A Spirit of Whoredom

Hosea 4:12 (ESV)

In our day, people will look anywhere for direction.  Anywhere except to God and His Word, that is.  We are no different than the people of Hosea’s day.  In the midst of unprecedented times, instead of turning to God we turn to everywhere else.  Why is this happening?  It’s the result of a spirit of whoredom controlling our thoughts.

God spoke through the prophet Hosea and said, “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles.”  We can’t even imagine asking a piece of wood for direction, or getting prophetic omens from a walking stick.  In our day, we use different things.  We inquire of our computers and smartphones, getting all the information we can about current events without ever considering the source.  The “walking staff” has become our cars which take us here and there seeking the next best thing.  These things cannot offer any real direction because they are not God.  Most times they just give us confusing and conflicting directions for our future.

The Lord gave His people the reason why they did these things: “For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore.”  These are strong words of indictment against the people of God, but they were true.  He was their Husband (Isa. 54:5), but they were running from Him and chasing other gods.  They were committing spiritual adultery every time they looked for direction anywhere but to God.

That same “spirit of whoredom” is alive today.  We expect non-believers to seek direction from the world, but even believers are doing this!  Are we also not guilty of spiritual adultery?  Have we not allowed the world to steal our hearts away from the One True God and His Son, Jesus Christ?  If so, the Holy Spirit is not guiding us.  Instead, “a spirit of whoredom” has taken control of our hearts and lives.  Repentance is the only cure.  It is time once again to seek the Lord and His guidance.  We must return to our true Husband, make Him our heart’s desire once again, and leave off chasing after all others.  He will receive us to Himself if we truly repent and cling fast to Him.

Put On Christ

Romans 13:14 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul tells us in this great book of Romans more things than we can possibly take in during one reading.  But there is one simple yet profound instruction that he gives us here that we as believers seem to fail at so often.  I know I do.  It has to do with our sanctification, our becoming holier and purer as each day goes by.  This is decided by our own personal actions and attitudes as we face the challenges and choices of every moment.

Paul tells us, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Now he is not speaking to non-believers, but believers.  Those who have been redeemed and sanctified and regenerated by the Lord Jesus Christ are to “put on…Christ.”  What does he mean by this?  Think of Christ here as a garment to be worn.  You are not fully dressed unless and until you “put on” the garment.  Until then, you are naked.  We come to Christ, receive His forgiveness and cleansing, and then we are spiritually naked.  To be clothed properly to face this evil world, we must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  This means we are to become like Him, to act like Him, and to allow Him to guide our every decision and action.

Obviously this may sound somewhat easy, but it’s not.  We “put on” Christ many times during our spiritual life, but then take Him off when we want to give in to sin and lust.  This is why the Apostle continues by commanding us to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”  To “make provision” is to allow room or opportunity “for the flesh” to have its way.  In those moments when we want to give in to sin, we are actually taking off Christ and making provision for the flesh.  Once again we have made ourselves naked spiritually, creating a great opportunity for sin to control us.

We are not “to gratify (the flesh’s) desires.”  Instead, we are to seek to please the Lord Jesus Christ in all that we do.  We cannot possibly do that if we have removed Him from our spiritual lives and are living as if we do not know Him.  The flesh is a powerful force, constantly striving to destroy and overwhelm us.  It does not have to be this way, though!  If we follow Paul’s advice here, which is really a command to all believers, the flesh cannot have dominion over us.  As long as we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh,” we are protected from the harmful effects of our sinful nature.

The choice is ours to make.  Either we can daily “put on…Christ” or we can strip ourselves and be open to attacks from our flesh.  Whichever choice we make will determine how far we go in the process of sanctification.  What do you really love?  Is it Jesus or your own fleshly desires?  That is the ultimate question we must all answer.

Looking to the Reward

Hebrews 11:24-26 (ESV)

What is it that drives you?  What is it that leads you to make the decisions that you make?  Put another way: What is it you are looking to?  Are you looking to the ultimate reward at the end of your life, or just some temporary “fix” for now?  Everything this world has to offer will leave you empty.  It’s only when you look to the reward of knowing God that you are completely fulfilled and satisfied.

