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: November 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

“O give thanks unto the LORD”

“O give thanks unto the LORD”

To be thankful is perhaps the most noble of human virtues in that to be truly thankful one must acknowledge that all that he has is undeserved.  To be truly thankful is to be content with what one has.  Therefore, true thankfulness must be absent of covetousness.  Covetousness and thankfulness are antithetical to one another.  This issue is addressed in Proverbs chapter thirty and Psalm one-hundred and seven in considerable detail. 

15 The horseleach {a type of blood sucking leech} hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: 16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough” (Proverbs 30:15-16).

          Here the “horseleach” is presented as a female who represents the personification of covetousness or lust.  The metaphor is not intended to represent that covetousness is limited to women; merely that covetousness has produced two blood-sucking daughters that unceasingly cry “Give, give.”  A leech has two suckers, one on each of its ends.  These two daughters personify avarice and ambition.  Avarice is the insatiable desire for wealth and/or power.  Ambition is the driving force of the human ego that is satisfied with nothing less than being treated as a god ultimately desiring worship and praise. 

Once a blood-sucker attaches itself to its victim, it will gorge itself with blood to the point of bursting.  The point of the comparison to the leech is that lust is never satisfied and is ungrateful because it is driven by its nature to do what it does.  As far as the blood-sucker is concerned, all other living things exist merely to satisfy the blood-sucker’s lusts.  Such a creature is totally incognizant of any danger it poses to its victims.  This is equally true of the lusts of the human sin nature. 
The point of Proverbs 30:15-16 is that there are intrinsic characteristics of our sin natures that are an absolute contradiction against being thankful.  Although we might have momentary expressions of thankfulness to God, those moments exist only for a short time within the scope of receiving things we expect from God.  Once that moment is passed, the thankfulness quickly wanes and dissipates into the nothingness of forgetfulness.  Such a person is obsessed with the what of which he is thankful rather than the Who of its provision.  What a sad testimony!  This certainly reflects the depth of corruption into which the human nature has fallen. 
The summation of these few verses is focused upon the fact that the relationship a believer has with God is really the only thing in this creation that will truly satisfy the longings in the human soul.  It is the overflowing presence of the “breath of life” for which the sinner’s soul longs.  Salvation may restore the “breath of life” to a sinner’s soul, but only true “fellowship” with God will release the “fruit” of the indwelling Spirit of God.  The saved sinner longs for that “fellowship” because nothing else satisfies his soul and nothing else will fill his empty existence without it. 

Yet, the sinner’s fallen nature haunts his soul with the insatiable desires of the flesh.  Even when those desires are satisfied for the moment, they soon inflame and again demand the sinner’s subservience.  The believer’s spiritual warfare is the battle of his fallen and corrupted will against the righteous and holy will of God.  Paul says it like this: “16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).  Every Christian seeking to be holy understands this moment by moment warfare. 

True thankfulness to God burst forth out of the understanding of Who God is.  When a sinner understands Who God is and how far short the sinner comes from deserving anything from God, then true thankfulness will be produced in that sinner’s heart.  This is the introductory substance of Psalm 107:1-9. 

1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; 3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. 4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. 5 Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. 6 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. 7 And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. 8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:1-9).

          The essence of Psalm 107 is that temporal blessings are merely a small taste of God’s eternal blessings.  God “is good” because He makes provisions that no one deserves.  Everything that comes to the sinner flows from the “mercy” of God.  The “redeemed” should especially understand this and proclaim the “mercy” of God.  “God is love” (I John 4:16).  However, this fact merely reveals the fountain of God’s blessings and goodness.  God does not love sinners because we are loveable.  God loves sinners because He is love.  God’s love generates His mercy and grace to undeserving sinners thereby redeeming sinners “from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2).  Understanding this is the fountain of thanksgiving.  
The point of the Psalm is not merely that sinners are lost in their sins.  The point of the Psalm is that sinners are captivated by their sins.  Because the sinner’s nature is corrupted, the sinner wants what Satan offers.  However, Satan does not reveal that what he offers to satisfy the sinners corrupted wanter is also a snare trap. 

22 Flee also youthful lusts {they are snare traps}: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (II Timothy 2:22-26).

