Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: February 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday & Lent: Are They in the Bible?

"Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them” (Jeremiah 10:2).

It is that time of the year when begin to see people walking around with a little Cross smudged onto their foreheads in ashes. The paganized Christians are once again revealing their ignorance of the Word of God and their integration of paganism into their religious works.

There is little doubt about the origins of what we know as Ash Wednesday. This day was part of the ancient pagan celebration centering around Easter. The name Easter originated with the names of an ancient goddess and god. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 A.D.) a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Similarly, the Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility was known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos. Her name was derived from the ancient word for spring: eastre. Similar goddesses were known by other names in ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, and were celebrated in the springtime. Some were:

Ø Aphrodite from ancient Cyprus

Ø Ashtoreth from ancient Israel

Ø Astart (?) from ancient Greece

Ø Demeter from Mycenae

Ø Hathor from ancient Egypt

Ø Ishtar from Assyria

Ø Kali, from India

Ø Ostara, a Norse Goddess of fertility

This all goes back to three generations after the Great Flood to Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod and his mother/wife. According to tradition Semeramis, the wife of Nimrod (also believed to be his mother; his name is probably Assyrian , meaning rebellion) the King of Babylon, claimed she had been supernaturally impregnated by the Sun god and gave birth to Tammuz. One day while hunting, Tamuz was killed by a wild boar. Semeramis mourned for 40 days, at the end of which Tammuz was supposedly brought back from the dead. She proclaimed herself Queen of Heaven, founded a celibate priesthood to worship her son, declared its chief priest infallible, and memorialized her mourning in an annual 40 day period of denial. It was the world’s first counterfeit of the Biblical story of the Redeemer and grew into a mother-child cult that was duplicated in almost every pagan mythology. This was the paganism of Baalism that Emperor Constantine integrated with Christianity forming early Roman Catholicism.

6 And the sons of Ham {Noah’s son}; Cush {Noah’s grandson}, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan. 7 And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtecha: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan. 8 And Cush begat Nimrod {Noah’s great-grandson}: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, 12 And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city” (Genesis 10:6-12).

Nimrod most probably was historically transposed into this mythological figure that came to be known as Tammuz in the Babylonian and Phoenician cults. This was just one of the many names for the Sun god within these various cultures. By the time of the prophecies of Ezekiel, Israel had become so perverted in their religious practices, they were actually worshipping Tammuz in the Temple of God. Ezekiel’s prophecy was written in 592 B.C. just before the second deportation (8 years after Daniel’s) into Babylonian captivity under Nebuchadnezzar. In this prophecy, we see the horrible condition of apostasy into which the priesthood of Israel had fallen and what prompted God’s judgment.

1 And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me. 2 Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber. 3 And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. 4 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the vision that I saw in the plain. 5 Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry. 6 He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations. 7 And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. 8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. 9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. 10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about. 11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth. 13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. 14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. 16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east” (Ezekiel 8:1-16).

Ash Wednesday is actually of pagan origin and was introduced/integrated into the church beliefs of the Catholic Church a few hundred years after Christ. This was the era when Constantine was attempting to weld pagans and Christians into a unit within the Roman Empire. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Roman Catholic churches of the Latin Rite use this service to prepare themselves for the passion and resurrection of Christ through self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, and self-denial.

Ashes from the burned palms of the preceding year’s Palm Sunday are blessed. With these ashes, the priest marks a cross on the foreheads of those who come forward and kneel, saying, “Remember, man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19 KJV). From Biblical times, sprinkling oneself with ashes has been a mark of sorrow for sin. Those who honor Ash Wednesday add to this meaning of penance a second point; the need to prepare for a holy death.

The churches of the Anglican Communion, as well as some other Protestant churches observe this day. Eastern Rite churches do not. Their Lent begins on the preceding Monday. We find the only mention of the word Easter in the King James Version, in Acts 12:4, and that reference is to the Passover, not a Christian observance. Further, it is an improper translation of the Greek word, and most Bible translations have corrected this error.

