13 October 2014

A CALL TO DISCERNMENT


1 Kings 3:6-13

An elderly woman stood on a very busy street corner in rush hour traffic. She was fearful, confused, and therefore hesitant to cross by herself. Finally, a man came up to her and asked if he could cross the street with her. Grateful and very relieved, she took his arm and stepped into the busy intersection. As they proceeded, she grew progressively alarmed as he zigzagged randomly across the street, to the blare of horns and screech of locked brakes. Finally, after reaching their destination, she turned to the gentleman and complained, "You almost got us killed! You walk like you're blind." "I am," he replied. "That's why I asked if I could cross with you." That dear lady did not make the best choice. The man who she thought was a steady arm and sufficient guide, was actually desperate for guidance himself. He didn't have a clue! Remember what Jesus said when it came to following after one another Jesus. When the blind lead the blind, they both end up in the ditch! Matt 15:14. We sometimes don’t make wise choices or examine things clearly! We sometimes go in like a blind man accepting whatever happens. Or say that it’s ok. We are constantly blitzed by powerful influences such as the media, peer pressure, social trends, moral relativism, culture driven religion and cults, each of which can lead us astray! The one thing the church is desperately lacking is discernment! The Church needs to reclaim this truth. Discernment is the synonym for the word ‘discriminate’ which in a way has a negative connotation, but the word itself is not! It simply means “to make a clear distinction”. People used to call someone “a discriminating person” if he or she exercised keen judgment. The same goes for someone who displays discernment in their life. Discernment signifies a positive line between good and evil, true and false, right and wrong. In today’s society! A person who was discerning (discriminating) would be considered radical bigotry!

For example:
  • Homosexuality is immoral (1 Cor 6:9-10) (1 Tim 1:9-10)
  • Women are to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22) (Col 3:18)
  • Children are to obey their parents (Eph 6:1)

In fact the Greek verb translated ‘discern’ in the New Testament means “to make a distinction” It is commonly translated into English as ‘insight’ or ‘understanding’. In essence it means to separate things from one another at their points of difference in order to distinguish them.......Jay Adams said this about discernment “the process by which one comes to know or understand God’s thoughts and ways through separating things that are differ.” Discernment is the process of making careful distinction in our thinking about truth. Discernment is a skill we need to live a life that is morally and ethically pleasing to God. John MacArthur said “Discernment is black and white thinking..... the conscious refusal to color every issue in shades of gray. No one can be truly discerning without developing skill in separating divine truth from error” How do we do that? First of all Paul penned these words to the church in Thessalonica. “but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess 5:21-22
Why are we to have discernment? And why is this so important to the church? As Paul continues in (v23) “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I like what Tim Challies said “we need to be discerning first in what we believe and then in what we do. Spiritual Discernment doesn’t come from within. Paul said “the natural man can’t discern the things of God” Remember what Paul said to the church about the unconverted man and woman? “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” 1 Cor 2:14-15. 

There is something we need to understand as Solomon made this request! See Solomon had very big shoes to fill. His father was a righteous and honorable King, despite his many downfalls and failures as a man. But none the less! David according to the word of God “was a man after God’s own heart” 1 Sam 13:14. So here is this young boy in charge of governing and ruling his people. This by the way is around 4 million. Here is a man, born into leadership and has unlimited power at his finger tips and he asks the Lord something that each and every one of us should ask on a daily basis. Look what Solomon asks for! “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" (v9) He was seeking discernment so that He could govern his people properly. To be able to determine right from wrong….justice to injustice. Innocent to proven guilty, to know the truth from error. He did this not for himself, but for the good of his people in whom God entrusted to him.

The same principle could be said of our lives. 
  • A discerning heart when it comes to my relationships with opposite sex.
  • A discerning heart when it comes to being more involved when finding a church.
  • A discerning heart when how to deal with conflict with friends and loved ones.
  • A discerning heart when I’ve wronged someone.
  • A discerning heart so that I can determine what truth from error is. 