          Psalm 107:3-5 describes the lostness of the unredeemed.  These verses also tell us that it is God who seeks out sinners as they wander hopelessly and helplessly without plan or purpose in life.  The point of the text is that God wants all sinners to know Him and His wondrous gift of redemption.  Therefore, “God is good” beyond human imagination.  The goodness of God is magnified by understanding that God is perfectly holy and that sin is an absolute offense against His holy character.  Yet, He extends Himself to reach out to those taken captive by sin and thereby are floundering in life.  However, His goal is not merely to comfort sinners in their hopelessness and helplessness.  God’s goal is to lead sinners out of their hopelessness and helplessness and to give them a “city of habitation.”  The “city of habitation” is being reconciled to God and habitually live in fellowship with God Himself.

1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. 2 Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. 3 Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 71:1-3).

It is out of all this that the understanding of the statement of Psalm 107:8-9 bursts forth.  “8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:8-9).
We could stop here thinking God has made His point.  Certainly, there is no further need to explain why God should be praised.  Yet, God thinks otherwise.  There is a subtle redundancy to Psalm 107.  In Psalm 107:10-16, God addresses the fact that sin has consequences.  There is a suffocating darkness that permeates the world.  Every sinner works and lives in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4).  The reality of this life is that we are on destined to arrive one day in a chauffeured limousine, dressed in our best, at a graveyard of our choice. 

We are imprisoned in the dark reality of that destiny.  For those ignorant of God’s grace and the gift of eternal life, there is no knowledge of existence beyond this life.  However, Psalm 107:10-16 is addressed to those who have rebelled against God’s Word and “contemned {to treat with contempt or distain} the counsel of the most High.”  Here God exposes His longsuffering patience with such people and the fact that He continues working in their rebellious lives to bring them to saving faith.  In these few verses, God reveals how He sees such people and what He must do to bring those people to believe in Him and bow their knees before Him. 

10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; 11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: 12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. 13 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. 15 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder” (Psalm 107:10-16).

          It is amazing the depth to which sinners must be “brought down” before they cry “unto the LORD” in the trouble they have created for themselves.  Most of the “distresses” in a person’s life are created by his own selfishness and carnality.  The great truth of Psalm 107:9 reflects an understanding of the goodness of God as our Deliverer from the miseries that humans create for themselves because of sin – “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”  This statement is equivalent to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”  Both texts address consuming desires of the heart.  God often lets sinners be consumed by unrighteousness with which they fill their lives until they want no more of its sickening and disgusting outcomes.  Then, their souls long for righteousness and “goodness” to the same degree the carnal heart is consumed with the love of money. 
The rebellious fool thinks of God as some tyrannical dictator with no concern for His subjects.  Because God has judged humanity for their sins, those ignorant of God’s mercy and grace can see Him as nothing but a harsh and cruel taskmaster.  This is the way the Liberals would want God portrayed.  In fact, they will accept no other view of God. 

Certainly, we must all recognize that there must be consequences for rebellion against what is right.  In fact, we all know there are both natural consequences and supernatural consequences for living in the forbidden zone of human existence.  The drunkard knows this.  The drug addict knows this.  The sex addict knows this.  The thief knows this.  They also know that many lives are destroyed by the damage they cause by their lifestyle choices other than their own. 

Knowing there are consequences for sin is the difference between ignorance and rebellion.  The rebel knows of these consequences but is so egocentric that the pleasure centers of his brain demand immediate gratification no matter what might be the cost to others around him.  It is not enough that God warns such a person living in “the shadow of death,” such a person’s rebellion has him “bound in affliction {depression/misery} and iron” as well.  “Affliction” binds the heart while “iron” binds the body. 

Only those who have struggled with insatiable lusts and addictions can truly understand the reality of the spiritual fetters of their own bondage to the corruptions of their natures.  Only those delivered from those fetters will truly praise God the way He deserves to be praised when He delivers a person from the true tyrant in that person’s own sin nature.  It is the grace of God that brings the rebel to the hopelessness of self-destruction in addictive life patterns.  The sinner digs his own pit and reinforces it with his continued rebellion against God creating his own prison of iron for his flesh.  God must allow this process of destruction to take the rebel to the very end of himself and the brink of death before such a person will look at the prison he has created in which he, and those around him, must now live.  Perhaps seeing what such lifestyle choices have created is the greatest torment for such a person. 

