The Three Greatest Words In The Bible!

it_is_finishedWhat would you think would be the three greatest words in the Bible? Perhaps, “In the Beginning.” In these three words, the Holy Spirit communicates the eternal self-existence of God. The Scriptures begin with the truth that God has always been and thus will always be. God does not depend on anything for his existence.

You might say the three greatest words in the Bible are, “God So Loved.” We are reminded of the unconditional love of the Father toward undeserving sinners. This love for both Jew and Gentile caused the Father to move toward the objects of his love by sending his Son, Jesus, to come and to save His people from their sins.

I am sure there are many other answers you could name and all are very good and convincing. But the three words that I think that are the greatest in the Bible are these, “IT IS FINISHED.” These were the last words Jesus spoke before he gave up his life. And the greatest piece of communication to us, who are so often trying to complete that which is already complete.

What is IT? The it is the work of salvation. Everything that is required and needed for a sinner to be saved. Righteousness performed, the law fulfilled, the good news proclaimed, our sins taken, and wrath appeased. That is what IT is. It is everything needed for the salvation of mankind.

What does FINISHED mean? It means the activity or process is complete or is brought to an end. There is nothing left undone and there is nothing left to do. There is no further work that needs to be tended to. Jesus is saying that He has done every bit of that which is needed for the justification and salvation of man.  It is finished.

Of course, three days later when Jesus is raised from the tomb we have the visual evidence that it is truly finished. For God has accepted the sacrifice and his anger and wrath has been propitiated by Jesus Christ.

I guess I need to make a clarification. In the Greek there are not three words but just one, “Tetelestai”– “FINISHED.” That is what Jesus said as he takes his last breath. FINISHED! Praise God and the Son for this blessed truth! FINISHED!

 

Christ Pleased Not Himself!

christ-cross1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2– Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.    Romans 15:1-7

This is our standard when we have disputes over third-level issues in the church— not to defend our own freedoms or to impose our own strict rules on others, but to “please [our] neighbor for his good, to build him up” (15: 2), and to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed [us], for the glory of God” (15: 7). J.D. Crowley writes, “We win by losing; we live by dying; we gain by letting go.”

Christians with a strong conscience have two options (eating or abstaining) while the weak have just one option (abstaining), and since the strong consider themselves to be more knowledgeable than the weak, the strong are the ones with an obligation to give up their rights so as to not lead their weaker brothers into sin. This does not mean that the strong have to agree with the position of the weak. It does not even mean that the strong can never again make use of their freedom. On the other hand, neither does it mean that the strong only put up with or endure or tolerate the weak, like a person who tolerates someone he doesn’t like. To bear with means that he gladly helps the weak by refraining from doing anything that would hurt their faith.

Paul is not instructing us to be man-pleasers here. The choice is not between pleasing men and pleasing God, but between pleasing others and pleasing ourselves. It means pleasing others for their good, not pleasing others in order to escape persecution or opposition.

We cannot even begin to imagine the freedoms and privileges that belonged to the Son of God in heaven. To be God is to be completely free. Yet Christ “did not please himself,” but gave up his rights and freedoms to become a servant so that we could be saved from wrath.) Over and over scripture commands us to follow the example of Christ in pleasing others instead of ourselves. Compared to what Jesus suffered on the cross, we are making a small sacrifice indeed when we give up our freedom for a fellow Christian.

Crowley again nails this truth when he says, “We must keep the big things big. God does not allow us to have unity with Christians who reject the major doctrines of the faith, such as salvation by grace, the resurrection of Christ, and the infallibility of scripture. And… We must keep the small things small. God does not allow us to break unity with Christians who disagree with us on minor matters. Both errors are serious sins against Christ and his church.“

 

By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity

If You Got It, Don’t Flaunt It!