This has become a problem in the church today! From so-called Christian movies to books and false teachers who stand behind pulpits with their pretty faces trying to convince you of untruths. Charles Spurgeon said of his generation in the 1800’s “it’s a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God and to flatter man.” The Christian life is a life that tests all things….proclaim what is genuine and true. The Christian life is not being swayed or gullible to everything someone has to say. Paul wrote in Romans 12:9 “abhor what is evil”. See “abhor” means to hate; to turn from, to avoid. The word “evil” has reference to wickedness, or unkind. How can we avoid or turn away from evil? How can a young man govern his people according to God? By requesting for a discerning heart, not a critical heart condemn or to judge everything ignorantly. A discerning heart because your passion is for truth and for truth to be known for the glory of God.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS A GIFT FROM GOD

God grants Solomon this request in (v11) This is something only God can give through the transforming work of the gospel. As Jesus said “….I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;” Matt 11:25. We need to be discerning with everything we do, because He has granted us this gift to understand through the work of the Spirit! Whether that is our relationships, friendships, business partners and so on. This gift must be guarded as a priceless treasure instead of treating it as a Walmart special. Question is…… do you have discernment? Have you felt a special responsibility to protect the truth of God's Word by exposing that which is wrong? Do you often make a swift assessment of someone or something that was said, that others did not see but yet proved to be correct? Are you keenly aware of moral sin and doctrinal heresy? Can you read a book or hear a teacher and almost immediately uncover any false teaching?
This gift is to be used to keep us sharp and aware as we make decisions in this life.
  • For our family
  • Our marriages
  • Our children
  • Who we hang out with
  • Who we will marry
  • What we watch read and listen to and so on

This gift is to help, guide our lives to make right choices in a perverse world that wants us to be quit, be a clone and do as I say and stand in line with the world system.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS A SIGN OF MATURITY AND GROWTH.

Heb 5:13-14 says “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Solid food relates to those who are growing and maturing in Christ. The understanding of God’s word and digging deep into His word can only be understood and appreciated by those who are advanced in Christian experience. To discern both good and evil - That is, in doctrine. They will appreciate and understand what is true; they will reject what is false. That’s what happens when we grow deep each and every day, year under His grace. Every Christian over time should be a great theologian and a beautiful example of the gospel to their families, communities and so on. God in Christ has granted understanding! Something the common man knows nothing of. He has given us a discerning heart to see the difference between truth and error. Those things that is wrong and right in this life. As this verse says in Hebrews 5:14 "constant practice to distinguish good from evil". As a child who is no longer an infant is and will be able to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine. A child can put into its mouth things that are hurtful and things nutritious all at the same time, without discernment………..but not so for the maturing adult. For what purpose?  So that you will NOT “….be carried about with various and strange doctrines.” Heb 13:9

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT REQUIRES A TEACHABLE AND EAGER SPIRIT.

As Luke penned these words “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:10-11. Are you teachable? Are you excited to learn what the bible says and are you ready to conform to the bible says for your life, instead of the bible conforming to you ideologies? That only comes though discernment and testing everything to scripture.As Joseph Stowell said “Discernment in Scripture is the skill that enables us to discern. It is the ability to see issues clearly. We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill that will enable us to know right from wrong. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics". John MacArthur said “That is what the God-fearing and “noble-minded” Jews of Berea did when they first heard the gospel from Paul. They tested Paul’s word against what they knew of God’s Word, and because the two words matched they believed that what he preached was from God and not from demons. That is what every believer should do with every message that claims to be from God. No preacher or teacher of the gospel should resent having what he says judged against Scripture.” We need to test and hold to what is truth! According His word not ours but that only comes when we have a teachable spirit. The longer someone spends in the Word, the more they desire to be taught. Sadly though! Many people in our churches have become stale and are not reading or meditating on the blessed truth of our Savior, but have turned from truth and are following after men of this world for wisdom and understanding. “tickling ears” They are never growing spiritually and continue to be "babes in Christ." To some degree because they become unteachable and unwilling to listen to truth.

