Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Perfecting of the Saints

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)

Just so you know, Spiritual maturity does not mean advancing in God's favor. It does not mean the work of salvation is incomplete. It most certainly does not mean that ‘you have arrived.’ It does not gain us access to Heaven, because this was done through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus we are justified before God.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  Romans 3:23-25

It is through Jesus Christ that we are saved and have the promise of Heaven. Perfection does not come by maintaining a set of standards. It is possible for a person to maintain standards that give an outward spiritual appearance yet be unspiritual and maybe even unsaved; sweetly saved and cleaned up on the outside and filthy on the inside.  Spiritual maturity does not depend on how you feel emotionally. It does not come automatically through years of being a Christian or by Christian service. Spiritual maturity [perfection] comes through an increase in and application of spiritual knowledge. This increase in knowledge comes by study of God's Word which results in understanding of the processes for perfection (spiritual maturity) and the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ. Personal application of what we learn leads to spiritual maturity through the enabling power of God.

Apostle Paul calls the believers "saints" which means "sanctified ones.” 

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's:
 I Corinthians 1:2 

Yet in the same letter he corrects these "saints" because of sin. 

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.  1 Corinthians 1:10-11

They were believers and sanctified in Christ, but some of them were not living right in their daily conduct. These believers had received initial perfection. They were forgiven of their sins through redemption from dead works. These sins were forgiven once and for all 

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.  Hebrews 10:14

This initial perfection was received at the time they accepted Jesus as Savior. But these Christians had not gone on to perfection. They had not continued to put off the "old man" of sin:

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  Romans 6:6

Apostle Paul told them it was not right to continue living in sin after conversion. He said as a believer you should live a new life. It is not right to continue in sin.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
 Romans 6:1-2, 4

We must go on to perfection [spiritual maturity]. Initial perfection from sin at the time of salvation is the start of a progressive life of sanctification. After salvation, you are to live a new life in Christ:

I am crucified with Christ: Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.
 Galatians 2:20

Apostle Paul described progressive perfection in his own life:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
  Philippians 3:12

Apostle Paul had not attained complete perfection [spiritual maturity], but it was his goal. He described his struggle for perfection in another passage:

For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 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. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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.
Romans 7:15-23

Apostle Paul desired to live by God's standards, but he realized that by himself [in his flesh; according to his self-nature] he could not achieve this goal. There was a constant battle between his flesh and his spirit. His spirit wanted to keep God's laws (vs 22). His flesh wanted to sin. He discovered that the only way he could achieve perfection 
[spiritual maturity] was through Christ:

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He
that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His spirit that dwelleth in you.

...but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
  Romans 8:10-11, 13

It is only through the Spirit of God that we can overcome the evil desires of the flesh and conform to God's standards. When the flesh results in us doing those things we would not, God has provided a way to restore us back to the path of perfection.
For if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  I John 1:9

We do not have to try to live this new life in our own strength. We live it through "faith in the Son of God.” Whenever we fail, we can be restored to the path of perfection before God by confessing our sins and asking forgiveness. When we are born again, we are just like a baby in the natural world. There is much to learn spiritually. While we are learning we make mistakes. When mistakes are made, we must repent [regret] in our hearts, forsake [abandon] the unclean action, confess our sins and God will forgive us. 

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
  2 Corinthians 7:9-10

(Biblical Studies)



Monday, December 29, 2014

In The Beginning, God

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

When we come to understand and realize that God is not a myth or a fairy tale, it is easy to understand that He and He alone is the cause of the heavens and the earth.  Many people have a limited view of the world. They are concerned only about their own city, or nation. They do not recognize that the area where they live is only a small part of a great planet called "earth." They do not know about the special plan of God which includes the entire world, people of all races, cultures, and languages.

In every culture there are different beliefs about the creation of the world. People have always felt the need to explain how things came to be and from where man came. People in different nations and cultures have developed their own stories or "myths" to explain creation. The various myths about creation have developed for two reasons:

            1.     Because people did not have access to the true facts about creation or. . .
            2.    Because they chose not to believe the true account of creation when they heard or 
                    read about it.

