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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Bible

Laying Down Your Life

John 15.13

Of course, when He made that statement, Jesus was directly referring to the fact that He was about to literally lay down His life for His friends. Jesus was about to literally lay down His life for the entire world and its sins. Is that necessarily the application for all of us? In certain circumstances, it might be. Any one of us could encounter a situation where literally laying down one’s life might be an appropriate expression of ultimate love. What about the rest of us? What if we are never asked to literally sacrifice our lives for a friend? Are we just off the hook? Hardly! What, then, might it mean to lay down one’s life for a friend?

We live in a culture today where people won’t even lay down their thoughts, ideas and opinions for their fellow man, much less their lives. The United States, particularly, is a “me” culture. “Looking out for number 1,” “If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will.” These are all reflections of the way we are. Yet, Jesus’ still said to lay down one’s life for friends is the ultimate expression of love.

We can do this by making others needs more important than our own. Jesus did that for us; He gave up his rightful place in Heaven to come here, live as a man, suffer and die just because our need for a savior was so great. Next time you have a situation where two needs are presented and only one can be met, meet your brother or sister’s need and let yours go unmet.

We can do this by forgiving. People wrong us; that is simply a fact. Scripture teaches us over and over that we are to forgive. Jesus asked His father to forgive the very people killing him on the cross in Luke 23:34.  We simply have to learn to forgive the same way; we need to forgive no matter the seriousness of the offense that is committed against us

We can do this by sacrificing for others. Not only might we be required to meet another person’s need and leave ours unmet, but we might actually have to give up something our our own to meet their need. Maybe you have plans but a brother or sister has a need; give up your plans and be there for them.

We can do this by meeting the needs of people who don’t deserve it and cannot or will not do a thing for us. Some folks don’t deserve help. Some are not capable of doing anything for us in return. Some are capable, but in our hearts we know they wouldn’t give us a fire extinguisher if we burst into flames. Help them anyway.

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What Is Love Anyway?

John 21.15

First of all, this devotional is not going to be a deep theological dissertation on all the various meanings in the passage above. Someday perhaps we will do that, but not today. I am only using it to illustrate what love means.

Both of the types of love mentioned in the Bible can be found in the above passage. The Bible commonly uses two different Greek words, with quite different meanings. The two words from the Greek which are translated love are, “agape” and “phileo.

The above passage goes something like this:

  • Peter, do you agape me? Yes Lord, you know I phileo you.
  • Peter, do you agape me? Yes, Lord, I phileo you.
  • Peter, do you phileo me? Peter, mildly put out, replies, Lord you know I phileo you.

As I said, here we are not going to analyze that passage; it just works well for what we are going to do briefly, which is explain just what love is.

  • Agape love is the kind of unconditional, sacrificial love which God the Father has for us. It is not based on feelings or based on if the recipient deserves it or not. It is the kind of love that is willing act and sacrifice even when another is totally undeserving. It is the kind of love both God the Father and Jesus Christ displayed when God sacrificed His Son for us, even though we did not deserve it. Agape love is the kind of love we are commanded to practice towards our fellow humans.
  • Phileo love is the kind of love we might have for a friend, or brother or anyone who we are fond of. This love is feeling based; in other words, this is based on whether we actually like a person or not. It might be sacrificial in some circumstances, but only insofar as it meets the needs of the person sacrificing.

Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The kind of love He commanded was not phileo love, but agape love. Because we are not commanded to love just those we actually feel something positive for; we are commanded to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Stay tuned for a future post on that very subject!

It All Hangs On Love

Matthew 22 37_40

Yesterday we discussed the same passage as we will briefly discuss today. Today our focus will be on the last sentence of the passage. What does it mean that all the law and the prophets hang on those two greatest commandments?

It’s a pretty visual and simple illustration Jesus used, really. Just picture a rack entitled, “love.” On the rack there are two pegs, “The Law” and “The Prophets.” Now picture what happens if there is not a rack entitled “love.” Got that? The pegs fall to the ground if they are not attached to a rack. Jesus was just illustrating that all of God’s expectations concerning His moral law can be met if we just do two things: Love God and love each other.

We can take a look at the Ten Commandments to illustrate how loving God and loving one another roll everything up within them. These are paraphrased in a short form, incidentally.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy
  5. Honor your Father and Mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet.

If we love God with everything we have, then the first four Commandments will be the natural result. If we love our neighbor, then the last six will be the natural result.  If you carry this to its ultimate conclusion, there is really nothing God expects of us which could not be found in one of the Ten Commandments; we could say they have many unspecified subcategories. And The Commandments can be further reduced to two: Love God and love each other. Love.

