Friday, May 24, 2013

GOD HATES SIN--SO SHOULD WE

God Hates Sin – So Should We
May 23, 2013
 
 
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Romans 5:12. God loved Adam and Eve and they enjoyed fellowship together. The sin Adam committed separated him – and all following generations – from God. After death entered God’s creation nothing has been the same. Since that original sin there has been a huge gulf between us and God. It is not humanly possible for us to bridge that gulf by ourselves and return to being in the presence of God. God hates sin because of that separation and had a plan to bridge that gap.
 
First, let’s understand what sin is. Sin is anything that is opposed to God’s ways. The Ten Commandments are a good summary and a place to start in understanding God’s ways. “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. Exodus 20:14.  That’s easy enough to understand, but Jesus reveals even more of God’s ways “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”. Matthew 5:28. The Book of Leviticus gives us a pretty good idea of what God expects of us, but read through the Sermon on the Mount and you will understand more. God gave us the Laws to follow in order to be able to be with Him. We all can understand the rules of a sports game and know that if we break one of those rules we get penalized. For instance, when I watch the Winter Olympics I see figure skaters. They do routines and I can’t see any flaw in what they do. But when the judges give points, what I thought was a beautiful performance has many points are taken away from it. Maybe their foot wobbled, or maybe a leg wasn’t high enough. We accept this, but many think that God is unfair. God gave us the facts and rules of the way to be with Him. God’s ways are perfect, but we rebel against Him and that is called sin. We think He doesn’t mind, but God does mind. God hates sin, and we push the limits.
 
We also need to know that sin is a choice. Yes, it is in our nature, but when Adam committed that sin so long ago it was a choice he made. God gave him everything and then gave him one rule. Just one. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:16. That seems easy enough. Then God did even more for Adam. He created Eve. Sometimes I try to imagine that time in history when Adam and his wife strolled around that Garden and had direct contact with God. What bliss that must have been. Well, we all know what happened. Satan lied, Eve bought into that lie, and Adam chose to sin. Yes, sin is a choice. The fellowship once enjoyed by God and His creation was broken. This is why sin is so repugnant to God.
 
I mentioned a plan that God had to bridge the gulf created by sin. What is that bridge? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. God hates sin, but He loves us.  All it takes for us to move from death to life is belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. There is no other way to be with God except for belief in Jesus Christ. “For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:17. Since Jesus Christ died on that cross, sin and death have been defeated and we are no longer under condemnation. What perfect love our Creator has for us! He entered His creation to give us the only way to salvation. Again, we have a choice. Either accept Him and gain eternal life, or choose to reject this gift and find eternal death. It is our choice.
 
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of god is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. A wage is something you work for and earn. But a gift is freely given with no work on the part of the recipient. Jesus paid all of our sin-debt at the cross. He gave us the gift of eternal life. Why then do we still feel so dirty? We are all sinners but since the cross those of us who’ve placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the one and only propitiation for the sin of the world are now seen by God as holy and righteous – fully justified – set apart from the rest of the world. His Ekklesia. The gift has to be accepted, and even though it is for everyone if a person chooses not to accept this gift they will be eternally lost.
 
Here’s the gist of what Jesus did on the cross, and I’m making this as simple as I can to get my point across. The Creator of the universe entered His creation and became a man – the man Jesus Christ. Yet He was still fully God. He took all sin from the beginning of time plus all the sin that would ever be committed in the future of mankind. He nailed those sins to the very cross that He occupied. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost”. John 19:30. It is finished. Thank You, Jesus! He paid the full price for our sin when He died on that cross then rose in victory over death on the third day. Jesus Christ made the full payment required which put an end to any future need for another payment to be made. That being the case, why do we who have accepted Him as our propitiation still allow condemnation to wreak havoc in our lives? God hates sin, and so should we, but as believers in Christ we allow torment to steal our joy when we wallow self-condemnation. This doesn’t mean we have a free pass to keep sinning, but we have been forgiven. Our debt is paid. Through Jesus we have life eternal.
 
Many born again believers in Christ continue to hold fast to that old condemnation they had been used to before becoming a son of God. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1. God hates sin, but through Christ Jesus we are no longer condemned. Let that sink in for a minute. We aren’t to walk after the flesh (worldly ways) but after the Spirit (Godly ways). We still sin, and often times beat ourselves up because of sins we commit. But God no longer condemns us. Jesus Christ bridged the gulf and once we accept His sacrifice we are forgiven.
 
