The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Watch Israel!
 
“And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.’” - Isaiah 49:3

The Olivet Discourse of Jesus is a prophetic message that is directed at Israel in particular and the Church in a secondary fashion. In the discourse Jesus mentions the Abomination of Desolation and the budding of the fig tree, both of which are particularly linked symbolically to Israel. Don’t miss the point Jesus is making here. The important thing he is stating here is that the nation of Israel is an integral part of God’s prophetic plan and therefore a barometer of where we are on the prophetic calendar. Israel is an important sign for us to examine for a number of reasons.

First, the nation of Israel is God’s tool to make Himself known to the world. In the book of Isaiah it states:

  • Isaiah 43:10a – “"You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, . . .” (See also Isaiah 43:12; 44:8)

God has chosen to use the nation of Israel to prove His existence and reveal Himself to the world. One way He has done this is through the preservation of Israel and especially the reestablishment of Israel as a nation in 1948.

Second, the nation of Israel is Gods’ tool to glorify Himself to the world. We see this in the following verses:

  • Isaiah 46:13 – “I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.”
  • Isaiah 49:3 - “And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.’”

In describing the events of one End Times battle, the LORD explains how He will use Isreal when through the prophet Ezekiel He states:

  • Ezekiel 38:23 - “Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.” ’

Third, the nation of Israel is God’s tool to reveal Himself via prophecy. One of the proofs of God’s existence is prophecy. In Isaiah it states:

  • Isaiah 46:9-10 – “ Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

God proves he is real and true by speaking prophetically through prophets. God has used the nation of Israel in particular to reveal Himself prophetically. The following are a few examples of God’s prophecy regarding Israel:

  1. God promised a Land to Israel through their patriarch Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:15; 15:7; 26:3-5; 28:13; Leviticus 25:46; Joshua 14:9).
  2. God brought Israel as a “chosen people” into this Land (Exodus 6:7-8; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2).
  3. God warned Israel if they practiced idolatry and immorality He would evict them from the Land (Deuteronomy 9:4; 28:63; 1 Kings 9:7; 2 Chronicles 7:19-20). They persisted in sinning in this way against God and His patient grace and He did indeed allow them to be overcome by their enemies and evicted from the Land.
  4. God declared Israel would be scattered throughout the earth and they were as a result of their sinfulness (Deuteronomy 28:64; 1 Kings 9:7; Nehemiah 1:8; Jeremiah 9:13-16; 44:2-17; Amos 9:9; Zechariah 7:14).
  5. God warned that when Israel was scattered that they would come to be a curse and byword because of their sinfulness in forsaking God (Deuteronomy 28:37; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Jeremiah 29:18; 44:8). This has come to pass throughout history as Jews are persistently maligned and the subject of slurs, jokes and hated and persecuted perpetually.
  6. Despite their being targeted by merciless persecution, God promised that His chosen people would not be utterly destroyed and would continue as an identifiable ethnic and national group (Jeremiah 30:11; 31:35-37). History has proven this to be true.
  7. God promised to bring Israel back to the Promised Land in the Last Days and He did this on May 14th, 1948 when Israel was reestablished as a nation  (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 30:10; 31:8-12; Ezekiel 36:8-10, 22, 24, 33-38).
  8. God promised that in the Last Days, Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel, would become a “cup of trembling” (KJV) and a burden to the people’s of the world (Zechariah 12:2-3, 6-8). Jerusalem and Israel a nation the size of Rhode Island, are the center of the International controversy and tension proving God’s word of prophecy to be true. [i]

On January 15th France is hosting a conference to discuss the two state “solution” to the problem of Palestinian statehood. The likelihood is that any arrangement will be based on the pre-1967 war borders and that any decision will be aimed at unilaterally pressuring Israel to comply to this decision by surrounding her and isolating her in the court of world public opinion. All this while Islamic Palestinian sourced terror attacks continue.

Don’t think God will stand by as the world tries to carve up His Land. There are battles in the near future. I would encourage you to examine such portions of scripture as Psalm 83, Isaiah 17, Ezekiel 38 and 39. But more importantly, I would encourage you to watch and pray and look up! For our redemption is drawing nigh!

 




[i] A good book on the role of Israel in prophecy is A Cup of Trembling by Dave Hunt, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1995.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hands off God’s Land!


“The land is Mine” Leviticus 25:23
 
President Barack Obama has repeatedly voiced his support for limiting Israel to the pre-1967 war borders. He has repeatedly declared his opinion that Jerusalem is up for “negotiations.”  He most recently supported the UN Resolution 2234 to criminalize what he and others see as a Jewish “occupation” of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In instructing our UN ambassador to not veto this resolution he has broken with decades of support of our nation to Israel. And on top of all of this there is a scheduled European meeting set for January 15th wherein it may be declared that Palestine is a State and a “two-state solution” is to be enforced. All of this does not bode well for the nation of Israel. But to Israel, those who support Israel and those who have a love for the Jewish people I encourage you not to worry. History has demonstrated how the God of Israel has a way of protecting His people and His Land.  