Keep It To Yourself22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.   Romans 14:22-23

Often people with freedom like to show off that freedom to those who are strict. Paul forbids this. If your strong conscience allows you to eat meat or drink wine, don’t flaunt those things in front of those with a weak conscience.   Also, those who are strict often like to “police” others to pressure them to be strict like them. But Paul says we are to keep these decisions between the Lord and us.   “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” This shows us again that the word faith in this passage is limited to faith in the realm of conscience. You are most certainly not supposed to keep your faith in the gospel “between yourself and God,” but spread that faith to everyone everywhere. But we are to keep our decisions of conscience between the Lord and us. Go ahead and use your freedom, but don’t flaunt it. Go ahead and be strict, but don’t expect others to be strict like you.

To live your life without faith in God is to live your life like an unbeliever. An unbeliever constantly sins against his conscience until it is seared. If you live this same way, you will destroy your heart. You are not the lord of your conscience; God is.

How do you know the difference between training your conscience and sinning against your conscience? You are sinning against your conscience when you believe your conscience is speaking correctly, but you still go against it. You are training your conscience when Christ teaches you through his scripture that your conscience has been wrong in a particular area, so you decide to not listen to your conscience in that one area. This is called adjusting your conscience, not sinning against it.

 

By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity

When Good is Bad!

Righteousness_Peace_Joy_20120715 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.     Romans 14:14-21

No Christian would want to insist on eating meat if he knew that his eating would embolden another believer to sin against his conscience, fall into sin, and maybe fall away from Christ. Why? Because “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In other words, what kind of food we eat is not important in God’s kingdom. What matters is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”! Our goal is not to defend our own freedoms, but to pursue peace in the church, and to build up other believers in their faith. This kind of life is “acceptable to God and approved of men”

Perhaps Paul saw that both the strong group and the weak group were beginning to make big things out of little things. Maybe they were forgetting the really important things like “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” To argue over inconsequential things like food and drink and special days is to forget that the Holy Spirit has ushered in a new age of life and love and peace. If you don’t care about how your freedoms are affecting others, you are not practicing righteousness, and you are in danger of destroying the peace in the church, and sucking out all the joy as well. Although the strong wanted to believe that the Holy Spirit was on their side in this dispute, and the weak wanted to believe that the Holy Spirit was on their side, neither side was being led by the Holy Spirit.

The Christian who emphasizes “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” is the true servant of Christ.

Love for fellow Christians is the sure sign of a Christian. Disagreements about small things do not lead to “mutual upbuilding,” but rather a tearing down and destroying of God’s work.

Paul does not advise against all eating of meat and drinking of wine, but only that which “causes your brother to stumble,” that is, causes him to sin against his conscience and be in danger of falling away from Christ. Paul adds the words “or do anything” to include any other possible disagreements. Every age of the church and every location will have different disagreements about what Christians are allowed to do and not allowed to do.

Something considered good can be bad if it causes a brother to sin. Don’t let your good be evil spoken of.

 

By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity

Consider Your Brother/Sister!

Consider13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.           Romans 14:13-15

Paul addresses those who have a “strong” conscience because they are the ones who have a choice in these third-level matters. Those with a “weak” conscience do not have choice: they have to listen to their conscience and not eat meat (to use Paul’s example). However, the strong can either eat meat or not eat meat. To show that they are more mature believers, they should be willing to give up their freedom so that they don’t destroy the faith of another Christian.

Notice that Paul does not say that the “weak” brother is upset or irritated at the freedoms of the stronger Christian. The term “stumblingblock” means causing the weaker brother to fall away from God. While “grieved” in verse 15 carries the idea of mourning because he has sinned against God. “Destroy” means the weaker brother has turned away from God because of this problem, and is danger of being totally lost.

Again, Paul puts emphasis on the persuasion of our conscience. He says that he is persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. If a person believes some action to be a sin, yet does it anyway, God counts it a sin, even though there is no law in the Bible. God never wants anyone to sin against their conscience.