Discernment overlaps the Christian life at every point. And God's Word provides us with the needed discernment about every issue of life. According to Peter, God "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" 2 Peter 1:3. We are to continue, persevere, and hunger for the Word. We must have a desire for the spiritual food which can only come through reading and meditating on the Word. As the Psalmist says, “as the deer pants for water, my soul desires after you and your precious Word.” Jesus said "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14. If a person has no desire to grow, then there is only one thing that will happen. The flesh will take up residence and will control your behavior and actions because the flesh only knows how to sin! And your discerning radar will be turned off! My challenge for you this week is this! Are you seeking Him today with a request for discernment? Do you desire to discern between false and truth statements? If you are incapable of discerning truth from error. You must seek the Lord today? Do you desire that understanding heart like Solomon? Are you aware of wolves in sheep clothing? Are you resting in the wisdom of God? As the apostle Paul said “and it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” Phil 1:9. This was Paul’s prayer for the church and it should be our prayer for one another here as well.

05 October 2014

BE STRONG IN THE LORD





Eph 6:10-20

What kind of person are you, when some says “What are your strengths?” What is the first thing you think of, when asked that question? Maybe you are emotionally strong. Maybe you can handle a lot of pressure, work for long hours, day after day after day. Maybe you are the one who is the emotional anchor in your family and everyone leans on you for support. There are many kinds of strength. But the most important one is the strength you need in the Lord. True Christian strength is not of the body. True Christian strength is of the spirit, measured in faithfulness, trust, and perseverance.  By Grace we live by Faith. If we don't listen and truly trust what the Word of God tells us, then we will never function properly in this life. The outcome of that truth is that our own strength in reality is weak and feeble. God requires every Christian to put on His strength, so that we can stand in a world full of hatred and violence towards Christianity. He requires this because He know what we need and we as Christians, have to be prepared each and every day. The Bible says put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul penned these words “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Rom 13:14. Listen, our battle is not among each other, or what's happening on this earth. Our battle is not of this earth. Don’t get me wrong! There are many things to fight in this world. For instance, you can fight sickness, fatigue, death of loved ones, failure of your plans and hopes, questions without answers, and pain without reason. Yes, we fight in this world.  But we also fight in the spiritual world. It is Satan who opposes you! It is he who seeks to harm you and destroy your bodies and souls in the eternal blackness that will be his unending grave of torment. Yet the blood of Christ has guaranteed your deliverance from that awful end.

Listen to Peter as he warns Christians of the battle that's before us! In 1Peter 5:8 we read “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We so easily devour one another and forget who we're at battle with. So how do we become sensitive and alert, being at watch all the days of our lives. How? By putting on the required equipment (spiritual armor) that the Lord tells us to wear, so that we can stand and face the day that He has given us in His strength. We must put on the Armor that our God has provided for us through Christ Jesus. If we do not put the whole armor then we are susceptible to the prince of this air who is roaring around, going about seeking who he may destroy for himself and also to see who's testimony he can discredit. There are 6 vital pieces of equipment the believer MUST put on every single minute of every single day…..if we’re breathing these things must be worn at all times. This is a non-negotiable for our good! My question to you is! Have you put on the whole armor of God today? The Bible says it’s our duty as good Soldiers of the Cross of Christ is to….
  • Endure
  • Persevere
  • Fight the good fight
  • Standing firm in the word of Truth

In 2Tim 2:3-4 we read “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”

THE BELT OF TRUTH

What is this belt of truth? This is the belt of
  • Preparation 
  • Readiness
  • Commitment
  • Attitude  
  • Truthfulness, faithfulness

This is used to fasten other items to keep them in place, as we go into battle which holds our sword of truth! We must put on……
  • The belt of preparation,
  • The belt of sober and vigilance
  • The belt of truthfulness and faithfulness
  • The belt of Commitment
  • This belt will keep us prepared, sober, watchful, because the truth is what keeps everything together without flapping all over the place