But those of us outside Israel need to consider something. If God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel (Genesis 12), where does that leave this President? Where does that leave the US of A who elected this president and whom this president represents? Yes he is on the way out, but there is still time to do a lot of damage. Yes we elected Mr. Trump to be the next president and he has unequivocally expressed his support of Israel and a desire to rightfully put the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, the rightful capital of Israel. But as it stands right now, President Obama has steered out country further and further away from supporting our democratic “ally” Israel. We are moving closer to cursing than blessing. And that is not good. Maybe we should run for cover.

There were some things that President Obama has said and done that are supportive of Israel. He has affirmed this nation’s military support of Israel and has followed through on that with arms deals. But any good mentioned by President Obama is overshadowed by the presumptuous declaration about land swapping and Holy City swapping to form a Palestinian state. This is the height of folly. It is based on an ignorance of the true borders of the land. It is based on an atheistic world philosophy and historical perspective.   

The Promised Land according to scripture stretches from the Nile to the Euphrates River (Gen. 15:18; Num. 34:1-15). Go to a map and check out those borders. Rather than decreasing Israel’s borders we should be talking about increasing them.  With all the commotion over the very existence of Israel can you imagine what would happen if a discussion was brought up about giving Israel that body of land that truly belongs to her? Can you imagine the reaction if President Trump follows through on his campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? I can hear the war drums already! The thought of the international problems that would arise from giving Israel her Land tempts people to ignore God’s originally promised boundaries of land. When politicians for political expediency talk about forcing Israel to give up land, (even land for peace; indeed, especially land for peace), they are making a huge mistake. Let me tell you why?

First of all, the Land doesn’t belong to Israel. What? Wait a minute, I thought you were pro Israel and this was a pro Israel article. I am supportive of Israel. Hear me out. The Land doesn’t belong to Israel. It doesn’t belong to any other nation either. All land belongs to God! In His Word God says, “The land is Mine” (Lev. 25:23). And God loves His land. God is agrarian at heart. Scripture tells us He cares for the land and, “the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it” (Deut. 11:12). It all belongs to the Lord! “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).

Israel was given the Land by God but there were limitations on what they could do with the Land. They were never allowed to permanently sell the Land. Israel was to oversee the Land, live in the Land, cultivate and defend the Land, but they were still to have a sojourners attitude (Lev. 25:23). God gave them a Land, and it’s a blessed Land, but His greater purpose was that they and we look forward to an Eternal Land (Heb. 11:13-16).

Second, the Owner is able to give the land to whoever He wants to. God did not give the Land to the Palestinians (who in truth have no historical basis) or any other Middle Eastern group ancient or contemporary. He did not give the Land to the Egyptians, Saudis, Iranians or the descendents of Ishmael (Gen. 17:18-19; Heb. 11:18). He didn’t give the Land to the United States, the Russians, the Chinese, the French, the Germans, or any other Gentile nation or group. God has given the plot of Land from the Nile to the Euphrates to the descendents of Abraham (Gen. 12:7, 15:18). He gave the Land to Isaac and his descendents not to Ishmael and his descendents (Gen. 25:5-6; 26:3). He gave the Land to Jacob and his descendents not to Esau and his descendents (Gen. 25:23; 28:13-15; 35:11-12; Rom. 9:10-13). And when God gave this Land to Abraham and his descendents he gave it to them “forever” (Gen. 13:15). Did you read that? FOREVER. That is God’s prerogative alone.

Third, God gave the land to Israel regardless of their obedience or cooperation. He gave the Land to Abraham and his descendents, to Israel, as an “everlasting possession” (Gen. 14:7-8). God is omniscient. He knows all things all the time. The eventual and repeated sinfulness of Abraham’s descendents did not surprise God. In His foreknowledge God knew very well what the history of Israel would entail (Lev. 26:40-45; Deut. 30:3-5; Jer. 31:10; Amos 9:14-15). He knew this and He still committed the Land to Israel forever. This is because the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendents which gave them the land depended and depends on God’s faithfulness, not Israel’s. Read what it says in Psalm 89 in this regard: “If his sons forsake My law And do not walk in My judgments, 31  If they break My statutes And do not keep My commandments, 32  Then I will punish their transgression with the rod, And their iniquity with stripes. 33 Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, Nor allow My faithfulness to fail. 34 My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. 35 Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: 36  His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; 37  It shall be established forever like the moon,  Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” Selah (Psalm 89:30-37).

Sin has a consequence and God disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12). Israel was removed from the Land for 70 years as a consequence of their sin (Jer. 25). But God also restored the people to the Land He had given them. Again in 70 AD the people were removed from the Land. But again on May 14th, 1948 God restored them miraculously to the Land. And in 1967 He even gave them Jerusalem! In light of such miracles how can anyone dare to blaspheme God by bartering His Land or His holy City?   Atrocious!

