A Test of Faithfulness and Obedience

Listen to an amazing account of faithfulness and obedience. Though I think I can be bold, I am not so sure I could have followed through on this. In fact, to my shame, I’d have to admit that I doubt I would have. Would you have?

Words accompanying the vlog above:

The secret to a powerful life is simple: love God most. There is no life more powerful than a consecrated, Christ-magnifying, Word-filled life. The choice is ours. What Can God Do with An Ephesian First-Love Surrendered Life? Consider the Praying Man of Morocco. Here’s one I met 40 years ago while in the BEE ministry. I was asked to ride a train to Switzerland from Germany and drive a van carrying 6,000 Bibles into North Africa. The reason was a believer in Morocco was surrendered to God and being used by Him. I won’t know his name until Heaven, but He prayed for God to reach his Muslim people. He contacted Believers in the West. He agreed to be the tool. He prayed for God to bring the Bibles. We delivered them to Him.

The vlogger is going through the book of Revelation. The Ephesian church (church in Ephesus) is referenced by Jesus Himself in Revelation chapter 2 (HCSB):1

1 “Write to the angel [or messenger] of the church in Ephesus:

“The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: 2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you [other mss2 add quickly] and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7 “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in [other mss read in the midst of] God’s paradise.”

In the first verse the “One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands” is a reference to Jesus (cf. Rev 1:12, 16). He is resplendently described in the Apocalypse (Revelation) as compared to the Gospels (Rev 1:13—16).

Sadly, many Christians do not include the book of Revelation in their reading. It is said to be confusing, open to too many interpretations, scary, and the like. Yet it’s the only book in all of Scripture which promises a blessing to those reading it and to those taking its words to heart! See 1:3 and 22:7.

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1 Scripture quotations marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

2 The abbreviation “mss” in the bracketed portions is for “manuscripts”, as in New Testament Greek manuscripts.

Passing the Examination

In a bygone era, far removed from today, I served a brief stint in the US military. No regrets, but with the time to reenlist approaching, I had already made up my mind to separate from service rather than continue. It simply wasn’t the life and career for me.

With a few months remaining in my service commitment, I was also approaching the time to take a test for promotion to the next grade. This exam was scheduled before my upcoming separation. Passing the exam would provide a salary increase along with the promotion. A wage increase would be great; however, should I pass, the grade would not be awarded until after my intended separation from service. Thus, to my mind, it made little sense to take the test. So, I asked to be excused.

Yet I was told I must take the examination. “What if you pass?” I was asked. That would make no difference to me, for I was firm in my decision. I was definitely going to separate, no matter the outcome.

So, on the morning it was scheduled, I took the test. In record time. I simply took the Scantron and penciled in a next to the first question, b for the second, and so forth, till I got to the fifth question in which I penciled e. I repeated this pattern until I was finished. Then I handed it to the surprised facilitator and walked out of the room.

I had to sit for the test. But I didn’t have to test well. I didn’t have to pass the exam, but I couldn’t pass on sitting for the exam.

I have no idea how I scored. Given my methodology, it would have been pure luck had I actually qualified for the promotion.

Qualifying for a Higher Grade

Much later, after accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, I discovered that, as Christians, there’s an exam we must take. Similar to my earlier test, it is not optional. Yet the stakes are much higher. This is one we must pass. Continually:

2Corinthians 13:5—6:

5 Examine yourselves if you be in the faith. Approve yourselves! Or do you not discover for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in youunless you be unapproved? 6 Yet I trust that you will realize that we are not unapproved.1

For background, the Apostle Paul is frustrated with the ekklēsia (“church”) in Corinth. The words above should be seen as the culmination of what Paul stated in 2Corinthians 10:7. Paul implies that the congregation(s) had been seduced by other “super-apostles” (11:5) who had been preaching “another Jesus”, as received by “a different spirit”, and that they accepted this “different gospel” (11:4). Paul goes on to describe these seducers as “false apostles…disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (11:13), suggesting they are servants of Satan himself (11:14—15). Apparently, these “super-apostles” spoke disparagingly about Paul (12:11), contributing to the Corinthians’ doubt about Paul’s Apostleship (13:3—4). And even doubting Paul’s own faith.2

In response, Paul instructed them to examine themselves to determine if they were really in the faith. In the first two sentences of verse 5 “yourselves” is italicized to match the emphasis implied in the Greek text. Paul truly is concerned that some had apostatized, that they had fallen away from the faith. So, his words are a call to repentance for those needing it. But he provides encouragement: surely they will find out they are true Christ-followers—or they will be convicted of their fallen state and repent. Yet at the same time they will realize that Paul really is in the faith and truly is an Apostle.

Paul’s concluding sentence (v 6) magnificently puts all his thoughts together. In it, he uses three different pronouns to great effect. The “I” speaks of his authority, yet the verb associated with it shows his empathy, his desire (“I trust”). The “you”, of course, is the Corinthians, who, after their individual self-investigations (v 5), should either: (a) be further encouraged in their faith, or (b) be persuaded to repent. His final “we” indicates both: (a) his desire for their further encouragement or their repentance (accordingly), and (b) his implied assertion of his own status in the faith, along with the newly-repentants’ realization of Paul’s true faith—“we” (the Corinthians and Paul) are “not unqualified”.

All this provides an object-lesson for subsequent readers, for us. Are we really in the faith? Continual self-assessment is not optional (Matthew 24:13).

Elsewhere Paul provides means for self-testing, using the example of Timothy:

2Timothy 2:15:

Strive to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed laborer correctly applying the word of truth.

