Friday, November 16, 2018

There Is Hope in Satan’s Prison

You have set me in the lowest Pit, in the darkest of depths.
Your burning anger pressed upon me.” 
Psalm 88:6–7a

You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
Psalm 86:13b

If you have done wrong and find yourself a prisoner of the LORD’s displeasure and justice, there is hope, for He is merciful and quick to forgive.  He does not despise you (Ps. 69:33), and He is eager to forgive and set you free (Ps. 146:7).  On the other hand, if you have persisted for so long in a self-willed sin that you have fallen into “the snare of the Devil” and “have been taken captive to his will,” your hope is a little dimmer, for Satan “does not open the house of his prisoners” (2Tim. 2:26; Isa. 14:17).
God gladly releases His prisoners, but Satan never willingly releases his.  To be delivered from Satan’s prison, you must receive special intervention and grace from God because, in truth, He is the One who gave you over to Satan’s power in the first place.  In other words, once God has been so provoked that He has handed you over to Satan, you must find a way to regain His favor, and that can be very difficult to do, depending on the circumstances.  Nevertheless, since God is the one who turns the rebellious over to Satan, the rebellious are still His prisoners although they are consigned to Satan’s prison.
For Israel’s stubborn resistance to God’s will, He severely punished them.  Along with burdening them with heathen domination for centuries, He unleashed myriads of unclean spirits on the land and its people.  However, in His time and wonderful grace, He sent His Son to set Israel free from the physical and spiritual afflictions that God had laid upon them.  Isaiah foretold of God doing this, and in Jesus’ first sermon in his hometown synagogue, he read aloud Isaiah’s prophecy declaring that the foretold time had come:

Luke 4
17. And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him.  And when he had unrolled the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
18. “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach liberty to those held captive, and recovery of sight to the blind, to send the oppressed away free,
19. to preach the acceptable year of the LORD.”
20. And when he had rolled up the scroll and handed it to the attendant, he sat down.  And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him.
21. Then he said to them, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

God is so good!  We still have hope, even if we are in Satan’s prison, for God does not want any of us to perish.  May we never provoke God’s wrath to the point that He turns us over to the power of that wicked warden, but even if that happens, there is hope, for God is good.
Don’t ever let yourself go that far.  Don’t burn a bridge that Jesus has built for you; at some point, if God grants you repentance in your prison cell, you will look for that bridge to get you back home.

Monday, October 29, 2018


When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold,
there stood a man opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand:
and Joshua went to him and said to him,
‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’  And he said, ‘No!’
Joshua 5:13–14a

If God had sent this angel from heaven to kill Joshua, he would have done it.  The angel was neither for Joshua nor against him, just as he said to Joshua; he had come only to do God’s will, whatever it was.  All this world knows is “for or against”, “this side or that side”, and people choose sides accordingly, but God has nothing to do with any of that.
Men know that God is neither old nor young.  Men know He is neither male nor female.  But what is often overlooked is the fact that He is neither right nor wrong, good nor evil, wise nor foolish – as concerns earthly rightness and wrongness, earthly goodness and wickedness, or earthly wisdom and foolishness.  He is none of those things.  He doesn’t participate in our kind of life.
All that the religions of the world can teach is right or wrong in a worldly sense, good or evil in a worldly sense, wise or foolish in an earthly sense.  God is not in any of that.  If Joshua had asked God’s angel, “Are you wise or foolish?” He would also have answered, “No.”  God’s ways are not our ways – neither our good ways nor our bad ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts – neither our right thoughts nor our wrong thoughts.
Many of God’s people have lowered themselves to take sides in worldly matters.  The Lord showed me not to become either a yes or a no in matters of this life, for to be either is to partake in this world’s strife and waste our lives debating with men and demanding of them, “Are you for us or against us?”  All that God ever responds to that question is “No.”

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reconciled by Death

We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.”
Romans 5:10

We are, as Paul plainly stated, reconciled to God by the death of God’s Son, but only when we enter into that death.  The death of God’s Son, apart from a man’s soul, will not reconcile him; it will eternally condemn him.  To partake of reconciliation to God, we must partake of the death of His Son.
There is but one way to enter into the death of God’s Son, and thereby be reconciled to God: the baptism of the Spirit.  Paul explained it perfectly in Romans 6:3–11:

3. Do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
4. We were buried with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in the newness of life.
5. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection,
6. knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Christ so that our sinful body might be rendered powerless so that we no longer are slaves to sin,
7. for he who is dead has been made free from sin.
8. Now, if we are dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him,
9. knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, can die no more; death has no more dominion over him.
10. As concerns his death, he died to sin once, but as concerns his life, he lives to God.
11. You, likewise, think of yourselves as completely dead to sin, too, yet alive to God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

The death of God’s Son is not just history; it is a daily experience in the hearts of God’s people; it is something lived on earth as much as it is something to be faced at the end of earthly life.  Paul said, “I die daily” (1Cor. 15:31), and he considered his converts dead also (Col. 3:3).  This death is death to sin and self; it is life in God.  When we receive and begin to live God’s kind of life, we enter into the kind of death that His Son lived while in this world.
The death of God’s Son is more than the crucifixion of Jesus at Golgotha.  That crucifixion was only a part of Jesus’ death to his own will.  It was not Jesus’ defeat; it was his moment of greatest victory, the act that showed most clearly his death to self and his life to God.  And it is this death of God’s Son, of which the crucifixion was just one part, that reconciles us to God – when we enter into it by the baptism of the Spirit.
The cross, being the greatest expression of Jesus’ death to self-will, became the symbol of the death of God’s Son in its entirety.  When Paul mentioned the cross in his epistles, his readers well understood that Paul was speaking as much of the death they were to be living as he was of the death which Jesus died.  They knew “the cross” of which Paul spoke was a spiritual crucifixion to the ways of this world that they were expected to partake of.  When Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me,” he was speaking not of a physical cross, but of a spiritual way of life.
This is why Paul considered believers who lived ungodly lives to be “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phip. 3:18).  They were, by their ungodly lives, enemies of the kind of life the cross was a part of; they were not crucified with Christ in their spirits.  Others, continuing to indulge in symbolic ceremonies prescribed by the law were, in Paul’s view, trying to avoid the reproach of the cross (Gal. 5:11; 6:12); that is, they were ashamed to cease from religious rituals and simply serve God in spirit and truth.  These were those, Paul wrote, who refused to die to the law’s ceremonial works and, in fact, gloried in those fleshly ordinances.  “But far be it from me to boast,” he continued, “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:13–14). 

To partake of the grace and hope which are in Christ Jesus, we must enter into him.  We must partake of Christ if we would be partakers of his benefits.  In order for us to be reconciled to God we must be in Christ, for that is where reconciliation is.  That means, for the death of God’s Son to be effectual for us, we must be dead with him.  The key is to be in Christ, where all the  hidden treasures of God are, and not outside of Christ, where there is nothing but darkness.  And there is but one door into Christ: the holy Ghost baptism.  As Paul told us:

Do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?

Sunday, September 2, 2018

“Instead of Being Your Fathers”

In ancient Israel, the coming Messiah was often referred to as “the son of David”.  This is the title by which blind Bartimaeus used when he cried out to Jesus as he was passing by: “O son of David, have mercy on me!”  But one day when the Messiah was teaching in the temple in Jerusalem, he pointed out, by asking a simple question, that “son of David” was an inadequate title for him.  How could it be, he asked, that the Messiah is David’s son, when David, speaking by the Spirit of God, referred to the Messiah as his Lord (Mt. 22:45, referring to Ps. 110:1).  It was a good question.  Why would any man call his son his Lord?
The central revelation of the New Testament is that from the foundation of the world, God has had a Son and that God’s Son was His agent in the creation of all things.  Only with this revelation can we see the wisdom in Jesus’ penetrating question.  God’s Son did not come from David; on the contrary, David, along with all creation, came from God’s Son.
This truth, hidden at the time, lies behind one of David’s prophecies of the fathers of Israel someday reigning over the world with the Messiah.  David must have wondered what the Spirit meant when it spoke these words through him, for David was ignorant of the Son.  He didn’t know that the Messiah had been with God from the beginning or that the Son was the perfect reflection of the Father.  And so, David didn’t know what the Father meant when He spoke through David’s mouth to the Son about the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and said, “Instead of being your fathers, they will be your sons, and you will set them as princes over all the earth” (Ps. 45:16).

