500 Years and More

500 Years and More

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This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation which began in the 16th century in the year of 1517. It is synonymous with the 95 theses that Martin Luther nailed to the Wittenberg College doors that sparked what is still going on today. Yet there has been many people who say that the Reformation is not a big deal anymore and that we just need to leave that alone and move on. But when we look at the theological climate of our time in the church, excluding those who have no interest in the church, what we begin to see is that a Reformation is gravely needed and that that Reformation needs to be done in the Protestant church.

In the State of Theology Survey which was done by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research, there were some startling revelations that signaled a grave ignorance of the Bible, God, Christ, and truth in general. Here are some of the findings:

  • An individual must contribute his or her own effort for personal salvation. In 2014, 40% agreed with this statement. In 2016, 50% agreed with this statement.
  • By the good deeds that I do, I partly contribute to earning my place in heaven. 52% agree or somewhat agree with this statement.
  • A person obtains peace with God by first taking the initiative to seek God and then God responds with grace. 83% agree or somewhat agree with this statement (this is appalling).
  • Abortion is a sin. 48% of those who attend church once or twice a month agree with this statement. That means the majority do not.

This is simply incredible. On the one hand, it is very despondent. People are not becoming more biblically sound with the wide amount of access to the word of God but they are becoming more and more biblically ignorant. One of the reasons for this is that there is a widespread belief among evangelicals that church attendance is an option. The survey also found that those who attend church on a regular basis tend to answer those questions in a biblically Orthodox manner.

Why has the state of theology taken such a downward turn? I don’t think that you can point out just one thing that is the reason but there is an amalgam of many things from the deification of science, to the acceptance of deviant behavior, to the jettisoning of the study of the Scriptures themselves. I found that the more I encounter and talk to people about the truth of God and what the Bible actually says about things, the more I know that there is a lot of work to do. It is quite true and especially more so today that the harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few.

The Reformation is still going on and we still need to shout from the rooftops who God is according to his word. We are living in a time of famine for the word of God and God himself has told us that this is what was going to happen:

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)

The reason why there is a famine is not because there is no word of God but because there is no love of Him. People are running to and fro looking for the God of their choosing and not the God of Scripture. People run around creating their own Jesus idols, not getting acquainted with the Jesus that has been laid out for us in the everlasting, eternal, unchanging, infallible word of God. Everything else is more important. All of the many things which vie for our attention are ever encroaching on the priorities that we set in our lives. It’s no longer important to read the word of God daily. No longer important for us to spend time in prayer. No longer important for us to read the word of God with our family and discuss what are within the heavenly pages of godly doctrine. No, it’s more important that the kids get to soccer practice. It’s more important that we catch the latest episode of Dancing With the Stars. It’s more important that we watch the latest YouTube videos. There are 1,000,001 other things that are more important. And we see the results of this being played out in our society when surveys like this are taken.

We need another Reformation. We need to protest not only against Roman Catholicism but we need to protest against Protestants and we need to reprove those who are masquerading as true Protestants. We need to have our minds renewed and come back to the original Orthodox teaching that the Reformation revealed at the very beginning. We need another Reformation. We don’t need a new Reformation, we in another Reformation based on the old Reformation.

On this 500th anniversary of the Reformation —which is on October 31— don’t go out pounding on doors with children as they say silly phrases that mean nothing and celebrate darkness. Spend that time celebrating what really matters. Celebrate the ultimate knocking on the door of Martin Luther and the nailing of the 95 theses to that door at Wittenberg. Educate people on how important that is because it’s needed. It is sorely needed.

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Book Review – The Expected One

Book Review – The Expected One

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This past Christmas season, my family decided to get deeper into the Christmas celebration by celebrating the Advent. I did quite a bit of research about the candle lighting but I already knew about the Advent and what is was. For those who may not be familiar, the Advent is the four weeks prior to Christmas that look commemorates the coming of the King of kings into the world, Jesus the Christ. It is tied to the Epiphany which is a commemoration of the three kings coming to give gifts to this King being the first Gentiles to which the King had revealed Himself which happens on January 6th. There is a lot of rich heritage for Christians around that time of year but Protestants are by and large unaware of significance let alone actually celebrate it. Our household wanted to break that cycle this year.

