Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Go to Battle"!
by Eldon D. DeBoer
"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:1-12)
The title of this post is from my dear sister, Vi (written in the side margin of one of her Bibles), who is now with Jesus and whose life we celebrated on Saturday, February 18, 2017. Thanks for the challenge, Vi. May we "Go to Battle" and apply what follows today and every day.
The Lord Provides Spiritual Protection and Weaponry to Win Battles for Christ!
By God’s gracious provision, believers in Christ may possess the ability and the strength to engage the enemy in spiritual combat. Our ability to win victories in the spiritual battles we face is “in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).
When Paul was in prison in Rome he saw a lot of soldiers. In all likelihood, as he wrote Ephesians chapter 6, he was looking at a Roman soldier and his armor (cf. Ephesians 4:1).
Ephesians 6:10-17
"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.
11. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
12. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
14. Stand firm therefore, 
(1) having girded your loins with truth, 
(2) and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, . . .
15. (3) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16. in addition to all, 
(4) taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.
17. (5) And take the helmet of salvation, 
(6) and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
God has provided spiritual armor for your protection as you engage in battle against the forces of darkness in the spiritual realm.
How are we “able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (6:10-11)? The answer is found where Paul begins: The only way we are able to stand firm is in the strength of the Lord. The Lord is the one who provides the armor and the strength and skill to defend against the devil’s schemes.
What is included in the “schemes (or “wiles” KJV) of the devil”?
"Schemes" is the translation of the original Greek meth-od-i'-ah (TDNT 5:102,666), which may also be rendered cunning, deceit, craft, or trickery. Compare in the KJV the use of methodiah in Ephesians 4:14, where it is translated “lie in wait” and also adds, “to deceive”.
How is it that our battles in life are “not against flesh and blood”?
Ultimately our spiritual warfare is waged against invisible forces of darkness who are behind the immediate and apparent causes of our battles. Yes, people can be unwittingly influenced and deceived by these forces of evil.
Our spiritual warfare is "against the rulers, ..." (some translations render this “principalities”). The rulers (arche) include those in the highest order or echelons of authority under the devil’s power and here refer to demons of the highest rank. These would be the generals of the demons, militarily speaking. The word may apply to human rulers (Tit 3:1), but here is with reference to demons. Arche is rendered “principalities” in Romans 8:38 (NASB).
Christ created the rulers (Col 1:16), He has authority over them (Col 2:10) and will defeat them all in the end (1 Cor 15:24; Col 2:15). They learn from believers of the church age (Eph 3:10; cp 1:21). Jude (v. 6) writes of demons who did not stay within their created order, “domain” (NASB). The NIV interprets it, “positions of authority”.
Our spiritual warfare is "... against the powers..."
These powers are demons of lesser rank who want to possess human beings (McGee, 5:279).
Our spiritual battles are also "...against the world forces of this darkness..." This designation possibly includes the devil himself (world forces (kos-mok-rat'-ore TDNT 3:913,466) lord of the world, prince of this age, the devil and his demons). Our spiritual warfare is also "...against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." This is a general description of all the invisible forces of darkness.
A second command is given in Ephesians 6:13:
We are to “ . . . take up the full armor of God, ...” so that we are "able to resist” the Lord's enemies.
The inspired apostle of Christ Jesus lists the defensive weaponry:
(1) God has provided the Belt of Truth (6:14).
God has provided the truth in His Word, the Bible. The Bible is His special revelation, given to you for your protection. Why would Paul begin with truth? The truth includes all that is revealed in God’s Word about God and His plan for man. Because of the truth God has revealed in the Bible we may know about righteousness, the gospel, faith and salvation. Therefore it is logical and understandable that the Spirit moved Paul to begin with truth.
Study Questions:
How does knowing truth from God’s Word help you in spiritual combat against the devil and his forces?
How do many in our post modern world view “truth”?
How may I become better equipped to counter false teachings from the forces of darkness?
There are many assumptions (which may be called presuppositions) in the first question that counter those of many in our world today. First, let me communicate that the Creator made and designed us so that we would have the ability to know the truth that He chose to reveal by special revelation. Satan the devil, the deceiver and slanderer, began his grossly misleading work against the human race back in the Garden of Eden when he began to question God's spoken word to Eve and Adam (Genesis 1 -3; cp. John 1:1-18). People continue to be deceived by the devil, his demons and other people who are often oblivious to the fact that they are pawns in their hands. So we must know the truth from God to counter all false teachers.
My recommendation is that you begin with the truth communicated by God through Jesus in the Gospel of John. It begins with what has been revealed through Jesus, the living Word, and continues with Jesus Himself proclaiming the truth, "I am... the truth" (John 14:6).
There is nothing more powerful and protective than using the words of Jesus to counter false teachers with the truth.
But maybe you are asking the question that David K. Clark asked, "Which religious teachings are true?" Clark's response to this question includes what follows:
"When answering the truth question, pluralism asserts that all religions teach truth, and exclusivism claims that only one religion teaches truth.
"But this is too vague. Obviously, all religions teach lots of things. Very probably, all religions teach some true things and some false things. So the truth question zeroes in on the most logically central questions, like What is the most basic metaphysical reality? What is the fundamental human religious problem? And what is the solution to that problem?
"Let's call a religion deeply true if it gets the right answers to these very central questions. For instance, Christianity says that the most basic reality is the Creator God (the Trinity). The deepest human problem is human moral failure (sin). Sin drives people far from God. The solution (salvation) is moral forgiveness through the death of Jesus. By the Spirit's power, a believer receives this forgiveness as a gift [through faith in Jesus Christ]. The gift of salvation places people in relationship with God. Now if these ideas really are true, then Christianity is deeply true. Even though every religion agrees with Christianity on some issues, they all contradict Christianity on these core questions. Since the various religions have rather different teachings on these central questions, only one religion could be deeply true..." (Clark, "Religious Pluralism and Christian Exclusivism," from the book, "To Everyone and Answer," edited by Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, (IVP, 2004) pp. 294-295, brackets added).
