The Christian Adventure......

Proverbs 27:17

Proverbs 27:17

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Berean - Revelation 3:7-8 NKJV

 

  Revelation 3:7-8

(7) "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, "These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": (8) "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

What is this open door? The conventional interpretation among those who have come out of the Worldwide Church of God is that Christ has given the Philadelphians an open door to preach the gospel, an idea that is not without merit. In three of Paul's epistles, he uses an open door as a metaphor for an opportunity to preach (I Corinthians 16:9II Corinthians 2:12Colossians 4:3). But this metaphor has no connection at all to Christ's quotation of Isaiah 22:22. Moreover, the fruit of this interpretation has been exclusivity, comparing ourselves among ourselves, division, competition, and a pitiful supply of love—works of the flesh rather than fruit of the Spirit. This occurs largely because people keep pushing God and all He is doing out of the picture and focusing on the works of men.

When we understand Christ's reference to Eliakim, that He is now fulfilling that role, we can understand the open door without having to force anything. Consider the access He grants, saying in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Through Christ's blood, we have access to the Almighty, the Most High God.

After the seven letters, in Revelation 4:1, John is shown an open door in heaven. To see what is behind the open door, we must read and meditate on the rest of the chapter. It is profound, describing where we approach in spirit when we pray. Far from suggesting that the Philadelphians are going to heaven, the chapter reiterates the fact of their access to the One in heaven. Through Christ, we have entrance into the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of the Great God, which we may enter with boldness (Hebrews 10:19).

Notice what Jesus says in Luke 11:9-10, 13:

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. . . . If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

If we knock and keep knocking (as the Greek indicates), God opens the door. The Philadelphians have had to knock because they have only a little strength, and they know it. But they also know that the only way to endure courageously (Revelation 3:10) is to seek the strength of God. Thus, the One they seek responds, giving more of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the means by which the Father and the Son dwell within the adopted sons of God. By giving the Spirit, He gives more of Himself. No one can shut that open door, though we can certainly ignore it and “neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).

The letter to Philadelphia is not about the mighty works of powerful men. It begins with the tremendous help available to those who are weak, but who keep God's Word, who do not deny His name, and who persevere in faith. Because they consistently knock, Christ reminds them of His pivotal position as second-in-command to the Absolute Deity and that through Him as Steward, they have access to the throne of God.

The Philadelphians' strength is small, but God's is without limit. They are not those who seek after earthly glory, like Shebna, but they are faithful in their responsibilities to the Most High God, like Eliakim—and like Jesus Christ.

— David C. Grabbe

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Berean - Deuteronomy 5:12-15 NKJV

 Deuteronomy 5:12-15

(12) "Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. (13) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (14) but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. (15) And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. 

New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

Notice how we are commanded to sanctify the day. The emphasis here is on being free. God says, "Remember [on this day] that you were a slave." The implication is obvious. When the Israelites were slaves, they had no freedom to make choices. Therefore, if we keep this day properly, we can remain free. If properly used, the Sabbath compels us to remember the past as well as to look forward to where our lives are headed.

We do this through Bible study and hearing sound, inspired messages combined with meditation and conversation in fellowship. In church services we hear a great deal about the Kingdom of God and the worldtoday. Most messages involve sin in some way. Sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), but the Ten Commandments are the law of liberty (James 1:25). By keeping them, we remain free of enslavement by Satan, this world, and death. On the Sabbath, God instructs His people through His Word on how to keep His commandments and thus remain free. Exodus 16:4, 25-30 explains further:

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not." . . . Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day.

The first commandment that God specifically revealed after He freed Israel from slavery was the one intended to keep them free, the Sabbath. God gave them this witness of a double portion of manna on the sixth day and none on the seventh for forty years! Contrary to those who assert the Sabbath has been done away or replaced, the Sabbath is a wonderful gift of God.

— John W. Ritenbaugh

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Matthew 5:10

Verse of the day
Matthew 5:10

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Berean - 1 John 4:7-8 NKJV

 1 John 4:7-8

(7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (8) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 

  1 John 4:16

(16) And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 
New King James Version   Change Bible versions

These verses furnish Christians with critical marching orders and guidance while providing crucial insight into our Creator's nature—all centered around the word “love.”Twice in these three verses, John declares that “God is love.” He also implores us to “love one another” and to know God, and then he identifies God as thesource of love. Furthermore, our Savior commanded His disciples, earlier in John 13:34-35 (see also John 15:12, 17), to love one another “as I have loved you.