Pagan Origin

Many Bible scholars believe the name Easter is merely a slightly changed English spelling of Ishtar (pronounced eesh-tar), the name of the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian idol goddess. A feast to this goddess was celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox (about March 20th in the northern hemisphere). Other scholars associate the name with Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. Whichever is the case, we can see the pagan influence in the emphasis on eggs and bunnies, which were part of ancient heathen fertility rites and spring festivals.

Judaistic Connection

Since Jesus was crucified and arose from the dead during the Passover season, proponents of the Easter holiday have connected it with this Old Testament holy day. But while Jesus is our Passover (I Corinthians 5:7), and the fulfillment of the pattern set forth in the Law of Moses, Christians have no command or example that suggests we are to keep the Passover.

Like many other things (separate priesthood, clerical garments, incense, etc.) associated with Catholicism, Easter’s Passover connections are an unauthorized and improper binding of old-covenant elements. Christians are specifically told not to do this, because these elements were nailed to the cross when the Lord died (Colossians 2:11-17).

Jesus, during the Passover season supper He shared with His disciples before His betrayal, instituted a weekly memorial of His death (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). But, again, the New Testament is silent about an annual festival to commemorate His resurrection.

Related Events

The inappropriateness, and even sinfulness, of the Easter season is seen in the three seasons (the Carnival season, the Lenten season, and the Post-Easter season) and about a dozen religious events associated with the holiday. And, while many of the Easter-season events are connected with some Biblical event, none of the days or seasons has any Scriptural authority.

Carnival - Most of us think of carnivals as amusement shows. And while the Easter-related Carnival season fulfills that definition, there is more to it. The word “carnival” means, “flesh farewell.” It refers to a season of feasting, reveling, and merry making prior to Lent, when, many people give up certain foods, entertainments, and amusements. So Carnival season offsets, or indulges, in these things prior to the Lenten restrictions. Again, such carnivals are similar to pagan festivals in ancient Rome. Catholicism seems to have appropriated many pagan traditions.

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi gras, culminates the final Carnival-season days before Ash Wednesday. It is the last big fling of riotous behavior before the Lenten period of so-called sackcloth and ashes. If you’ve ever observed on television the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, you have to wonder how such drunkenness, nakedness, and general lewdness could ever be deemed part of the worship of God.

Lent - Lent is the 40-day period of fasting before Easter. The word “lent” comes from the Anglo Saxon word leneten, which means springtime. In the context of the Easter season, these days are supposed to commemorate Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness immediately following His baptism. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and closes on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.

On Ash Wednesday, Catholics gather for mass, and the priest marks their foreheads with ashes from palms burned on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. These ashes remind participants that man’s end is to return to the dust from which he was created and signifies the need for repentance, as is represented in the sackcloth-and-ashes mourning under the old law. Observance of this day dates from the eighth century.

The final Lenten-season event is Holy Week, also known as Passion Week. During this week, participants observe four special days--Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. This week immediately precedes Easter Sunday. The Holy-Week events are designed to commemorate Jesus’ suffering and the events immediately preceding His crucifixion. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12-16).

Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Good Friday focuses on the Lord’s crucifixion. And Holy Saturday focuses on the time Jesus was in the grave.

After Easter - There is also a series of special days known as the post-Easter season, which serve as an anticlimax to the main event. The first events are Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday. On Easter Monday, some countries practice Easter egg rolling, purportedly symbolic of the rolling away of the stone from Christ’s grave.

Ascension Day falls on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter, to commemorate the ascension. The third event is Whitsuntide, which comes 50 days after Easter. It gets its name from the white garments worn by those who commemorated the day of Pentecost. It is a day used especially to baptize children. Trinity Sunday comes 57 days after Easter and honors the trinity, or Godhood.