The point here is that the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendents giving them a certain Land is based on and is a testament to God’s faithfulness and character. That Israel is back in the Land God gave them should be a rich encouragement to us all because it testifies to the faithfulness and true character of God. It is a testimony to God’s love for the small and the oppressed (Deut. 7:7-9). Because God’s giving of the Land to Israel depends on His faithfulness, it is as certain as the order of the universe (Jer. 31:35-37).

Fourth, God has gone out of His way to make sure that Abraham’s descendents are in the land He ordained for them. In Genesis 46 there is an account of a severe famine. Jacob takes his entire family and brings them to Egypt. As he is contemplating this decision God speaks to him and tells him not to fear assuring him that, “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again . . .” (Gen. 46:4). Later while in Egypt Jacob shares the words he received from God with his son Joseph saying God told him, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendents after you as an everlasting possession” (Gen. 48:4). God multiplied Israel and God brought them back into the Promised Land (Joshua 3).

When Abraham’s descendents came under the oppression of Pharaoh Scripture records God heard their groans. He then delivered them from that oppression and set them on a journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 2:24; 3:8, 15-17; 6:4). The hope of oppressed Israel was God’s promise to bring them into the Land He had set aside for them, “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 13:11). Once delivered and on their way Moses even wrote a song for the people to sing which said in part, “You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. ‘The Lord shall reign forever and ever.’” (Exodus 15:17-18). There’s something special about that Land. It is a place where God has his eye and a place where he makes His presence known. Anyone who has been there can testify to that. And God has given that Land to Israel to oversee (Deut. 1:8). 

Lastly, the only way Israel will ever find peace in all the Land God has ordained for them is through Messiah Jesus. God put Israel in the Land and told them to rid it of the wicked (Deut. 9:3-5). That has never completely or enduringly happened. Israel has always been plagued by various pagan peoples. It isn’t any different today. It’s only going to get worse.

A day is coming when the entire world will come against Israel. We see this happening right before our eyes! That day is soon approaching, (if not already here given President Obama’s actions.) Things will go from bad to worse and become apparently hopeless for Israel. But when all seems lost, Jesus, Yeshua, will break through the clouds in glory and descend to the Mount of Olives and destroy the enemies of God who have gathered against Israel (Zech 14). Jesus, Yeshua, is the only true and eternal hope for Israel. When Jesus returns to the earth, God promises to pour out His Spirit on Israel saying:

·         Zechariah 12:10 - “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

There is a great revival coming to Israel and her people. It’s at this time that all the pieces of the prophetic puzzle will fall into place for Israel. It’s at this time that the most hardened resister to Yeshua Jesus as Messiah will grieve over their hardheartedness, repent, and turn to Jesus as Savior. Paul spoke prophetically of this time proclaiming, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Oh what a day that will be! God will have demonstrated and revealed Himself in an incredibly holy unique way. And God will pour out His Spirit on Israel (Ezek. 39:25-29). When the Spirit is poured out He convicts people of their sin and saves their soul (John 16:8-11; John 3; Titus 3:5). It’s at this time that Jesus, God in the flesh, Messiah, YESHUA will dwell in Jerusalem amongst all His people and the Land. The Promised Land will be His dwelling place in an incredible way.

All land belongs to the Lord. He gives it to whomever He pleases. He has given the Promised Land from the Nile to the Euphrates to Israel. It would be best for those who casually barter a land they do not own to let the Owner apportion the Land as He sees fit.  It’s God’s land. He has given it to Israel. Hands off! Hands off Mr. President and anyone else who wants to divvy up the Land!

 

 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Resolutions or Regeneration?


O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Romans 7:24-25a

 

Every year on New Years Eve people make New Year’s Resolutions promising to change themselves for the better. But New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure. If people want to change they don’t need resolutions, they need regeneration.

 

How Successful are New year’s Resolutions?

 

How successful are New Year’s resolutions? Statistics in a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology showed the following:

 

·         40 to 45% of American adult make one or more resolutions each year.

·         Among the top new years resolutions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and stopping to smoke. Also popular are resolutions dealing with better money management / debt reduction.

·         The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
- past the first week: 75%
- past 2 weeks: 71%
- after one month: 64%
- after 6 months: 46%   [1]

Another study  estimated that 97% of New Year’s resolutions do not work. In this study entitled New Years Resolutions: Why Don’t They Work ? Michael York of the Michael York Learning Center theorized the reason why resolutions don’t work is because people expect to fail and that they don’t know how to properly set goals in order to keep their resolutions. But I would say that the reason people don’t expect to keep their resolutions is because they have learned from experience that they can’t keep their resolutions and no amount of proper goal setting is going to change that.

