Skip to content

Archive

Tag: God

Luke 16:24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

When we think of the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we tend to focus on the stark contrast between the two men; Lazarus being poor, and the man being rich.  Lazarus goes into the bosom of Abraham, and the rich man is in hell.  Sometimes, however, we can be so busy focusing on one aspect of the story that we miss an even more profound teaching by our Lord Jesus.
Notice, in this passage, that the rich man calls up to Abraham, and asks Abraham to have pity on him. There would be nothing too unusual about that, since in the story he is in torment and is asking Abraham for relief.  It is what he says next, however, that is so striking: “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”  Let’s consider this for a moment.  The rich man is asking Abraham to have pity upon him, but then he asks Abraham to “send Lazarus.”  It is as if the rich man sees Lazarus as nothing more than a poor servant!  And this brings us to an important principle:

Whatever mindset you leave this life with, is the mindset you will have in the life to come.  

Let that sink in for a moment.  If you have a selfish mindset in this life, that is the mindset you will take in the life to come.  If you have a prideful mindset, that is the mindset you will take in the life to come.  If you are filled with hatred, hatred you will carry into the life to come.  Contrast the story of the rich man and Lazarus to the story of the thief on the cross.  Notice what he says to the Lord Jesus before he dies:
Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Notice his mindset.  This man recognized he deserved his punishment, but in humility appealed to the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus showed him mercy.

What is your state of mind right now?  None of us knows how many days we have left remaining in this life.  There is an urgency to change your mindset now, while you have the opportunity.  This is truly what it means to repent – to change your mindset.  If you are selfish, now is the time to become selfless.  If you are harboring unforgiveness, now is the time to forgive.  Are you greedy?  Begin giving today.  In other words, change your mindset TODAY.  

 

