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: September 2017

Monday, September 25, 2017

Faulty Faith and Foolish Decisions

Faulty Faith and Foolish Decisions
   God is constantly working to grow our faith in Him, test the reality of our faith in Him, and prove the strength of our faith in Him.  This process of spiritual growth is very similar to what physically happens in muscle growth.  When a person exercises or lifts weights, muscles are actually damaged, torn, and stressed.  This is why your muscles hurt after strenuous exercise or work.  Muscle growth happens when these damage muscles begin to repair themselves through a cellular process where the human body fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands or myofibrilsHowever, this muscle growth happens after exercise and during muscle rest.  Muscle growth is actually part of the body’s healing mechanism.  It is foolish to think we can grow muscle without some pain and without work and exercise.  God did not create our bodies to work that way.

          The process of growing faith is very similar to the process of growing muscle.  People grow spiritually through knowing the Word of God and putting the Word of God into the practical applications of everyday life while living in the midst of the curse.  Living in the midst of the curse is living in the midst of the constant resistance and opposition to practically living the Word of God in everyday situations of life.  The testing of the strength of our faith is when God allows Satan to tempt us with sin and various situations that will require decisions to be faithful to our professed beliefs.  Such testings, or trials, are usually personally painful and difficult.  These trials can be health issues, financial issues, or the drama of life through personal relationships.  Most of the time these trials come to us by personal delivery with someone’s name and personality plainly labeled on the package.
This whole process of spiritual growth and the trying of our faith is what is communicated between two phrases in Job 1:6 and Job 1:13.  In Job 1:6, the phrase is “now there was a day.”  This phrase refers to the angels of God giving account to God about humanity’s behavior.  The second phrase in Job 1:13, “And there was a day,” refers to God’s allowing the testing of the faith of people against the accusations of Satan against all of humanity.  The satanic accusation is that without God’s blessings, humanity would not worship God but instead would curse Him.  God had particularly singled Job out of all of humanity because God believed in Job.  God believed that Job was a man of very strong faith and that Job’s faith would stand against Satan’s accusation and slander against humanity.  This testing is a historical practicum existing in every person’s life by the degree that begins with the words “And there was a day” in Job 1:13.  It is in-between these two statements where life happens!  This is the reality of our under the sun existence within the curse.
Not everyone will be tested to the same degree.  God is still in control of the minutia of the testings of our faith.  God promises us; “There hath no temptation {putting to test to prove} taken you but such as is common to man {this is happening to everyone to some degree}: but God is faithful {Romans 8:28}, who will not suffer you to be tempted {tested} above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it {God believes you capable of succeeding in the testing}” (I Corinthians 10:13).  It is one thing for us to profess belief in God, however it is another thing altogether to understand that God believes in us.  Every trial of our faith is a testimony to God’s faith in us!

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. 7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. 8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. 12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. 13 And there was a day . . .” (Job 1:6-13 a).

          Every person will make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions each day.  These decisions will be faith decisions if those decisions are based upon solid knowledge of the principles and precepts of the Word of God.  However, for most people those decisions will be made from ignorance of the principles and precepts of the Word of God.  For many others, those decisions will be made by purposefully ignoring the principles and precepts of the Word of God. 

          The purpose of preaching/teaching and personal Bible study is to prepare people to make decisions that will bring glory to God.  Bringing glory to God means living in a manner that is a manifestation of the righteous desires of God and doing so out of a genuine love for God with “all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

          “Those that entice you to buy into sin won’t be around to help you pay for it.”[1]  However, other faithful believers in your local church will be aware and try to help you recover yourself from the “snare of the devil” (II Timothy 2:26). 

1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted {tested}. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove {test} his own work {the intent is to insure that his ministry is in alignment with the revealed will of God according to the inspired Words of God}, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone {not in what God did through someone else’s work}, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden {every individual will be held accountable for his own ministry work}. 6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate {share with or contribute to; I Corinthians 9:7-15} unto him that teacheth in all good things. 7 {Paul then gives this general governing law that applies to all issues of life} Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh {selfish, carnal, sensual, and worldly desires} shall of the flesh reap corruption {This is decadence resulting in ruin and waste of life; the natural fruit of a natural life is destruction. This is a universal and natural principle and does not require God to act in forms of judgments or chastisements.}; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting {the supernatural fruit of a Spirit-filled life is supernaturally Spirit produced life in this world}. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due {your own individual season or time} season we shall reap {fruit is not produced the moment the Seed is sown}, if we faint not {remain faithful; the intent is that we can corrupt spiritual seed that has been sown through unfaithful living}. 10 As we have therefore opportunity {every moment of every day is an opportunity to sow to the Spirit}, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith {summary statement about what was said in Galatians 6:1 about doing what is necessary to maintain a sanctified existence and helping others believers within your realm of influence to remain faithful}” (Galatians 6:1-10).

          The word “fault” in Galatians 6:1 is from the Greek word paraptoma (par-ap’-to-mah).  The word means to make a side-slip or a lapse in judgment.  The idea is a deviation from the right pathway in life.  This deviation can be an unintentional error or a willful transgression.  The admonition is about protecting the spiritual seed that has been sown from the corrupting influences of selfishness, carnality, and worldliness by restoring other believers to live Spirit-filled and sanctified lives.