The true account of the creation of the world is recorded in the Bible. The bible summerizes  the beginning of creation it it's very first scrpture:  

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

The God of whom this verse speaks is the one true God. 

Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.  Isaiah 44:6

The Bible is the written record of the acts and words of God. When we speak of developing a "Biblical world view", it means we base our understanding of the world on what is revealed by God in His written Word, the Bible.

Apostle Paul, when speaking in Athens, made it abundantly clear that of all the many gods they idolized, the one that they had named as the 'unknown god' was indeed the one true God.

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things
(Acts 17:24-25)

There are many reasons why people do not accept the true creation:

Ø  Unbelief  

Some people choose not to believe the facts of creation presented in the Bible because it means they must acknowledge there is a God. If they accept the fact there is a God, then they must acknowledge His sovereign rule over them. They must also believe His Word and do something about their ungodly lifestyle. Because some people people do not want to change their way of life, they choose to deny the Biblical account of creation and the existence of God.  

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.  Romans 1:19

Ø  Scientific Theories  

Some people claim the Biblical account of creation does not agree with the facts discovered by scientists who study the earth. It is true the Bible does not agree with the theories of some scientists. But a theory is a personal belief or a guess as to how something happened. It is not a proven fact. In every challenge raised by scientists, the facts discovered in their studies have always proven the Bible to be correct in its account of creation.

In both of these instances, Apostle Paul lets us know that we are without excuse because God has made Himself known to us; His sovereignty is all around us:  

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:  (Romans 1:20)

In Genesis we are told the condition of the world when God first performed His creative acts:

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. . . (Genesis 1:2)

The following verses tell the account of God's creation of the world:

First day:        Light and darkness (verses 3-5)
Second day:   The firmament (Heaven) separating the waters (verses 6-8)
Third day:      Dry land and vegetation (verses 9-13)
Fourth day:    Heavenly bodies; sun, moon, stars (verses 14-19)
Fifth day:        Inhabitants of the waters and the birds (verses 20-23)
Sixth day:       Land animals and man (verses 24-25)

The Bible summarizes the creativity of God to reveal that. . .

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.    (Colossians 1:16-17)

On the sixth day, God created the greatest of all creations. He created the first man in His own image:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him: male and female created He them.  (Genesis 1:26-27)

God created the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life 

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7) 

God created the first woman from Adam.  

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.  (Genesis 2:21-22)

Man was created in God's image and placed on earth as His representative. As a representative of God, man was given dominion over the whole world to enforce God's claim to the earth. Man had dominion over all the plants and animals of the world.  Man also had a special responsibility. He was to multiply and fill the earth with other men and women who would reflect the image of God:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

Man is the greatest of all God's creations. Man was made in the image of God. He has a living, eternal soul which animals do not have. He has a spirit and a mind which enables him to learn about and communicate with God. The spirit of God actually came down and walked and talked with man in the beautiful garden in which he lived 

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
  (Genesis 3:8)

Because of his special position in creation, man was to reflect the God in whose image he was made. He was to communicate with and praise the God who made him:

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. . .

This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.  (Isaiah 43:7,21)

Adam and Eve were to reproduce and fill the entire earth with people just like themselves. . . people who were holy, reflected the image of God, and communicated with and praised their Creator. But something terrible happened to spoil this beautiful plan.

Genesis chapter 3 contains one of the saddest accounts in the Bible. It records what has come to be called "the fall of man." Man was created in God's image. Just as God has freedom of choice, man had freedom of choice. He is free to make his own decisions.

In the Garden where Adam and Eve lived there were many trees, but there were also two special trees. One tree was called the tree of life .  If Adam and Eve had eaten of the fruit of that tree, they could have lived forever and never died.