In preparation for this, I bout a book by Scott James called The Expected One – Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent. It was a small book and I thought it would be perfect for focusing on the coming of the Savior of the world. To an extent, it is. But there were a couple of things that I was not made aware of until after I started in on the book.

The first is that the book is mainly for families with little children. The format is that there is a Scripture for the day, a small summary on that Scripture, and then questions to answer related to the Scripture. These questions are quite rudimentary and they have answers embedded at the end of each so that you can guide your children with a proper perspective. It is a family devotional at Christmas.

The second was that many of the verses really didn’t relate to the Advent at all. An example of that was Isaiah 53:5-9. That has nothing to do with the Advent. It’s related more to Easter than the Advent. The connection is nebulous. All the Scriptures had something to do with Jesus which is fine but the idea from the title was that there was supposed to be an anticipation of immersing yourself or your family into this celebration. That was the let down of the book. Instead of really focusing on the Advent and expanding more on verses that related to that, there was a sweeping summary of Jesus birth, life, sacrifice, and resurrection. Like I mentioned, there is certainly nothing wrong with that but that’s not the impression was that it would lean more heavily on the Advent.

Along with this were a few things that was questionable. In the questions for discussion for that passage of Isaiah 53:5-9, it’s asked “can you think of soomething about His death that was even worse than that?” The Answer is that Jesus had to take the wrath of God. And then an assumption that has no biblical basis. He says for an answer:

Accepting the punishment of God’s wrath for our sin was worse than any pain imaginable.

Well, that’s speculative at best. We don’t know that and if I were to extrapolate anything from Scripture it would be that the connection between the Lord Jesus and His Father was the worse pain that was imaginable to Him. To have to be separated and rejected from His Father who He had been one with from the beginning. But again, that’s speculative at best though it may be inferred.

Another place where an answer is given is in the answer on Psalm 16:10 where the question of whether Jesus’ disciples would have been surprised if they had remembered the verse about the empty tomb. The answer:

No, they would have realized that an empty tomb is exactly what God had promised.

Again, that is speculation and can’t be supported by Scripture since there were things that they did remember but still didn’t believe. These kinds of conclusions really doesn’t help to teach people about the Advent as well as the truth about Scripture, children or not. It actually skews it a bit.

Overall, the book is not bad. It’s a book you can give to someone who doesn’t know much about Jesus or a young Christian. But as a family devotional, it’s rather lacking in focus on the subject expected which is the Advent. You may also want to edit some of the answers as they are more than a few that present speculative conclusions. Or just find another book about Advent.

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Risen: A Review

Risen: A Review

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This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take my wife out to see a movie. She had expressed an interest in going to see the movie Risen starring Joseph Fiennes. I watched the trailer and was slightly intrigued because of the perspective the movie was taking the story. In short, the story is about a Roman captain named Clavius who is tasked with to investigate and find the body of Jesus the Christ.

Many Christians cry foul at anything creative whether it be in film, books, or music. I don’t happen to be one of those Christians. However, I must admit that I am not a fan of current faith-based movies coming out today (Awe! Shock!). They tend to be shallow, banal, scripturally off, and the acting is…uh…not so good. This is coming from a person whose favorite movie of all time is Jesus of Nazareth. I like Passion of the Christ as well but it’s too much for me. I get emotionally drained watching that movie. Very intense but good.

The slate of movies that come out labeled as Christian or quasi-biblical to me are pretty horrid if not downright blasphemous. Heaven Is For Real, Son of God (just outright bad on all levels), Resurrection Road, Noah (blasphemy comes to mind), Exodus: Gods and Kings, and a slew of others just do not interest me and are just not good movies. Much of this is just from watching the trailer though not all (yes, I don’t have to watch the whole movie to see whether or not I’m interested or whether it will be good). I haven’t taken a gander at Left Behind with Nicolas Cage but I probably will. I’ll leave a post here at some time in the future if I decide to take the time to watch it.

