Thursday, October 17, 2019

Guest Post: Victory in Defeat?

Part 1
Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. If you’re new to our program, in this, our feature segment, we’re going through Dave Hunt’s book When Will Jesus Come? subtitled Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ.
Dave, in chapters 5 and 6 of your book you discuss what you call an “unlikely prophetic scenario” and “victory in defeat.” You open with what’s been referred to as The Last Supper, which came only a few days after Jesus being joyously acclaimed as the son of David, the Messiah. But in the next few hours, the emotions of the Lord’s disciples were going to go from elation to utter disbelief and grief. Take us through the scenario as the scriptures present it.
Dave: Well, Tom, the chapter is titled “An Unlikely Prophetic Scenario,” and that’s so amazing. You know, if this were fiction and the Messiah has come, and He’s just been hailed by the crowd—I don’t know how many hundreds, or maybe thousands, of disciples there were, followers, because He had been healing people and feeding multitudes and raising the dead. Even…He had just raised Lazarus from the dead, and you would think, Wow, they are about to name Him king!
Tom: Terrific beginning and heading for even a better ending, right?
Dave: Right! But that’s not what the prophets said. The prophets said that He would be rejected and despised by His own people. That they would hail him—it foretold that; Zechariah foretold that. Of course it was…
Tom: Let me read that verse, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee…”
Dave: Stop it there, Tom.
Tom: Okay.
Dave: “Behold thy king cometh unto thee.” Well, you’d think they would really be rejoicing, and they are claiming him as the Messiah.
Tom: Right. “O Son of David,” they cried out.
Dave: But then go ahead and read how He comes, Tom. That set them back a bit. They still didn’t seem to be wondering. They’re still acclaiming Him.
Tom: Yeah.
Dave: Because the prophets said they would.
Tom: But, Dave, it also points out how when we read the scriptures, having the benefit of looking back in history and all that the scripture has presented, we just kind of float by this. “Oh yeah, He’s just kind of meek and humble and so on,” but it says “…he [is] just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a colt, the foal of an ass,” again, Zechariah:9:9.
Dave: Not exactly the way you would envision a triumphant entry of a new king.
Tom: Yeah, not something that a Caesar or a Pharaoh might put together.
Dave: You can imagine Caesar coming into Jerusalem, having just conquered it, and presenting himself on a wobbly-legged colt that could hardly hold up his weight, never been ridden before. And he’s meek and lowly, “bringing salvation,” it says. Not the salvation they were looking for. The salvation they were looking for was, well, they wanted to have their Messiah come riding in on a white horse with a flashing sword and leading an army. He’s going to conquer the Romans and set them free.
But He came to set them free from sin and from themselves, and they were not up to that. But, at the moment, they fulfilled the prophecy, as the Bible said. And then, the scriptures also foretold that He would be betrayed by one of His own.
Tom: Well, before you get to that, Dave, what about the Last Supper? I mean, Dave, I’m really impressed with the way you lay this out, because it brings some understanding to this—or even some thoughts about it—that most people wouldn’t have.
Here you have the Last Supper. The disciples have got to be over the top with excitement. You know, they’re kind of getting together; they’re in the inner group, Jesus now having been acclaimed as the son of David. I mean, how much better can it get? But what did He have to say to them at the Last Supper?
Dave: Tom, they had such low self-esteem that they’re all arguing among themselves as to who will be the greatest! They’ve already argued about who would be on His right hand and who would be on His left, and Jesus said, “Hey, guys that’s not for Me to give. That’s for my Father.” He shocks them. They are disputing among themselves who will be the greatest and who will have the top jobs in the kingdom, which, now, they’ve just hailed him as the King, as the Messiah.
And He drops a shocker on them. He says, “I’m going to go away.”
“Wait a minute, Lord! Where are you going?”
John 14 of course—“Well, I’m going to my Father’s house. I’m going to prepare a place for you. We’ve got a lot of mansions up there, and then I’m going to come back and take you up there.”
Well, they’ve never heard of anything like that. “Wait a minute! Isn’t there a kingdom down here on this earth? Aren’t you supposed to rule on David’s throne?”
It’s one of the problems today, Tom. We have Kingdom Now people, Dominion people, and they think that Christ has commissioned us to take over this world.
Tom: Right, Global Peace Plan, Dave.
Dave: Right. And when we have taken over the media and the government; we’ve voted in our good Christian guys everywhere….
Tom: Yes, solved all the problems of the world.
Dave: Right. We’ve taken over the schools, we’ve been voted into the school boards, and we’ve turned this country into a Christian nation, and the rest of the world will follow suit—then Jesus will come to rule over the kingdom we’ve established for Him.
Now, it’s pretty clear that when He comes, He does not come to this earth. Not at that time. He comes to take His own out of here, and we meet Him in the air. It is very clear.
Tom: But, Dave, the confusion—it’s amazing, almost ironic. We can look back and see how the disciples blew it because of their ambition and so on—what they wanted to do. But with regard to a second coming, particularly the Rapture, we have another confusion: “Oh no, no! We’re going to set up the kingdom.” I mean, it’s a “kingdom” mentality then—and now—which is sad.
