men of the Word who vigilantly guard the flock. They must be able to refute those who contradict, “For there are many rebellious men….”  In our text, Paul shows that…”Elders must guard the flock by refuting false teachers and by correcting any believers who have followed false teaching”.

Paul tells Titus that these men must be silenced (1:11).  While it may not be possible to stop them from talking, it is possible to stop them from spreading their errors within the church.

Note two things about such false teaching.  First, false teaching always damages people.

Heresy is cruel because it damages souls. Therefore, to confront error is an act of love. If you care about people, you cannot let them go into destructive heresies without warning them.

Second, the greatest danger for false teaching always comes from within the church.  These false teachers professed to know God.  No doubt they seemed to be nice people. Satan is smart enough not to use men who look like evil villains.  Nice false teachers have you over for a meal. They invite you to their gatherings. Everyone makes you feel like you’re a part of the group.  But their teaching is deadly!

“Sound” doctrine means healthy doctrine.  It leads to healthy spiritual growth and maturity.  Teaching that does not confront the cancer of sin is not sound teaching. If teaching just feeds curiosity it is not sound teaching.  Properly taught, Bible prophecy should lead to the fear of God and to holy living, not to mere speculations.

Friday, May 18, 2012

As a hen gathers her chicks………..

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”  Matthew 23:37 NKJV

The warnings to the scribes and the Pharisees and the disciples are over, and the woes are completed, and now the Son of God yearns over the ancient city with great intensity, and then He offers a solemn sentence of abandonment, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate.”  And concludes with the fact that Israel shall suffer discipline for an indeterminate period of time until they shall say; “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Now that is the principal burden of this passage of Matthew.  The lamentation in the first verse is, of course the thing that strikes us most clearly as you read these verses.

Now I think there is one thing that appears immediately, and we ought not to forget it.  I don’t think that we should ever forget it – particularly if we are teachers of the Word of God, or if we are simply witnessing to our neighbor. There is no vindictiveness in this prophecy of doom.  Yet on the other hand, Jesus unflinchingly pronounces it.  He does not hesitate to say, behold your temple is left unto you desolate, but at the same time there is no vindictive spirit about Him.

I think you can sense the tenderness of a broken heart in the words of Jesus.  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the very repetition of these words points to the deep emotions of a King who yearns wistfully.  It almost seems as if He is still hoping to win them from the apostasy to which they have committed themselves.

Notice how Jerusalem is described?  “Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you.”   Of all the descriptions that you might expect of the most religious city on the face of the earth, this would seem to be the least likely.  Jerusalem, the city of peace – that’s the most likely derivation of the name Jerusalem, the city of peace – ---the present participles, kills the prophets, stones them, suggest that this is a constant characteristic of the religious city of the earth.

Amazing isn’t it?  Not so amazing when we remember that Jesus said it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside Jerusalem.  It is in the religious city……it’s the religious place that you are most likely to find the crucifixion of the truth of God.

This final warning of Jesus to the Jewish people is directed primarily at the leadership.  In Matthew 23 there are seven woes in which Jesus detailed how the leadership was false in their preaching, false in their practice and false in their security.  Since they had deceived themselves in what they believed and in what they did, they were able to convince themselves that their standing before God was not all that bad……self righteous.  In the final condemnation in verses 29-36 Jesus mocks their self-assured attitude.

As great as God’s grace so great is our obstinacy: “I would... but you would not.” If this is Jesus’ desire, then what is the problem?  Their wills were diametrically opposed to the desire of Jesus; they did not like the terms of Jesus gathering them; it was too demeaning, they loved their sins, they trusted in their own righteousness; they refused to submit to the grace of Christ and His laws.

If anyone ever wants to believe that free will is sufficient on its own to turn to God, that God votes for us and we must cast the final then this passage will set us straight.  The human will, apart from God, does not desire God.  We have only ourselves to blame.

What a horribly sad picture: Jesus desires the city to come to Him that people find protection in His care, but they refuse to do so…… they will not.  Here is the frightening picture of the person who feels the touch of God, but flinches and runs, who hears the words, but covers the ears, who sees His mercy, but shuts his eyes.

The free will of man moves against the love of God in spite of the most merciful appeals: “I would... but you would not.”

There is misery without Christ.  For those who are not gathered by His mercy, the only other option is His wrath. But that wrath is first demonstrated in His absence which leaves the city, the temple and their lives desolate.  The temple was often referred to as the House and as we see in Matt. 24:1, Jesus leaves the temple for the last time, never to return.  It is not even called God’s house, but “your" house.  While the activity of the temple continues for another forty years, it is empty, for God’s presence is gone.

But that same warning should be remembered by us as well. Whenever a house of God does not center itself on Jesus, they too are desolate places.  Christ’s absence makes the best-furnished sanctuary a wilderness.  Though it is filled with would-be worshippers, half truths and brightly decorated, it is dark and lonely.

There is hope in a final offer of grace. Jesus’ warning does not end with the promise of desolation.  His final words to Jerusalem are a warning tinged with hope. There is a promise as well as a curse. “You will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

Jesus desires to gather those that are His. Not just once, but again and again it has been Jesus’ desire to bring together His people.  "How often..."   

The process of gathering did not occur just once or on rare occasion; rather every time God’s Word is present the Holy Spirit is wooing us so that we would respond to Him.

God’s arms are opened wide for you every time you hear the Word read and preached.  Don’t ever allow your hearts to become so hard that you refuse to hear it and refuse to respond.