All of God’s moral law does hang on Love. If we really do love God with our all, and each other with our all, then the natural outflow of keeping those two commandments will be doing the things God wants us to do. If we fail in either of those two areas, then we will be unable to meet any expectations God might have of us.

Is it I, Lord?

Matthew 26_22.JPG

In chapter 22 of the Gospel of Matthew, we see one of the accounts of the Last Supper; we see the last Passover feast to be celebrated by Jesus before His crucifixion. Most readers will recognize this as the institution by Jesus of our current celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This, however, is not really a post about that, but something else.

Jesus had just announced in this passage that one of the disciples would soon betray him:

Matthew 26:21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

The reaction from the men present was very telling, and I think we can learn some things from it. Immediately, they all began to wonder out loud who the betrayer was to be; isn’t that interesting?

No one had ANY clue that Judas Iscariot was to be the betrayer. If there had been something amiss with that fellow, instead of wondering if they were the one, all of the disciples would have immediately pointed fingers at him! They, however did not. Friends, we don’t know the state of another’s heart, as only God does. False converts and even outright evil can lurk in our midst and we may never know. Does that mean we start trying to hunt down those folks? No, it does not; again, we can never know nor are we to even try to know that. What it means is we need to preach to ourselves. There is a reason why(hopefully) the Gospel is preached in our churches week after week. If we are preachers and teachers, the clear Gospel message should remain an integral part of our teachings…always.

Now, let’s move on the the other disciples. Paul taught us this:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

A bit of self reflection never hurt a soul. Are we secure in the salvation of Jesus Christ? Have we accepted and believed on the complete payment He made for us on the cross of Calvary, or are we thinking that somehow we have worked our way to God’s grace by our own efforts, and because we look the Christian role? We all know, deep inside, that we are simply sinners in need of somebody to pay what we can never pay, except with our own lives and souls. I have to think that even the disciples understood that in and of themselves they were sinners, and concerned that they would fail their Lord given the opportunity.

It doesn’t hurt for us to always remember that we are all sinners; some are simply saved and forgiven sinners….and some are not.

 

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

2 corinthians 7_1

Okay, look….we all know that phrase never actually appears in The Bible, right? In fact, the thought expressed technically is not even related to the post. We are taking a short trip back to our passage from yesterday for today’s thought. Sometimes we have to dig a bit to get the full meaning of something we see in God’s Word, and this was a case in point. The word in the passage filthiness(defilement in some translations), seems pretty straight forward; stay away from filthy things of the flesh and spirit. Sin, debauchery, not loving God, all these things come to mind. But, wait, there is more! Apparently that Greek word molusmos only appears here in the New Testament. It was used some in the Septuagint, and then  it referred to religious defilement.

There seems to be a consensus out there among commentators that this is not referring to just separating oneself from sin and filthiness in general, but false teaching in particular. Isn’t that interesting? False teaching is certainly a thing, and Christians should certainly recognize and avoid it; however, that is only semi the point here today.

2 Timothy 2:15  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth

Friends, we will all answer some day regarding the diligence with which we pursued the truth in God’s Word. We will be rewarded, or not rewarded on this. I believe this to be true. Some things, such as salvation by grace through faith, are so important, that we absolutely must understand them properly to even see Heaven.

On the other hand, some things are simply not so clear. This never releases us, friends, from our God given responsibility to study and dig. Sometimes we have to go deeper than just a surface scan of the Bible. We won’t get every thing right, and I am not sure God actually intends that we nail every little meaning(although some are pretty sure they have.) He does, however, expect us to pursue that meaning with effort and diligence. Read the passage again. It never says stand around and wait for God to cleanse us(even though He does the cleansing.) It says “cleanse ourselves.” Even though God does it, the need for effort and diligence on our part is clear!

Perfecting Holiness

2 corinthians 7_1.JPG

2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1

In the section just prior to this, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to reference some promises made to the Nation of Israel back in the Old Testament. As we have said before, when we see a “therefore,” we need to consider what it is…there for. In this case, it is not that difficult to figure out what is going on here.

First, there is some really, really immense theology going on in just that one passage above, but we are going to keep things simple. Seriously, though, get a good word study dictionary and some basic commentaries and really dig in there. It’s pretty amazing.

First, promises have been made. Secondly, because of what these promises have given, we can accomplish some things. In fact, we are told to do some things. We are to cleanse ourselves of the filthiness of both the flesh and the spirit. We are to avoid, abstain from and flee from these things. Friends, salvation is NOT a work, or an accomplishment. In fact, as we all know, our works are nothing but filthy rags in the sight of a perfect God. On the other hand, our Christian walks are all about work.

God has made promises. Will we appropriate those promises, and the power they bring to make ourselves holy and separate from the evil and declining world around us? Will be separate from that world, yet manage to still evangelize it?