Dave: Yes! I remember Paul Crouch—I heard it live. And I don’t really tune in there, but it seems every time I just happen to be going by to find some news, he’s at it with something. I’ll never forget the time he said he would shoot the heresy hunters—and I knew he was talking about me. But anyway…
Tom: Yes, this is TBN, Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Dave: Right, Paul Crouch in charge. Anyway, I’ll never forget him saying, “We are going to take over the networks. We’re going to take over TV and radio. And we will do it by force, if we have to!” They had just had—or were just about to have—a conference with that title in Phoenix, Arizona. The title of the conference was “Take It by Force!” They used a scripture from Joshua: “Go in and possess the land.” Christians are supposedly (at least, this was the teaching), to take over and do it by force if necessary. No wonder there are the ACLU or the skeptics, or whoever—“Look, these Christians really intend to take over the world!”
Tom: Yeah. But, Dave, not trying to defend that, because it’s totally wrong, but it’s not exactly the same as Islam, is it?
Dave: No, it’s not the same as Islam, and we don’t do it by the sword. They haven’t tried to do that yet. And yet they use that word “force”: “Take It by Force” was the title of the conference. These guys have been hyping this for a long time, but they haven’t been able to do it.
I remember when—and I’m sure, Tom, you would remember, we used to live not too far from there when Jack Hayford had Church on the Way. They had a number of conferences one after the other: “How to Take Your City for God.” And YWAM (Youth With A Mission) was talking about this. “We’re going to take over!”
I remember they had maybe 12-1300 pastors met—how often? About once a month, I think, at the Hollywood Presbyterian Church, about binding the territorial spirits that were holding sway over Los Angeles, and so forth. And “We’re going to set this free, and millions will be saved,” and so forth and so on. It’s not biblical Tom.
Tom: No, but it’s interesting also, Dave, that this was called “strategic spiritual warfare,” so the warfare, as opposed to what we see in Islam, is another kind of warfare. But on the other hand, these people are, in a sense, no less militant about it.
Dave: Well, they were very optimistic, and it kind of fizzled.
Tom: Well, it didn’t work.
Dave: They—who was it? Larry Lea went with his people up to San Francisco. They were going to bind the spirits of homosexuality and so forth. It only got worse. They had a huge gathering in Miami in a stadium where they “bound the spirit of violence, drug addiction,” and so forth. It has only gotten worse. It’s not biblical.
But anyway, Jesus said He was going to go away, and He would come again and receive them to his Father’s house of many mansions. That wasn’t good news to them! It’s good news to us! It wasn’t good news to them because, as you say, they had this “kingdom mentality.”
And then, He dropped another shocker on them. He said, “One of you will betray me.” And Tom, they couldn’t fathom this. Kingdom dominion mentality then and now is you take it over. You’re going to take over this world. You’re going to rule over everything. How do you do that? I think I may have quoted it before on this program, but I love that hymn—some of the old hymns Tom, we’ve got to get back to them. And I don’t want to hammer on this too much, but I don’t know why they have thrown out the old hymns for some of the modern stuff. Some of it may be good, but most of it is rather shallow and repetitive.
But anyway, it went like this: “In weakness like defeat, He won the victor’s crown. Tread all our foes beneath His feet by being trodden down. He Satan’s power laid low; made sin, He sin o’erthrew. Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so, and death, by dying, slew.” Now, that’s the way it happens, but that’s not what they imagined it would be like.
Anyway, it was a shock that one of them would betray Him, and yet, Tom, as you read it, they didn’t get it! They’re so concerned about who was going to sit on His right hand and on His left—they should have locked the door. They should not have let anyone out of there, out of that room, until they found out Who is it that’s going to betray our LordWho could that possibly be? They should have grilled one another and demanded the truth. Instead they said, “Is it I Lord?” and another one said, “Is it I Lord?” and then they went back to their quarreling about who would be the greatest. Tom, is it possible that we could be so blind today too? I mean, I am sure that I miss so much that’s in the Word of God. I don’t understand it, but I’m trying.
Tom: But it is amazing, Dave, when you look at the heart of man. I’ve been going through 1 Kings, and we have Solomon. Dave, not only (outside of our Lord) is he the wisest man who ever walked the face of the earth, but the Lord appears to him twice. You’d think that—wait a minute, the Lord himself has appeared to me, bringing insight and correction about certain things, yet it doesn’t seem to connect. In other words, even with that kind of experience—and how many people say today, “Well, look if I just got an insight from the Lord...If I just, you know, if the Lord would do something, I would know—speak to my heart; speak to me.
Dave: Well, “If He would speak to me with an audible voice…”
Tom: Right, whatever. And here the Lord appears to Solomon twice and gives him wisdom and gives him all that anyone could ask for. Here’s the wealthiest man on the face of the earth, all of these things, and he disobeys the Lord! He turns from the Lord. Unbelievable! But that’s our heart, isn’t it?