Through my continued walk with Christ I’ve grown to hate sin, and yet I still sin. I know that my sisters and brothers in Christ also hate sin. But until we all learn to hate sin as God does sin will affect us. If you are trying to deal with sin and your attempts seem feeble, talk to Jesus. We are all in the same boat. When we do something we shouldn’t do it isn’t long before we’re convicted by the Holy Spirit to confess it and move on. Even if it happens over and over, Jesus still paid the full price. Here’s what to do whenever you stumble and fall. Go to 1 John 1:9 and read this verse over and over again until you have it memorized “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. John is speaking to the brethren here and admonishing them (and us) to confess all sin before God who, as a matter of fact, has already cleansed us from all unrighteousness. There is no priest or saint needed for intercession. Jesus is our intercessor and He is all we need. Basically, John through the Holy Spirit is giving every born again believer in Christ a way to get relief because of the conviction they are going through. This simple but precious verse is the believer’s bar of soap. 
 
Until we are at last free of these sin-riddled bodies the enemy will continue to entice us and then condemn us when we fail. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23. This is a fact. We all sin and will continue to do so this side of Heaven. Why do we allow the enemy to fill us with thoughts of condemnation when God tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:1 above)? Do you believe our Creator God hates sin but loves us so much that He died for us and gave us everlasting life? Then live for Him who saved you. We’re forgiven of our sins simply by believing in what God did on the Cross of Calvary. For God, that forgiveness was not enough so He followed it up with the seal. What seal? He seals His Holy Spirit inside each of us who become His children. “…in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” Ephesians 1:13.
 
If all that wasn’t enough He gave us His Word, and in His Word He makes it plain that nothing can ever remove us from His hands “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” John 10:28-29. You cannot fool God by saying “I believe” but not truly believe it. If you truly have accepted Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection then you are sealed and nobody – not even you – can remove you. I don’t think I could possibly love Him more. Thank You, Jesus.
 
There are so many verses that confirm the fact that once we become sons of God we can never lose our sonship. So, the question is why do we allow the enemy to condemn us? Paul also makes it clear how secure we are in God’s hands “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God.
 
Are you secure in your faith? Studying the Bible will strengthen your faith and you’ll come to the realization that your security in Christ will never fail. Neglect or disregard for the word of God will only weaken your faith. I know there are many born again believers in Christ who neglect Bible study. God’s word tells God’s heart. We aren’t left to imagine what may or may not be a sin. God hasn’t changed, so we don’t have to try to figure out if a sin in Moses’ day is still a sin in our modern age. Yes, it is still sin and God hates it. Many begin to feel like failures in their walk with the Lord, but Jesus bridged that gulf. But be sure to re-read 1 John 1:9.
 
Believers in Christ need to understand how much God hates sin. He gave His life to bridge the gulf created by sin.  We are of Christ and our lives belong to Him. We need to move closer to Him and further from the world that Satan owns. This evil creature lied to Eve and immortality was lost. As Christian’s we need to look and act like Jesus and not look like and act the world. We need to hate sin as God does. We shouldn’t allow the enemy to have such influence over us since God is all powerful and He gives His children power to withstand the enemy. Use the power! Put it to work in your life. Get back on track and get out there and be a witness for the Kingdom of Heaven. God expects it, don’t let Him down.
 
God bless you all,
 
Ron Graham
ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Monday, May 20, 2013

DOES GOD ANSWER PRAYERS

Does God Answer Prayers
May 16, 2013
 
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Matthew 21:21-22. Jesus had just spoken a curse on a fig tree for bearing no fruit, and as a result His disciples were astonished. They asked how this could happen so quickly. I can understand their astonishment. Even though they had followed Jesus for a long time and had seen many marvelous things, they still marveled. Jesus always answered their questions and this time He told them that if they had faith and didn’t doubt, they could achieve even more than withering a fig tree. When they prayed they had to believe.
 
Two key words to focus our attention on in the Lord’s lesson are “believe” and “doubt”. Believe what? We need to believe that God hears our prayer. What doubt? Each time a born again believer prays they must not doubt that God can answer. God is real and our prayers need to be sincere and honest. When we talk to a friend and ask for something – maybe a ride home from work or to borrow something – we always are sincere in our request. We can see that person and hear their voice. We don’t talk to them as if they were an inanimate object or something in our imagination. God is just as real, or should I say even more real, than a person. We must not doubt that our prayers are heard.
 