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Law Helped Fallen Men To Sin Safely

He answered and said to them, What did Moses command you?
They replied, ‘Moses allowed for a man to write a certificate of separation, and to divorce.’
Jesus answered and told them, ‘He wrote that commandment for you
because of the hardness of your heart.’”
Mark 10:3–5

Jesus was saying that although God created men and women to be married once, they were bound to sin, thus making divorces inevitable.  So, He gave them laws regarding divorce so that they would do the evil they were going to do, the safest way they could do it.  We see this same love of God in another place in the law He gave to Moses.  Foreseeing that Israel would one day reject Him as their king, God gave them instructions on how best to reject Him and choose a different king (Dt. 17:14–20). He didn’t want Israel to destroy themselves before He sent His Son to save them.
The law was not given for those who hated righteousness (1Tim. 1:9), but for those who hated sin but could not escape its domination over them.  God loved those who wanted to do right, even if they could not always do it.  Therefore, He gave them the law to guide them in their sin, to save them from the worst effects of the sins they could not escape until He sent His Son.  As Paul told the Galatians, “Why the law?  It was added because of transgressions, until ‘the seed’ should come” (Gal. 3:19).  And in the end, the “seed” came, for God loved those struggling against sin enough to send His Son to purify their souls so that they would no longer need to be guided in wrongdoing because they would no longer desire to do wrong.


God is so good to man.

Good morning,

I see a great love for God’s people in this!  God knew that “man at his best state is altogether vanity” without Him and needed help, so he gave them the Law so they could go about doing the wrong they intended to do in the safest way.  There was only love in that.

I was thinking as I read this, how wrong I used to feel towards God before I studied the Old Testament with you.  Before, I thought the Law with all of its rules and ceremonies was hard and grievous.  But the more I studied, the more I saw the tender love from God toward his children “to save them from the sins they preferred”.  The Law was intended to make their lives easier, not harder.  

Then, it made Jesus’ coming all the sweeter knowing that God sent him to purify our hearts so that we would no longer desire to do any evil thing. We no longer need an external law because Jesus gave his life so we can have clean hearts!  I love that we can have clean hearts!  And I love the way you ended that we no longer need guidance in our wrongdoing because we no longer desire to do wrong.   What a precious gift!
Lee Ann

This shows the love God had for His people before He sent His son. God knew that they could not keep the law perfectly with only their carnal nature. 

I really like the last paragraph.  The way you explain the reason God sent His son is very good. 

I love this sentence: “for God loved those struggling against sin enough to send His Son to purify their souls so that they would no longer need to be guided in wrongdoing because they would no longer desire to do wrong.”

What a good God we serve! 

Thank you for writing this!

I love how simple the message is here – God knows our humanness and that we can have hardness and stubbornness in our hearts when we want our own way, but He loves us so much that He gave instructions on how to do the least damage to ourselves and others – and then He sent Jesus to change our old nature into His godly nature so we could really live and take care of the hearts around us. 

I love this!  I feel the love of God in it.   He knew men were going to fall, to sin, to follow their own ways but he loved them so much he gave them the law as a “cushion” until He sent His beloved Son!  

Really love this: “for God loved those struggling against sin enough to send His Son to purify their souls so that they would no longer need to be guided in wrongdoing because they would no longer desire to do wrong.” 

That is a love that’s beyond anything in this world!  How precious!  How humbling! 

I like this. These are thoughts man would never think of, that God loved them so much He would guide them in their sin. Whew, that’s love. Then, love them enough to send His Son. This is so good and full of love!

This is so good, John! God’s people need to hear this clear and simple message. Thankful for God’s anointing on you to deliver it, if they’ll only take it in. Thankful that we have!
Jim K.

I know the Law is holy because it’s from God. But after reading this and I feel the Law is less holy than I thought before. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.  I certainly can feel the love and mercy in the law but at the same time, I feel like I just learned it’s not the highest standard set by God. It’s a very thought provoking blog post. 
. . . .

Yes, the law was certainly holy.  The apostle Paul told us that several times.  But he also told us that in comparison to the holiness of God revealed in Christ, the law has no glory at all.
Pastor John

This is wonderful.  I’ve been studying 1 and 2Timothy recently, and these verses where Paul was talking about this stood out to me, but I didn’t understand it as well as I do now after reading your blog.

Studying the law is wonderful to help fine-tune our judgment in things happening around us to help us get ready to rule with Jesus.  But as long as we're walking in the Spirit (staying holy), we won’t have problems where we need it used on us!

I love the food you feed us!

God loved His people enough to guide them in their sin, to save them from the worst of the sins they preferred. Then, He loved them enough to send His Son to purify their souls so that they would no longer need to be guided in wrongdoing because they would no longer desire to do wrong.

Oh how this makes my heart sing! For this is my testimony. This is truth that I know deep in my soul. How many times I wanted to just follow “the law” and never did I dream I would one day be set free from even the desire to sin. This truth, this love, is what my Jesus did for me. I know this love in the fibers of my soul, it was sewn in by my Jesus, whom my heavenly Father sent to rescue me.