Dave: I’m afraid so, Tom, and we have it demonstrated over and over. We’ve talked about it before—at the base of Mount Sinai, after God has thundered with an audible voice, given them audibly the Ten Commandments, and they promised that they would keep them—Moses hasn’t even come down from the mountain till they’ve broken the first commandment not to have other gods. You know, “Worship the Lord alone”—and now they’ve made a golden calf.
Nobody saw miracles like the Jews. They walked through the Red Sea on dry land, got water out of a rock and the rock is…everywhere they go, there’s this rock, and water comes out of the rock in a wilderness. Their clothes down wear out, their sandals don’t wear out, they are led by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that shows them where to camp, they are fed. Tom, nobody could ask for more miracles than that, and the Bible says (this is not me, this is not anti-Semitism), the Hebrew prophets themselves say these are the most rebellious people—gainsaying, disobedient people that the world has ever seen!
And is it not the same today? Of Jesus, it says, “Though He had done so many miracles, yet they believed not on Him.” What more could you do than raise the dead? The guy’s been dead four days, and that was one of the reasons why—a major reason why this crowd lined the street as He went in from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem. Talk about hard heartedness! The rabbis, who have already determined to kill Jesus, now they say, “We’ll kill Lazarus also, the man he raised from the dead.” They know He raised him from the dead—in the grave four days. Tom, wow! “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked…” and this is why in Psalm:139:23 David cries out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Tom, I cry out to the Lord like that all the time.
Tom: Right—there were in David’s life—there was wickedness, evidence of wickedness, and so on. But the scripture says, “but he was a man after God’s own heart,” because he repented when he was confronted by this. This is the best we’ve got, Dave. We will sin, we do sin, but do we have a heart to repent of that, or are we going to continue to go our own way?
Dave: Right—try to excuse it, whatever. So, where are we, Tom?
Tom: Well, again, the disciples, they’re listening to Jesus. He’s talking about going away. He’s talking about what He’s going to have to suffer, but this wasn’t new for them. I mean, earlier He quoted, “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” He’s quoting from Zechariah, but he gives it to them directly, but they don’t understand these things.
Dave: Tom, I’ve gone through the Bible and counted how many times, I don’t remember at the moment, but a number of times He has told them, “They are going to kill me. They are going to crucify me. I am going to be rejected.” They don’t get it. How many times has He told them He would rise from the dead? And they don’t get it!
It must have been such a shock to them when, in the Garden, here come these Roman soldiers, and the rabbis, and Judas, and Jesus is led away meekly like a lamb to the slaughter exactly as the prophets foretold. But they don’t make any connection with that. This is the one who stood up in the boat and, pshew! stills the storm with a word? This is the one who raised the dead? This is the one who could cast demons out of the demon-possessed man that nobody could control, and he sits there at Jesus’s feet?
And suddenly, they bind Him, and He seems helpless, and they lead Him off to be crucified. And all of the disciples, it says, “…forsook him and fled.” And they could not believe how they must have been mistaken, how they must have been deceived. What kind of tricks did he pull? He couldn’t have been the Messiah, because now He got nailed to a cross. And then when they go to the tomb—it’s empty! Oh, somebody stole His body!
He has told them so many times: He would rise from the dead on the third day. Even the rabbis remembered that, and they sent Roman guards to keep Him inside so the disciples won’t steal His body. The disciples aren’t up to that. They’ve even forgotten—well, Tom, oh my gracious, what God must think of us! It’s pretty hopeless isn’t it?
Tom: Dave, I just love the scriptures—the people that God chose to use. We mentioned David earlier. Peter is absolutely fascinating to me. Jesus said to the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And Peter gives him a terrific answer. And then just a little bit later…
Dave: Well, but Jesus says, “Flesh and blood didn’t reveal it to you; my Father did.”
Tom: Right. So, we have Peter, even at the Last Supper, where Peter says, “No, no! I’m going to hang in there with You. I’m going to do what You desire.”
Dave: “If they all forsake You, yet will not I. I’ll go to death for You.”
Tom: Yeah, that’s what He says: “I will lay down my life for thy sake.” But they don’t. But on the other hand, Dave, we have 1 and 2 Peter; we have the things in Acts that Peter said. When he’s led of the Spirit, wow!
Dave: I tell you, Tom, it speaks to my heart right now. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” Paul said, “When I am weak, then am I strong. Though I have this thorn in the flesh…” whatever it was, we don’t know. Some people say he had eye problems so that he could hardly see. I don’t know what it was, but he says, “God sent it so that I would not be exalted above measure, but that I would recognize that I am so weak,” and he called himself the least of all the saints. Paul said, “Brethren, pray for me.” So, we need prayer, you who are listening out there, please pray for us. Pray for The Berean Call, pray for this program, pray for the ministry the Lord has given us that He will keep us faithful to Him and to this ministry, and please back us with your prayers. We appreciate it very much, and we need this very much.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Guest Post: God and Self

