Monday, December 31, 2018

God Said So: It's Beautiful to Be Single

A number of pastors seem to have gone with the ways of the world, but in a slightly different sense.

There is nothing wrong with being married, or seeking to be married.

But it seems that many churches, many Christian communities, seem committed to pressuring everyone to get married.

This has long bothered me. I am single, and there is no burden or demand for me to get married.

I am content to be unmarried, to be single, to "not touch a woman", as Paul writes in his First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Ten years ago, I remember meeting with a prayer group every Thursday. The women in that group would spend a bit of time talking about helping me to find a wife. They even wrote my name in their Bibles with that prayer.

I didn't know what to think of that at the time, but I look back on it, and I must say it was presumptuous and arrogant.

Even my parents would intimate that there was something wrong with me because I had no heart, no need for marriage.

This conflict came to a head when one of my relatives was talking about

This train of thought brought in Dennis Prager, who wrote a stinging manifest against those who don't get married:

I would like to make some arguments on behalf of early marriage.

The first and best argument for early marriage — providing, of course, that one meets a good person and believes this person will also be a good parent and/or provider — is that it forces you to grow up.

No it doesn't. I know many people who have married, and they still have immature thoughts and habits. Getting married does not force you to do anything. In fact, there are many married men and women who do not step up to many of life's challenges. They make poor decisions with a limited vision. I know people who have had children, too, and their lack of maturity has not abated.

Prager was wrong here.

There's more. Prager adds that societal pressure induced people to get married:

Why were people throughout history ready to commit to marriage at a much younger age than people today? Only because society expected them to become adults at a younger age than today. Nothing makes you an adult as much as responsibility does. And no responsibility makes you an adult as much as marital responsibility.

Adulthood is about responsibility, yes indeed. But we can embrace responsibility without being married. In fact, Paul writes to the Corinthians that not being married allows adults to take on different responsibilities:

"32But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord" (I Corinthians 7:32)

Even then, God wants us to cast ALL our cares on Him (1 Peter 5: 6-7)

At any rate, the fact that conservative pundits shame people for being single--that is a real problem.

Pastors have done it, too. Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church exhorted his audience mightly: "Get Married!" He then countered the argument "Well, Jesus didn't get married. Paul didn't get married" by stating that they new they were going to die, to be martyred.

Nonsense. That is simply not true.

Where is the Scripture for this command that we must get married? There is only Scripture warning about those who "forbid marriage":

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

Yes, there are the two commands in Genesis to "be fruitful and multiply", but that is under the Old Covenant. Today, under the New Covenant, the issue is not bearing children, but preaching the Good News, that men born dead in their trespasses may be born again and never die.

There is only one pastor who has best ministered to the singles and the single life: Pastor David Jeremiah.

Here are some of the comments which he made in his sermon on this issue (Click her for the two radio broadcasts):

1. Being single is good.
2. The issue that singles have is not with being single, but with all the other church people who insist that they can (or rather should) get out of the single life.
3. Churches ignore the singles in their midst, as most events, activities, and ministries are geared toward youth, couples, seniors, etc.

In his sermon "The Lonely Single", Jeremiah relates the story of a church leader who asked the singles in her church to write about the biggest struggles they face as singles.

Most of the letters identified that their problem wasn't with the single life, but with the perceptions people were heaping on them because of their single life. The conflicts arose because of other church people who insisted on geting them out of "singlehood."

I have been there. My father had said to me: "Don't you want to share your life with someone?"

When I had gotten a new job that I liked, he said offhand: "Now we need to get you married!"

I was shocked about that, and I asked him to explain. He then took it back. As I write this, I want to make it clear that I do not hold any ill will against my Dad. In fact, when I recall "we need to get you rmarried", he said that almost by rote, as though someone had already said that to him.

It's a habit, it's a mindset in the world, especially in churches today, that marriage is a goal which everyone should seek and achieve.

