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Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Old and the New

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. (Hebrews 8:6-7)

In the first covenant, people were required to obey, under penalty of quite literally, death in some cases. Though really, no matter what happened, if you sinned, something had to die. That could be a sheep, a dove, or any number of other things. Just look at Exodus and Leviticus if you want proof. – To put it one way, there was always blood, in front of God: for your sin, for your brother’s sin, for your father’s and mother’s sin. Don’t even get me started on fellowship offerings, peace offerings and the rest. So what really is the difference between the old and new covenant?

What exactly is the difference between the old and new covenants? 

Well, there’s still blood and it’s still covering our sin. There’s still a high priest; there’s still intercession made between us and God. The difference is that Jesus, is the sacrifice that was made once and for all. It was the final one made on our behalf before God.  Not only that, but now Jesus constantly intercedes for us, instead of just once a year with a rope and bells attached to him.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:23-27)

The writer (who we’ll refer to as, “he” again), first gives us our hope, then he gives us our responsibility. Our hope, being Jesus. Our responsibility, being to hold fast to that hope. Also though, it’s to not sin (deliberately). A very reasonable question to ask now is, “how can I do that?” It seem’s and in fact is impossible for us to do. The only way not to do it, is through Jesus’ power. Through his strength and not our, “will power”.

The point? We have been given hope, but we’ve also been given a warning not to try to “abuse” that hope.

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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Our Sabbath

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Hebrews 4:1-2)

The, “them” The Writer (who from now on we’ll refer to as, “he”) is referring to, is the Israelites (you can see that in chapter 3). With that established… He says here that “the message they heard did not benefit them,” why didn’t it benefit them? Because, “they were not united by faith with those who listened.” How does that figure? How could anyone actually be united with someone else by faith? Do we need to be untied with these people by faith?

Who exactly are ‘the people who listened’? … 

For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,'” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:3)

Seeing as he’s talking about the Israelites, who weren’t able to enter the promised land because of their disobedience, it’s safe to assume the ones who listened are Moses, Joshua and Caleb. Seeing as the afore-mentioned all said they could take Canaan and what with the giants, everyone would have had to believe them by faith. But he isn’t talking about that it seems. In fact, it seems we’ve sort of left behind the whole, “promised land” idea and replaced it with, “rest”. He continues:

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, (Hebrews 4:4-9)

“there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,” This does not mean we have to continue keeping the Sabbath like the Israelites did. On the other hand, it does mean we still need to keep the Sabbath. Not physically however, but Spiritually. ‘He’ is talking about our rest is Jesus. This why he talks about the Sabbath in context with not hardening our hearts. And what is there to harden our hearts against, except the same thing that everyone today seems to have hardened their hearts against? i.e. The Gospel of Jesus.

The point? We have a promised land just like the Israelites did/do. it’s just we don’t have to fight for our’s (it’s Heaven). There is still a Sabbath rest, it’s just not the weekly one the Israelites had. Instead, as long as we have Jesus, we have his rest. – But now there’s a question, “what does it mean to have Jesus as our Sabbath rest?” It mean’s temptation no longer is unbeatable. It means our Spiritual life can rest in Jesus. The point is simply that through Jesus, the Sabbath is fulfilled.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Hebrews (Part 2) – First Importance

Hello again!

Today we start the book of Hebrews (again)! 2 Peter was only 3 chapters long; that’s why we finished it so fast. – This is what God gave me today in his word:

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, (Hebrews 2:10-11)

We’re only at chapter two, and we already know exactly what the writer of Hebrews is about. As a matter of fact, if you look at chapter two in general, you’ll find it’s the only thing the writer actually talks about in the whole chapter. But why is that? Surely it would be better of the writer to give them some sound, day-by-day teaching. After all, the writer is talking to Christians here! They already know what the Gospel of Jesus is, why bother bringing it out?

First, why does the writer bother bringing out the Gospel? … It doesn’t seem to make much sense; aside from encouraging them.