The word “distresses” in Psalm 107:13 is from a Hebrew word meaning narrowness.  Modern language expresses this idea as being caught between a rock and a hard place.  The point is about getting one’s self into predicaments from which there is no opportunity to escape; no solutions.  Psalm 107:12 says, “there was none to help.”  “Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:13).  Do not miss the emphasis on the word “then.”  This statement is repeated in Psalm 107:19 giving further details to God’s provision of the means of His deliverance – where the SOLUTION to their predicament is found.

17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. 19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:17-22).

          The affliction of hopeless despair leads to chronic depression to where selfish godless lives have brought those described in Psalm 107.  “Their destructions” spoken of in Psalm 107:20 are their own solutions to their self-created situations of hopelessness due to the carnal, selfish, and godless choices that they have made.  When they chose the beginning of this way, they also chose the end of that way.  These “destructions” are various forms of self-destruction, which are vehicles to escape the miseries of their own lives.  This is the ultimate outcome when people choose to follow the leadership of the Destroyer (Satan) rather than God.  The Destroyer destroys lives, steals hope, and leaves his followers all alone at the end of a dead-end road in the darkness of the middle of the night broken, bruised, and bloodied.  “19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:19-20).
Every problem in life, especially those created by our own carnal and selfish choices, we will find their solutions in knowing and obeying the Word of God.  This is not talking of waving the Bible over your life like some magical fairytale wand that will cause you to live happily ever after.  This is referring to slowly crawling out of the deep grave that the selfish person has been digging for himself for most of his carnal and godless life.  The length of the process of climbing out of that pit will depend on how long and how deep you have dug it.  Bad habits are not easily broken.  Addictions will constantly haunt and oppress the soul of those once possessed by such demons.  Those demons will want back in.  Getting out of this pit will require a considerable investment of time in studying and learning the Word of God to understand the will of God.  Getting out of this pit will require the “renewing of the mind” (thinking) and the “transforming” of our nature through the operations of God.  Such operations are a miracle in progress. 

This cannot happen without the miracle of the New Birth having taken place first.  Therefore, the Psalmist repeated says, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”  This is what is meant by the statement in Psalm 107:2; “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.”  The central testimony of the New Creation is that you are now a child of God and a work in progress.  This is the way every Christian must see himself and other Christians – a work in progress.  Such a work is a cooperative effort between the believer and God.  We need not concern ourselves with how much God is invested in working to bring about change.  We only need look to the Cross of Calvary to see the degree of God’s investment.  The progress of transformation will depend mostly upon the amount of time and effort the saved sinner is willing to invest. 
The fourth quadrant of God’s deliverance is found in Psalm 107:23-32.  This is the most difficult to understand mainly because the modern reader is almost totally ignorant of the lack of maritime navigation knowledge at the time of the writing of the Psalm.   To go out on the open sea was a perilous adventure full of unknown risks and threats.  Only the most courageous of men would dare venture out upon the “wonders of the deep.”  The word “wonders” implies the mysteries of the unknown

These courageous adventurers quickly realize they are traveling in an arena that is totally beyond human powers to control.  They therefore must depend on a power greater themselves.  To do so, they must acknowledge the existence of such a powerful Being and “cry unto” Him.  God, Who controls the storms of life, brings them upon us so that we might acknowledge how puny we are in our greatest acts of courage.  The power of the hurricane, the tornado, a lightning storm, brings the most courageous of men to bow before God, Who is the only Being capable of controlling such exhibitions of power.  

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders” (Psalm 107:23-32).

          It is the knowledge of God’s abilities and goodness that generates trust and thankfulness.  Although the difficulties that torture us and cause us pain in the midst of the curse are very threatening, they cannot touch the security of our souls if those souls have been entrusted to the loving hands of our omnipotent Creator.  This is the focus of the last few verses in Psalm 107:33-43.  These are verses that are written for the person who has come to know and trust in Jeremiah’s God.  “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)?

33 He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. 35 He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. 36 And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation; 37 And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase. 38 He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease. 39 Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow. 40 He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. 41 Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. 42 The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. 43 Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (Psalm 107: 33-43).