 

So what’s the answer; how can we change for the better? The answer is that we need regeneration not resolutions.

 

Why Resolutions Can’t Work

 

The reason why a resolution can’t work is because it depends on me, myself and I; it depends on my own “strength.” The Bible refers to this self-centered dependence upon self as the flesh. Paul was inspired to speak of the predicament of the flesh when in Romans he writes:

 

·         Romans 7:18-24 - 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to 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 will deliver me from this body of death?

Do you see the futility of relying on your own strength to try to do good things? The New Living Translation (more of a paraphrase) of the Bible renders this portion of scripture in the following way:

 

  • 18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. 19 When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it. 21 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?[2]

 

These words express the futility, frustrations and ultimate failure of attempts at self-reformation and that is exactly what a New Year’s resolution is. The reason such attempts at change are doomed to failure is because they depend on an inadequate power source, the sinful self. Read what the Bible says about our self, the me, myself and I of who we are:

  • Genesis 6:5 - 5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

·         Job 14:4 - Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!      

·         Job 15:14-16 - “What is man, that he could be pure?  And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous?15 If God puts no trust in His saints, And the heavens are not pure in His sight,16  How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, Who drinks iniquity like water!   

·         Psalm 5:9 - For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; Their inward part is destruction; Their throat is an open tomb; They flatter with their tongue.     

·         Psalm 51:5 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

·         Isaiah 64:6 - But we are all like an unclean thing,  And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

·         Jeremiah 17:9 - “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked;     Who can know it?

·         Mark 7:21-23 - 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

·         Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

These verses are ample evidence that anything that depends on this flesh or us, is doomed to fail to reach its goal.

If that is the case, then how can a person change successfully?

Regeneration the Way to True Transformation

Sometimes we can have what we believe are the best of intentions, but they are the wrong intentions. Our motives are not always what they ought to be. We may want to change, but if our motive is only to please our self, then we are only compounding our problem and off the mark. What we need is an entirely new way of looking at things and an entirely new way of doing things. What we need is REGENERATION.

What is regeneration? Regeneration is a work of the Spirit wherein He gives spiritual eternal life to a repentant sinner. In Paul’s letter to Titus he is inspired to write:

·         Titus 3:3-7 - 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The term “regeneration” (παλιγγενεσία - paliggĕnĕsia, pal-ing-ghen-es-ee´-ah[3]) means new birth, regeneration, or rebirth. This is a compound word made up of the Greek term palin which means “again”  and the Greek term genesis which means “birth.”  Regeneration is the work of God to change us from death to life spiritually. God regenerates the person who receives Jesus as Savior. All of this is a work of God offered graciously as a gift to be received by us.

 

Jesus described regeneration with the following words:

 

  • John 5:24 - 24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Regeneration is passing from death to life spiritually. Just as we are physically born, we must be spiritual born again if we are ever to be changed from our present state of sinful futility. Before we are spiritually born again we don’t even understand our true need (1 Corinthians 2:14). We need to be born again, we need to be spiritual born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5).

How do I get this regeneration?  If you want to change for the better you have to realize the following.

First, realize your real problem is sin. Sin is the destructive cancer like thing within you that is keeping you from successfully changing for the better. The Bible says:

·         Romans 3:10, 23 - 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; . . . 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,    

Sin keeps us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and it is God alone who can work true change in us. Sin keep our focus on sinful self where we will wallow in defeat and despair.

Second, realize only spiritual birth or spiritual life can make a true lasting eternal change in you. It is the gospel that is the power of God to save us from sin (Romans 1:16). Jesus told the religious Pharisee Nicodemas that he “must” be born again. Jesus said:

  • John 3:3-7 - 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

 

Here we see by way of comparison that Jesus taught Nicodemus just as he had been born physically he needed to experience spiritual birth as well.

This is not something we can work in ourselves, which leads us to the next realization.

Third, realize regeneration is a work of God offered by His grace through faith in His only Son Jesus. The Bible says that salvation is a work of God (John 6:29). The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and our need of salvation (John 16:8-11). It is God who draws us out of our sin to Himself (John 6:44). And God draws us to Himself by dealing with our sin through faith in Jesus (John 6:29).

Here is the beauty of how God resolves our sinful predicament. He has sent Jesus to pay for our sinful debt (because we are unable to pay that debt off on our own). And He has done away with our sin as we put our faith in Jesus and His work (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is why at the end of Paul’s passage in Romans 7 he is inspired to proclaim:

·         Romans 7:24-25a - 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

It is a glorious thing to turn over the reigns of your life to God. We need to stop trying in our own strength (i.e. weakness). We need to turn form our way of doing things and surrender or turn to God and His way. This leads us to our final realization.