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:16-18)

Jesus has been tempted by Satan too. He knows what it’s like, he’s, “suffered”. He came down, becoming like man, not considered equality with God something to be grasped, and was tempted. Not only that, but he actually died for us on a cross! – In general, that’s what the writer is saying. – The question is, “why bother?”. He bother’s, because it’s an important part of what he’s saying; everyone is being tempted, was tempted, or is going to be tempted, it’s part of life. However, we can know that Jesus went through first! He took the sting from death, he, ‘cut down the thorns before we even got to them’ if you will.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I can tell you what that way is. It’s the same, “way” for everyone, in fact, in addition, it’s also the truth and life itself. In fact, “it” has a name and that’s, “Jesus Christ”. The reason TW (The Writer) feels that it’s important to share the Gospel with Christian’s, is because it is important! I don’t really care if you’re the worst wretch in history or the, purest (in Jesus’ power) Christian ever, we all need the Gospel of Jesus as hope, as a way to resist temptation, as life. Without it, we’d be the equivalent of a baby, unable to resist, always crying at our inability to do anything good or right in of ourselves.

The Gospel should always take first importance in what we say, in what we do, in our own minds. How can we, “take every thought captive to Christ” if Christ isn’t in our minds/thoughts? If you don’t have the way, you can expect to get lost on your way to Heaven.

The point? In the mind of TW, the Gospel should take first importance and who are we to argue? After all, the evidence says we should listen to him.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Becoming a Fruitful and Effective Christian

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

‘Don’t get carried away’, that seems like a fairly general statement. Remain steadfast, don’t get blown around by every wind of new teaching, that sort of thing. But how is it that we can remain (and not be carried away); How can we stay steadfast?

First, how can we obey what Peter has just told us? … Seeing as we’re incapable.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

It’s not actually us obeying, therefore it’s possible; It’s Christ though us. But however it happens, the point is that we remain steady against false teachers (Muhammad, Buddha and several others). – Pretty simple really.

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

On the other hand, this admission by Peter is different. He tells us to grow in the Gospel. But how can someone do that? By growing in(to) Christ. To quote from myself:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

Obviously it’s not possible for us to suddenly turn into the physical Jesus, Paul isn’t talking about that, he’s talking about us growing spiritually into the likeness of Christ. He’s talking about a Spiritual transformation, which is an entirely different thing than psychical transformation, and for that matter, is much easier for us to do. Speaking of which, how again do we grow into the likeness of Christ?

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Our Spiritual life is much like our physical life, in both we grow, in both we need to “eat”, and in both we mature. However, is our Spiritual life we are also transformed into the likeness of Christ.”

— https://goldenbible.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/the-image-of-god/

Stick with me please, this all does have a purpose and will eventually fit together. – As we learned in my last post, if we have self-control, we need steadfastness and if we have steadfastness, we need godliness (i.e. we need to grow in the Gospel). Peter is first telling us to be steadfast and now he tells us to also grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (in the Gospel). First he told them (and us) the characteristics, now he’s giving them (and us) practical ways to apply them.

We are steadfast, by not being, “blown around” by every false prophet that comes our way. We grow in Godliness by becoming more like Christ. We have knowledge by growing in the knowledge of Jesus (which is the Gospel). Same with virtue:

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. (2 Peter 3:13-14)

Same with all the characteristics. Paul is giving us practical ways to be, “fruitful and effective”. – The point? Through Christ’s power, we’re able to stay steadfast in him, able to be spotless in God’s eyes, able to have virtue, faith, godliness and the rest. In short, the way we become a fruitful and effective Christian, is by growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Characteristics of the Effective and Fruitful Christian

Hello again!

Today we start the book of 2 Peter! – This is what God gave me today in his word:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, (2 Peter 1:3-5)

We’ve escaped the corruption that is in the world, therefore clearly we should make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue (etc). That doesn’t seem to make much sense. We’ve escaped for Heaven’s sake! Why is it then that we would have to, “supplement our faith”?

First, why is it that we have to, “supplement our faith” if we’ve already escaped the corruption in the world? … 

and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:6-9)

We need to, “supplement our faith,” because of the reason Peter just named. i.e. To keep us from being, “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – We happen to know that the, “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is the Gospel, so with that in mind, how can someone be ineffective or unfruitful in it? By not having knowledge, self-control, etc. It’s safe to assume therefore, that since in order to be ineffective and unfruitful we need to not have those things, that in order to be effective and fruitful we need those things. Let’s list them out and then review them:

1. faith

2. virtue

3. knowledge

4. self-control

5. steadfastness

6. godliness

7. brotherly affection

8. love

But of course, that isn’t right is it? I listed them wrong, I put them all separately (on purpose; to make this point). Peter says, “knowledge and with knowledge self-control,” and so on. This is because when you have the first one,  you need the second one as much as you need the eighth one and you need the seventh one to have the eighth: getting the point yet? We all need faith to be Christians, but when we have faith, we need virtue, or our faith is useless. As James says:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-16)

If we have virtue then, we also need knowledge. What good is it to give someone a bowl of soup and send them on their way?  That person is still entrapped in sin! If you’re going to care for someones physical needs, also care for their Spiritual needs; the only way you can do that, is if you have knowledge about the Gospel.