Me, Myself & I is typical of many books written to defend Christian psychology. Its author, Archibald D. Hart, is dean of Fuller Seminary's Graduate School of Psychology. Advertisements for the book call it "a response to Dave Hunt and John MacArthur, Jr." In fact, Hart's quarrel is with God's Word, which he (like other "Christian" psychologists) denies is sufficient to provide counsel for every emotional and spiritual need, even though it claims to be. To say that Christian psychology is compatible with Scripture is an admission that it supplements God's Word.
Hart leaves no doubt concerning biblical insufficiency. He states repeatedly, "We desperately need a Christian psychology" (pp 11, 21, etc.); "The need for 'integrating' psychology and faith is urgent" (p 247). If such is indeed the case, then four logical conclusions must follow:
1. From its very beginning, the church, including Jesus who founded it and Paul and the other apostles and prophets (to say nothing of Old Testament saints such as Moses and Daniel), desperately needed psychological help. The heroes and heroines of the faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 all would have lived happier, more fulfilling, fruitful and godly lives had psychological counseling been available in their day.
2. Because Scripture lacks essential insights into human personality, behavior and treatment which are found only in the recently developed field of psychology, the church has been incapable of properly dealing with many emotional and spiritual problems for nearly 2,000 years. The Old Testament saints were similarly handicapped for another 4,000 years before that. 3. Essential diagnoses and cures of spiritual and emotional problems which the Holy Spirit, for some strange reason, failed to include in Scripture, have at last been supplied by humanists, many of whom (like Freud) were rabidly anti-Christian. Thanks to these godless prophets of psychology, the church can at last deal with the full range of emotional and spiritual problems for which Spirit-filled Christians have desperately needed psychological help for 20 centuries.
4. As a result of these new and essential psychological insights which have been brought into the church by Christian psychologists to supply what is lacking in Scripture, today's Christians live far happier, more fruitful and victorious lives than Peter, John, Paul, Wesley, David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, Spurgeon, Moody, et al., were able to live, relying only upon the Holy Spirit and God's Word. [Obviously, all four of these conclusions are blasphemously false.]
Christian psychology tries to merge Christ with Freud and a host of godless theorists. Talk about ecumenism! Psychology deceitfully unites Christian and pagan in a common language and faith. This humanistic religion's priesthood performs rituals known as psychotherapy for the healing of the soul. Whether these priests are atheists, Catholics or evangelicals, whether they quote the Bible or deride it, all have studied similar academic courses, boast similar degrees, and are licensed by the same secular authorities. When will the church wake up!
Hart argues, "The study of the psychology of learning, perception, and personality is just as valid as the study of anatomy or surgery. But I have yet to hear Dave Hunt or anyone else clamoring for a 'Christian theory of surgery.'" Of course not. There is a difference between body and soul, flesh and spirit, brain and mind, glands and morals, germs and will, disease and sin"—between tissues and issues," as the Bobgans put it.
Hart should ask himself, "If it makes no sense to call medicine, chemistry, learning/perception theory, etc., "Christian," why should psychology be called 'Christian'?" Why indeed! This error stems from psychology's erroneous claim to deal with the soul (psyche) and to offer solutions to spiritual, moral and emotional problems for which Christianity claims to have the only and sufficient answers. Psychology is, in fact, an illegitimate rival to the promises God makes in His Word.
In spite of Pentecostal and charismatic claims that no Christian need ever be sick, the Bible does not offer total and perpetual physical healing in this life. ("By [His] stripes ye were healed" refers to sin, not sickness; 1 Pet:2:24.) God's Word does, however, offer total and perpetual spiritual healing, and that includes the emotions. The Bible doesn't claim to be a chemistry or physics or auto mechanics handbook. None of these disciplines offers anything that could be called "Christian." Then what is "Christian" about psychology? Nothing. Remember that what psychology offers was never part of the Christianity of Jesus or Paul! In fact, Hart admits, "Dave Hunt is correct"—Christian psychology isn't really "Christian" (p 22).
