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Tag Archives: Paul

At The Gate of Hell

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 12 through 14, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:12-14)

One interesting thing to note about this passage, is that God isn’t criticizing them when He says that they dwell where Satan’s throne is. To the contrary, it’s only after He mentions it that He says what it is He has against them. What the church in Pergamum was doing, was setting up a camp right next to Hell, if you will. Most Christians today aren’t even willing to go near the “bad side” of town, much less live in a city that hated Christians; they deserved some form of recognition. However, living so near to sin lead to some of them to return to it.

There is always danger when we are near to sin. Paul put it rather well in his epistle to the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (see: Galatians 6:1) Though we might not fall for the teaching of Balaam, we may be tempted by other things. Everyone has something that, if they were not clinging to Christ, they would turn to–some type of modern-day idol. Which is why it is so important that we do evangelize and help others who have fallen to sin, but we do so while keeping our-self pure from the sin which they are caught in. And, as only Christ is pure in this World full of impurity, that means making sure that our focus is on Him. Of course, our focus should always be on Him, but even more so when we’re trying to help a fallen brother or sister.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Athletic Soldier-Farmers for Christ

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:3-6)

Share in Christ’s sufferings first, then in all you do aim to please God, then in all you do make sure to “compete according to the rules”. Once you’ve done all that, you can expect your reward… This is how the passage might apply to our lives. It has some obvious applications for pastors as well (it was, after all, written for a pastor: Timothy), but for now let’s focus on the impact it can have on our own lives.

Paul always make sure that the most important point comes first in his letters, and here is no different. He reminds Timothy to, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus ought, to share in Christ’s sufferings. Back then this could have been meant quite literally that Timothy was to be willing to share in Christ’s physical suffering. Even today, in certain parts of the World, this can have a physical meaning. However, for those who have been blessed with a life which isn’t currently being threatened, I believe it can also have a Spiritual meaning: i.e., that we should be willing to see and, in some small part, “feel” what Christ suffered on the cross, when He took our sin and guilt and shame upon Himself..

The next part of what Paul tells Timothy, says to not get involved with “civilian pursuits”, but aim to please God. This has rather obvious application to our own life: We should not allow anything to become more important in our life than doing all that we can to please God.

Paul’s next point, is that an athlete is only crowned when he competes according to the rules. This point perhaps applies a bit more to pastors than to others, as I believe Paul intended this to mean that pastors are to preach “according to the rules”; i.e. according to the “rules” the Bible sets out for pastors. That being said, it’s also quite important for us to obey the doctrines the Bible lays out for us.

Paul’s final point is that the “hard-working farmer” should get the first share from the crops. I believe this point was also intended rather more for pastors, as Paul is stating that a preacher that plants the seeds of the Gospel in his congregation, ought to be paid. However, it should also tell us non-pastoring people that we should indeed give at least something to our pastor. Most work quite hard to write and to preach sermons, and so long as those sermons include the power of God, they ought to be rewarded with money for their hard work.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Following Christ

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul tells here that we are to train in Godliness, yet, he doesn’t seem to actually tell us how to go about this. Perhaps it’s assumed we should already know how to go about doing this, or perhaps he wants us to infer how to train our-self in Godliness from context. – Either way, we can know that, whatever training our-self in Godliness looks like, it’s the opposite of studying “irreverent, silly myths.”  From this, we can draw the conclusion that training our-self in Godliness involves being reverent, and we go about it by studying some kind of solid, provable material.

In other words, Paul wants us to train our-self in Godliness, by reading and studying Scripture. He does not want us to study irreverent myths, such as what the Pope may tell us, or such as Ellen G. White may tell us. He wants us to search out the Scripture for our-self, and find the truth. More specifically, he wants us to search out the Scriptures, and find the only truth, the only way into Heaven, and the source of our new life: Jesus Christ! I believe that training in Godliness can only really be accomplished when we look to the one who was God incarnate, and follow the example that He has given to us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Does God Get What God Wants

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

Now, this is one of the favorite passages of Universalists, because of the simple logic that B must follow A. i.e. God wants all people to be saved, God is all-powerful and therefore can get whatever He wants, therefore all people will be saved (come to the knowledge of truth). Now, I personally won’t say one way or the other as to what I believe on this, as I just know somewhere out there, there is someone on both sides who will claim they’ve figured out all the passages on the matter fifteen years ago, after their parents and uncle just died, and using only a spoon, and I just don’t want to have that conversation as of right now. However, I will say that there are passages on both sides of the matter. Some people would say that Matthew 25:31-46 (where Jesus separates the goats from the sheep), for example, teaches that not all people will be saved.