I love the truth.
Beth D.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Discerning the Lord’s Body

To discern the Lord’s body means “to acknowledge those who labor among you, and who rule over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them as highly as possible in love because of their work” (1Thess. 5:12–13).  Elders who rule well are worthy of double honor (1Tim. 5:17), but if we fail to recognize who is ruling well, we will fail to count them worthy of double honor, and we may give double honor instead to an elder who is not ruling well.  To discern the Lord’s body also means to “warn the disorderly, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak” (1Thess. 5:14).  But how can we warn the disorderly if we do not discern what unruliness is?  Or how can we encourage the feebleminded if we fail to discern who they are?  Or how can we help the weak if we do not know which saints are weak?
Judgments of some of God’s people are of more value than the judgments of others.  Some of God’s people are spiritually mature and able to be fed the “hard sayings” of the gospel, while many others “are not able to bear it.”  Some “walk worthy” of their calling in Christ Jesus, while “many walk”, as Paul said, “whose end is destruction . . . who mind earthly things.”  It is imperative that we discern whose judgment is sound and whose judgments are in vain.  Will the body be edified if “babes in Christ” are choked with teachings they are not able to bear, or will the body increase “with the increase of God ” if those who are ready for spiritual meat are not given it?  Or will the body grow in grace if the disorderly are not warned, the feebleminded are not encouraged, and the weak are not helped?
Without discerning the body of Christ, God’s children live in mass confusion, hurting one another while trying to do good.  Paul said that failure to discern the body brings on sickness, and even premature death (1Cor. 11:29–30).  Only by discerning the body of Christ do we know what to do or say to whom, and when.  In other words, we truly do good to one another when we know one another, discerning each one’s spiritual condition and acting and speaking accordingly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Pursuing the Knowledge of God

One of the lessons my father learned in Christ, he said, is that anything we believe can be a lie as far as we know, and he exhorted all believers to pursue the knowledge of God rather than be satisfied with merely believing in Him.  In this connection, he often quoted the apostle John: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you might know” (1Jn. 5:13a).
My father taught us that a newly born child of God knows his heavenly Father no better than a newly born human knows his earthly father, and that wise saints pursue the knowledge of God after being born again.  The apostles were grieved when those whom they brought into the kingdom of God did not “follow on to know the Lord” (1Cor. 3:1–3; Gal. 4:19–20; Heb. 5:12–13; cp. Hos. 6:3), and they were thrilled whenever they did:

1Corinthians 1
4. I thank my God always for you, for the grace of God which is given to you in Christ Jesus,
5. because in every way, you are enriched in him in all speech and in all knowledge.
3John 1
4. I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in truth.

Monday, July 23, 2018

God’s Witness of the Right Way

On the day of Pentecost, God’s life, His Spirit, came into and completely re-created Jesus’ followers, but the fundamental purpose for God giving His Spirit was to provide a sure witness of the right way, the only way, to Him.  “The Spirit is the witness”, John would later write, “because the Spirit is truth” (1Jn. 5:6).  No news reporters were in heaven when the Son offered himself to the Father as a sacrifice for man’s sins, and no cameras or microphones recorded that awesome, holy moment.  In the Old Testament shadow, when Israel’s high priest went into the Holy of Holies to present the blood of animals before God for the sins of the nation, no one, not even other priests, were allowed in the tabernacle (Lev. 16:17).  In the Son’s case, even the holy creatures of heaven would have been barred from witnessing the event.  Otherwise, the Spirit would not be the witness, as John said.  It would only be one of many.
Without God’s witness, the Spirit, people can believe that Jesus is Lord, but only with His Spirit can we ever know that Jesus is Lord and Christ.  This is what Paul was talking about when he said that without the Spirit, no one can say (and know it to be true) that Jesus is Lord (1Cor. 12:3).