We must respect the consciences of others. If we have opportunity, we can slowly help them train their conscience to be more in line with God’s standards, but we must never compel someone to sin against his conscience. Freedoms can never be forced upon one whose conscience will not allow it.

“Weak” conscience Christians are not to impose their rules on everyone else in the church. It is a serous sin to try to bind someone else’s conscience with a rule that does not come from God. We must reject any attempt by anyone to force the church to obey a commandment that doesn’t come from God.

J.D. Cowley writes, “If a brother doesn’t like my freedoms, that is his problem. But if a brother falls into sin because of my freedoms, that is my problem. Christ gave up his life for that brother; am I unwilling to give up my freedom for him?

 

By lakeviewbc Posted in Unity

Giving Account of Ourself to God!

The-Judgement-Seat-of-Christ-540x34010 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.  Romans 14:10-12

The thing I think that we have to remember is that all of us must stand before God’s bar of judgment. Each of us will stand and give account for our own lives. Don’t you think you have enough that you must answer to God for that we really don’t have time to try to straighten out our brother on these disputable matters. What we must remember is not I need to judge my brother but that I will be judged of Christ.

The emphasis here is on ourselves. There is much to do to get my own conscience in line with the Word of God. Too much to do to be consumed on correcting my brother. We should share truth, we should point them to the Bible, but then we need to mind our own business and let God be their master. On that day we will be busy enough answering for our own life; we don’t need to be spending our short life meddling in the lives of others.

Again, if we hold our convictions loosely, realizing they can be wrong, needing confirmed and corrected by the Word of God, and that we will answer to God that will help with our need to make everyone confirm to our convictions.

Motivation!

whatever-you-do-do-all-to-the-glory-of-god6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.  Romans 14:6-9

Both the spiritually weak and the spiritually strong can both please God although they disagree about these third-level issues. I hope you see that in the text. They can both please God because their motive is the glory of God. If both are placing emphasis on honoring God, then both can please God even if they differ on these things.

We are reminded here that in Christianity, why we do something is often more important than what we do. This is true because God sees our hearts and knows our motivations. Since third-level issues are disputable, the important question for Paul was one of motivation. Why are you doing what you are doing and why are you not doing it? Why do you eat meat and why do you abstain? Why do you celebrate special days and why do you regard all days the same? If if is for the glory of God, Paul says, “God bless you, keep doing it or keep refraining from it.”

J.D. Crowley gets to the point here, “Too often, we make decisions about these kinds of matters based on what others will think or say, not based on the glory of God. Perhaps there is strong pressure from others in your church to be strict like they are, and you want to fit in. Or perhaps you sense that your Christian friends who have more freedom than you are making fun of you for your strictness, so you decide to go ahead and be like them. Or perhaps you’re tired of growing up in a strict family, so as soon as you move out, you start doing things that your parents had not allowed. These are not the right reasons to change your actions. You must decide to live your life for your real Master. Your friends are not your master. Your fellow church members are not your master. Your sinful nature is not your master. Even your church leaders are not your final master. Christ is. You should certainly listen to the counsel of others and respect your church leaders, but on the last day you will not stand before them. You will stand before Christ. Because of his death and resurrection, only Christ has the right to be the Lord of all the living. If you live, you live for his glory, and if you die, you die for his glory. So make sure the decisions you make in life are for the glory of God and not out of fear of man. God has given us much freedom to do many things, as long as we do those things for God’s glory.”

Conscience!

ConscienceOur consciences are like snowflakes, there are no two that are identical. While we may have many of the same moral ideals, there will be some areas in which we all will differ. We will notice these differences very quickly and long before we appreciate what areas overlap in agreement.

We must remember that our conscience is prone to error and on its own is not sufficient to unerringly guide us. While all of our consciences are different, all consciences fail to meet God’s standards. Therefore, while we may be fully persuaded in our mind of the correctness of our understanding of third level issues we must hold them loosely and be willing to allow them to be corrected by the Word of God. Our main problem is that our culture shapes our conscience more than the Scriptures. This is further problematic due to our inability to adequately distinguish between which of our convictions are cultural and which are biblical.

