Monday, August 31, 2009

Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." (Proverbs 31:30)

Are looks important when choosing a mate? Is physical attraction important? Must we be concerned about the inner man only, or is it proper to be concerned about the outward appearance of our prospective mate?

Well, Solomon said back in Proverbs 5:18-19 that the man is to "rejoice with the wife of [his] youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love." When you read the Song of Solomon, it is clear that the young couple mentioned in the book are very attracted to one another. So no, it is not wrong to seek a mate that you are physically attracted to. In fact, it is, I believe, important to marry someone that you find attractive.

But at the same time, the wise man tells us in Proverbs 31:30 that physical attraction is deceitful and temporal, and that our primary concern should be a mate who fears the Lord. Is he telling us here that we shouldn't seek someone that we're attracted to? No. Really, Solomon is saying that we should not be concerned ONLY about the outward appearance of our spouse. The most important thing is that they're faithful to the Lord.

Too often, young people "fall in love" with people that they're attracted to, even though they're not devout Christians. They completely ignore this verse in Proverbs and base their love on "passing beauty." And when you base your love on something that is not going to last, then guess what...your love, and consequently, your marriage is not going to last. That's why it is so critical to marry someone who is faithful to the Lord.

Yes, it is important that you are physically attracted to your mate, but don't let that be your primary concern. Find someone who fears the Lord.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Proverbs 28:19...Be Realistic

"He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough." (Prov. 28:19).

Do you ever get tired of doing the same thing every day? You wake up, take your shower, eat the same bowl of cereal, go to work (where you do the same thing every day), come home, eat supper, watch TV, spend some time with the family and then go to bed. Sleep. Wake up. Repeat.

If you're anything like me, this kind of repetition is hard. It's okay for a while, but then you get...antsy. You begin to yearn for something new and more exciting. So you begin to dream and fantasize about different things you might do. Maybe you'll go back to school and get a degree. Maybe you'll look for a new job. Maybe you'll just sell your house and buy a new one. You just want to do something new and exciting. Mix things up a bit, ya know?

While there's nothing wrong with wanting to change things up a bit, we've got to be careful that we don't trade certainty for uncertainty. In other words, if you have a steady income with your current job, don't throw it away to pursue something that is uncertain, especially when you have a family to support.

That seems to be Solomon's point. The man who tills his land has to work hard every day, but his needs are met. It might be tempting to get away from the same old 9-5 work and pursue what the wise man calls "frivolity," but he tells us NOT to do it.

Again, if you are prudent and you plan ahead and you have mapped out your course of action and you feel confident that you and your family will be provided for in the end...and if you have the support of your family...and if you seek the counsel of others (Prov. 11:14), then more power to you. Do it. But don't forsake a steady source of income just because you have some itch to do something different.

Maybe you don't struggle with this. Maybe you're the kind of person that craves the ritualism and stability. But in our A.D.D. society, I think I'm safe in saying that most people need to hear the message above...including myself.

The grass is always greener on the other side. But at some point, we've got to learn contentment.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Proverbs 27:15-16...Contentious Women

"A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike; whoever restrains her restrains the wind. And grasps oil with his right hand." (Prov. 27:15-16)

DISCLAIMER #1: I've got to be careful here because a woman might read this and get offended. Girls, trust me, this isn't personal. I don't have any women in mind when I write this. All I'm doing is explaining a passage of God's word.

DISCLAIMER #2: Furthermore, I'm married and so someone might interpret this article to be a rant about my wife. Let me assure you that I am not talking about my wife here. I am married to a wonderful woman who loves and supports me. I think the world of her.

Okay, now that I've cleared those things up, let's take a look at the passage itself.

First of all, let's understand the description of a "continual dripping on a very rainy day." Have you ever lived in an old house where the roof leaked? I know I have, and it's always frustrating when a storm comes through and you've got to rush about placing cans and buckets under every leak so as to keep your floors from getting wet. But for the most part, we have decent roofs and so most of us don't have to deal with leaky roofs. Back in Solomon's day, however, I imagine they were more accustomed to leaky roofs. Their shingle-system wasn't quite as advanced, I wouldn't imagine. Furthermore, the average Jew had dirt floors. So you can imagine what it would have been like back then. The roof would probably leak in several different places and the dirt floors would turn to mud. Pretty aggrevating, eh?

That's what a contentious woman is like. A woman who is contentious is argumentative, petty and difficult to be around. She's always finding something to complain about. She's uneasy and unsettled, making those around her miserable.

Adam Clarke says, "The man who has got such a wife is like a tenant who has got a cottage with a bad roof through every part of which the rain either drops or pours. He can neither sit, stand work, nor sleep, without being exposed to these droppings. God help the man who is in such a case, with house or wife!" Matthew Henry, another famous commentator, says, "It is a grievance that there is no avoiding, for it is like a continual dropping in a very rainy day. The contentions of a neighbour may be like a sharp shower, troublesome for the time, yet, while it lasts, one may take shelter; but the contentions of a wife are like a constant soaking rain, for which there is no remedy but patience."

So women, I'm going to put it to you.

Are you a contentious wife? Or are you like the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 who is a blessing to her husband? When your husband comes home from work, do you continually drip complaints and grievances? Do you bother him with things that don't matter and cause him stress? If so, then stop! Now, I'm not saying that you can't talk to your husband about things that are bothering you, nor is that Solomon's point here. So please don't draw that conclusion from this lesson. But don't be a difficult, contentious, brawling, controversial woman.

I'm not a woman, so I can't say too much more here. Perhaps some of you woman might leave some advice and ideas below. But this is certainly something we need to think about, as Solomon says much about contentious women in the book of Proverbs.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Proverbs 26...To Answer a Fool or NOT to Answer a Fool?

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." (Prov. 26:4-5)

At first glance, this passage seems to be contradictory. On one hand, Solomon tells us not to answer a fool according to his folly, but then on the other hand he says that we should answer a fool according to his folly. Is this a blatant contradiction in the word of God, or is there a way to harmonize the two thoughts? As always, harmony can be achieved here.

In verse four, Solomon qualifies the statement by saying "lest you also be like him." In other words, we're not to react to fools in a foolish way. Then we're no better than they are. And if we're not careful, we may end up becoming like them.

In verse five, Solomon qualifies the statement by saying, "lest he [the fool] be wise in his own eyes." Here, the point is that we're to answer fools so that they don't become more arrogant than they already are. If you don't respond to a fool, he may think that he is right and justified, but if you answer him, you might at least shut him up.

So what is the ultimate point of this passage? Answer a fool and show him that he is wrong, but be careful lest you become foolish yourself. Show him that he is wrong, but don't get so wrapped up in a foolish dispute that you begin to act foolishly.

See, it does harmonize after all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Summarizing the Return of Christ

Two weeks ago, I posted an article overviewing the controversy that surrounds the final return of Jesus Christ. The common theory is that Jesus will first return silently to rapture the church. The unsaved will be left-behind on earth to suffer seven years of tribulation. The antichrist will reign during this time. His reign will be characterized by global power and persecution against the church. This seven-year period will come to a climactic end with the famous battle of Armageddon, a literal battle that will take place at Megiddo between the armies of Christ and the armies of Satan. After Christ wins the battle, Satan will be bound for one thousand years while Christ reigns over His millennial kingdom here on earth. This is the common theory. It is what most people believe. But the fact is, it is NOT what the Bible teaches.

Last week, I posted one article per day with the intent of refuting the aforementioned premillennial theology. So far, we've looked at Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4 and the book of Revelation. All three of these great texts are misused to teach the rapture doctrine and other tenets of Premillennial theology. Last Thursday, we studied about the kingdom of Christ, and the point was emphatically made that the kingdom exists now. Today, I want to conclude this series of articles by summarizing what will happen when Jesus returns.

First of all, we must understand that Jesus will return at an unexpected time. Matthew 25:36 says, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only," and again in verse 42, "Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." Paul adds to this when he writes, "For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape" (1 Thess. 5:2-3). Also see 2 Peter 3:1-6. The clear conclusion is that we cannot know when Jesus will come back!

Despite these many verses, religious folks today try to predict when Jesus will return. Some have been very specific in saying that Jesus will return at a specific time on a specific day. The Jehovah's Witnesses are known for their 1914 prediction, but "date-fixing" is not confined to the cultish element of Christianity.

Now that we have established this point, the next question is, "what exactly will happen when He does return?" Let's answer this question in a concise, point-by-point manner...
  1. Jesus will return. John 14:3 says that Jesus went to prepare a place for us and that He will "come again" Following His ascension into heaven, two angels appeared to the apostles and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven." Jesus' ascension was visible, as they watched a cloud take Him away out of their sight. Likewise, when He returns, He will return in a visible manner in the clouds. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 that "the Lord Himself will descend from heaven," and 2 Thessalonians 1:7 says that He will be "revealed from heaven with His mighty angels." Over and over again the point is made that Jesus will descend from heaven in a visible way, accompanied by a multitude of angels. Notice that no where does the Bible say that Jesus will ever set foot on this earth again. Instead He will descend and we will meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:17).
  2. His return will be audible. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus' return will not be secretive and silent. Everyone will hear His descent. As we have already noticed, He will "descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God" (1 Thess. 4:16). Paul makes reference to the last trumpet in 1 Cor 15:52. Not only will His return be audible, but it will be visible (Rev. 1:7).
  3. When Jesus returns with His angels, there will be a general resurrection of the just and the unjust. John 5:28-29 says, "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." Acts 24:15 makes reference to a "resurrection of both the just and the unjust." Who will be raised first in this resurrection? How will it work? All I know is that "the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in th clouds to meet the Lord in the air..." (1 Thess. 4:16-17). So the dead will rise first, and then those who are still alive on earth will be raised up second.
  4. At some point during the resurrection, we will all be changed. Paul says, "Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immorality" (1 Cor. 15:51-53). In the preceding verses, Paul described this resurrection body as imperishable, glorious, powerful and spiritual (vv. 42-44). The apostle John says in 1 John 3:2, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is." In other words, our new body which we'll receive in the end will be comparable to Jesus' heavenly form.
  5. Once the resurrection takes place, the earth will be destroyed. Consider this powerful passage in 2 Peter 3:10-12, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!" While many religious people contend that the earth will literally remain forever, and that Christ will set up His kingdom on earth in the future, the Bible is clear that the earth will be destroyed. Now...will this happen as we ascend or after judgment? I don't know. I just know that at some point it will be destroyed.
  6. After we ascend to meet the Lord in the air, we will go on to face judgment. Matthew 25:31-33 says, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left." Acts 17:31 says that God has "fixed a day on which He will judge the world." Romans 2:5 indicates that there will be a "day of wrath" during which "God's righteous judgment will be revealed." Many other verses could be cited, but I'm sure you get the point. Every one of us will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), and we will be judged according to the unwavering standard of God's holy word (Jn. 12:48).

This is what will happen when Jesus returns. He will come at an hour we do not expect, so we must be ready at all times. He will descend from heaven with His angels. The dead in Christ will rise first, and then the rest of us will rise to meet the Lord in the air. The earth will be destroyed and we will go to face judgment.

There will be no secret rapture, no seven year period of tribulation, no literal one-man antichrist who will rule the world, no literal battle of Armageddon on earth and no millennial reign of Christ on earth. While most religious people hold to these teachings, they cannot be found in the word of God.

The question is, what will you accept? The Bible or the teachings of men?

If you have any questions or comments, please enter them below or shoot me an email. I would love to hear from you.

Proverbs 25:20...Singing to a Heavy Heart

"Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda." (Prov. 25:20)

It is often said that "laughter is the best medicine." I don't necessarily disagree with that. When a person has a bad day, it always helps to lighten the mood and laugh a little. But I don't think Solomon is talking about a person who just has a bad day and needs their spirits lifted.

When a person has a heavy heart, when they have experienced hardship or tragedy in their life, the last thing they need is for someone to make light of it; the last thing they need is for someone to come and try to cheer them up. That may work for a bad day, but it doesn't work for a heavy heart.

Matthew Henry explains it best when he says, "The absurdity here censured is singing songs to a heavy heart. Those that are in great sorrow are to be comforted by sympathizing with them, condoling with them, and concurring in their lamentation. If we take that method, the moving of our lips may assuage their grief (Job 16:5); but we take a wrong course with them if we think to relieve them by being merry with them, and endeavouring to make them merry; for it adds to their grief to see their friends so little concerned for them; it puts them upon ripping up the causes of their grief, and aggravating them, and makes them harden themselves in sorrow against the assaults of mirth."

Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 7:2-3, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad." The wise man is not condemning laughter and joy; he is simply arguing that there is more benefit in mourning than in laughter. Mourning can make us wiser, it can cause us to more deeply appreciate life and God.

With this in mind, why would we want to "sing songs to a heavy heart?"

If someone is mourning or experiencing hardship, console them. Point them to God.

Grief is a natural part of life. The sooner we learn to deal with it the right way, the better!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Proverbs 24...Rebuking the Wicked

"Whoever says to the wicked, 'You are in the right,' will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. Whoever gives on honest answer kisses the lips" (Prov. 24:24-26).

It is so hard to rebuke a person who is in sin. It's a whole lot easier to tell them that they are right, and to move on and act like it never happened. Furthermore, we live in a world where any kind of rebuke or judgment is looked upon with disdain, and so this very difficult task becomes even more difficult, because now when we obey the word of God in this regard we are shunned and condemned as harsh and judgmental.

In this proverbial passage, Solomon seems to be saying the opposite: that if we rebuke the wicked, we'll be praised, and if we praise the wicked, we'll be abhorred. It may be that he is talking about the court system. Certainly, when a court system condemns the righteous and justifies the wicked, it is viewed with disdain (see Prov. 17:15). Or it may be that Solomon is simply making a general point, that in most cases we are praised if we rebuke the wicked, and vice versa. In any event, the overall point of the passage holds true: that we need to be willing to rebuke the wicked.

I've been in a number of situations where I've had to rebuke a brother in Christ. It's never easy. There's always that part of me that looks fr every reason and excuse not to do it. And I always want to put it off as long as I possibly can. But what's right is right.

Don't back down from your duties as a Christian...ever. Do what is necessary.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Return of Christ...The Kingdom

Late last week, I posted an article overviewing the controversy that surrounds the final return of Jesus Christ. The common theory is that Jesus will first return silently to rapture the church. The unsaved will be left-behind on earth to suffer seven years of tribulation. The antichrist will reign during this time. His reign will be characterized by global power and persecution against the church. This seven-year period will come to a climactic end with the famous battle of Armageddon, a literal battle that will take place at Megiddo between the armies of Christ and the armies of Satan. After Christ wins the battle, Satan will be bound for one thousand years while Christ reigns over His millennial kingdom here on earth. This is the common theory. It is what most people believe. But the fact is, it is NOT what the Bible teaches.

This week, I am going to post one article per day with the intent of refuting the aforementioned premillennial theology. I will simultaneously set forth what the Bible DOES teach regarding the final return of Christ.

So far, we've looked at Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4 and the book of Revelation. All three of these great texts are misused to teach the rapture doctrine and other tenets of Premillennial theology. Today, let's consider some facts regarding the kingdom of Christ.

It is commonly taught in the denominational world that the kingdom of Christ is NOT currently in existence, that Jesus intended to establish it when He was on earth originally, but failed in His mission due to the rejection of the Jews. As a result of Jesus' failure, the church was set up instead, as an afterthought. So when will the kingdom be established, according to denominational teachings? After the seven-year period of tribulation and the battle of Armageddon, Jesus will set up a millennial, or one thousand year kingdom on earth. Earth will be transformed into a kind of paradise in which the righteous will dwell under the perfect kingship of Jesus Christ. But this is NOT what the word of God teaches. The fact is, the kingdom WAS set up in the first century, and all today who are Christians are IN the kingdom. There is not going to be some literal kingdom on earth in the future, because the spiritual kingdom of Christ exists here and now.

Jesus Himself, when He was on the earth, stated that the kingdom would be established in that generation. In Mark 9:1, He told the people, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power." Either there are some 2,000 year old Jews wandering the earth today, or Jesus' promise was fulfilled and the kingdom WAS established in their generation.

When specifically was the kingdom established in the first century? Let's turn our attention to Luke 24:45-49. The text says, "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." In Mark 9:1, Jesus said that the kingdom would come with power. Here, He says that the apostles were going to receive power in Jerusalem, and that when they did, they would begin to proclaim the name of Jesus to all nations. When did this happen? It happened in Acts 2 when the apostles received the power of the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the name of Jesus. Incidentally, when Peter preached the Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, He said, "Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing" (vv. 30-33). Peter was saying that Jesus is king!

When we put these verses together, we learn that the kingdom was established in the first century, on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 or 33. No, Jesus didn't set up a physical kingdom. He didn't begin to reign in Jerusalem over some earthly territory. But Jesus Himself stated that His kingdom was not an earthly, but a spiritual one. John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from this world." How can we say that Jesus' kingdom is some futuristic earthly kingdom when the Bible says the exact opposite?

But the evidence doesn't end here. Let's consider some additional verses of scripture...

Colossians 1:13 says, "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His dear Son." The Colossian brethren were in the kingdom. According to Revelation 1:9, John and the Christians in Asia were in the kingdom as well. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, "Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God th Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Jesus is reigning now and will continue to reign until the end. Then He'll return the kingdom to the Father. What's interesting is that denominational folks get this backwards. They say that Jesus is not reigning now, but will begin to reign when the end comes.

If Jesus is KING now, then His kingdom is here now. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). He is the King of ages (1 Tim. 1:17).

Does the kingdom exist now? Yes. Is Jesus king now? No. Is there going to be some millennial kingdom on earth in the future? Well, that's where Revelation 20 enters the picture.

Revelation 20:2 says that after the battle of Armageddon, Satan will be "bound...for a thousand years." In the meantime, the saints will reign "with Christ for a thousand years." Based on this passage, it is assumed that Christ will reign over an earthly kingdom for 1,000 years...but notice that nothing is said about the earth. Nowhere does this text say that Christ will literally reign on earth. It simply says that He, along with the saints, will reign for a millennium. Now, keep in mind that the book of Revelation is symbolic (Rev. 1:1), not literal. So we should not interpret this passage literally, but figuratively.

John is simply saying in Revelation 20 that Christ will reign for a perfect period of time...a long time and that we, the saints, will reign with Him. Christ is reigning from heaven. We live on earth, but we are members of a spiritual kingdom. While Christ reigns, the devil is bound (see Matthew 12:29), but there's going to come a time when he, the devil, will be released for a little while. That's what Revelation 20 is saying, but even if you disagree, you must agree based on Rev. 1:1 that this is not a literal 1,000 year kingdom, but rather the passage is symbolic of something else. We cannot dispute that.

Jesus fulfilled His mission. He set up the kingdom. Those who are saved are in it.

Premillennial theology is falling apart one piece at a time.

Proverbs 19...Our Plans vs. God's Will

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." (Prov. 19:21) Also see Prov. 16:9 and 20:24.

I don't know about you, but I spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for the future. I was the kid who drew pictures of his future house, and every girl I dated was a prospective wife. Where would I live? How many kids would I have? What kind of career would I have (I wanted to be a zoologist, a marine biologist, a writer, a farmer, a member of the Coast Guard, and the list goes on)? The point is this: I always have been and I still am a planner.

One of the lessons I've learned in the last few years is that despite all the planning I may do, nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen. For example, when I was living and preaching in Spruce Pine, NC, I just knew that I would never move away. In fact, I told the brethren there on many occasions that I planned on living there for a very long time. These thoughts were in my mind as recently as last summer. But now I'm living in Kentucky.

Now that I'm in Kentucky, I have all kinds of plans, things I'd like to do, but now I'm a little more conscientious of the principle of Proverbs 19:21. Despite all of my plans and desires, God has a will and a plan for my life, and that ultimately needs to be my concern.

People sometimes ask me, "How long do you plan on living in Mt Sterling?" My response is, "I don't know." I might be here for six months, six years or sixty years.

Let me make something very clear: there is nothing wrong with setting goals and making plans for your future. In fact, there's a real sense in which prudence demands some level of planning. But in all of this we need to keep things in perspective. James 4:13-15 says, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'--yet you do now know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'"

So don't get ahead of yourself. Trust God. Seek His will!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Return of Christ...The Book of Revelation

Late last week, I posted an article overviewing the controversy that surrounds the final return of Jesus Christ. The common theory is that Jesus will first return silently to rapture the church. The unsaved will be left-behind on earth to suffer seven years of tribulation. The antichrist will reign during this time. His reign will be characterized by global power and persecution against the church. This seven-year period will come to a climactic end with the famous battle of Armageddon, a literal battle that will take place at Megiddo between the armies of Christ and the armies of Satan. After Christ wins the battle, Satan will be bound for one thousand years while Christ reigns over His millennial kingdom here on earth. This is the common theory. It is what most people believe. But the fact is, it is NOT what the Bible teaches.

This week, I am going to post one article per day with the intent of refuting the aforementioned premillennial theology. I will simultaneously set forth what the Bible DOES teach regarding the final return of Christ.

So far, we've looked at Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4. While both of these passages are used to teach the rapture doctrine, they do not actually teach it. Today, let's consider the third major prooftext of Premillennialism...the book of Revelation.

The book of Revelation is one of the most fascinating books of the Bible. Its imagery immediately grabs our attention. It's also one of the more popular parts of the word of God. Denominational preachers are often quoting it as they preach about the end of time. They assert that in the end of time, God will literally save 144,000 Jewish people (7:3-8), that He will literally throw a mountain into the sea (8:8-9), that He will literally poison the waters with a star of wormwood (8:11), that He will literally send horshish, human-like locust warriors to torment unbelievers (9:3-11), that there will be two literal men who will prophesy and call down fire from heaven on their enemies (11:3-12), that God will literally turn the seas to blood (16:3-4), that there will be a literal battle in Megiddo between the armies of Christ and the armies of Satan (16:12-16) and that there will be a literal millennial kingdom (20:4). that was a mouthful.

Even though most people view the book of Revelation this way, they have misunderstood the book. Revelation is not a book of literal language written to Christians during some tribulation period at the end of time. Rather, it is a book of highly symbolic language that was written to Christians in the first century who were enduring a period of tribulation then. Let's discuss this further.

What kind of language is used in the book of Revelation? The very first verse of the very first chapter answers this question for us. "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John." The word signified is from the Greek word semaino which "to give a sign, to signify, indicate." To signify, or sign-ify, something is to describe it symbolically or representatively (see Jn. 12:33; 18:32; Ac. 11:28).

Some denominational scholars approach the book of Revelation by interpreting it literally unless the context demands a symbolic interpretation, but with 1:1 in mind, would it not be more correct to interpret the book symbolically unless the context demands a literal interpretation? If not, then why does Jesus say that the book was "signified?"

Yes, the book of Revelation speaks of 144,000 who are sealed by God, and yes, we do find the seven scroll, trumpet and bowl judgments, but are these things literal or figurative? Yes, we do read about a battle of Armageddon and a millennial reign, but are these things literal or figurative. We must assume that they are figurative, or symbolic. If a person is going to assert that these things are literal, the burden of proof is on them.

To whom was the book of Revelation written? Revelation 1:4 says, "John to the seven churches which are in Asia..." How can we say that the primary audience of the book is some "tribulation church" at the end of time when the book was clearly addressed to Christians in a particular region of the world in the first century? Should we not assume, then, that the events of the book were pertinent to them, that the book of Revelation applied to their circumstances? And that brings us to our next question...

When would the tribulation period of Revelation occur? John, in 1:9, wrote to the Christians in Asia, "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ..." Wait a second. Isn't this tribulation period supposed to be at the end of time, after the rapture and before the millennial reign of Christ? John says that it was going on in the first century. Some brethren apply the book of Revelation to the Jewish persecution while others (including myself) apply it to the Roman persecution.

When would the events of Revelation transpire? Revelation 1:1 says, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass..." The latter part of 1:3 says, "for the time is at hand." Towards the end of the book, in 22:6, we're told, "And He said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to shew unto His servants the things which must shortly be done."

I also want you to notice Revelation 22:10. This is very important. It says, "And He saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand." Because the prophecies of Revelation were going to be fulfilled soon, John was told NOT to seal the book. Now compare this to Daniel 12:4: "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." Daniel prophesied about the rise and fall of the nations (Babylonian --> Persian --> Grecian --> Roman) as well as the rise of the kingdom of the Messiah which would be established during the days of the Roman kingdom (Dan. 2:44). So basically, Daniel was told to seal the book because the prophecies wouldn't be fulfilled for another 500-600 years, and apparently that's a long time. Now, let's go back to Revelation 22:10. John was told NOT to seal the book because the events were soon to pass...yet it's been almost 2,000 years since the book was written! If Daniel was told to seal his book because it would be another 500-600 years till it was fulfilled, then why didn't God instruct John to seal up his book? Maybe it's because the events of the book of Revelation were going to be fulfilled then, because after all, the tribulation was happening then.

So let's review. The book of Revelation is a highly symbolic, figurative book. It was written to Christians in the first century to help and encourage them during a period of tribulation that they were facing at the hand of either the Jews or Romans.

With this in mind, let me ask YOU the following questions. Is it appropriate to use the book of Revelation to say that there is going to be a literal seven-year period of tribulation at the end of time in which the Antichrist will reign over the globe? Is it proper to use the book of Revelation to teach that God will cause a literal mountain to fall into the sea, or that He will send a literal horde of horshish, human-like locusts upon the earth to torture the unbelievers? I could go on, but I think you get the point. The answer is "no."

As we go through the week, I'm going to come back and touch on some of the passages in the book of Revelation. I do want to consider the battle of Armageddon and I'd like for us to examine Revelation 20 and the millennial kingdom. But hopefully this brief study has helped to establish the basic context and nature of the book.

Feel free to comment below!

Proverbs 18...Tongue of Death

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." (Prov. 18:21)

The wise men is telling us here that our tongue can be a force for good or evil, death or life, destruction or blessing. If we are careful and use our tongue to bless others, we will reap many wonderful rewards in this life, but if we are careless and use our tongue to hurt others, we will reap discord and destruction. That's the way I understand this verse.

The reason I chose this verse above all the others in chapter eighteen is that there is much in this chapter about the tongue. Let's notice the following verses...

"The words of a man's mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook." (vv. 4)

In other words, the wisdom which flows from the mouth of the wise is unending.

"A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul." (vv. 6-7)

Have you ever known someone whose mouth always got him/her in trouble? That's what Solomon is addressing here. Some people refuse to control their tongue and as a result they offend others, make others angry, and stir up all kinds of controversy.

"The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body." (vv. 8)

A whisperer is someone who gossips. Gossip always tastes good at the time, doesn't it. We always want to hear those "juicy details" at the time; we yearn to hear them, but afterwards they go down into the inner part of the body and wreak havoc. So resist gossip!

"If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame." (vv. 13)

We looked at this point not long ago. It is vital that you hear the whole story before you open your mouth. Be swift to hear and slow to speak (Jas. 1:19).

"From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips." (vv. 20)

This is a great way to conclude our brief study. While your tongue can be a force for death or life, make the choice to use it to promote life. That way, your stomach can be satisfied by the yield of your lips. Life is so much easier when you learn to control your tongue.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Return of Christ...1 Thess. 4:13-18

Late last week, I posted an article overviewing the controversy that surrounds the final return of Jesus Christ. The common theory is that Jesus will first return silently to rapture the church. The unsaved will be left-behind on earth to suffer seven years of tribulation. The antichrist will reign during this time. His reign will be characterized by global power and persecution against the church. This seven-year period will come to a climactic end with the famous battle of Armageddon, a literal battle that will take place at Megiddo between the armies of Christ and the armies of Satan. After Christ wins the battle, Satan will be bound for one thousand years while Christ reigns over His millennial kingdom here on earth. This is the common theory. It is what most people believe. But the fact is, it is NOT what the Bible teaches.

This week, I am going to post one article per day with the intent of refuting the aforementioned premillennial theology. I will simultaneously set forth what the Bible DOES teach regarding the final return of Christ.

Yesterday, we looked at Matthew 24, which is a passage of scripture that many religious people misapply and misunderstand. Today, let's consider another common prooftext of Premillennial theology: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18...

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. " (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

There is no question that this passage addresses the final return of Christ, but there are some misunderstandings here that we need to clear up.

Verse 16 is often used to support the rapture doctrine. Yes, this passage does talk about Jesus descending from heaven, and yes, Paul does say that the righteous will be raised up to meet the Lord in the air. I agree with both of these concepts. Jesus will descend and the righteous will be raised up to meet Jesus in the air. Amen! But this verse is NOT teaching the rapture.

The rapture is supposed to be some secretive, silent return of Christ. When I read the first Left Behind novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, this is how the rapture was portrayed. Millions of people suddenly disappeared worldwide while the ones who were left behind were left wondering "what happened?" But Paul does not describe the final return of Christ as secretive or silent. Notice the language of verse 16: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of a trumpet..." Paul makes a similar statement in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: "Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed." When Jesus returns, it will not be silent and secretive. It will be very, very loud.

Someone might object by saying, "But only the righteous will be raised in the rapture." Well, Jesus, in John 5:28-29 says, "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." All will be raised and all will be judged.

Another objection might be raised, "But only the righteous will hear the voice of Jesus and the trumpet-call when He returns to rapture the church." Friend, where is this in the word of God? It just isn't there. When Jesus returns, every ear will hear Him and every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7).

The rapture doctrine, which is so popular in the religious world today, has no basis in scripture. It is inappropriate to use either Matthew 24 or 1 Thessalonians 4 to teach this fallacious doctrine. Neither passage supports it.

Tune in tomorrow as we consider the book of Revelation...

Psalm 17...Laugh a Little

"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Prov. 17:22)

As I have studied the book of Proverbs, one thing that I have noticed is that Solomon says a whole lot about health, happiness and prosperity. In fact, one of the major themes (if there can be themes in Proverbs) is "the physical benefits of obedience to God." Now, I'm not saying that if you become a Christian, God will automatically make you rich and that He will remove all hardship from your life. What I'm saying is that when we do things God's way, life is easier. When we maintain the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), we have stronger relationships. When we abstain from sexual immorality and drunkenness, we don't have to deal with the health problems that are often associated with those sinful activities. When we learn to trust in the Lord, which, by extention necessitates contentment and peace, our minds are not burdened with stress (and stress has many physical consequences).

In Proverbs 17:22, Solomon is not really talking about obedience to God, but he is addressing the health and well-being of man. He says here that happiness and joy makes one healthier while sorrow tends to wear you down physically. And we know this to be true, don't we? A person who is burdened with stress or depression often has ulcers, tension headaches and nausea. They seem to age faster and they feel drained of energy. On the other hand, a person who is happy and at peace does not have to deal with these same problems...generally speaking.

Are you the kind of person that is always negative, always grumpy, always in a bad mood? If so, put a smile on your face. Laugh a little. It'll make you feel better!

In closing, I do want to make one very important point. Earlier I said that Solomon, in Proverbs 17:22, is not talking about obedience to God. That's true, technically. He isn't directly talking about spirituality. BUT certainly we can see a connection between the concept of this verse and spiritual living. In other words, a person who is a Christian should be happier than those who are not Christians. As Paul says in Ephesians 1:3, we have all spiritual blessings in Christ. James 1:17 says that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." Paul says in Philippians 4:7 that we have peace which surpasses all understanding.

It saddens me when I see Christians who always seem to be unhappy. I understand that we all have our moments, and yes, difficulties arise that do damper our spirits, but to ALWAYS be unhappy...I mean, that's not the way God wants us to live.

So again I say, laugh a little...especially if you're a child of God!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Return of Christ...Matthew 24

Late last week, I posted an article overviewing the controversy that surrounds the final return of Jesus Christ. The common theory is that Jesus will first return silently to rapture the church. The unsaved will be left-behind on earth to suffer seven years of tribulation. The antichrist will reign during this time. His reign will be characterized by global power and persecution against the church. This seven-year period will come to a climactic end with the famous battle of Armageddon, a literal battle that will take place at Megiddo between the armies of Christ and the armies of Satan. After Christ wins the battle, Satan will be bound for one thousand years while Christ reigns over His millennial kingdom here on earth. This is the common theory. It is what most people believe. But the fact is, it is NOT what the Bible teaches.

This week, I am going to post one article per day with the intent of refuting the aforementioned premillennial theology. I will simultaneously set forth what the Bible DOES teach regarding the final return of Christ.

Let's begin today by looking at one of three New Testament texts that are misunderstood and perverted to support falsehood regarding the end of time.

The first misunderstood text is Matthew 24. This whole chapter is often viewed as a prophecy of the Jesus' final return, and while it is true that the latter half of the chapter does pertain to the end of time, the first half of the chapter addresses the impending destruction of Jerusalem which took place in A.D. 70. Matthew 24:1-2 says, "Jesus left the temple and was going away, when His disciples came to point out to Him the buildings of the temple. But He answered them, 'You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.'" Jesus is talking about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Of course, this confused the disciples, prompting them to ask him two questions in verse 3: when will these things be? and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?

It is sad that many people ignore the context of this great prophetic sermon. Jesus is not talking about the end of time in verses 4-33, but rather the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Notice verse 16 for example: "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." We learn two things here. Number one, the events of this passage were localized, not global. The final return of Christ will be global, so this must be the destruction of Jerusalem... which, ironically enough, would occur in Judea. Second, these events could be escaped, but the events of Jesus' final return will not be escaped. Jesus is talking about the physical judgment that God would bring upon Jerusalem.

Some wonder about verses 29-31. Jesus says, regarding these same events, that "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light." The "sign of the son of Man" will appear in heaven." This must be the final return of Christ, right? Wrong! This passage is not literal. Jesus here is using prophetic language, which was highly symbolic. Notice Isaiah 13:9-13 to better understand this point. The very same language was used there in reference to God's physical judgment of Babylon!

But the most powerful point is n verse 34 where Jesus says, "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." Wait a second. Isn't Jesus speaking about the end of time...which hasn't happened yet? So does this verse mean that there are thousands, perhaps millions, of two-thousand year-old Jews walking the earth today? Or is it possible that everything in the preceding passage WAS fulfilled in A.D. 70? Not only is it possible, it is the truth.

Now, in verse 36, Jesus does change the course of the discussion. He begins to answer the disciples' second question about the end of time. "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."

This brings us to verses 37-42. Let's read this very controversial passage together...

"For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming."

Many use this passage to teach the rapture doctrine. According to denominational teachings, the rapture will occur secretly and silently. The righteous will be taken to heaven while the unrighteous are left-behind on earth to endure the tribulation period. In verse 40, Jesus DOES say that "two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left." Sounds like the rapture, doesn't it? But the problem is, this interpretation doesn't fit the whole passage.

Notice that the final return of Christ is compared to the flood of Noah's day. In Noah's day, the people were carrying on with their everyday affairs even though Noah had been warning them of the impending destruction. Because of their carnality and carelessness, the flood came suddenly upon them and destroyed them. But here's what I want you to notice...

In the example of the flood, who was taken and who was left? According to verse 38, the wicked were "swept away" or taken. It was Noah and his family that was "left behind," or spared from the destruction. So when Jesus says regarding His final return that "one will be taken and one left" He is actually saying the exact opposite of what most people think. He's not saying that the righteous will literally be taken to heaven while the unrighteous are literally left behind on earth. He's saying that the wicked will be taken in judgment and destroyed while the righteous will be left or spared from the destruction. That is what the context demands!

And the overall point here is this: "Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." In other words, learn from the story of Noah. Don't be like the wicked people who ignored the warnings. Instead, be like obedient Noah.

Matthew 24 is a very controversial chapter, even among brethren, but I believe that I have clearly shown that it cannot be used to teach Premillennial theology, nor can it be used to support the rapture doctrine. Yes, Jesus will return and we must all be ready for it, but do not blindly follow denominational theology. Seek out what the Bible says.

Tomorrow, we will look at 1 Thessalonians 4, and then on Wednesday, we'll glance at the book of Revelation. If you have any questions or thoughts, please comment below. Otherwise, tune in tomorrow for the next installment in this series.

Proverbs 16...The Dangers of Pride

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud." (Prov. 16:18-19)

We use the word pride a lot nowadays. We talk about how we're proud of our children, proud of our accomplishments, proud of our country, proud of...well, you get the idea. Typically, when we talk about pride, we do not have this negative image in our mind. To the average person, pride is just a feeling of satisfaction. That's how most people use the word, and that's fine.

But then there is a negative usage of the term, and that's what Solomon has in mind here. The Hebrew word for pride in Proverbs 16:18 is gaon which means, "arrogancy, excellency (-lent), majesty, pomp, pride, proud, swelling." Based on this definition, we might say that pride is synonymous with arrogance, haughtiness and conceit. As Paul says in Romans 12:3, "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." That is the essence of pride.

Pride is so dangerous because ultimately it leads to our downfall, as Solomon indicates. It may cause us to be dishonest, selfish, wrathful, close-minded, rude and bitter. A proud person will not admit that he is wrong, because that would be "weak" and embarrassing. A proud person will often demand the preeminence in every situation and will seek to ruin anyone who is viewed as a challenge to his position.

I want to take just a few moments to discuss the destructive nature of pride in various situations.

Pride can destroy a family. Husbands and wives are going to have disagreements. Some of those disagreements will be major and may even last for days or weeks. Hopefully, both sides are humble and the problem will be swiftly resolved, but when there is pride, the problem will only worsen. Pride often hinders one or both sides from admitting their wrongdoing. Concession and compromise are almost impossible in the presence of pride. Men especially, because they often feel like their position of headship is under attack, are prone to pride. The results can be disastrous: a severely damaged marriage, a broken marriage or even divorce. And then there are the unintended consequences: emotionally distraught children, spiritual frailty, etc.

Pride can destroy a church. There are some preeminent men in the church that will do anything to maintain some degree of power and influence. Sometimes, a man may rebel against the leadership of the church (i.e. the elders) because he does not like being under their authority. Women are not immune from this, either. Pride, of course, can spring up during disagreements and debates. Doctrinal debates become competitions where both parties are only trying to "win the argument." Personal disagreements are often inflamed due to arrogance and a refusal to humbly follow the biblical pattern (Mt. 18:15-17). Many churches have divided unnecessarily because of pride.

Pride can destroy friendships. Have you ever known two friends who had a disagreement and because of pride never resolved that disagreement and as a result their friendship ended? It happens all the time. Or have you ever known someone who was so arrogant and so proud that it was hard to be around them too long?

Pride can destroy your relationship with God. James 4:6 says, "But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,'" and in verse 10, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you." God demands humility. He is our Master and we are the servants. He makes the rules and we follow them. The whole concept of Christianity is rooted in humility. Humility permits us to acknowledge our wrongs before God that we might be forgiven (1 Jn. 1:9). It allows us to serve God and our fellow man. Humility moves us to obey the law of God. Pride hinders us in every respect. An arrogant person will not see that God is greater, and thus they will not obey. A haughty person will not be willing to be a servant. A prideful person will refuse to acknowledge his own sinfulness.

Indeed, Solomon was right when he said "Pride goes before destruction."

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Will Happen When Jesus Returns?

We spend a lot of time talking about the return of Christ, don't we? Most people in Christendom agree that Jesus is going to return. This is common ground. The question is: how is He going to return and what will happen in the end?

The most common answer is that at some point in the future Jesus will rapture His church. This rapture will be secretive and silent. Millions of people worldwide will just disappear. Planes will come crashing down and cars will collide. There is a popular bumper sticker which says, "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned." While the church is taken to heaven, the unbelievers will be "left behind" on earth to suffer seven horrible years of tribulation during which the Antichrist will reign over all mankind. In the beginning, the Antichrist will promise peace, but then he will become increasingly wicked. Halfway through the tribulation period he will be assassinated, and then three days later he will be resurrected and indwelt by Satan himself. God will execute His seal, trumpet and bowl judgments on sinful mankind during this time. The saints (converted since the rapture) will be persecuted. Overall, it will be a really bad time. Then, the tribulation will end with the famous battle of Armageddon, a literal battle that will take place in the valley of Megiddo between the armies of Christ and Satan. Of course, Christ will win. Satan will be bound for a thousand years while Christ reigns in His millennial kingdom. Then there will be a great day of judgment that will conclude all things.

This is how most people view the end of the world.

But the fact is, it's wrong.

There will be no secretive, silent rapture. No one will be left behind on earth when Jesus returns. There will be no seven year period of tribulation. There will be no one-man Antichrist who will rule the world. There will be no literal battle of Armageddon in Megiddo. None of this will happen. SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN, but this is not it.

Do I have your attention?

Beginning on Monday, August 17th, I am going to write one article each day for five days that will set forth the biblical teachings on the return of Christ. Tune in Monday as we begin this exciting study.

Proverbs 14...Don't Follow Your Heart

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Prov. 14:12).

This same point is repeated in Proverbs 16:25, and certainly the principle is taught throughout the Bible. The principle is this: don't follow your heart!

Jeremiah 10:23 says, "I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps." The prophet makes a similar point in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Also, Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you, depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.'"

Sadly, too many people today base their spirituality on feelings. They do what feels right and what makes them feel spiritual. Nowadays, religious people are searching for tingly feelings and sensations. If it feels right, it must be right. If my heart is telling me that this is right, then it must be right. Wrong!

Solomon tells us that we cannot trust our feelings. Jeremiah says that man cannot guide himself (which is basically what we're trying to do when we rely on our feelings). Our Lord tells us that salvation comes when we do the will of the Father, not when we feel spiritual.

Softly strummed guitars during prayers. Dimmed lights. Sermons with feel-good stories and little Bible teaching. Charismatic activities that tug at the heartstrings and create excitement but accomplish nothing in the area of spiritual edification (which comes from the word of God). Innovative worship activities that are not found in the word of God...but hey, it sure sounds cool. Light shows. Artificial fog. Rock and roll bands in worship. And I could go on and on and on.

Instead of following our heart's every desire and whim, we need to start seeking Bible authority for all that we do. If we follow our heart, we may end up alienated from God. Our heart cannot be trusted. Our feelings aren't reliable. But if we do things according to the New Testament pattern, we can rest assured that what we're doing is acceptable to the Lord.

John 4:24 says that we MUST worship God in spirit and in truth. To worship in truth is to worship according to God's word, for God's word is truth (Jn. 17:17). Matthew 15:8-9 says, "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." When we incorportate the commandments of men into worship, the result is vain worship, worship that is unacceptable to God.

Where is the New Testament authority for instrumental music in worship? I know that it feels good and we want to object by saying, "What could possibly be wrong with it?" but where is the book, chapter and verse authorizing it in the church? Where is the New Testament authority for monthly, quarterly or yearly observances of the Lord's Supper? Where are we authorized to mandate tithing today? Friends, we need to start thinking about these kinds of things.

I am not saying that emotions are always wrong, or that we shouldn't feel what we do in our worship to God. Certainly, our heart should be in it. We MUST worship God in spirit! But these feelings and emotions must be kept within the confines of what is authorized.

What about you? Are you following your heart or can you confidently assert that all you do in worship to the Lord is divinely authorized?

Feelings cannot be trusted. But the will of God, the Bible, can absolutely be trusted.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Proverbs 13... Don't Spare the Rod!

"Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." (Prov. 13:24)

We live in a society that is growing more and more soft when it comes to discipline. Nowadays, spanking is frowned upon by many. If a person spanks their child, others look on with disgust. In some parts of the world (and perhaps even some parts of America), spanking is viewed as child abuse and there can be legal consequences. Even some parents have said, "I love my child too much to spank them."

I have nothing to say to those people who reject the Bible, nor do I have anything to say to those who claim to be Christians who argue that the Bible is outdated and no longer applicable. There is nothing I can say to people like that.

But I can say something to those of you who respect the Bible as the word of God.

The verse cited above plainly says that if you love your child, you will discipline them. And Solomon here isn't talking about time-out or being grounded. He is very specific when he says, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son." The Hebrew word for rod is shebet which means, "to branch off; a scion, that is, (literally) a stick (for punishing, writing, fighting, ruling, walking, etc.) or (figuratively) a clan: - X correction, dart, rod, sceptre, staff, tribe." That is the definition found in Strong's.

Solomon is not saying that we should take a baseball bat to our kids, nor is he authorizing physical abuse. He's not telling us to beat our kids to death. But he is certainly authorizing corporal punishment.

There are several things that we need to understand about corporal punishment. First of all, as Solomon indicates here, all punishment is to be motivated by love. Too often, parents spank their children in the heat of the moment, when they're angry and out-of-control. This is not discipline. It is you losing your temper. Solomon says that our motive should be love.

When your child disobeys your order the first time, you must go to them in a calm way, explain to them that they are about to be disciplined because they disobeyed you, and afterwards, tell them that you love them and that it's very important to do what mommy/daddy says. Do this every time they disobey. Don't do it every other time, or every tenth time. Be consistent.

I am fully convinces that consistent, loving, controlled discipline works!

Of course, there is more to parenting than discipline. There ought to be training as well, along with positive reinforcement and relationship-building practices. Children are a heritage from the Lord (Ps. 127:3) and we ought to cherish every moment we have with them. It is a huge responsibility that requires a lot of sacrifice and devotion on our part, but it is worth it. The time passes by quickly. They'll be 18 before you know it. Understand your obligations and take the time to raise your kids God's way!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Are We Once Saved, Always Saved?

There are two basic positions when it comes to eternal security. Some teach that once a person is saved, they cannot lose their salvation no matter what. And then there are those who contend that salvation is conditional and therefore can be lost.

The Bible does not teach both positions. Only one can be right. So which is right?

I firmly believe that salvation can be lost. I do not take this position for any reason other than the fact that the Bible teaches it. Many verses could be considered to solidify this point, but for the sake of brevity (and to provoke discussion and debate), I will only mention one here.

"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)

James is speaking to brethren, to Christians. He implies that a brother can wander away from the truth and be considered a "sinner" whose soul is in death (see Rom. 6:23).

Those who are faithful are encouraged to go after these erring brethren. Why? So that a soul might be saved from death. Clearly, a person can depart from the faith and be alienated from God, lost in their sins.

This one passage denies the "Once Saved, Always Saved" position. Can a person who is saved sin so as to be lost? James, a man inspired by God, says "yes!"

This is what the Bible says and we must hold fast to it. It's not negative. It's truth!

What are your thoughts?

Proverbs 12...Easily Offended & Easily Offensive

Notice these two contrasting points in Proverbs 12...

"The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult" (vv. 16).

"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (vv. 18).

In the first verse, Solomon is basically telling us not to be easily offended. Don't be that person who overreacts and explodes every time someone offends you, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Don't be that person that everyone has to walk on eggshells around. As the wise man says here, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who, when offended, immediately begin to complain, and those who are mature enough to ignore the insult, to forget it and move on.

Have you ever overreacted to something someone said or did? Perhaps you took it the wrong way or were extra-sensitive at the time. Perhaps they simply chose their words poorly. Perhaps the whole thing was a giant misunderstanding. The point is this: more often than not, our hurt feelings are not really justified. We've overreacted and blown the situation way out of proportion.

Solomon is telling us not to do that. Control your temper. Control your thoughts. Move on.

But on the other hand, in Proverbs 12:18, we're told, "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts." In other words, don't be so offensive. Choose your words carefully. Think before you speak. Words have the power to hurt and destroy, so be extra cautious.

So Solomon addresses those on both side of the equation.

Don't be easily offended and don't be offensive. There needs to be patience and maturity on both sides here. The question is: are you weak in either or both of these areas? Are you a volatile person and do others have to walk on eggshells around you? Are you the fool or the prudent man of Proverbs 12:16? Or are you the kind of person that has an unguarded tongue, that constantly offends others; the kind of person that speaks before he thinks?

The sooner we get this under control, the easier life is going to be. That's a fact!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One Way or Another

We are all impressed by God's ability to accomplish His will. We know that Jesus' sacrifice was predetermined and foreknown by God (Ac. 2:23; 4:28; 1 Pet. 1:20). We're also aware that God is able to declare the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). He is, after all, God!

But I'm afraid that we sometimes misunderstand how this happens, how the Lord providentially works to fulfill His plan. Some religious people thing that God has predetermined every decision that every man will ever make, that He has full-control of our thoughts and actions. If this is the case, then it would not be difficult for God to bring about the fulfillment of His plan. He just moves us around like pawns in a game of Chess...only God controls all the pieces (which sounds pretty meaningless, doesn't it?).

I guess what I'm getting at is this: we know that God has a predetermined plan, but is it necessarily true that He has already predetermined exactly who and how every function of His plan will be fulfilled? Yes, there are examples where God did know ahead of time who, by name, would fulfill a certain role (Is. 45:1, Cyrus is named before He was ever king), but does that mean that every detail and name is foreknown and predetermined by God?

In answering this question, let's read Exodus 32:10. When the people of Israel worshiped the golden calf (after God had just displayed His mighty power to them), God decided to destroy the people. He said to Moses, "Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you." As Moses interceded for the people, God basically told him, "Get out of My way. I'm going to destroy them and fulfill my promise to Abraham through you."

God had prospered the people of Israel in the land of Egypt. He had led them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. He had issued forth law unto them and had even confirmed the covenant with them in Exodus 24. But now, because of their gross sin, He was going to destroy them and start over with Moses.

Was God just testing Moses as many, including myself, have suggested? Certainly, this was a test for Moses, but I cannot see that as being God's primary motivation here. No where is it stated in the text that God was merely testing Moses. God's anger was, I believe, sincere, and He fully intended to destroy Israel. But Moses interceded.

Here's the point: if God had destroyed the people, it would have been because of their sin, and ultimately God's plan would have been fulfilled. Moses was a child of Abraham, and God could have raised up a nation through Him.

What about Judas? We know that Judas was the Son of Perdition, but what if Judas hadn't betrayed Jesus? What if Judas, who possessed free-will, had chosen to remain faithful to his Master? Certainly, God could have raised up someone else to do the job.

When God saw the wickedness of man during the days of Noah, He was "sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart" (Gen. 6:6). Jonah was commissioned by God to preach to the people of Nineveh. The prophet cried out to the people, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Jon. 3:4). Yet when the people repented, "God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way" and He "relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it" (Jon. 3:10).

Does God have a predetermined plan, and does He possess foreknowledge? Certainly. I will also add that God can foreknow anything. But does He choose to foreknow everything? And is God unwavering when it comes to the details of how His plan is carried out?

It is ironic to me that the Calvinistic theology exists because many religious people believe that in order for God to be sovereign, He must control every detail of EVERYTHING. Really, God's power and sovereignty are greater when He can bring about His plan despite our free-will!

We may not know exactly how God works behind the scenes but we can know one thing...

We serve an awesome God!

This is something that I've been thinking about. I may be wrong. If you disagree, please post your comments below. Let me know what you think.

Proverbs 11...To Give or Not to Give?

"A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself...One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." (Prov. 11:17, 24)

We often view our money as OUR money. "It's mine and I'll do what I want with it," we often say. After all, we worked hard for it, right? We did it! We earned it! It's ours!

Yes, it is our money and technically we can spend it on whatever we want. If we want to own a nice car, that's fine. If we want to have certain luxuries such as a big-screen TV or a jet-ski, that's fine, too. Ecclesiastes 2:24 says, "There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God."

But at the same time, we've got to have the right attitude towards our money and our possessions. As the above proverbs indicate, we need to be liberal in our giving. In fact, if we're benevolent towards others, the writer says that we will grow "all the richer." So often we view our money as OUR money, but the Bible tells us over and over again that all we have is from the Lord, and that we need to use these blessings to bless others.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. The apostle makes a similar point in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." In other words, use the blessings that God has given you to enrich the lives of others. God blesses us that we might bless others.

Yes, it's your money, but at the same time, it's God's. When David was taking up a collection for the temple which would ultimately be constructed by his son, Solomon, he prayed to God in 1 Chronicles 29:14 saying, "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own we have given you."

How do you view your money and possessions?

The book of Proverbs tells us over and over again not to trust in riches, but to trust in the Lord. If we trust Him, we'll be taken care of. And if we use the physical blessings that God has given us to bless others, then certainly He will bless us.

To give or not to give?

Let us liberally give, not because we feel that we have to, but because we want to!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Proverbs 10...Love Covers All Sins

"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses" (Prov. 10:12, ESV). "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins" (Prov. 10:12, KJV).

Many people use this verse of scripture to teach that we should overlook the sins of others. They will connect this to the famous statement in Matthew 7:1, "Judge not that ye be not judged." The idea is that we should never say anything to anyone about their sins and shortcomings. After all, "love covers all offenses." Just ignore it and it will eventually go away.

But that is not at all what the wise man is instructing us to do in Proverbs 10:12.

In order for us to understand this verse, we need to see the contrast within the verse itself.

Hatred stirs up strife BUT love covers all offenses

The theme of the verse is strife and discord. In essence, Solomon is presenting a negative and positive reaction to the offenses of others. The negative reaction is hatred which only inflames the problem. Hatred often leads to slander, gossip, backbiting, and the list goes on. When someone sins or offends in some point, we should not inflame the problem by telling the juicy details to everyone that we know.

Instead, we should react in a positive way to the situation. In a loving way, we should "cover the offense." Certainly, if someone has sinned or if someone has exercised poor judgment in some area (causing an offense of sorts), we need to love them enough to confront them about it, so that they have the opportunity to make it right (see Prov. 28:13). But this love should also prevent us from stirring up strife.

Let's say that a friend of yours offends you or wrongs you in some way. What do you do? Do you go to your friend and work it out with them privately, or do you call/email all of your closest companions and tell them a one-sided story that will only stir up further strife and enmity?

The point is this: when a problem can be handled privately, love that person enough to "cover the offense." Go to them. Work it out. Keep it quiet.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Proverbs 7...Two Mistakes That Lead to Sin

The story of seduction in Proverbs 7 has always grabbed my attention. The book of Proverbs, for the most part, is a series of random thoughts, but here in chapter seven, Solomon breaks from the verse-by-verse randomness to tell a rather in-depth story.

Let's read verses 6-27: "For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, 'I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.' With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death."

While the subject here is adultery and harlotry, we can derive from the story many valuable lessons that ought to help us in overcoming sin in general. As I consider this story, there are three points that stand out to me. First of all, there are the two mistakes of the young man that ultimately led to his fall. Second, there is the general seductiveness of sin.

This young man made two grave errors in judgment that led to the temptation itself.