In his chapter in "To Everyone an answer," Craig J. Hazen addresses the question of blind faith:
"Christian faith is not "blind faith," that is, it is not opposed to reason, evidence, logic or knowledge. In fact, the Apostle Paul allows no room for blind faith in a very provocative passage in 1 Corinthians. Paul wrote that if Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is useless and futile (1 Cor 15:12-19). Here he locks together the resurrection of Christ, a knowable historical event--the truth of which can be determined through evidence and reason--with saving faith. He had a marvelous opportunity in this passage to decouple reason and faith. He could have encouraged us to have faith no matter what the evidence showed. But he did exactly the opposite. Paul confirmed if we have no valid resurrection, then we have no valid faith" (Hazen, "Defending the Defense of the Faith," p. 43).
The entire chapters by Hazen and Clark, and the entire book for that matter, "To Everyone an Answer," would be well worth reading for more complete answers to questions about truth and knowing truth--for those of you who are up to it!
God has provided the spiritual protection--His armor--and the weaponry to defeat the forces of darkness!
God has provided...
(2) The Breastplate of Righteousness Ephesians 6:14
Study Question: In what ways are we able to resist the forces of darkness with God’s provision of the spiritual “breastplate of righteousness”?
When we put our trust in Christ to deliver us from sin and Satan, we are placed in Christ and receive the righteousness of God in Him (position in Christ, cp. Ephesians 1:3-4). Through faith in Jesus Christ, you have received His righteousness which will protect you forever (Romans 8:31-39;
cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8; cp. Titus 3:1-8).
Study Romans 4:1-8 and Galatians 2:16-21, which clarify that the righteous of Christ Jesus is received by faith in Him and faith in Him alone!
How does knowing the principles from these passages of Scripture protect us in spiritual combat?
Since we have been identified with Christ and are clothed in His righteousness, we are to present our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness in our walk with Christ. How does doing this protect us from the forces of darkness? cp. Luke 10:17-24
Related Question: In the context, what impact should knowing what Romans 6:23 states have upon us as believers in Christ? cp. Romans 7:15 - 8:1
(3) The Footwear of the Gospel of Peace Ephesians 6:15
The good news of deliverance from sin and death that gave you peace with God by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ will protect you wherever you go. Also, as you share the gospel and have the privilege of leading others to faith in Christ Jesus, you become instrumental in seeing to it that they have “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (NIV). In the midst of the spiritual conflict you may be instrumental in bringing peace to the hearts of those who believe through your witness.
Study Question: How does having our spiritual combat boots on, standing in readiness with the good news of Christ help us resist in the evil times in which we live?
(4) The Shield of Faith Ephesians 6:16
Throughout your life here on earth, the devil is going to do his best to make you ineffective. He does not want you to win any spiritual battles for Christ. Your faith, your ongoing confidence in God and His Word, will protect you from his schemes (Eph 6:10-12; cf. 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Heb 11:6).
Never doubt that the Spirit of God will give you the strength you need. He will give you the power to defeat the enemy (cf. 1 John 4:4; 5:4; Rom 16:19-20).
Study Question: What can we do to insure that our faith remains strong?
(5) The Helmet of Salvation Ephesians 6:17
Deliverance from Satan, sin and death through faith in Jesus Christ will protect your life forever (Romans 8:30-39). Nothing and no one is able to separate you from the God’s love for you found in Christ Jesus.
Study Questions: How does knowing you are saved protect you against Satan’s schemes? Does the spiritual helmet of salvation protect us and also deliver us from Satan and sin in this life on earth now?
God has also provided the spiritual weapon for victory against evil enemies: 
The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God   (Ephesians 6:17)
There are five pieces of spiritual armor listed and this one weapon. This spiritual weapon is provided by the Spirit of God in the special revelation of the Bible. We are protected from the devil and his forces by truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith and salvation. God will give you the confidence to speak the truth to defeat the devil and all his soldiers. Keep on looking to the Lord to become more skillful in applying the truth throughout your lives (1 Timothy 6:12-16).
The sword, machaira (makh'-ahee-rah) in the Greek text, was used in close hand to hand combat in the days of Rome and could be up to about 18 inches in length, including the handle. There are primarily two kinds of swords mentioned in Scripture, the machaira and the much larger rhomphia (Rev 1:16; 2:12,16; 6:8; 19:15; Luke 2:35). A machaira was a dual purpose shorter sword also used for slaughtering animals. It was smaller than the Roman sword called a gladius which was also used in combat. The word machaira is derived from the noun makh'-ay meaning "a fight or a combat."
In the spiritual realm, believers in Christ can do a great deal of damage to the forces of darkness with the offensive weapon of God’s Word.
There is one other passage in the New Testament in which the Word of God is likened to a spiritual sword: Hebrews 4:12
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (For a literal application, see Hebrews 11:34,37.)
How does the way “sword” is used in Hebrews 4:12 verse differ from the manner it is applied in Ephesians 6:17?
Someone stated that the Bible, the Word of God, is “an armory of heavenly weapons, a laboratory of infallible medicines, a mine of exhaust-less wealth. It is a guidebook for every road, a chart for every sea, a medicine for every malady, a balm for every wound. Rob us of our Bible, and our sky has lost its sun.”
Study Question: What are some specific ways that we can apply the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” in spiritual combat against the forces of darkness for the glory of Christ? (also cp. Rom 13:12; 2 Cor 6:7; 10:4; Jer 50:25)
Put on the armor of God with prayer.  (Ephesians 6:18-20)
"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."
All the while you are engaging the enemy with your armor in place and with the sword of the Spirit, keep on praying. It is clear from the way the Apostle Paul wrote this in the original Greek text that the Spirit of God wanted us to understand this. Keep on talking with God about the battles He has called you and others to fight.
Notice that the Apostle Paul understood the need for prayer to courageously clarify the truth of the gospel of Christ.
Keep on remaining strong "in the Lord!" Use the armor that He has given to win spiritual battles against the devil and his cohorts for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