One of the great difficulties of ministry is watching saved people freeze spiritually when the fire of God’s revival is but a prayer of repentance away from them!  Hungering and thirsting after righteousness (sanctification and the Spirit-filled life; Matthew 5:6) should be the normal and all-consuming desire of truly fully surrendered Christian. 

There is little wonder why there is no real harvest of spiritual fruit in the lives of most professing believers because worldliness has been redefined and selfishness is condoned under the disguise of pursuing self-esteem.  This corruption corrupts sanctification, which in turn corrupts the testimony of local churches to the world.  God cannot, and will not, bless ministry with worldly and selfish foundations.  The emphasis of Galatians 6:7-10 is built upon the foundation and expanding upon what was already said in Galatians 5:22-26.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22-26).

          These few verses of Scripture define what is said in Galatians 6:8, “he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”  The point is that none of us, born of the cursed seed of Adam, can ever produce spiritual seed apart from the supernatural operation that takes place through the Spirit-filled life of faithfulness. 

Four Principles of Sowing

1. We reap what we sow!
2. We reap more than what we sow.
3. What we sow must be protected against corruption.
4. We reap later then when we sow.

We have a puppy in our home.  Everyone who has ever had a puppy understands that there will be a rather lengthy time of daily dealing with rather unpleasant things that I call puddles and piles.  The puppy is just doing what comes naturally to him.  He is not even aware of the unpleasantness and inconveniences he creates with his puddles and piles.

However, if the puppy’s owner is not willing to make the necessary time and effort to train him to make his puddles and piles outside the house, the puddles and piles just get bigger and more unpleasant.  This training is often called house breaking a dog.  There is a close similarity to Biblical discipleship.  Without discipleship, believers will continue to leave puddles and piles in the lives of everyone with whom they come in contact.  Bible history is redundant with puddles and piles believers who just never seem to get house broken

We have many negative examples given in the Bible of reaping what we sow.  The historical account of the life of Lot is certainly one of these negative examples of a lifetime of reaping the outcome of a very selfish decision.  The whole point of God’s very extensive narrative (Genesis chapter eleven through chapter nineteen) regarding Lot is that the corrupted seed of one selfish decision just kept producing corrupted fruit generation after generation even until today.  Lot lived with his uncle Abraham and was saved under Abraham’s influence.  Lot shared real estate with Abraham until the acreage they occupied together was unable to sustain the wealth of their herds of animals.  Lot’s servants began to strive with the servants of Abraham over the grazing areas allotted to each of their herds. 

Lot was given the first choice of the place he would resettle with his herdsmen and animals.  This reveals that Abraham trusted God while Lot choose to profit himself.  Lot foolishly chose the fertile plain of Jordan where Lot “dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12).  This verse tells us of the inclination of Lot’s choice.  Lot had a propensity to be selfish and worldly.  People will always fall in the direction they lean.  The big city and all it offers can be quite tempting to a farm boy.  This is the same scenario of the parable of the prodigal son. 

6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just {justified by grace through faith} Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous {imputed} man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed {tortured or tormented; he was under constant conviction about the things he saw and with which he lived everyday} his righteous {imputed} soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (II Peter 2:6-9).

Although selfish and sinful decisions can mess up and mix up life to the point it seems it can never be straightened out, God’s grace still intervened in Lot’s life and got him out of the mess he chose for his existence.  However, Lot still had a freewill.  Although God got Lot out of the mess Lot created for himself, the real mess was still inside Lot and he continued to make bad, selfish, and sinful decisions. 

There are many question that come to mind as we read of Lot continuing to live a lifetime in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  If Lot was under constant conviction, why didn’t he just repent and get out of there?  What happened to all of Lot’s herdsmen?  What happened to the wealth of his herds?  Who did his other daughters marry?  Did Lot in fact choose his daughters’ future husbands when he made the choice to dwell “in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12)?  Why was he willing to sacrifice his two remaining virgin daughters to the mob of licentious sodomites?  Lot’s desire for wealth and fame was Satan’s hook in his flesh.  It was not the hook that held onto Lot’s flesh.  It was Lot’s flesh that held onto the hook.  Lot was willing to sacrifice ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to his idol – HIS OWN CARNAL DESIRES!

Never underestimate the ability of one bad decision to snowball down the hill to an ever-increasing problem.  Lot’s faith was tested just like Job’s faith was tested, but with devastatingly different results.  Lot would end upon committing incest with his two surviving virgin daughters producing two sons that would become the tribes of the Moabites and Ammonites.  These two tribes would be a constant thorn in the flesh of the nation of Israel for millennia.  The descendants from these tribes would intermarry with the descendants of the Ishmaelites, Abraham’s failure, and later become the nation of Islam.  Thousands of years later, the whole world is still paying for the failures of Abraham and Lot – two “born again” men who made foolish decisions. 

