“Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering…” These lyrics appear in a popular, modern, worship song by Matt Redman. But what does it mean to suffer in today’s Christianity, as I’m sure many people sing along with this song but have no concept of real suffering.
I think most people equate suffering today, in the “church” as something that comes from numerous sources, none of which are biblical standards of suffering. I expect that even making this statement will be offensive to many because when we are suffering we want to believe we are suffering biblically, especially if we name the name of Christ.
What is it to suffer?
Experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant) – this is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition. I could probably dig a little deeper, but this is what most people will consider to suffer.
When we feel bad, or when we feel like we didn’t get what we deserve, we feel as though we are suffering. Some might be suffering the loss of a loved one, or suffering the loss of a job. These are certainly unpleasant things that occur, and nobody likes them, but are they really suffering as the Bible would describe it?
Our family has recently been watching a series about heroes of the faith. These are people that endured prison, endured beatings, and many of them endured martyrdom. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned in Communist Romania for speaking out against Communism. He spent over eight years imprisoned and three years in solitary confinement with no lights or no windows. He was beaten and tortured, physically as well as psychologically and yet he maintained his sanity by preaching sermons during the night to himself. His survival and proclamation of the gospel is beyond what we can imagine today.
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:10-12
Paul is instructing young Timothy how to be a faithful minister of the Word. He is setting the example before him of his own life. He is telling him how it’s going to be…and Timothy must know how his future will most likely turn out. Only a true believer will set himself up for this, because it’s not going to be fun.
I’m challenged by this, and I hope you are as well, because I think we need to be. I think we must be…
We don’t currently experience this today, at least not in this country, mostly… But I believe we will, and I believe I must prepare my children. It’s why I think it’s important for them to see those that gave their lives for the faith. They suffered and died to proclaim His name.
Consider these great heroes of the faith, their names are unknown to us, but their example lives on, and it’s one for us to consider when we are afraid to open our mouths and hand someone a gospel tract.
…Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should be made perfect apart from us. – Hebrews 11:35-40
This doesn’t sound like my Christianity? I realize we are in a different time period, and the place we live right now, is unlikely that I’m going to be destitute and or sawn in half. But should I then say, this has no place in a conviction in my life? Absolutely not, this should shame me when I won’t open my mouth, or I look at my 401K statement and think, boy if I only had a little more, I’d be in pretty good shape.
No, how about giving until it actually effects my 401K? How about standing on a corner and proclaiming the name of Christ and actually praising God for the ridicule that will no doubt ensue? Would this be better or worse than being slain with the sword? That’s not a mutually exclusive proposition; I can do one without the other. I probably won’t be slain, but I will probably be made fun of, and that would be a slight way in which I could suffer for Christ sake, wouldn’t it?
Could I, or could you risk some embarrassment every now and again, to give someone a message of love? To tell them they need Jesus, because without Him they are on a crash course for Hell? Do we believe that? If we sort of don’t…then we won’t… If Hell is real, then its consequences are real, and we need to tell people, we need to warn them.
I’d like to consider this verse in a different way today.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.” But ou do nt give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead. – James 2:14-17
This verse is clearly and plainly for believers, please don’t be confused, and here is how I want us to think differently about it. If we don’t live out our faith in a tangible and real way, proclaiming Christ to dead people, we are doing the same thing to them. We might even give them something warm and fill them with food; in fact lots of misguided ministries do just that. But…..do they give them the bread of life?
Do we tell them God is holy and man is sinful? Do we tell them Jesus is the answer to their sin problem? Do we tell them they must turn from their sin, and embrace a new life in Christ? This is the gospel, this is necessary, and they need to be born again, or they will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So, let’s go out and suffer, just a little bit this week. Just a little bit, so we can learn to suffer a little bit more and then someday, maybe we can really learn how to suffer.
If a Virtuous Wife is a wife that is working with and for her husband as unto the Lord, then the opposite of that is most certainly a contentious woman. God created Eve as a helper suitable for Adam; a woman that would assist man in his endeavors to take dominion over the earth and subdue it.