Regardless of your personal belief on universal salvation though, there is one thing that we should never forget, and that is context. So many people read “God wants all people to come to the knowledge of truth,” and then ignore the very next couple of verses! Regardless of whether or not all people will be saved, we can know for a fact that the only way they will be saved, is through Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man (sorry Pope), because He is the only one that can be mediator between God and man. I believe the main point of the passage is that God has provided a way whereby all people can be saved. Does that mean all people will be saved? Maybe, maybe not. We won’t know until we are in Heaven, but we can always be confident that if someone puts their faith in Jesus, He will cleanse them, save them, and make them a new creation in Him.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Prayer: A Conversation with God

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

People have a tendency, both in and outside of their prayer life, to shut them-self up into their comfort zone. – To only pray for them-self, and possibly a select group of others. This, however, is not what God wants. If Jesus had stayed within his comfort zone, he would’ve stayed on the Mount of Olives (where he prayed that God would take “this cup” away from Him), and then look where we’d be. Likewise, God wants us to not just say a quick couple of words to Him, but to have a conversation: He wants us to ask for everything we need, He wants us to rely on Him.

So we should pray for, along with our-self and our little group, all people. God is powerful, He can handle big requests. It’s only our flesh that keeps us from asking; that makes us think that God might not be powerful enough to accomplish something.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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From Depraved to Saved

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Now, this passage can seem a little foreboding at first. After all, if Paul was the foremost among sinners, what can we call ourselves? Now, it is true that Paul persecuted that Church (and so has some reason to try to call himself chief of sinners) it’s also true that none of us wrote a healthy portion of the New Testament. Nor, for that matter, have any of us in all likelihood been stoned, beaten, or imprisoned for the Gospel.

Yet, something we need to realize, is that Paul’s doing all those things (or having them done to him) didn’t have any impact on his actual salvation. It probably had a very significant impact on his faith, but did nothing towards saving him. – Paul was someone who recognized that no good deed he could do could ever compensate for even a single sin in God’s eyes. It’s only by Jesus’ death and Resurrection that both his and our sins could ever be wiped away. In fact, he essentially reminds us of his this fact here in 1 Timothy:

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

Paul has a sense of his own depravity. He realized that Jesus’ saving him was really a miracle in patience. We all should, at least to some extent, think on how bad we really were. We should realize our own depravity, as Paul did. But we should also never stop there. Rather, we should do what Paul does in the very next verse:

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1: 17)

Yes we were wicked, but God is good, and he forgave us our wickedness! We need to constantly remember this; to constantly remember that though we were lost in our sin, Jesus chose to come and die so that we can live forever. It’s only by Him and Him alone that we can live a life to God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Contradiction

Hello again!

This is what god gave me today in His word:

“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. (Luke 16:16-17)

It appears that Jesus has just contradicted Himself, and in the time it takes to draw a breath too.-The Law and the Prophets were valid until John came, but it’d be easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away before one dot of the Law becomes invalid? Come again? Not only that, but as Paul tells us that all Scripture, including the Law and the Prophets, is God breathed, and useful for numerous tasks [2 Timothy 3:16], he seems to support Jesus’ second assertion… But, is there perhaps some way to tell for certain what Jesus meant?

He meant exactly what He said, and Paul meant exactly what He said. We no longer have to obey the ten commandments because Jesus’ death and Resurrection has made us poor and spotless in God’s sight. However, the Prophet’s and the law aren’t meaningless. This is because of two reasons:

  1. Because if you were to live a perfect life, you would indeed be saved apart from Jesus. The problem with this being that this is a physical impossibility. No matter how you look at it, even someone in the most ideal of circumstances will sin at least once in their life time. Just look at Adam and Eve.
  2. We can still learn from them. By “learn from them,” I mean we can receive all the things which Paul said that we can learn from them, namely: teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