The final post-Easter season event is Corpus-Christie, observed on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, which is the 61st day after Easter. The term means “body of Christ,” and the festival honors the Lord’s Supper. Interestingly, Jesus inaugurated the Lord’s Supper to commemorate His death. Thus, Catholics have a commemoration to commemorate a commemoration. This festival was initiated about 1247 A.D.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Synergism: Opening The Door to God’s Indwelling Power

Chapter Eight
Doing: Ministry and the Manifestation of Power

“7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:7-11).

In I Peter 4:7-9, there is given an admonition to believers within a local church union about living during the last days. The Church Age Dispensation will end with the death of every lost soul on the face of planet earth. Only those who repent of sin and trust in the finished work of Christ for their redemption during the seven year Tribulation will enter into the Kingdom Age Dispensation alive. Every other person who has received the mark of the Beast will be destroyed by the glory of the coming of Christ. With this view in mind, the believer should carefully follow the admonitions of I Peter 4:7-9.

Along with what we are told in Revelation chapters four through nineteen and numerous other prophecies, this is the world view of every Christian who believes in the imminent (any moment) second coming of Jesus Christ. This is the looming dark cloud of God’s promise of His unleashed wrath in His judgment of the nations.

This is the theological foundation in an any moment pending reality to which the words, “7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (I Peter 4:7-9) are addressed. Perhaps if we truly understood this any moment pending reality, we might begin to take these words seriously.

The word “end” in I Peter 4:7 is from the Greek word telos (tel'-os). This word refers to the point aimed at as a limit or the point of termination. The Church Age Dispensation is the next to the last age of God’s longsuffering grace upon this fallen creation. Then comes the “day of wrath” that Paul speaks of in Romans 2:5: “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God . . .” This is the future horizon that all Church Age believers must be constantly reminded of. We must keep this prophecy as part of today’s possible realities.

Years ago, shortly after the Vietnam War, there was an extensive influx of Hmong people to the United States. After a while, many of them, especially their elderly, were going to emergency medical centers for treatment of malnutrition. They were living almost completely on blanched white rice manufactured in the United States. The fact is, their was not enough nutrients left in the processed rice to sustain them. Even though they increased the amounts they were eating, they were starving to death.

I believe this scenario is equally true of local churches where the “meat” of Bible doctrine has been removed. Take the definitive Truths of God’s Word away from the admonitions to a local church and you take away the spiritual nutrients that lead us to power with God. Although that local church may look like and act like it is growing, it is dying of malnutrition at the same time.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee expecting a rich, robust flavor to fill your mouth only to find nothing more than a cup of warm, brown water? Have you ever sat down at a table with someone where the food looks wonderful, but there just seems to be a lack of titillating odors and when you taste the food you realize why? It is tasteless? Have you ever gone to a sports activity expecting to see exciting competition between some very skilled athletes only to find mediocre performances with almost a complete lack of enthusiasm? What is common to each of these scenarios? We came to each of these experiences in life expecting something that just wasn’t there. No matter how much we wanted it to be there, it just was not there.

Vapid means flat, tasteless, or dull. The coffee was vapid, because it was made from poor coffee, there was not enough coffee in the mix, or the coffee was just poorly prepared. The food was vapid, because it had no seasonings, or it was not prepared properly. I do not get too excited about going to someone’s house for a steak if I know that their method of preparation is boiling it. Sports activities are vapid if the participants do not put in the necessary effort to perfect their skills and if they do not play with a passion to win. The Bible word for vapid is “lukewarm.” It is the word Christ uses to describe the plastic, tasteless, pretentious, lifeless local church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. He spewed it out!

Every Christian is commanded to be both “salt” and “light” in this world. Yet, the Christian that is not empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit will be savorless salt and hidden or covered “light.” The point is that we are going to be “lukewarm” if we are not willing to make some extreme, radical changes in our priorities of life and how we live this new live we have “in Christ.” Before we fool ourselves into thinking that we have achieved some type of success because we have convinced a large group of people to join our multitude, we better examine what kind of multitude we really are and what we are trying to become.