God's Grace Needed to Forgive

by Eldon DeBoer  ( edeboer.gmm@gmail.com )

When Jesus taught the truth of the importance of forgiving others, He warned that if we do not do so we would remain in spiritual torment, having been turned over to torturers.  In the conclusion of His illustration of a servant that had been forgiven much but refused to forgive a fellow-servant, He put it this way:

"My heavenly Father will also [turn you over to torturers]..., if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart" (Matthew 18:34-35).

The sad commentary on many a believer's life is that he/she remains in spiritual torment because of refusing to forgive someone of a wrong done against her/him.

Before I address forgiving others, allow me to make sure we all understand the forgiveness God extends to each of us through Christ Jesus for all eternity and how His forgiveness is extended to us in time from day to day and moment to moment.

By God's Grace We Are Forgiven Forever and Forgiven Again. And Again!

We are forgiven forever when we first place our faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:7). Being forgiven forever is a part of our eternal standing in Christ. It is a part of being identified with Him in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-5). We are sealed in Christ when we believe in Him and this is a permanent seal accomplished by the Spirit of God that includes being forgiven in eternity (Ephesians 1:13-14).

There is another dimension of being forgiven that should be understood. It is God forgiving us again and again for sins we continue to commit that cause us to be in spiritual darkness in our experience with God here and now. While I am forgiven of all sins in Christ forever, in order to live in the light and have true fellowship with God from moment to moment I must confess my sins each and every time the Spirit makes me aware that I have missed a mark that He has set for me to live by.

If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

What a glorious truth and encouraging statement of God's grace for forgiveness. When we fail to live as we should and acknowledge it to God, He is "faithful and just to forgive us" through Christ Jesus (cp. 1 John 2:1-2). And He cleanses us "from all unrighteousness"! We should know we are right with Him when we confess our sin, even though we have failed Him again by sinning against Him. This is the grace of God at work! And how encouraging it is to know this.

This truth of God's grace for forgiveness is illustrated in the life of a prominent leader of old. God was looking for a leader, a king, who would be a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:22). In other words, God was looking for a man to lead His people who wanted to be like Himself more than anything else. You probably know who that man was. Yes, it was David; a shepherd boy who became king of Israel. Was David, the man after God's own heart, perfect? Far from it. He clearly understood how desperately he needed the grace of God in forgiveness. He emphasized this when he wrote Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 after he recovered from a sin that brought a great deal of pain into the lives of many people (2 Samuel 11 & 12). Yet, long after he had died, he was still remembered as someone whose heart was “devoted” to God (1 Kings 11:4; Acts 13:22). How encouraging it is to know that God forgives and that we can recover like David did and be useful to our Lord and Savior once again.

The truth that God forgives us again and again because of Jesus Christ's suffering in our place is a reality that should deeply grip our hearts when we pause to think about what it means. No matter how often we fall to a sinful weakness, be it a wrong thought or behavior, the Lord Jesus forgives us again. And again! And again!! Through confession we recover from being in spiritual darkness and re-enter the light and joy of fellowship with God.

“ . . . these things we write to you that your joy may be full. This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:4-7).

Like King David, the Apostle Paul wrote of His struggle with sin after being a believer in Christ for a number of years and how he hated it (Romans 7:15-24). He found himself thinking and doing what he knew what was wrong over and over. But when He came to himself by the ministry of the Spirit in His life, He exclaimed,

Oh wretched man that I am! who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24-25).

Yes, Christ Jesus “sets us free” again and again from our spiritual deadness and uselessness to God when we sin as believers. It is thought that what Paul had in mind by the phrase “the body of this death” was the practice in his day of chaining a cadaver to a person who had been guilty of an offense that warranted the death penalty. Gangrene would set in and the guilty person would experience a horrible, drawn-out, painful death.

Who will release us from the horrible influence of our sins? From "the body of this death?" Who will deliver us from our spiritual deadness and uselessness to God while we are living in the dark because of sin? Christ Jesus sets us free from this dead condition the again and again. He forgives us every time we admit that we have sinned against Him. And because of our appreciation for His suffering in our place to provide for this forgiveness, because of His love and grace, we should cry out to Him for His help to stop succumbing to the sin. But in our frailty when we fall to that weakness again, that sin that plagues us, He forgives us again. And we then can enjoy fellowship with Him once more and live in His light and the light of His Word, the light of His teachings from the Bible.