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6. The Greek word “merimnaō” means to be anxious or troubled with cares. Paul says to be anxious (merimnaō) for nothing, but to take everything to God. We are to do this with prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. We talk to God (prayer) and ask for what is in our heart (supplication), with thanksgiving. Are you thankful when you pray? Do you realize that because of Jesus we are able to take our prayers directly to God? That is something to be thankful for…and humbled by. We don’t need an intercessor, or a priest, or anybody. You and I can approach the Throne of God and talk to Him through our Lord and Saviour.
 
Throughout the Old Testament there are numerous examples of men and women humbling themselves before God in prayer. One example stands out in my mind which may lend some understanding as to why some prayers seem to have gone unanswered.
 
The account is from the book of Daniel. “In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Daniel 10:2-3. Daniel was a man who was beloved of God, and prayer was a way of life for him. In this instance he was in mourning for Israel, thus he was in constant prayer. He wasn’t fasting in the fullest sense, but he had determined to refrain from the foods that he enjoyed while in mourning and prayer. His focus was not on himself and his own comfort, but on what he needed to talk to God about. This went on for three weeks.
 
What happened next is astonishing. “…I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.” Daniel 10:5-6. What a sight to behold! Daniel saw an angel standing there. “Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” Daniel 10:12. God had heard Daniel’s prayer on the first day he prayed and the angel had been sent to deliver God’s answer.

We learn by this angel’s own admission that he had been dispatched by God twenty-one days prior to the moment he arrived and confronted Daniel. Why did it take the angel twenty-one days to get from the Throne Room of God to where Daniel was? His arrival should have been instantaneous. The angel explains his tardiness to Daniel “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.” Daniel 10:13. How can an angel be withstood by a mere earthly prince or even a king you might ask. That certainly would be a fair question. By the way, if this had been Jesus He would not have needed Michael’s assistance nor would it have taken twenty-one days for Him to get to Daniel.
 
Angels are very powerful beings. In the book of 2 Kings were told “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” 2 Kings 19:35. (It may seem as though I’ve moved off track since I began this commentary writing about prayer but just bear with me, my point is coming). One angel during the night killed 185,000 Assyrian troops. Just one angel did this. What human, king or otherwise, can withstand an angel? We can see the power of an angel, so the prince of the kingdom of Persia is not a reference to a human being or else the angel would have had no trouble with him at all.  No, this is referring to a demonic power (a fallen angel) behind the Persian government. This territorial demon withstood the angel who had been dispatched by God to deliver His message to Daniel for twenty-one days until Michael the archangel came to take control of the situation. If it seems your prayers aren’t answered, perhaps there is some “power” that is in the way of an answer.
 
How often do we hear of folks complaining that God doesn’t answer their prayers? Many people seem sincerely discouraged when they think their prayers are not answered. They’ve asked God for healing or asked for help in some way but don’t seem to have any indication that God hears their prayers. Did Daniel give up praying after a few days? Was he even discouraged because God seemed to be silent during the twenty-one days leading up to the face to face encounter with the angel sent from God? I am sure Daniel would have continued in prayer no matter how long it took for an answer. Remember, the angel told Daniel that God heard his prayer when Daniel began to pray and chasten (humble) himself. It was the angel who carried that answer that was delayed by a territorial fallen angel.
 
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12. Could it be that just as Daniel experienced a delay because of a wicked angel we might also experience a delay of an answer from God due to a wicked angel standing in our way?
 
“….The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16. James tells us that we must put forth our all when we pray. He says “fervent prayer”. There is power in the prayers of a righteous, fervent prayer warrior. Daniel was a prayer warrior as were all the prophets of the Old Testament. They had a direct line to God through effective, fervent prayer. So do we. But doubt and unbelief will certainly hamper our receiving a clear and immediate response.
 
As in Daniel’s case, we may also experience a certain space of time between when our prayers are presented and when they are answered. Daniel heard nothing from God for twenty-one days then an angel showed up and spoke with him. We may wait twenty-one years for a response from God, or twenty-one seconds. Those who think God doesn’t hear our prayers or that He doesn’t respond because we are not important enough are badly mistaken. How can God not hear the prayer of a born again believer in Christ when His Holy Spirit indwells us and our prayers are fervent, and without any doubt?
 
God is not far removed from His children. He’s very close. We don’t need to yell to get God’s attention. We don’t need to speak out loud, although that can sometimes help us to focus our thoughts. God lives in us and knows even our innermost thoughts, so we can pray in silence. Even before we formulated the words to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God had already heard those words since they had to be formulated in our brain before we could speak them. Before we can even vocalize our words He’s justified (saved) us.
 