This woman that God so graciously gave Adam was designed perfectly for him. She was intended to be compatible. And I can’t imagine what Adam thought when he first saw her. It was perfect. She was perfect. God’s design was perfect.
And then…of course, we know the story…
Sin entered the world and God put rivalry between man and woman, the woman became infected with the desire to rule over her husband. If you are married, then you know that this curse is still alive and well in mankind. We see the effects of it in the world. We see the role reversals more prominently all the time. Just flip on your television and watch a couple commercials. The “men” on these commercials are not biblical men. They are lap dogs. They are the product of a world gone wrong. The women have become the power brokers. They are the ones we are asked to look to for guidance, and decision making.
God made women beautiful, and He made them strong, but He also made them a weaker vessel. He made them like fine china, but yet with a different type of strength. Men you know what I mean, and only a fool, would not recognize the immense treasure of a godly wife, and the amazing gift she is to her husband.
Why the issues? Why is there contention? And more importantly how does a godly woman become a woman of virtue?
The Proverbs tell us much about the difficulty in living with this woman.
Better to dwell in a corner of a
Than in a house shared with a
contentious woman. – Proverbs 21:9
Better to dwell in the
Than with a contentious and
angry woman. – Proverbs 21:19
Do we notice that “angry” was added in verse 19? Not only is this woman contentious but she is also angry. She wants to strive against her husband, and she’s angry with him? Does she have just cause to be angry? Perhaps, but we must also identify the source of anger.
If she’s angry for any other reason than God’s glory, then she’s sinfully angry and more likely than not the anger is selfish. Oh, I know we can find reason to believe she’s angry for righteous reasons, but we must examine the motives, deeply and with a self focus, as opposed to a “him” focus. Side note: ladies, wives, I didn’t say he was perfect, and we’ll deal with him another day, but let’s keep it where it needs to be for now.
A continual dripping on a very
And a contentious woman are
Whoever restrains her
restrains the wind,
And grasps oil with his right
hand. – Proverbs 27:15-16
Look at the absurdity of trying to restrain a contentious woman. Is it impossible to restrain the wind, or hold oil in your hand? Have you known wives like this? Have you been a wife like this, or are you a wife like this?
What is the answer? This really is a dividing line between a woman that desires godliness and one that seeks her own way. The word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart and no creature is hidden from His sight.
The wise woman builds her
But the foolish pulls it down
with her hands. – Proverbs 14:1
This tells a story, about what’s at the heart of the matter. Wisdom or foolishness…salvation or condemnation… I’m not saying this will look like sinless perfection, but in the heart of a wise woman, there will be progress in her Christian walk, and I’m writing today, to those that profess Christianity. I realize how foolish this will be for the unbelieving woman. You hold the power in your hands to help form your husband into a more godly man if he is a believer. You can build him up, or tear him down with your own hands. And if he is not a believer you can push him further away from your profession of Christianity, or drive him to it.
You might be fine china, but you have more power than you can even imagine, and if you are Christ’s you must use it for His glory, not for your own purposes. I realize many of you have made mistakes, and been a poor witness for the Lord, but there is hope. You must repent of your past sins, and seek Christ diligently, and He will rebuild your house, unless you labor in vain.
This past week I had the privilege to hear some of the finest Bible Expositors that are around today. The men that God has given wonderful gifts, to exhort and edify the body of Christ. I’ve learned much from these men, and I also have much to learn. I came away knowing how little I really know about God and His word. I realized I’m a man that has devoted the majority of his life, to worthless things.
I look back down the road from my salvation in 2009 and I understand I’ve come a long way, but yet I see a great mirage that I continue to chase and it just keeps getting further away. I’m thankful that is the case. It causes me to hunger and thirst all the more, yet it is sometimes overwhelming in my desire to know truth. Not just for the sake of knowledge, but so that when I bow before my Lord, I will know Him already, yet I desire to know Him so much more.