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Jesus Hated Life in This World

He who loves his life shall lose it, and he who hates his life in this world
shall keep it unto eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me.
John 12:25–26a

Preacher Clark testified once that God had spoken to him and said, “I am not a hypocrite.  I don’t command you to do something that I don’t do.”  Jesus was our example, and he expects us to follow it.  He did not tell us to hate this life even though he loved it.  He hated this life as an example for us, showing us how to hate it in a godly way, as he said, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me.”
But what is it about life in this world that Jesus hated?  First of all, when he came into the world, the righteous and the wicked were both living in it.  Second, when he came into the world, nobody in this world had the kind of life that he had, the eternal life that God gave him when He created him.  Therefore, nobody in this world truly knew or understood either him or his Father.  His Father knew him, and he knew his Father; every other creature in heaven or in earth was in darkness.
Before the Son of God rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and cast Satan and his angels out, godly and ungodly creatures dwelt in heaven, too.  Also, no heavenly creature, except the Son, had God’s kind of life, just as no earthly creature had God’s kind of life.  Moreover, Paul said that from the foundation of the world, the Son of God was hidden from both men and heavenly beings until he was revealed in Jesus Christ (Col. 1:26; Eph. 3:9).  This means that no creature in heaven knew or understood the Son before he was revealed, just as no creature on earth knew or understood the Son.  In short, the kind of life Jesus hated in this world when he came into it was very much like the kind of life Jesus knew in heaven before he came.
All this brings us to a question.  If Jesus hated life in this world, then did he also hate life in heaven before he came to earth and returned to heaven, and cast Satan and his angels out, thus purging heaven of all ungodliness?  There was certainly something about life in heaven that Jesus hated, for when he returned to heaven, he made enormous changes there, purifying it, according to the author of Hebrews (9:23).
When Jesus prayed that the Father would restore glory to him, he said he was praying for “the glory that I used to have with you before the universe existed” (Jn. 17:5).  Before this universe existed, the Son dwelt openly with the Father in supreme happiness (Prov. 8:22–31).  After the universe was populated, in heaven and in earth, the Son was hidden by the Father, to be revealed at the appointed time.  Repeatedly, in the book of Psalms and in the prophets, we find the hidden Son of God asking the Father to let him come to earth and teach men about the Father.  For example: “Let me sing of the LORD’s eternal mercies!  Let me make known with my mouth your faithfulness through all generations!” (Ps. 89:1).
How happy must the Son have been when the Father at last sent him to earth to be revealed, to be free to teach men, as the Son of God, about his Father – and to return to heaven and openly enjoy again the Father’s presence as His precious Son!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Things That Are In Christ

The phrase “in Christ” is used seventy-seven times in the New Testament.  Seventy-four of those times are found in Paul’s letters.  Luke used it once (Acts 24:24), and late in Peter’s life, he used it a couple of times (1Pet. 3:16; 5:14).  During the night recently, I was lying in bed thinking about the things of God and the thought came to me, “How many things does the Bible say are in Christ?”  And so, I arose and looked up the scriptures concerning what is in Christ Jesus.  Here is what I found (along with a few verses that say “in me” or “in him” when referring to Christ):

God the Father
John 10:38b: The Father is in me, and I, in him.
2Corinthians 5:19: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

The Fullness of God’s Nature
Colossians 1:19: God was pleased for all His fullness to dwell in him.
Colossians 2:9: In him dwells all the fullness of God’s nature, bodily.

John 1:4: In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Romans 3:24: Being freely made righteous by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 12:5: We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another.
2Corinthians 5:17: If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creature.

The Law of the Spirit of Life
Romans 8:2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death!

The Love of God
Romans 8:39: . . . nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

2Corinthians 3:14: Their minds were blinded, and even until this very day, in the reading of the Old Testament, the same veil remains, not taken away – which thing is removed in Christ.

2Corinthians 11:3: I fear, lest, as the serpent led Eve astray by his craftiness, so your thoughts likewise be led astray from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Galatians 2:4: False brothers . . . slipped in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus.

No Human Differences
Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor freeman, nor male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 6:15: In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but being a new creature does.

All Spiritual Blessings
Ephesians 1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven.

Access to God
Ephesians 2:13: In Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

The Promise of God (the Spirit)
Ephesians 3:6: The Gentiles are to be heirs with the Jews, and of the same body, and partakers together of His promise in Christ, through the gospel.

The Attitude of a Servant
Philippians 2:4–5: Let each of you look not to his own interests, but each one also to the interests of others.  Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.

The Calling of God
Philippians 3:14: I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the heavenly calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The Will of God
1Thessalonians 5:18: In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Faith and Love
1Timothy 1:14: The grace of our Lord abounded, with the faith and love that is in Christ Jesus.
2Timothy 1:13: Maintain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

The Faith
1Timothy 3:13: Those who have served well earn for themselves good standing and much boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

God’s Promise of Eternal Life
2Timothy 1:1: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, in accord with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus . . .

The Grace of God
2Timothy 2:1: So, my son, you be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2Timothy 2:10: I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they might attain to the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
There are many good things in Christ.  May we discover and experience what they all are!