However, when I saw the trailer for Risen, I thought the perspective was intriguing since the soldier is clearly a pagan through and through. Some things I saw had me cocking my head to the side a little bit which is my red flag. But I ignored it and capitulated, driving my lovely to go see the movie.

WARNING: If you don’t like spoilers, skip to the end.

The movie begins with a skirmish between the Zealots and a Roman company of soldiers which Clavius leads. The battle was anti-climatic in many respects with the end being the best part. This is not simply because it ended but because we got a glimpse at the disposition of the main character.

Next we are introduced to Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) who is truly a jerk which is historically accurate. You witness his trademark vacillating character when dealing with the Sanhedrin though he loathes them. He tasks Clavius to oversee the burial of Jesus (Cliff Curtis). Clavius gives the order to pierce His side with a spear and then helps with rolling the stone in front of the tomb.

Days later, the news comes. The body of Jesus is gone. This is causing problems with the Sanhedrin so Pilate has Clavius search for the body and find it before Caesar makes an appearance in two weeks. Clavius searches high and low and doesn’t find the body. He brings a body to Pilate that is similar but that is not good enough. He enlists the help of a spy to find the disciples. This leads him to Mary Magdalene and the disciple Bartholomew. When questioned, they act more like hippies than scared disciples. Mary less so.

Through the help of his spy, Clavius finds the disciples. However, he also finds Jesus sitting with them in the Upper Room. This rocks his world. He orders the rest of his men to cease searching and stays there with the rest of the disciples, speechless. It is at this point that Thomas enters. He runs to Jesus like a kid which is not biblically accurate in terms of that account. Remember, Thomas was already there with the disciples when Jesus shows up (John 20:26).  But let’s forgive that faux pas.

What is accurate during this scene is that Jesus has Thomas touch Him in his wounds which they show. However, He doesn’t tell Thomas to do so vocally and also doesn’t say to Thomas, “Be not be unbelieving but believing.” This one line is a line that should have been. This is where it gets hokey. The wounds are superficial at best so there’s no way that Thomas can actually put his hands in them. Also, Thomas doesn’t give one of the most astounding statements in all of Scripture for a skeptic: “My Lord and My God!” This is an astounding statement and it’s said from a deep heart of worship. You get that not at all. Totally misses the opportunity to say something profound cinematically and fills it with some wishy-washy reunion.Risen 2

It’s all downhill from there. From the disciples finding huge fishing boats on the side of the Sea of Galilee without an owner in sight to the sub-par (at best) portrayal of Jesus by Curtis to the lamest Ascension I could have imagined or wouldn’t have imagined given that it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. In short, the script was below average, the acting was the same, and the movie was moving only in the fact that I wanted to hurry up and get out of the theatre.

Now, why would I be so hard on a movie like this as a Christian? It’s quite simple: if you are going to do a movie based on history in part, get it right. But more so, if you are going to do a movie based on Jesus, you have no room to get it wrong and you must do it well. This movie lacks that.

So should you go see it? That’s basically up to you ultimately. It’s not the worst movie out there but it certainly isn’t anything to write home about. It’s marginally average and I think I’m being considerate when I say that. Let me put it this way: my wife—who chose the movie—gave it a 44% out of 100% (I gave it slightly higher at around 46%) and asked me to pick the movies from now on. I simply said, “Yes dear,” and nodded.

Live and learn.

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A New Year, A New Scriptural Journey

A New Year, A New Scriptural Journey

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Ephesians - Finding Our True IdentityIt’s 2016 and we have been blessed to enter into the beginning of another year. For many, this may signify a new resolve on the area of  being more dedicated to reading the word, praying, or getting rid of distractions to focus on more spiritual pursuits. It’s the time for goal setting and we look with excitement and anticipation as we look ahead to the future.

The sad thing about New Year’s resolutions is that they all fall apart about two weeks in. The wonderful thing about exposition of the word of God as a church is that you never have to be concerned with whether or not you’re going to finish something as a church. Eventually you will if you just keep going right through that book.

This year, we here at Berean Home Fellowship have begun a new series called Ephesians: Finding Our True Identity. This, of course, is only for believers, not unbelievers. This is for the called, the saints, the elect of the Living God. There are some many deep and divine truths in this particular book that to properly do it justice would take much longer than the time that we’re going to give it as a church. However, we will be working through this wonderful Pauline epistle of Christian identity and life application and will be posting much of the teaching here at our website throughout the process.

We hope that you’ll join us this year as we journey through this wonderful piece of divine truth together.

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Don’t Go To Church, Be The Church – Part II

Don’t Go To Church, Be The Church – Part II

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BeTheChurchIn my last post, I began by delineating the difference between a church and the church. By way of review, since the term “church” is used to mean a specific kind of assembly or—as Jesus alludes to in Matthew 16:18—a specific kind of people (i.e. called out), the question must be asked, “What does it means to be a ‘called out one?’” Is it simply the gathering that’s being addressed here or a specific kind of people who make up the gathering? To answer that, we have to take a trip to the book of Romans.

In Romans 8:29, it says:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Speaking of “the called out” here, Paul makes it clear that God has in mind a people that are being conformed to the image of the Son and Savior, Jesus Christ. He’s not just talking about a general assembly of people. Nor is He talking about an assembly of people who profess to be Christians. He’s talking specifically about those being conformed to the image of the Son of God.

Statement #2:

Second, teaching people “Don’t go to church, be the church” means the teacher must replace the Bible’s own meaning of “church” (i.e., “assembly”).

I’ve established that church doesn’t mean an assembly. It means a specific kind of assembly made up of a specific kind of people who act a specific kind of way. This statement is simply wrong and untenable when we look etymologically at the word “church” at its root and basic meaning from the original Greek.

Statement #3:

Third, it goes against Scripture. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 11:18, his words mean that when the Corinthian Christians woke up Sunday morning, they weren’t the church. They only became the church when they went to church.

This is not accurate.

When Paul addresses the Corinthian Christians, he’s actually saying that they gathered as a church. They didn’t go to one. He wasn’t telling them go to the called out ones. He was addressing when they gathered as the called out ones. Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown notes in their commentary on that verse:

not the place of worship; for Isidore of Pelusium denies that there were such places specially set apart for worship in the apostles’ times. But, “in the assembly” or “congregation”; in convocation for worship, where especially love, order, and harmony should prevail (my emphasis).

The last portion of that gives a hint as to what kind of assembly this would be.

There is nothing unbiblical about encouraging people to be the church because the church is not like any other people group. The church is comprised of a particular kind of people. Peter says:

But like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16).

He also gives a marked description of those who are the church:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9)

So, the church is not just an assembly. The church is the called out ones. We are called to be holy, loving, righteous, sanctified, meek, light, salt, faithful, sacrificial, and a plethora of other things. This is what it means to be the people of God in the age of the Gentiles, to be the called out ones. In short, to be the church.

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Don’t Go to Church, Be the Church – Part I

Don’t Go to Church, Be the Church – Part I

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BetheChurchToday we start a new series in response to an exchange that I had on Facebook outlining what it means to be the church. In this exchange, a blog post was posted by the individual which you can read here:

Don’t Be the Church, Go to Church

This is in direct response to the current picture background on my Facebook page which is the same picture on the side here.

Let me first say before we begin that I appreciate these exchanges as they are opportunities for me to grow and to reevaluate positions that I hold. It forces me to delve into the word of God to clarify and more precisely define my position. It forces me to accurately elucidate why I believe it’s a biblical position and stays true to the word of God. My reasons for this is not to cast aspersions on the writer. He has proclaimed profession in Christ and unless proven otherwise I will treat him accordingly. I consider this as a presentation of iron sharpening iron.

My refutation will be in response to his specific statements. I will post these references so there is no confusion on what it is exactly that I’m referring.