The point being this: first and foremost, the Bible doesn’t have any contradictions in it. Numerous people say that it does, but it simply does not; it’s all how you look at it. Secondly, though we can learn from the law and the prophets, they cannot save us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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Disobedience

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:47-49)

Christians, just in general (myself included), have a problem, and a very important one at that: we hear (in the case of those listening to a pastor), and we read (the Bible), but we tend not to obey. Jesus tells us to love our enemy, but do we? Jesus tells us to give to everyone who begs from us, but do we? He also tells us to turn the other cheek when we’re struck, do good to those who hate us, and to give freely to those who would steal from us, yet I’d dare to say that we haven’t done any of those. We have a stunning obedience deficiency.

And, the real problem about our obedience problem, is that, ever since Adam and Eve sinned, being disobedient to God is our very nature. When we are hit, our instinct is to hit back. As Paul says in his letter to Titus:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. (Titus 3:3)

But Paul doesn’t stop there, the next part tell us how it is we can live a life obedient, and in submission to God:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

If we aren’t living lives obedient to God, we either don’t fully understand what Jesus has done for us, we are not saved at all, or we are not repentant. In most cases, it’s the last of those: we don’t want to do anything different, so we don’t. It’s only by repenting of our disobedience, and letting Jesus give us His grace, that we can live obediently to God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today my dad preached at The Fountain of Grace Church, here’s what he said:

Psalm 107:23-31 23 Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. 24 They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. 27 They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. 31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.

Romans 16:1-16 1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Let’s pray together.

We are finishing up the book of Romans, we’re in the last chapter now. Today we’ll look at the first 16 verses and then next week we’ll finish the last few verses of Romans. Next week is a very powerful passage of Scripture; it’s the grand finale, the crescendo of the entire Book.

So the first 16 verse of Romans 16 are by far the most intimate expression of love and appreciation that comes from the tender heart and inspired mind of the apostle Paul. He reveals this deep affection for many Christians, as he signs off his letter to the Romans. It is a rich and rewarding section to study.

There are so many things we can learn from this passage. I’ve titled the sermon “Commendable Christians” because Paul commends numerous people in Rome. He speaks well of them in this letter. So we can challenge ourselves right up front with a question: are we commendable Christians? As we read through this today, see if any of the things that Paul says could be true about you. Are we living our lives in such a way that will cause others to speak well of us like Paul speaks of the Romans?

Another thing we can learn right up front is that we should commend others, should speak well of our brothers and sisters, publicly. Maybe not during a sermon, as that will keep the church small, but in speaking with one another, and in our writing back and forth we should find something commendable and express it. And even as Paul is writing in the role of a parent here, parents should learn to commend their children. “Well done Suzy…that was very good how you helped your sister, Jim”, etc.

Finally, just by way of introduction, notice Paul’s warm, tender heart for people. A local church should be a friendly, welcoming church—an open, gracious church. There should be no strangers here but all who believe are family.

So now let’s begin to look at this passage, and we read this in vs. 1: Romans 16:1-2 1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

Here is a commendable Christian. And notice Paul commends her in three ways: as a sister in Christ, as a servant of the church, and as a sucouror of many (that word just means helper). She was family, a sister to many, she served, the word is “deaconess”, and she spent her life helping people. Maybe feeding the hungry, or giving clothes to those who need it, or visiting the sick, or those in prison, or the elderly. She was known for being helpful to many people. She’s a commendable Christian. Would you look with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 25. I picture King Jesus saying these words to Phoebe:

Matthew 25:34-36 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ This is Phoebe.

Of course she’s just following Jesus Who left heaven to come and give His own body and blood as spiritual nourishment to us, who on the cross thirsted that you might be quenched, and who gave His robe of righteousness to us who were naked in sin. And Phoebe follows in His steps and loves to serve and to give and to help people.

Then let’s see a couple of other commendable Christians. In vs. 3 Paul says Romans 16:3-4 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets in their house.

How commendable is this couple. In the original language it says they “risked their own necks” for Paul. The mental picture we get is someone placing their neck on the chopping block to save someone else. Now I don’t think it’s recorded what they did, but clearly they placed their own lives in jeopardy for Paul, probably to rescue him from the Jews who wanted to kill him.