However, the problem of living within the temptations and testings of the curse did not begin with Abraham and Lot and it did not end with them.  The same problem is continued and increased by the carnal choices of believers every day.  Every single one of us add to the puddles and piles of corruption deposited into this cursed world every day.  This is always the outcome when the “just” do not “live by faith.”  Each of us add to the continuum of corruption by the carnal, selfish, and worldly decisions we make each day.  We infect other people with our corrupt decisions.  When we sow corruption, we reap corruption in the lives of people for generations after us.  There comes a time when the only solution to the extreme breadth of corruption in the world is for God to intervene and end it lest true faith is completely destroyed upon the earth. 

Christ spoke to this issue of ongoing corruption that infects and destroys each generation more and more in a parable in Luke chapter eighteen.  The point of the parable is the about the faithful prayers of the righteous when being overrun with the evils of corruption in the world (Luke 18:1). 

1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint {not give into evil influences}; 2 Saying, There was in a city a judge {corrupted in that he saw himself in his position above all, even God}, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me {even a self-serving, corrupted, indifferent judge will intervene if you are persistent in petitioning him for justice}. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God {Who is perfectly just} avenge his own elect {those that are dear to Him}, which cry day and night unto him {for righteousness sake}, though he bear long with them {waiting for the fruit of righteousness to be borne through their faithfulness; James 5:7} ? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:1-8)?

Living by faith is the knowledge of, and the obedience to, the revealed will of God in the Word of God.  The issue of the question of Luke 18:8, “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth,” is will He find the kind of persistent faith exhibited by the petitions of the woman in the parable or will every believer just give up on hope for the salvation and sanctification of the worldly.  The faithful must remember that our desires should be reflected in our prayer life and actions to see BOTH the salvation of lost souls and the sanctification of believers.  Evangelical focus has become dominated by the salvation of lost souls while almost completely abandoning the sanctification of the redeemed.  The implication is that there will be a very small remnant of faithful believers at the time of the second coming of Jesus. 

These types of foolish people are described in II Peter 2:10-22 extending from what God has said already about Lot.  Corrupted faith corrupts everything it touches.  Perhaps the greatest descriptor of this thoughtless, carnal selfishness in the Bible is the word “selfwilled” (II Peter 2:10). 

10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled {self-pleasing and pleasure focused}, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. 11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. 12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you {in the midst of the churches}; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor {a believing prophet}, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment {sanctification} delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:10-22).

The reason a spiritual leader fights the fight of faith and struggles in his life for personal holiness and spiritual maturity is simple. The spiritual leader understands that the imperfections in his life will usually be reproduced in the lives of others.  This corrupting influence is the greatest fear of his life!

President Donald Trump, in his speech to the United Nations on September 19th, 2017 said, “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.  When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.”  

Why is it that Christians cannot understand this simple principle when it is repeatedly stated throughout Scripture?

1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? 2 For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? 4 {Now the answer is given.} The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. 6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright” (Psalm 11:1-7).

[1] Pastor John McDonald, Calvary Baptist Church, Utah, Facebook post.

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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, September 11, 2017

Contending for The Faith

Contending for The Faith
Perhaps the first thing we learn as Christians desiring to lead people to following Christ is that most have little interest in such things.  Their unbelief binds them to a prison of their own ignorance leading them into ever increasing destructive life-patterns.  In their ignorance, they deem the preaching of the Cross a foolish waste of time (I Corinthians 1:18).  This ignorance of unbelief keeps them on worldly pathways pursuing some ambiguous thing called happiness.  For them, happiness is another word for pleasure and love is another word for sex

II Timothy 2:22-3:5 defines both the problem and the solution.  God expects faithful believers to be proactive as these sinners are being taken away by the mudslide of sin accelerating them towards the pending judgment of God on this world. 

22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow {chase after or steadily pursue} 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. 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Timothy 2:22-3:5).

Contending for “the faith” is doing what is necessary to ensure that orthodoxy is transposed from one generation to the next.  This transposition of “the faith” from one generation to the next focuses on reaching the next generation through Evangelism, which is primarily discipleship focused.  The faithful disciples of one generation must lead the next generation to receive Christ as Lord and be perfected to do “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).  Any local church that does not have this missional vision has been corrupted.  The local church is the emphasis of II Timothy 2:22 in the words “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  Any Christian that is not fully invested in a local church that has this missional vision has also been corrupted. 

II Timothy 2:23 tells the faithful believer with a Biblical missional vision to “avoid. . . foolish and unlearned questions.”  The reason given to avoid these types of questions is “knowing that they do gender strifes.”  There are always those types of people who ask pointless questions intent more upon arguing than upon edifying.  The word “foolish” is from the Greek word moros (mo-ros’). 

This admonition about avoiding “foolish . . . questions” is most probably addressing the questions that came from those that were, or had been, involved in the mystery religions such as Gnosticism.  Gnosticism was the original religion of Syncretism – blending, merging, and integrating all kinds of religious beliefs together through endless Dialogue.  The wise disciple-maker avoids these foolish discussions because his source of Truth (Epistemology) and faith is founded solely in the clear instruction of the inspired Words of God.  Since the Bible is the ONLY authority for life and practice, what the Bible says is final.  Therefore, to such a person, endless debates and arguments about extra-biblical views and the philosophies of men are pointless wastes of time (“strifes”). 