Scripture declares that God's "divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust"(2 Pt 1:3-4). In His grace and infinite power, God provides all we need to live holy, happy lives.
The question is whether we believe God, are willing to obey His Word, and are content with what He has given us for "life and godliness." Do we trust His "divine power" as sufficient, or do we think that some psychologist, "Christian" or secular, knows what God doesn't, and can do what God can't? Each Christian is a branch in the true Vine. Is not the life of Christ, the Vine, sufficient to produce a life in us that glorifies God and bears fruit for eternity? Does the "divine nature" of which we are partakers by faith need psychotherapy? Surely not!
Christ lives in our hearts by faith (Eph:3:17). Need we look anywhere else than to Him? Indeed, Christ "is our life" (Col:3:4). The Christian simply needs to allow and trust Christ to fully express Himself through him or her. It is blasphemy to suggest that Christ living in the Christian needs psychological help! The problem is that self instead of Christ is in control.
Self is at the heart of all psychotherapy—secular or Christian. The aim is always self-improvement, self-actualization, self-assertion, self-love, self-image, self-esteem, self ad infinitum. Therefore, "Christian" psychology is forced to defend the self which Scripture says must be denied. That defense is the theme of Hart's book. His final summation declares, "Christians need reclaiming the promised land called 'self' for God" (p 248). Incredible!
There is a difference between denying self (Christ's requirement), and self-denial (Hart's gospel). The latter involves self giving up its desires in order to achieve self-improvement and pat itself on the back. Christ's "deny self," says Hart, really means self behaving itself by self-control and saying yes to Christ. He tells us that rather than being denied, self must be accepted, affirmed, esteemed, improved––and that in order to develop the self, one must first understand it (p 71).
In trying to understand the self, however, Hart becomes bogged down in a hopeless swamp of contradictory statements. For example: "The self is the totality of what and who I am as a person" (p 42). "Deep within each of us is a place we call the self....All the skeletons of shame and embarrassment are kept hidden there" (p 69). (How can the self be a place deep within me and yet be the totality of what and who I am?) "I have the ability to transcend my self" (p 46). (How can I be something different from, and even transcend, self if self is the totality of what I am?) "I can 'know' myself....The self...can be known fully only by God" (p 27). (Which is it?) "No issue is more important for Christian psychology than the proper understanding of the self....The more I probe and search the self, the more elusive and perplexing it becomes" (p 73). (So pursuing the most important issue leads only to increasing perplexity! What an admission!)
Similar contradictions are found on nearly every page, along with even more serious errors such as, "As we learn to graft ourselves onto the true vine [Christ]...self-fulfillment becomes Christ-fulfillment" (pp 71-72). In truth, we do not "graft ourselves" onto Christ. That occurs by God's power the moment we are born of the Spirit through faith in Christ as our Savior. As for self-fulfillment being Christ-fulfillment, John the Baptist's declaration that "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn:3:30), and Paul's "Yet not I, but Christ" (Gal:2:20) should settle that question.
Hart seems torn between his loyalty to his profession and his desire to be biblical. Unfortunately, he does not exegete the Bible, but reasons from his psychological training and then imposes that view on Scripture, citing verses for alleged support which fail to do so because there aren't any. Numerous examples could be given. On pages 41-42 under the heading "The Self in Scripture," Hart lists 16 self-concepts, with a supporting verse for each. In 12 of the 16, he totally misrepresents God's Word. Let us take the first and last as examples.
"Ignorance of the self misleads and deceives (Isa:44:20)." The verse he cites states of an idolater, "He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside...." Clearly the deception does not pertain to "ignorance of the self" but to superstitious trust in the alleged power of an idol. Isaiah is not decrying a lack of the self-knowledge Hart advocates, but, as the context shows, the folly of trusting an idol to provide help which it cannot give.