1 Cor. 12:18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

“God, if you get me back to Cincinnati, I promise I won’t leave!”  This was my plea to the Lord around 1993.  Ironically, Cincinnati was the last place I wanted to be.  My family and I left Cincinnati in 1985, and I swore I was never returning.  The last image I wanted to see of Cincinnati was out my rear view mirror.  Yet, in New Jersey, here I am crying out to the Lord to get me back to the city I despised.  Why? I had no idea.  There was simply something in my heart that was telling me I was not in the right place.  So the Lord opened the door, and we returned to Cincinnati in 1995.  I didn’t return because of a fantastic job opportunity; I didn’t return because of family.  I returned because in my heart, I knew this was where God desired me to be.  I knew it in my heart, even though I wasn’t aware of the passage in 1 Corinthians.  Within two years, however, the picture became clearer.  I needed to be in Cincinnati to hear a man from Texas proclaim and teach about the kingdom of God.  I would not have heard that distinct voice had I remained in New Jersey.  I needed to be where God set me, and I needed to be there at the proper time, in order to hear the message of the gospel.  Is it important to be where God has set you?  It is more than important; it is vital to your spiritual health.  Remember, however, that God sets members in the body where it pleases HIM, not you.  He doesn’t set you where all of your family is; he doesn’t set you where you are comfortable.  He doesn’t set you where it is convenient for you; he doesn’t set you where the best jobs are.  It may please him to set you in the midst of a crime-ridden community; you may be set in the midst of people whose faith is not like your own.  While you may desire to fellowship with a large group of people, God may set you in a body of three or four.  This is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges saints of God face in a country where we value our right to choose.  Now, our Lord is saying “in my house, you give up your right to choose, and I choose to set you where I am pleased.”  Understanding this truth cannot occur absent a renewed mind.  Yielding to this truth is not a work of the flesh; it must be a work of the Spirit.  Have you felt an uneasiness in your inner being, have you heard that voice of distinction that is telling you where you are to be set?  If you have, don’t try to muffle that voice.  Don’t let other voices distract you from being set in the proper place.  Submit to the rule of God, for he knows what you need in order to accomplish his will.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Recently, I was involved in a discussion on social media, and the topic of being born again was raised.  One person wrote “the Bible tells us how to be born again.”  I rasked “where does the Bible tell us how to be born again?”  The response was “Start reading in the Gospel of John and beforehand, from a sincere heart, ask God to open your understanding and bring the words to life for you.”  The writer could not point me to a verse or passage because no passage exists in the Bible that tells us how to be born again.
The Lord Jesus told us what needs to be done (be born again), but He provided no instruction how to accomplish it.  Similarly, when speaking about the kingdom of God, the Lord Jesus told us what the kingdom was like through His parables, but not once did He tell us what the kingdom was.  So what does it mean to be born again?  And how would we know if and when we are born again?  Let us begin by referring back to the exchange that the Lord Jesus had with Nicodemus.  The Lord Jesus said “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  What we know for certain is that we cannot even perceive of the kingdom of God unless we are born again.  The word kingdom is becoming en vogue in this generation, much like the prosperity gospel was extremely popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  But a kingdom is a very real concept.  It is a monarchy, with a ruler of one.  We aren’t used to that form of government.  We are accustomed to a democracy, where we have not only have a separation of powers, but we also elect our President and our lawmakers.  In a kingdom, all of those powers rest in one person – the king. In a kingdom, the king is not elected. In our country, the will of the people is sovereign; in a kingdom, the king is sovereign.  The Lord Jesus was telling us that unless we truly renew our way of thinking about governments, specifically kingdoms, then we will be unable to even perceive the kingdom, or rule, of God.  In the exchange with Nicodemus, it was clear that Nicodemus himself did not recognize that he was standing in the presence of the Christ – the One anointed to rule. Nicodemus referred to the Lord Jesus as “Rabbi,” not “Lord.”  Christ was telling Nicodemus that unless his mind was renewed, Nicodemus would be unable to perceive the rule of God standing in his presence.
If you read the gospels carefully, you will find that those who perceived the kingdom referred to the Lord Jesus as either “Lord” or “Christ.”  Those who did not perceive the kingdom referred to Him as rabbi or master.  So what does it mean to be born again? It means that a person is able to perceive that Jesus is Lord, or Messiah, or Christ, and is therefore able to perceive that God fulfilled his promise of a kingdom to Israel.  It means that a person is able to recognize the rule of God in his or her life, and is willing to submit himself or herself to that rule.  In short, being born again is a new way of thinking that results in a new way of living.

Yesterday, we quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book “Life Together.”  Bonhoeffer also showed how such alienation and isolation from the body will result in a critical spirit and accusations against the body of Christ:

“When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.  But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God.  Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief.  Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren.”

The deceiver is clever.  Just as the serpent was able to persuade Eve, so the enemy will persuade a man by luring him away from the body.  Once that man is separated, the thoughts then begin to run rampant.  Suddenly, as an outsider, the man “sees things” he hadn’t seen before.  This, indeed, is true, for how he is viewing the body from a different perspective.  He is viewing the body as an outsider.  This, however, is not what Christ intended.  Christ called no person out of the world to be an outsider, or loner.  Christ called us out of the world and into a community.  As Paul wrote “God sets the members in the body, every one of them, as it pleases him.”  God does not set us where we desire to be set; he sets us where it pleases him.  For a person to complain and accuse the body is akin to that person telling God that God did not know what he was doing when he placed that person in the body.  The person may as well tell God “my way is a better way!”  God indeed is building his perfect church, the bride of Christ, from imperfect people. What we, as kingdom citizens must do, is conform to God’s perfect, eternal image, rather than expect that God will conform to our imperfect, temporal, jaded image.