The word “unlearned” simply means uninstructed.  This refers to those who have never been discipled in the Word of God.  They may have numerous educational degrees and even be very well read.  However, they are “unlearned” in the Scriptures.  The danger is that they come into local churches with an appearance of knowledge or have much knowledge about religious ideas.  They will be respected by many because of their education and status in life.  They will often be promoted to leadership positions in the church for which they are not qualified.
The admonition regarding getting involved in these foolish discussions and debates is that “the servant of the Lord must not strive” (II Timothy 2:24).  The “servant of the Lord” must be able to distinguish between the person genuinely wanting the Truth and the person who simply wants to debate.  Once the disciple maker gives a person a clear Bible answer to a question and that person disagrees with that Bible answer – WALK AWAY!

There is an old saying, “Convince a man against his will, He’s of the same opinion still.”  A person wanting to be right even when proven wrong is a fool.  However, he will not have a good opinion of the person that shows him to be a fool.  Therefore, Paul tells Timothy, “be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” (II Timothy 2:24b-25).  There is often a thin line between being pertinent and impertinent.  Once a person crosses that line, the damage is already done.  Possessing dogmatic knowledge does not mean that such a person has a right to be obnoxious.  There are five words in I Timothy 2:24b-25 that give us directions for reaching people who think they have the answers, but are really without a glue.  If we want to be effective in reaching another generation in helping them become followers of Jesus, we must understand these five words and how they are applied within the spiritual dynamic of soul winning and disciple making. 

1. Gentle - from the Greek word epios (ay’-pee-os) meaning friendly, pleasant, and a person with which it is easy to talk.  The gentle person can disagree without being disagreeable.  He can contend for the faith without being contentious.  Being kind to the people we are trying to reach must be apparent.  Attacking lost people for the sins they commit and the sinful practices of their lives is not the same as patiently trying to persuade someone that God has absolute boundaries for righteousness.  This opposite of gentleness is often manifested by those claiming to be street preachers where they stand on a corner or in a park shouting condemnations at lost people for how they dress or how they live. 
2. Apt to teach – is from one Greek word, didaktikos (did-ak-tik-os’).  The meaning is descriptive of a person whose demeanor is instructive.  A person can be instructive without being condemning.  Instruction from the Word of God has the power to convict and condemn.  Again, this instruction is intended to be directed to the person asking questions with an interest in finding absolute answers.  This person “apt to teach” is willing to take the time to carefully explain spiritual things to the person making inquiries. 
3. Patient is from the Greek word anexikakos (an-ex-ik’-ak-os).  This describes the person willing to endure the arrogant, obtrusive ignorance that often accompanies people antagonistic towards spiritual absolutes.  Another good synonym is forbear.  To be forbearing means to hold yourself back.  Not everything that can be said should be said.  To be forbearing understands the concept of the right time, place, and circumstances while being self-disciplined enough to wait for that right time, place, and circumstances.
4. Meekness is from the Greek word praotes (prah-ot’-ace).  The practical meaning is a gentle humility.  This is directed towards the way we instruct those that “oppose themselves.”  The opposite of gentle humility is rude haughtiness.  If there is an underlaying attitude of arrogance towards the ignorant, that attitude will manifest itself to some degree in negative ways.  When arrogance is perceived by the hearer, most of what is said will be rejected regardless of the fact it is Bible Truth. 
5. Instructing is from the Greek word paideuo (pahee-dyoo’-o), which literally means to train up a child.  It is critical to understand that people learn through levels of comprehension.  Understanding the level of comprehension of the person with whom you speak is critical to instructing him so he can understand what you are saying.  Secondly, since the person thinks he has a level of comprehension far above what he actually possesses, care must be taken so as not to be condescending in instructing him.  To help a person grow in understanding is often done in baby-steps.  Be careful not to overload a person with too much information or you will overwhelm him.  Be patient and carefully explain small portions of Scripture each time you meet. 

Most importantly, remember the last part of II Timothy 2:25b - “if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”  Although considerable doubt is expressed in the text about such a person ever changing his beliefs or unbelief, there is hope when we understand that God’s involvement is the major part of any hopeful possibility.  Long after the words we say and the moment of instruction passes, God remains with the person.  There are no doors to shut Him out or time restraints upon His access to the human spirit. 

II Timothy chapter two explains how we are to deal with people that are seeking truth, but are ignorant and confused.  These people are Agnostics.  The word agnostic simply means - I don’t knowJude 1:3-8 explains how to deal with the heretic who seeks to divide a local church with false teaching.  These types of people infiltrate local churches and must be dealt with more swiftly and even harshly.  These are wolves intent upon carrying away innocent sheep.  How many sheep should be sacrificed to the wolf before the wolf is removed?

3 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 {for all} delivered {stewardship} unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities(Jude 1:3-8).

          Jude 1:3-8 clearly details harsh and swift retribution to the types of deceivers mentioned in this text.  Such people are extremely dangerous.  They can destroy work that has taken years to accomplish.  Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that the corruption of society and the perversion of truth has no limitations.  Just as in the days of Noah, God must intervene and bring His judgment on the world to halt the advancement of Satan’s agenda of corruption.  Each year the world has proven itself capable of going ever deeper into the miry pits of the filth and degradation of sin.  Professing believers no longer are amazed at the world’s propensity for perversion.  These professors of faith march just a few steps behind the worldly bringing the world into local churches.