Consider that God has created humanity physically in His image (Genesis 1:26), and further, is re-creating those whom He has called into His spiritual image (II Corinthians 3:18). To that, we must add our standing orders to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5), to seek Him (Matthew 6:33), and to establish an intimate relationship with Him that we might become more familiar with the image that Christ came to reveal and that we are to become (John 1:18).

Consider also the following quote from John Ritenbaugh's 1992 sermon, “Do You See God?”:

We are beginning to see an application to you and me. Will God be working in our lives if we don't see Him? If we don't recognize Him? If we don't understand His purpose, what He is working out in you and me? I don't think so!

In like manner, in his 2006 sermon, “God, the Church's Greatest Problem,” he opined:

Since eternal life lies in the relationship with God, it is extremely important how frequent and accurate our thoughts about Him are. We can conclude that what one knows about the true God Himself and how one uses that knowledge are the two most important issues in life.

A strong relationship with God is critical to attaining eternal life, and the strength of that relationship depends upon an accurate understanding of who He is—His nature. To that end, we have the written Word of God to guide us as it reveals the true nature of God. Moreover, since the Bible teaches us that God is love and that our ability to know God will be determined by our willingness and capacity to love, it is vital that we understand the true meaning of love, particularly asintended by the apostle John's inspired writings. In fact, without this understanding, how can we possibly proceed with our marching orders to seek God—to know Him—and to reflect His will in our interactions with all mankind?

But, everyone is familiar with the concept of love, right? After all, virtually all of civilization is absorbed—even obsessed—with the idea of love. Throughout man's history, countless writers, performers, pundits, and deep thinkers have devoted much—if not most—of their respective careers trying to define and even display love. So, determining the meaning of this simple, four-letter word should not be too great a challenge, right?

Perhaps it is not as easy as one might think. In fact, if we study the world's most common usages and descriptions of love,we find that they have little or nothing in common with the divine nature of our Creator. Stated another way, we discover that John's use of the word “love,”as translated from the Greek word agape,has little to do with our modern, worldly concept of love.

— Joseph B. Baity

Saved By Grace

 Saved By Grace

In practically every area of life—school, sports, work—we are judged by our performance. The American work ethic is built on effort, sweat, competition, and hard work. Growing up, Americans are taught that there is no such thing as a free lunch; you get what you pay for; if it’s to be, it’s up to me; if you want something done right, do it yourself; and God helps those who help themselves.

        So, when it comes to spiritual matters, many assume God relates to us on the same performance-based ethic. You may feel that you have to earn God’s approval, deserve God’s love, and work your way to heaven by doing good or trying to be perfect. If you’ve thought that, I’ve got good news for you: that’s not at all how it works! Here’s what the Bible says about what you must do to be saved: “The people asked Jesus, ‘What are the things God wants us to do?’ Jesus answered ‘The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One he sent. Salvation is not a matter of trying but trusting. It’s not a matter of proving you deserve it, but accepting it by faith, knowing you don’t deserve it.

        The idea of grace is so foreign and antithetical to the popular misconceptions about God and even other religions that when the Bible talks about salvation as a free gift of God’s grace, many people respond with a blank stare. There is a mental and emotional disconnect. We are so used to receiving conditional love (“I will love you if…” or “I love you because…”) that unconditional grace is an unfamiliar and even uncomfortable concept.

        Religion is man’s attempt to please God. Grace is God reaching down to man. Every religion boils down to one word: “do!” Do our list of things, and you will earn God’s love. Each religion has its own unique list of rules, and if you compare the lists, you discover they are often contradictory. But the idea behind all religions is that you must work, strive, and put forth great effort in order to get God to like you.

        So God came to earth as Jesus essentially to say: “You guys have got it all wrong! Of course doing good things matters, but it doesn’t make me love you any more or any less. My love for you is unlimited, unconditional, unchanging, and undeserved. So let me teach you a new concept called grace. You can’t purchase it, work for it, or be good enough to merit it. It’s a gift that will cost me a lot, but it is free to you. Everything I do for you, to you, in you, and through you—every single blessing you have in life—is a gift of my grace. I’ve done it all for you.”

