Tag Archives: trust

The Things That Be Of God

Self reflection is such a big part of the Christian life, it can come to actually dominate our lives at times. Especially during the Passover season, we all are admonished every year to examine ourselves with the intent of taking the symbols of the Passover in a “worthy manner”. Then during the days that follow the Passover, I always wonder if I took the Passover seriously enough. Because I always could have taken even more time to study and pray … even to fast.

This year seemed to be an even more intense time of reflection because this winter and spring marks the 20 year anniversary of the events that took place in 1995, when those of us in the Worldwide Church of God were faced with some really serious life-altering spiritual choices, and not just passive choices you can make between yourself and God in your prayer closet, but open public choices that effected friendships and family.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” (Joshua 24:15-16)

Joshua himself is quoted as making this very public choice in the hearing of the children of Israel. The people agreed to follow his lead in this and they did … until Joshua died. Then they forsook the Lord and began to serve false Gods.

Two Choices

In Matthew 16, Jesus, the Christ of God, drew a very sharp contrast between two mindsets, and two very divergent ways of life for the disciple Peter. Let’s begin with a question Christ put to His disciples.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:13-19)

Peter must have been on top of the world at this moment. He may have briefly been the first believer in the “Primacy of Peter” doctrine, because he had been praised and exalted by the Master Himself here. But that’s not the end of the narrative here. We’re in the middle of the story.

Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:20-23)

Peter, fresh off the experience of identifying the Christ of God, under the verified inspiration of God Himself … was pretty self-confident. The word “rebuke” here is a pretty strong word, epitemao in the Greek. It means to censure, admonish, forbid, to straightly charge. Not something you’d expect a student to do with his Master. Then in verse 23, Christ lowers the boom. So much for the “primacy of Peter” doctrine.

BaptismForLife.wordpress.comThere are two distinct directional attitudes, or mind sets evident here that are as different as the east is from the west. And we’ve all heard messages based on the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”. “Two paths diverged in a yellow wood … I took the one less traveled by … and that made all the difference!

I like the wording of verse 23 in the King James version: “you SAVOR not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” The word “savor” is phroneo in the Greek, and means, to exercise the mind, to intensely interest oneself in with concern for obedience. In this case, “the “things that be of GOD” were coming to Peter directly from the mouth of Messiah God, but he had his own thoughts on the matter.

Brethren, I don’t know if there has ever been a time in church history when it’s been more difficult to be sure what we savor. It just seems like there are distractions everywhere. The pace of life is becoming more and more frantic. There’s economic pressure, social pressure, societal dysfunction, increasing violence, and persecution as we’ve never seen before. I read an article last week on the most persecuted religion on earth today, and this author concluded it was Christianity! Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have thought it likely that there would be this level of active persecution in this country.

What Do You Savor?

So how can you and I be sure we are “savoring” the things that be of God? Peter was after all saying something here that we would all have agreed with. It was not his will that his Messiah would die — “I don’t want that to happen to you, Lord!” The innocent Messiah of God having to die for the guilty? That didn’t make sense to Peter, and it probably wouldn’t have to us if we were in his shoes. But really, what Peter wanted was for his own human will to be done.

Sentiments like that , even if they make perfect sense to us, are “the things that be of men” if they aren’t in line with the will and plan of God. The only way I know of to be “savoring” the things that be of God in times of increasing persecution is to have our noses in His Holy Book every day with an attitude of submission to GODS will.

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Rev. 3:10

These words in Christ’s letter to the Philadelphians are easy to savor, aren’t they?  It is very easy to submit to God’s words when they align with our own will. As Peter found out though, it isn’t always that easy.

So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”

And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Rev. 13:4-10)

These too are the words, the things, that be of God. Do we savor them? Do we savor all the words of God, even the ones that are hard to hear? If we keep reading in Matthew 16, we see that Christ knew savoring God’s way of life isn’t always easy, but He assures us it is well worth it. We will receive a positive reward.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matt. 16:24-27)

Trust Me!

One of the most often quoted verses in the Bible is Jer. 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” The word “heart” (H3820 in Strong’s Concordance) is often used figuratively in scripture for the mind, will, or intellect, including our understanding and wisdom.

background image credit:  Mediajon CC BY-NC
background image credit: Mediajon CC BY-NC

This verse provides an especially valid warning in this modern “information age” we live in today, where so much DIS-information and chatter clamors for our attention. Modern revisionists with agendas are re-writing history, and even the Bible itself, to fit their own paradigms, which presents a very confusing array of choices for our minds.

It is usually very important to understand the context of a Bible verse to get the true, God-intended meaning implanted in our minds, and in this case, context proves to be especially important, as we can see a chilling warning from God Himself starting in verse 5.

Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. (Jer. 17:5-6)

I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind actually choosing to live their lives under a “curse” from God, but these verses indicate we can bring just such a “curse” upon ourselves by placing our faith, our confidence, our hope and trust in someone or something other than God.

There is a sharp contrast drawn for us though in the next two verses, as a great blessing is pronounced on one who chooses to put his trust and hope in God.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jer. 17:7-8)

So we can be assured that God has left us with a positive choice that can lead us to a truly blessed life. Verse 10 goes on to assure us that God is in touch with us … watching humanity, and searching our hearts with the intent of rewarding our choices.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.(Jer. 17:9-10)

There has never been a time in world history when there have been more voices competing for our time and attention. The “greatest minds” of our day … atheists, agnostics, scientists, philosophers, politicians, evangelists, and apologists, surely all have their unique and attractive messages to preach, and all want us to put our trust and hope in their solutions to world, and personal problems.

And then there is this one incredible book, The Holy Bible, containing the time-tested words of wisdom from God, which have endured for thousands of years, and cry out to us with a still small voice, saying … “trust ME!”

I Am Among You As One Who Serves, part 3

Let’s start this post by looking at Joshua, an individual who was “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph 6:10), as he makes a life choice.

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:14-15)

There was no group-think or corporate mentality within Joshua when he chose to follow the Lord – the member of the Godhead who had personal contact with His people, the same individual that we know today as Jesus. This Being, the Anointed of God, is the one sent by God to the church as a group and to each one as an individual as one who serves.

Dependence on Christ

At this point I’d like to insert a little disclaimer about what I am, and am not, saying in this series of blog posts about church groups. If you don’t make things crystal clear these days, some start making assumptions (and accusations) about what you really mean (like it’s some kind of conspiracy, or something). I am not advocating isolationism or independence! That is a hard road to follow, and we all need human warmth, support, and fellowship. What I am urging is a strong dependence on, and living, interactive faith in Jesus, the Christ of God. If you truly have that you are bullet-proof … no false minister can lead you astray.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:19-25)

Fellowship is important, and if it’s available to you it is wise to partake, so you can support and strengthen others and so they can do the same for you. We always need to keep in mind that we are a part of a body. It is a sin to separate yourself from your brethren in the body of Christ and to forsake fellowship with others who hold fast to most of the same truths that you do.

It is wise to seek counsel, and listen to preaching from others who evidence the fruits of Godly character, and aren’t trying to take over lordship of your life from Jesus, the Christ of God. However, if things get so bad that fellowship with other believers is not available to you – and many of us have been through times when it wasn’t – the Christ of God is sufficient all by Himself to shore you up, and He will – with or without the help of anyone else – and in time, He will bring about fellowship opportunities as well.

Who Do You Trust?

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6)

See what I mean? This kind of relationship with the One who is with us makes you bullet-proof! Indeed, what can man do to me with Him on my side? He is “Christ in you” as one who serves and is our “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
(Jer. 17:5-9).

Where we put our trust and who we trust in tells God a lot about us. Consider  all the New Testament warnings about false ministers – wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15), Satan’s ministers disguising themselves as servants of light (2 Cor. 11:13-14). Who do you want to put your faith in? what arm of flesh can you rely on today not to turn to the dark side?

I’ve gone through the experience now of seeing people that I regarded as the strongest pillars of the churches of God standing up and preaching God’s holy truth one week, and then suddenly one week I arrive at church to find them advocating the violation of God’s holy laws and commandments. It makes no sense to rely on the arm of flesh … I don’t even trust me! We can’t afford to trust ourselves, and we can’t afford to trust in other men(Prov. 3:5-6). So, where does all of this leave us???"I Am Among You As One Who Serves" baptismforlife.wordpress.com

In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This isn’t talking about faith in what we can do – the work of our hands or the work we do for God – or about men that we can put our faith in. Jesus asks in Luke 18:8, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” and I ask, what kind of faith that He is looking for?

Reading the first nine verses of Ezekiel 34 gives us a picture of irresponsible shepherding, the kind that I’m sure most of us have been exposed to in the past. We should realize we need to pray for those who fell into that snare – we may have done the same were we in their shoes. An antidote to this kind of fallible, human shepherding is described in the next few verses.

‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God. “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.” (Ezk. 34:11-16)

This Christ is the the kind of Shepherd we must be following, listening to, and placing all our trust in. He is the One among us as a servant, who truly cares for us and is worthy of all our faith. Trust in the One who serves is the kind of faith He will be looking for when He returns to the earth.