FIRST-TRUMP#top..........Sound the alarm in Zion..... ...........................

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. A Priest sounds the alarm on a shofar

 

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EXPRESSING GOD

5Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. (2Cor 5:)


When we read the Bible we can't help but notice the number of times the name of God, or the word "God" is expressed. From the Garden of Eden until the Apostles, God was on the lips and the minds of everyone from the most Godly of person to the worst of heathen. God was the center life for the Israelite during time of peace, and during time of war. God was the epitome of existence for all people, from the Greek and the Romans, to the smallest child in darkest Africa. God created us, and God was all-in-all to all people.

You are not who you suppose yourself to be. If you have any degree of self-awareness you have discovered this about yourself. There is who you want to be, and there is who you ought to be, there is who you are working to be, and there is who you pretend to be. Your hope is to be the person you present yourself to be. But the fact is, you are a different person day by day and year by year. There are parts of you that remain the same, but there are parts you just can't grab hold of and make them be what you want them to be. And if we're aware, we find trying to control our true nature is like trying to herd a flock of wild geese into a cage.

What is true of us, our person, is also true of our view of God, both individually, and culturally. We see, both in times past, and now in various lands, the worship of God performed in many different ways. The American Indian, as an example, viewed God as a spirit that lives in all things, and therefore all things including the inanimate were considered sacred. Every part of an animal or a fish was respected, and was believed to have sacrificed itself for our, the human's, sake. Today we still see this to a degree in the tree worshipers such as those in Europe, and even here in the US. In India there is a temple dedicated to rats, and it is believed those who feed the rats are especially blessed. The Mayans, when confronted by the Spanish Conquistadors, sacrificed 2,000 slaves to their god in hopes of winning favor and being successful in war. Many cultures we see has dedicated and sacrificed its very best, often its virgins, to the creature, real or imaginary, it saw to be a god.


The question might be raised: "Just what is a god?" As we read the Bible, and watch the lives of those God calls His people, and what God had to say to those people, we find that their god is that in which they trust. What we trust in, is that which we serve and that which we center our life around. Jesus said we can't serve God and Mammon. What is mammon?


8And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 10He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? 13No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 14And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. 15And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 13:)

Strong's says of the word mammon: "Of Chaldee origin (confidence, that is, figuratively wealth, personified); mammonas, that is, avarice (deified): - mammon.


Did you catch who Jesus was directing His words to, and who it was that popped up to justify themselves? It was the most righteous, the most godly people on earth at the time. Who, or what were they trusting in? Was it God? Or was it those things they owned, those things they worked to develop such as their position in the community, and their reputation?

Is it any different today? What is your god, your mammon in which you trust? What are you proving yourself to be the unfaithful servant to attain? This unfaithful servant wanted money. The Pharisees cherished their reputation above everything. Maybe your mammon is your ball games, or your car, or your reputation in the church, or your children and family, or your TV programs. What is it you center your life around? What is it you most desire? That is your mammon, the god that you serve.


The people of Israel had been given full instructions on how to live, what they were to do, what they were to think, and what they were to expect if they failed to live up to these demands. In spite of all God had done to prepare these people, they still fell away from Him, and suffered the consequences for doing so. They not only suffered once, then repented, they suffered over and over again, each time repenting and falling away once again.

God told His people not to partake of the world around them, not to serve their Gods. But the gods of the world were too appealing to these people, so they too turned to them. Did they run from God and deny Him? Did they abandon their national tradition when they turned to worship other gods? Not at all. They continued to perform their functions at their synagogue, to partake of the Temple festivities and formalities. They were "loyal" Jews. They merely "compromised" their religion. They reworked it so it fit their desires instead of God's demands.


21And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. 22Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. (1Kings 18:)

16As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. 17But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. 18But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. (Jer 44:)

30Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. 31And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. 32And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. (Ezek 33:)


Does this sound familiar? Do you know anyone who performs all the Christian functions, yet continues to partake of those things the world finds so interesting, that is, the gods they serve? Maybe you see one such person every day when you comb your hair in front of your mirror?