Fourth, realize you need to repent or turn humbly to God from your sinful self ways and rely fully on God’s gracious provision and strength. We can’t work our way out of the mire of our sin (Psalm 69). It is only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that this regeneration can occur (Ephesians 2:4-9). If we turn from our self efforts and self interests to God then we can expect times of refreshing from the Lord (Acts 2:38-39).

It has been said:

Our lives are fields that primarily contain weeds. We cannot produce strawberries. We can mow the weeds, but that effort alone will never produce acceptable fruit. If we really want that fruit we will have to go deeper. We must plow up the whole field and start again with new plants.[4] 

We can’t change by resolution. We need the regenerative work of God to change.

But I’ve Done that and I’m Still Failing and Faltering

Sometimes those who have experienced regeneration continue to have difficulties in their lives; why is that? Those who have received God’s gracious gospel provision in Christ need to realize a few things too.

 

First, realize transformation is only begun at regeneration and is a life long process. The Bible refers to Christians as “being sanctified” (Hebrews 2:11; 10:14). Change is a process that God works in us over time as we live a life of surrender to Him (Romans 12:1-2). Regeneration is when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell a person (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20). It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to overcome our weaknesses (Romans 8:26). The work of the Spirit in us is to transform us into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). This is God’s purpose for us and should be our goal and target in life.

 

Second, realize the problem is that many who have been regenerated continue to live to please self rather than to please God. There are what are called carnal Christians who live to please themselves rather than to please God. The Christian who lives to please self will only find discord and disruption in their lives much the same as before they were regenerated (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; James 4:1-6). To overcome this problem the Christian must turn their focus on God and seek to please Him by faith (Hebrews 11:6). Paul explains this well when he is inspired to write:

·         Romans 8:1-9 - There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

When we are regenerated through faith in Christ we are called by God to walk no longer after the things of the flesh or to walk in the power of the flesh, but we are called to live in the Spirit (8:1). It is this life in the Spirit that can set us free from our futile fleshly lives (8:2). God does away with the destructive and depressing affects of sin in a person through faith in Christ (8:3-4). This new life of spiritual regeneration is an entirely new way of life and an entirely new way of looking at life (8:5). If we continue to have a fleshly mindset after regeneration we will continue to experience its destructive and depressing ways (8:6). It will hinder our relationship with God (8:7) and prevent us from pleasing God (8:8). In fact that is exactly the issue; in our flesh we seek to please self; in the Spirit we seek to please God. The truth is when we seek to please ourselves no one will be happy. But when we seek to please God everyone benefits. Without the Spirit in your life, you don’t even belong to God (8:9), which leads us to our final realization for the believer.

 

Third, realize victory comes through abiding in Christ. The closer we come to Jesus the more power we will have over sin in our lives. We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). In other words, get as close to Jesus as possible, as close as your very clothes, and you will have more and more power over the flesh. Drawing close to Jesus is the way of escape from many a problem issue in the life of the Christian (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus put it this way:

·         John 15:4-8 - 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.   7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

We need to “abide” or stick close to Jesus. When we get away from Jesus we shrivel up spiritually like a piece of fruit plucked from a tree. If we stay connected to Jesus, we will grow and become fruitful in Him.

 

How do we do this? How do we abide in Jesus? The key is in the words “My disciples.” A disciple is a learner who studies the words of Jesus (verse 7 i.e. the Bible) and surrenders to the Spirit to apply those words to their lives (John 8:31-32, 34-36). Disciples also “ask” (verse 7) or pray because prayer is a declaration of dependence on God and a means of relating verbally with God in Christ. A disciple lastly does all they do to bring glory to God which is the culmination of spiritual fruitfulness (verse 8). The more we seek to bring glory to God the further away from self we move. The further away from self we move and the closer we come to God, the more power to live victoriously in life we will experience.

 

In his book The Power of the Spirit, William Law, writing in the early 1700s, makes the following statement about the church living in the flesh rather than the Spirit:

A letter learned zeal has but one nature wherever it is, and can only do that for Christians which it did for Jews. As in ancient times it brought forth scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, and crucifiers of Christ; as it afterwards brought forth heresies, schisms, popes, papal decrees, images, and anathemas; so in Protestant churches it will do the same things, only under different names. The empty idolatry of Rome will show itself even without crucifixes and indulgences. Images of wood and clay will only be exchanged for images of doctrines. Grace, works, imputed sin, imputed righteousness, and election will all have their worshipping advocates, dividing the body of Christ in their very zeal to defend their own good opinions about Scripture doctrines. And so great will be the blindness thus generated that every kind of gossip, slander, and hatred will be pursued by  brother against brother, all of it done in the name of Him who prayed that we might be one. . . . Our divine Master compares the religion of the learned Pharisees to ‘whited sepulchers, outwardly beautiful, but inwardly full of dead men’s bones.’ How was it that a religion so serious in its restraints, so beautiful in its outward form and practices, and commanding such reverence from all that beheld it, was yet charged by Truth itself with being ‘inwardly full of hypocrisy and iniquity’? It was only for this one reasons: because it was a religion of self. Wherever self has power and keeps up its own interests, even in teaching or defending sound Scripture doctrines, there is that very same Pharisee still alive whom Christ with so much severity of language constantly condemned. The reason for such heavy condemnation is that self is the root and sum total of all sin. Every sin that can be named is centered in it. Self is nothing else but the creature broken off from God: the power of Satan living and working in us the sad continuance of that first turning from God, which was the whole fall of our first parents. (Emphasis added.) [5]