Because of the work of Christ Jesus, God forgives us forever and He forgives us again and again when we confess our sin, when we simply admit to Him that we have done wrong. That's grace!!! And just as God forgives us again and again, He calls us to forgive others.

What does it mean to forgive someone?

When we forgive someone we put away the person’s sin against us. The word translated forgive (aphiemi) means to put away. When we forgive, as far as we are concerned, the person is no longer guilty of his sin against us. This is what Jesus did when He was being crucified (Luke 23:34). He put away their sin of crucifying Him and therefore they would not receive immediate judgment from God for that sin.

After Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, He told them, “Loose him and let him go” (John 11:44, NKJV). “Let . . . go” is the translation of aphiemi. This provides a fitting analogy that addresses attention to what we do for people when we forgive them. When we forgive someone we no longer keep the person in bondage to the guilt of their sin. As far as we are concerned the person is not guilty. We let him go and he thereby is set free from his guilt against us. This does not mean that an individual should never be held accountable for his sin against us. At times justice must be applied. (This will be addressed at another time.)

Jesus taught us to forgive. Again and again!

The Lord Jesus addressed the importance of forgiving again and again in Matthew 18:21-35.  He concluded his teaching by emphasizing that those who choose not to forgive will remain in spiritual torment until they do forgive (18:34-35).  Strong words but so very true.  The passage begins with the familiar question for Jesus from Peter.

"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?''

Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

Peter probably thought he was being very generous when he asked this question about forgiveness. Certainly forgiving “up to seven times” goes beyond what God requires of us. Louis Barbieri, Jr., notes that “the traditional Rabbinic teaching was that an offended person needed to forgive a brother only three times” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 62). In what follows in Matthew 18, Peter’s lack of understanding becomes obvious in the story that Jesus told about the king and his two servants. Apparently Peter did not realize the application of God’s forgiveness to forgiving others. It seems that he did not have much appreciation for the truth that the Lord had forgiven him a huge debt of sin. He did not apply the foundational truth that we all need to understand in order to forgive from the heart.

When Jesus told Peter that we should keep on forgiving up to 490 times, he was not saying that we should keep a ledger of the sins against us. The expression, “up to seventy times seven,” emphasizes that we should keep on forgiving and not keep track of the number of times someone sins against us.

Peter’s lack of understanding concerning God’s standards for forgiving one another is not unusual among believers. Many believers do not understand the application of this truth. But what is it that believers need to grasp in order to forgive from the heart? The parable Jesus told provides the answer.

Heart-felt Forgiveness Flows from Being Forgiven a Huge Debt

In this parable the king of the servant who has incurred a huge debt is God the Father Himself. There are a number of views concerning what a talent would be worth in today’s currency, but according to one source the amount equaled about 15 years wages. If you earned an average of $30,000 a year multiplied times 15, times 10,000, your debt would be $4,500,000,000. The main point of the Lord’s illustration is that since God has forgiven us so very much, we are to forgive others from our hearts. If you appreciate the huge debt of sin that God has forgiven you, you will keep on forgiving others who sin against you. This is precisely what the servant did not do. His lack of appreciation for how much his lord had forgiven him was expressed in his refusal to forgive a fellow servant of a far lesser debt of sin. Consequently, he was handed over to the torturers (cp. Hebrews 12:4-15).

Our sins are ultimately against our holy heavenly Father.

The two servants in the story Jesus told are both representative of believers in Christ Jesus. The wicked servant who refused to forgive had incurred a debt beyond his ability to repay. When we sin against our holy God, we should understand that we are unable to pay back the debt we owe due to our sins. We do not have the ability to repay our Lord for sins committed against Him. Our sins are too great. All the Father asks is that we go to him and admit our need of His forgiveness. God always treats us in grace and forgives us because our debt has been paid through the suffering and death of Christ Jesus. The wicked servant had been forgiven by his lord. But when he refused to forgive a fellow servant, he was turned over to the torturers because of his sin of refusing to forgive. We should keep in mind that ultimately our sins are sins against our holy God and only His forgiveness removes the sin and the guilt. David understood this and expressed his indebtedness to God. After he had confessed his sin of adultery against Uriah and Bathsheba, he said to the Lord,

Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight
That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.           (Psalm 51:4)

David was well aware that he was worthy of death. And he knew that God could take His Spirit from him (Psalm 51:11). (While this cannot happen to a believer today in the Church Age, it could happen to believers in the Old Testament. Believers today fully receive the Spirit when they believe in Jesus and He continues to indwell them no matter how sinful they might become.) When we sin against the Lord God we should understand that all sins, whether seemingly significant or insignificant to us, are offenses against our holy heavenly Father and are huge in His sight.

Yet some sins cause more damage than others. It could be that the wicked servant is an illustration of a believer who has received forgiveness for a sin that has caused a great deal of damage to others. Whatever the case, the teaching is clear. Believers should maintain forgiving hearts because the holy God has forgiven them a huge debt of sin.