          However, it is continually amazing to watch the willingness of professing Christians in their progressiveness in this perversion by staying one step behind the world like a child following a trail of bread crumbs.  These deceived never seem to give any considerations to where they are in their own digression of corruption and defilement.  “Lukewarm” churches, meaning compromising people, have become so complacent to doctrinal error and worldliness that they have become completely silent, accepting almost anything without question or consideration.  God’s will in these matters never seems to be addressed, nor His Word consulted.

          Instead, the matters of “the faith” are relegated to humanistic rationalism while the definitive truths of God’s Word are mitigated into obscurity and irrelevancy.  For much of today’s professing Christians, “the faith” is nothing more than a hodge-podge of human philosophies amalgamated together to appear non-judgmental and to give everyone a warm, fuzzy feeling with little or no consideration to whether those beliefs have any foundation in Divine origin or authority.

          This humanistic perversion of Christianity has little connection to the idea of “the faith” as detailed in God’s inspired Word.  In fact, for this type of Christianity, God’s Word is only referenced to maintain a semblance of connection to the real thing.  The only reason this fiasco continues is that the clear majority of real, Bible believing Christians have become theological pacifists and given up on contending for “the faith.”

          “The faith” defined by Scripture is the body of divinely revealed truth inscripturalized in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments.  Most of God’s communication with mankind has not come in a booming voice from Heaven (although He has done so on a few occasions).  God has chosen a few men with which to speak and through which He spoke down through the ages.  These men were called Prophets of God.  They were Mediators (middle-men) between God and men.  The last Mediator (and only remaining One) is Jesus Christ.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:19-21).

          The words “more sure” in II Peter 1:19 are from the Greek word bebaios (beb’-ah-yos), which refers to something that is stable, firm, or trustworthy.  This is followed by the admonition “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.”  The words “take heed” are from the Greek word prosecho (pros-ekh’-o), meaning to apply one’s self to, attach one’s self to, hold or cleave to a person or a thing.  It can also mean to be given or addicted to something or to be devoted to a thought or effort.

          This statement is immediately followed with a warning regarding “false prophets.”  These were men that distorted and perverted God’s Words for selfish purposes to gather a following so as to “make merchandise” of those followers.  Of course, in doing so, they must lead those followers away from following Christ.

1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (II Peter 2:1-3).

          It is amazing how little concern people give to these warnings regarding “false prophets” and their destructive “heresies.”  Contending for “the faith” involves every believer in the battle-arena for the preservation of God’s Word by “contending” with these “false prophets” and their manipulation of people through the distortion and perversion of the Word of God.  The grave danger of theological inclusivism is the willingness to accept or tolerate obvious distortions and perversions of the Word of God.  Theological inclusivism ceases to contend for “the faith” and, in doing so, allows for the distortion and perversion of that “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

          The word “once” in Jude 1:3 is from the Greek word hapax (hap’-ax), which means once for all.  The word “delivered” is from the Greek word paradidomi (par-ad-id’-o-mee) and refers to something being given into the hands of another to keep, use, take care of, and manage.  In other words, the Word of God was deposited into the hands of the Sanctified Ones (Saints).  God will hold us responsible for its preservation both in the written documents (Apographs) and in the maintenance of doctrinal purity.

          The written composite of these ancient Mediators is called the Holy Bible.  The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments reveal God’s historic dealings with mankind from the beginning of time.  They reveal His will in minute detail.  The revealed will of God detailed in these sixty-six books is what God’s refers to as “the faith.”  Believers are commanded to “keep the faith” and “contend for the faith.”  The former is about living “the faith” and the latter is about ensuring that God’s revealed will is not changed, distorted, or perverted by mankind.  This is about what Jude warns in Jude 1:3-8.

          Believers preoccupied with these two commands are called “the faithful.”  The “faithful” are concerned about any perversion of God’s revealed will due to the propagation of false doctrine and lifestyles, including their own, that lead people astray from the paths of righteousness (right living).  The “faithful” are unwilling to consent to any form of perversion of truth to any degree.  The moment they do, they cease to be “the faithful.”

          The word “contend” of Jude 1:3 is from the Greek word epagonizomai (ep-ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee).  It is a derivative of the Greek word agonizomai (ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee) with the epi (ep-ee’) prefix added to it.  Agonizomai is the word from which we get the English word agonize.  The epi (ep-ee’) prefix heightens its meaning to the highest level.  When it comes to “the faith,” the believer is commanded to endeavor with the highest level of strenuous zeal to insure the purity of theological content and the clarity of meaning.  This is the subject matter of all twenty-five verses of the book of Jude, warning about those who turn “grace” into “lasciviousness” (liberty into license). 

          If there ever was a day in history that this admonition is relevant, it is the twenty-first century.  Today’s Christian seems to argue that being out from under the Law and under grace means we can live any way we want because then we let God do want He does best, i.e., show mercy and forgive sin.  This only goes to prove that “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  The same old nonsense just keeps re-arising out of the slime-pits of human corruption with new names on it, but it is still nonsense.