Without truth we are lost and without hope and easily deceived
Paul said the believers in this letter, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” Eph 4:14-15. Without truth we reason everything by our own understanding and look to false truths (Doctrines of Demons). Let me ask you something! If you turned on the T.V at home, read a newspaper, read a book! Can you truly determine what truth, to what is error is? The reason I say that without truth there is no way we can defend ourselves in a world that says:

"There is no absolute truth"
"There is no God"
"We are not created beings"
"The Bible is full of lies and tales"

See when we gird, surround, saturate ourselves, in the truth of God's we walk by faith in His truth. As Isaiah said “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.” Isa 11:5

THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

We are to put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude  and right standing with God. This is a vital piece of Armor, which covers our major vital organs and most of all the heart. This is the breast plate of practical righteousness. A life lived out in joyful obedience to God's commands. A life of Integrity, holiness, purity of life, a deep longing and desire to live for Christ. Paul said in Rom 13:12-14 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy (Don't go to wild parties or get drunk or be vulgar or indecent. Don't quarrel or be jealous.) But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. Then you won't try to satisfy your selfish desires. We are to put off, put away, the works of darkness and live a life of integrity, holiness, purity of life.
  • Is Jesus happy with the way you are living at the moment?
  • Is Jesus Happy with what you say or watch in the internet/ TV?
  • Is Jesus happy where your feet go?
  • Is Jesus happy with what your hands touch?
  • Is Jesus happy with your attitude about someone else?
  • Is Jesus happy with your attitude towards the things of God?

It’s like that children's song

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There's a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.
Be careful little ears what you hear
Be careful little mouth what you say...
Be careful little hands, what you touch...
Be careful little feet, where you go...


HAVE YOU PUT ON THE BOOTS OF PEACE

We have been given a wonderful gift of peace as a defense to an unfriendly world. Before I was saved by His grace I had no peace because I was lost and without any real hope. The gospel of peace will give each and every Christian the sense of…
  • Joy
  • Excitement
  • Readiness
  • Preparedness
  • Purpose
  • Longing and desire to love one another

Richard Lenski said "This peace is in the heart but shows itself in the readiness of the feet" This readiness, this peace is the gospel of Jesus Christ “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15. How wonderful are those who obey God's precious Words. The only words that saved my life and yours through the feet of His faithful children. Does the Gospel truly bring joy to your heart? Does it give you that hunger, a deep desire, a passion to tell others if the opportunity is there? Does a runner trains with work boots on? Does a hockey player us roller skates on the ice? The same goes for us today. We must always be prepared. Have you begun this day and every day prepared with the word of God? We are to put on the shoes of the Preparation, training our bodies and minds with the Gospel of Peace. We must always wear the shoes of the gospel of peace and let it rule our hearts. 

HAVE YOU PUT ON THE SHIELD OF FAITH

The True Christian believes that God is who says He is, by wearing the shield of faith. The shield of Faith is a trusting completely and unconditionally in the Lord Jesus Christ with our marriages, children, church family. We trust Him with our lives but we forget we are to trust Him with everything else as well. Because 1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Our shield of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to have victory when it comes to:
  • Temptations
  • Friends and peer pressure
  • Relationships
  • Your Christian walk

As the Hebrew writer says without the shield of faith “it’s impossible to please Him” according to Heb 11:6. So let me ask you! Have you put on your shield of faith today? What happens when you forget to put on the shield of faith? 10 out of 10 times we fail! We forget to put on our equipment that God supplies to us (the shield of faith). We lose the victory and Satan defeats us with our own doubt at times. The Christian shield of faith helps us in the areas where we’re weak, because it's powerful and effective to withstand the darts of the evil one. As Psalm 56:3-4 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Satan wants nothing more than to put doubt in your heart and mind, as he did to disciples at times. The only way to stand, or defend ourselves in that time of trials and doubt is to put on the shield of faith.

