Saturday, January 21, 2017

170122 You are Light – Live Like it

Ephesians 5:6-10 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry Matthew observed that he was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah who said, “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:15-17) With the coming of Jesus the light came into a world of darkness. In spite of vigorous efforts to put it out the light continues to grow. In the very beginning of time Satan and his demons have worked to suppress the light. Our role and responsibility is to pick up the mantle dropped by the previous generations and bear it towards the end.
“Because of these things” refer back to the verses just before. In those verses a short list of basic sin is laid out. It is because of these things…
God’s wrath is on the disobedient. Let’s look at Colossians 3:5-7. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.
We have the responsibility, and the ability, to “put to death” the tendency toward sin that is such a common part of our heritage. Self-centered refusal to trust in God reflects itself in many ways. Yet it is always idolatry. The world around us is filled with such dissatisfaction leading to covetousness.
This passage is an expansion on Paul’s statement to the Ephesians that God’s wrath is directed towards the disobedient people of this world. The concept of God’s wrath is rejected by many people in our world today. Apparently they want God to be a kind and gentle old man who, no matter what you do, pats you on the head and tells you everything is going to be all right.
God’s wrath is shown throughout the Bible and should remind us that God intensely hates all sin. The classic example is found in the book of Exodus when God’s people made an idol and bowed down to worship it when Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s instruction. Moses stood against God’s wrath and quoted God’s words back to him remembering the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.
Some would say that it is only in the Old Testament that God’s wrath is mentioned. However we find in John’s gospel chapter 3 verse 36 that those who do not obey the Son has the wrath of God on them.
Many New Testament passages proclaim God’s wrath against sin. As we see our world going to hell in a hand basket…
We must not join with them. Let’s look at Philippians 2:14-15. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
We are the light of the world because the true light has come to live in us. As such we must not join with the worldlings. We are not to spend our time grumbling and arguing. Instead we are to be blameless.
Now blameless does not mean without fault or error it means that our heart is in the right place. There may be many things in our lives that need be corrected but because of the blood of Jesus, offered on the altar in heaven, all blame has been removed. We are children of God and he has removed every blemish from us. We are surrounded by a crooked and twisted generation and we are to be separate from them. We are not perfect but we are being perfected by God. Before we came to place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we too were following the prince of the power of the air…
That is our past. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I repeat again the attitudes and actions of those who have failed to inherit the kingdom of God. All of these negative attitudes — sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, sexual sin, thieves, greedy, drug abusers, refiners and swindlers — separate men and women from an inheritance in the kingdom of God. It is easy to put such people down until we are reminded that the Bible says “such were some of you” reminding us that we are cleansed of our sin in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God! When we look back at our past we see the same kinds of sin that we see in the world around us. If we did not commit them in actuality we committed them in our thought life. Our past was no better than the present of the majority of people today. We need to turn aside and…
We need to look to the future. Let’s look at Philippians 3:13-14.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Even Paul struggled with sin. He did not claim that he had — in his life on earth — obtained perfection. However, he pressed forward toward that goal. When the apostle Paul thought of the sins of others he reminds us that he persecuted the church. He not only arrested people who believed in Christ but participated in their trial and execution! Turning away from the past is something we all should do. Very early in life I learned a practical truth that I try to follow today. And that is: we remember what we rehearse. If you’ve gone to God with it and asked forgiveness stop rolling it around in your mind. If we confess our sins he forgives our sins and we need to have the same attitude toward them. One of the greatest struggles in my life is being able to put aside all that I have done wrong in the past. I know that those thoughts are often stimulated by Satan’s emissaries.
We need to remember that Satan knows everything we have ever done. He can bring it before us in many different ways. He is our adversary and is constantly looking for ways to bring us down. He wants to cripple our spiritual life by causing us to remember the things that we’ve done that were displeasing to God.
The next time Satan reminds you of your past take a moment and remind him of his future. By the blood of Christ we are going to enter into God’s presence in heaven. On the other hand Satan and his demons are going to be cast into the lake of fire that burns forever and ever. When God is through with them they will face eternal torment. Our life will be one of eternal joy and peace.
Since we are children of light…
Our day-to-day life needs to reflect light. Let’s look at Romans 13:12-14. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Many years ago I heard Maj. Ian Thomas ask a crowd of Christians, “How are you today? Are you full moon?” And then he went on to explain that the moon has no light of its own but it only reflects the glory of the sun.
In the same manner we reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should be “full moon” but we often reflect a partial moon or even a moon in eclipse!
We need to consciously put on the Lord Jesus Christ. The way we do that is found in conversion. Conversion is our willing response to the gospel. It is shown by our sincere repentance while turning to Christ for salvation. There is a turning from and a turning to. We turn from sin! And we turn to Christ! Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand.
We must not be like the people of the world. They know right and wrong — they know good and evil. It’s not a matter of what we know but instead it is what we do with what we know. The Bible tells us that there are many people who know God’s laws but dislike them. Even the demons know who God is and know the facts about Jesus’ life and saving work. That knowledge does not mean that the demons are saved.
The people of the world reject the light that came into the world. In the first chapter of John’s Gospel we are told that Jesus’ life was the light of men and the darkness cannot overcome it. But those of us who have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ need to constantly seek to reflect light into the world. And when we do put on the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in his light we will reflect…
The good, right and true. Let’s look at Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Here we see a listing of the fruit of the Spirit which is an expansion on the fruit of light. Not only is that fruit good, right and true, the fruit of the Spirit is love! That love is reflected in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
In the book of Romans we are told that Christ saved us, “in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4). Our lives are to be productive and will reflect the light of the Lord through the gifts he has given us. We weren’t saved to go to heaven. We were saved to bring heaven to earth and introduce people to the light so that they can be attracted to the light and join us in leaving the kingdom of darkness. As a result of this we are to…
Apply our thoughts in pleasing God. Let’s look at 1 John 4:1-2. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for 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,
It is very important that we not drift along, spiritually, allowing all kinds of spirits to affect our lives. The devil can transform himself into an angel of light. He and his followers are not going to come out at us smelling of brimstone and covered with smoke. He is going to present himself as attractive as possible. When he speaks into your mind he’s going to use your voice. He works through the law of sin. He will accent his temptations according to your personal accent he will impersonate you so that the temptation seems like you!
The sinful thoughts the Christian experiences are not generated by the Christian. They are the product of indwelling sin under Satan’s control. Sin gives temptation, deception, or accusation thoughts to you based on your habits. He has observed you and knows what turns you on and turns you off. We need to make a sincere effort to take our thoughts captive and put to death everything that is not pleasing to God.
Paul goes on in this passage to say that we are to avoid being part of the unfruitful works of darkness. Instead, we are to expose them — bring them to the light. In fact, when we have a problem concerning the moral value of some action, word or thought we need to bring it before Jesus. We do that by comparing it to the word of God — the Bible — because that contains the mind of God. The light of God will burn away the evil world. Are you focused on the light? Is Jesus your Lord? That is the most important question you will ever ask.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