But what does the Bible say? We can start with some explicit passages in the Gospel of Matthew:

"His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." (Matthew 19:10-12)

I would submit that there are many of us who have received the Kingdom of Heaven (righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost Romans 14:17) and the great peace and content is enough for us.

There is no need to cut off one's private parts, either. So rest assured!

But let's look at what Paul writes to the Corinthians in full:

"1Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 3Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. 6But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. 7For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that." (1 Corinthians 7:1-7)

And then

"32But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

What's really compelling is that Paul considers singlehood better than marriage, not vice versa!

38So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better ... But she is happier if she so abide [as a virgin, unmarried], after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God." (1 Corithians 7: 38,40)

John the Evangelist writes in Revelation:

"4These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." (Revelation 14:4)

So, thanks to Pastor David a plenary reading of God's Word, I have received great comfort in remaining single, unmarried.

"The Lonely Single" is an interesting turn of  phrase, since Dr. Jeremiah spends more time assuring single people about their status. Loneliness is not abated with more people in one's life, or with marriage. In fact, two married lonely people will produce ... two lonely married people. In fact, being lonely is made worse when married with someone, because the supposed cure does not measure up or assist the issue.

Loneliness is based on a lie, that you are not cared for. The truth is that we are fully cared for:

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7, emphasis added)

So, God's Word establishes that singlehood is blessed. In fact, passages in the Scripture assert that singlehood is better!

Other Concerns

Yet for me, there were still problems, still upsets for me.

Going back to the account of the relative whom I was speaking with a few days ago. He was going on and on about a counsin-in-law. He had a big family, all kinds of work, different jobs and careers, etc. At first, I began to feel jealous. "He has so much for his short time on earth, and where am I in my life."

Right away, I realized that such comparison games are not worth playing. It's dangerous to do that. It is not wise nor worthwhile to do that.

I remembered reading these passages about marriage from Dennis Prager, too:

If you’re 25 and not ready to commit to another person, in most cases — even if you are a kind person, and a responsible worker or serious student — “I’m not ready to get married” means “I’m not ready to stop being preoccupied with myself,” or to put it as directly as possible, “I’m not ready to grow up.” (No job on earth makes you grow up like getting married does.)

That's a load of crap. There are many people I know who are not married and do great things for others. This is really offensive, since it is so patently untrue. People who are single and happy are not preoccupied with themselves. Why? To be preoccupied with oneself invites depression and sorrow. Marriage cannot undo self-centered all that much, really. Just as two lonely people getting married will not rid the two people of their loneliness, so too two selfish people getting married will not rid them of their selfishness. Marriage is the strongest form of affirmation, folks! Whatever you see in someone you are going to marry, expect double of that trait, whether good or bad.

By the way, Mr. Prager, marriage is not a "job". It's a status of life. So is singlehood, thank you very much.

Then there was this passage:

And then there's this video:

Professor X talks about the following marriage premiums:

1. After marrying, men assume a new identity, a rite of passage into manhood, an ethic of responsibility and new meaning
2. Married men are motivated to maximize their income
3. Employers are more likely to promote married men
4. Married men benefit from the advise and encouragement of their wives

Yes, marriage produces these benefits -- or is it exclusive to marriage?

Not at all.

We assume a new identity in Christ Jesus when we believe on Him. He takes us out of our dead selves in Adam, and God the Father places us in Christ Jesus!

Men (and women) can have different reasons for being motivated to earn more money. Some people like business, like working; other people are dedicated to other outcomes and pursuits, and those efforts require more money.

As far employers more likely to employ and promote married men, the issue isn't the fact that they are married. What matters is an ethic of diligence and responsibility. Those features can emerge in all kinds of people for many different reasons, not just marriage.

There is a bit of  the "post hoc, propert hoc" fallacy here. Responsible people are more likely to get married, as opposed to marriage makes people responsible. That assessment is more valid, I believe.