        While religions are based on the word “do,” salvation is based on the word “done.” When Jesus died for you on the cross, he exclaimed, “It is finished!” It’s extremely important to note that Jesus didn’t say, “I am finished,” because he wasn’t! He had more to do. Three days later, he came back to life, resurrected from death, and walked around Jerusalem for forty days. He met with individuals and groups of up to five hundred people before ascending back to heaven.

        So what was finished? The payment for your salvation! The phrase “it is finished” is actually a single word in Hebrew that Jesus cried out. It was stamped on bills that had been paid off and on prison sentences that had been completed. It meant “paid in full!” Religion says, “do!” Jesus says, “done!” He has already taken care of the expense of your salvation.

Rick Warren

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Berean - Deuteronomy 7:6-11 NKJV

 

 Deuteronomy 7:6-11

(6) "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. (7) The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; (8) but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (9) "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; (10) and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. (11) Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them. 
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

Since God is holy, the people He chooses for Himself must also be holy, a principle that continues under the New Covenant. As God lives by high standards, so must His people keep those same high standards as an example to the rest of the world. Just as a human government sends out ambassadors to other nations to represent it in its affairs within those nations, God chose Israel to represent Him. What were His reasons?

» He chose Israel to be His own people, a special treasure for His own purposes.

» He chose them to demonstrate His love for them. He simply loved them. When God loves someone, He puts a great deal of responsibility on him.

» He chose them to keep His promises to AbrahamIsaac, and Jacob, with whom He also had a special relationship.

» He chose them to make a covenant with them, under which they were to keep His commandments and obey Him in everything. In return, He would bless them immensely.

God's choice of Israel was an act of love for them, even though He knew from the start that they would ultimately fail. God knew from the foundation of the world that all mankind would need a Savior (I Peter 1:19-20Revelation 13:8), including Israelites. Yet, if any people were to succeed as God's model nation, it would be the children of Abraham. This is not because they were better, but because they of all people had a relationship with God, which had begun with Abraham. They had examples in their own ancestry that they could study to see that it could be done if they remained close to God.

To help them to succeed, God gave them His laws, another act of love. Moses writes:

Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

Even in their laws they were to be a model nation for the rest of the world, not just for the Gentiles to notice, but to emulate. The Israelites should have made a great impression on the Canaanites, Philistines, Edomites, and all the nearby nations. This respect and admiration should have then spread beyond them to other nations.

Yet, because they failed to live by those good and righteous laws and to take advantage of God's nearness to them - in reality, they failed in just about everything He asked of them - their influence as a model nation rarely stretched beyond their borders. Too often, Israel was instead outright pagan!

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Berean - John 13:35 NKJV

 

  John 13:35

(35) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." 
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

Even as God is revealed by what He does, so will His children. Our love for God has not made this possible, but His love for us has, as I John 4:19 says, "We love Him because He first loved us." Thus, our love for Him is a response to His love for us. Since God shows His love for us by drawing us to Him, it behooves us to do acts of love toward others to draw them.

God's act of love in giving His Son defines the ultimate requirement of true love, the giving of our most beloved possession in sacrifice for another's gain. We can understand, then, that godly love will almost always have sacrifice involved in its giving. Sacrifice is the essence, the essential or vital part, of love.

God's love originates in Himself, was manifested in His Son, and is perfected in His people. God's love is perfected in us when we reproduce it in or among ourselves, primarily in our fellowship. We either use love and perfect it or lose it. This partly explains the apostle John's intense concern about fellowship. What concerned him is not just an optional blessing to believers, but a fundamental outlet for the manifestation and perfection of God's love among and in the saints.

It should be obvious that we neither have God's love by nature, nor is it self-generated. Romans 5:5 verifies this understanding: "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us." We receive godly love from its Source, God, by means of His Spirit.

Only by knowing God can we have this love, and only by loving can we know Him! This may sound like a vicious cycle, but the two go together. Only by learning to love God can we learn His nature, that is, what He is like. We cannot have that love until we first come to know Him. By fellowshipping with Him, we come to know Him and receive His love, and in using His love, we become like Him and really know Him. We can only really come to know God by experiencing the use of His love ourselves.

All this is possible because God, in His love, initiates a relationship with us, grants us repentance, gives us His Spirit, and then, because of His love, takes the lead in sustaining the relationship. This is why Paul says in Romans 5:10 that "we shall be saved by His life." He primarily shoulders the burden of our salvation. How comforting!

— John W. Ritenbaugh