Apostasy

Today’s reading Hebrews 5 and Psalm 13

The theme of spiritual growth has been a focus in In the last three readings I’ve been assigned.  Today is number four.

  1. Three posts ago was, The 5 Essentials for Christian Growth from Philippians 1:9-11;
  2. the next post was, The 3 Stages of Christian Growth (and how to avoid them) from 1 Thessalonians 5; where the topic was grieving the Spirit.
  3. the last post was, Be Strong from 2Timothy 2:2-6, wherein Paul gave us four relatable examples of what we should grow into, the teacher, the soldier, the athlete and the farmer.

Hebrews 5 closes with a warning against apostasy. Having heard enough to be teachers of Christ, there were those in this congregation that were turning back to Judaism. (Hebrews 5:12)  The Jews identified with being teachers, leaders of the blind, but here the writer rebukes them, essentially saying, you need to go back to the essentials.  You need to start again at the beginning with the basic things.

We know from 1John 2:12-16 the three stages of Christian growth:

  1. Babes. Babes in Christ know the name of Jesus.
  2. Young Men. Young men in Christ are strong. They know the Word and use the Word (the truth) to overcome the deceiver.
  3. Fathers. Fathers in Christ know God.

In my estimation, the writer was essentially saying, you think you are on stage three but you are obviously failing stage two (you are deceived).

This statement is made to the whole congregation as a preface to what the writer is going to share. In paraphrasing, he is saying, ‘I’m getting ready to go deep here.  Get ready, and know that some of you aren’t going to get it because you’re self-deceived.’  The beginning of chapter 6 then wraps up the warning to those that have heard the truth and been led astray down paths of false doctrine.  It is horrifying.  

 

God, may we all grow in You and You alone.  May we grow in Your Word and be strong, able to discern the truth and overcome the deceiver.  God would you give each of us all a thirst for your Your Word?  We need You LORD.  Amen.

3rd Heaven

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?  This was the question posed during an opening devotional at a business meeting last week.  Answers ranged from, “I don’t think about Heaven very much – I don’t think I get it and so I just trust” and “I’m ashamed to say, I’ve had thoughts in the past about the continuous chanting and it worries me – will I be bored there?” to “I look forward to reuniting with loved ones” and “I’m looking forward to seeing Jesus face-to-face.”

As we prepared to consider business here on Earth the scripture reading for the devotional was from Colossians 3:2, ‘Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.’  The discussion was Heaven.  The issue, we all agreed, was that we should be thinking about heaven more.  

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?

Have you ever been reading a book, listening to a sermon, or on your knees in prayer and been completely overwhelmed with a flood of emotion to commit everything to the LORD?  This is the time, I want to let go of everything I want and give it all to the LORD, I’m done with doing it my way, I always mess everything up, I want to rest and trust the LORD with everything: every moment, every thought, every desire.  

Expressing this feeling in words is challenging.  Perfect freedom.  Perfect trust.  Perfect peace.  If I’ve gotten close at all you may be recalling your own testimony of how you came to Christ or a renewed commitment to Christ along the way.  This feeling, in my estimation, is as good as it gets this side of life’s great divide.  

However, for me, this feeling is all too shortly followed by a failure.  My flesh realizes a victory as I choose, say, entertainment over time in the Word, etc.  

Still, If even for a brief moment, that feeling touches my soul as if to say, ‘this is what you were created for.”  I can not wait to be done with the fight against the flesh.  Until then, and through the power of the Spirit, we fight the good fight.

God would You bless us with more and more freedom from self as we wait on You?  Please be gentle with us LORD.  May our souls find rest in You.  Amen.  

Psalm 27:13-14
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Today’s reading: James 5 and Psalm 27

 

Sources for study on Heaven:

Sources for study on eternal rewards:

Salvation Test

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.  – 1John 3:10

The NIV starts verse 10 out this way, ‘This is how we know’.  All throughout Scripture, obedience and love are the hallmarks of a true believer.  1 John 3:10 answers the question every believer should test themselves on: how do I know that I am saved?

God assures believers of their salvation through the Spirit. (1John 3:24)  A believer’s renewed heart compels them to obey the will of the Father in obedience to His word and to love God and others in deed and truth.  The presence of Christ in a believer is unmistakable to them over time.

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. – 1John 3:24

Obedience and love.  Like all of Scripture, 1 John chapter 3 continues to return to these two hallmarks of a believer.  As you read through today’s Scripture: 1 John 3 and Psalm 41, be on the lookout for these.  As you enjoy the fellowship of Christ today, feel the Spirit leading you to obedience and love.  

If you have not committed your life to Christ, placed your trust in Him alone and repented from trusting in all other promises, imagine for a moment what your day would be like if you had.  Your whole life made new.  Ever going with a Companion who will reign in your heart and will never leave you.  A companion who is Master over all, King of Kings, who leads you beside still waters in righteousness, who makes you to lie down in green pastures. 

 

Give ear to my prayer, O God

Today’s Scripture reading includes Psalm 55, in which David pours out his heart as he laments over a betrayal of a close friend (possibly Absalom and/or Ahithophel – 2 Samuel 15-18).  The word betrayal presumes a deep trust was placed in a source that proved untrustworthy.   The Proverbs teach us not to have respect of persons. (Proverbs 28:21)  Our unfettered trust is placed assuredly in God alone.  The summit of the psalm is verse 22:

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Amen!  Amen!  Only He is trustworthy!  