What love that is, to see someone in danger and to step in to rescue them. This is the greatest love in the world. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Priscilla and Aquila are commendable Christians.

And of course, they are just following Jesus.  Jesus give not only His neck, but His back to be struck, and His cheek to be hit, His beard to be yanked, His hands and feet to be nailed to a tree for Acquila and Priscila, and for you. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, and here are two people following in His steps.

I want to ask you 2 very important questions, please think about these: First, have you ever experienced that kind of love, the love of Jesus Who gave Himself for you? Have you seen Him willingly putting His neck on the chopping block for you? That is, dying on the cross for your sins? Secondly, have you ever loved others that way?

Look with me for a moment at the Book of 1 John chapter 3. John addresses these two issues. Let’s see them both: 1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us (put His neck on the block for you). And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  Acquila and Priscila got that, and we have to get the order right. We are not Muslims that instruct people to go and die for Allah, no we are Christians who have a God Who came and died for us. And our response to His love is to love others in the same way. We’re not winning His favor by dying for Him, Jesus won His favor for us by dying for us. And we too want to show people that love.

Now let’s look at another commendable Christian. In vs. 5 it says, “Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.” What does that mean? Firstfruits? Well Paul is referring us back to the Law, and in the Old Testament at harvest time they were to set apart the first fruits of what they gathered, and honor those first fruits as a sign of things to come. Epenetus was a commendable Christian because he was a bold Christian, having placed his faith in Jesus before anyone else dared to do so. And here he is set apart and honored as the first believer in Achaia.

Maybe you’re the first believer in your family. Maybe you’re the first Christian at your job. Or maybe you’re the first believer from the bar you used to drink at. Maybe you’re the first young person you know who loves the Bible and prayer and church. It’s commendable to be a bold Christian, the first Christian where you are.

Now here’s another one in verse 6.  Romans 16:6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.” In 1 Timothy chapter 5 Paul is giving a definition of a widow who is worthy of being supported by the church. He says in vs. 10 she should have a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.” That’s what this Mary was known for. She knew what happened at the cross, where Jesus purified a people to make them eager to do good works.

Now let’s learn something here. Mary was a hard worker, but nowhere is it mentioned what she did. Her works, though hidden from us, are known to God; and her name is recorded with honor in this book of life. Maybe the work you do is behind the scenes and nobody sees what it is. God sees. God knows, and they will be rewarded. Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.

Now in vs. 7-12 Paul mentions people whom he loves, of various households, who all were commendable Christians, worthy of mention and honor. You can see some who were like Mary in that they labored much in the Lord, like vs. 12 you can see 3 people who worked hard in Christ. And we learn that the Christian life and ministry is made up of hard work. The Christian life can be described as an oxen in a yoke plodding along, laboring much. But you know what? All who work in the Lord find that the yoke of Jesus is easy, and His burden is light. Because He’s right there in the yoke working with us and in us. Paul said, “I worked harder than all the rest, yet not I but the grace of God in me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10.

Then he mentions a few more people in vss. 8 and 9 and then we come to vs. 10 where Paul says Romans 16:10 “Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.” Wouldn’t you love to have that as your tombstone: Tested and approved! The mental picture we get  is precious metals, like as gold and silver, being heated up in a furnace, being tested and purified.

And we have to understand God does that with each of us. And I want to illustrate this point, so if you would please turn with me to the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy chapter 8. Here the Israelites were completing their journey and about to enter the promised land, and Moses is reviewing their history. He says in vs. 2:

Deuteronomy 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. And just like that a Christian can look back on his life and see ways in which God humbled us and tested us. Apelles passed the test, he was approved. He was a commendable Christian. Peter was humbled and tested and he failed, but was then restored. So even if we have failed the test in our lives God loves to forgive and restore. Isn’t it interesting that Peter wrote:

1 Peter 1:6-7 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

And now we come to a very interesting person. Notice vs. 13: Romans 16:13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Here is this choice Christian named Rufus. But we’ve heard his name before, and here’s something we can learn if we connect the dots. Mark 15:21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. Rufus’ father was Simon who carried Jesus’ cross. It’s very easy to imagine what an effect Simon had on his son. Maybe he said, you know son, Jesus prayed for His crucifiers, I was there, I heard him. Jesus forgives sin, Rufus. He forgave the thief who was crucified next to him. I heard him say to that thief, “today you will be with me in paradise.” And then Rufus, I’ll never forget when He died, because people came to life, they were just popping out of their graves like popcorn, as if His death brought life to them, just like it does us if we believe, Rufus. “Dad, tell me about the earthquake again, was it scary?” Oh, the earthquake happened right when He died, and the rocks split in two, and you know Rufus, His death broke my stony heart in two also. Oh, and then some Jewish rabbi came running up to us shouting that the curtain in the temple was torn in two, because Jesus’ death opens the way for you to go to God son. And I still remember the soldier who just crucified him saying “surely this man is the Son of God.” And Rufus listens to his dad, and eventually comes to faith in Jesus. Oh what an influence fathers can have on their children, if they know and love the gospel of grace.  

Well Paul finishes up his greetings in vs. 14-16 by mentioning additional commendable Christians and then tells them in vs. 16 to greet each other with a holy kiss. We might interpret that to say be affectionate toward one another in a holy way.

Let’s conclude this morning by reminding ourselves that we are all dying, and that one day something will be said about each one of us. We will be known for something. Will it be that we served people, that we worked hard in ministry, that we were tested and approved, that we influenced our children for the gospel? May God make it so with each one of us, that we might also be commendable Christians.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2012 in Todays Sermon

 

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Interpretations

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Matthew 4:5-7)

Now, here we see the Devil actually telling a part-truth. He’s quoting an actual verse, and is quoting it correctly. And in fact, he’s even applying it to Jesus semi-correctly… And if Jesus hadn’t compared that verse to the rest of Scripture, He may have thought that the Devil made a good point.

Now, Jesus, and us, are about as different as can be, but the Devil uses the same basic principle that he used on Jesus, on us. i.e., he’ll sometimes use Scripture, taken out of the context of the rest of the Bible, to confuse us. Our problem is that once we see something which we think may support what we want, we tend to latch onto that, and not look at what the verse’s context may say. We need to learn to see if God is pointing us there, or if it’s the Devil. So, for the sake of example, let’s look at a random verse and draw what conclusions we can from it:

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.(O) (Psalm 91:13)

Taken out of context, we can easily draw a very wrong, and very dangerous conclusion: that we can go jumping on lions and snakes without ill effect. But when we look at the context of the verse, we see that the psalmist was using this as an illustration (and an illustration only) of what the wo/man that loves God will be able to do. (See verses 9, and 14-16 to see the context I’m talking about). The Bible never lies, and I’m not saying that it does. However, sometimes we can see things in a light which they are not meant to be seen… Something which begs the question, “What’s the right “light”?”

I’m not some sort of authority that’s able to say what the exact right way to understand every word of the Bible, correctly, is. But, that being said, Paul  does gives us a clue about how to do it:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom(A) as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] (B) I came to you(C) in weakness(D) with great fear and trembling.(E) My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words,(F) but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,(G) so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.(H(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Paul calls what he did, “preaching”. Now, what is true preaching, if not expounding on the word of God? So, it’s safe to assume that he expounded on the word of God. (And, evidently he did it correctly, as he claims to have come to the Corinthians with wisdom from God). – But how did he expound the Scriptures? He says two things that tell us:

  1. He says that he proclaimed to them the “testimony about God”. Now, this could easily mean almost anything, because we don’t really know what the “testimony about God” is. But the second thing he says clarifies it for us:
  2. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. So, we can draw a parallel between his resolution to know nothing while he was among them, but Christ-crucified, and his preaching to them.

Christ’s death is the way to understand Scripture, as according to Paul. Something we can see if we return to the verse we used as an example earlier:

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.(O) (Psalm 91:13)

We’ll be able to “tread” on the Devil’s power and lies, because we love God. (The Devil is described as a lion, and at one time actually appeared in the form of a snake. In the first case, we see the Devil’s “power”, and in the second, we see the Devil’s lies. Thus it isn’t unreasonable for us to draw the conclusion that God is referring to the Devil here, through the psalmist.) Yet, why should God protect us after everything we’ve done against Him? Because His son died to forgive us of what we’ve done wrong.

The point being this: in every verse we see, we’re to look at it in context, and we’re to see how it can relate to the cross.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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