Sins and offenses against you

When someone does something that hurts you, there are times when the person who has offended you may not even be aware of the hurt that has been caused. Then, to the other extreme, there are sins that obviously are motivated by maliciousness. There are offenses that are perceived to be damaging which may not even be sinful at all. Sometimes we can be too sensitive about what others do to us. Whatever the case, when we feel that someone has hurt us, God calls us to forgive them. When we have disagreements with others or complaints against others for whatever reason, the Lord says,

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.                    (Colossians 3:12-13)

The Lord calls us to forgive as He has forgiven us in Christ.

Since God has forgiven us a huge debt of sin we are to forgive others. This is an important part of the Spirit of the Lord’s concern as He moved the Apostle Paul to write Ephesians. Having proclaimed the truth of the everlasting spiritual blessing of our forgiveness in Christ (Ephesians 1:7), Paul emphasizes the importance of forgiving one another:

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Forgiving one another is what accompanies being kind and tenderhearted. If believers prominently keep in mind the forgiveness that was bought and paid for by Jesus (Ephesians 5:1-2), they should keep on maintaining a forgiving heart. Notice that Paul points to God’s forgiveness as the basis for our forgiveness. The word translated forgive in this passage emphasizes grace in forgiveness (charizomai). We communicate kindness and tenderheartedness as we keep on forgiving others.

Our emotional vulnerability when angry

The fact that we should guard against not letting go of justified anger or righteous wrath before we go to bed is clear from what we are told in Ephesians 4:26-27:

"'Be angry (orgizoand do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath(parorgismosnor give place to the devil" (note the root word orge found in parorgismos).

We should never go to sleep filled with anger, even though our anger may be justified because of the hurt and injury that someone caused. May we look to the Lord for the grace to put our righteous wrath to rest against those who have sinned against us or, possibly, others as well. This warning is accompanied by the real danger that even righteous wrath might turn to bitterness and sinful anger and that this may be used by the devil and his cohorts to bring us into spiritual bondage.

We understand from personal experience that often our emotions cause us to lose the ability to think clearly. When sinful emotions take over we are “in the dark” spiritually. God tells us we should be alert to this and we must draw upon His grace to overcome these harmful emotions.

Put away the emotions that torture you because you refuse to forgive.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:31

At times, when we are reminded of the hurt that someone caused, bitterness and sinful anger apparently may overcome us. These emotions are often the torture that comes to us when we refuse to forgive. They are a huge part of the torture designed by God to get our attention. What are we to do about these sinful emotions? We are told to put them away or put them off (cf. Colossians 3:8). In Ephesians 4:31 “put away” translates airo which is also used in another place to explain how Christ Jesus came to taken away our sins (1 John 3:5).

When we do not put away someone’s sin against us by forgiving them, the Spirit of God is grieved (Ephesians 4:30). The fact that we are commanded to “put away” these sinful emotions tells us that by God’s grace, by the ministry of the Spirit through the new man, we can do something about them. We need not be enslaved to them. With God’s enabling grace, we can put a stop to these evil feelings.

Bitterness (pikria, Acts 8:23; Romans 3:14: Hebrews 12:15)) is the emotion that results when we dwell on how someone has hurt us and begin to think about revenge. We become self-centered and filled with self-pity. We can only think about ourselves or how we might vindicate ourselves. Wrath (thumos, Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28) and anger (orge, 1 Timothy 2:8; James 1:19-20) are expressed as we “clamor” for attention and speak evil of the offender. We begin to plan malicious acts against our offenders.

This was not true of Stephen (Acts 7). Stephen demonstrated the grace of God as he was being stoned to death. His final words were words of forgiveness and love for those who took his life. It seems that this left a marked impression on a young man named Saul. Saul came to faith in Jesus as his Messiah and Savior a short time later and became the Apostle Paul who wrote the letter to the Ephesians. Paul knew about forgiveness and deeply appreciated the forgiveness of God. He had experienced the grace of God’s forgiveness. As the “chief of sinners” who had persecuted believers in Christ, Paul became well aware of his need for God’s forgiveness (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

How do we put away the sinful emotions that torture us?

God commands us to put away the sinful emotions that torture us. By the grace of God through the ministry of the Spirit working through the new man we can put away our sinful emotions. When the Holy Spirit convicts you about your sinful emotions confess them as sin. Then prayerfully consider the question, “Have I committed some sin that caused these sinful emotions?” Oftentimes it is the sin of refusing to forgive that has caused these emotions to surface. When the Spirit brings to your attention that refusing to forgive is the sin that is at the root of these emotional responses, then that sin must be confessed as well. Receive the forgiveness granted to you by God through Christ by admitting you have sinned (1 John 1:7, 9). Then remind yourself of the huge debt of sin that God has forgiven you in Christ. Ponder the wonder of His love and grace that He has expressed to you.

Putting these sinful emotions away is not easy (duh!). We may find that it is very difficult to completely let go of the offense against us. We forgive and let go and then we pick it up again in our thoughts. We find ourselves hanging on to it and we rework it in our minds over and over again. Very soon afterwards we are filled with bitterness and sinful anger. Hopefully we do not descend to the point of clamoring for attention by talking about it with others. May we stop short of seeking revenge. May we not carry out injurious plans for personal vindication (cf. Romans 12:14-21).