HAVE YOU PUT ON THE HELMET OF SALVATION

It all begins here! See, Satan battle begins with the believer’s security and assurance in Christ. Satan's battle is to discourage us ……
  • By pointing out our failures in life
  • Pointing our sins
  • Our unresolved problems
  • Our poor health
  • Whatever else seems negative in our lives

Why does he do this? He hates anything any anyone attached to the Lord Jesus Christ. That's why we cannot face the day without putting on our helmet of salvation. A prime example of this is found in Job “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.” Job 13:15
  • Do find discouragement easy?
  • Are you easily steered to bitterness and hatred?
  • Do you lack the trust the Bible promises to the Believer?
  • Do you have a low view of God?

Satan wants nothing more than the children of God to doubt and stumble in their Christian walk. There are many ways he achieves this…….Your personal meditation of God's word (I'm too busy or tired) Your prayer life (what's the us, nothing’s happening) Your witness to others (I'm too afraid) Attending church (I have to many things to do, soccer, hockey, baseball, and son on; or you say it’s my only day to relax) Your personal holiness ( inappropriate viewing on TV or Internet, worldly behavior) The Bible is very clear when it says that the TRUE BELEIVER never needs to doubt about their salvation. Doubt only comes when we forget to put on the Helmet of Salvation. Paul said “He who has begun a good work in you, will complete until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6. This helmet of salvation enables us to endure, push forward in our Christian walk to what is ahead of us, the temptations and trials for that day. The helmet gives us security, peace and most of all rest in the finishing work on the Cross at Calvary

HAVE YOU EQUIPPED YOURSELF THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT

This is the most powerful weapon and the only offensive Armor we have in the Christian life! This is the Divine Sword “the Word of God" The Word that is 
  • Infallible (2 Tim 3:16-17)
  • The Oracles of God  (Rom 3:2)
  • The record of divine prophecies  (2 Peter 1:19-21)
  • Authoritative  (Isa 1:2)
  • Effective  (Isa 55:11)
  • Its truthful and pure (John 17:17)

The word that is complete for every generation and culture. Isa 40:8 says “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." We have been given a wonderful and powerful sword, a sword that Jesus Himself used against the darts of the evil one. This is the only weapon that is able to defeat the blows of Satan. Satan hates the Word with a passion, and hates its divine power. He wants nothing more than to distort the truth in every generation. See our task is to use it and be equipped with it. UNDERSTAND THIS TRUTH! We're not to SHARPEN IT OR ADJUST IT! We're to just USE IT. God's word will do the work and defeat the enemy. As Spurgeon said “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself. As Heb 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerned of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Without this defensive weapon we’re helpless against Satan and his fallen angels

How important is the Armor for the Believer? It’s the only way for the Christian to survive in a world full of darkness and evil. There are many things that Satan wants to achieve in this battle against you and me. He wants you to distrust God. He wants to tempt you to forsake obedience to God's standards and calling. He wants to cause doctrinal confusion so that you become easy prey to wrong ideas about the things of God. He attacks believers by persuading them to trust their own heart and resources. He wants believers to becoming hypocrites, or two faced. He wants to cause division among the true family of God. He wants to enticing you to let the world squeeze you "into its own mold" There are many other ways he attacks us! But if we do not put on the WHOLE Armor of God we’re vulnerable and weak against his attacks. We must always be prepared for battle. John MacArthur said about William Tyndale “it was William Tyndale's vow that every English plowman and every boy that pulled a plow would one day be able to read and understand the scriptures, and to that end he devoted his life to translating it into the English language. It is essential for the Word of God to be known, and loved, and practiced if we are to win the battle against Satan. Are you ready for battle today? Have you put on the whole armor of God? If not! You are vulnerable and prone to his fiery darts! Your answer to that question will determine your walk, talk, and life!