Statement #1:

First of all, a church is an assembly. Almost 90% of all uses of ecclesia in the New Testament refer to a group of Christians gathered together in assembly. The rest refer to the Universal Church.

Herein lies the problem. The author is focusing on the wrong word and contradicts himself.

The word “church” is translated from the Greek ekklesia. ek which means “out of” and klesis which means “a calling.” In essence, the church is the body of called out ones or the ones who have been called out. This is in line with other references to the church like in Romans 8:28 where it mentions the called or kletos meaning saints, a direct derivative of the Greek klesis.

The author says that the church is an assembly. That part is correct. The church is an assembly. However, it is not just an assembly but a specific kind of assembly. It is an assembly of the called out ones, those whom God calls which means that the church doesn’t make itself. God does.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus makes this statement:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

That statement explicitly states that Christ is the One who builds the church. He is not just building a church but the church. That distinction is huge. He’s not just building an assembly. There are three reasons we know this:

  1. He already had an assembly of people. At one point there were five thousand. In another instance there were three thousand. If it was simply an assembly, He’d already accomplished what He set out to do. But as I mentioned, the church is not just an assembly.
  2. When using the term for a general assembly, two words are used in the Greek. The first is paneguris. Pan meaning all and agora meaning of any kind. This is the word used in contrast with the word church in Hebrews 12:23: To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. In that verse, it is talking about two distinct groups—the general assembly and the church—which means that they are not one and the same. Some scholars believe this includes the heavenly hosts. Others believe it’s the saints of old, i.e. the patriarchs and followers of God from the Old Testament period. The faithful before the church age. It very well could men both but it does not mean the church because it makes a contrast between the two.
  3. Another word used for an assembly is plethos which means a multitude found in Acts 23:7: And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.

Since a church—by implication—must originate from the church in order to be a true church, it stands to reason that there must be distinguishing marks to identify it as a part of the church. This is particularly so because Jesus refers to it as His church which implies that there there may be churches that are not His but in name only. They are not a part of the true church. This detail is key. The author states in a broad term that there is a difference between a church and the church. He states that a church is a group or assembly of Christians and that the universal church is…well…I guess something else which he doesn’t define but one could infer as being everyone else which implies inclusion of non-Christians. That would be false and all kinds of wrong. If he means all those who claim to be churches everywhere, then that would still be false because all churches everywhere are not a part of the true church. Many are false churches.

The author states directly that the church is an assembly then turns around and says it’s a specific kind of assembly (Christians) which is a contradiction. Which is it? Is it just an assembly or a specific kind of assembly because it can’t be both. The biblical evidence presents the latter—in spades—as in exclusively.

Since the term “church” is used to mean a specific kind of assembly or—as Jesus alludes to in Matthew 16:18—a specific kind of people (i.e. called out), the question must be asked, “What does it means to be a ‘called out one?’” Is it simply the gathering that’s being addressed here or a specific kind of people who make up the gathering? I’ll address this in my next post.

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The Pattern of Prayer – Part II

The Pattern of Prayer – Part II

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“Do you see the difference? It is the difference between being in a relationship of law and a relationship of love. You are in an entirely new position, and the cross puts you there. You are under grace, and you do not tremble before God with a craven fear. You know that though you are unworthy, He is your Father and you say, “My Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.” And you know that He looks upon you with a smile.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The Cross

In Part I of this series, I gave an overview of the Lord’s Prayer and what I was going to touch on as I continued this series. In Part II, we’re going to take a look at the first four words of the beginning of that prayer.

“Our Father in heaven,” (Matthew 6:19)

Beginning the Lord’s Prayer with the words “Our Father in heaven,” Jesus seeks to make known to His disciples God‘s identity as a Father who desires to have a relationship with His children.

God’s Identity

The fact that God is concerned about the everyday needs of our lives and desires for us to make them known to Him communicates a level of intimacy that could never be attained through Judaism and pagan religions of Jesus’ day. Jesus destroys a barrier when He speaks the words, “Our Father.” He wanted to make it clear to his disciples that God is approachable.