          This rationalistic scum on the pond of human depravity has been a historical problem from the days of Apostolic Christianity.  Paul had to deal with it in his epistle to Rome in 50 A.D., less than twenty-seven years after the resurrection of Christ.

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Romans 6:1-2)?

          This is what is known as Antinomianism.  This is what any deviation from “the faith” does.  It perverts God’s will and gives man permission to do what God forbids.  It is not only a perversion of the doctrine of grace (Divine enablement); it is a mockery of the Lordship of Christ and denies the practical application of that Lordship in the believer’s life.

          This is one of the things that the Apostle Peter refers to in his second epistle as “damnable heresies.”  “Heresies” is from the Greek word hairesis (hah’-ee-res-is), referring to false teachings that lure men away from right practice and capture the deceived to form their own following.  The person thus deceived ceases to be a disciple of Christ and, in fact, ends up becoming a disciple of the person that deceives him; forming his own sect, yet still calling this perversion of truth Christianity.  In doing so, the person deceived denies both the Lordship of Christ and “the faith.”  The two are equal in scope.

          Satanic attacks on “the faith” come on two fronts: questioning God’s Word (distorting what God has said) and denying God’s Word (has God said?).  This is particularly evident in Satan’s deception of Eve.  Be aware of such nonsense and guard against it with every fiber of your being!

          Although a believer should contend for “the faith,” he is not to be contentious (argumentative) or involve himself in raising questions regarding theological issues to which the Word of God does not clearly speak.

9 But avoid {shun; i.e., do not answer} foolish questions, and genealogies {Jewish pride of ancestry}, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition {calling attention to an error} reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted {turned around and hardened in his thinking}, and sinneth {false doctrine perverts practice}, being condemned of himself” (Titus 3:9-11).

          When dealing with someone holding to obvious theological heresy, we are not to keep trying to change his mind.  In fact, we are commanded not to admonish him to change his beliefs more than two times, after which we are commanded to “reject” the heretic.     The word “reject” is from the Greek word paraiteomai (par-ahee-teh’-om-ahee).  It does not refer to excommunication from the church, although that should be required if the person’s doctrine disagrees with the church’s doctrinal position.  It means to shun or avoid.  It literally means to have nothing more to do with him.  The reason behind this is stated in Titus 3:11. The word “subverted” is from the Greek word ekstrepho (ek-stref’-o).  It refers to something that is twisted or turned inside out, or someone that is corrupt and perverted in his thinking.  Changing this type of person’s mind must be done by God.  We should pray to that end.  Only God can open the eyes of the blind and cause the deaf to hear, while the devil provides every opportunity for the dumb to speak. 

16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods” (Isaiah 42:16-17).

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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, September 4, 2017

Faith and the Sanctity of Purpose

Faith and the Sanctity of Purpose

          The prophet Haggai prophesies in about B.C. 520 according to Ussher’s Chronology of the Bible.  This places this minor prophet after the seventy-year Babylonian captivity of Israel when king Cyrus financed the return of a remnant of faithful Jews to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  The substance of the prophecy is God’s displeasure with the faithful remnant who were not being faithful in doing what they had been returned to Jerusalem to do.  These people had lost their spiritual purpose and were preoccupied with building their own homes and their own lives anew in the Promised Land. 

The whole of the book of Haggai is to correct a false belief of the returning remnant recorded in Haggai 1:2; “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.”  In the next few verses, God speaks through Haggai to address this corruption of His will and the corruption of their spiritual priorities. 

Keeping first things first is often one of the most difficult things in a believer’s life.  First things are always God things!  Why did God redeem us?  Why is God so concerned with our practical sanctity?  God wants to use us!  However, God will not use us if we are not sanctified in the priority of His purposes.  Look at what God says to the corruption of the sanctity of the priority of purpose in Haggai 1:3-11.  In addressing the corruption of the sanctity of the priority of purpose, God is addressing a severe corruption of “the faith.”

3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this {the Temple of God} house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands” (Haggai 1:3-11).

          This message from God came to Haggai and was delivered to the returned remnant in Jerusalem on the first day of the sixth month (Haggai 1:1).  Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest and the people of Israel immediately began to “fear before the LORD.”  They feared because they knew they deserved God’s chastisement.  Out of their repentance, they began to obey what God commanded (Haggai 1:12) and restore the priority of their purpose in serving the Lord in the sanctity of that purpose.  They understood that God had separated them from the captive nation of Israel for the specific purpose of rebuilding God’s Temple in Jerusalem.
Then God speaks again through His prophet Haggai in verse thirteen “saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.”  These are words that all sanctified people long to hear from God.  These words “stirred up the spirit” of the people of God (Haggai 1:14).  The Hebrew word translated “stirred up” means to open the eyes or to awaken.  It is a sad testimony of the carelessness of believers to see any of God’s children sleeping while God’s Word is being proclaimed.  However, the emphasis of the text is that the remnant of Israel was wide awake physically pursuing their own wants and desires while spiritually sound asleep to God’s purposes.  The demands and needs of life can very quickly consume our time to the place it soon consumes our whole life.  God’s purposes increasingly become secondary until this group of believers might just become known as the Putoffski Clan.  All such people need a stirring from God.  The reality of their faith needed to be confronted and they need a reminder of why they were at Jerusalem by the grace of God in the first place.