"We are never to forget ourselves (James:1:24)." Not so. James writes that those who hear God's Word but don't practice what it says are like a man "beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was" (James:1:23-24). James is not telling us "never to forget ourselves," but to bring our lives into line with God's Word.
Psychology seeks to "understand" how and why we think and act as we do. Such an approach would help repair an engine but not a person. We are not programmed robots. Trying to "understand" why a young woman raised in a Christian home becomes a prostitute, why a pastor with a beautiful wife and a fruitful ministry commits adultery, etc., assumes some reason other than self-will and thus offers an excuse for sin. Christian psychology's growing popularity is easy to understand: it protects self from the accusing finger of conscience and God's Word.
One diagnosis fits all cases: SIN. At the root of sin is SELF. Jesus said that we are all the slaves of sin and self until He sets us free (Jn:8:34-36). Unbelief is the root of all sin. There is no greater sin than refusing to believe the promises of God and not allowing Him to mold us to His will. The just live by faith.
"Too harsh!" cries the Christian psychologist. "What about the person who was abused as a child, or who has been traumatized in a hundred other ways?" Could there be a safer refuge for the wounded and fearful than God himself? Is He not able to bring comfort, courage and deliverance? He promises to do so! The Bible is all about those who were hated, abused, cast out, falsely accused and imprisoned, tortured, slain, and yet triumphed through faith in God. He has not changed. He will work the same deliverance today for those who trust and obey Him.
Yes, but what about those whose fathers repeatedly lied, cheated and abused their trust? How can they believe in God as a loving Father when they had no earthly example? Away with such folly! Since when was any earthly father a model of the heavenly Father? David said, "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up" (Ps:27:10). His confidence was in God in spite of his parents' failings!
A husband would be hurt and frustrated if his wife refused to believe him. What about disbelieving God! He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. Some husbands, of course, have lied and broken promises so often that their wives would be fools to trust them until such men have allowed God to do in them what David prayed for: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps:51:10). God can do that, but therapy cannot. Psychological counseling attempts to develop rather than to deny self. Instead of self-confidence, what we need is trust and confidence in God and obedience to His will.
Christ never promised to keep our cars running or to prosper our businesses or to make Christians greater athletes or scholars than non-Christians. He promised eternal life––not just life that never ends, but a divine quality of life here and now. "He that believeth on me,...out of his belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water" (Jn:7:38). Every Christian is indwelt by and led of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor:3:16Rom:8:14). "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..." (Gal:5:22-23). No therapy can improve upon that! Ask and believe God to fill you with His Spirit.
God made man in His image. This does not refer to a physical image, for "God is a Spirit" (Jn:4:24). Man was intended, in all he said and did, to reflect God's love, patience, holiness, grace, mercy, truth––the very character of God. Of course that was impossible for man on his own. Man could only be what God had intended for him if God expressed Himself through man. God had to be his very life.
Self had its awful birth when Adam and Eve willfully acted independently of God. That self, said Christ, must be denied (Mat:16:24-26). It is not that man must cease to exist as an individual with emotions, intellect and will. No, he willingly allows God to fulfill through him the purpose for his existence.
Jesus, the perfect Man, said, "I can of mine own self do nothing...I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me"(Jn:5:30). Only through denying self can we enter into this relationship with the Father which Christ enjoyed and begin to experience the life He has for us. May this be our passion and joy. TBC