“25 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).

I Peter 4:7-11 gives us a spiritual recipe to avoid being a vapid local church. In I Peter 4:7-11 we see a number of words that describe the overflow of the Spirit of God manifesting His indwelling power flowing through our lives. There are seven ministry areas of the Christian life that are intimately and intricately connected to having a right working relationship with the Lord Jesus that are key to releasing His power through our lives in ministry to one another.

1. Sobriety; from the word sophroneo (so-fron-eh'-o) meaning sound of mind or thinking. Sound mindedness comes from thinking things through and taking into consideration all the Truths of God’s Word as they weigh upon any given subject or situation. Sophroneo was a word that described a person who did not allow his mind to come under the influence of alcohol.

2. Watch unto prayer; the word “watch” is from the word nepho (nay'-fo), meaning to abstain from wine drinking and connects sobriety (right mindedness) with prayer (God-dependency) in power with God in all matters of life. Contradistinctively, failure in nepho (abstaining from wine drinking or any similar worldly practice) would disconnect the believer from power with God. Even worldly desires manifest a weak mind (the opposite of a strong or sound mind).

3. Fervent charity; literally, unceasing sacrificial (parenting kind of) love for other true believers. The idea is the willingness to make extreme sacrifices for one another in order to help one another grow in grace and escape the shackles of our own selfishness. The words “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” in I Peter 4:8 is a quote from Proverbs 10:12. “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” The idea is that love is not constantly stirring up the dunghill of yesterday’s failures of a fellow Christian that have been confessed and forgiven.

4. Use Hospitality; from the word philoxenos (fil-ox'-en-os), it simply means being fond of guests. Christians ought to enjoy the company of other Christians and “use hospitality” to encourage one another. Notice this comes with the qualifier, “one to another without grudging” (grumbling or complaining about having to do it). Remember, “God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:7). Hospitality is expensive both monetarily and in time. If love does not cost us something, we have not loved.

5. Minister “the gift;” “gift” is from charisma and “minister” is from diakoneo (dee-ak-on-eh'-o). In other words, God did not give us the supernatural gift of spiritual enablement to consume upon ourselves. He has gifted us with the intent we will use that “gift” and spread its as a resource to the widest possible scale of our influence “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Notice, there is a stewardship involved. Stewardship means we will be held accountable for this “manifold grace of God.” This accountability defines the dispensation (stewardship) of grace. Salvation is a free gift of grace, but with it comes overwhelming spiritual responsibilities to which we are accountable to God. He expects “fruit.”

6. Speech; “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). The word “the” is not in the Greek text in front of the word “oracles.” It should read, “Speak as oracles of God.” The idea is the “thus sayeth the LORD” proclamation of the Old Testament prophets. The idea is that you are not communicating some philosophical idea or some great thought from your own mind. There is no option for debate or dissension. Truth is to come forth from the mouth of the prophet of God as if God is speaking Himself. Therefore, when you are speaking forth the Word of God, you are to do so with the authority of its Author.

7. Ministry to the glory of God; “if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:11b). We often hear the word charismatic used to describe people who can attract large crowds. They are more like fly paper. The fly was just looking for a place to land and get something to eat and then he found himself stuck.

When God uses the word charisma, He uses it in the context of His supernatural enabling of a believer for the “work of the ministry.” This gift of grace is never to be use for some guy to build himself an empire of loyal followers. God’s gift of grace is to be used to make believers followers of Jesus Christ where all that we do is intent upon bringing God glory, i.e., revealing Him in all of His wondrous attributes to a blind, cursed, and dying world of sinners. Sometimes there is a narrow line that is difficult to discern whether a man is building himself a kingdom or if he is working to win souls and make disciples for the Kingdom of God.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

ON Wings of Faith

ON Wings of Faith
The Chastisement of a Nation
Verse by Verse Study through Habakkuk


In 2001, shortly after the terrorist attach on the Twin Towers, I published this booklet of 22 lessons from the book of Habakkuk.

