Purpose of Guarding the Treasure

The purpose of this blog is to encourage readers to invest their time into the Word of God and "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." Paul wrote these words to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:14) in his presumed last letter before his execution. May we be those who see the word of God as a treasure, guarding it with our lives, investing in it with our hearts and minds, and reaping the fruit of an abundant life while getting to know the God who loves us and created us for His marvelous pleasure and glory.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Heart of Worship

The first mention of the word worship in Scripture is found in Genesis 22:5, “And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you." Abraham makes this statement of faith concerning his son Isaac whom God has asked him to sacrifice as a burnt offering (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son was an act of worship before the Lord and a testing his allegiance and the breadth of commitment to God (Genesis 22:1-19).

The commandments given to the people of Israel discussed worship, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:2-6) From this commandment it is clear that the Lord alone is to be worshipped and the He alone is worthy of worship. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship (literally pay homage) to a golden image set up by king Nebuchadnezzar having accepted their fate of the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3) The Apostle John was told twice to worship God alone when he fell before an angel in worship having received the Revelation (Revelation 19:10,22:9)

The most common word used for worship in the Old Testament literally means “to bow down,” which suggests allegiance and humble subjection. As the Lord passed by Moses, he “made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.” (Exodus 34:6-8) David wrote in the Psalms, “Worship the Lord with reverence, And rejoice with trembling…Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker…Worship the Lord in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth.” (Psalm 2:11, 95:6, 96:9) These Scriptures acknowledge a physical posture of submission before the Lord, but more importantly an attitude of submission and awful reverence to the Lordship of Almighty God.

Another word used for worship in Scripture carries the idea of work or service. Deuteronomy 6:13 says, “You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him, and swear by His name.” A believer who serves the Lord is actually worshiping the Lord in that service. As such, worship and service are closely intertwined.

The first mention of worship in the New Testament is shown toward the Christ, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him…And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:2,11) The magi from the east came to pay reverence to the King of the Jews. Their act of worship was coming from afar to acknowledge Christ as the Promised King. The Scriptures do not tell us what the magi were wearing or whether or not they raised their hands or shouted upon seeing the Child. These details were not important because the focus and object of their worship was Jesus and nothing else mattered.

Jesus spoke of worship to a Samaritan woman after she said, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:20-24) Worship is not concerned with the place but rather the Person. We must worship the Father in spirit and truth through the power of the Holy Spirit and the name of the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ.

Finally, the Apostle Paul writes of worship in Romans 12:1, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Our worship is our service, willingly giving up our life in service to God. In presenting our bodies to God, this is an acceptable form of spiritual worship and is at the heart of the type of worship Jesus was talking about to the Samaritan woman. While singing praises to the Lord is an important part of worship, a life of worship through service in the power of the Holy Spirit is our key form of worship and praise toward God that is most pleasing to Him. Believers “worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3) As long as God is at center and heart of our worship, it matters not whether we stand or sit, remain silent or shout, raise our hands or bow the knee. Worship toward God is more about an inward attitude than an outward appearance.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who Sits on the Throne of Heaven?

The Scriptures clearly describe heaven itself as the throne of God of the Father. The Lord speaks through the prophet Isaiah saying, “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?” (Isaiah 66:1) Jesus told His disciples, “And he who swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.” (Matthew 23:22) From this passage, it appears that Jesus is referring to His Father as the one who sits upon the throne of God in heaven. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus told the council of elders in Luke 22:69, “But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." The triune God, (Father - Ephesians 1:20, Son - John 10:18 and Spirit - Romans 1:4) raised Jesus from the dead and “seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Countless other places describe Jesus being presently at the right hand of God the Father. (Mark 16:19, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:33-34, Acts 5:31, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 8:1, 1 Peter 3:22) Jesus says in Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” This passage suggests that there are two thrones, the throne of God and the throne of Christ. The passage also suggests that Jesus sat down with His Father on His throne following His death and resurrection. As such, God the Father currently sits upon the throne of heaven with Jesus sharing His throne and sitting at His right hand.

