Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Is Holiness?

Growing up in a Pentecostal Holiness Church it was common to often hear the term “holiness” mentioned in messages that my Pastor preached. Much of what I understood about “holiness” growing up, I equated with standards of apparel as to what to wear or not to wear as a Christian. Also the list of rules regarding what we could or could not do seemed like a mile long to me. It didn’t seem to matter if a person had a real heart change and loved God and others as long as that person was compliant to all the rules and looked good outwardly. “Holiness” was understood to mean that real Christians were to look and act in the same way. Phariseeism is a by-product of that kind of holiness.

So what is true holiness? The Greek word “hagios” defines holiness as “set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively His.”  Those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead they will live for Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT)  Holiness, then, is to separate ourselves from the world that once controlled our selfish desires and to live our new life to please Christ. The world is driven by selfishness, and so is the believer who is unholy. Holiness is based in conduct and behavior, therefore if a believer is not fully devoted to God, their conduct and behavior is self-centered and their priorities are centered upon what they want. Holiness is really about living in our new nature that is recreated in the image of Jesus with the inward ability to live the truly good life.

Paul instructs us to submit to the new inward nature of Christ, in Ephesians 4:21 (NLT) “Since you have learned about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God - truly righteous and holy.”  Another definition of holiness means to have “pure, sinless, upright, behavior.” Of course this can only be possible through our position in Christ. Paul writes: “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 (NLT) This holiness is solely due to what Jesus did for us and speaks of our place in Christ. We could never have earned this position by our behavior; it’s His gift to us.  Our behavior is an aspect of holiness that results from holding this position. Peter writes in 1:15, 16 (NLT) “Now you must be holy in everything you do (behavior), just as God who chose you is holy. For the scripture says “You must be holy because I am holy.” This chapter tells us that God will judge us according to what we do, which is referring to our actions, not our position in Christ. Peter is talking about our behavior and lifestyle, not our position in Christ. The blood of Jesus forgives our sins, but there is a certain judgment that will occur with God’s children in regard to what we do. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:9-11)

If we have been saved by grace, we are enabled by the gift of our new nature to live differently than the world; to live a holy life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Purpose for Water Baptism

In our American culture it is customary to bury a deceased person in a cemetery shortly after they have passed.

After Jesus’ death on the cross, He was buried in a tomb until He rose again from the dead. Burial is what we do for people who have died. The application of water baptism is for those who have died in Christ to their old life of sin. “In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11, 12 (NIV)

In the Israelite faith, circumcision was a sign that the individual stood in covenant relation with God. Now, for the Christian, water baptism is a parallel sign of our covenant relationship with God.  Water baptism is a symbol of a believers union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” Romans 6:3 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so also we should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4 NKJ

How believers are baptized:  The form of baptism - Biblical baptism was always by immersion. The Greek word “baptizo” means to dip or place under. Christ’s own baptism demonstrated this. (Matthew 3:13-17)  Philip baptizing the eunuch “went down into the water, came up out of the water.” (Acts 8:38, 39)

The command to be baptized:
Matthew 28:19 - “teaching all nations, baptizing them…”       Mark 16:16 - “He that believeth and is baptized…”
Acts 2:38 - “Repent and be baptized every one of you.”           Acts 10:48 - “He commanded them to be baptized.”

Water baptism into the Name:  It is through Jesus Christ, our Lord, that we fully know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Apostles consistently used the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in baptizing their converts. Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5 “eis to onoma tou Kurio Jesou” - “into the Name of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 1:11-17 makes it clear that the Corinthians were not baptized in the name of Paul. Whose Name were they baptized? The obvious answer would be the Name of the one who was crucified for them - Jesus Christ their Savior!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What is Legalism?

We hear the term “legalistic” used frequently to define someone who devotes themselves to following rules that have been established by someone else who sets the definition as to right or wrong.

I grew up in a church where the focus to being a good Christian centered on what we should not wear for clothing, and what we should not do, or where we should not go. Not much was mentioned about the disposition of the heart. When it came to defining the world, so much emphasis was placed on form rather than motive. Our church had very little influence on anyone outside the church. There was little joy to be offered.

The dictionary defines legalism as “strict adherence--to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.” It’s further defined as “the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to the precise laws.” And we had a list of “don'ts” that seemed to expand with changing times. I learned by God’s grace that the world’s grip on my life was not something outward, but inward. It comes down to the desires, intentions, and motives of the heart and mind. My heart desired to follow Jesus but my flesh resisted the rules and brought condemnation because of my failure to constantly obey them.

Freedom
Legalism doesn’t clean up a person’s heart-and the heart is the world’s target, which the forces of the world want to infect. Paul's words (Colossians 2:20-23 NLT) state: “You have died with Christ, and He has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!” Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline, but they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” The key to Paul’s statement is found in the words “conquering a person’s evil desires.”