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says to put on the whole armor of God. He goes through the various pieces of armor that we need in order to be soldiers in service to our Lord. He finishes by saying “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…Ephesians 6:18. Do you pray always? Do you pray in the Spirit? It’s all our heart or nothing, it’s all our mind, soul, strength, or it’s all for naught.
 
Although we are admonished to always pray, sometimes when we pray we need to be alone and focus our thoughts on God. Sometimes we need to go into our prayer closet to do that. Find a quiet time to speak with God. Guess what? God’s listening. Why? Because we are focused on Him. Our mind is not being bombarded with outside influences and He’s the center of our attention. That’s where God wants to be. He takes center stage because that’s His domain.
 
Before I close I need to make another point. God fulfills the needs of His children, but He doesn’t necessarily give us everything on our terms. After all, He knows what’s best for each of us. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2Corinthians 12:9. Paul prayed to have a “thorn in the flesh” taken away, but God said no. Like Paul, I have prayed so often for my body to be healed, as has my wife and so many dear friends. My wife made an observation that every time I feel better I start working on hobbies or something that diverts my attention from the work God has given me to do. I love serving Jesus and get more pleasure from that than anything else in my life. My weakness is used for God’s glory, and that is what is important to me. Prayer isn’t some way of telling God what He will do for us but we must earnestly pray and, like Daniel, humble ourselves before God and seek His will, believing that or prayers are heard. God is not there to serve us, but we serve Him and know that His ways are much higher than our ways.
 
What do you pray for? God wants to hear from us and it is good to just chat with Him. But do examine what you are asking Him for. Are your prayers selfish? It isn’t bad to pray for things you want, but remember God knows best. If you really want a new car, it’s OK to talk to God about it. But let Him lead you. There may be a better car for you than the one you want. Don’t tell God what to do and be disappointed if He doesn’t do things your way. God can see tomorrow, but we are blinded by today.
 
Does God answer prayers? Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. But friends, when you pray and ask God to intervene in your life’s problems or you pray for a friend or brother with an illness, at the very least first turn off the TV. God knows you love Him and He knows you want a relationship with Him, but He won’t play second fiddle to Oprah Winfrey, football, or the Walking Dead.
 
God bless you all,
 
 Ron Graham
 Previous commentaries archived at www.raptureready.com
 
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed

 


 
 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

OCCUPY TILL I COME

Occupy Till I Come
May 9, 2013
 
 
And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” Luke 19:11. As we read through this parable in Luke 19 we need to understand where Jesus was heading. Soon the Feast of Passover would be celebrated and all able bodied men were required to celebrate that Feast in Jerusalem. He was on His way there for a much higher purpose.  He would be hailed as Messiah and then a few days later He would be crucified. He knew what was going to happen and needed to teach one more time about His reason for coming. People, including His disciples, thought He would come in as the conquering King and save them from the oppression of the Romans…that He would fulfill their idea of Messiah. Was He giving this parable to the Jewish people who would be hailing Him as Messiah, or to those who are the Ekklesia? Maybe both. The immediate reason was to show these people that He first had to go away in order to receive the Kingdom. But there are truths in here that cannot be ignored by the Ekklesia.
 
“He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.” Luke 19:12-13. Here, a certain nobleman had ten servants and that nobleman had distributed ten pounds among those ten servants along with the instruction to occupy (keep working) until he returned. Most translations use the word “mina” instead of “pound” and it was a substantial about of money in those days. One mina was equal to about 100 day’s worth of wages for a common laborer. While the master was away receiving his kingdom, the servants were expected keep doing business for him – to use the resources that the master gave them to the utmost. What a blessing the master of these servants had bestowed upon them. What trust he had in them to use the money wisely. They were to occupy – stay faithful and invest the money – until the master returned.
 
We know that the nobleman in the parable is Jesus and He is about to “go away” in order to be made King. He would soon be crucified. He has trusted servants with whom He has left something of value and He expects it to be used wisely. He expects the servants to keep working and to occupy till He comes back. Jesus will return as King at His second coming, but before that happens the Ekklesia will be “caught up”.
 
But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this [man] to reign over us”. Luke 19:14. The “citizens” are a different group. They are not the servants. The servants didn’t hate the master, but the citizens are another story. They hated him and didn’t want him to rule over them. How sad. The master had given so much to the servants, and presumably the citizens could have also been blessed. Rather than accepting his gifts, these citizens hated him.
 