And if we have knowledge, we need self-control. We have to know when and where to use that knowledge. What real good can knowledge serve, if it’s not presented at the right time. Also, just in general, people need to have self-control.

Now if we have self-control, we also need steadfastness. What good is self-control if you can’t continually use it? By that, I mean if you’re not steadfast, you can’t continually do something, what ever that may be. Whether it’s having self-control, or even simply having virtue.

What good is having steadfastness though if we’re not Godly? What good is being Godly though if we’re Godly in a, “holier than thou” manner? No, we also need brotherly affection to love those who we’re talking to. But how can we have brotherly affection if we don’t have love? How can we have virtue if we don’t have love? How can we remain steadfast if we don’t have faith? How can we have faith if someone first didn’t give us the knowledge of God? It all intertwines. Everything is important, but you can’t have one without having the other.

The point? All these characteristics that I mentioned spring out of one thing. Just one. The Gospel of Jesus! We can’t have knowledge of it (and therefore faith, etc), if we don’t first and foremost know that. It is the most important thing and should never be forgotten.  It’s the only way we can even be effective and fruitful! Without knowing the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose again for us, every effort that we make towards, “holiness” is fruitless, every, “good deed” fruitless. It doesn’t matter how much faith we have if we don’t know what we have faith in! It’s no good if we have virtue but aren’t Godly! We need everything to be, “effective and fruitful,” but the only way we, or anyone who God blesses us with the ability to minister too, can be a Christian (much less a effective and fruitful one) is through the power of the Gospel.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today the Pastor preached on Colossians 1:28-2:9 (at least, that’s what the bulletin says, in reality, he preached somewhere in Acts, I can’t remember where exactly). – The sermon was on small groups; to put it another way, it was on small groups who, after hearing a sermon, would form to study the sermon (like the Bereans).

The main part I noted was when the Pastor talked about the “people who make up a group”. There’s the:

The Humorist – The person who lightens everyone’s spirits (and the mood).

The Sermonist – Who basically says, “alright brother, you heard it, now get to it.”.

The Sumarist (I’m not sure how it’s spelled) – The person who summarizes the sermon to it’s bare points.

The Initiator – The person who takes the first step (initiates) and starts projects (or other things) to help the group/church.

The Devil’s Advocate – The person who sees a different side to every point you make. i.e. “Well that’s your point of view, but I think…”

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Todays Sermon

 

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Satanic Attacks and Our Defense

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. (1 Peter 4:1-3)

All who have suffered in the flesh, have died to the flesh. That makes sense when you think about it, after all, if you’re reveling in your flesh (which is exactly what we were doing before being saved), you’re clearly not suffering in it. Whereas if you’re suffering in it, you know for certain you’re actually trying to resist it (in the power of the Holy Spirit). – Aside from that though, what exactly is the, “way of thinking” that Peter is talking about?

First, what, “way of thinking,” is Peter talking about? … So that we can arm ourselves with it.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

“arm yourselves with the same way thinking,” in saying that, Peter was referring to Jesus’ suffering in the flesh. i.e. He’s saying that we should arm ourselves with a mindset of suffering in the flesh. If someone is saved, they will at some point, suffer in the flesh, no matter who they are or how much they’ve, “done for God”. So Peter warns us to expect this; to prepare our defenses for when the attack comes, because it will come. – Then he continues, giving them further instructions on what else they can do to prepare them-self.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11)

Both Paul and Peter say pretty much the same thing at this part, “above all, keep loving one another earnestly” or as Paul says, “above all else, put on love”. Loving one anther with a Godly love is clearly important, but why is that? If you love someone (with a Godly love) that person can share their struggles with you, as, likewise you can do with them. But also, because love binds together. If you have a church without love, you don’t have a church, you have a, “religious group”.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

The point? In order to actually have a church, or more specifically, to have a church with good defenses against Satanic attack, you need a couple of things (which Peter mentioned), but the main two are these: the knowledge that you will in fact be attacked and a healthy dose of love from those around you.

Of course, you should also always keep in mind that Jesus has defeated Satan and that because of that, we do have the power to overcome temptation!

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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