Matt. 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

What exactly does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness?  We know how we feel physically when we have been deprived of food or drink for periods of time, but how does that translate to hungering and thirsting after righteousness?  How will we know that we have tasted righteousness?  Even more basic, what is righteousness?  Indeed, these are difficult questions that we cannot avoid.  We must not only meditate upon them, but it is of necessity that we take action upon them.
Fortunately, Paul provided an answer for at least one of those questions.  In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul wrote:
Rom. 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The kingdom of God IS righteousness.  Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness; blessed are they who hunger and thirst after the kingdom of God.  Blessed are they whose spirits yearn to be citizens of the kingdom of God.  Blessed are they who are famished, who are weak from being deprived of the Holy Spirit.  Truly, God will fill them with His Spirit that they may never hunger again.  

As we approach the end of the calendar year 2016, the question is asked “what can we expect in 2017?”  Before we take a moment to look ahead, let’s take a moment to see what occurred in 2015 and 2016.  In these two years, we were able to read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome and the letter to the Hebrews from a kingdom perspective.  And, in 2016, we have been studying the kingdom of God in a more detailed way through the book “The Kingdom of God” by John Bright.  This teaching has been a blessing to those who have devoted their time to reading and studying this book.
So what will we do with the foundations that have been established?  We will finish the study on the book “The Kingdom of God,” which occurs on Wednesdays, and we will begin a very important teaching on Significance and Adoption.  Beginning Sunday, January 8, we will study Kingdom Economics, which will be followed by a review of the book A Glimpse of the Kingdom.  After the review, we will begin an in-depth study on the apostle Paul.  Understanding the apostle Paul is crucial to a kingdom understanding of his letters.  And don’t forget, Peter stated that Paul’s writings were hard to understand.  This series will help you unravel the complexities of God’s servant to the Gentiles, and enable you to read Paul’s letters from a kingdom perspective.
We pray that you are enjoying this season, and we look forward to sharing more with you in 2017!

Luke 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Notice the characters the Lord Jesus used in His parable.  He used a priest, whose job it was to minister to the people, a Levite, who as a people were set apart to care for the tabernacle and the temple, in addition to aiding the priests, and a Samaritan, a people who were despised by the Jews.  How ironic that the two men, whose responsibility it was to care for others, not only passed by the wounded man, but intentionally avoided him by crossing over to the other side of the road.  The Samaritan, however, a man who the Jews would have no part of, purposed in his heart to exhibit compassion toward the man.  The Samaritan didn’t simply “feel sorry” for the man; the Samaritan didn’t say “I will pray for you;” the Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  In other words, the Samaritan truly ministered to a man he did not know.  The Samaritan purposed in his heart to treat the wounded man as the Samaritan would want to be treated.  In short, the Lord Jesus showed the lawyer how the definition of neighbor had nothing to do with physical proximity, tribal origin or even nationality.  Being neighborly is now a matter of the heart; it is a matter of spirit.  Your neighbor is not the person who lives next door, or down the street, or even in the same city.  Your neighbor now becomes any human being.  We must now renew our minds to the truth that our neighbor is anyone we meet, and we must be prepared at all times to love our neighbors as ourselves.  

Matt. 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Lord Jesus, the very Messiah God promised, uttered these words.  In short, He was saying that loving your neighbor as yourself equates to treating people the way you would want to be treated.  Notice, however, that Christ added no qualifications or stipulations to this Royal Law.  He did not say “treat others the way you would want to be treated only if they treat you that way.”  Neither did Christ say that you should expect others to treat you that way.  In fact, Christ said quite the opposite:
Luke 6:27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Now, this command of loving your neighbor as yourself takes on a whole new meaning.  Now, we are expected to treat people the way we would want to be treated even if they treat us wrongly first. Kingdom citizens do not retaliate in anger or violence; rather, we retaliate in love.
But what else is the Christ telling us in this passage?  He is telling us that if we obey His command of treating people the way we want to be treated, then we have done nothing less than the equivalent of obeying all of the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  Think about the depth of that statement for a moment.  By practicing this one instruction – that is, treating people the way we would want to be treated – we have met the standard of keeping all of the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  What makes this statement even more profound is that it applies to all who submit to the Lord Jesus.  This means that even if I wasn’t raised as one who was Jewish, by obeying this universal command of Christ I have met the equivalent of fulfilling all that God commanded of Israel in the Law and the Prophets.  Tomorrow, we will continue examining this Royal Law in the story of the Good Samaritan.