In many countries of the past, including this one of America, it was common to hear people discuss God and the Bible. In some of the countries that do not worship the God of Israel it might be another god they discuss. But God, or a god, was a point of discussion. People greeted one another with a salutation that involved God, and they parted company with an invocation of blessing that was of God. This is rarely done today in "civilized" Christian cultures where God and Jesus is not allowed in public or in its schools and courts of law. The most use of the word "God" or "Jesus" will be found in bars and other such places where their names are used all the time, but not in praise.

Today, when you think of cultures or religions where God is referred to often and when strict formality encompassing God is practiced, what do you think of? For myself I think of the Muslims, and the Hindus, and certain Jewish sects where even their dress and their behavior is a constant reflection of their belief in God or a god. In spite of their situation they will perform their forms of worship at the appropriate time, and in the proper manner, and they don't care what anyone thinks of them for having done so. Do you know any Christian who will do such a thing? No fair counting those who are outcast of "Proper" Christian society such as the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Traditional Catholics.


There are some people today who express their feelings toward God through poetry, or through art, or through song writing, or through the singing of songs. For myself, I express my feelings through my writings, which I post here on this site. Do these expressing of feelings or beliefs cause one to be closer to God? Does God look upon one who writes poetry or Gospel songs, or sings beautiful melodies that include His Name in a more favorable light than others not so inclined? Perhaps, but not necessarily. All cultures and religions have their song writers, their singers, and their Bible students. Some of the most dedicated of singers are not interested in the God or the Lord they sing about, but rather they are after the notoriety or the wealth their dedication will bring them. Consider the Pharisees. This is true of the preachers and the theologians as well. Joseph Smith was a dedicated preacher and theologian. Jim Jones was dedicated to what he believed. And what of those 40 people of Heaven's Gate who committed suicide in their quest to be seen as approved in the sight of God? Do you think God looks upon them as special because of their dedication? How about the suicide bombers of the Middle East? Such dedication to their belief!

I think we all will concede that there is more to the worship and the expressions of God then that of faith, of dedication, or of song and writing about Him.


In the eyes of members of what might be called the "Christian society" there is no single group of people more "righteous" and more Godly, and more approved of God than is the Fundamental Christian. The Fundamentalist, in all their various forms, consider themselves to be the ultimate Christian. This is a reversal of what was held to be true before the 1500's where one had to be Catholic, or be looked down upon as a lost heathen outside any consideration of God. Now, those of the once "in crowd" are looked down upon as the "Outcast" of Mainstream Christian society. Considering that the Mainstream Protestant churches are to be looked upon as the elite of God, the keepers of God's will, and the ones who best follow God's desires for His people. Let's examine their methods of expressing God and see what we can learn. But before I look at what we ought to be doing, I want to examine the lives of those considered outcast and see what we shouldn't be doing:

We, all those of the Protestant churches, know that the Catholics are distant from the will of God. Whatever the Catholics do, we are not to do. Does this fit your understanding of the Catholic church at all? (Please keep in mind that I'm only looking at what should be done, nor condoning all actions by any group just because I might approve of those specifically mentioned). What do you think of when you consider the Catholic church? Of course you think of angels, Mary, rosary beads, saints, icons, and the Pope; but what else sets the Catholic church apart from the Mainstream churches? How about the confessional? Do you think of an angry God who will punish sinners, Christian or otherwise? Do you think about fasting, or, sacrificing for Lent, or long, intense prayers several times a day where they pray for the souls of the lost? Since all these things are associated with an outcast religion we will have to avoid them, or at least severely limit them if we want to be approved in God's eyes.