The studies give us God's instruction for His faithful remnant in dealing with the issues of God's chastisement of the nation of Israel in their pending captivity.

Many of these lessons parallel the issues facing our nation and give us principles of faith that prepare Christians for the events prior to the Pre-tribulation rapture and the difficulties of the last days. (No, I do not confuse the USA with National Israel.)

I think these booklets would be a very relevant study in the light of our present historical context for Adult/Teen Sunday School class or for Small Group or Home Bible Study Groups. At the price I am making these available, they would also make a nice gift for visitors to your Church services.

I have some inventory of this 112 page booklet still available. They were originally available at retail for $4.95 each plus postage & handling. I will make them available to local churches in 25 book lots for $25.00 plus $9.00 for Priority Mail. I have limited quantities available.

First come, first served.

I will invoice you with the order or you can pay by credit card through Pay Pal.
To pay by Pay Pal, click the DONATE Button at the bottom of my Home Page & enter $34.00.

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Synergism: Opening The Door to God’s Indwelling Power

Chapter Seven

Becoming Fructiferous: the Outcome of the Actualization of a Disciple

1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:1-8).

Christ considered a Christian or local church that did not win souls and make disciples an anomaly that was wasting His Blood investment in the redemption of their souls. Fruit bearing is expected!

6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).

Within the text of II Peter 1:1-8, we find a trinity for fruit production. This trinity comes all wrapped up for us in the word “faith” in II Peter 1:1. This trinity rapidly unfolds in the next seven verses in the key words “grace,” “peace,” “knowledge,” and “divine power” ultimately ending in fruitfulness (fruit bearing). This trinity involves three spiritual dynamics (the Tripartite of Power):

1. Knowledge (illumination) of God’s will through His Word

2. The supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit of God in the illumination and the application of God’s Word

3. Translating the Word of God into the language of living (becoming “doers of the Word”)

Training in these three areas is really what defines “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). Herein is where most local churches fail so often in their discipleship (“perfecting”) ministry. This is also what makes preaching different than teaching. Teaching primarily appeals to the head while preaching primarily appeals to the heart. Preaching is the dogmatic presentation of the truths of God’s Word in the power of the Spirit of God (“unction”) resulting in the confrontation of our Will Gates with the intent of bringing our living into harmony with the Word of God (living/doing faith).

Knowing faith is not the same as living faith. We see very few real life changing decisions today in our invitations at the conclusion of preaching services. The lack of these decisions is even more evident in the reality of the lack of any real change in how people live out their professed faith in the everyday living of their lives by engaging their corporate ethic with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is almost as if people think they can live the Christian life (living faith) covertly. This kind of thinking must be confronted and eradicated before true living faith can become a reality. Living faith is a public faith that stands on the highest ground of a person’s corporate and individual influence with a living testimony of a life that points to Jesus Christ.

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? 26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28 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 10:25-28).

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Orthodoxy must always result in orthopraxy. Orthodoxy involves knowing correct doctrine. Orthopraxy is accurately living correct doctrine (truth) to the degree that it reflects and restores the image of Who God is in our lives resulting in manifesting His communicable attributes to the world. This is known as bringing God glory. Glorifying God (manifesting Who He is through the way we live) is the primary purpose of Bible study and the pursuit of orthodoxy. Without orthodoxy we can never achieve orthopraxy and we can never truly glorify the Lord. The focal purpose of orthodoxy is always doxological or it is not orthodoxy.

Obtaining “like precious faith”

The word “faith” is used of both saving faith and living faith in the Word of God. The context of use must determine which of these meanings are being referred too. These two meanings of faith can be found together in Romans 1:17.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from {saving} faith to {living} faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).