That is the way the Christian life is meant to be, and I was stunned to hear one of the men say this very thing, a man that from my perspective knows more than I will ever know, or could ever know in several lifetimes. He knows Hebrew and Greek and even speaks them fluently and reads in them.
Among all the amazing sermons, something was said by Paul Washer that really struck me. It was almost a side note. A little blurb on the end or at the start of something that I’m sure for most people was not noticeably significant. But it hit me, and I know it hit others, as I’ve heard testimony about how it affected them. He said this about his wife, and I’m going to paraphrase. He said that in 20 some years of marriage his affection and love for his wife has grown, and that has primarily been because she has grown in virtue. Her growth in virtue has allowed him to love her more.
This is really an incredible statement, because her growth has caused growth in her husband. It’s a mutually dependent relationship. She depends on him, he depends on her. When they are working together there is much more forward motion. Much more ground is gained; all to the glory of God, but how He blesses them in this relationship and this growth.
Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above
The heart of her husband safely
So he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life. – Proverbs 31:10-12
To really understand this wife of Proverbs 31 we must understand what it means to be virtuous. The Hebrew word is chayil : strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army
No wonder she is hard to find, this is not the meaning of what most think is virtue. Most think that it’s more like chaste, almost graceful or elegant, or simply revolves around her moral character. She no doubt is of the highest moral degree, but that is not at all the biblical concept of virtue. Virtue is all about the strength, might and efficiency of a woman. She’s an army wife. She knows how to get things done, and she doesn’t just sit and consume resources. She’s sturdy… and faithful to her tasks.
If her commander needs her to take a hill, she takes the hill. We must understand who it is she’s working for. “The heart of her husband safely trusts her…” She’s a kept woman; she knows that it is her husband that she is to fulfill and to complete, as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-23). She is a helper. How radically different from the modern concept of the strong woman? She’s strong for sure, but her strength is not for her own benefit, her own fulfillment, and her own desires. She’s strong and independent, but not for her own benefit, it’s for the benefit of another.
What a contrast…
Next post, we will take a look at the virtuous woman’s counterpart, the woman that mostly resembles the world today. We will see a stark difference between these two. We must then consider what is the difference? Why?
When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” – Matthew 26:20-21
The mere thought or reading of this verse is devastating to me. I can barely take in the magnitude of what was happening at this moment in time. The closeness of the relationships that had been formed for three years between Jesus and the twelve is probably hard for us to grasp at this point in history. We have very little to compare that level of relationship, these men traveled and ministered together, and were with each other for nearly every moment.
Judas was a good liar, and he was adept at concealment. He knew how to blend into each and every situation. He might have started out with wonderful expectations of the Messiah. Perhaps, he thought the Messiah would deliver them from the hands of Rome…finally, and then he would achieve the goals he had, the fulfillment he desired, or whatever it was that he really thought he wanted. He clearly, in his inner most being, had no desire for Christ for spiritual reasons.
But don’t we all have those tendencies and desires sometimes?
When I put the work into examining my motives for what I do, and why I do them, I really must stop sometimes and say, “What are you doing?” “Why did you do that?” “Was that for God’s glory or for your own pleasure, your own personal fulfillment?”
Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” – Matthew 26:25
Did he know?
Isn’t this a profound question, something for us to really think about?
Did Judas realize what he was doing, or did his sin blind him so much that he didn’t think that far down the road. In fact the Lord said, “It would have been good for that man, if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24) Can you imagine that it would have been better for Judas to have never been born, to never have walked the earth, to never have breathed a breath, or have his heart beat, to never have seen the sun, taste good food, or to have walked with God Himself on this earth?
He spent time with his Creator, he knew Him on a very intimate level, but yet he really never knew Him at all. Just think, Judas associated with Christ, but he never “knew” Christ, there are many people out there just like Judas. Many of them have a deep intellectual understanding of Christ, yet they don’t know Him.