What about those groups who are obviously disassociated with, and looked down upon by the Fundamentalists churches. Let's consider the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. What do you think of when you think of these groups? Do you think of isolation from the things of this world? Do you think of taking care of one's own, that is, the church and the welfare of the members of the church? Do you think of polite, considerate, well dressed people who risk their reputation and even their lives spreading the Gospel as they see it to be? Do you think of churches that are run by the people without having paid ministers and high upkeep, allowing more money to be spent on the poor of the community? This being so, let's make sure our decent and approved church has none of these features.

I do find it interesting that in times past it was common to see preachers of all denominations standing on soap boxes on corners preaching the Word. They would travel in their old beat-up cars or little horse-drawn wagons and preach wherever people would gather to listen. But now such actions are associated with the "outcasts," we don't see it any more in this country. I wonder why?

There are two more groups of outcasts we see frequently at airports and other such high-intensity gathering places. These are, first the Hari Krishnas that can hardly be called a Christian sect, and there are the Moonies, that do classify themselves as Christian, but it's a wonder they can. We find there is something about the Moonies, and their message, that is vaguely familiar, and reminiscent of some (I'm minimizing here, I hope you know that) of the churches of today. To them God is all about Love. Hmm, interesting.

Except for the last group, we find that the modern Fundamental, Mainstream churches have indeed been able to separate themselves from what could possibly be seen as aspects of those churches classified as undesirable in the eyes of God. Now, let's take a look at how the "proper" churches conduct themselves that make them special in God's eyes so we will know what we are to do in order to better express God:


I have been to just about every denominational church in this community, short of the Catholic and the Seventh Day Adventist, which I just haven't gotten to yet (however, as a youth I did attend for a while

catechism during the week). I find there are many ways these churches are different from one another, albeit the differences are minor; and there are many ways these churches are very much the same. One of these ways is that they are highly elitist, that is they each feel they, and only they are the right church, and that all others are either all the way out of the will of God, or just barely acceptable in the eyes of God. But, of course, this can be said of every denomination, sect, and segment of the fragmented Church.

When in church I find that the sermon, what little there is of the sermon any more ( the one and a half to two hour, and even all night on occasion sermon has become 15 to 45 minutes) is more of a social instruction using the Bible as a reference than a lesson on the Bible and on how to better fulfill God's demands. Much of the time is spent reading community notices, showing pictures and movies, guest speakers talking about the great work they're doing in whatever field thy might be involved in, reading passages in unison off a piece of paper handed to everyone at the door, and singing songs that no one is even aware of the words they're saying, nor do they care.

Before and after the main part of the service, what is on the heart and the lips of everyone, including the pastor? Is it the things they have learned about Jesus in service or through the week? Is it the excitement one feels about their Spiritual growth and the interaction they had with other Christians they encountered during the week? Or is the conversation about the weather, the parties one went to, the TV program they watched, the car they bought, or about their families and what's new in their lives?

Expressing Jesus. When we're in town, do we talk to people about the Lord as we stand in line at the checkout counter where those around us will have a hard time escaping? What about at the barber shop or the hair dresser where we have a captive audience for long periods of time. Do we just stop and talk about our Lord and how He has guided us and effected us lately?

How about at home? Do we sit around the table sharing our joys and our griefs with our friends and family? Do we have Bible readings together where the children hang on our every word as we read the wonderful messages our God has delivered to us? Do we sit around the piano or guitar and have family sing-a-longs where we sing the praises of our Lord? Or, is it more likely we sit in different rooms watching our TV, playing video games and eating TV dinners by ourselves?

Tell me, what is the difference between your life now as one saved and in love with the Lord, and what it was before you even knew about the Lord? Can you name a difference?


In times past, expressing God was as natural as breathing, eating and sleeping. In every part of the world God was the center of social and personal life. Did that cause God to be worshiped correctly or make the people more godly and live more correctly? Certainly not. I suspect that before the flood the people were very involved with worship and with religion, but they were also living a life of sin and debauchery at the same time. We see this in the last chapters of Judges where the worst of crimes against humanity were committed under the banner of Godliness. During the days of chivalry, when the Roman church was at its peak, we see the most unspeakable acts committed by the church and the Christian nations under the guise of the cross. We have the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the witch hunts. All these are Christians supposedly serving God, while doing everything God said we should not do.