Moses undestood this.  Though he was raised in the house of nobility in Egypt, he gave it all up for what God had to offer.  “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”  Why would anyone give up all that a son of Pharaoh’s daugher might receive?  Egypt was at that time the most powerful empire in the world!  Just think of all that Moses could have had if he would have continued as Pharaoh’s daughter’s son.

But all this meant nothing to Moses.  He traded all these pleasures for something far greater.  He chose “rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”  He gave up all his power, prestige, and wealth so he could “be mistreated” with those who knew the One true God.  All the gods of Egypt were not enough for Moses.  He knew they were nothing but vain idols.  He tossed it all away so he could join with “the people of God” in their slavish misery.  And God rewarded him greatly.

Why would he do this?  Why would Moses make such a trade?  “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”  Suffering with Christ and His chosen ones was and is far greater wealth than anything this world offers.  Moses understood this because “he was looking to the reward.”  He didn’t look around at public opinion.  He didn’t look around to see what others were doing.  He looked ahead in time through the eye of faith and saw the reward that layed ahead.  With this in mind, he willingly suffered “the reproach of Christ” so that he could gain the reward that he saw by faith.

So what is it that drives you?  To what are you looking?  Are your decisions based on popular opinion, worldly wisdom, or natural intelligence?  Or are they based on a faithful look to the reward that awaits you in eternity?  A true follower of Christ knows that we are not made just for this life, but for eternity.  Our reward awaits us there.  No matter how difficult the decision, make it with an eye to the reward.  There is no price high enough to pay in order to receive it.

Seeking God’s Approval

Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

Who’s approval are you seeking through your life, words, and actions?  Some seek the approval of their peers.  Others seek the approval of future generations.  If we are seeking God’s approval, though, things will be much different.

The Apostle Paul knew that some within the church at Galatia were questioning the Gospel he preached and his motives for preaching it.  Some had even gone to the extreme of “turning to a different gospel” (v. 6), though there is no other one.  Paul here calls out those who would alter the Gospel to be approved by men.  He says twice that those who do so should be “accursed” (vv. 8, 9).

If we are to seek God’s approval, the Gospel must be preached without error or change.  To find out if you have changed the message, ask yourself the questions Paul asked of himself.  “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?”  These are serious questions, and should be considered carefully and honestly.

If we are trying to please man, we’re in trouble.  “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  When we alter the message of the Gospel to please people, we are no longer acting as servants of Christ.  It does not matter how many people we reach if the message is not pleasing to God.  The only approval we need to seek is His.

Are you sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or some other gospel?  Are you seeking God’s approval, or man’s?  Only the Gospel has God’s seal of approval on it.  All others are phony, no matter how many people approve of them.  Consider well the message you share!

No Place to Rest

Micah 2:10 (ESV)

We often look around at our world and see chaos, disaster, and evil.  We wonder why things are so bad if God is so good.  Our confusion lies in the fact that this is not our place of rest.  That is still to come.  Earth is just the proving ground for heaven.

The prophet Micah warned the people of his day to “arise and go, for this is no place of rest.”  They were not to get comfortable in their land because it could not offer the rest that God promised.  If we are to enter into His rest, we must leave this place and go to Him.

Why was their land not able to provide the rest they longed for?  Wasn’t it the Promised Land?  “Because of uncleanness that destroys with a grievous destruction.”  Sin had so overcome the land that to stay there would be sure destruction.  It is the same case with our earth now.

The effects of sin are seen everywhere.  We don’t even need to watch the news to be aware of this.  We are constantly overtaken by sickness, disease, war, and strife.  People kill each other for the smallest advantage.  Hate is rampant on a global scale.  Sin is doing its constant work, destroying all of our hopes, dreams, and ambitions.

If we are ever to rise above the turmoil, we must go to a land where sin cannot dwell.  Heaven awaits us, made possible by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.  When He suffered, He bore the sin of all mankind.  He experienced sin’s “grievous destruction” so that we would not have to.

This earth is no place to rest.  It lies ahead, across the river of death.  “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4:9).  “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11).

When a Christian Falls

Lamentations 2:13-17 (ESV)

It is a sad sight to see a believer fall into sin.  Even sadder is the sight of a Christian who is receiving the discipline of God when they refuse to return and repent.  Though Jeremiah’s words here were spoken to the city of Jerusalem at its fall, they also speak to the heart of every believer as a warning to repent before it is too late.  Come with me as I try to paint the picture of the fallen Christian.  Mark well what is seen here, and let its lesson not fall upon deaf ears.

“What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem?  What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion?  For your ruin is as vast as the sea; who can heal you?”  Look at this one who is fallen.  They were a “daughter of Jerusalem…a virgin daughter of Zion.”  Now they are covered with shame and disgrace.  What words can be spoken to comfort such a one?  There is no comparison in all the world to that of the fallen believer.  Their “ruin is as vast as the sea.”  The heart is broken, the body exhausted, and the spirit brought low.  “Who can heal you?”

O, but how did they get in this condition?  “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.”  This terrible discipline has come about because the believer would not heed correction and rebuke from the Word of God and those who teach it.  Instead, they listened to the voices of this world, leading them astray into the way that leads to death.  Popular opinion has acted as a false prophet, predicting a future and hope where none existed.  Look long upon this sad image and learn her lesson.  Beware the false prophets of the world!

How now do her neighbors see her?  “All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem: ‘Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?'”  Those who once believed the best for this fallen believer now see nothing but disgrace.  The shame of her sin touches all of the community, not just herself.  She is no longer “the joy of all the earth.”  Now she is repugnant and terrible to look upon.  Do not linger long near her or you will catch her deadly disease!

As for her enemies, they laugh her to scorn.  “All your enemies rail against you; they hiss, they gnash their teeth, they cry, ‘We have swallowed her!  Ah, this is the day we longed for; now we have it; we see it!'”  The children of the devil, the enemies of Christ, pass by in procession and look with scorn and derision at this fallen believer.  “Never again will she rise!  We have won the victory!”  This adds nothing but more pain and shame to her already horrible state.

But now there is a small glimmer of hope.   When we see Who is resonsible for this discipline, we stand in awe and dare not speak a word.  “The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago; he has thrown down without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes.”  Yes, it was the Lord Himself Who has done this!  But fear not; even now He acts only in love.  This wounded warrior of Christ has not fallen eternally, for He can raise her up again!  His discipline is stern, but always regulated by His mercy and grace.

Has this pictured your current conditon, Christian?  Are you smarting under the correction rod of Almighty God?  There is still hope for you!  You do not have to continue in this state.  Call upon Him, the One Who gave His Only Begotten Son for you.  He will surely heed your cries for mercy still.  The pain of His discipline may feel intense, “but this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:21-23).  The Lord is still your portion; therefore continue to hope in Him (3:24).

This does not have to be your fate.  Rise up, believer, and return to your God!  Return to your Lord Who purchased you at the price of His Own blood.  As long as the blood is still there, hope lives on.  And He has promised that even your darkest sin and shame cannot wash the blood of Christ away.  Come home, dear one!  Come home!

Healing the Sick

James 5:14-16 (ESV)

We have been taught to believe by some in Christianity that all sickness is due to sin in a person’s life, that it is not God’s will for any true saint of God to ever know sickness, and that in order to be free of sickness all we must do is repent and believe.  Some may go a step further and teach that we must go to a “faith healer” in order to be made well.  But are these teachings scriptural?  I think not.

There are times when our sickness is the direct result of sin in our lives.  This is true.  If I am suffering from HIV/AIDS due to an immoral sexual lifestyle, then there is a direct connection from sin to sickness.  But this is not always the case.  Sometimes sickness is caused by God’s will (believe it or not) to humble us and bring us to depend upon His strength more.  How then can we be healed of sickness in its various forms?  By obeying the clear format given to us in scripture.

“Is anyone among you sick?”  This is the question James asked, and it implies someone who is deathly sick, not just suffering from a hangnail.  They have tried all other remedies, prayed, and repented thoroughly, yet sickness remains.  And this sickness is one that appears to be ready to take their life.  What are they to do?  “Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”  Let’s dissect this thoroughly before making any assumptions.  First, the sick person is to take the initiative.  They are the ones who are to “call the elders of the church.”  Who are the “elders?”  Those who have been given spiritual authority to lead in the church.  These spiritual men are to come to the sick person’s home and pray over them.

That is the second point clearly made here: “let them pray over him.”  The prayer is the key to healing.  It is a prayer in faith.  It is also a prayer “in the name of the Lord” (i.e. with His authority and power).  Third, they are to anoint “him with oil in the name of the Lord.”  The oil has no magical healing power of its own.  Even the greatest medicine in the world cannot heal unless God uses it to bring about healing.  Oil was used commonly in the First Century as a balm, or medicine.  This is obvious from Jesus’ own parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 (see v. 34).  Never think that the oil itself can heal.  It cannot unless God uses it for that purpose.

Now we come to the real power for healing: the prayer of faith.  “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”  Notice that it is “the prayer of faith” that will “save the one who is sick.”  It’s not the oil, or the elders, or any other remedy or ritual.  It is a simple prayer of faith.  Believing prayer causes God to respond in the case of sickness.  He is the One who saves “the one who is sick” and raises him up.  Added to this is the awesome promise of forgiveness “if he has committed sins.”  This is why James encourages us with these words next: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  Confession leads to repentance, and repentance to renewed faith.  Renewed faith then leads to prayer and ultimately healing.

So how do we heal the sick?  We don’t; God does.  But He does it in response to our faithful prayers for those who are suffering.  We pray, believing that God will heal.  We pray also, recognizing that God heals all sicknes, but not all in the same way.  Some He heals in this lifetime; others He heals through death.  So pray for the sick and let God work out the details of their healing.  Pray with the faith of Elijah, “a man with a nature like ours,” who “prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (vv. 17-18).  This is the scriptural way to bring about healing of the sick.  All other ideas are just conjectures based on myths and legends.

The Nations Shall Come

Jeremiah 16:19-21 (ESV)

In the midst of messages of judgment and horrifying disaster to come, Jeremiah prophesied of a day to come when Israel would be restored, causing all other nations to take notice of God’s works and come to Him.  Though Israel would suffer greatly, their restoration would mean the deliverance of numerous other peoples from sin and idolatry.  How would this come about?  Through the power and glory of the Lord alone.

Jeremiah praised God when he understood this amazing reality.  He prayed, “O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth.”  Jeremiah knew that God alone was his “strength” and “stronghold” and “refuge” when everything else was messed up and uncertain.  We too have the privilege of knowing the Lord as our strength, stronghold, and refuge.  Even when our world is turned upside down, we can have hope in the stability and strength of God.

Here is the greatest part of this prophecy: “to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth.”  The restoration of Israel would have such a profound effect on all who see and hear of it that they will come enmasse to meet the Lord.  At their arrival, they will say, “Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless idols in which their is no profit.  Can man make for himself gods?  Such are not gods!”  The futility of idolatry will finally be recognized as the nations come to bow before the Lord.  Imagine the glory and praise He will receive when the nations come to adore Him as God!

This mass movement towards the Lord will not happen due to man’s desire or will.  It will be all the Lord’s work.  “Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.”  God’s great power and might, displayed through the judgment and restoration of Israel, would draw the nations to Himself.  They will then renounce their false gods and know Him only as the Lord.

The Apostle Paul had a clear understanding of this coming day of deliverance for the nations.  He speaks of it in Romans 11 in great detail.  It was through the unbelief of Israel that the Gentiles came to faith in Jesus Christ.  Israrel’s rejection of Christ, “their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean?” (v. 12).  This reality caused Paul to break out in praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (v. 33).

Do you long for that day when the nations shall come to Jesus, declaring Him Lord?  If so, now is the time to do all that you can to share the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ.  Only as others hear the Gospel will they turn from their idols to serve Him alone.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

Much More to Learn

John 16:12-15 (ESV)

We often think we have gotten to the point where we have learned all there is to learn about the Bible, Jesus, and divine things.  This is actually so far from the truth as to be comical!  We could never learn all there is to know about God!  Jesus made it clear to His Disciples that even though they had heard and seen His teaching for 3 years, they would still have to learn much more.  He would provide their further training through the Holy Spirit since He would be returning to heaven shortly.

The night before His crucifixion, our Lord told His Disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”  If He had so much yet to teach them, why didn’t He do it?  Simply because they could not yet receive the “many things” He had yet to teach them.  They were not spiritually mature enough to accept all He had yet to tell them.  We are no different.  There are many things Jesus wants to teach us.  If only we would grow enough to receive them, He would pour out His richest words yet to us.

As with the Disciples, so with us.  Jesus did not leave them to guess or try to figure out the deeper spiritual truths.  Instead, He gave them (and us) the promise of the Holy Spirit.  “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”  Here we have the promise of the Holy Spirit which would be fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2).  Here we have the guidance of the Spirit promised.  Here we have the authority of Jesus promised.  And here we have the hope of receiving truths of “things that are to come.”  This is for all who have received Jesus and have been filled with the Holy Spirit.

But there is more to the Holy Spirit’s work than this.  Jesus said of Him, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  This is one sure way to know when the Holy Spirit is speaking.  He always glorifies Jesus, not Himself or anyone else.  How does He do this?  He takes the truths of Jesus and declares them to us.  He will never say anything different than what Jesus has already said.  He will many times simply clarify what Jesus has told us in the Gospels.

How do we know we can trust the Holy Spirit when He speaks?  Once again, Jesus said, “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  The authority of the Holy Spirit is established by both the Father and the Son.  What the Father has, the Son also has.  What the Son has, the Spirit also has.  And the Spirit gives these things freely to us through the grace of God received through Christ.  This is truly amazing and profound, yet this is how He works in us.

Is there much more for us to learn?  Absolutely!  But that doesn’t mean we have to go without learning these things.  In His time, and as we are prepared to receive them, the Holy Spirit will teach us all that is necessary for us to live a life that is holy and constantly growing in Christ.  Our response is simply to allow Him to teach us and to grow in all He reveals to us in His Word.  We never stop learning; we just keep on growing in what we have learned and what He is teaching us.

Tychicus: The Fortunate Brother

Ephesians 6:21-22 (ESV)

In the closing words of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we are introduced to a man named Tychicus.  His name means “Fortunate,” and Paul and many others were fortunate to have known him.  Paul sent him to the church at Ephesus to “encourage (their) hearts,” and that is what he did.

Paul said of Tychicus: “So that you may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.”  Tychicus was bringing good news to the Ephesians, letting them know Paul’s condition and current service to the Lord.  This was not only to keep them up-to-date on Paul’s service, but also to encourage and challenge them to work even harder for the Lord.

Now let’s look specifically at Tychicus and learn from his example how we can be better servants for the Lord.  First, Paul called him “the beloved brother.”  He was greatly loved by God, by Paul, and by all other believers who knew him.  To know that you are loved by God and others is a great encouragement to serve the Lord wholeheartedly.  Tychicus knew he was loved by many, and therefore served from a heart full of love.

Second, Paul said Tychicus was a “faithful minister in the Lord.”  Many are willing to serve the Lord, but not many are faithful.  Tychicus was one who was faithful in his service to the Lord.  Though he was not well-known, he served faithfully.  It matters not if we are known by the world as long as we are known by God.  Being known by God, and knowing Him, gives us great encouragement for service.

Third, Paul said of Tychicus “that he may encourage your hearts.”  The world is especially in need of more encouragers.  In difficult times, encouragers can see beyond the pain to the joy that lies ahead.  As they share this hope with the downtrodden, they lift their hearts heavenward and fill them with joy.  Encouragement helps us always to keep on serving the Lord in spite of adversity.  A little encouragement goes a long way to help us through difficulty and trouble as we serve the Lord.

Tychicus may have had a name of being “Fortunate,” but it was those who knew him that were the fortunate ones.  His life and service encouraged others to remain faithful to the Lord and to serve Him steadfastly.  Is there a Tychicus in your life?  Maybe you’re someone else’s Tychicus.  Either way, thank God for all those who are fortunate enough to have power to serve and the willingness to do so.  And pray that God will raise up more who have the heart of Tychicus, servants who do whatever it takes to encourage the hearts of God’s people.