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (Genesis 3:22) 

The other tree was called the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil". God forbid Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of this tree. He did not want man to experience evil with all of its terrible results so He warned that eating the fruit of this tree would cause death.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.  (Genesis 2:17)

But man did not heed God's warning. God had an enemy named Satan. Satan had once been a beautiful angel of God, but decided he wanted to be as great as God. Satan led a rebellion of angels in Heaven. (Isaiah 14:12-17)

Satan did not want man to serve God. Satan came first to woman, then to man through Eve in the Garden of Eden. He was disguised in the form of a serpent. He tempted them by making false promises. They yielded to the temptation, sinned against God, and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The results of this fall of man into sin changed the whole world. The plants and animals were no longer easy to control. Man had to struggle for dominion over them. Animals turned wild and fierce and the earth brought forth weeds and thistles. Terrible changes in weather came in the form of floods and similar disasters.

All the evil in the world today--all the plagues, suffering, and tragedies--are results of this first fall of man. Sin entered the world, and along with it, suffering. The punishment of death was brought on man, just as God had warned. All men will experience physical death until the end of time as we know it.

As if all this was not enough, an even worse catastrophe happened; man was separated from God by sin. The image of God that was to be reflected in man was spoiled. Because of sin, man lost his relationship and communication with God.

In this darkest moment of human history, God made a great promise. God said to Satan:

 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

This was the first revelation of a special plan of God. It revealed that a battle would rage throughout the centuries between man and Satan, but God assures us through His promise that mankind would be redeemed when He sent someone to crush man's enemy and restore man to right relationship with God. That "someone" was the Lord Jesus Christ.

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16)

(Biblical Studies)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Enemy Disguised as an Angel of Light

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.        (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Satan constantly is challenging God's power in the universe. He is a challenging counterfeit because he actually poses no threat to God. In his original habitat, Satan was not always this way.  Satan was originally created by God as a beautiful angel named Lucifer.  

Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.  Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.  Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.  Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.  By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.  Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.  (Ezekiel 28:12-17)

But Satan rebelled against the power and authority of God. He wanted to be as God Himself.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
(Isaiah 14:12-15)  

God could have struck Satan down and killed him for such rebellion. But if He had brought down the first enemy in this way, just imagine, there could have been the possibility of another rebellion and the history of Heaven would have been clouded with similar disasters.

Instead, God cast Satan out of Heaven and allowed his claims to power to have reign in the earth. All of the angels that followed Satan in his rebellion against God were also cast out. They are now evil angels known as "demons" or "devils" at work in the world today.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.  (Revelation 12:9)

Shortly after God created the first man and woman, the battle began on earth. (Genesis 3) The fall of Adam and Eve into sin was rooted in rebellion against the authority and power of God.   Satan would have Eve deceived into thinking that she would have the same knowledge as God and Eve convinced Eve of the same; that they would have knowledge equal to that of God. With such knowledge would come power. 

From that time foward, Satan has challenged the authority of God on earth. Through sin, Satan seeks to draw men and women to allegiance to himself instead of God.  One of the chief methods of Satan in challenging God's power is to imitate it.  Satan imitates the power of God. He imitates God's power to deceive people. He uses his angels (demons) to help him accomplish this goal. Satan and his demons sometimes appear as good instead of evil. We are warned:

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness: whose end shall be according to their works.   (II Corinthians 11:14-15)

In these final days of time on earth, this imitation of God's power by Satan has increased. Through signs and wonders, he deceives many:

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders.  And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish: because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. (II Thessalonians 2:9-11)

This Scripture reveals how Satan works.   He counterfeits the power of God with "all power and signs and lying wonders." The only way you can detect his deception is by the truth of the Word of God.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.   (Ephesians 6:12)

Man is caught in this conflict of Satan rebelling against the power of God. We are engaged in a power struggle with the invisible powers of Satan. But the power of God is greater than "thrones, dominions, principalities and powers" . . . 

 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  (Colossians 1:16) 

(Biblical Studies)