Today we, the Christian serve God in name only. Our dollar bill still has written on it "In God We Trust." We learned that our god is that in which we trust. What god is it we trust in? Is it the dollar bill that states that we trust in the God? Or is it the mammon upon which these words are printed our trust lies? That dollar bill is worth less than the paper it's printed on, and our words to the effect that we trust in God is worth no more than those words. We neither trust in God, nor do we believe in the God that the Bible tells us of.

In times past, before I was converted (and I don't mean came forward, signed a pledge, or was baptized; these did nothing but make me appear to be a Christian, both to others, and to myself), I was afraid to speak of Jesus or the Bible even to others in my church. This, remember, was in a day when such behavior was much more accepted than it is today. Even then, in the Pentecostal church I attended and belonged, conversation involving the Bible and the Lord was restricted to the Sunday School class room and the sanctuary. The name of the Lord was rarely heard outside of the church.

Today I'm a different person. I no longer have any interest at all in the things of this world. I like to play music, which I spend very little time doing, but I have no interest in listening to music any more. I like art, but I never take the time to paint any more. I like old classic cars, but I wouldn't want to own one. All I want to do now is read about the Lord, write these studies, and talk about the Lord. I enjoy sermons, and hearing about other people's experiences. I thought that when I broke through the barrier of shame and lack of understanding I would find many people ready and anxious to talk about Jesus. How wrong I was. On rare occasion I find such a person, but that person is either a part of one of the outcast denominations, or they have become frustrated with the church altogether and take part in no church activities.


Are you an Elvis (or some other star) fan? Are you a car buff? Do you have your favorite soap, or ball team, or whatever? Chances are you can sit all day and talk to people about your favorite subject and never tire. You, as a Christian, how long can you talk about Jesus or the Bible before you start watching the clock on the wall?

How do you express God to the world? Where does God fit into your daily plans? If you made a list of priorities in your life, where would God be placed? When you only have five minutes to a day for yourself to do what you want to do most, what is it you choose to do? How about if you have an hour, or a day? What about your two weeks vacation? How much of that time do you devote to the Lord? The Lord is the center of your universe isn't He? Surely He is. You say He is don't you? You're not a liar are you?


How are we supposed to express God? Let's look into the lives of the heathen cultures who center their lives devoted to their understanding of the way to express God. We know that blowing ourselves up is not the way to demonstrate God to the world. Sacrificing our virgins, spending all day in prayer, working diligently with the church, fasting for forty days, making many promises, singing Gospel songs, and dedication to the study of the Bible is not the way to express God. Then what, you might say, is, the way to express God?

Jesus lived on this earth in a fleshly body demonstrating God the Father to the world and to His disciples. During that three years He taught 12 men how to express God to the world as He was doing. Let's take a look into the teachings of Jesus and the lives of these twelve people who have shown us the way to express God. We read:


31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:)


Following Jesus and continuing in His Word we find is the way to be disciples of Jesus. That sounds simple enough and easy to do. When we joined the church we attend we were baptized and repeated the sinner's prayer we were told that we had fulfilled all that was required of us to become saved and securely in the hands of God. We were further informed that we were now possessed by the Holy Spirit of God, and because we are in possession of the Holy Spirit we can't help but be a light unto the world. This sounds fine to us. It's easy, and it doesn't hurt at all since we don't have to give up anything. There are some things that we're taught from the pulpit and in the Bible that we should do because we're Christians, like doing good things and being honest and stuff like that. No problem, that's nothing different than what the world says we should do anyway. Even the Humanists and the Buddhists try to do the same thing, and they're things you'd like to do anyway, especially if it's something you don't have to do yourself because God is doing it through you.


