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: You Know Better than That!

Monday, September 16, 2019

You Know Better than That!

Why Are We Failing the Great Commission?
Chapter Twenty-one
You Know Better than That!
        For most of professing Christians, who have spent their lifetimes wading in the shallows of doctrinal truth, every truth seems “deep” and over their heads.  The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to professing Jewish Christians sometime before 70 A.D.  Therefore, the historical context is within about thirty years after the crucifixion/resurrection of Jesus. 

According to Hebrews 5:12-14, central to the problems addressed by the epistle to the Hebrews was the doctrinal ignorance rampant among Jewish believers at this time period.  Although they had made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, many were being seduced into returning to the Mosaic Covenant thereby abandoning their New Covenant responsibilities of the priesthood of all believers.  The epistle to the Hebrews confronts this inconsistency of Mosaic Covenant Christianity as equal to “unbelief” (Hebrews 4:6).  This is a very serious situation that would impregnate Christianity with false doctrines that continue to this day in Replacement Theology. 

12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Jewish believers in the epistle to the Hebrews are being addressed as hypothetical unbelievers because their practices of faith in Christ are inconsistent with the necessity of understanding the “finished” propitiation of God through the crucifixion and shed Blood of Jesus.  This doctrinal error is posited as “unbelief.”  Therefore, religious practices MUST be consistent with doctrinal truth or the inconsistencies reveal unbelief and false faith.  Such inconsistencies are to be confronted evangelistically and corrected because such people are still living in unbelief and therefore still lost in their sins. 

The word “faith” as used in the Bible ALWAYS connects to the PRACTICES OF BELIEFS.  Faith NEVER refers to mere beliefs apart from corresponding practices.  This corruption of the meaning of “faith” is confronted in almost every epistle in the New Testament.  Biblically, the practices of religion and life MUST be in alignment with the correct understanding of Bible doctrine.  Paul addresses this definition of “faith” as “doctrine” eight times in I Timothy, four times in II Timothy, and four times in Titus (16 timers in all three epistles).  These are the three Pastoral Epistles establishing the correlation between true, Biblical faith with right doctrine.  James’ epistle does the same. 

The problem addressed in Hebrews 5:12-14 is serious regarding why the Church is failing to fulfill the Great Commission for two main reasons. 

1. The main responsibilities of the new priesthood of all believers in the New Covenant are to evangelize the lost bringing them to faith in Christ and to disciple the newly “born again” believers in knowing and living the Truths of God’s Word.
2. The failure to understand the distinction between the nature of the unfinished work of redemption in the shadowy sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant, at which the Mosaic Covenant merely pointed its finger, manifested a serious misunderstanding of the “finished” nature of the New Covenant in the Blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  This problem manifests unbelief in the “finished” work of the propitiation of God and the gift of God-kind righteousness to the believing sinner.  This failure reproduced itself in generation after generation. 

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift {everything that is good and righteous} is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed {James is not referring to works FOR salvation, but rather the works OF born OUT OF genuine salvation; Ephesians 2:10}. 26 If any man among you seem to be religious {appears to be a practitioner of ‘the faith’}, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion {practices of ‘the faith’ thereby revealing genuineness or hypocrisy} is vain {empty or worthless}. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father {works OF the genuinely ‘born again’ person} is this {two general examples are given}, To visit {for the purposes of relieving their distress}the fatherless and widows in their affliction {distressed condition; repeated many times in the Old Testament books; Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5, 82:3; and Isaiah 1:17.  This defines moral responsibilities to those in need before the eyes of God and before the world.}, and to keep himself {this defines moral responsibilities for himself before the eyes of God} unspotted from the world (James 1:13-27).

          This statement and warning of James cannot be over emphasized; “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead” (James 2:20)?  In other words, professed faith in God’s Words without a corresponding obedience to those Words in the way we live before God and the world is self-deception in the worst form.  Such a person will ultimately discover he was never truly “born again,” but that discovery will be TOO LATE!  This does not imply that someone that was truly “born again” had somehow lost the gift of salvation.  The implication is that their faith was never in the objective facts of the accomplished “finished” Cross work of Christ manifested by His resurrection from the dead.  Salvation is a gift and once it is received “through faith,” it is eternally sure. 

The Bible says, as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he:” (Proverbs 23:7a).  God is not talking about what a person thinks, but the way he thinks.  The way a person thinks will determine what kind of person he will be.  God wants to change the way we think, not just what we think.