The context of II Peter is referring to Christian service (ministry). Therefore, the meaning of the word “faith” here is living faith. In this context the word “faith” refers to putting some muscle upon the theological bones of Bible doctrine. It is not that the believer puts life to the Word of God (it is inherently living). The idea is that the indwelling Holy Spirit of God puts life to our bodies, dead in trespasses and sin and still possessing a Sin Nature, through the transforming, cleansing power of the Living Word of God. This happens when the believer yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God and begins to live the truths of God’s Word through the Spirit’s supernatural enabling (grace).

However, this miraculous work of the indwelling Spirit does not take place until a believer yields to the indwelling Spirit AND begins to live the Word of God (living faith).

Biblical faith is not merely what we choose to believe. Biblical faith is Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura means our beliefs are what the Word of God teaches; nothing more and nothing less. This is what the Word of God means when God speaks of “like precious faith” and “the faith.” Biblical faith is not about man’s opinions, traditions, or philosophies. Biblical faith is not about our observations of human behavior patterns (psychology). Biblical faith is not discovered by rationalism or human logic. Biblical faith comes by the supernatural illumination of Sola Scriptura. This is an absolute necessity in the spiritual dynamic of faith building in both the life of the preacher/teacher and in the life of the disciple.

1 Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. 2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2).

Therefore, the second aspect of the Tripartite of Power necessary to fruit bearing is the fact that Theology (knowing Who God is) is intricately connected to Pneumatology (knowing Who the Spirit of God is and what He is doing in our lives). This is the connecting link in II Peter 1:1-8 between saving faith and living faith. This is communicated in this text by the words “grace,” “divine power,” and “partakers of the divine nature.” If we miss this truth, we miss the primary distinctive characteristic of what defines the Age of Grace or the Church Age.

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you . . . 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:18-20 and 26).

The third aspect of the trinity necessary to fruit bearing is that Pneumatology (knowing Who the Spirit of God is and what He is doing in our lives) is the connecting link to translating the Word of God into the language of living (becoming “doers of the Word and not hears only”). Anything less than living supernaturally enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God will be nothing more than carnal legalism.

1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” (Galatians 3:1-5)?

The Christian life (living faith) is supernaturally produced. Apart from the supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit of God, the Christian life is completely beyond our realization. The Spirit of God produces the Christian life in us when we yield our will gate to Him as He reveals His will to us through the illumination of the Word of God.

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:1-5).

In II Peter 1:5-8, the Christian life is described by seven tangible, evidentiary realities that are added to faith intended to make a believer’s life fertile soil for fruit bearing to the glory of God. The word “add” is from the Greek word epichoregeo (ep-ee-khor-ayg-eh'-o). It really means to nourish or to aid. The context would imply that the seven attributes listed bring faith to its fullest potential; i.e. fruit bearing. As these seven qualities are built one upon another (the word “to” should actually be translated upon) and are connected one to the other, they will nourish faith to its fullest stature and potential.

1. Virtue; from arete (ar-et'-ay), manliness or valor and probably refers to moral strength of character

2. Knowledge; from gnosis (gno'-sis), most commentators agree that the context implies this to mean applied knowledge for discerning the will of God and therefore knowing the will of God with assurance dogmatically

3. Temperance; from egkrateia (eng-krat'-i-ah), self control or self restraint; refers to holding oneself in.

4. Patience; from hupomone (hoop-om-on-ay'), meaning constancy; enduring under trials or difficulties

5. Godliness; from eusebeia (yoo-seb'-i-ah), holiness or separation from worldliness and unto ministry (loving self sacrifice)

6. Brotherly kindness; philadelphia (fil-ad-el-fee'-ah), kindness and generosity to other believers

7. Charity; agape (ag-ah'-pay), sacrificial benevolence to the benefit of others. This kind of love does not happen apart from GIVING of self sacrificially. It is the kind of love that God is.

These are the essentials of grace to produce fruit through the empowering of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In other words, there are some very tangible aspects of Christian character that we must possess before the power of the indwelling Spirit of God can be released through our lives. The Word of God does not tell us to what extent we must have added these qualities, but I would surmise that the more of these qualities we possess the more eternal fruit will be produced through our ministry by the Holy Spirit.