34And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. 36For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:)


Sometimes Jesus can say the strangest things. What does He mean to deny ourselves? Deny ourselves of what? Have you been told in church what this means? I don't ever recall hearing that I have to deny myself of anything. And I sure can't see anyone, especially the pastor, denying themself of anything. Does Jesus mean to deny that we exist? I doubt that. I guess since this isn't very clear, our baptism has it covered. What do you think?

Then Jesus said to not be ashamed of Him. We're wearing His name tag, that is, we go by the name of Christian. That must show we're not ashamed of Him. Doesn't it? Do we talk freely about Him in school, at work, in the store, on the street? Well, maybe He means we should not feel ashamed of Him in our church gatherings. Do you think that's what He means?


14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Mat 5:)


Now this gets confusing. We received the Holy Spirit at baptism, at least so we are told. If not at baptism, then whenever we asked to receive Christ into our heart. Does this sound right to you? Now, since it's the Holy Spirit that does the work though us, and does the shining through us, then our work is done. Am I right? If our works fall short of the glory of God, if our light refuses to shine, then it's the Holy Spirit's fault, not ours. We have nothing to fear concerning our coming Judgement, because it won't be us who's judged, but the Holy Spirit. Now that's true "blessed assurance."


27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Mat 16:)

12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:)


We are converted because of our faith. It's our faith that makes us whole. Yet when we become a Christian, we supposedly have all the faith we will ever need to be saved. Where did the faith come from that caused us to be converted if faith is something that comes from God? And because we have faith, the Holy Spirit does the work through us. Again, is it the Holy Spirit's work that's going to be judged? We read in Revelation and elsewhere that those who do not produce fruit, who do not work as thy should, will have to face the pit. What is this works that's going to be judged if the Christian is not supposed to work?


21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Mat 7:)


We have to do the will of the Father? What is the will of the Father for us? We were baptized and said the sinner's prayer (some of us anyway). Is that the will of the Father Jesus is talking about?

Here we have someone who is doing marvelous work in the name of Jesus. How can it be that this person was not known by Jesus? Don't these works prove that a person is in the will of God? But then again, we saw that Pharaoh's magicians could perform some of the miracles Moses performed. And we see that the Beast of Revelation will be performing great works and miracles. But will he be doing these miracles in the name of Jesus?

The works that we do are through the Holy Spirit. Right? The Christian shows his faith and his conversion by the mighty works that he does (John 14:12; Mark 16:17), as demonstrated by the person rejected in the parable above. I have a question: If it's the Holy Spirit who does the work, these mighty works, then why can't I, the baptized, Spirit filled Christian do any of these works? And further still, since it's the Holy Spirit who's responsible for doing these mighty works, and here's a person doing just that; who is at fault? Is it the man who was doing all he should be doing? Or is it the fault of the Holy Spirit that he must have in order to do the works in Jesus name? (Mark 9:39: John 14:13-14:)

Confusing isn't it? It is for me if I try to remain within the common doctrine I've been taught all my life.


9Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? 10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. (John 14:)


Jesus said it's the Father who was doing the marvelous works Jesus was performing. And if we are to do marvellous works, I suppose it will be God doing them through us. But works in themselves are not evidence of our faithfulness nor our salvation as demonstrated in the passage above. We also have Judas casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Where did he get the power to accomplish such miracles, especially considering Jesus had not yet been crucified? Did Judas prove his faith in Jesus by his miracles and his following Jesus for over 3 years?


18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:)


Now we have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all in us. What do you think? Are you aware of all this going on inside of you?

If we have all three persons of the Godhead in us, then how can we fail to do as Jesus has commanded us to do? If we fail to personify God in the flesh, then is it our fault? Is it the fault of the Trinity? Or might it be more likely that we failed to do as we have been instructed, and we haven't been led by the Lord after all? And if the latter is true, then who will be standing before the Judgement seat alone and without council?