The verb for “approved” here is the same as the one used in 2Corinthians 13:5. The only way you can know for certain you are in the faith is to have a good knowledge of the truths of the faith (John 8:31—32)! And this requires obedience, which is made evident by your fruit. A great self-check for fruit-bearing is found in Paul’s words to the Galatian ekklēsia. The passage compares living by the Spirit to living according to the flesh:

Galatians 5:16—25:

16 I say then, walk by the Spirit, so you shall not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires contrary to the Spirit, the Spirit contrary to the flesh. For these oppose one another, so that you may not do as you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: sexual immorality, moral impurity, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, rivalries, dissensions, discriminations, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousals, and such things similar to these. All these I tell you to forewarn you as before: All those who engage in such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things, there is no law. 24 And those belonging to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, to the Spirit we should also conform.

We cannot just pass on this. Each must habitually ask himself or herself, “Am I really in the faith?”

Do I meet the qualifications? Am I approved?

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1 In my translation here, I aimed for functional equivalency to the extent possible (nouns for nouns, similar verb types for similar verb types, etc.), leaving out as many English helping words as possible (e.g. “to see if you be in the faith”). With this goal in mind, I sought to retain Paul’s words as I think he intended to his original audience, thereby showing his exceptional rhetorical skills. All negatives are translated as per the Greek text, including words negated by an a– prefix. In this way, the reader can see his dichotomies, his juxtapositions, as well as his plays on words (“approve” > “unapproved” > “not unapproved”). Otherwise, in my opinion, his tone is smoothed over. This includes the italicizing of “unless” since εἰ μήτι is stronger than εἰ μή.  In similar fashion, “yourselves” is twice italicized, since it has emphatic placement in the Greek (first in the sentences). The overall intent is to make the parallels and contrasts a bit easier for the English reader to perceive.

2 Most of this entire paragraph sounds eerily similar to the leaders and individuals within the so-called New Apostolic Reformation.

I Keep Forgetting

Word of the day:

lethologica:

The inability to remember a particular word or name

Now, if only I could recall this word next time I can’t remember the word I’m looking for…

Are You a Heretic?

Are you a heretic?  Am I?  No one has perfect theology, do they?

Not one person who is currently living or who has ever lived could rightfully claim ultimate infallibility with regard to Scripture interpretation (excepting Jesus Christ Himself).  We learn from each other.  It’s an organic process as we grow in Christ.

HOWEVER, there are certain Scriptural Truths that are non-negotiable within orthodox Christianity.  And, I will fight for those Truths earnestly contending for the faith [Jude 3].  There are aberrant teachings such as Latter Rain/Dominionism/Manifest Sons of God/Prophetic/NAR, Word of Faith, the emergent/emerging church, strict legalism, etc.; plus, there are, of course, sub-Christian cults.  Each of these MUST be addressed!

The thing we must keep in mind, though, is that there are those caught up in these doctrines/movements unknowingly.  Some are truly seeking God through Jesus Christ yet are enmeshed in heresy.  It is for this reason I prefer to label the teachings as heresy rather than call those involved heretics.  To call individuals heretics, to me, seems to make a judgment of the heart.

This does not mean to say that some of these individuals are not teaching heresy knowingly.  I’m sure there are those who are quite wittingly leading others astray – wolves in sheep’s clothing [Matthew 7:15].  These people may never be reached at all as they are the tares/weeds amongst the wheat:

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’  The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’ [Matthew 13:24-30 NKJV]

On the other hand, we are to continue, in love, to show the error of false teaching for to do so, we may potentially help some of those who are following heretical teachings actually reach a saving faith.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh [Jude 22-23 NIV]

 19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. [James 5:19-20 NIV]

OK, so, I’m not a heretic and, hopefully, neither are you.  Let’s all grow in the knowledge of His will through all spiritual understanding in order to live a life pleasing to the Lord [Colossians 1:9-14].

[I’ve added a new tab titled “Why CrossWise?” which explains further the intentions of this site while providing some disclaimers.]

A Different Time

I receive daily devotionals from Walk Thru the Bible; and, I was struck by this one today.  It references Romans 4:

 Justification by faith is illustrated in the Old Testament through the lives of Abraham and David.

 To impute something means “to apply something to your account.” The Bible teaches that no one can earn salvation.  However, God will give it to us freely if we have faith in Him.  God honors the attitude of our hearts and imputes righteousness to our accounts.  To be able to impute righteousness to those living during Old Testament times, God looked ahead to the work of Christ on the cross.  Now he looks back to the Cross.  But in both cases, God’s people have been saved by grace through faith.

The only way those in the “faith” chapter – Hebrews 11 — could have been saved is by God looking ahead to the Cross.  This is truly amazing when you think of it.  However, as we see it, Jesus Christ was yet to be incarnated; so, with our logical, finite minds it can be difficult to grasp that the OT faithful could be saved by the Cross.  Weren’t they under the Law instead?  This is because we see time in a linear fashion.  The Greek transliterated word for ‘time’ in this sense is chronos [Strong’s # 5550] from which we get the word ‘chronology,’ for example.

Yet God is not constrained by time as we know it since He is living outside of it in ‘eternal time.’  This is why many of the NT passages which are spoken of in the present tense are actually in the future according to our linear time.  When the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Church at Colosse, “Since, then, you have been raised up with Christ…” [Colossians 3:1a NIV] he was speaking of a future reality but also our present standing in Christ.  Since this is our future inheritance, Paul is instructing: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” [v 3:2]

When I consider the lost sometimes I think, “Eternity is a l-o-n-g time.”  But, is that really an adequate expression of the eternal?  The finite mind just cannot grasp such a thing.  No beginning, no end: How can that be?  This should induce us to evangelize all the more.  Yet, I don’t evangelize as much as I should.  In the hustle and bustle of life, sometimes I just don’t have the time.  No – I don’t make the time.

Today is the day of salvation.  The time is now…

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