The Jewish religious system which was mired in ritualistic legalism created a seemingly insurmountable wall between God and man. The Sabbath, which God had intended to be a ceremonial day of rest (Exodus 20:8-11), had become nearly impossible to keep due to the staggering number of rules that had been added by the scribes and Pharisees. The definition of work was parsed to the point that to do the simplest of daily routines constituted a violation of the Sabbath. Their interpretation of the law made the focal point their own efforts to appease God. The religious leaders were more concerned with their perceived self-righteousness and how they appeared to others (Matt. 23:28) while they neglected “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matt. 23:23). Jesus refers to them as blind guides who shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. He said that they “neither enter nor allow those who would enter to go in” (Matt. 23:13).

Jesus establishes the fact the God is approachable. However, we must remember what Bible commentator William Barclay reminds us about this verse:

“We must never use the word Father in regard to God cheaply, easily and sentimentally. God is not an easy going parent who tolerantly shuts his eyes to all sins and faults and mistakes. This God, whom we can call Father, is the God whom we must still approach with reverence and adoration, awe and wonder. God is our Father in heaven and in God there is love and holiness combined.” 

God is a loving and gracious Father, to whom we have access, but we must remember that our loving Father is also a holy God. I’ll discuss His holiness (hallowed be your name) in my next post.

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A Matter of Holiness – Part IV

A Matter of Holiness – Part IV

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Holiness2In Part III of our series on holiness, we looked at two steps in how to be holy. These were having a desire to be holy and making holiness a priority. To give an idea on just how important holiness is, I want to focus a moment on the emphasis that God places on it. I believe that then we can get a clear picture of how important it should be to us.

More than any other term used to describe God in the Bible, holy tops that list. The Lord God Himself uses it more than any other term to describe Himself. When Moses saw the burning bush, , He was instructed to take off his shoes because he was now standing on holy ground. That’s because God was there.

The word  holy is used over 600 times in the Bible. When speaking of festivals and special days for the children of Israel, the Lord described them as “holy convocations”. When singing to the Lord after the defeat of the Egyptians, Moses describes how the Lord had led them to His “holy habitation”. When speaking of the sabbath day in the ten commandments, the Lord says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” When describing the kind of people God wanted Israel to be, He said, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” When speaking of the place where God dwelt in the tabernacle, it was designated as the “most holy place”. When describing the garments that Aaron was to wear as the high priest, they were called “holy garments”. David describes the heaven where God reigns as the “holy heaven”. Psalm 33:21 says, “For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.” The scriptures are said to be holy in Romans 12:1. We are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” When referring to the temple of God, Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 3:17 about it being holy, being our bodies. The hands were are exhorted to lift up to God in worship should be “holy hands”. The calling of the Christian is described as a “holy calling”. When describing the demeanor of a bishop, we should not be greedy for, self-willed, quick-tempered, given to wine, or violent “but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled”, as Titus 3:8 says. 

A.W. Tozer, a great man of God, one who had been said to “preach himself off of every Bible conference platform in the country” had said at one of those conferences:

I believe we ought to have again the old biblical concept of God which makes God awful and makes men lie face down and cry “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” That would do more for the church than everything or anything else.

This is a driving theme throughout the scriptures. It must be a priority in the Christian’s life.

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A Matter of Holiness – Part III

A Matter of Holiness – Part III

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In our last post on A Matter of Holiness, we took a look at why we should be holy. Today, we’ll begin to take a look on how to be holy.

How To Be Holy

HolinessI mentioned that God has given a command to be holy. God doesn’t give commands without giving the means to fulfill that command. So if God commands His people to be holy, then there is definitely a way for us to be holy. Now, this is assuming that you are a true Christian.

There are five basic aspects of being holy: desire, priority, submission, God’s word, prayer, obedience.

The first step in holiness comes with desire. We must have a desire to be holy. We must have a heart like David in Psalm 51:1-2.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

We must have a desire to want to be like God and with God. We must see God as lovely, worthy to be adorned and idolized. We must learn to see sin as sin and hate it as God hates it. We must want to see sin excised from our lives as much as possible. We must be willing to be radical and called names, and ostracized, and vilified for the sake of the beautiful holiness of God. We must desire to change.