James 2:If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

We are going to take some time to examine this principle in detail.  Before we can begin to understand the depth of this royal law, we need to first understand what royal means.  The Greek word for royal is basilikos, which has four different Biblical uses: 1) of or belonging to a king, kingly, royal, or regal; 2) subject to a king; 3) befitting or worthy of a king, royal; and 4) metaphorically principal or chief.  First, we see that this instruction pertains to a kingdom, but what kingdom?  Clearly, this is no earthly kingdom.  This royal law can be found only in the kingdom of God – a kingdom, as the Lord Jesus said, that is not of this world.  This means that we will know any true citizen of the kingdom of God by his submission to this royal law.
Next, we have to understand the concept of the word law.  Most people would interpret the word law as used in this passage as one instruction.  Paul, however, gives us a greater understanding of the depth of this instruction:
Rom. 13:The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul is affirming a profound truth.  The instruction “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” is not simply one command, such as obeying the speed limit on a city street.  If I obey the speed limit on a city street, then I have followed one code of all of the codified law in that city.  What Paul is saying, however, is that if I love my neighbor as myself, then I am observing all of the law.  It would be the equivalent of saying that if I obey the speed limit in that city, then I have obeyed all of the other aspects of the codified law of that city.  Put another way, it would be the equivalent of saying that if I am obeying the speed limit while I am driving, then I cannot be cited for littering (even if I do litter) because while I am obeying the speed limit, the city recognizes that I am obeying all of the codes in their law.
What Paul is telling us, the church – those that not only recognize Jesus as Lord, but also obey Him as Lord – is that if we love our neighbor as ourselves, then by obeying that command, we are seen by God as obeying all of the instructions in the law of Moses.  We will study this profound truth in more detail tomorrow.

1 Cor. 12:18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

This is an extremely hard truth to accept.  It is easy to read, to recite, to even commit to memory; but oh, how hard it is to actually submit to God’s will in this matter!  God not only sets me in the spiritual body of Christ, but it also manifests itself in the earth by God placing me where he desires me to accomplish his will.
If you ask most saints why they are connected to the congregation they are connected to, most likely you will receive a litany of responses: this is the church they were raised in, this church has good teaching, this church provides child care, this church has powerful praise and worship, the times are convenient, etc.  If, however, you ask those same saints if God set them there, if they are honest with themselves, they will become silent.  Indeed, some may respond in amazement that you dared to ask the question, but most saints have never really given thought to where God desires to place them.  Then, what happens when there is a leadership change?  How do people respond when church hurt occurs?  Situations like these become the catalyst for “vagabond Christians.”  What is a vagabond?  A vagabond is a wanderer, one who has no place to dwell.  In the body of Christ, we have far too many vagabond Christians today.  These are saints that are not set where God has placed them.  They truly do not know where God has placed them in the spiritual body, and they do not know where God has set them in the earth.  In this country, the United States of America, we have freedom of choice, and we have extended that liberty to our faith.  In this land of opportunity we live in, our mode of operation is to find a job, then go to the place where the job is, find a place to live, then find a congregation.  But what if we have reversed the order?  What if God desires to set us in a locality, and it is in that locality that God has our provision?  What if we were to make the city and congregation the priority?  What if we were to actually submit to God’s will by seeking first the kingdom of God?
Are you in the place that it pleased God to set you?  Be bold and ask him.  If you ask him, he will respond.  Remember, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  Remember, you are valued in the body of Christ, and you have a function here on this earth.  You have a place, and you have a purpose.  Seek that purpose and place with passion!