Here's another telling statement I had read from Prager implied that people will not vote for someone who is not married. All these so-called societal callings slip away from someone if they do not get married.

It seems to me that many of these videos are articles are geared more towards saving natural rights, law, and culture. That's important, but these arguments for marriage are not helping. Revival of the Gospel and preaching the Word would make all the difference.

Another concern

Doesn't the Bible call the married life with children a blessed status?


"He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22)

And also:

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." (Psalm 127:3)

And then:

"Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.

"Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD." (Psalm 128:3-4)

The problem I started to have when reading this: I automatically assumed "So, if I don't have a wife or children, that means I am not blessed?"

That is not true.

Consider Proverbs 18. The same book identifies other ways in which people obtain favor:

"Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.

"For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD." (Proverbs 8: 34-35)

and also

"A good man obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn." (Proverbs 12:2)

The issue of "Reward" has everything to do with God, not with getting married or having a spouse:

The first mention of "reward" appears in Genesis:

"After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." (Genesis 15:1)

Our reward, our blessings, our joy are not conditional on marriage.

The Bible never said that, but I just read those passages wrong.

We obtain favor, life, and all good things because of Jesus!

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17)


Final Reflection

I have shared a lot of ideas and passages from other articles in this post.

These issues have revolved around in my mind for a long time, but the small-time jealousy pushed this issue to the forefront and guided me to pray to God. I needed wisdom about this matter. I needed to get some wisdom, some insight into whatever I was feeling and also to gather some stable, spiritual data on the matter once and for all.

I meditated on those passages about who children are a heritage from the Lord. Then I remembered Isaiah 54:17: "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord ..." I then noticed, realized that mention of a blessing mentioned in connection with marriage and family is not a blessing exclusive to marriage or family.

What powerful relief we receive as we medidate on God's Word for truth!

Then I remembered Dr. David Jeremiah's sermon on singles and the single life. I found more information about it, then followed up on the passages he had quoted from Scripture.

And everything came full circle to peace once again!

It's a blessing to be single, as much as it is a blessing to be married.

Let us allow God's grace and peace to rule in our lives, in our hearts as the umpire of God's leading (Colossians 3:15).

I can rest assured that I have something--many things, in fact--which married people do not have.

And yet, everything I have is a gift from God, to begin with.

Last of all, I want to return to the key word in the title of this post: "Beautiful."

Paul writes in First Corinthians 7:

"Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman." (1 Corinthians 7:1)

The original Greek allows for "It is good for men and women not to touch each other."

At any rate, that word "good" is more than "agathos", but "kalos".

Kalos means "beautiful"! also reports the following meanings:

Usage: beautiful, as an outward sign of the inward good, noble, honorable character; good, worthy, honorable, noble, and seen to be so.
HELPS Word-studies
2570 kalós – attractively goodgood that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy); i.e. well done so as to be winsome (appealing).

Wow! Attractive, noble, inspirational.

That's not bad at all! It's Good!

It's Beautiful!!

See God as Generous, and You Will Be Generous In Turn

"Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine." (Martthew 25:24-25)

In this parable of the master and three servants, the three servants responded to the different commissions given to them.

The one who had received the most, made the most of what he had received:

"20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." (Matthew 25:20-21)

Look at that word "deliver". In the original Greek, the word is 3860 paradídōmi (from 3844 /pará, "from close-beside" and 1325 /dídōmi, "give"), which means " to give (turn) over; "hand over from," i.e. to deliver over with a sense of close (personal) involvement."

When we see that God has entrusted to much to us, we are ready to do much with what He has given to us.

Notice that the one who received the most would generate the most for his master.

In contrast, the one who received only one talent--did nothing with it but bury it in the ground.


The third steward said the following about his master:

1. "You are a hard man." Wow! He thought that his master was violent, harsh, stern!

2. "You reap where you have not sown" i.e. you get the rewards from stuff that is not yours.

3. "You gather where you have not strawed" i.e. you get something when you have done nothing.