Thankfully, when we confess these sins and receive cleansing from God once again, we return to the high road of forgiveness in God’s plan for us. Our thoughts should then turn to Jesus and we should once again ponder the great debt of sin that we have been forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice in our place. Do we deserve to be forgiven? No. Does the person who has sinned against us deserve to be forgiven. No. Yet, God’s plan for our lives is that we forgive as He forgave. When we do forgive because we have been forgiven in Christ and maintain forgiveness from the heart, God will free us from the emotional torture of bitterness and anger. When we apply God’s Word by His Spirit, He gives us peace.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:15-16

Forgive and illustrate the grace of God.

We illustrate the grace and love of God when we forgive others. This is crucially important in the ministry of a church. By forgiving one another and putting up with each other, believers may powerfully communicate the love and grace of God shown them in Christ Jesus.

The chapter break is unfortunate at the close of Ephesians 4 because the following verses emphasize the importance of being like God in forgiveness and in the demonstration of love by Jesus Christ’s death.

Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
(Ephesians 5:1-2

When we maintain hearts of forgiveness we demonstrate to others that we truly are followers of God. When we keep on forgiving we shine forth the light of the truth of Christ and are behaving in a way that is consistent with whom we are in Christ. We have received total and complete everlasting forgiveness in Christ. We are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8). When we keep on forgiving we are walking as children of light. We are behaving wisely by the power of the Spirit of God (5:15-21).

By the grace of God through the ministry of the Spirit through the new man created in the image of Christ (Colossians 3:10), we may overcome the emotional torment caused by refusing to forgive. We may express the love and grace to others that God has given us in Christ Jesus.

Jesus warned those who do not forgive from the heart that they would be turned over to the torturers (Matthew 18:35). The heavenly Father will bring severe discipline upon those who refuse to forgive (Hebrews 12:3-15). Often this discipline from the Father includes emotional torture.

Forgiving someone is not a one time, now it's settled forever experience.  Many of us have felt that churning sensation within again and again as we re-live in our heads the hurt and pain we went through at the hands or words of someone.  So we need to look to our Savior for His grace to forgive again.

May we forgive from the heart because we appreciate that we have been forgiven a huge debt of sin by our holy God and thereby be free of the emotional torture that results from refusing to forgive.

A summary of God’s provisions for maintaining a heart of forgiveness:

1. Remember that in and through Jesus Christ, God has forgiven you a huge debt of sin. Keep in mind that no one can offend you or sin against you to the degree that you have sinned against God (Matthew 18:27).

2. Ponder and dwell on the wondrous love and forgiveness God has granted to you through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9-2:2).
Think about the awful cost of your deliverance by the Son of God Himself. Keep your eyes on Jesus (Ephesians 4:29-5:2; Colossians 3:1-16; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Hebrews 12:1-3).

3. Recognize that you cannot maintain a heart of forgiveness and forgive again for the right reasons in your own strength (John 15:5).

4. Keep in mind the Lord’s command to not take your righteous wrath to bed (Ephesians 4:25-27).

5. Be on the alert for signs of sinful anger and bitterness (Matthew 18:35). Remain sensitive to the convicting work of the Spirit from the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 4:30-31; Colossians 3:8-10; Hebrews 12:15).

6. Confess to the Lord the sin of an unforgiving spirit when the Holy Spirit causes you to realize that this is the reason for the emotional torture of bitterness and anger (1 John 1:9; cp. Matthew 6:14-15; Psalm 32:1-6).

7. Cry out to God for the grace to keep on maintaining a heart of forgiveness to forgive again and again so that your life will be a testimony to His love and grace (John 13:35; 2 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Jesus taught that refusing to forgive is itself a sin and breaks fellowship with God (Matthew 6:14-15). When a believer refuses to forgive, God will not forgive him until it is confessed as sin (1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:1-5). This is forgiveness for fellowship with God in this life. Every believer remains forgiven in Christ forever whether he or she forgives or not (Ephesians 1:7). The importance of forgiving others and the sin of refusing to forgive in Matthew 6 and 18 has to do with continuing in fellowship in a meaningful relationship with Jesus here and now in this life.

Your questions and comments are appreciated ( edeboer.gmm@gmail.com ).

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Seriously Consider the One--Jesus