They are holding onto something… To truly know Christ, means denying yourself, it means that you will abandon everything you have ever, or will ever place your trust in, outside of Him. Charles Spurgeon once said that “If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth.” Those that evangelize to the dead, or preach the gospel of peace, know this reality. You know people don’t like what you are telling them. They don’t want to face their sin. It means they have to let go of something. It means they have to admit “it would have been better that they never had been born”, and this is so very true isn’t it? Because what’s the alternative? The alternative is a short life, here on earth, grasping for 30 pieces of silver. When we get that silver, we realize it never held any real satisfaction…a temporary fix at best. Its blood money, but most don’t see it that way.
This past week I had a conversation with a guy that I’ve known for a long time and as I listened to him tell me things I could see that what he thought about himself was really important. However, my heart was crying for him, because he is so lost, and he doesn’t even know it. He’s a nice guy, in some respects, but he doesn’t know the wrath of God abides upon him. He doesn’t know that it would be better that he had never been born, unless he repents and believes the gospel.
From his book “Twelve Ordinary Men” John MacArthur wrote this:
“He was a coward. He knew the popularity of Jesus. He was afraid of the crowd. Like every hypocrite, he was obsessed with concerns about what people thought of him, so he was hoping to betray Jesus as quietly as possible. He was looking for the doorway to hell that was most convenient. And when he found it, he plunged right in.” 
What happens when we fall into sin? Are we a Judas or are we Peter? Do we have sorrow that leads to death or sorrow that leads to repentance? This is the difference and if you’ve never understood that you are a Judas outside of godly sorrow leading to repentance, then you are still a Judas. Judas deceived himself, and he never knew his eternal fate had been sealed when he committed himself fully to Satan’s plan.
You will either be broken on the Rock, or smashed to pieces by it. Today is the day to get right with God. Today is the acceptable day of salvation for those that truly understand they are hanging by a thread over the eternal flames of hell. Those in eternal torment right now, with no way out, know it. Don’t find it out too late. Repent, and turn from your sin and be saved.
“So expert was he in his hypocrisy that he fooled everyone but Jesus, right up to the very end.” – John MacArthur 
 John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men (Thomas Nelson, 2002) 193
 Ibid – 192
…I don’t know anybody that does know Stuart Scott, and so I can’t say anything about him with absolute certainty. I do know that he was well liked and loved by many. By all accounts I’d be pretty certain we could have hung out and become friends. I’m confident we’d engage in good conversation and enjoy a cup of coffee together. He seemed likeable. He seemed decent. He obviously had a tremendous amount of love for his family.
I’m not a huge sports fan, but the times that I saw Stuart Scott on ESPN I thought he was incredibly talented and was on some very funny commercials. So for the most part I’d say I really liked him. Today I’m still 49 years old and on Sunday Stuart Scott’s life ended at 49 years of age. I’m not sure why his life ended and mine continues, but that’s just the way it is. God is in control, and it is His decision who lives and who dies. He’s sovereign over all of it.
This article is not about Stuart Scott. It’s about you. It’s also about me. And most importantly it’s about the God that gives us life, and takes away life. If you or I don’t recognize that truth…that reality, then this article really needs to be considered long and hard. It takes hard work to really think about things like this, because…well honestly, because it’s just plain hard. I hate thinking about death. I hate watching shows where people die, especially the young or especially those that seem “good”.
I really wish it wasn’t that way, but it is. It is because man wanted to have his own way. Ultimately a man, Adam, chose his own way. Not God’s way. So we are left with that life taking cancer, if you will. It has us all infected, infected to the point of death. There was a warning that came along with the command. Don’t eat from this one tree, and if you do, you WILL die. And now we see that clearly in the death of what seemed like a really nice man.
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. – Hebrews 9:27
Every one of us will die once. That speaks of our life here on earth. Our physical bodies… they will die. There is no doubt. And we see the reality of what happens next. The judgment. This means we will face judgment after our death. It’s easy to understand isn’t it?