I believe the reason why many of us don’t want to change and become more holy is because we are comfortable with where we are. Comfortable with the world. Comfortable in our relationship with Christ. Comfortable with mediocrity. We don’t want to change more because if we do, we may have to give up something that we really desire. We don’t trust God. We still secretly look at Him as this figure who just wants to steal our joy instead of fulfill it. We cling to our petty wants and dreams never evaluating them under the microscope of God’s desire for us. We don’t ask, “Lord, is this what you want?” because if we do, we may find that He doesn’t and that’s not what we want to hear so we ignore Him and rationalize it in our hearts.

When we lack the desire for holiness, we lack the desire for God. This is crucial so if this is something that you lack, it is time to fall down and ask God to plant the desire there.

Second, we must make holiness a priority. It must come before everything else in our lives in order to be a part of everything else in our lives. We must make the decision to be holy. We must be disciplined.

Stephen Deness explains in his book The Way of Holiness:

Next to the fact that Jesus was God, the single most significant source of His power and purity was, as Luke observed, that Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” It is no different for us. Try as we will, we simply cannot have the meat of our faith at the drive-thru window. It is discipline and hard work, which require much more than just sitting there with a smile on our faces thinking about God.

Life-changing holiness doesn’t come by two minute prayers and five minute devotionals. They may start there but they certainly don’t end there. It comes from pressing into it in everything we do.

To give an idea on just how important holiness is, I want to focus a moment on the emphasis that God places on it in our next installment. I believe that then we can get a clear picture of how important it should be to us.

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The Pattern of Prayer – Part I

The Pattern of Prayer – Part I

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We want to welcome David Bunts, a partner in ministry with Berean Home Fellowship. David is a music minister and teacher who goes by the moniker iNTELLECT. We are blessed to be co-workers with him in ministry. You can follow his ministry at www.intellect-music.com.

Lord's Prayer“Jesus did not say, ‘Pray in these words.’ He said ‘Pray after this manner’; that is ‘Use this prayer as a pattern, not a substitute.’” – Warren Wiersbe

I remember as a young boy reciting the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) during church services and memorizing it as a part of Sunday school. As a child, I had always thought of it as one of those things ‘you must know’ as a Christian, like John 3:16. As I grew into adulthood and furthered my study of God’s word, I began to see that Christ was giving to His disciples much more than a simple prayer for them to memorize and recite back to God. As His disciples asked Him “Teach us how to pray,” that is exactly what He did when He gave them the blueprint that is the Lord’s Prayer.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Christ lays out a distinct pattern that all of us should follow when coming to the Lord in prayer. This pattern helps us to understand two very important things:

  1. The Position of God – God is high and exalted and is worthy of our praise, thanksgiving and adoration.
  2. The Position of Man – We as his servants should humble ourselves when we come before Him, knowing that it is He and He alone who has the power to sustain us, protect us and forgive us of our sins.

Many have approached God in a proud and boastful way like the Pharisee who gave thanks to God because he thought that in his heart he was “not like the other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers.” Rightly recognizing God’s place and our position, however, should cause us to approach Him in humility like the tax collector who cried out to God for mercy (Luke 18:9-14).

The exaltation of God is where the Lord’s Prayer begins. This should be our starting point when we approach God. The great men of God in the Old Testament understood this and sought God in the proper way. In Psalm 51:1-2, David prayed, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” When Daniel sought God concerning the return of the Hebrews from captivity, he prayed, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules” (Daniel 9:4-5). When Elijah cried out to God at Mount Carmel, he prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word” (1 Kings 18:36). In every circumstance, our prayers must first acknowledge God’s high and exalted position. When this is done, we will realize that our position is a place of humility (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10).

Over the next several posts I will be expounding on the Lord’s Prayer, giving an in-depth explanation of each verse, as it is important for us to understand and follow the Lord’s pattern of prayer.

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