As this parable unfolds, the master returns. Just as Jesus will return as Messiah after the Great Tribulation, this nobleman had received his kingdom and was now ready to judge the servants and how they invested what had been left in their possession. Each one was called before the Master. The first servant had increased the pound from one pound to ten pounds, and the master was pleased. He gave that servant authority over ten cities. Notice the servant didn’t receive an all expense paid vacation to the tropics for rest and relaxation! His reward was more valuable than that…it was more trust from the Master. The next servant increased the one pound to five and was rewarded with authority over five cities. The third servant didn’t do so well. He let unfounded fear stop him from increasing what was entrusted to him, so what he had been given was taken away and given to the servant who had the 10 pound increase. The one who brought no increase was not cast out, but he lost what was entrusted to him and received no reward.
 
But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay [them] before me.Luke 19:27. Now the focus turns to those citizens who hated the master. Their life would be taken from them. So it will be at the very end when those who chose to reject Jesus must face the Great White Throne judgment.
 
Jesus gave this parable to drive home a point. He was going away to receive His kingdom. He was leaving servants in charge, but was not leaving them without resources. Each servant was given an equal share, but his rewards were based upon what he did with the pound he was given. Now, let’s take a look at how the Ekklesia can learn from this parable. Although it is about Christ’s second coming there is much for the Ekklesia to learn from it before the Harpazō – the catching away of the saints.
 
Jesus Christ is the Master. Before He departed He left His servants (that’s us) with His Gospel and the Holy Spirit. “In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.Ephesians 1:13-14. Each of us is given the treasure of the Holy Spirit, which is sealed within us when we first believe. We are also given our marching orders, which many refer to as the Great Commission. Jesus was going away and yet He was leaving His Ekklesia here on earth to go about continuing the work He began. We are to make disciples of all nations. We are to invest our pound and continue in His stead, fighting the good fight and proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples and tongues – and that includes those in our own neighborhood.
 
Certainly there are times when we feel it is difficult to continue, but we are never told to stop proclaiming the Gospel even though the “citizens hated him” and no matter what the hardships may be. Paul is a great example to us. How many jailers do you suppose he converted when in prison? How many fellow prisoners did he share the Gospel with? Sometimes we may wish to slack off but there will always be another lost soul who crosses our path who is seeking truth and needs to hear the Good News.
 
Some of these servants in the parable did well with the responsibilities they were afforded and the nobleman/master rewarded them accordingly. But then there was one who hid his pound. “For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. Luke 19:21. This is exactly where we see much of the Ekklesia today. Full of excuses for not investing what has been given. Not understanding the nature of Jesus and fearing an imagined version of Him. How can we serve Him if we don’t know Him?

Invest the pound that the Master gave you in truly studying and spreading God’s Word. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:1 Peter 3:15. “Others are better at witnessing than I am, let them do it.” This is the wrong attitude to have and studying God’s Word will give you confidence and help you overcome your fear. Do you really know why you believe or even what you believe? Practice explaining the reason for your hope. Practice explaining why Jesus came to save us and why we cannot save ourselves. The reason begins in Genesis and is explained throughout the entire Bible. Too often witnessing never gets done because Christians lack Biblical knowledge and are intimidated when confronted with what they think is a tough question. The pound Jesus gave them is wasted.
 
“But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.” Luke 19:14. This is the citizenry of earth as a whole who are not a part of the Ekklesia. They hate Jesus Christ and will have nothing to do with Him nor will they follow His precepts. The servants don’t hate the Master, but the citizens do. Notice that everyone is subject to the Master whether they love Him or not. What if the servant who had hidden his pound had invested it in teaching the citizens about the Master? That may have made a big difference in the life of at least one citizen.
 
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his]body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10. If you are a Christian you don’t need to be afraid of the phrase “judgment seat of Christ”. Yes, we all will have to stand before Him and tell Him what we did with the pound He gave us. The Greek word “bema” is translated “judgment seat”. This is not a punishment judgment, but a rewards judgment. This is where everything we have done for Christ will be rewarded and all else (wood, hay, and stubble) will be burned up. Just as the servant who did not invest his pound was still a servant but received no reward, so it will be with those who do not invest their pound.
 
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.Matthew 10:28.
There is another judgment, though. This is the one that the citizens who hate the Master and don’t want Him to reign over them will face. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written the books, according to their works.” Revelation 20:11-12. This passage goes on and it is heartbreaking to read. This is where the citizens who did not want the King to reign over them are cast into the lake of fire. If we, the Ekklesia, would only share our gift from God – the salvation Christ died on the cross to purchase for us – perhaps there would be very few who face this judgment.
 