But do you, or do I, really understand that? Please allow that sink in for just a moment. We will stand before the Creator and be judged. He knows every thought we’ve ever had. He knows every deed we’ve ever done. He sees it all. Nothing is hidden from His sight.
That time when you were so angry with, you fill in the blank, that you just wanted to smack them… did you know that is the same as murder? Every time you looked upon another human with sexual desire, other than your spouse that is the same as adultery? Every lie you ever told has been recorded in the book and every disobedient act against your parents.
Did you know that you’ve committed treason against the One that made you? Treason is a crime punishable by death. It really sounds grim. It sounds hopeless.
Did you know there is a way out of the bottomless pit you are now in? His name is Jesus. He died on a cross nearly 2000 years ago, and if you turn to Him, cast off your sins and repent of them, then place all your hope and trust in Him, you will be saved. You will be saved from God’s wrath and indignation toward those that are at enmity with Him.
There is still hope for you, if you are reading this. There is still hope for me as I write. I can’t save myself anymore than Stuart Scott could heal himself of cancer. That’s why we need Jesus. He came to this earth and healed to prove His divinity. He lived, He suffered, He died, and He rose again to conquer death. That is the good news. That is the best news I’ve ever heard. Will you reject His sacrifice today, or will you submit to His Lordship. You will give account.
He said these words that we could understand His grace and His mercy. He will give you rest, if you are tired of fighting against the deaths of this world. He gives life, and He gives it richly to those that place their hope in Him.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:29-30
I hope Stuart Scott knew this.
Most of us believe that whatever we are doing is important. I know when I wake up in the morning it’s really easy to begin focusing on the tasks at hand and all the things I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming day. Each day we have a brand new opportunity to be productive. Most of us will go to our jobs and provide for our families. This is a good thing. This is biblical and it’s God honoring. Isn’t it?
Well I guess it depends on your perspective.
Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved
sleep. – Psalm 127:1-2
There is something very interesting about the Word of God. It’s mostly, easy to understand. There is nothing difficult about what this says. We don’t need an in depth study of each word to understand the message. There are two groups of people that will read this and take away very different understandings.
There is a warning contained in this passage for the unbelieving. This warning is clear. Outside of faith in Jesus Christ everything in your life is vanity. The word vanity in short means “useless”. Your existence is useless. It means that it is literally and figuratively ruined (morally). The unbeliever has a morally bankrupt life, and yet they have no concept of this. They believe their existence matters.
If I was to interview Oprah Winfrey, she would believe that her work is really making a difference. She would believe that her building of schools, her building of wells to provide water and educating young girls, is having a positive effect on the world around her. She believes, without a doubt, that she is building a city and it has meaning. I can feel the pushback already, because when I hear her words, and I know what she believes, then I lay her words on top of God’s Word, these two don’t go together.
Her building is vanity. It’s useless, because it is not built on Christ. It is not built by the LORD. It is vain for her to rise early and to stay up late. When we really get past the emotion of this, we can see that all of this is vanity.
Then we have a call to the Christian. For the Christian these things do matter. This is not permission to be lazy in our efforts. Christian’s should be the best workers they can be, and should always give full effort to what they do, in no way is this a call not to be diligent in our work. However, we should not call upon our own desires and our own wisdom in taking on these endeavors. All good things come from God, but we must act. There will be effort on our part, and that effort will be toil and difficult. God Himself has said that would be His curse upon the sons of Adam.
What are we to do with all of this, because it’s really difficult for most of us to think about how much vanity is all around us? I know that I’m challenged in my life when I think about it. I must really consider how many people I pass in a day that their lives are ultimately useless. I say that not to be hard but to awaken my conscience to their dire condition. I must preach to them because it’s their only hope.
If you are a believer, consider those around you and the message we must give that will be unpopular. As I said at the beginning, most of us believe we matter. Every person on this earth is created in the image of God and are therefore valuable and we have no idea how God will use them. We know that many will perish in their sin, but as far as we are concerned we have a job to do. We must tell them that God is holy, and there is coming a day of judgment. Will you build your house in vain, or will you build your house for the glory of God?