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 Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ministering in the Midst of the Mess with Thanksgiving

Ministering in the Midst of the Mess with Thanksgiving

The soldier in the midst of war expects to have bullets whizzing by his head.  Causalities are expected.  Difficulties and opposition confront the soldier at every turn and when least expected.  There is nothing pleasant about war.  This reality was certainly understood by William Tecumseh Sherman as he implemented his “scorched earth” philosophy of war literally burning every Confederate city he conquered to the ground.  That is the context of Sherman’s statement in a speech defending his “scorched earth” philosophy – “War is hell.”  The point is that we should avoid it whenever possible. 

          There is a war no one can avoid.  There is a spiritual war that began in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago and it has never paused for even one moment.  There is no intermission or momentary cease fire.  A large group of angels, led by the Archangel Lucifer, rebelled against God’s sovereign order of creation.  Those fallen angels sought to use every means allowed them to destroy humanity and turn the hearts of men, women, and children away from worshiping and serving God.  This scenario is actually the backdrop of the book of Job.  In the introduction to the first two chapters of Job, we read of Satan’s accusation against humanity.  Satan’s accusation is essentially – “If God does not bless man, man will not worship Him.” 

This is the substance of what the spiritual war between humanity and fallen angels is all about.  What will people do to escape the pain and suffering of living under the curse of the fall of humanity into sin and accepting Satan’s lordship over our lives?  In Adam’s willful act of disobedience to the sovereign will of God, he surrendered himself and all of humanity to the sovereignty of Satan.  Satan became the “god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).  We all will live in the midst of the curse until the day we die.  In most part, we will minister in the midst of the mess of the curse all of our lives trying to contribute as little as possible to the mess ourselves.  Ministry is about cleaning up as much of the mess as possible one life at a time – beginning with our own mess.

Perhaps there is no better instruction about how to minister in the midst of the mess than Paul’s epistle to the Philippians.  The old battle scarred warrior of the faith sees his purpose in this life very simply.  Paul’s purpose and vision of existence is stated in Philippians 1:21 – “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  The historical backdrop for this statement was that Paul was in prison at Rome and was soon to have his head removed by Nero.  Paul had many enemies from both the unbelieving world and from within the midst of the corruptions of heretics exposed by his epistles to the local churches.  This is what real ministry in the midst of the curse always looks like.  In most part, there will be many more people that want to see you dead than those wanting to see you living.  Uniquely, even within these circumstances, the substance of each chapter of Paul’s epistle to the local church at Philippi was rejoicing (Philippians 1:18, 26; 2:16, 17, 18, 28; 3:1, 3; 4:4, and 10).
1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. 2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:1-9).

Circumstances of life will often put us in perplexing and unpleasant predicaments.  When ministering to try to help people escape the clutches of sin in their lives, we will often experience some of the greatest disappointments.  Often the very people into which we pour our hearts and souls to help will be the very people who will turn and rend us.  It is always the people we love the most who can hurt us the most.  Such people can be very disheartening and discouraging. 

However, perhaps one of the great truths that we learn from Paul’s epistle to the believers at Philippi is to focus upon the successes of ministry, not upon the failures.  Philippi was the first church started after Paul’s miraculous call to Macedonia recorded in Acts chapter sixteen. 

6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. 8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. 11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. 13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us (Acts 16:6-15).

The believers at Philippi were very precious to the Apostle Paul and he was precious to them.  The beginnings of Paul’s experience at Philippi were certainly mixed with great difficulties as well as blessings.  Paul and Silas were beaten by the city magistrates because Paul had cast out a demon from a woman who had been creating great profits for some the leaders in the city.  Then, Paul and Silas were cast into a the “inner prison,” which was most probably what we know as a dark, damp, rat and bug infested dungeon.  As if that horrible place was not bad enough, they were place in wooden stocks with their legs parted to extreme discomfort bent over with their hands and necks similarly fastened making it almost impossible to rest, let alone sleep. 

There are those deep and dark times that can easily bring great sorrow and discouragement in the ministry if we do not control our thought life and what we do in the midst of those times.  Paul and Silas refused to set around feeling sorry for themselves and complaining about their difficulties regardless of how real and painful were those difficulties.  Instead, they decided to be an encouragement to the other prisoners sharing in their discomforts.

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25).

