Dead or Alive? #1556

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Ephesians 2:1–3, NKJV)

God alone brings to life the sinner who is spiritually dead (Colossians 2:12-13). Before we were saved in Christ (“made alive”) we were “by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” How were “the others” children of wrath? To answer that question is to answer how we were also children of wrath. The answer given is this: The world walks in disobedience to God. Their nature, their habit and course of conduct, is living in sin. The world is under the sway of Satan and, because of its sin, under God’s wrath. Like them, we also conducted ourselves in fleshly lusts, fulfilling sinful desires. We chose to sin, and sin caused our spiritual death. We are not born sinners – we choose to walk “according to the course of this world.” We come under God’s wrath when we sin. Only the sacrifice of Jesus appeases God’s wrath and saves us from eternal death (1 John 2:2; 4:10). God makes us alive – gives us “newness of life” – when we are baptized with Christ and die to sin (Romans 6:4). This is when God makes dead sinners alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6).

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Let Your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and Your ‘No’ be ‘No’ #1555

33  Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34  But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35  nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37, NKJV)

Jesus knows there are people who think what they say is only binding when they give their word with an oath. Without it, they feel at ease to break their word (see Matthew 23:16-22 for examples of this). Such people still exist. Honesty holds little value to them, so they break their word easily and repeatedly. Apparently, they think by emphasizing or exaggerating their honesty they increase their integrity and credibility. So, they swear by God, by heaven, by earth, and by many other things. They assure you they are telling you the truth as they say, “I swear…” For Christians, a simple “yes” or “no” is enough to establish the truthfulness of our words. Jesus said, “more than these is from the evil one.” Be the person whose integrity of heart means your word is your bond. Then, when you speak, others never need to wonder whether you are telling them the truth. (Revised, Sword Tips #320)

“A deceitful heart finds no good” #1554

He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, and he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil. (Proverbs 17:20, NKJV)

The heart and the tongue are connected. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35). In today’s verse, the deceitful heart (“crooked heart,” ESV) finds nothing good in others. Truly, “to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure” (Titus 1:15). Comparisons, complaints and disputes pour out of the mouth of the person whose heart is crooked and deceitful. As God’s children we are to “do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). One way to see good in others instead of falling into contentiousness is to adorn our hearts with honesty, truth and love (Ephesians 4:25, 15). Unrestrained hearts unleash verbal grenades that maim and kill relationships and souls. We must constantly remember that tongue control begins with heart control (James 3:2, 8).

A Wall of Separation #1553

He measured it on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide, to separate the holy areas from the common. (Ezekiel 42:20, NKJV)

Ezekiel’s visionary temple (Ezekiel 40-43) was measured by a man whose appearance was like bronze and who had “a measuring rod in his hand” (Ezekiel 40:3). Ezekiel was to look, listen, and fix his mind on everything God showed him in the vision so he could tell the house of Israel everything he saw (Ezekiel 40:4). This is not a literal temple to be built sometime in our future. It is a figurative, prophetic description of the temple of God that exists today, the church (Ephesians 2:19-22). The description of this temple was to cause Israel to “be ashamed of their iniquities” as they “measured the pattern” (Ezekiel 43:10, 11). Notably, Ezekiel’s temple is distinguished by the presence of God’s glory and by its holiness (Ezekiel 43:1-5, 12). The wall surrounding the temple marks a separation between holy places and what is common or profane (Ezekiel 42:20). God, who is holy, demands that His people are also holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Defiled priests could not serve in Israel’s tabernacle and temple (Leviticus 21). Neither can Christians (who are priests in God’s house) serve God with defiled hearts, hands and lives (1 Peter 2:1-12). To dwell with God we must come out of sin and live separately unto Him (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).

God’s Plumb Line is in the Midst of His People #1552

7 Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore.” (Amos 7:7–8, NKJV)

Amos’ message was far from positive. God’s prophet had a dreadful message of punishment for the northern kingdom of Israel. Instead of standing upright against idolatry, immorality and injustice, they had participated in them. God’s plumb line, His truth, was in the midst of Israel, and they were not straight. God had repeatedly called them to repentance, but they would not return to Him. It was time to meet God (Amos 4:12). God’s word remains the standard of morality, teaching and faith. Everyone is judged by it (John 12:48-50; Romans 2:16; Revelation 20:12). God is longsuffering toward sinners, calling them through the gospel to repent (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4). But, God is also just. His day of wrath will come, and we dare not have an impenitent heart toward His judgment (Romans 2:2-5). Like Israel, the church today is under threat of compromise with sin. Many have already accepted the world’s values and practices. The house of God will not escape judgment when we fail to stand upright and  be faithful to the word of God (1 Peter 4:17-18). God’s plumb line is in the midst of His people (Galatians 1:6-10; 2 John 9).

“Be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy” #1551

And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Leviticus 20:26, NKJV)

Have you ever read Leviticus? It is a detailed record of many of the laws God gave Israel concerning the priesthood, sacrifices and offerings, purification and moral living. The overriding theme of the book is “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). The holiness of God is the compelling reason His people must be holy. Whether we speak of Israel under the Sinai law, or the whole world under the gospel of Christ, we cannot live unholy lives and then somehow demand that God accept us “as we are” and even reward us in our unholiness. Yet, that is the attitude of many toward God. The context of today’s verse commanded Israel to keep all the statutes and judgments of God “that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22). Today, if God’s people neglect the salvation we have in Jesus Christ we will not escape an even worse punishment (Hebrews 2:1-3). Holiness demands we make a distinction between what is clean and unclean, what is sin and righteous, what is evil and good (Leviticus 20:25). God separated Israel so it would be holy before Him. We must separate ourselves from unholiness or we, like Israel, will be defiled and condemned (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” #1550

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (Psalm 51:12, NKJV)

Joy is connected to salvation from sins. When the Ethiopian believed and was baptized “he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). The Philippian jailer and his household rejoiced after they believed and were baptized in obedience to the word of the Lord (Acts 16:31-34). God’s gracious forgiveness refreshes the soul with a joy that “no one can take from you” (John 16:22). How then could it be said that the joy of God’s salvation needed to be restored to David? Simply because David had separated himself from that salvation’s joy by his sins of adultery, deceit and murder (2 Samuel 11-12). His ability to rejoice in God’s salvation was restored because he acknowledged his sins and God washed him of his sins (Psalm 51:1-4, 7-9). We cannot sin and expect salvation and its joy to continue with us. Such would be a high-handed view of holiness that disrespects God and His justice (Psalm 51:4). Sin brings shame, sorrow and death. It does not perpetuate joy. Salvation brings joy because of the victory of faith we have in Jesus (1 John 5:4). Jesus gives His faithful disciples the joy of salvation, and exhorts all who follow Him to “be of good cheer” because He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).