These are the attributes of a living faith forged in the foundry of spiritual growth intent upon production of eternal fruit. These attributes forge a chain that connects the supernatural existence of God to the temporal existence of mankind. The believer with these qualities added to his/her faith becomes that connecting link. The outcome of that supernatural connection is that “if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:8).

Central to a local church’s failure in fulfilling the Great Commission is the failure of people who have not forged a real world faith in their lives and who are not living in the Tripartite of Power. Wilderness Christians remain in the barren wilderness of fruitlessness because they have a superficial knowledge of God, a superficial knowledge of the ministry of His indwelling Spirit, and a superficial faith that never connects them to the spiritual warfare that living in the Promised Land necessitates.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Synergism: Opening The Door to God’s Indwelling Power

Chapter Six
Discipleship and the Actualization of One’s Christianity

“35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! 37And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? 39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. 42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. 43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:35-51).

A person’s Christianity is a history of thousands upon thousands of personal decisions of the will. One’s Christianity begins with a decision to believe that Jesus died for our sins, propitiated God’s wrath for the “sins of the whole world” (John 2:2), that He was buried, was resurrected and ascended victorious over death opening a “door” (Himself; John 10:1-9) into the New Genesis to “whosoever” that was willing to believe the gospel, confess Him as Lord (God) and call on His Name to save him (Romans 10:9-13). However, there is also a vocational call to all believers. That call is to become a DISCIPLE; a learner & doer of the Word.

The next decision after salvation, that the believer is to be lead to make, is the decision to be baptized by immersion. This is the decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is the decision to be a committed student of Truth and a consecrated, sanctified follower of Jesus Christ. Baptism involved a decision to begin dying to the old, carnal way of life led by the “old man” and a commitment to “walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:1-13) as led by the indwelling Spirit of God.

Decisional Christianity is clearly the pattern of orthopraxy that we find in the gospels, the book of Acts and in the New Covenant Epistles. In simple words, we find this pattern of incremental decisional Christianity portrayed by Christ in His preaching and teaching ministry over and over again in the gospels. Christ took people through numerous incremental levels of decisions leading them to higher degrees of faith and increased levels of commitment to serve Him at each level.

We find this same type of incremental decisional Christianity portrayed by the Apostles over and over again in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. We also find this incremental decisional Christianity portrayed over and over again throughout the Epistles and even the book of Revelation. In other words, incremental decisional Christianity is normal Christianity. Therefore, any Christian who is not regularly making incremental decisions that brings him/her to a closer walk with God, a higher degree of trust in God, an increased dependency on God in prayer, and a higher level of commitment to God in reaching the lost and making disciples to His glory is probably backslidden.

John 1:35 begins the first day of the three year ministry of Jesus Christ. From this point forward, it is a count-down to Golgotha. Jesus has three years to create a continuum of discipleship by training twelve men and leading them through a number of progressive decisions (progressive sanctification).

It is critically important to understand that the disciples Jesus chose to train, as the disciples to be the Apostles, were already saved disciples of John the Baptist (1:35). That means they were already saved according to the Old Covenant. They were believers in the promised Messiah and were looking for His coming (1:41). This is important in order to understand what is taking place in this portion of Scripture. These men are not getting saved and leading others to salvation. All those they brought to Jesus were already saved like they were saved. This text is about becoming disciples of Jesus and the commitment involved with becoming a follower of Jesus.

Many people get saved who never become Christians. Being a Christian is defined by practicing or following the teachings of Jesus (Scripture). Granted, a person professing to be saved and never becoming a follower of Jesus as taught in the Word of God should really question the reality of his/her salvation. This kind of so called Christianity is not Christianity at all. In fact, the person who professes to be a believer, but who never lives like a believer by actually following (living) the teachings of Jesus Christ is most probably a false profession of a person who is living under an illusion of salvation.