The truth is, however, that God, our Heavenly FATHER (not our master, but Father!) is none of those things!

Hardly a hard man, God is Love! (1 John 4:7)

And because of His Love, He gave us His best, He gave us His Everything:

"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)

and thus:

"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)

Contrary to the what the wicked servant said, God has given to us generously, and he reaps from having sown so much!

"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

I mean, God simply spoke, and the world and all its teeming wonders came into being! He reaps diligenty because He sows!

He has also widely spread, and given away so much. He does not take from us to get, but rather receives from us what He has already first given to us!

David the Great King would declare:

"But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly in this manner? For all things come from Thee, and from Thine own have we given Thee." (1 Chronicles 29:14)

In fact, if we want to thank God for His goodness, this is what we must do:

"What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?

"I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD." (Psalm 116: 12-13)

If we want to be generous, the answer is not to focus on ourselves. People who struggle with giving do not see how much God has given them. Through His Son, we need to recognize that God gave us His most prized possession, His own Beloved Son.

If we want to be generous, we need to see that God our Father has delivered much to our care. When we see how good He is to us, then we in turn can be generous and giving with all that we have!

"O, taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him." (Psalm 34:8)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jesus, the Light of the World ... to the WORLD

"And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." (Isaiah  49:6)

Jesus is indeed the Light of the World (John 8:12).

He was announced beforehand as a great Light appearing in a dark world, in a lightly esteemed (read, cursed) place: Galilee of the Gentiles, or the nations:

"Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isaiah 9:1-2)

Jesus did many of His miracles in Galilee, I submit, because most of the people who lived there were Gentiles, non-Jews who were not under law, who could receive God's grace unimpended by their allegiance to Moses.

For even Moses had informed the Israelites:

"The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;" (Deuteronomy 18:15)

And yet many did not believe Him:

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3)

But the nations of the world received Him, gladly. 

"I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name." (Isaiah 65:1)

God's grace is for the whole world, not just for the Jews, not just for the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Yet this should come as no surprise, for God prophesied this grace for all of us long before Israel was even born:

"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:3)

Jesus would later explain to the Pharisee Nicodemus:

"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)

Jesus is the Light of the World, to the World. God's love for Israel is real, but no one should give the impression that because He was first sent to the Jews, to the House of Israel, that all the nations of the world were an afterthought.

It was God's express interest to save all of us, and we have a Savior who is committed to saving us every day!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas: Jesus, The Light for the World Stepping into Our Darkness

Christmas is generally celebrated just after the darkness day of the year, the Winter Solstice.

The celebration coincides with pagan traditions, in which different tribes in pre-Christian Europe and the Roman Empire would rejoince that the sun was starting to come back, to shine for longer periods of the day.

For many, Christmas is a dark time, though not just in terms of the lack of light in the sky. They miss loved ones who have passed away, for example, or they struggle to make sense of the strange loneliness or loss which dogs them during that time of year.

Some psychologists point out that people tend to focus very keenly on their lives at this point, and they see that their lives have not measured up they way they wanted them to. There is a great deal of introspection at the end of the year, and indeed this time of year can be dark not just in the sky, but also in people's hearts and minds.

Yet this season is about Jesus, the Light of the World, and Jesus always appears when it is dark!

Consider His first appearing in God's Word. Not in the Gospels, but In The Beginning!

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day." (Genesis 1:1-3)

Notice that the earth was "without form and void." It had no structure, it had nothing in it. The proper rendering of this passage would include "The world became without form and void ..."

God did not make the world broken, failed, and empty:

"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

God makes all things beautiful. It follows, then, that God did not make the world broken.

At any rate, the world was without form and void. 

Then what happened?

God said "Light Be!" And it was. God did not create the Light. He revealed the Light.

This Light is Jesus, who declared Himself to be "The Light of the World" (John 8:12).