Jesus said, “out of the good treasures in our heart we bring forth good things - an evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 12:35. Clean up the heart and outer life falls into place, in perfect alignment with what God considers good.

Religious Legalism
Legalism could also be manifest in believing that we have a greater access to God because we serve diligently in the ministry or the church. Or if we try to earn God’s favor by being super good, or by the many deeds or works we do. Legalism doesn’t allow a person to rest or enjoy life due to the driving pressure to be constantly busy in “serving God”, whether it’s in volunteering or giving our resources to the poor, or working in the church. It can become legalism if love is not the motivation, but attempting to earn God’s favor is. That becomes a self-focus rather than dependency upon God’s ability that He has given us which brings great joy that accompanies His wonderful presence!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Journeying With A Redeemer

[Naomi said,] “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” Ruth 2:20

“I am woman; hear me roar!” We love those lyrics, don’t we? We are strong. We are invincible! We can do anything!! Until the challenges of real life intrude. Then, the promises of Helen Reddy’s anthem quickly wear thin.

Does your car need $980 in repairs? Is your company downsizing? Do the angry words of a close friend sting? Have you begun to believe you’ve failed as a mom? At some points in life, all of us feel much more like a timid mouse than a roaring lion!

As Ruth and Naomi settled down in Bethlehem, the harsh reality of their situation became instantly clear. They were certainly independent, but not in a good way for women in that place, time, and culture. They had no one to protect or support them. In a last-ditch effort to avoid starvation, Ruth volunteered to glean grain left in the fields after the harvesters had finished. It was hot, hard work. Backbreaking work.

Ruth had no way of knowing it as she labored, but help was on the way. That very day, the Lord would free Ruth and Naomi from all their fears and every uncertainty.  A wealthy landowner named Boaz owned the field where Ruth began her work. He immediately took notice of her. Quietly and in the background at first, and then more openly in the days that followed, Boaz began to protect and provide for Ruth and Naomi.

Boaz had both the willingness and the legal standing to become a kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Naomi. As a close relative, Boaz could lawfully reclaim Naomi’s family property and rescue the widow and her daughter-in-law from poverty, danger, and shame.

Boaz pictures in a small and faint way all that Jesus would do for us in a glorious and powerful way. No matter how loudly we roar about our independence, no woman of God can safely journey through this life alone. We need the security of a kinsman-redeemer.

Jesus Christ is that Redeemer! He died for us on Calvary’s cross and rose again, defeating death. In Jesus we have the protection, provision, and security for which we long; the protection, provision, and security we need.


Lord Jesus, forgive me for thinking that I can do anything without You. Teach me to rely on your promises, even in the face of adversity...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Why Prayer & Fasting?

I am an avid reader of a well-known teacher and author by the name of Marvin Rosenthal. He is a Messianic Spirit-filled Jew who is a highly credible writer on Bible prophecy and end-times truths.

Normally his monthly newsletters are positive, uplifting and encouraging. But his mind and thoughts in his latest issue comes from a different direction than the usual sharing of spiritual victories that have been won in the battle for the souls of men.

BATTLE FOR OUR NATION!

Dr. Rosenthal notes that our beloved nation is facing its greatest crisis since its noble beginning in 1776. It is a crisis greater than our war of Independence, Civil War, First and Second World Wars, Korean War, Vietnam War, and all other conflicts we can think of.

The crisis we face today as a nation is an internal crises. Our nation has degraded itself to levels of wickedness not seen before in our nation’s history. America has never been a perfect nation; like all nations, we have committed many wrongful deeds, but in earlier years we also exhibited a measure of righteousness above other nations which permitted God, consistent with His holiness and justice, to bless us above other nations.

Today, our congress, with few exceptions has become cowardly and self-serving, elected as politicians rather than statesmen. The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land is teetering on the brink, with several justices who see our Constitution as something that can be interpreted to accommodate changing winds of morality and their own political agenda.

AMERICA’S HOPE!

The only hope for America is to fall prostrate before the one true God - the God of the Bible, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ - and call out in repentance for grace and mercy!

We cannot put our hope in our presidential candidates who say that if they are elected, they will return America to its former glory. Powerful personality and policy plans, however well intended, aren’t going to restore America back to its former greatness. The only answer to our innumerable problems is to fall on our faces in sober national humble repentance.

Dr. Rosenthal states: “The ripple effect of the conflict in the Middle East will surely reach the shores of America. Unless God now intervenes, there may very well be shortages of the basic needs of life, such as heat and food, along with the potential for economic collapse, social breakdown, and lawlessness on the streets.”  Christians must not be caught off guard, but should be knowledgeable about what will soon be coming upon the earth. Engage every battle and every trial on your knees—in prayer!