It is often out of the garden of great difficulties that we reap a harvest of the greatest blessings.  Roses always bloom in the midst of thorns.  This was certainly what happened to Paul and Silas as they sang their midnight praises to God in the midst of the mess of their circumstances for simply doing what was right.  They were beaten and put in prison for delivering a woman from her prison of demonic possession.  Difficulties and trials provide faithful believers with great opportunities to be a faithful testimony to God’s enabling grace.  As is often the case, when you are being a great testimony to the grace of God while in the midst of great difficulties, God provides great opportunities.  It is the wise Christian who expects those opportunities and is prepared to minister when such opportunities arise. 

26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:26-28).

It would be a natural reflect response to flee in fear from a dungeon with its walls and ceiling falling in on you; even more so if the building was your prison.  It is remarkable that Paul and Silas give no consideration to escaping from their unfortunate circumstances.  They were having great influence upon the other prisoners.  This is obvious because out of this very fearful, life-threatening earthquake situation, Paul can tell the prison keeper, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).
The jailer was accountable with his life for those under his guard.  He would rather die at his own hand than suffer the consequences and public disgrace to his family for allowing his prisoners to escape.  Since all the prisoners were freed from their bars and restraints, there was nothing keeping them from overpowering the jailer, killing him, and escaping into the night.  However, the influence of the spiritual integrity of Paul and Silas was substantial.  We can be confident the other prisoners knew of the circumstances of why Paul and Silas were in prison.  It is not an everyday occurrence to have someone with power over demons in your presence.  It certainly would have seemed bizarre to these other prisoners to hear Paul and Silas singing praise hymns and psalms of thanksgiving to God after just having been beaten within an inch of death and now put in the torment of tortuous stocks. 

The point is that Paul and Silas had a choice in how they were going to respond to the circumstances in which they now found themselves.  Their circumstances had not changed their purpose as Christians or their mission.  All that was changed was the people to whom they ministered.  They could see their ministry ended or they could see the needy people with which they shared a prison.  They could have become preoccupied with the pain and suffering of their circumstances or they could praise God in the midst of the mess of those circumstances.  Sometimes the curse is overwhelming to our senses and sensibilities.  To overcome and continue to minister in the midst of the mess of the curse, we have to bring the reality of our new existence “in Christ” to the forefront of our thought life.  Doing this can be difficult when life in the midst of the curse of this fallen creation seems to dominate, and it often dominates. 

Paul and Silas had been treated unfairly.  They had been unjustly publicly disgraced and imprisoned.  However, we must not forget that Paul and Silas understood that they were ministering exactly where God had sent them.  “9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:9-10).  When a person understands that he is called to be minister in the midst of the curse, he understands that he does so in the midst of the minions of Deceiver.  Yet, he must also understand that he is being sent to minister to the deceived and the very people who often are the greatest opponents of the ministry God has sent him to accomplish.  

There is no doubt in my mind that God foreknew every single circumstance that was going to happen to Paul and Silas.  God had orchestrated and incorporated every single aspect of these chain of events with the goal of producing a local church of faithful believers who knew that each of them were personally the fruits of the operations of the Spirit of God. 

It is out of this seeming dunghill of contradiction against everything good and right that God’s harvest bursts forth.  When we are consumed with the difficulties of living in the midst of the curse, all we can see and smell is the dunghill.  God sees fertilizer.  If we are going to be part of God’s plan and program in the midst of the curse, we have to see the dunghill of our circumstances as fertilizer too. 

29 Then he {the jailer} called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:29-34).

When sitting in the cold darkness surrounded by the fears of the night, it is always wise to keep a fire of hope burning to remind us that the new day will dawn very soon.  This was the hope of Paul and Silas as they sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving to God in the midst of the occasional whimpers of pain from their torments.  God had sent them to Philippi to start a local church.  God had provided two considerable households of believers which would be the seed families for the local church at Philippi.  These people did not become believers in a sterile vacuum environment.  They were “born again” out of the dunghill of this fallen creation of deceived people living in their selfish deceptions while creating more hardships for everyone they touch with their cursed lives. 

The answer to this dilemma of life is not to sit in the light and curse the darkness of deception and the deceived.  Ministry is being light in the midst of the darkness.  Ministry lights the pathway with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and leads the cursed out of the darkness of their own deceptions.  Although Paul and Silas were in the same prison as were the prisoners and jailer, Paul and Silas were already freed.  Paul and Silas knew this.  Therefore, they could rejoice.  It was not enough that they could rejoice, they wanted the others to be freed from their bondages of the curse as well.  We may not be able to deliver everyone from the difficulties they have created for themselves by being seduced by their own temptations and lusts, but we can offer them a new life in Christ “by grace … through faith.” 