Apathy towards the purposes of God will slowly put the believer to sleep spiritually.  Faith in the knowledge of God’s presence awakens the apathetic from the lethargy of spiritual slumber.  They believed the Word of God and God “stirred up the spirit” within them.  What “spirit” was that?  God “stirred up the spirit” of their purpose for being at Jerusalem.  People who really believe the Word of God, get stirred up in anticipation of what the presence of God in their midst means.  This is genuine spirituality.  Genuine spirituality is excited about the things of God and excited about participating with God in what He wants done.  If a person does not understand his spiritual purpose, God will not be able to stir up that purpose.  The purpose must be inside before it can be stirred up.  Perhaps this is why there is such a depth of lethargy in the local churches of modern Christianity.  They have lost sight of their missional purpose for existence.

The Discouragement of Comparisons (Habakkuk 2:1-9)

          There were but a few of the faithful remnant who had seen the splendor glory of the temple Solomon built for God.  However, most had heard the descriptions of that glorious structure.  As they returned to rebuild, they were sorting through and using the rubble of that destroyed temple.  Even the best of their restoration must have been discouraging compared to their memory of Solomon’s Temple.  This discouragement of comparison was weakening their faith.  They had neither the unlimited resources nor the large skilled laborers that Solomon had available to him. 

      There is also the context of the account of Ezra chapters five and six that needs to be entered to all of this.  Without going into detail, the rebuilding of the Temple was stopped because some “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (Ezra 4:1) and “4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 And hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:4-5).  Through some political maneuvering by the adversaries, that began around B.C. 534, the work of rebuilding the Temple was suspended by king Artaxerxes in B.C. 520 (Ezra 4:23-24).  In B.C. 519 (Ezra 6:14), Darius would confirm the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple rebuild would be completed in the “sixth year of the reign of Darius the king” (Ezra 6:15).

          In Haggai 2:10, the timetable is four years before the completion of the Temple rebuild.  In the middle of all this turmoil, we read about what happened in Ezra chapters four through six.  The substance of God’s conversation with Haggai is to question the priests concerning their own sanctity before God as a continuing source of hindrance to God’s blessing upon the rebuild of the Temple.  It would be worthless to have a rebuilt Temple if the priesthood was still corrupted.  The principle is simple: spiritual work cannot be accomplished except by a spiritual people! 

10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you (Haggai 2:10-19).

          When some professing Christians (let alone unsaved people) hear preachers preach about listening to rock or country music as sin, they must think them to be narrow minded fruitcakes.  When preachers give the Biblical definitions of modesty, they must think them carryovers from the Victorian Age.  When they preach that social drinking, dancing, and going to movies are sin, they must think of us as radical fanatics.  Yet even these practices divide between the holy and the unholy.  Haggai 2:12-13 shows the extreme degree to which God takes holiness.  If we are to be holy, we must view holiness from God’s perspective, not man’s.  God has not changed!

       For many people, all these “No-No” things are viewed as the imposition of archaic rules to take the joy out of their lives.  Satan has succeeded in taking their focus from the blessings of God for those living in holiness, and putting their focus on the restrictions of God that keep us out of sin and living in holiness.  When people focus on the restrictions, they become bitter towards God and begin to resent His demands on their lives.  The reality is that God wants us to live in holiness so that He might bless us and use us for spiritual accomplishments in this life beyond our every expectation or imagination. 

          God is holy!  This fact is a reality to those with a real, living Biblical faith.  That kind of faith understands that because God is holy, He cannot use a person who lives in sin to any degree.  Although preachers seldom communicate this very well, their concern is that Christians live in holiness so that God can use their lives to His glory.  In preparing ourselves to be used of God, sanctity must be the central priority of our lives.  Sanctity begins in the heart.  The desire to be used of God begins with a consuming desire to be holy before God.  The first qualifier to any spiritual work is to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (I Peter 3:15a).

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (I Peter 3:15)

      So often we read this verse of Scripture and think that knowing Scripture is what God means when He tells us to “be ready.”  Read the verse again.  What is the conclusive statement that qualifies the believer to always be ready to be a witness for Christ?  It says, “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”  Obedience to what God says, not knowing it, is what makes us “ready.”  Something sanctified is dedicated/devoted to what it separated unto.  Every form of worldliness must be eradicated from the believer’s life if he is to be sanctified before God.  You ask, what is worldliness?  Worldliness is any thought, desire, or action that cannot be done with a clear conscience that God has authorized it by clear teaching from His Word. “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith {clear instruction from God’s Word}: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

Biblical faith understands that sanctity before God is an essential to God’s blessings.  Without sanctity, you will never be ready to serve God and do “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) no matter if you have the whole Bible memorized chapter and verse.  Being ready means being rightLet me ask you, can you be right if you allow any sin any place in your life? 

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” (Psalm 66:18)

          The word “regard” (Hebrew, ra'ah, pronounced raw-aw') means to give any place to sin, to the degree we ought not to even consider doing anything God forbids.  We should not even think about sin, let alone do it, if we want to be used of God or be blessed by Him.  Scripture is redundant with this truth.

8 For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? 9 Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him” (Job 27:8-9)?