The Psalmist David spoke the relationship between God the Father and the Son, his Lord, “The Lord says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." (Psalm 110:1) At a time designated and known only by God the Father (Matthew 24:36), Jesus will return to earth to establish His millennial kingdom and assume the throne of his father David as the King of the Jews (Revelation 20) taking final authority over Satan and his throne on earth (John 14:30, 16:11, Ephesians 2:2, Revelation 2:13). This was foretold by the Lord through Nathan the prophet and confirmed by the angel Gabriel at the time of Jesus’ birth, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end." (Luke 1:30-33, 2 Samuel 7:11-16) Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 19:28, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

During His millennial reign, Jesus will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and all of creation will bow the knee to Christ and be accountable to Him (Romans 14:11-12). He will put all things on earth in subjection to His Father, including Himself. Paul wrote concerning this in his letter to the Corinthians, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) What a beautiful picture of the workings of the Father and Son to abolish all enemies including death! We also clearly see that Jesus is always submissive and subjective to the will of His Father just as He was during His initial earthly ministry (Philippians 2:5-11).

The book of Revelation describes the throne of God in 35 different passages! (1:4, 2:13, 3:21, 4:2-6,9-10, 5:1,6-7,11,13, 6:16, 7:9-11,15,17, 8:3, 12:5, 13:2, 14:3, 16:10,17, 19:4-5, 20:11-12, 21:3,5, 22:1,3) Revelation 20:11-12 speaks of the great white throne judgment of humanity. Revelation 21:1-8 discusses the new heavens and new earth and includes a statement from “He who sits on the throne…"Behold, I am making all things new."” Revelation 22:1-4 includes the final mention of the throne of God, “And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” This passage suggests that this throne belongs to both God the Father and the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Also included is the Spirit, “And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” (Revelation 22:17) As such, seated upon the throne of God in the new heavens and new earth is the triune God! Amen.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Beware of False Teachers

The Scriptures are full of warnings against false teaching. False teachers are exposed most often through listening to their message. Christians are clearly instructed to beware of false teachers who disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Peter wrote concerning false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1-3 saying, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” Peter warns of the certainty of false teachers infiltrating the church and distorting the truth of Christ for their own gain while exploiting and denying Jesus Christ. Believers must test teachings against the Word of God, the standard of truth concerning God. What does the teacher communicate concerning Jesus Christ, salvation and the Bible? Does his ministry appear to give glory to God alone or does he seek for his own glory and fame? Does he personally take the credit for winning lost souls to Christ? Salvation is the work of God through the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). Humanity is at best a messenger of God sent out to clearly present the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ -- that He died on the cross for the sins of all humanity, rose again on the third day, and offers eternal life to all who simply believe in Him (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, John 3:16). No credit or glory belongs to man because as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:7, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” Jesus saves souls, not a preacher.

To determine the truth, believers must know the truth. Knowing the truth is knowing the Scriptures and rightly dividing them to know truth from falsehood (2 Timothy 2:15). The Apostle John also wrote of false teachers in 1 John 4:1-3, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” John exhorts believers to test the spirits and listen closely to their message concerning Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus provided clear teaching on false teachers in Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” The fruit is the message and a message that does not align with Scripture and glorify Jesus Christ will reveal to the hearer that the messenger is false and suggest that the messenger is a false teacher either intentionally or out of ignorance of the truth.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Suicide - The Unforgivable Sin?

a. Is the sin of suicide unforgivable?
The only “unforgivable” sin mentioned in the Bible is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus says in Matthew 12:31-32, “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.” Jesus says that any sin, including taking your own life, is forgivable. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for all sin of all people for all time – past, present and future sins. The Bible instructs us in 1 John 1:9 to confess our sins, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” However, failing to confess sins does not mean we are not forgiven. Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior from sin, trusting His death and resurrection as the payment for our sins, are given eternal life freely. No sin, in type or quantity, will negate the fact that we are justified by the substitutionary death of Christ. Suicide, while a very serious offense, will not keep the believer in Christ from their heavenly home because eternal life is a gift from God received by faith and not dependent upon our deeds whether good or bad. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 speaks of our status upon death , "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight--we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." Remember too that all humanity will be held accountable for their deeds and all will be judged by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). However, this judgment is not to determine entrance into heaven or hell, but rather a reckoning to all persons by their Creator.

b. How can you say you are sorry when you are dead from suicide?
Obviously you cannot say you are sorry after committing the sin of suicide. However, saying you are sorry for sin is not what John 1:9 asks of us. Rather confession, that is, telling on ourselves, brings forgiveness. In other words, we admit to God that we sinned and fell short of the mark. Those who commit suicide will give an account before Christ for this sin, just as all persons will give an account of their lives before Christ. An example of a believer in Messiah who committed suicide is King Saul who intentionally fell on his own sword to end his life (1 Chronicles 10:4). Another example is Judas (Matthew 27:3-5), although it is difficult to determine whether or not he became a believer in Christ because he repented of his betrayal of Christ prior to having hung himself in guilt.