I have a confession to make: I am not as occupied with Jesus Christ as I should be. I do not heed this command in Hebrews 12:3 as frequently as I should. Therefore my faith is not what it could be.
One translation reads, "For consider fully the One having endured such great hostility from sinners against Himself..." (Berean Literal Bible translation). How is this possible? This translation communicates that this verb means more that just casually considering Jesus. Thus the title of this article.
I am renewing my mind, heart and soul to be more consistent and accept the challenge to carry out this momentous task again today. May I seriously consider this One Jesus, today and every day. Won't you join me?
The context of this command in Hebrews 12:3 goes back to how this great inspired epistle began. It's all about Jesus! He is our faithful and merciful high priest who has made it possible for us to come "boldly to the throne of grace" of the holy God to whom we owe our life. Jesus is the One who has completed faith! He perfectly fulfilled the Father's will, trusting Him and caring out His plan to the ultimate end of laying down His life for us so that we could enjoy Him forever!
Here's the immediate context of Hebrews 12:3 (mostly from the Berean Literal Bible translation):
"Therefore, having such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, having laid aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, we should run with endurance the race lying before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who in view of the joy set before Him endured the cross, having despised its shame, and sat down at right hand of the throne of God. For consider fully the One having endured such great hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you shall not grow weary, fainting in your souls. (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Here's another challenge for you: Read and study this letter to the Hebrews so that you can more completely consider Jesus!
May the notes that follow be a help to you.
We need to have a faith that endures; a vibrant, living faith that perseveres to the end of our lives or until Christ returns. For the initial recipients of this inspired letter, this was a challenge to reaffirm their confidence that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the promised Anointed One of God. Tragically and apparently, too many of them had let go of what they had originally professed concerning Christ Jesus.
Challenges to “hold fast” to their confidence in Christ are given a number times in Hebrews.
Hebrews 3:6 (All Scripture quotations that follow are from NASB, unless otherwise noted.) "... But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end."
Hebrews 3:14
" . . . For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; . . ."
Hebrews 10:23
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope [in Christ as our faithful high priest] without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; . . ." (brackets added)
The translation “hold fast” in these verses is from katecho (phonetic spelling kat-ekh'-o) and in this context means to “retain faithfully” and “keep the confidence firm” (3:14) (BAGD, pp. 422-423). The original readers of this inspired letter were to keep on holding on to their faith in Jesus as Messiah that they originally had.
We may not be struggling exactly like they were but we still need to have a faith that endures to the end of our life or until Christ returns (10:37-38). The quality of our faith is to be such that it is expressed in actions that are consistent with what we say we believe concerning Christ.
Hebrews 4:14
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession."
In the context of this verse we are challenged to “hold fast” (krateo) our profession of faith in Jesus as the Savior who had offered Himself as the acceptable sacrifice for sin. Here krateo means to continue to retain this truth in faithfulness to the Lord Jesus.
When it comes to the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there will always be more to discover. As we keep looking unto Jesus in His Word, there is always more beyond. When it comes to the knowledge of our gracious Master and Savior, Jesus Christ, there will always be more to learn (cf. 2 Peter 3:18).
Before the days of Christopher Columbus in the latter part of the fifteenth century, the Spanish proclaimed on their coins the Latin words Ne Plus Ultra, which meant “No More Beyond.” As they looked to the ocean and saw nothing beyond, their conclusion was there was nothing more than more water. But after the explorations of Columbus, the Spanish changed the inscription on their coins to read Plus Ultra, “More Beyond.” Elsewhere it has also been noted that this inscription is found on a monument:
In Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries. Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth. Thus their motto was “Ne Plus Ultra,” which means “No More Beyond.” The word being torn away by the lion is “ne” or “no,” making it read “Plus Ultra.” Columbus had proven that there was indeed “more beyond.” (http://bible.org/node/10347)
Leading up to the challenge in Hebrews 12:2 to keep “fixing our eyes on Jesus,” we find what has been called “the great hall of faith.” We have our “Halls of Fame” throughout our land that have been established to honor those who have had success in sports arenas. But in Hebrews 11 we have a “Hall of Faith.” The believers of the time before Christ came proclaim to us their success before God as they lived out their faith. Just before the Spirit moved the author of Hebrews to write of some of the specific acts of their living faith, he provides a definition of faith in 11:1. Here are four translations of this verse:
"Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen." Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." New King James Version (NKJV)
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." New American Standard Bible (NASB)
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." New International Version (NIV)
Notice how the words are variously translated. Whenever this is observed among good translations of the Bible, it is a safe assumption that the translators are wrestling with the meaning of the Greek terms. The words "reality," “substance,” “assurance,” and “being sure” are translations of hupostasis. This word is used of God’s Son, Jesus Christ in Hebrews 1:3, where it is translated “nature” (NASB, HCSB), “being” or “person” (NKJV) (cf. Hebrews 3:14). The words translated “proof,” “evidence,” “conviction,” and “certain,” are from elenkos. Each of these translations is helpful in gaining an appreciation for the meaning of the words used. Each translation therefore provides more insight so that we can appreciate the meaning and application of this verse. (Another challenge: Determine what you believe the Spirit of God intends for us to understand from this verse!)
There is a progression of thought from the order of the translations given above. The truth of God and His Word provides for the objective “reality” of our faith (HCSB). Therefore our faith may have “substance” (NKJV). It then may become that which provides “assurance” (NASB). The NIV expands upon this idea and presents the strongest statement about faith. Faith is “being sure” and “certain” that what God has promised will come true. This was the testimony of the believers of Hebrews 11. Their behavior, their living faith, provides the “proof” (HCSB) of their strong confidence in the Lord and His promises. Underlying their actions was their faith in God and His Word
Since the believers of the Old Testament had the assurance that God was a God of truth and since they had convictions about their future with God beyond this life, they acted upon what they understood about God and His plan. These believers were sure of God's promises and were certain about what they could not see. And their lives revealed the quality of their faith. Their faith had substance. The faith in their souls was an attitude or way of thinking that was based upon reasonable evidence. They counted on the reality of things they could not see physically. They had good reason to believe that they were not laying down their lives for nothing. What they did by faith would matter forever. God would reward them for their faith in Himself and in His Word (11:6, 16-17). Because of the quality of their faith they were truly successful in life from God’s view.
These acts of faith of the Old Testament believers recorded in Hebrews 11 were built upon their knowledge of God. Gresham Machen offers this concerning faith and knowledge:
"Knowledge of God is regarded by the Bible as involved in faith and as the necessary prerequisite of faith. We can trust God, according to the Bible, because He has revealed Himself as trustworthy. The knowledge that God has graciously given us of Himself is the basis of our confidence in Him; the God of the Bible is One whom it is reasonable to trust."
These seven principles are drawn from Hebrews 11 and 12 about having a faith that endures unto maturity in Christ:
(1) Having a faith that endures is essential in pleasing God for “without faith it is impossible to please” Him.
"Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him." Hebrews 11:6, HCSB
(2) Having a faith that endures is revealed in doing “the will of God,” acting upon our faith in deeds done in the power of the Spirit to the glory of God. Hebrews 10:36 – 11:38; cf. John 14 – 16
(3) Having a faith that endures may mean letting go of certain things in life. 11:24-26, 35-38; 12:1
(4) Having a faith that endures is encouraged by the witness of the Old Testament faithful. 12:1
The testimony of the acts of faith of the “great cloud of witnesses” (believers of Old Testament times) is especially encouraging because they “did not receive what was promised” (11:39-40). They lived before the coming of the promised Messiah. Hebrews 11:40 states from the NKJV, “. . . they should not be made perfect apart from us,” since we live after the cross of Christ and His resurrection which completed our salvation, our deliverance.
(5) Having a faith that endures means that we keep on laying aside “the sin …” in our lives. 12:1
(6) Having a faith that endures may result in a longer life. 12:4-11; cp. 10:36-39
(7) In order to have a faith that endures unto maturity in Christ we must keep “fixing our eyes on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of faith.” 12:2-3; cp. 3:1
Jesus is our supreme example of living by faith. He is the “founder, author, leader,” or “source” of faith. These are all possible translations of the original archegon (cf. Hebrews 2:10). It has been said that Jesus is the “one who has in his own person raised faith to its perfection and so set before us the highest example of faith” (searchgodsword.org). The noun translated “perfecter” is teleiotes, which only occurs here in the New Testament. However the verb form, teleioo, occurs three times in Hebrews with reference to Jesus (2:10; 5:9; 7:28; cp. 7:19; 9:9; 10:1, 14; 11:40; 12:23).
Jesus is the founder or author of faith in that He established it from the beginning. He is the One that enabled people to live by faith from Able to those who first read and studied the Epistle to the Hebrews. So the faith that Jesus authored and completed is a reference to the living faith that was within Jesus and may be within us that results in the application of the truth in our walk with God.
Because the Christ was perfected faith through His work, we should endure in our confidence in Him and live by faith in the application of His Word.
We may endure or persevere in our faith more and more as we keep prominent in our thinking the Person of Christ and what He endured for us on the cross of Calvary.
If we maintain our confidence in Christ as Savior and provider for all of life, this should include resting in Him and His ability to sustain us, taking Him at His word. This may be called the faith-rest life (cf. Matthew 11:27-30).
Hebrews 6:17-18
" . . . God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us."
What a beautiful expression is applied to believers who keep on trusting Christ Jesus as their Messiah Savior in these verses. Such believers have not become “dull of hearing” but have been feeding on the meat of the truth of Jesus Christ as their faithful high priest (cf. Hebrews 5:5-14). They have “strong encouragement” for they “have fled for refuge in laying hold” (krateo) of what God has promised them in Christ Jesus. These promises from God include the rest found in trusting Jesus in this life and being a fellow-heir with Christ and enjoying a wonderful inheritance in His kingdom (cf. Hebrews 4:1ff.; 6:11-12; 9:15; 10:36-38).
May we be like the author of this letter and other faithful believers with him. “We are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (10:39). If we do not have a faith like they did, we may face severe discipline and, possibly, a premature death.
Seriously consider the One Jesus!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jesus Is Praying for You! (John 17:20)