Sunday, January 15, 2017

170115 Don’t Be Deceived

Ephesians 5:3-6 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
I have many memories of my growing up years. My parents, having lived through the Great Depression, placed great value in family rather than possessions. One of the standards we lived by was, “Other families may do that (fill in the blank) but that’s not the way we live”. There were some pretty clear moral and ethical guidelines our family lived by. In the same way the spiritual family that we have come to live in has some pretty clear moral and ethical standards. Let’s see how Paul developed that for the Ephesians.
When I covet something that does not belong to me I violate commandment 10. When I put some material possession ahead of God himself I violate commandment 1. When I carry out an action that harms another human being and damages his or her life I violate commandment 6. With a little reflection, we can see how almost any sin violates some of the principles embodied in each of the Ten Commandments. This is simply a reflection of the fact that God’s laws are a unified whole and reflect the moral purity and perfection of God himself.
We are commanded to be imitators of God as children are imitators of their earthly fathers. In so doing…
We must avoid sexual immorality. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 6:18. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
There is no doubt that the word translated “sexual immorality” in the original language means premarital sex. It is important to see that sex is not the easy process portrayed for us by our society. The person who engages in premarital sex sins against his or her own body.
If we’re going to be imitators of God we are going to carefully guard, from this day forward, the purity of our body. We need to follow the example of Joseph in Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:11-12). You recall the story. Joseph had been sold by his brothers into slavery because they were jealous of him and they reported to their father that he had been killed. As time went by Joseph became the chief slave in the house of the head of the Egyptian military. The wife in the house tried to get Joseph to have sex with her. One day he found himself alone with her and she tried to pull him onto the couch with her. She was holding on to his coat and he just let her have the coat and ran out of the house. That act of purity ended up putting him in prison for attempted rape. After some years in that prison he was taken out, by God, and made the prime minister of Egypt. Please remember God does not forget his people. Joseph sets a good example for young people everywhere to follow. We must flee from sexual immorality. In fact…
We must avoid all impurity. Let’s look at Colossians 3:5-7. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.
The word translated “impurity” goes beyond the idea of sexual immorality to include all kinds of impurity of lust, an unclean lifestyle, or even (as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount) impure motives. I don’t think you have to look very far to decide what this really means. Just turn on the TV to pretty much any modern situation comedy and you will quickly get the picture. Many, many situations are clearly not pure. When I look at a comedy on TV it usually is produced before 1960. I Love Lucy; the Red Skelton show; the Dick Van Dyke show are good examples.
These unclean things that we are asked to cut out of our lives are not just rules made up because God can make them…
There is a reason why. Let’s look at Exodus 20:17. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
When a person covets he or she violates the 10th commandment. In fact, covetousness is idolatry. It is desiring what you do not have and making that desire more important than God’s plan for your life. A life that is pleasing to God is one that has moral purity not only in its actions but also in its mental desires. When Jesus was asked about the great commandment he said,you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30. Our heart needs to be filled with an attitude of love for God. When we do not maintain that high moral standard we are letting passion, lust and evil desire, take the place of God in our life. Covetousness is idolatry. Not only are we to avoid sexual immorality and physical impurity…
We must avoid foolishness. Let’s look at Romans 1:28-31. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
When filthiness, foolish talk or crude joking, becomes the standard of our conversation we are involved in “foolishness”. In the first chapter of Romans we are taught that people who choose not to acknowledge God are given over by God to a debased mind. The very standard they live by often becomes filthy and foolish. The reason God gives them up is to make them conscious of all of that they have lost.