It has become abundantly clear to me that God hates all sin with such a passion that even the smallest, seemingly most insignificant, sins are an abomination to Him. His holiness is so intense and shines so brightly that even the slightest glimpse of His face would drop us dead on the spot. Does that seem a little extreme? I have no doubts Scripture teaches us this over and over again, yet we are mostly unwilling to hear it.
Sin is deceitful and it always coddles and subdues the vileness that it is to God. He is the standard of truth, the only true due north, that one can find their way. If we don’t believe everything He says and does is the standard of truth, then we are serving another god.
If sin is hated by God, shouldn’t it be hated by us?
We suffer from a low view of sin, because we have a low view of God. To fully understand God’s view of sin, we must gain a more accurate view of God Himself. This is not easy. Our flesh fights against knowing God. The carnal mind is at enmity with God, and there is only one way to kill the carnal mind and that is to have it renewed through the Scriptures. We must be conformed to His will and not our own.
And he (speaking of Azariah) did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done, except that the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. Then the LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper until the day of his death; so he dwelt in an isolated house. – 2 Kings 15:3-5
God had clearly defined ways in which He is to be worshiped, but in his pride and arrogance Azariah usurped God’s authority. He decided it was okay to perform the priestly duties. Does this really seem like it’s a capital offense? Azariah’s leprosy eventually killed him, in effect; God killed him through the disease that He gave him. God was offended and the punishment was death.
We see this cycle repeated over and over again in the life of the King’s of Israel, but to bring it closer to home, do we see this repeated in our lives? Do we see that our disobedience brings God displeasure and chastening?
How do we apply this seemingly, insignificant lesson to our lives, because talking about something that happened 2800 years ago doesn’t always seem relevant.
Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” – Hebrews 4:6-7
Sin is hardening to our hearts, and a constant reminder of our need to depend on Jesus for His mercy and grace as the needed medicine for a diseased heart. He is the only hope we have, He is the great Physician.
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:11
Many will fall because of disobedience. The Word of God is clear on that subject. This is a horrible and fearful thought for me to consider. I must strive to enter through the narrow gate, because it’s the only place I can find rest, and I must never cease striving against sin. I will kill sin, or sin will kill me. If you don’t battle sin every day, then sin will overcome you, and take you by force.
I urge you beloved, to seek His mercy and His grace, and if you are redeemed, then you will have victory. This does not mean perfection, but if you wallow in the same sin as you’ve always wallowed, if you continue to return to your vomit, then you are probably not saved.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. – Proverbs 12:15
The life of a Christian can be marked by certain signs or fruits that give validity to their claim of Christianity. We live in a time and in a culture that many will say they are Christians. People will say things like, “I was born into a Christian family”, “I’ve always believed”, “I was baptized as a child”, etc, etc…
The Bible gives us instruction for Christian living and last week I talked about the role of Scripture in the life of a believer. If you don’t have any sort of a relationship with your Bible, no matter what you think or what you say, then Scripture says you most likely are not. Of course there are some extreme exceptions to that rule, such as the Thief on the Cross, but for most it’s not the case.
In the time since my conversion to Christianity I’ve seen and experienced a lot of people in the church world and in particular in our local gathering that bear fruits of salvation for a season. They experience life change, they come to all the meetings, they fellowship and do life together, but then something happens. It’s consistent that one thing drives them away.
My experience is that they will “hear” counsel, but they won’t “heed” counsel.
Many will hear…but the difference is do they listen?
The word (shama`) – to hear, to listen to, obey, yield to.
This is not very common in this day, because most of us think we’ve got it all figured out. We live in a world of rugged individualism, a world of autonomy, we desire our own freedoms and to be our own “man” or “woman”.
We might listen to someone and then weigh it out to see if it makes sense, but to obey is a completely different subject. Only if it makes sense for me will I do what I’m being asked to do.
In the book or Proverbs we see this message repeated over and over again, and I’m guessing this was done purposefully to get our attention.
Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. – Proverbs 19:20
The word “listen” is the same word as “heed” in the previous verse; its meaning is far deeper than just hearing what someone has to say, it means that you will be convinced by the speaker with a desire to obey.
A wise man will “hear” (shama`) and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. – Proverbs 1:5
This surely begs the question who is the wise counsel?
In most cases this is where the church has failed to teach properly. I use the word “church” in a broad sense, but I’m in particular referring to a true church, a gathering of God’s people that places the authority, sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture as the rule by which we must live our lives, where the holiness of God is exalted and the sinfulness of man is exposed. A place where Jesus Christ is the focus of the only hope sinful man has for salvation and they attempt to live a life wholly pleasing to God and use Scripture as their guide. There is certainly more to a true church, but if these are not in the forefront the gospel has no teeth.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Here we see the New Testament argument for Believers and this points us to who should be our primary line of wise counsel. This is speaking of the Elders in the church, and the word “obey” (peithō) means to be persuaded, to suffer one’s self to be persuaded; to be induced to believe.
The Elders should be persuading and most importantly we should be persuaded and not only persuaded but then listen to and obey. Yield to them. “Wise” counsel should be informed and persuaded using the Word of God. This is the lynch-pin by which this must hinge.
Unless you are being asked to sin, you should be persuaded. It’s pretty simple, and if you are being asked to sin, from that you should flee. Elders have been placed over you as protection for your soul, and when you disobey, it’s unprofitable for you and it grieves them.
By today’s standards this is completely counter-cultural and hated by most professing Christians because most want to be in control which by definition is wise in our own eyes.
Many good Christians don’t have churches that practice this, nor do they even have good churches, and in that case you should seek out the godliest counsel you can obtain given your circumstance, but don’t use it as a crutch and an opportunity to sin. If you are given good counsel, listen to it, and obey it, because someone truly loves your soul and wants what is best for you.
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day. – Psalm 119:97
This is a verse that really smacks me upside the head. I just don’t know how to say that with much more impact or clarity. It really is a dividing line between those that say they love Jesus and those that really do love Jesus. Our relationship to the Bible is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
How can we really love God without knowing God and how do we know God without reading His Word? The Bible says of itself that it is sufficient for all things pertaining to godliness, righteous living, correction and instruction and then it summarizes that statement by saying “so that the man of God can be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So it really seems to make the most sense that if you say you are a man of God you would be quite infatuated with the Word of God doesn’t it?
But what about “The Law”, that seems so harsh and unloving…it seems so legalistic to many modern day evangelicals.
The law or the Torah is simply a precept or a statute, and it primarily refers to the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) or the Pentateuch (Books of Moses). The law is a reflection of the heart of God. God is all these things and to have a proper understanding of God we must understand and love the things that He loves.
Why is this important?
Loving the law of God gives us wisdom and understanding. It is the most important thing we can gain, in fact it is said to be more valuable than gold or fine silver.
I have more understanding than all my teachers… – Psalm 119:99
I understand more than the ancients. – Psalm 119:100
God’s Word restrains us from evil and is a light unto our path. In other words it keeps us on the straight and narrow. It causes us to hate evil, to despise false ways, and bad thinking. How can one gain knowledge and wisdom without knowing God’s precepts and commands?
I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. – Psalm 119:101
Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. – Psalm 119:104
The professing church today is full of those that really don’t care for the Word of God, much less the Law of God. They don’t read the Bible, they don’t know the Bible, and what they do know of the Bible is generally misquoted or taken out of context. The Bible should be the lifeblood of a Christian. It is like a gold mine that can never be fully harvested. It should be something we can never get enough of as we desire to grow in godliness. Jesus said if you’ve truly been born from above you will hunger and thirst for it. (Matthew 5:6)
The Law is the heart and etiquette of God and those that pick and choose, or those that dislike or even despise the law are at enmity with God no matter what their mouth might say. This is a real gut check. It’s a great way to examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith. What is your relationship to your Bible?