Today’s Scripture reading also includes Luke 7, wherein the famous Centurion’s faith in Christ was chronicled.  When he was in need, he placed his trust in the one true source.  

  • Have you ever encountered a situation in your life when you immediately knew that God was the only one who could help you?  
  • What would our life be like if we did not trust in ourselves or anyone for anything but submitted everything with thanksgiving to the LORD?  

Painting:  Christ Heals the Centurion’s Servant – Ricci, Sebastiano

Are you ready to finish what you started?

24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?  Matthew 10:24-25

“It is enough…”.  A true disciple wants nothing more than to be like his Master.  Jesus did not have much in the world in terms of tangible things.  He was born in a barn.  As an adult, He did not have a home and all the ‘important’ people hated him.  They wanted to kill him and they did.  Yet Jesus had all the intangible things. Do we want more than what Jesus had?

“…how much more…”  Given that a true disciple does not want to surpass his Master, Jesus gives a warning to those thinking they may want to follow him.  The warning is clear, as you become more like Christ, people will treat you more like He was treated.  How do we want to be treated?  

In addition to how others will treat us, Jesus gives other warnings to those who considered following him.  Knowing the heart of each, perhaps Jesus tailored the warnings.  Do we relate to any? 

Comfort

In Matthew 8:19-20 the scribe who said he would follow Jesus is told that following Him would mean forgoing a life of comfort.  A home is the baseline of comfort.  

Inheritance

In Matthew 8:21-22 one that would follow Jesus is told that following would mean forgoing his inheritance.  Following Jesus, for this scribe, may mean a life without the wealth of his family and perhaps one full of dependence.  “Allow me to bury my father” is another way of saying, I’ll be back once he’s died and I’ve received all that is coming to me.

Family

Later in Matthew chapter 10 verses 34 thru 37 (Matthew 10:34-37), Jesus teaches that following him will mean being ready to depart from family.

Counting the Cost

Jesus made sure we knew the cost of following Him and the importance of counting the cost so we could finish what we started and receive our reward. (Luke 14:25-34, Matthew 13:45-46, 2Timothy 4:6-8, Galatians 6:9).  

Counting the cost of being a Christian means being willing to give up seeking approval and popularity, status and the favor of men, comfort, an inheritance, and even family.  

Counting the cost of being a Christian means being ready to trade all these things for eternal promises.  Not just some.  Here is a promise God made in Matthew chapter 10.  

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. – Matthew 10:39

Oh God, that we might trust You with all. You are good and You alone are worthy of all our trust LORD. Amen.

 

Painting: Christ Calling His First Disciples – Adam Brenner (1800–1891)

Parable of the Fig Tree

Today’s reading: Matthew 24 and Psalm 97

Matthew chapters 24 and 25 are Jesus’ own sermon on His second coming.  Chapter 24 starts out with the disciples asking with immense anticipation, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”

Jesus responds, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” I thought this was one of the most interesting (and totally loaded response) in the chapter so I wrote on it for BibleJournal.net almost 2 years ago.

Since I have the privilege of another opportunity to write on this chapter I would like to discuss another statement Jesus made that stood out to me. 

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 25:34)

The question here is, who is ‘this generation’?  There are several interpretations, one popular is that ‘this generation’ refers to the elect.  In my estimation, Jesus would have just said ‘you’ or something clearer if that were the case.  I have come to think this is a statement of the elapsed timing of the tribulation.  That is, a generation of time will pass from the beginning to the conclusion of the end of days.  Put another way, the generation that sees the beginning of the birthing pains of the end days will also see Jesus’ return.  What do you think?

32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. – Matthew 24:32-34

Christmas is almost here!  It’s a great time to renew and refocus our anticipation of Christ’s second coming!

Blind leading the blind

Last weekend I worked alongside a young man of 13 years.  In conversation, we landed on the topic of a series of sci-fi books that he enjoys reading.  The books are about a group of criminal clones.  The characters in the story were cloned from the worst criminals in the world and raised in a controlled utopia environment.  The question posed by the scientists conducting this experiment, “Were these criminals born this way?”.  They wanted to see if the clones would show criminal tendencies in an environment free of negative influence.

“What an excellent question.” I said, “The Bible has the answer.” I asked him, “What is the book’s answer?” He told me that the criminal clones escaped and committed crimes.  Here is what I told him.

The truth is that they were born that way.  A utopia environment will not prevent people from becoming criminals.  A bad environment does not turn people into criminals, though it can make the situation worse.  The real issue is that we are all born with sin in our hearts.  We all need Jesus to reign in our hearts.  He is the only way to freedom from sin and death.  These scientists were confused in thinking an environment causes people to be good or bad.  What is good and what is bad?  Only God is good.  Those that do not want to listen to God, choose to compare themselves to other standards to determine if they are good or bad. The problem with that is no one gets to choose with whom to compare themselves to determine if they are good or bad.  Even the worst of criminals will find something in this world to compare themselves with and think himself good.  God is the true standard and He is perfect.  He makes the rules.  Jesus is our only hope.  Those that accept God’s truth know they need help.  They can ask Jesus to save them from what is in store for bad people and He will.   

From today’s reading: John 9 and Psalm 111

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.  – John 9:39-41

While they said, “We see.”  and felt assured in their salvation, the Pharisees compared themselves to the wrong standard.  

Painting: The Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder