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Discuss the tough questions relating to the Christian Faith. Present the Scripture in an interdenominational fashion demonstrating those things we hold in common and provoking thought whenever possible. Hopefully you will find things here that will encourage you to study more deeply that all of Scripture will be at home in your heart.


Faith that Sees What It's Praying For

Intro to Habakkuk: ...His first subject is, faith struggling under the oppressive sight of the sufferings of the good from the bad within God’s people; the second subject is the suffering at the hands of those who are God’s instruments to avenge that wickedness.  The third subject , that of his great hymn, is faith, not jubilant until the end, yet victorious, praying, believing, seeing in vision what it prays for, and triumphing in that, of which it sees no tokens, whose only earnest is God’s own loving-kindnesses to His people, and His Name, under which He had revealed Himself, “He Who Is,” the Unchangeable. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

When the storm clouds appear and the thunder rolls it is easy to loose sight of Him who hung the stars and numbers the hairs on our head.  Yet His providence is clear no matter the direction of gaze.  But imagine a faith that sees that for which it prays! And having seen, triumphs though earthly eyes cannot find its Ebenezer.  For our earnest dwells within, God Himself, forever in joyful fellowship of the heart.  A most wondrous way to begin a new year with Him who is Unchangeable! Happy New Year!

 


The Sovereignty of God Over His Creation

Albert Barnes’ Notes:

Isa 46:10

Declaring the end from the beginning - Foretelling accurately the course of future events. This is an argument to which God often appeals in proof that he is the only true God (see Isa_41:22-23; Isa_43:12; Isa_44:26).

My counsel shall stand - My purpose, my design, my will. The phrase ‘shall stand’ means that it shall be stable, settled, fixed, established. This proves:

1. That God has a purpose or plan in regard to human affairs. If he had not, he could not predict future events, since a contingent event cannot be foreknown and predicted; that is, it cannot be foretold that an event shall certainly occur in one way, when by the very supposition of its being contingent it may happen either that way, or some other way, or not at all.

2. That God’s plan will not be frustrated. He has power enough to secure the execution of his designs, and he will exert that power in order that all his plans may be accomplished. We may observe, also, that it is a matter of unspeakable joy that God has a plan, and that it will be executed. For

(1) If there were no plan in relation to human things, the mind could find no rest. If there was no evidence that One Mind presided over human affairs; that an infinitely wise plan had been formed, and that all things had been adjusted so as best to secure the ultimate accomplishment of that plan, everything would have the appearance of chaos, and the mind must be filled with doubts and distractions. But our anxieties vanish in regard to the apparent irregularities and disorders of the universe, when we feel that all things are under the direction of an Infinite Mind, and will be made to accomplish his plans, and further his great designs.

(2) If his plans were not accomplished, there would be occasion of equal doubt and dismay. If there was any power that could defeat the purposes of God; if there was any stubbornness of matter, or any inflexible perverseness in the nature of mind; if there were any unexpected and unforeseen extraneous causes that could interpose to thwart his plans, then the mind must be full of agitation and distress. But the moment it can fasten on the conviction that God has formed a plan that embraces all things, and that all things which occur will be in some way made tributary to that plan, that moment the mind can be calm in resignation to his holy will.

And I will do all my pleasure - I will accomplish all my wish, or effect all my desire. The word rendered here ‘pleasure’ (חפץ chepēts) means properly delight or pleasure 1Sa_15:22; Psa_1:2; Psa_16:3; Ecc_5:4; Ecc_12:10; then desire, wish, will Job_31:16; and then business, cause, affairs Isa_53:10. Here it means that God would accomplish everything which was to him an object of desire; everything which he wished, or willed. And why should he not? Who has power to hinder or prevent him Rom_9:19? And why should not we rejoice that he will do all that is pleasing to him? What better evidence have we that it is desirable that anything should be done, than that it is agreeable, or pleasing to God? What better security can we have that it is right, than that he wills it? What more substantial and permanent ground of rejoicing is there in regard to anything, than that it is such as God prefers, loves, and wills?

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Albert Barnes was born in Rome, New York on December 1, 1798. He graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, in 1820, and from Princeton Theological Seminary, in 1823.

Barnes was ordained pastor of the Presbyterian church in Morristown, NJ, in 1825. He was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, 1830-67, where he resigned and was made pastor emeritus.


Eternity of Hell - Torments

The seers of the splendid Gospel radiance are faced with a choice whether to enter into the obedience of its precepts and enjoy the affirmation of eternal life or remain outside its protective ramparts and be held captive in the darkness of eternal punishment (George Whitfield, Eternity of Hell — Torments; paraphrase mine).  For it was Jesus Christ who said, "And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life." (Matthew 25:46 NLT)

But what precepts are these that I must enter in?  By what gate do I travel?  The gate of Christ Himself!  In the verses that precede we see life given over in service of His brothers and sisters.  Lives presented as a living sacrifice (not for gain of the affirmation) but because of the gift of Christ Himself received within the vilest sin-darkened heart.

You would think that the promise of eternity alone would be sufficient to draw us near His bosom and sing the song of a soul set free!  But our inherited falseness like an anchor drags us to the depths where light is never seen.

I wish it were the comeliness of the Rose of Sharon that drew me to that lighted place where soul and mind are saved.  But it was the fear of the judgment and all their terrors pending for His sake kept longsuffering that caused my turning home.  Were it not for Grace pursuing me clothed in eternal hope, I would now be in the same chasm deep into which my paradisiacal parents fell.


The Chief End of Man

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever

References:

To Glorify God

Psa 86:9  All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

Isa 60:21  Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.

Rom 11:36  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

1Co 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1Co 10:31  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Rev 4:11  "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

To Enjoy Him Forever

Psa 16:5-11  The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psa 144:15  Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD! - Psa 16:5-11

Isa 12:2  "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."

Luk 2:10  And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Rev 21:3-4  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

When I observe the current evangelical environment in America these days, with all of it's self-centeredness (even while you hear 'It's not about us!'), I often wonder if we haven't got it rather backwards.


Deception

A man is DECEIVED if he is a hearer and not a doer of the Word.

But don't just listen to God's word.  You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  (James 1:22 NLT)

A man is DECEIVED if he says that he has no sin .

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  (1 John 1:8 NLT)

A man is DECEIVED when he thinks himself to be something when he is nothing.

If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself.  You are not that important.  (Galatians 6:3 NLT)

A man is DECEIVED when he thinks himself to be wise with worldly wisdom.

Stop deceiving yourselves.  If you think you are wise by this world's standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.  (1 Corinthians 3:18 NLT)

A man is DECEIVED when he seems to be religious and does not bridle his tongue.

If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.  (James 1:26 NLT)

A man is DECEIVED when he thinks that he will not reap what he sows.

Don't be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.  (Galatians 6:7 NLT)

A man is DECEIVED when he thinks that evil company will not corrupt good morals.

For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.  (1 Corinthians 15:53 NLT)

A man is DECEIVED when he thinks that the unrighteous will inherit the kingdom of God (heaven).

Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Don't fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality,  (1 Corinthians 6:9 NLT)

Now Satan will try to DECEIVE you. If you do not pay attention to the above, he will succeed. Will you let him?


Unless A Man Is Born Again

Unless a man is born again. . . what? What exactly does a man need to be born again for? What is it that is impossible for a man do do, unless he is born again (regenerated)? John, Chapter 3, in Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, has some answers for us.

"This man (Nicodemus) came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered him (Nicodemus), "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." "- John  3:2-3

The first thing we notice in these two verses is that Nicodemus, in reference to Jesus' miraculous signs, recognized that God was with Him. The Jewish religious leaders all knew that. The second thing we notice is that Jesus didn't confirm that Nicodemus' statement was true, but he took the conversation to a new level - the subject of needing to be 'born again' (regenerated). That must have been a novel concept to someone who, like other religious leaders of the time, believed that pleasing God, and thus salvation, was dependent on keeping the Law (the original Big Ten and many more).

Let's take a closer look at several important words/terms in verse 3 in relation to the kingdom of God.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." "- John  3:3

Unless (if not, that is, unless) one is born (From a variation of to procreate (properly of the father, but by extension of the mother); figuratively to regenerate) again(from above; by analogy from the first; by implication anew) he cannot ( to be able or possible: - be able, can [do, + -not]) see(properly to see (literally or figuratively); by implication (in the perfect only) to know: - be aware, behold, consider, (have) known (-ledge), look (on), perceive, see, be sure, tell, understand, wist, wot.) the kingdom of God.

Jesus further emphasized the 'born again' (regeneration) principle a couple of verses later:

"Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." " - John 3:5-6

One 'birth' is completely of the flesh, and other 'birth' is completely from above. This can be problematic if one thinks that the spiritual rebirth is initiated by man's decision. Also, the necessity for rebirth was actually introduced earlier in the book of John:

"But to all who did receive him (the Word make flesh, Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." - John 1:12-13

It would appear from the text that no human action initiates our being born again (regenerated), neither a purely physical act, nor mental act of human decision.

When most of us believe that our rebirth in Christ happens after we make a strictly human decision to accept the gift of salvation, freely offered, this is definitely cause for a thoughtful pause, is it not? Could it be true that unless we have experienced a supernatural act of regeneration by God that we cannot even see, know, consider, or understand the gospel message?

What is the text of a few passages in John tell us, and what does it do to our doctrine of 'how' God saves men?


Forgiveness Real
Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it. (C. S. Lewis, Virtue and Vice)

Jesus, speaking of the prodigal son said:

When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant."'   (Luke 15:17-19 NLT)
 
It is quite certain that those whom Christ has washed in his precious blood need not make a confession of sin, as culprits or criminals, before God the Judge, for Christ has for ever taken away all their sins in a legal sense, so that they no longer stand where they can be condemned, but are once for all accepted in the Beloved; but having become children, and offending as children, ought they not every day to go before their heavenly Father and confess their sin, and acknowledge their iniquity in that character?  Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly Father.  We daily offend, and ought not to rest without daily pardon.  For, supposing that my trespasses against my Father are not at once taken to him to be washed away by the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus, what will be the consequence?  If I have not sought forgiveness and been washed from these offences against my Father, I shall feel at a distance from him; I shall doubt his love to me; I shall tremble at him; I shall be afraid to pray to him: I shall grow like the prodigal, who, although still a child, was yet far off from his father.  But if, with a child’s sorrow at offending so gracious and loving a Parent, I go to him and tell him all, and rest not till I realize that I am forgiven, then I shall feel a holy love to my Father, and shall go through my Christian career, not only as saved, but as one enjoying present peace in God through Jesus Christ my Lord.  There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit, and confessing sin as a child. The Father’s bosom is the place for penitent confessions.  We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and evening

The chief cause of the current state of affairs that surround us may be viewed in the mirror. The reflection that stares back at us is dead in sin according to the flesh. There is no cure for this terminal condition! The flesh is appointed to die and what follows is divine judgment. The cedar tree, whose roots dig deep through the optic nerve into the deep recesses of our mind, stands tall and mighty with defiance as its banner. How can we see to forgive until this giant is laid low by the cutting of the Word upon its tough exterior until the quick be revealed and its sap drained into the abyss? Then will we see the great sin of our brother in its true light diminished to a mote and the Body to whom we belong healed by forgiveness real!

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27 KJV)
 
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 KJV)
 



Forgiving Versus Excusing
G3340  μετανοέω  metanoéō; contracted metanoṓ, fut. metanoḗsō, from metá (G3326), denoting change of place or condition, and noéō (G3539), to exercise the mind, think, comprehend.  To repent, change the mind, relent.  Theologically, it involves regret or sorrow, accompanied by a true change of heart toward God.  In a religious sense implying pious sorrow for unbelief and sin and a turning from them unto God and the gospel of Christ.  (The Complete Word Study Dictionary—Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D, General Editor)
I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something very different.  I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me.  But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing.  Forgiveness says, “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.”  But excusing says “I see that you couldn't help it or didn't mean it; you weren't really to blame.”  If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposite.  (C. S. Lewis, Virtue and Vice)
 
One day Jesus said to His disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting!  It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.  So watch yourselves!  If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is G3340repentance, forgive.  Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” (Luke 17:1-4 NLT)

We often needlessly wander through the darkened fortress of discouragement and despair.  The high hardened ramparts of our own building.  Brick by brick did they rise from the hardness of our own heart.  Cemented indestructible by the piteous mortar of our ever bleeding heart.  We are powerless to extricate ourselves from this fallen estate because of our self-deception.  We think we are asking forgiveness for our sins without accepting responsibility.  Did the Scriptures say that Christ would "excuse" our sins?  No, he offered forgiveness if we confess them.  If we look to the testimony of the Cross we can see the Savior offering prayer on our behalf, “Father forgive them.”  He could not yet forgive us because we had not repented.  Nevertheless His example was to pray for our forgiveness and not to harbor ill will in His heart.

We are in darkness when we fail to wrestle with the responsibility of our own sin! Our honest confession must begin with the attitude of our heart that is really seeking excusing when the Scripture clearly teaches us to seek forgiveness.  Our journey must begin at the gates of penitence—that work of the Holy Spirit that allows us to grieve over our sin and see its result through His eyes.  Then and only then is our repentance possible and our forgiveness assured.

As we walk this path to forgiveness, the Holy Spirit will bring to light the ponderous gravity of our offenses.  Though clearly we are no longer the objects of the wrath of God, our sin still comes with its own reward.  If we are the conduit through which the offense travels the gravity looms large.  But if we hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon our heart, then the road back into the Light of Christ appears before us and what we meant for evil will be transformed by Him who sits upon the throne of the universe.

Consider today the words of Clive Staples Lewis and his warning to be careful that forgiveness petitions be not desires for excusing instead!

Grace is the spring of the Christian's walk, and furnishes directions for it. He cannot with impunity (chapter 17) despise the weak. He must not be weary of pardoning his brother. If he have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, the power of God is, so to speak, at his disposal. Nevertheless, when he has done all, he has but done his duty (Luke 17:5-10).  (Dr. John Darby)
 
Luke 17:1-10
We are here taught,
I. That the giving of offenses is a great sin, and that which we should every one of us avoid and carefully watch against, Luke 17:1, Luke 17:2.  We can expect no other than that offenses will come, considering the perverseness and frowardness that are in the nature of man, and the wise purpose and counsel of God, who will carry on his work even by those offenses, and bring good out of evil.  It is almost impossible but that offenses will come, and therefore we are concerned to provide accordingly; but woe to him through whom they come, his doom will be heavy (Luke 17:2), more terrible than that of the worst of the malefactors who are condemned to be thrown into the sea, for they perish under a load of guilt more ponderous than that of millstones.  This includes a woe, 1. To persecutors, who offer any injury to the least of Christ's little ones, in word or deed, by which they are discouraged in serving Christ, and doing their duty, or in danger of being driven off from it.  2. To seducers, who corrupt the truths of Christ and his ordinances, and so trouble the minds of the disciples; for they are those by whom offenses come.  3. To those who, under the profession of the Christian name, live scandalously, and thereby weaken the bands and sadden the hearts of God's people; for by them the offense comes, and it is no abatement of their guilt, nor will be any of their punishment, that it is impossible but offenses will come. (Matthew Henry)

"It is Written"

Depending on the translation you are reading, The phrase "It is written. . ." appears nearly 100 times in Scripture, almost 30 of which are in the Old Testament and the remainder in the New Testament.

It was spoken by prophets in the OT to remind God's people of what was written in the Law of Moses, and served as a reminder of God's complete sovereignty over His creation.

In the NT we find it used again as a reminder of what had been written in the Law, but even more to demonstrate that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.

It was used by Jewish leaders a few times to try and trap Christ, and by Satan to to tempt the Lord to sin, thereby ruining God’s perfect plan of redemption..

Jesus used the phrase close to 20 times, to emphasize that He fulfilled messianic prophesy, as well as to turn the tables on the Jewish religious leaders who tried to use the Law to trap Him! Additionally, the Son of God, who had power over Satan in His divinity, replied to Satan three times with '"it is written" when tempted in the desert, demonstrating the greatest weapon we mortals have against the enemy of our souls!

The importance of that which has been written, revealed to us by God Himself through divinely inspired writers, cannot be overstated. "It is written", when used in scripture, equates to "thus saith the Lord' and should be responded to with the same attitude and respect that would be afforded God Himself if he appeared and spoke face to face, and nothing less.

Then we have the Apostle Paul cautioning believers in Corinth not to exceed what is written:

"I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another." - 1 Cor 4:6

The specific context concerns 'personality cults' that had developed in the young Corinthian church, but anyone paying minimal attention to today's evangelical landscape can see a striking resemblance to current events.

Revelation, the last Book of the Bible begins with a blessing pronounced on those who read and heed the ‘words of the prophecy’ (Rev 1:3), and ends with stark warnings to those who would add to it or take anything away from it in the very last chapter. It has been debated whether the warning pertains to just the Revelation of John or the entire Bible. Nevertheless, for the wise Christian, the warning should apply to both contexts - to all that has been "written" to us.

What has already been written trumps every teaching or doctrine of mere men. If you want to find out if the preaching and teaching you are receiving is right and true, lay it alongside what has been written and you will soon find out, and no teacher or preacher should feel insulted if you do.

You can trace nearly every unorthodox teaching, 'interesting' but not quite right doctrine, 'out there' Christian cult, apostasy, or downright heresy in the entire history of the church, to the misuse of, adding to, or taking away, from 'what is written'.

Food for thought. . .


Romans 2:13 - hearing only doesn't get it done

Romans 2:13

"for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified." (NASB)
"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." (KJV)
"For merely listening to the law doesn't make us right with God.  It is obeying the law that makes us right in His sight." (NLT)
"For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous." (NET)

Here is the refute for those who are mere possessors of the law.  This sentiment is reflected in James' words: "But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves" (James 1:22 NLT)  Jesus reminded us of this when He said: "Not everyone who calls out to Me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter" (Matthew 7:21 NLT)

I suspect that we, like Israel, become fooled into thinking that because we own a Bible, read it, and perhaps even study it, that we have somehow become something!  The reality is that we have merely turned our Bible into a seven-day deodorant pad.  The secret then in Christ in us, "to will and to work for His good pleasure."  It is the "doing" that reveals the attitude of our heart!  Joyful obedience for having been saved from the eternal separation from God that we deserve.