It is little wonder that the local church at Philippi became such a blessing to the Apostle Paul.  They refused to forget him.  When God uses men to create something precious in the midst of the curse, God must create sanctified building materials out of cursed building materials.  This process of transfiguring lives is often painful and difficult; sometimes torturous.  When the members of a local church go through this torturous process together, they do not forget those that traveled that pathway with them and helped them along the way.

Church planting ministry (missions) can be difficult, lonely, and often done with very limited resources.  When local churches are started, and become self-supporting, the people that come into those local churches are not knowledgeable of the personal sacrifices of the seed families who were part of the original miracle of New Creation.  The seed families’ vision saw the hope of a future for the generations to follow.  New families who later become part of this New Creation simply see a place that welcomes them and provides a counterculture to living in the midst of the darkness of the curse.  These people often do not ever fully escape the corruptions of worldliness because they really do not see the world as the enemy of God and a contradiction against all that is right and righteous.  Therefore, these same people never really become ministers seeking to help others escape the darkness of the corruptions of this cursed world.  Such people certainly would not be willing to face the difficulties of real ministry as we read of in Acts chapter sixteen. 

Perhaps the greatest failure of modern Christianity is the disassociation of the reality of what is actually involved with ministry in the midst of the curse.  Church services are viewed as merely a place to escape to a social safe-shelter rather than to be refreshed and re-munitioned to get back onto the battlefield.  This kind of scenario can be very discouraging to those with a biblical view of real ministry in the midst of the curse.  Real ministry will always take place in the middle of deep and troubled waters.  When you understand that reality, you will not forget the person who taught you how to swim.  This was certainly true of the people of the church at Philippi.  They were one of the very few of the many local churches started by the Apostle Paul who continued to remember him and fiscally support him in his continuing battles to start other churches and preserve “the faith.”  When Paul was imprisoned at Rome, the church members at Philippi had graciously remembered him and sent their pastor Epaphroditus to Rome with a generous gift for Paul’s use.  What a great joy and encouragement this must have been to the Apostle Paul.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:10-19).

It is always a blessing to be remembered, but it is no blessing to be remembered if you do know you are being remembered.  Pray for your missionaries and for one another.  Then tell those people that you prayed for them.  The believers at Philippi remembered Paul and his NEEDS in a very tangible way.  People who remember in tangible ways understand the potential for discouragement involved in ministering in the midst of the curse.  Paul had been in prison at Rome for a considerable length of time.  His detractors, those professing Christians that Paul had exposed as heretics through his epistles, were glad that Paul was taken out of the picture.  They hated him.  However, Paul’s house arrest did not end his ministry or silence his voice.  The epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians were all written by Paul while he was imprisoned in his rented home under guard at Rome. 

Paul’s closing comments in Philippians 4:20-22 tells us a lot about ministering in the midst of the mess of the curse.  It is necessary to read the salutation carefully or we will miss the great blessing revealed in these few verses. 

20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 21 Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. 22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Philippians 4:20-23).

The word “salute” is translated from the Greek word aspazomai (as-pad'-zom-ahee).  The central idea of this word is to draw into a loving embrace.  However, the great blessing in this salutation are the words, “chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.”  The Caesar, or Emperor of Rome was Nero.  Paul brought the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into every life with which he came in contact.  To be exposed to the Apostle Paul meant to be exposed to Jesus Christ and the offer in the Gospel of escape from the curse upon this world and its citizens. 

Nero was one of history’s most diabolical figures.  He was an evil, murderous, egotistical maniac with no limitations or boundaries to his self-aggrandizing agenda of promoting himself as god to this world.  He was an antichrist equal with Hitler, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek.  However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was given an entrance into Nero’s household with the imprisonment of Paul.  Paul shared the good news of Jesus Christ with every person of the household of Nero of which God provided opportunity.  Many of those guards and servants of Nero’s household were won to Christ through the testimony of the Apostle Paul.  Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that even the Empress Poppaea, Nero’s wife, became a believer.  It is believed that Seneca, the Preceptor (tutor and advisor) to Nero, became a believer.  So, when Paul says, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household,” this includes some of the world’s most elite.  Never under estimate the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the extent of its power to touch and change lives.  The Light is the most apparent in the darkest darkness!