Jesus came into utter darkness and brought restoration:

"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)

Consider His appearance before Manoah, the father of Samson:

"And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.

"And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. 3And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son." (Judges 13:1-3)

The Philistines were oppressing the Israelites. They were bitter enemies, Satanic giants. It was a dark time for Israel. Then The Angel of the Lord, Jesus, appeared to these two parents to let them know that they would bring a Savior into their lives to stamp out the tyranny of the Philistines.

And of course, Jesus, the Light of the Lord, came into the dark world of the Roman Empire, when God had been silent for 400 years, since He had not spoken through any prophet.

Wise men came seeking Jesus, and the reaction from the rulers and the people of Jerusalem was not what we would expect:

"Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." (Matthew 2:2-3)

Everyone was troubled. Herod was a usurper who had no business reigning on any throne in Jerusalem. And the darkness would only grow worse once Jesus was born:

"Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

"In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." (Matthew 2:16-18)

Yet Jesus, the Light of the World, came into the darkness every time to bring His Light, to shine and guide those who were in pain, in loss, or lost altogether.

"2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isaiah 9:2)

And why?

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

And also

"And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Righteousness: An Immutable Characteristic of Our New Selves in Christ

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When Jesus died on the Cross, and then He was raised from the dead three days later, He took us out of our dead selves in Adam, and gave us new selves, a new life in Himself (Ephesians 2:4-6).

We are no longer dead in Adam, but alive in Christ Jesus:

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one[Adam]; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

Righteousness is an immutable gift which we receive, and keep receiving, through Christ Jesus.

We need to understand that Jesus did not just take our unrighteous stance before God.

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

He became sin, which means that He took our sin, and therefore we can never get back. He took our sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24)

In turn, we were made the righteousness of God in Christ. Indeed, we receive and keep receivig His gifts of righteousness and grace, but righteousness defines who we are now today!

It's not something that can leak or fall away from us.

Consider what John the Beloved writes in His First Epistle:

"Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." (1 John 3:7)

"Doing righteousness" is all about believing on Jesus!

"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:29)

When we believe on Jesus, this is what happens:

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:1-2)

We are as righteous as Jesus! John could not have said it more clearly:

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:17)

We have righteousness, not just as a part of us, but it defines who we are in Christ Jesus.

Righteousness is our new identity, since Christ has been made our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30)

We are are new creation in Christ Jesus, defined by His gift of righteousness, something that cannot change, whether we fail or fall, whether we sin or win.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Jesus, More Than Beauty, but a Saving Star

Throughout the Old Testatment, we can see pictures of Jesus, of His Finished Work, of the blessed transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.

There is one clear example outstanding in the Book of Esther. This section of the Bible is noteworthy in that the name of God, whether "Elohim" or "Yahweh" is never mentioned.

And yet ... and yet His power, His grace is at work throughout the book.

Consider the account in the very first chapter:

"10On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. 12But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him." (Esther 1: 10-12)

Here, we have King Ahasuerus, who summoned his wife Vashti to appear before him and his guests.

She refused.

Her name means "beautiful", and she is a picture of the law, the Old Covenant, and she is also a type of the nation of Israel, and the king is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Israelites rejected their king when Jesus came in AD 33. They had cried out "Hosanna! Hosanna!", but then rejected Him when he was condemned before six false courts and ultimately hanged on a Cross.

The Old Covenant is beautiful, the law is good, but it cannot make any of us good. It's beauty does not help us, does not save us:

"12Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. 14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin." (Romans 7:12-14)

The king was angry, just as Jesus recounts a ruler who invited guests to his supper, and they all refused (cf Luke 14:15-24):

"21So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind." (Luke 14:21)

Jesus uses the above parable to blast the Israelites during His earthly ministry who rejected Him, so Jesus would reach out to the "undesirable" and other univited guests.