Giving up on witnessing just because we perceive we are close to Christ’s soon return for His Church will only result in a loss not a gain. Those who give up at the end, especially when the going gets tough, will lose all they’ve gained as far as rewards are concerned. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:” Matthew 6:20. What we do with our “pound” is how we lay up treasures in Heaven while awaiting our departure from earth. These treasures are not corruptible nor will they perish, but our rewards can be taken from us and given to another because we refused to be faithful and occupy till He comes. Because we don’t use the pound He gave us wisely.
 
All of Jesus’ parables drive home very potent messages. If given enough thought and study, this parable in particular will convince even the most fearful follower to get back on track. There is still a huge amount of work to do and precious little time. All those who reject the truth of the Gospel are our missionary field. They are the citizens who hate Jesus and don’t want Him to reign over them. They are living in danger of facing the Great White Throne Judgment and eternal damnation.   
 
Reaching the lost is not an impossible mission. “But Jesus beheld them, …with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26. All things are possible with God and the sooner we realize that fact and start investing our pound the sooner we will get back to performing His Great Commission, not even being distracted by the promise of the coming Harpazō.
 
“Occupy Till I Come” means just that. We never stop, we never give up, and we never given in. The enemy of God would have us stop witnessing and hide our “pound” in a handkerchief.  The decision we must make is whether we are going to give in to fear and/or complacency or are we going to preserver in the face of any and all the enemy’s roadblocks?
 
God’s plan is being laid out before our eyes and He’s only asking that we invest the pound He gave us rather than hide it in a handkerchief. We must share with others and not be afraid of the citizens who hate our Lord.
 
“Occupy Till I Come” is a command not a suggestion.
 
God bless you all,
 Ron Graham

THE FOOLISHNESS OF IDOL WORSHIP

The Foolishness of Idol Worship
April 18, 2013
 
“He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.” Isaiah 44:14. Imagine if you will a party of men and women at a campout. They’re sitting around a blazing campfire stoking the coals with what’s left of some very nice pieces of cedar, cypress, and oak wood. They are busy in their conversations and preparations of the evening’s meal.
 
“Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread…” Isaiah 44:15. As the fire gets hotter they comment to one another on how the evening has turned damp and cool, but how nice it is to be able to warm themselves by the fire simply by utilizing a few pieces of old dry wood. They continue to prepare bread and meat, perhaps roasting hot dogs and toasting buns. They use the burning wood embers to cook their evening meal all the while keeping warm and dry by the fire. “He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:” Isaiah 44:16. Then the dinner is ready; they all partake of the meal, and are warm and full.
 
But there remains a piece of wood sticking out of the embers which was not burned up in the fire. “And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.” Isaiah 44:17. Suddenly one of the men grabs for the stick, pulls out his carving knife and begins to form the leftover oak into the image of a man. Once completed all the men and women at the campout join together in a semicircle around the newly formed image, they bow down before it, and begin to worship that small piece of oak now carved into the image of idol. Just a moment before this same stick was destined to become ashes. They speak to the carved image as though they were speaking to a living image requesting that piece of wood to bless them and their endeavors.

“They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.” Isaiah 44:18. Is the above scenario not the epitome of foolishness? Yet this is the course that has been taken by many individuals throughout history. People will go to any length to construct for themselves a god in lieu of worshipping the one true God of all creation. How can people become so deluded that they can’t see the foolishness of placing their faith and trust in a simple half-burned piece of wood? Many people today place their faith and trust in inanimate objects. Still others will worship whatever it is that brings them what they perceive to be peace and joy. Even a moment of joy can lead a person to worship as their god that thing that brought them that one moment exaltation. “They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.” Isaiah 44:9. It will profit these foolish people nothing as they bow their heads and worship graven images. They are their own witnesses to their own destruction. These idol worshipers haven’t the common sense to be ashamed of their own foolish actions. The God of all creation views these people as willfully ignorant.
 
“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Isaiah 44:6. God makes it abundantly clear that He is the first and the last “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8. All through the Bible we are told there is only one God and His name is Jesus and He is the Almighty – the first and last, the Alpha and Omega. But foolishness abounds and in these extreme last days it seems to be burgeoning at a phenomenal rate. There are many people who will worship anything but the one true God.
 
“And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.” Isaiah 44:7. This is a challenge put forth by the One true God of all creation. He says go ahead bring your god forward and let him make his power known to all. God says “Let’s see your god tell the future of all creation”. “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.” Isaiah 44:8.
 