Unfortunately what William Law wrote 300 years ago was not heeded by much of the church and today we have a church that is more carnal and centered on its sarx, than it is filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We cannot afford to allow our flesh to rule us; we need the Spirit to overcome it and empower us to do all that God has wonderfully laid out for us to do. If you are a Christian and have slipped back into the futility of a life lived for self and in the weakness of self, surrender to God anew and He will empower you to victorious Christian living. That would be a great way to start a new year.

 

 



[1] At http://www.proactive-coach.com/resolutions/research.htm - Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers, by John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo, Matthew D. Blagys , University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 4 (2002).
John Norcross is a co-author of Changing For Good.
 
[2]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
[3]Strong, James: The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1996, S. H8674
[4] Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 59. at http://www.higherpraise.com/illustrations/resolution.htm
 
[5] William Law, The Power of the Spirit, Edited by Dave Hunt (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade Pubs.) Reprinted 2003 . Pages 28,30.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Kiss the Son

"Kiss the Son . . ." - Psalm 2:12a
 
Our nation is divided. One of its greatest divisions is between those who believe in God and those who do not. An example of this is atheists have paid for a national campaign to encourage people to stay home for Christmas and not go to church. Playing on the theme of the wise men coming to see Jesus one of their bill boards has the caption, “You Know It’s a Myth.” Another has a supposed note to Santa from a child that reads, “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.” President Elect Donald Trump on the other hand stated at one of his recent victory rallies, “We’re gonna start saying Merry Christmas again!”

The apostle Paul was inspired to warn that in the last days there would be a great divide. There will be a clearer differentiation between those who seek God and those who do not, between the godly and the godless. Paul wrote:

·         2 Timothy 3:1–7 (NKJV) - But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

“Having a form of godliness but denying its power” refers to a divide between those who define God from a Biblical perspective and those who do not. Those who define God from a Biblical perspective understand the pattern and standard of righteousness for life that God has conveyed in His word and that is the path to abundant life (e.g. John 10:10b). These people understand that God’s plan for them is to conform them to the likeness of Jesus Christ (e.g. Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). Those who define “God” by personal opinion or from sources outside the Bible find themselves caught up in practices that are very unchristlike. God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26), but people who neglect the Bible in understanding God create and “God” that is in their own image; or what they conceive in their limited minds what God would be like. Such a “God” usually approves or at least condones various sinful practices this group indulge in.

All of this can be very disconcerting for the Biblical Christian. We can get caught up in politics, racial/generational/economic divides, the injustices and lies present in the world and a host of other negative life factors and it can bring us down. The world can be pretty depressing. What are we to do in response? We are to go to God and His word for instruction and hope.

Psalm 2 was written by David (cf. Acts 4:25) some 10 centuries before the incarnation or birth of Jesus Christ. It is a royal psalm[1] and therefore recited at the inauguration or crowning of Davidic kings. One commentary sets the context of the Psalm stating:

Its contents describe a celebration at the coronation despite opposition by rebellious people in surrounding territories. In a word, the psalmist exhorted the pagan nations to abandon their rebellious plans against the Lord and His anointed king and to submit to the authority of the Son whom God has ordained to rule the nations with a rod of iron. [2]

Studying this Psalm in light of the upcoming presidential inauguration should not lead us to too closely associate the next president with an anointed kingship. But what a study of this Psalm should do is encourage us to adopt a hopeful and heavenly perspective on the world we live in. There are some very encouraging truths in this Psalm that can prove to be a blessed Christmas gift to us. If we look at our future in light of this Psalm from the past, it will give us strength to press on to victory.

Psalm 2

1           Why do the nations rage,

And the people plot a vain thing?

2           The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3           “Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

  
God is in control. In another Psalm it is written, “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6-7). The prophet Daniel was inspired to tell the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:20-21). In the New Testament John the Baptist stated, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” (John 3:27). Later in the New Testament Paul is inspired to write, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1).

Some rage against God. The Psalm refers to pagan nations and their kings and those who do not believe in God. They oppose God’s chosen leaders and God’s people. They “rage” against those chosen by God (Heb. Ragas meaning to be in a tumult, commotion, looking to conspire against.) There is an opposition to those anointed by God to lead. But such opposition is useless as it opposes one that God has “Anointed.” “Anointed” is translated from the Hebrew term masiyah from which we get the English word messiah. It refers to one consecrated or set apart to a position (e.g. king; priest; or saint). It refers to one in a God-given position. And as one in a God-given position, if that person looks to God for wisdom and power to lead God will give it. Problems in leadership arise when leaders look away from God to themselves and others for power. We should look to others to help in leading, but only after we have first sought God. An effective leader is one who puts God first in all things.  