Four different times in Psalm 107 out of four differently described scenarios of life within the difficulties of the fallen creation, the Psalmist writes, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107: 8, 15, 21, and 31).  The scenarios described in the second statements are of pertinent to the understanding of ministering to people living within the spiritual darkness of the fall encompassing their ignorance of God.

10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; 11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: 12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. 13 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. 15 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. 17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. 19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:10-22).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
 Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ministering in Grace


Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Ministering in Grace

In Romans 1:7, the Apostle Paul says, “Grace to you.” This phrase is directly and practically connected to all those “called to be saints” at Rome.  No Christian can live a sanctified life apart from God’s enabling grace.  The statement “grace to you” is an introductory statement that is much more than an empty salutation like good morning.  The word grace speaks to the position of the person living under the divine authority and empowerment of the sovereign Creator of heaven and earth.  The person living under that authority and empowered by God has the power of the Creator at His disposal through prayer and ministry.  Perhaps there is no doctrine more misunderstood and more abused by professing Christians than the doctrine of the grace of God.   

There is a Universal Calling upon All Believer-priests to Minister in “grace”

5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints {the main occupation of the priesthood of all believers is to cultivate holiness in our own lives and in the lives of other believers}: Grace {the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit} to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:5-7).

There is a common misnomer regarding the doctrine of God’s enabling grace.  That mistake is seeing the enabling Power of God as some impersonal force available to the sanctified believer.  Nothing could be more incorrect.  The enabling Power is the Person of Christ Jesus in the Person of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  Only when a believer is Spirit-filled is that believer empowered.  This filling/empowering produces the Christ-life through a believer’s life.  Titus 2:11 clearly teaches us that “the grace of God” was manifested in the Person of Jesus Christ.  The same text (Titus 2:11-15) goes on to explain specific and remarkable expectations of the “teaching” of Jesus as the incarnate “grace of God.” 

11 For the grace of God {the incarnate Son of God} that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:11-15).

All “born again” believers receive grace to accomplish their “apostleship” calling in Christ (Romans 1:5).  Grace refers to God’s supernatural enabling power.  Without enabling grace, the believer cannot accomplish anything for Christ.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. . . 26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:4-5 and 26).

          With enabling grace, the believer can accomplish anything that is in the will of God.  It is important here that we understand that this enabling grace is potentially available to all believers but it is practically conditioned upon full surrender to Christ in obedience to the teachings of Jesus throughout the Bible.  We often here Christians quote Philippians 4:13 to claim Christ’s strengthening through some difficulty when they are obviously living in disobedience to Christ’s teachings. 

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (I Peter 1:10-12).

Salvation offered as a gift of grace and received by simple faith has been the same since Adam and Eve.  This is NOT the difficulty the prophets were having regarding “salvation.”  They knew salvation was in the coming Messiah and His work of redemption.  Their enquiry was who would the Messiah be, who could be saved, when would He come, and who would cause His vicarious suffering for the sins of the people.  Jesus answered all of these questions very early in His ministry in John 1:5-13.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many {whosoever} as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:5-13).

          Although there is still a bit of a mystery in answering all the questions the prophets had regarding the Messiah, all of them are answered embryonically in their prophecies.  Christ takes away most of this mystery by His statement in John 1:5-13.

1. “The Light” that “shineth in darkness” (John 1:5) is the eternal Son of God as the Creator.  “He is referred to as “the Light” in that the essence of the spiritual Being that is God is only visible through His radiant holiness, known as His glory, now hidden by the darkness due to spiritual blindness caused by sin and the fall of humanity into sin.  This darkness is a cover protecting the first creation from immediate destruction, which would happen as soon as sin is exposed to the glory of God (Revelation 20:9).
2. Who can be saved is answered in John 1:7 by the words “that all men through him might believe.”  The who can be saved is expanded upon in John 1:12 also.
3. The who question, regarding who would cause the Savior Messiah to suffer, is answered in John 1:11, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”  The priesthood of God of the people known as the Jews, who were called out of the world by God and entrusted with the holy Scriptures, would be the people who would apostatize and murder their promised Messiah. 