“3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (I John 2:3-6).

The whole body of Scriptural teaching is referred to as “the faith.” Once a person is truly and really saved by trusting in the finished sacrifice of Christ Jesus in His full payment of the death sentence substitutionally for all mankind, that person is eternally secure in that salvation. Getting saved is the easy part. It costs the believer nothing. It is a gift. Getting saved is a simple matter.

“8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

On the other hand, being a disciple of Jesus (Christian) is a very costly process of numerous decisions. Becoming a disciple begins with a decision to follow Jesus and live according to His teachings. Salvation is a new creation and a new beginning. Salvation is becoming a “born again” child of God. Discipleship is parenting that newborn babe in Christ to full spiritual maturity.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
What does it mean to be a disciple? The following are a few questions every Christian should regularly ask himself:

1. How committed am I about winning souls, making disciples, and walking with the Lord in separation from worldliness and dedication to ministry?
2. Do I live for Jesus because of peer pressure, because I want to project an image of spirituality to my own glory, or because I really know what I believe and because I really want to live those beliefs to the glory of God?
3. Do I understand my spiritual gifts and am I utilizing those spiritual gifts in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to my fullest potential?
4. How many people’s lives am I intimately involved with in praying specifically for the salvation of both their souls and their lives and what people’s lives am I actually engage with in personal witness and in a personal discipleship process with?

How you answer these four questions determines to what degree you are either faithful or backslidden. When Jesus called these men to become disciples, He was calling them to two things. He was calling them to training and He was calling them to the work of evangelism (becoming “fishers of men;” Mark 1:17). Making disciples of these men meant a long, slow process of training them to be soul winning disciple makers.

This is why Christ planned for the establishment of local churches. They were to be training centers for disciples to do the work of evangelism and to maintain the continuum of disciple makers. Formal membership in a local church is like enrollment in a college where you are going to be expected to attend all the classes, do the homework, take the tests, graduate, and ultimately begin to do the work you were trained to do. Water Baptism and formal church membership are directly connected to a commitment to the discipleship process to be perfected (equipped or matured spiritually in the Tripartite of Power) “for the work of the ministry.”

“11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

When Jesus chose these 12 men to be His disciples, He committed three years of almost 24 hours a day of His short life to training them in knowing and living the Word of God. When He began with them, they were weak in their faith, undependable, unfaithful in their prayer life, ignorant, slow to learn, and pretty selfish in their thinking.

Over 3 years of time Christ took 11 of these 12 men from a group of self absorbed men in pursuit of prominent positions in the Kingdom (that they thought was going to come into existence at any day), to a level of understanding of the reality of God’s existence that brought them to a faith that was willing to risk everything they owned, and even their lives, for the cause of Christ. Christ took them from being men in selfish pursuit of power and position to become men willing to be servants to the degree they were willing to die in the attempt to bring the very people that sought to kill them to faith in Christ. The vat majority of today’s professing Christians never become disciples, let alone arrive at this final destination of absolute and total commitment to serve the one and only True and Living God.

The purpose for getting saved believers into the local church is not to institutionalize them (all ministry and worship done within the walls of the institution). The purpose for getting saved believers into the local church is to actualize them (to help them become actually what they only presently profess to be). That cannot, and will not, happen apart from a real, living relationship with the Real, Living God. Neither will it happen apart from a supernatural work from within by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.

Sadly, the vast majority of professing Christian prefer to be institutionalized rather than actualized. Being institutionalized does not make any demands on your life. Being institutionalized allows you the false notion that church attendance carries with it no real accountability to learn or any culpability before God. For the institutionalized believer, church attendance is merely the fulfillment of some pseudo-notion of worship obligations. What a sham façade against real Christianity.

The goal of every local church that is true to the Word of God and that is true to the God of the Word is actualization. In actualization, a believer can never be said to be actualized until he is equipped for the work of the ministry through the actualization of the Tripartite of Power and begins to actually do the “work of the ministry.”

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