Wise is the leader who realizes his position it ordained by God. Powerful is the leader who trust in God to lead him. Look at these proverbs in this regard:

 
·         Proverbs 8:12–17 (NKJV) - 12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And find out knowledge and discretion. 13The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate. 14Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. 15By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. 16By me princes rule, and nobles, All the judges of the earth. 17I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.

 
·         Proverbs 16:12 (NKJV) 12    It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness.

 
·         Proverbs 20:26 (NKJV) - 26 A wise king sifts out the wicked, And brings the threshing wheel over them.

 
·         Proverbs 20:28 (NKJV) - 28 Mercy and truth preserve the king,
And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.

 
·         Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV) - The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

 
·         Proverbs 29:14 (NKJV) - 14 The king who judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever.

 

4           He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall hold them in derision.

 

So ridiculous its funny. What is humor? If you think about it humor is composed of absurdity on such an astonishing level that it causes a reaction of laughter. Humor involves introduction of something unexpected or so obviously ridiculous that it causes laughter. God knows everything so He can’t be surprised into laughter. But He does laugh at the ridiculous absurdity of anyone who would “rage” against Him or oppose Him. The absurdity of opposing God is expressed by the inspired psalmist by attributing to God the idea of ridicule in the form of  being laughed to scorn. To Him who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent opposition in any form is something to be laughed to scorn. For us this would be a kind of “Oh really?” expression with a snicker when faced with a response from opposition that is so patently false and obviously untrue or hopeless that it solicits a chuckle.

Always remember God is not threatened by the challenges of human beings. God is big enough to take the attacks of the ungodly. God doesn’t run away from the questions or even accusations of people. And truthfully, the attacks and accusation of unbelievers and those opposed to God’s plans causes God to “laugh” (Heb. Sahaq) which here means laugh to scorn, deride, laugh mockingly, make sport of, laugh in contempt. So futile and weak does God view the accusations and attacks of those who oppose God that it causes Him to laugh in response. It’s as though a toddling child in their weakness opposes a full grown adult.

God’s derision. That God holds those who oppose Him and His anointed in “derision” (Heb. la’ag) means He derides, makes fun of them with unintelligible words, mocks, ridicules. It’s as though God responds to opponents with the words “Blah, blah, blah, blah blah.”

God is Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, and so much greater than any other source of opposition as to create a comical situation when He is opposed.

 

5           Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

 

Woe! Woe! Woe! No! No! No! Santa in his secularized red suit and jolly temperament says, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” But to ungodly opponents God says, “Woe! Woe! Woe!” Opponents of God, His Anointed and His people try to proclaim “Woe! Woe! Woe!” against God and His people. To that God says, “No! No! No!”

God steps in to protect His people. God sets the parameters of what can and cannot be done by humans. Even Satan has to secure God’s permission to attack God’s people (e.g. Job 1-2). God is merciful and loving, but there is a limit He sets where His patience runs out.

God’s righteous wrathful response. When God’s patience runs out in “wrath” (Heb. ap) or in deep profound anger like a fierce blowing of the nostrils God will express His “deep displeasure” Heb. haron) or a burning anger, fierce anger, fury, wrath. God by nature is love (e.g. 1 John 4:7-12). God is “holy”; there is none like Him (e.g. 1 Peter 1:15-16). But “righteousness and justice are the foundation of” God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). In Psalms it states, “Clouds and darkness surround Him righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, and burns up His enemies round about” (Psalm 97:2-3). All of this is to say that we should not negligently presume upon or try to take advantage of God’s grace, mercy, patience and love. We should never lose our reverence or “fear of the LORD” (e.g. Proverbs 1:7).

In the New Testament it reveals, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). That is especially the case when one understands that we all fall short of God’s glory and have all sinned against Him (e.g. Romans 3:10, 23). With that in mind we should be very thankful that because God is gracious that “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13b). This is the heart of Christmas.

 

6           “Yet I have set My King

On My holy hill of Zion.”

7           “I will declare the decree:

The Lord has said to Me,

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

 

The birth of our Redeemer/Savior King Jesus. God has set His kings on His holy hill of Mount Zion. But all these earthly kings are a mere shadow of the King of kings, LORD of Lords, the Son of God King Jesus. Yes, we are lost in sin and hopelessly lost at that. There was, is and never will be anything we can do in our own strength to appease God’s just wrath toward our sin. We alone cannot atone for our sins. We are separated from God by our sins (Isaiah 59:1-2). We deserve eternal death, . . . but God who is rich in mercy has made a way and provided a provision to deal with our sins and sins’ penalty, death. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor, 5:21; cf. also Romans 6:23; Titus 3:4-7; Isaiah 53).