          I Peter 1:10 tells us the prophets “inquired” and “searched” regarding these questions.  The Greek word translated “inquired” is ekzeteo (ek-zay-the’-o).  They knew that the only place they would find the answers to their inquiry would be in the Scriptures.  In other words, they did not go searching in all the pagan writings and philosophies of men for their answers.  This is the common methodology known as Pluralism
Religious Pluralism is the false philosophy that the truth will be discovered within the teachings of all religious beliefs.  Religious Pluralism teaches that all religions have some merit and all should be accepted in that all contain some truth or degrees of truth.  To some degree this is true.  Some of the things Buddha said are true and helpful.  Some of the things Confucius said are true and helpful.  Almost all the pagan religions have some historical reference to Creation and the Great Flood.  However, religious Pluralism is a false and corrupting idea.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Nonetheless, no one would look to that broken clock to find a trustworthy representation of the correct time. 
The Greek word translated by the two words “searched diligently” is exereunao (ex-er-yoo-nah’-o).  The meaning of this word is compared to the gold prospector who searches the mountains to find a few nuggets if gold.  This is known as an inductive methodology.  Obviously, no one can begin with a full and complete knowledge of what God has said unless he is God in the first place.  We all begin in ignorance and work towards knowledge.  That knowledge can and never will be complete.  The more details we know of the parts, the surer we can be of our understanding of the whole.  Therefore, the exacting science of biblical hermeneutics (interpretation of Scripture) must be about details. 
        The prophets also did not understand the things that had been “prophesied of the grace that should come unto you” (I Peter 1:10).  They understood there would be a change in the way God would empower believers, but they did not understand how this was going to happen.  This is still something very much misunderstood by most within professing Christianity.  Again, Jesus explained this change just prior to His crucifixion in John 14:15-24 regarding a radically different way the Spirit of God would operate in the lives of those “born again” of the Spirit after the Day of Pentecost.

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 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. 21 He 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. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus 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. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Fathers which sent me” (John 14:15-24).

          What Jesus speaks of in this text is known as Theanthropic Union – God living within His redeemed.  In the Old Covenant, God lived with His redeemed and externally empowered them to live for Him.  In the New Covenant, God would live within His redeemed and internally empower them to live for Him as they yield their wills to the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Peter explains this further in II Peter 1:1-4.

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 {grace was already added in the indwelling; the expression here is to increase as does the planted seed expand exponentially in the fruit it produces} unto you through the knowledge {epignosis; relational and intimate} of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given {perfect, passive} unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge {epignosis} of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given {perfect, passive} unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers {koinonos; sharer or partner} of the divine nature {germination trough the indwelling Holy Spirit thereby producing a new genesis of humanity}, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:1-4).

There are several terms used in the Bible to communicate this newly available enabling grace of God.  These terms are the filling of the Spirit, fellowship (or partnership) with God, and transformed.  God’s enabling grace is released is by the action of the verbs yield, repent, and confess.  Paul explains this new spiritual dynamic of the inward enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit of God in Romans 6:5-16 and Romans 12:1-8.

5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin {the word sin in this text refers to the sin nature or the ‘old man’}. 7 For he that is dead is freed {perfect, passive} from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:5-16)?

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed {lit. transfigured -present, passive, imperative} by the renewing {to renovate or overhaul} of your mind, that ye may prove {put to the test and find out what is genuine} what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-3).

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

A Song of degrees for Solomon. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18).

7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:7-9).

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ . . .” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit {the Spirit-filled life}, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).

          The purpose of enabling grace is for “obedience to the faith among all nations” (Romans 1:5).  God has a purpose in everything He does.  This refers specifically to the spread of Christianity by obedience to the Great Commission.  The purpose of grace is to enable the believer to obey his calling in Jesus Christ.  “The faith” refers to the whole body of Christian doctrine that is to be lived out in the believer’s life.

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-7).

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

          All believers have an “apostleship.”  They are sent into the world with a high calling and a Great Commission.  Every believer has received the indwelling Holy Spirit Who will empower him to do whatever God asks him to do once that believer fully surrenders to the will of God.  Every believer will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ without excuse for the things they either failed to do, or the things they attempted, but did in the flesh.  What we do, we do to exalt and glorify the Name of Jesus.  To be successful, we must do it by the enabling of His indwelling Spirit.  What does fully surrendered look like?

12 Put on therefore {middle voice, imperative mood}, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:12-17).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.