Teach me, O LORD, the way of
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I
Shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my
Make me walk in the path of
For I delight in it.
Incline my heart to Your
And not to covetousness.
Turn away my eyes from looking
At worthless things,
And revive me in Your way. – Psalm 119:33-37
If you find a professing Christian indifferent to his Bible, you may be sure that the very dust upon its cover will rise up in judgment against him. — C.H. Spurgeon
Antinomianism is alive and well in the professing church today. It won’t take you long, or many Facebook conversations, to find out the reality of this statement. Many people desire to “be blessed”, many people desire a savior, and I’ve not met that many people that say they are unconcerned about an eternity in hell. But…they don’t mind going out and living like the devil.
So what is this word “Antinomianism”? And why is it such a big deal.
“Antinomianism teaches that “the believer was completely free from all obligation to the Law and any concession to legal duty was an infringement of free grace.” Roman Catholicism attacked Protestantism for allegedly granting a license to sin through its doctrine of justification by faith alone. The council of Trent, in its decree on justification (1547) implicitly accused the Reformers of abolishing the law for the Christian.
In their view of the law, the Reformers spoke of three distinct “uses” or applications of the law.
- Civil – guide the civil magistrate in rewarding good and punishing evil (Romans 13:3-4; 1 Tim 2:1-2) Luther wrote – “The first understanding of the use of the Law is to restrain the wicked…This civic restraint is extremely necessary and was instituted by God, both for the sake of public peace and for the sake of preserving everything, but especially to prevent the course of the Gospel from being hindered by tumults and seditions of wild men.”
- Evangelical – drives sinners away from their own righteousness to trust in Christ alone. (Galatians 3:10, 24, Gal 2:17) Calvin said the law warns, informs, convicts and lastly condemns, every man of his own righteousness…
- Directive or normative – it serves as a didactic “rule of life” to guide believers in ways that are pleasing to their God and Savior. The law drives sinners to Christ through whom they “become doers of the law”. – James 1:22”  – From A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke & Mark Jones
2 Corinthians 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
What is Paul referring back to when he says “therefore”? We must look back at what Paul just said. He supports his upcoming argument with his previous statement, and as is the manner of Paul he consistently uses the Word of God, just as we should when we argue for the truth.
2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore
“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the LORD.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
What we will consistently see is an argument against the Bible to support man’s sinful desires, and often we will see the twisting of the Scriptures to get them to say what we want them to say. This is most often done in church going people, or people that want to hold onto their sin. Thus Antinomianism, which means “against law”. Antinomians love to argue against the law. They want to be free from the guilt of obeying the law, but yet their conscience continues to bear witness against them and so they suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.
So what are we to understand about God’s law as New Testament believers? Are we under the obligation to keep the law? Can we keep the law?
One thing all must do, and all are responsible to do, is to understand God’s Word in full context. The best way to interpret Scripture is with Scripture. If you see something that doesn’t seem to make sense, use other Scripture to help you interpret.
Psalm 119:1-2 Blessed are the undefiled in the way. Who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart!
Psalm 119:11-12 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You, Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes.
I won’t have the space to highlight all of Psalm 119 and the heart of a true believer, but it’s unmistakable, that there must be a heart transformation, and a burning desire to follow God’s law, IF, you are truly saved.
Paul knew this so well and he continued to drive home this point.
Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death…even so we also should walk in newness of life.
The whole message of Scripture is a newness of life. It’s unmistakable, and those that want to continue in their sin are deceived. This does not mean sinless perfection. It means gaining ground on sin consistently. It means we will grow in holiness, because without holiness we will not see God.
This is the life of a Christian, or you’re not a Christian. This must be stressed, because it causes self-examination. It causes lamenting and mourning when we fall back into sin. It’s a constant desire to repent and turn from our sin. The stakes could not be higher. Don’t be deceived by the deceitfulness of sin and risk that you will someday stand before the righteous Judge and hear these words.
And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:23