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; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (II Corinthians 10:3-6).

          The way a person thinks determines how he sees himself, how he sees other people, and how he sees life in general.  A few good examples of this are some of the famous painters in history.  As we look at their work, we can get a glimpse into their minds to see the way they think.  Vincent van Gogh was a troubled man and his paintings reflect the way he thought.  His paintings are a continuum of distorted images occupied with the base things of this world.

          Pierre Renoir’s impressionism is that of blended colors without clear-cut lines and distinctions.  Michelangelo’s art was occupied with the details of muscle, movement, and body construction.  Rembrandt van Rijn was a portrait artist who painted people in dark shadows and colors.  Perhaps he saw the sinister darkness behind everyone.  The works of these men reflect the way they thought.  James says we can also see the way another believer thinks when we look at his Christian work (how he practices his Christianity; living faith).

          Sometimes the truths of Scripture are viewed as ivory tower ideologies.  For people who think this way, the Bible is a book of things to know, but are so far beyond man’s abilities they could never be realized.  However, God uses the words of Scripture to detail His expectations for our lives; not in abstract ideologies, but in practical realities.  What God gives us to know, He expects us to do.

          The epistle of James details the practical realities of the Christian life.  These practical realities define Christianity by what we do (not by what we know).  This little epistle takes all the apparent ivory tower ideologies and translates them into grassroots realisms expressed in the works of the professing Christian.  The epistle of James takes those truths out of the mind (knowing) and translates the knowledge into a reality of Christian ministry (doing).  Whenever our Christianity fails, it fails in the transition from knowing to doing. This outcome of false faith is what defines the corruption of the doctrine of repentance to mean merely a change of mind. 

Pure religion (true living Christianity/faith) is not expressed in flowery speeches and beautiful words, but in concrete tangible actions of ministry (James 1:22 & 27).

          True Christianity (“the faith;” “pure religion”) is defined by practice, not knowledge.  The things listed in James 1:26-27 are intended as a few examples.  The three things listed in these two verses are a beginning, not an end in themselves.

Ø A professing Christian, who fails to control his tongue, denies his profession (beliefs) by his practice (vs. 26).
Ø A professing Christian, who refuses to minister to other believers in need, denies his profession by his practice (vs. 27a).
Ø A professing Christian, who fails to live separated from the world and separated unto God, denies his profession by his practice (vs. 27b).

Knowers, who are not doers, deceive themselves about the reality of their Christianity (James 1:22), maybe even their salvation.

          Dr. Bob Jones Sr. once said, “You can’t be religious without religion; you can’t be Christian without Christ; you can’t deliver the goods unless you got the goods to deliver.  You can’t get water out of a dry well, so quit putting on.”

          If your Christianity is one of knowing without doing, it is not Christianity at all.  If your Christianity never ministers to your neighbor’s need, it is not Christianity.  If your Christianity never seeks to bridge the gap between broken relationships and unforgiveness, it is not Christianity.  If your Christianity is not constantly aware of the lost people around you and does not do everything possible to personally share the words of life in the Gospel of Christ with them, it is not Christianity.  If any one of these is true of your life, your Christianity is not real.  It is nothing but a conglomerate of ivory tower ideologies.  If this describes the reality of any person’s faith, it should be the greatest concern for every believer-priest. 

“Doers of the Word” translate the wonderful truths of God’s Word into the practice of their lives. 

          Doers of the Word” become a vehicle to transport God’s love, God’s mercy, and God’s grace to the souls and lives of lost people.  This is what defines “doers of the Word.”  It is hands on Christianity.  “Hearers only” are people with their heads in the work, but not their hearts and hands.  God’s Word is an instruction book for ministry.  He never intended for us to know what He wants without doing what He wants.

Everyone has dreams.  Many people can get a vision of what God wants for their lives.  However, every great Christian became great not because of ideas, dreams, or visions, but because they did whatever needed to be done to translate their ideas, dreams, and visions into realities.  They were “doers of the Word”, not mere ideologues.

          Modern day Christianity seems content to bask in the glory of the successes of years gone by while failing to translate their own personal faith into the practical reality of doing.  Read James 1:21 again; “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”  The reason for this duplicity of contradiction between professed faith and living faith is because the knowledge of the Word of God is head knowledge only.  Faith in God’s Word is not being “engrafted” (integrated) into the practices of life.  This is to what Christ is referring in Revelation 3:14-19 in His message to the Laodicean period of Church history.