One example of this is divorce. The Scriptures explicitly condemn divorce. Yet, living in a culture where divorce is accepted and even promoted in certain cases, our consciences lean toward cultural convictions instead of biblical convictions. So our consciences are subjective and therefore not an absolutely reliable guide. This is why we must hold third-level beliefs loosely and make sure they are submissive to the objective truth of the Bible.

One of the errors we can make is that we help people embrace cultural conversion rather than genuine conversion to God in Christ. We can wrongly lead others to conform to our cultural convictions instead of repentance from sin and faith in Christ as written in the Word. We want people committed to God, Christ, and the Word and not to our set of non-essential convictions. I feel we would rather see people agree with our conviction of eschatology instead of committing themselves to Christ.

This is why faithfulness to church and our own consistent Bible study is so important. We must constantly be subjecting our consciences to God’s standards and not the cultures. It is God who must and who will adjust the conscience. Our consciences are being sanctified by the Word of God through the power of God in the Spirit of God.

Again there are truths we MUST believe to be Christian, other things we must believe to be a unified church, and there are things we do not have to agree about and yet we can love one another and fellowship with one another until the Lord adjusts our consciences.

Be Persuaded!

live persuadedOne man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Romans 14:5

Here is an area where differing opinions were clearly permitted. We must obey our conscience and we must not cause others to sin against their conscience. We must not change our opinions unless we are convinced in our mind that change is true. You are not to change because someone wants you to change. You must be convinced of the truth from the Bible.

The conscience is our conviction that what we believe is either right or wrong. Everyone has a conscience. Your conscience is independent–meaning that it can cause guilt when you don’t want it to. It can have different results depending on individual standards. Our consciences can mature and change. What you thought was wrong at one time in your life, you may now believe is right and vise versa. Your conscience warns you or wrong, convicts of wrong, and celebrates the right.

Let me also say that just because we have a conscience, that does not mean our conscience is right. I may be fully persuaded in my own mind about a certain thing and be totally wrong. Our conscience needs constant adjustment toward compliance to God’s Word.

So whatever you believe about food, drink or special days— or whatever the issue—live consistently by that decision until God leads you from his word to adjust your conscience.

Anything else would be spiritually unhealthy. No matter what you believe concerning third level truths, be fully convinced it is Biblically true.

Refrain From Judging!

Judge-not3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. Romans 14:3-4

It is very easy to for those whose conscience allows them eat meat to look down on those whose conscience won’t let them eat meat and vise versa. It is easy for one group to feel superior, holier, or more mature than the other. It is easy for one group to call the other group legalistic and the other group to call the other liberal. Paul condemns that attitude from either side. In non-essential matters we are not make them issues of judgment.

I do understand that whatever side you take on a particular issue both cannot be right. One is right, one is wrong or they are both wrong. We may not know at this point. Therefore, don’t make issues out of things that are non-issues.

Paul says that one reason you are to reserve judgment is that God has received them. What right do we have to reject one that God has welcomed? How do we break fellowship with those who are in fellowship with God? Are we greater than God? It seems that God has permitted us to have different opinions on minor issues. We should allow these disagreements instead of trying to make everyone see things our way.

The second reason is that when we look down on another we are establishing a Master/Slave relationship that should not exist. We are not their master, God is their Master. I am not anyone’s master and no one is my slave. That is the relationship between God and believers. Who are we to intrude in that relationship? We need to welcome our brother and let God, their master, straighten out any errors. Each of us has to answer to God.

Again, we are speaking of matters where disputes are permitted. We are not talking about essential matters of theology. There are things we must believe to be Christians and there are things we must believe if we are going to have a unified church. However, Paul says that the Lord is able to make him stand. God can straighten out errors. God can take care of it without our help.