Sun god (Apollo), moon god (Allah), or created images such as birds, reptiles, snakes, as well as all inanimate objects have no spirit save the spirit of demons. God says try every spirit to see if they confess Jesus as the Christ. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits where they are of god: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of god: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3. None of those false gods and idols listed above will confess Christ as Saviour and Lord. Yes, the spirit of antichrist has been around for a long time. It was already in the world when John wrote these words, and it is still causing much grief today.
 
What is the result of worshipping false gods and idols? Those who are caught up in idol worship sometimes seem so wise. But is that really the case? “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore god also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of god into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” Romans 1:22-25. God has given us the freedom to choose wisely and follow Him, or to be foolish and worship pieces of wood. We can see the result of this idol worship all around us. The worldly way of lusting after carnal desires is creeping into the lives of Christians. Instead of worshipping the Creator, it is the creature that is being worshipped, even by some who profess to be Christians.
 
“And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?” Isaiah 44:19. Those of us who know the truth should be pricked in our hearts as we watch these foolish people who can’t seem to come to the conclusion that what they worship is…nothing. It’s empty. On the other hand, Jesus is alive! He loves us and died for us. But our God is a jealous God. Take time to read through the 10 Commandments (notice they are not the 10 suggestions) found in Exodus chapter 20. God does not share His Kingdom, glory or Throne with demons or snakes, nor does He placate fools.
 
Make no mistake, it isn’t only images of creatures that are idols. Anything that holds a higher place in our life than God is an idol. Anything. Television, music, jobs, hobbies, the list goes on. There is absolutely no other God besides the God who created the universe and everything in it. He is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He is the Messiah of Israel. He is the Saviour of mankind. In the Hebrew He is Yeshua HaMashiach. He is our brother and He is our friend. He is Jesus the Christ. He is the only way of Salvation. He is my God. Who – or what – is yours?
 
God bless you all,
 
Ron Graham
 
Memory Verse:

WHERE'S THE UNITY

Where’s the Unity
April 25, 2013
 
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:20-21. As believers, born from above, we should be unified in Christ. Where is the unity that Jesus prayed for so long ago? God the Son and God the Father are one. We know this because the Scriptures tell us it is so. They have unity in that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. We too, the children of God, are to be united as one in Christ. Christ prayed that we be one.
 
Sadly, that prayer for unity which was spoken directly by the Creator of the universe has for all intents and purposes been ignored by much of the Ekklesia. Why? The unbridled festering of disagreements and anger has led to a splintering of the body of Christ. Instead of being the Ekklesia – the called out assembly of Christ – and looking to His inerrant word to lead us and guide us, most Christians look to the “church” to tell them what to believe and how to act. What is the problem with that? The Ekklesia is a unified body where Christ is sovereign and His word final, but a church is filled with the doctrines of men and causes division.
 
I’d like to premise this study with what God tells us never to do. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Proverbs 30:5-6. God tells us not to add to His words. The Hebrew word “yakach”, translated into English as reprove, actually means to judge. Certainly no one wants to be judged by God for adding to His inerrant word. Verse 6 above seems to place a high risk for anyone desiring to tamper with the Scriptures. Therefore the translators of the original text should have been very careful as they went about translating the original languages into English. That holds true for all of the various translations into English or any other language. The above warning must be taken seriously. There are other warnings within the word of God concerning adding to or even taking away words from the Scriptures.
 
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…” Deuteronomy 4:2a. God, speaking to the Israelites, makes it clear that adding to or taking away from His word would be a huge mistake. “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” Deuteronomy 12:32. Here God confirms His command that they were not to add to or take away from His word. No one should have been more keen to keep God’s word pure than the Bible translators.
 
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19.  These verses attest to the fact that there is a high price to pay for tampering with the Book of Revelation specifically, but from the above Scriptures we can see that God says what He means and means what He says. He does not want His word watered down or altered.
 
For some time now I’ve referred to the saints as the assembly of the called out. In doing so I’ve primarily used the Greek word for assembly, which is Ekklesia. Why do I use the word “Ekklesia” instead of “church”? Well, the Greek word “Ekklesia” does not mean “church”. As a matter of fact there is no Greek word that is translatable as the English word church.
 
The definition of “church” is 1) A building used for public Christian worship. 2) A particular Christian organization, typically one with its own clergy, building, and distinctive doctrines: “the Church of England”. (Put “define church” into Google and this is what you see).
 