One of the ways that Jesus continues to express His love for us is through His prayers in our behalf. We were included in His prayer back on that night before He was betrayed and He prays for us now (Hebrews 7:25).
"It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love." John 13:1
Jesus prayed, "I have given [my disciples] your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.
"Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I [set myself apart as holy] for them so they can be [set apart as] holy by your truth.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.
"I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:14-21 - New Living Translation (brackets added)
Jesus clarifies that the word from the Father is the truth (John 17:14-19). Therefore truth revealed to us from the Father defines true love (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
Love based upon truth effectively communicates the truth of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. John 17:20-21
Love based upon the truth of Christ and His word results in unity with God and one another. As we learn and apply the love Christ has for us, His love is communicated to others around us (cp. John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 2:1-11).
The emphasis in the last part of Christ’s prayer in John 17 is clear. He wants us to know how much He loves us.
Christ Jesus gives us the capacity to love (John 17:22-24). But to have this capacity we must keep on looking to Christ Jesus, His Word and His Spirit for His insight and understanding.
Christ gives us the same glory that the Father had given to Him. This means that we may have the God-given capacity to love as He has loved us. This includes being filled with the Spirit of God that empowered Christ in His humanity (Luke 4: 1-13; Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16).
Capacity to love results in communicating the truth that God has sent His Son, Jesus Christ.
Because Christ loves us He wants us to see His glory in eternity (cp. Revelation 5). In the context of His prayer, this especially includes seeing His awesome love.
Christ and His Spirit will continue to help us know the Father so that we will have His love in us. How is this accomplished? As we keep on fixing our eyes on Jesus at the foot of His cross, bringing to mind the great cost of His sacrifice in our place so that we can live with God and truly know God, we come to know the love of the Father and the Son more and more.
Like the Apostle Paul prayed for believers in Christ, so we should pray for one another:
"I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 4:14-21 - New Living Translation)