In order to be proper imitators of God we must avoid sexual immorality in fact we must avoid all impurity because these attitudes of the heart and mind are covetousness. And covetousness is idolatry which leads to a foolish debased lifestyle.
Instead we are to be thankful. Let’s look at Colossians 3:17. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
How do we test our actions to determine whether they are immoral or spiritually foolish. We need to bring everything that we do, every word or action, to the foot of the cross and ask ourselves, “Is this pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for me?” If you can’t thank God for your actions you are skating on thin ice so to speak. Everything we do should pass the Thanksgiving test. Can I come to God and honestly thank him for what I’m about to partake? If I cannot bring it before the Lord and know that he would be pleased with it I need to avoid it at all costs. Again we can look at the Sermon on the Mount and listen to the words of Jesus, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). The “all these things” Jesus is talking about include all the things that we often covet. Nice clothes, fine food, material things that we do not have. Coveting these things keep us from being thankful to the living Lord!
The world we live in is filled with opportunities to covet. Everywhere we turn it seems something is being advertised that we really don’t need but somehow we begin to want. While we travel through this world…
We must avoid the con-men. (Or women) Let’s look at Colossians 2:8. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
We are often warned in Scripture to avoid the false prophets. In his second letter of the apostle Peter pointed out the danger in 2 Peter 2:1-3. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.
In the same way that false prophets appeared throughout the history of Israel we need to remember that they are in our world today. Paul described in this way in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. There and will correspond to their deeds.”
Paul saw the Galatian church being pulled away from the true gospel. A different gospel were being proclaimed to them. And he said that if he or an angel from heaven should preach a twisted gospel he or the angel should be accursed (Galatians 1:6-8).
Our world is filled with false teachers. Please be careful when you watch someone on television or listen on the radio. Check them out! See if they are staying close to Scripture. See if they are putting heavy emphasis on themselves or on fundraising for some particular cause or another. Now I’m not saying that all fundraising is wrong I’m simply saying we need to be careful — very careful.
Today we have the Internet and all the possible dangers it can cause. Be very careful who you listen to, who you let into your home and into your mind. I listen to several different teachers or preachers but I’m sure they are sticking close to the word of God. Please be sure that whatever you listen to sticks close to the word. Also, be sure that their lifestyle reflects the love of Jesus. Almost always false teachers will live a fancy lifestyle. Expensive clothing, fancy homes, even a private airplane might be part of their lifestyle. If so, avoid them like the plague.
We will be protected from God’s wrath. Let’s look at 1 John 2:1-2. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
When we avoid sexual immorality and impurity, when we remember that we are not to covet anything that belongs to another, when we avoid the foolishness of the world and apply ourselves to thankfulness we can avoid the con-men. All of these things, Paul tells us, brings the wrath of God down on the sons of disobedience. But John reminds us that Jesus came into the world to become our advocate. He is, right now, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He advocates for us when we have repented of our sin and have put our faith in him.
That long word “propitiation” means, a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God against sin and turns God’s wrath into favor. I’m so grateful that he did that for us. We are reminded by the writer of Hebrews that is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Jesus gave his life on the cross so we would not find ourselves in that terrible predicament at the end of our life.
We are often told, in the Bible, that we have come into the light away from the darkness of sin. We are to do everything within our power to avoid falling back into the thoughts and attitudes that dishonor the name of God in our life. Much of the fabric of our culture is grossly evil. No matter which way we turn we are confronted by darkness. Next week we will look at what it means to walk in the light.
God’s grace has given us salvation. We cannot earn it — we must receive it as a gift from God. When we do we can do the works that are pleasing to God. Have you been obedient to him? Is he your Lord? If not, today can be your day of salvation.

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society