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

“The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).

“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31).

Why is living in holiness so important?  God has taught me, by my own miserable failures, that service without sanctity is an operation in futility.  Unless God is with us, blessing our efforts and spiritually empowering our lives, even the hardest work and the most noble cause will fail to achieve its goal.

“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” (John 15:5).

          The formula for the blessing of God upon sanctified service is repeated over and over throughout the Old Testament.  That formula is summed up in Romans 12:1-2.  These verses summarize the practical necessities for the service gifts of Romans 12:3-8 before those service gifts can be blessed of God.

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 by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

          The word “prove” in Romans 12:2 is from the Greek word dokimazo (dok-im-ad’-zo), which means to test something to prove it genuine after careful examination.  There are three conditions in Romans 12:1 and 2 that are necessary before God will prove to us that what we do and how we do it are His will.  Nothing done out of the will of God or contrary to these three criteria can be blessed of God.  Without God’s blessing, nothing will be produced from our efforts regardless of how hard we work.  That is also exactly what Haggai 2:15-16 says as well.

The three conditions of service in sanctity of Romans 12:1-2

1. We must yield ourselves to God to be used of Him.  However, before we can be used, our lives must be separated from any practice which God condemns (“thou shalt not”) and consecrated to do whatever God commands (thou shalt).  This is what God means by presenting our bodies “holy” and “acceptable.”
2. We must not allow the influences of this world (sociological or peer pressure) to mold us in any way, shape our thinking, or influence our practices.  This is expressed by the words, “be not conformed to this world.”

    “Conformed” is from the Greek word suschematizo (soos-khay-mat-id’-zo), which means not to conform one’s mind and character to any pattern of life other than God’s.  Paul expressed this another way in Colossians 2:6-8.

6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).

3. The third condition for God’s acceptance and blessing on our service is that we must work with Him at changing the way we think and see things in this world.  This is expressed by the words “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Paul expressed this again in II Corinthians 10:5.

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; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (II Corinthians 10:4-6).

          In B.C. 536, a Gentile king named Cyrus decreed that a remnant of Israel could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of God.

          Ezra 2:64 tells us 49,997 dedicated, cream of the spiritual crop Jews returned from Babylon to begin rebuilding the Temple of God.  By the second month of B.C. 535.  According to Ezra 3:10, the foundation of the Temple was complete.  The work was progressing well in spiritual unity.  The people were consecrated to the work and doing it, serving the Lord in sanctity.  Then it happened.  Satan introduced the contaminating spirit of defilement.  The work stopped.

1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; 2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. 3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. 4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:1-5).

          For the next fourteen years the work of God stopped while the people of God pursued their own careers and built their own houses and land.  They lost their vision of the purpose for their return to Israel.  How did this happen?  An unholy alliance sought in infiltrate their purity and their sanctity.  Their enemies were able to hinder and eventually stop the work.  During this time of work stoppage, the builders lost the sanctity of their purpose for being in Jerusalem, which meant the loss of spiritual empowerment.  The loss of spiritual empowerment meant the loss of desire for the work God sent them to do.  Our ministry in sharing the heart of God for the lost, ignorant, and confused, by soul winning and discipleship of people, is our living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1).  To think that personal sacrifices can be offered with unclean hands that are not dedicated and committed is foolishness (Haggai 2:12-13).  This is the context of Romans 12:1-2 just before the emphasis changes to the empowering of the service gifts in Romans 12:3-8.

          Now, in the book of Haggai those fourteen years have passed.  Haggai and Zechariah are called of God to exhort the people back to the work of building the Temple.  However, before the work could resume and be blessed of God, change in thinking and practice was required (“turning,” Haggai 2:17).  The people of God needed to be brought to the conviction of their uncleanness, which existed because of their apathy and the contamination of their lives due to the incorporation of lifestyle practices offensive to God.  They needed to be brought to the place of recognition of sin, repentance, confession, and cleansing (four decisions).
          According to Haggai 2:17, God had brought tremendous chastisement upon these people to turn their hearts to holiness.  The work was a secondary priorityHoliness was the firstNever lose this perspective of ministry!

          We often mistake doing spiritual work as spirituality.  For many years I dedicated myself to doing the work of ministry while being complacent and unbroken about the lack of holiness in my life.  God wants dedication in holiness to Him, before He wants dedication to the work.  God wants dedication of our bodies and lives in holiness to Him so that He can do the work of the ministry through us.

          “From this day” (Haggai 2:19), the day when people return to service in sanctity; from that day “will I bless you” (restore and revive you).

1. Biblical faith understands that God expects more from us than just getting to the work.  God expects holiness in our lives. 
2. Biblical faith understands that God wants a return to the work based upon the understanding that we serve Him.  God expects holiness in that service.
3. Biblical faith understands that our service must be permeated with personal holiness before God can bless it.  Holiness begins with separation from worldliness and continues with and unswerving pursuit of godliness. 

The word “holy” refers to something sacred that is also morally and ethically pure.  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary[1] defines sacred as “devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose).”  The person who understands this, maintains this sanctity of purpose as he goes through the daily routine in meeting the necessities of life.  

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us {the priesthood of all believers} in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacred

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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.