 That definition certainly doesn’t describe a unified assembly of believers. The first definition doesn’t even describe it as human! The second indicates human agenda in interpreting the Scriptures.

 
Now let’s look at the definition of “Ekklesia” as defined in Strong’s concordance. There is a long list of meanings, but as related to Christians it says: 1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting. 2) a company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake. 3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body. 4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth. 5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven.
 
“And they, continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42. The apostles heard the doctrine directly from the lips of Jesus, so what they taught is what we need to follow today. Have you ever asked someone if they are a Christian and received the response “Yes, I’m a Methodist”? Or a Lutheran, or a Baptist, or insert the division of your choice. What does that mean? It means that the person you are talking to is holding to the doctrines of men rather than the God-breathed Scriptures.
 
Because of being a “church” divisions have occurred at a phenomenal rate. Christ’s Ekklesia divided? Where in His teachings does He ever refer to His followers as a divided body? No, we’ve been horribly deceived over the years thus the body of Christ has become fragmented and for the most part ineffective. Doctrines of men have tiptoed in and caused division. Some say you have to be baptized in order to be saved, some say you are only really baptized if you are baptized in “our church”. Others say you must speak in tongues for evidence that you are saved, others say tongues are eerie and shouldn’t be used. Still others rely on a Pope or a priest to tell them what to do and think. Only when we drop our “church” ordained prejudices can we understand Acts 2:42 and continue steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship.
 
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We aren’t to pick and choose which Scriptures we like or don’t like.  God inspired all Scripture and it is perfect in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Diligence must be taken to study the Hebrew and Greek to understand what a word really means, rather than what it was translated to say. The entirety of the Bible must be considered when discerning Scripture. It only takes a simple lack of wisdom to add to or diminish from Scripture and corrupt God’s meaning and cause division.
 
When Jesus spoke His prayer of unity it was not about a fragmented unity or a separated unity, but a complete and united body, each person with his/her own purpose. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5. But overall, unity in Christ is now horribly fragmented. Oh sure there are splinters of believers who have united together, but never were they to form denominations or place names of dead men on the buildings. The Ekklesia was never about men but always about Messiah Jesus.
 
As believers we are commanded “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3 (NASB). Today we have built Christian ministries around men (pastors, popes, bishops, doctors, you name it) who usurped the authority of Christ as Head and have built around denominational titles and names separating His body into corporations. These corporations, known as churches, are registered with the government in order to establish their tax exempt position. What does that mean? It means that the government limits what they can teach from the pulpit. Instead of teaching the whole of God’s truth they must be politically correct or lose their tax exemption. There are no words too strong to describe this monstrous deception. Words that do come to mind are: abomination, heresy, anathema, reprobate and blasphemy.
 
We are to gather around the name of Jesus, not the name of a building, rented store front, or a pastor. We have literally robbed Christ of his rightful place and therefore His glory in His body has departed. We have replaced the ministry of the Holy Spirit with the works of men. We have replaced our first love (a true love and obedience toward Jesus Christ) with works oriented philosophies of men and million dollar buildings. Unity? Not hardly.
 
Rather than having two or three gathered together in His name, we have multitudes gathering in a name totally foreign to the word of God: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and numerous other associations which indicate no reverence to Jesus our Christ. This forming of congregations under other names has been one of major disrespect to our God and Saviour, Jesus the Christ and His prayer for unity.
 
Once the reference to believers switched from the people (the Ekklesia) to a building of stone and wood (a church), all Christ centeredness within the body was lost. We lost body ministry, unity, supportive relationships, fellowship and community. The funds that normally went to the poor and widows and orphans now go to the institutional structures and organization. This was a major shift (from people to building) and delivered a key blow to the function of the body of Christ. The intention of Christ uniting His believers in one body was thwarted by the traditions of men who translated our scriptures for their own benefit…not Christ’s. Because of this switch, ministry became skewed.
 
So, what can be done to reverse this horrible separation of the body of Christ? The doctrines and interpretations of men need to be dropped. Instead of a being a church, we need to be the Ekklesia, the called out assembly who are united by the Blood of Christ. Fellowship with the Ekklesia, but study God’s word prayerfully to learn the Apostle’s doctrine as they heard it from Christ.  Don’t “go to church” and be divided, but be united in the Ekklesia.
 
God bless you all,
 
Ron Graham
 
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed
 
 
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This commentary was started by Ron Graham before his death on March 14, 2013. It was completed by Nathele Graham.
 


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