          How can a professing Christian determine if he is just a hearer only or a doer?  To whom are you reaching out to minister and what are you doing to accomplish the Great Commission?  Is there real and tangible evidence of concrete spiritual growth and change in your life?  Is it measured by what you have learned (knowledge) or by what you have learned to do (doing)?  If there is no measurable spiritual growth, determined by personal ministry and practical faith (work), your Christianity is merely intellectual.  In other more direct words, your faith not Biblical faith.

          Real Christian faith is always a working, practicing faith (doing).  The word faith never separates beliefs from practice.  The word faith means we practice what we believe.  This is always the meaning of faith in Hebrew and the Old Testament.  For instance, if you believe all mankind is condemned to an eternal hell, real faith compels you act (“works,” James 2:14-20) upon that belief.  If your professed Christianity (“faith”) does not act upon your belief, your professed faith is “dead, being alone” (James 2:17 &20). 

          When it comes to the real Christian faith, there is no such thing as an armchair Christian.  Real Christian faith does not allow for spectators.  In real Christianity, everyone must be a participant.  Stop praying for a burden for people and begin to do what God tells you to do.  When you begin to do the work of the ministry, you will have a burden for people.

          How then do we escape this façade of image over substance; the pursuit of knowledge without an equal effort at living what we learn?  Here we enter the spiritual struggle common to all true believers with the desire to live for the Lord and produce fruit for the Lord – PRACTICAL SANCTIFICATION.  

          The greatest enemy of the believer is not Satan.  He is the Destroyer and the accuser of the brethren, but he is not the believer’s greatest enemy.  The believer’s greatest enemy is his own fallen, corrupted sin nature, the OLD MAN.  The “old man” can never be spiritual.  The “old man” can never be righteous because he is conceived a sinner and is born a sinner.  The “old man” can never be anything but a sinner.  Being “born again” adds the Holy Spirit’s Person to the believer’s body thereby enabling that believer to live righteously and obey God’s Word.  The Bible word for this enabling of the indwelling Spirit is “fellowship.”  “Fellowship” with God empowers the “born again” believer through yielding to the indwelling Spirit of God and is the ONLY solution to carnality!  To KNOW this truth and not DO THIS TRUTH, is pure self-deception. 

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I {want to} do I {the ‘old man’ or sin nature} allow not: for what I {the new ‘born again’ man} would, that do I{the new ‘born again’ man} not; but what I{the new ‘born again’ man} hate, that do I {the ‘old man’ or sin nature}. 16 If then I {the new ‘born again’ man} do that which I {the new ‘born again’ man} would not, I {the new ‘born again’ man} consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I {the new ‘born again’ man} that do it, but sin {the ‘old man’ or sin nature} that dwelleth in me. 18 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. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin {the ‘old man’ or sin nature} that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law {a spiritually governing principle}, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:14-25).

          Escaping the facade of image over substance and the pursuit of knowledge without an equal effort at living what we learn is more than a very difficult endeavor.  It is an impossible endeavor apart from the enabling grace of God.  We cannot do this is our own strength.  This is a supernatural work requiring supernatural abilities.  We must be constantly cognizant of that fact. 

2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:2-4).

          The essential truth of the supernatural enabling (grace) of a “born again” believer through total surrender to Christ permeates God’s instruction to believers in the epistle of James about living the Christian life and producing God-kind righteousness and spiritual fruit through our lives.  Since the Scriptures are redundant with this truth, it must be a truth of which most Christians are ignorant.  Or, this is a truth most Christians simply ignore. 

Therefore, we have two probable problems for why we fail to escape the façade of image over substance and the pursuit of knowledge without an equal effort at living what we learn.

Ø The image we project to others about our Christianity is more important to us than the reality of our Christianity. 
Ø Impressing people with what we know is more important to us than actual fruit being produced to the glory of God through the truths that we live and proclaim.

          This brings us to the place of an honest evaluation of our Christian lives before God.  It is a critical evaluation in that apart from it our lives will never escape the façade of image over substance and the pursuit of knowledge without an equal effort at living what we learn.  Unless we are brutally honest with ourselves about image over substance and knowledge over living truth, we will be doomed to live our lives in the shadows of spiritual obscurity and fruitlessness. 

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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.

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