In verses 7-9, the young man is said to be a simple youth, a "young man lacking sense." He passed along the street near the corner of the prostitute's house. The structure of the passage indicates that the young man could have avoided this situation entirely. In other words, the implication seems to be that the young man knew where the prostitute lived and was foolishly passing by her house. Whether he was looking for the prostitute (one might argue, based on the words of the prostitute in verses 14-15 that they knew each other) or simply passing by her house innocently, he clearly exercised poor judgment in approaching her place of residence.

This was his first mistake, and it is a mistake that we make all too often. We put ourselves in situations where temptation is likely to occur. We may not enter into the situation with the intention of violating God's will, but we know that temptation is at least possible. It may be that we watch a certain movie knowing that it contains inappropriate scenes and/or language. It may be that we spend time with certain people that negatively influence us. Whatever the case may be, we need to learn from the story of Proverbs 7. If you can avoid temptation, avoid it. Stay far from sin. Don't give the devil an opportunity to lure you away from the Lord. Back in Proverbs 5:8, the wise man tells us, "Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless." The her in this passage is, once again, the harlot, and Solomon tells us to stay far away from her house. In Romans 13:14, Paul gives us similar advice when he says, "Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." In other words, guard your heart. Be circumspect (Eph.15).

This may mean not watching certain movies, not hanging out with certain people, not going to certain events, not listening to certain kinds of music, etc. But our soul is worth the precaution!

Okay, let's go back to Proverbs 7.

The young man's first mistake was his foolish decision to pass by the prostitute's house. He could have chosen another route, but he chose to put himself in a precarious situation. Of course, the woman, according to verse 10, came out to meet him. She was "dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart." And this is where he made his second grave error...

He had to be able to tell that she was a prostitute, for she was dressed like one. The implication here is that prostitutes dressed a certain way that distinguished them from other woman who were NOT prostitutes. Upon seeing the harlot, the young man should have fled. Do you remember the story of Joseph? When Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him, he turned and ran away, even leaving his clothes in her hands (Gen. 39:12). Joseph, recognizing the dangers of the situation, knowing that the temptation would grow stronger if he tarried, left the scene ASAP. And that's exactly what the young man of Proverbs 7 should have done.

Instead, he not only stayed, but he listened to her as she seduced him. She seized him and kissed him (vv. 13), described to him her bedroom (vv. 16-17) and convinced him that no one would ever know (vv. 19-20). "With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him" (vv. 21). The more we listen to our flesh, the harder it will be to resist sin.

As Christians, we need to (1) avoid temptation whenever possible and (2) flee from it when we do encounter it. If we don't entertain the flesh, if we maintain our focus and our resolve, we will have much greater success in our war against sin.

Before I conclude this article, I want to point out one more thing: the seductiveness of sin.

As a human being, you have to read this story in Proverbs 7 and recognize the prostitute's appeal. What if you had been the young man here, and what if you had found yourself being kissed and seduced by the prostitute? Certainly, you can understand how alluring this might be, and that's the way sin is. It is called temptation for a reason.

But notice what Solomon says about it. "All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life...Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death" (vv. 21-23, 27). The point is this: sin is seductive and appealing at the time, but that glee doesn't last long. The end is slaughter! Proverbs 5:3-4 says, "For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword."

Whatever the sin is, whether it is lust, adultery, wrath, drinking, foul language or cruelty, we must look past the temporal pleasure to the long-lasting consequences. One act of adultery can separate you from God, destroy your marriage, damage your children, split a church and ruin your good name. One moment of wrath can change the entire dynamic of your family for the worse. One night of sinful pleasure, even though repented of, will forever stain the purity of your mind. Sin is not worth it. Avoid it if possible, run away from it when you encounter it, and of course, repent of it when you fall prey to it.

Let us learn from the story of Proverbs 7.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What About Baptism?

What must a person do to be saved? Where does baptism enter the picture? What is baptism?

Most people believe that a person is saved when they believe and accept Jesus into their hearts. We hear a lot about the sinner's prayer and salvation by faith-only. Denominational worship services usually conclude with what they term an "altar call" where alien sinners come forward, kneel at the "altar" and pray for salvation.

Once a person is "saved" they then schedule a time to be baptized as an "outward sign of an inward grace." Usually, this takes place a few weeks later and it involves two things: first, it involves showing the world that you have put on Christ; it is an outward sign of what has already happened on the inside; and then second, it allows you access to that local church and enables you to be a member there.

Of course, certain denominations practice infant baptism and then there is, of course, the old debate on the mode of baptism (sprinkling, pouring or immersion). So what does the Bible teach? When is a person saved? What role does baptism play in salvation, if any at all? And what is the biblical mode of baptism?

Much could be considered here, but let's turn to one passage of scripture to answer all three questions. Open your Bible to Romans 6:3-8. Paul says here, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him."

In the previous chapter, Paul affirmed that we're saved by faith. Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." So we are not discounting the necessity of faith. The Bible is clear that one must believe in order to be saved. The Bible is also clear that we must repent (Lk. 13:3; Ac. 2:38; 3:19) and confess the Lord Jesus (Rom. 10:9-10) in order to be saved. So we're not saved by one thing. We're not saved by faith only, repentance only, confession only or baptism only. Clearly, we must harmonize the teachings of scripture and conclude that ALL are necessary if the Bible says they are necessary.

So back to Romans 6.

Paul compares baptism to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. We're baptized into Jesus' death, buried with Him in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life. Paul says in Romans 6:6 that the body of sin is destroyed when we're baptized.

So if you want to access Christ (vv. 3), if you want to destroy the body of sin (vv. 6) and if you want to be raised to walk in newness of life (vv. 4) then you MUST be baptized. Newness of life doesn't come before baptism; it comes when you're baptized, according to the inspired word of God. Is this not what the passage plainly says?

Some people want to say that baptism merely symbolizes that these things have already happened (at the point of faith and prayer). But where do you find that in the text? Paul says that these things happen at the point of baptism, not before.

Others want to argue that Paul is speaking of some kind of spiritual baptism that occurs at the point of faith. What's ironic is that the same people who make this argument often use this exact same passage to teach that water baptism is by immersion. After all, Paul says here that baptism is a burial, which implies complete immersion.

Some will ask, "What about the blood of Christ? Aren't we saved by blood not water?" First of all, no one ever said that we're saved by the water itself. Water is simply the medium that God has specified. Consider, for example the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a leper. Elisha the prophet told him that if he dipped in the Jordan River seven times, his leprosy would be cleansed. At first, Naaman was angry. He argued that there were cleaner rivers back in Damascus. The Jordan River was a dirty river. But finally, when Naaman humbly obeyed the prophet's command, his leprosy was cleansed! Was it the water of the Jordan River that saved Naaman from his leprosy, or was it his humble obedience to Elisha's command? Of course, it was his obedience that brought about the cleansing. It is the same with water baptism. The water is not holy. We've not sprinkled some kind of "holy-dust" on it. We've not prayed over it to give it saving power. It's not the water, it's the obedience (which necessitates water for God specified it).

Furthermore, go back to Romans 5:9-10. "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life." The Bible ABSOLUTELY teaches that we're saved and justified by the blood of Christ. Paul goes on to say that we're reconciled to God by Jesus' death (where the blood was shed).

Just a few verses later, in the beginning of chapter six, Paul says that we are baptized into Jesus' death. Do you see the point? Yes, we're saved by the blood of Christ, but how do we contact the blood? Paul says that it is applied when we are baptized into His death, where His blood was shed. This is not a battle between "water salvation" and blood salvation. There is no disagreement here. Jesus' blood saves us. Water baptism, when coupled with faith, repentence and confession, allows us to access the blood of Christ. The body of sin is destroyed and we're raised to walk in newness of life.

It's that simple.

Water baptism is a part of the conversion process. In fact, a person is not saved until they have "obeyed from the heart" (Rom. 6:17) that form of teaching that has been delivered to them. In other words, a person may feel saved, and they may believe that they're serving God, but until they are baptized for the remission of sins, unto salvation, they are still in their sins.

Much more could be said about the necessity of baptism. If you're interested in the subject, please read Mark 16:16; John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12 and 1 Peter 3:20-21. Please feel free to comment below.