Jesus is the unique begotten Son of God. We can become sons and daughters of God, but only Jesus is the unique Son of God; the Second Person of the Trinity.

 

8           Ask of Me, and I will give You

The nations for Your inheritance,

And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

 

Jesus, anointed by God to be King. Jesus was born into the world and anointed by God with the Holy Spirit (e.g. Matthew 3:16-17). He was then lead into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4). One of the devil’s temptations to Jesus was to take a shortcut to accomplish His mission to redeem the world to God. All Jesus would have to do is bow to the devil and the god of this world would give Him the kingdoms of the world. But Jesus refused. Instead He followed through fully on God’s plan to redeem the world from sin and fallenness. That meant He had to go to the cross. The cross is where our penalty for sin (i.e. death) was paid by Jesus (cf. Psalm 22; Matthew 26-27; 1 Peter 1:18-19). God’s plan to redeem and regenerate this fallen sinful world goes through the cross of Christ.

 

9           You shall break them with a rod of iron;

You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ”

 

A King powerful enough to enforce God’s righteousness. The cross of Christ may have at first seemed to be a great defeat. But it was at the cross where Jesus wiped away our debt record of sin and disarmed and publicly shamed Satan and all opponents to God (cf. Colossians 1:11-15). The benefits of the cross of Christ are offered to any and all who would turn from their sin and trust Him as Savior and Lord (e.g. Romans 10:9-10; also Romans 3-5).

In our present day even though Jesus has paid our debt of sin on the cross and risen from the dead, we still live in a fallen world. We still see the powers of darkness reigning and clinging to power in this world. But a day is coming when our prayer of “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) will be answered. When Jesus returns at His Second Coming (Rev. 19) He will establish His Kingdom on earth for a thousand years (cf. Rev. 20).

The first time Jesus came as a Suffering Servant Savior to redeem the world. The second time Jesus comes will be as the King of kings and LORD of Lords to reign on earth. His reign is described by God as “You shall break them with a rod of iron” or Jesus will enforce His rule in power.

 

10         Now therefore, be wise, O kings;

Be instructed, you judges of the earth.

11         Serve the Lord with fear,

And rejoice with trembling.

12         Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,

And you perish in the way,

When His wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

 

The only wise response to God. In light of God’s prophetic word on His ultimate victory the only wise decision to be made (that needs to be made) by both kings and their subjects, people in high positions and those in lower positions, for all people to make, is to turn to the LORD. We need to:

 

1.      “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.” – Kiss” (Heb. nasaq) means fasten oneself to, to kiss, to touch. In other words, embrace Jesus by faith. By faith fall in love with Jesus. Make Him your all in all. Be married to Jesus (e.g. Eph. 5:21-33). Commit yourself for life to Jesus.

There’s another aspect of “kiss.” It also means to equip with weapons; be armed, be ready to rule. The idea is to take up your weapons and get ready to follow the king. Yes, we need to fall in love with Jesus in faith, but we also should step in His ranks to follow Him into battle. We need to put on the armor of God (e.g. Eph. 6:10-18). We need to prepare to war not merely in the strength of our flesh but in the power of the LORD! (e.g. 2 Cor. 10:3-4; Acts 1:8).

Trust Jesus as the only way to God (John 14:6). Go to God relying by faith in Jesus as your Savior. His atoning work on the cross is the only just basis for God who is Just and Holy to forgive your sins.

 

2.      “Serve the LORD with fear [reverence], and rejoice with trembling.” – Give your life to God in service. Revere God for His costly redemptive plan. By mercy (i.e. not getting what we deserve) God has made a way to avoid His just penalty (i.e. justice is getting what we deserve) and by grace (i.e. getting what we don’t deserve) God has opened the door through Jesus to an abundant life; one where we can know the living God and Jesus Who He has sent (John 17:3).

 

3.      “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” Life with God in Christ is a blessed life. There may be troubles and trials, but through all of them God in Christ will be there (Heb. 13:5). And with God in Christ there is the hopeful prospect of eternal life with Him where there will be no tears, sorrow, or hardship of any kind.

 

In this world we will often hear and feel “Woe! Woe! Woe!” But we need to remember that to that God says, “No! No! No!” He has His own “Woe! Woe! Woe!” to naysayers. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It’s a done deal folks. Victory in Christ is in our future. Psalm 2 predicts it. Jesus in His own words promised it. God says, “No! No! No!” to any “Woe! Woe! Woe!” coming from this world. Kiss the Son. Embrace Jesus. Then step behind Him into the ranks of those wo call Him and follow Him as Lord. Follow Him to victory!

 

 




[1] Other royal psalms are 18, 20–21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, 144.
[2] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 791). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.