That includes you and me, those who were dead in our trespasses, whom Jesus brought back to life and then seated us in heavenly places! (Ephesians 2:4-6)

So, Vashti was rejected, for her refusal to come before the king harmed not only him:

"And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. 17For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not." (Esther 1: 16-17)

Esther would be chosen to be the next queen, highly favored, placed in the right place at the right time.

Her name means "Star".

The distinction between beauty and starlight cannot be overlooked.

Soren Kierkegaard, a Christian fundamentalist and polemicist, writes in Fear and Trembling:

"[I]t is one thing to be admired and another to become a guiding star that saves the anguished."

Jesus is our Morningstar (2 Peter 1:19, Revelation 22:16).

The law is beautiful, but it cannot save us, it cannot yield to grace. Jesus our star guides us to safety. The radiance of His beauty blesses us.

Esther, the picture of the New Covenant and of our Lord Jesus Christ, saved her people from ultimate destruction. She received great grace and favor, just as He came to the earth full of grace and truth (Johnn 1:14).

A foreign bride for a king, Esther represents the Gentiles, the nations who would heed Jesus' call for salvation, too.

Today, let us recognize that Jesus is indeed altogether lovely (Songs 5:16), but He does not hide behind his beauty or use it as an excuse to disdain us.

Jesus, our heavenly King, came to serve--and to save!

"For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)


"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

I Want to See More of Jesus (Without the Trials)

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." (Matthew 6:13)

I was thinking about this verse and some of the trials which I have faced in the last few months. "Lord, I want to gain a greater revelation of who you are and everything that you are doing--and have done in my life. I would like to gain this greater revelation without all the hardships."

Sometimes, I wonder if I could "Fast Track" my revelation of Jesus, by which His grace superabounds all the more in our lives:

"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord," (2 Peter 1:2)

Indeed, we can, apparently, pray that we not enter into trials and testings, and if we find ourselves facing some tough trials, we can still reach out and receive more of God's grace to get through it all.

Another line of revelation comes through as I write this.

God did indeed test Abraham, to show to the world and to him--to Abraham--that he had indeed become the father of faith:

"1And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am." (Genesis 22:1)

God would test Abraham, which means not "tempt to sin", but rather "prove as genuine".

Abraham demonstrated his faith in God clearly, since he was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar, and he also believed firmly that God would bring his son back from the dead:

"Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." (Hebrews 11:19)

In a very clear sense, Abraham's son Isaac was as good as dead. Abraham was resigned to losing his son through sacrifice, and yet also knowing that God would resurrect him.

Abraham was spared the actually pain of completing the sacrifice on his son:

"11And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen." (Genesis 22:11-14)

Notice that in Genesis 22:1, "Elohim", God's name as Creator, calls on Abraham to sacrifice his son.

In Genesis 22:11, it's "The Angel of the LORD", i.e. Jesus who calls on Abraham to hold off from sacrificing his son.

Yes, I want to see more of Jesus without the trials, but sometimes it's the trials which allow us to see more of Him. We need to recognize that no matter how bad things may get in our lives, we do not have to wonder if He will take care of us or not.

Then again, there are other instances of trials, where even when Jesus saves people, they still don't understand who He is:

"37And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? 39And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? 41And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:37-41)

Jesus allayed the storm with one word.

The disciples among the many ships on the water ended up feeling "exceedingly." One would think that after Jesus' stilling the storm, they would have rejoiced with great peace and thanksgiving. They faced this trial, they cried out to their "Master" (Not Savior) for help, and he overanswered their prayer.

And yet still they were afraid.

Indeed, I want to see more of Jesus, but without the trials. I want to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord, and I want His Word to serve as the best--and ultimately only--training ground.

"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17)

and then

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (lit. Christ)." (Romans 10:17)

The more that we see Him, the more that we know who He is, the more that enjoy His beauty, the more that His grace abounds in our lives.

I believe that we can see more of Jesus, that more of His grace can move and thrive within us and throughout our circumstances. And we can enjoy all He has for us without some of the trials that we face.