27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:)


Part of the security we have been given comes from this verse. In fact, it seems to me that the entire security of the believer hinges on this very passage. But have you been made aware of the condition that goes with this assurance? Jesus said "My sheep hear my voice." And He adds "And they follow me." Tell me now, if you feel confident that you are securely in the hands of God; do you hear the voice of the Shepherd? And what's more, do you follow Him? Examine your life, is your life one that exemplifies Christ? Or would you say your life is exactly the same as every other worldly person? Is your life one that is pleasing to, and that gives glory to the Lord? Or is it one that caters to the fleshly side of yourself?


17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:)


16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (Heb 10:)

2Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart (2Cor 3:)


We hear that the laws have been abolished. Yet I read where Jesus Himself said we must obey the law. Are the laws no more? I believe there are no more laws written on stone, but from my own experience, I find the laws are now written on my heart. Before I received the Holy Spirit, which was more than 50 years after my baptism, I had no awareness of God's laws. I could go about doing my own thing and think nothing of it. Then when the Holy Spirit converted me, I began to agonize over the very same things I enjoyed in the past. Even the smallest of infractions, that means nothing to anyone else in the world, torrents me. This is another aspect of Christianity that goes contrary to what I had been taught all my life, that is, that conversion would bring about freedom from guilt.

I now have the laws, and I understand them and the need for them; however I am far from finding the ability to overcome my fleshly ways and do as I know God insists that I do. I find, not peace, but a struggle within me. And, I believe, it's in the willingness to continuing to struggle that brings me any form of peace and confidence that I am in God's will. (Rom 7:--)

Paul said we are not only walking examples of the law, but of the Epistles as well. I have always heard the Epistles preached as if they were mere suggestions, directed mainly at the unbeliever. I can't fathom this. To me they are guide posts that tell me how well I am doing in my walk in the Lord. Some of the guidelines I see are like soft pylons that road workers use. Others are like brick walls I can't seem to scale. But I find them, the Epistles, written to me, not to some unbeliever who could care less about the Bible and will never read it.

I read all warning signs provided by God the same way I read street signs on the road I travel. They are warning me of danger, not everyone else not on the same road I'm on.


23All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. (1Cor 10:)


Here's another sermon topic just about every church likes to preach on. Are we given liberty? Are we under grace and not the law? Of course we are. However knowing the words to a concept is not the same thing as understanding the concept. When a person convicted of a crime is set at liberty, he is not given his freedom so that he can continue breaking the law. He has to understand that there are consequences to be paid if he breaks the law. Jesus died to give us freedom from sin, not to give us freedom to sin.

Paul said all things edify not. The word Paul uses here means "To build up," like a builder of a house. We are told to build on the foundation of the Apostles, to be a Temple that God can dwell in and do His work through. If we aren't building, then we're either rusting away, or we're deteriorating. We are to possess zeal toward our commitment to God and His work. If we don't feel this zeal, then perhaps we are not truly under the liberty Jesus provided, therefore, not under grace.

When raising a child, at one time or another we give that child liberty, then we watch to see how that child uses the liberty he has been given. If the child uses his liberty to go against what he has been taught to do, what happens to that child's liberty?

There is a purpose for the law. That purpose is to instruct us in what God desires and what He demands of us (Gal 3:24; Rom 3:30). The law is designed to show us what is sin. Without a law, there is no sin. We're taught that because Jesus died for sin, we don't have to concern ourself with sin any longer. That is far from what the Bible teaches us. The Jews understood what sin was, they had gone to school so-to-speak. The newborn Christian does not have that knowledge. We must first gain knowledge of sin, what sin does to ourselves and others, and what it does to God, before we can dismiss sin. If we have the law in our heart, we won't want to violate the law, to sin. For that reason, we can be given liberty. And because we are at liberty, we are also under grace. If our behavior demonstrates that we are not under the law of liberty, then we are no longer under grace. God demonstrates this principle in our everyday life, so we ought to, by nature, understand it. But we don't, because we enjoy the concepts preached to us better. It requires no change on our part.