Jesus Owns Us

1 corinthians 6_20.JPG

1 Corinthians 6

When we buy something, what does that mean for us? It means we own it, whatever thing it is that we have purchased. At the point we buy it, that thing and its future are wholly in our hands. We become free and entitled at that point to do with the purchased item whatever we want to do. We control the daily existence as well as the future for the purchased item.

Well, Jesus purchased us; our text says we were purchased with a price. What was the price? The Blood of Jesus Christ, of course, is the price that was paid. There was a price owed of course; we owed the payment for our sins. As we all know, the “wages of sin is death.” If we have repented and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, then He paid it for us. But not only did He pay what we could not, our verse indicates He also purchased ownership of us on behalf of God the Father.  We have been purchased.

The rules do not change just because it is us that has been purchased. We are, if we are saved, His purchased items. He owns us. He is free at the  point of our salvation to do whatever He wants to do with us. He controls our daily existence as well as our future.

Is that how we strive to live? Do we truly attempt to conduct our lives in the sense that we are doing what He wants us to do? Our devotional verse says we are to glorify Him with both our bodies and our spirits. Is that our daily goal, to glorify God in both of those ways? Or, is God just a sideline? Does He have complete ownership or just a Sunday rental?

 

Being Sober Minded

1 thesallonians 5_6.JPG

1 Thessalonians 5:1-8

As the saying goes, when one sees a “therefore,” we ought to be wondering what it is there for! In this case, Paul had just taught us something about our new nature in Christ and was about to tell us how that ought to cause some behavior or action to occur. Paul was really adept that that sort of teaching for sure.

Here is what we learned just before in verse 5, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” Paul in this letter was teaching some great stuff about the believers in Thessalonica being ready for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. He reminded them that we don’t know when that is; we likewise do not know when that is. Paul even teaches us in the first verse hear that we just don’t need to be worried about the “when” of Jesus’ return; “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.”

Paul’s point here is not to tell us when the return of Jesus is. Paul’s point here is certainly not to warn us about the dangers of drinking or drunkenness. Paul’s point here is that each of us needs to be ready for this even day in and day out as we walk our Christian lives. Our new nature should cause us to be sober, vigilant and ready all of the time. Paul even issues a challenge of sorts in verse 5, more or less asking if we really want be be like all the drunks stumbling around in the dark who don’t know any better!

Friends, it ought to be different for us, because we have been given the light. We should be sober, alert and ready daily; however, we often are not. We may not be literally drunk on alcohol, but there are many things we can become inebriated with that will cloud or judgement and cause us to be not alert, not vigilant and not ready. What bottle to we need to pour down the sink?

So, You Say You Have No Sin?

1 john 1_8.JPG

1 John 1:5-10

So, here we have it. One of the biggest things that holds back men and women from salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus came so save us from our sin. If we don’t even understand that we are sinners, then, as the verse above says, “the truth is not in us.” I could say it no more clearly than that.

“I’m NOT a sinner, and I don’t need any saving!!!”

Yes, you are. I am, you are and we all are. We sin by nature and choice.

But let’s get more specific. It’s easy to toss out the general idea about how we are all sinners by nature and by choice. But we should actually discuss some particulars of our sin. Most people would agree that the Ten Commandments are a major source of a great number of the specifics of God’s Law. We should give ourselves a test. By the way I fail this test miserably!

Have you ever told a lie? Any lie, small or large. Any lie, whether a little white lie or a big black one? What is a person who tells lies called? A liar of course

Have you ever stolen anything? Big or little. Have you stolen a pencil at work? Run copies on the company printer? Have you cut in line? Then you stole that person’s spot. What do you call someone who steals? A thief of course.

Have you ever used God’s name in vain? This doesn’t even have to be the most obvious one where we actually use His name as a curse word. Have you called Him “the Big Guy?” Any use of the Holy name of God in a flip way is considered blasphemy by God.

Ever looked at a member of the opposite sex with lust? Of course we all have, unless we like the same sex. Jesus taught that to look at a woman with lust is to commit adultery of the heart.

We really have not gotten through all of the Ten Commandments, which are His moral law, and we have established that for the most part we are all lying, stealing, blaspheming adulterers at heart! (Thanks to Ray Comfort for that little test by the way)

So, the only question that remains is: Someday when you stand before God will you be found innocent or guilty? Based on our test, the answer obviously seems guilty is the only possible answer. To really get this, we have to understand and try to look at the issue from God’s perspective. We might look at some of those things and just not consider them to be a big deal; however, God disagrees. The real issue is this: Do we get to rate ourselves, so to speak, against our own human thoughts about right and wrong, or are we subject to the evaluation of a Perfect and Holy God?

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