6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Rom 11:)


There is a difference between working under grace, and working for grace. Working for grace comes before, grace, and grace is the consequence for working. Working under grace is something that come because we have been given grace. The actions are the same, but the motives are different. This is not some new revelation I know because I've heard it preached often enough, but not recently. I used the example of a child previously. We give the child his liberty, we give him grace. He has a grace period where he can prove himself. We want him to have grace, and we want him to be worthy of the grace we give him. This is working under grace. If we have a child who works for grace, in other words, he works to acquire grace, then his assumption is that grace does not belong to him, and he has to prove himself worthy of the grace he has been given. No one is worthy of grace, that's why it has to be freely given. The grace given in the last scenario is not grace, but reward for previous action. In order to retain the reward, that of grace, the child must continue to prove himself worthy of what has been given him. The Jews under the law were just such a people. When they did not continue to merit liberty, their grace period came to an end.

Grace that comes as a gift, that we are freely given, does not have to be worked for. As Paul said, grace then is no longer grace. But if we fail to live up to the expectations of one given grace, then the grace will be taken from us. However, if we repent, and resume our efforts to warrant grace, then grace is not lost.

An example of the latter. I once gave a young boy a BB gun, with the stipulation that he not shoot it at anything but a target, and then only when I was with him. The BB gun was his, it was a free gift. One day I came home (he was a neighbor of mine) and saw him with an adult who lived with him shooting at a fence the other side of which lived another neighbor. Later I had the boy bring me the BB gun, and I broke it across my knee. As long as I could trust the boy to do what he was told, he was able to keep the gift I gave him. When he violated that trust, even though it was with a supposedly "responsible" adult, in other words someone who had authority over him, then he was no longer allowed to have the gift.

The Bible is filled with stipulations one has to live in accordance with if one wishes to retain the gift of grace they are given. These stipulations are not taught by those in authority, and they're not demonstrated by those who are in a position to teach them. But their lack is not excuse for us to ignore the stipulations, nor do they give us leave to disregard them.

Israel was given a land that belongs to God. As long as they proved themselves worthy of that land, as long as they respected the land and kept it up, they were allowed to own that land. When they stopped doing as they were told to do, their gift, that which they did not work for or deserve, was taken from them. We see this even clearer in the ejection of Adam and Eve when they decided to do their own thing rather than to please God. This should give us a picture of what God demands of us, but I'm afraid it doesn't.


36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Mat 22:)

21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:)

9As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:)

How many times have you heard it said that there are no commandments. Yet we read over and over how we must keep the commandment in order to be saved or to see the Kingdom of Heaven. What causes this conflict?

The commandments smack of the law, and to the churches the law is passe. How can there be commandments if there is no more law?

Above I gave my opinion as to how our liberty and our grace should be viewed. Using the formula I've given, the commandments are still in effect, only not on stone but on the heart. Jesus said that love fulfills the law, therefore the commandments as well. Jesus said if we want to be His disciples we must love one another. And we see that we must love God. Love then is the commandment that covers all the law and the commandments. If we love, then we don't have to worry about any law or grace or any other of the things that have been given to us. How many times have you heard a sermon preached just on love and what it is, and the importance of it? I haven't. I hear sermons that include love in some vague way, but not on the absolute importance of it.

Jesus came to demonstrate love when all there existed was the law, that counters the law of love.

This article is about expressing God to the world. How do we do this? We, as a church, are not demonstrating God, but we demonstrate how sectarian, how judgmental, how condemning we can be to the world, and to one another, those who disagree with us. This is far from God. By our actions we are saying that God is a judging, condemning and a selfish God. We say God is love with our lips, but with our behavior we say He is anything but love.


5Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2Cor 5:)


When was the last time you looked in the Spiritual mirror of the Word in effort to examine yourself to see if you are actually in the faith? The Bible is a guide designed to show us where we have veered from the straight and narrow path. Is your behavior reflecting God and His love for mankind? Or are you portraying a God of self-serving and anger?


 

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