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Journey to The Arm of the Lord

“You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah (Psalm 77:15)”

Many Israelites (“the sons of Jacob and Joseph”) as well as Gentiles were redeemed long before the cross of Jesus Christ. They were saved by faith in the True and Living God. Paul says, quoting Genesis 15, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” Abraham was Jacob’s grandfather and lived hundreds of years before the Law was given through Moses.

Asaph, here in Psalm 77, speaking of the Lord’s Arm says, “Your Arm redeemed your people.” At the time of Asaph there was the covering for sin available through the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament Law, the Mosaic Law that God gave the Israelites after He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, hundreds of years after Abraham lived and trusted in God. But, through Jeremiah God said that He would make a New Covenant with the House of Israel, not like the Old Covenant made in the desert (Jeremiah 31).

Before the cross of Christ, Gentile believers were saved by faith, in some cases without the Old Covenant, and Israeli believers were saved by faith through the Old Covenant, until the time of the Messiah (see Galatians 3:19). With the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, and His death and resurrection for the sin of the world, God has made a New Covenant with His people Israel and redeems all people through faith in Jesus. His death and resurrection was predicted in Israel through the prophet Isaiah more than 700 years before the time of Jesus. This prophecy is found in Isaiah 53. Since the birth of the Church after Jesus rose again, God saves any person (Jew or Gentile) that will truly repent of their sin and believe that Jesus died for their sins, turning to Him as their Lord and Savior.

So, Psalm 77:15 speaks of the redemption by faith for His special people Israel, but also all who would call on His Name after the Messiah would come and die for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Thirdly, Psalm 77:15 looks forward to the Second Coming of Christ and the establishment of his Messianic Kingdom on earth directly after His return, and fourthly, to the New Heavens and New Earth coming at the end of the 1,000 year Messianic reign of Jesus on earth (Revelation 20-21:1-8).

Now, let’s look at this phrase in Psalm 77:15, “You have with your Arm redeemed your people…” This description of God's “arm,” what does that mean? We know that God the Father is Spirit, so He does not have a physical arm.

In Hebrew, “zrowa” means arm, but it is used in many passages figuratively to represent strength. And in many verses it means the strength, might and power of the LORD. Its figurative use paints a picture for us so that we can “see” God reaching into our world and accomplishing His will. But, the Apostle John quotes Isaiah’s use of the phrase, and in so doing he applies it to Jesus- as a title.

In John chapter 12:37-38 he says of Jesus, “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the Arm of the LORD been revealed?"

John quotes Isaiah 53:1 as speaking of Jesus as the “Arm of the Lord!” The word “arm” should be capitalized in our Bible when it is used as a title of Christ. Isaiah 53 is clearly about the Messiah and John confirms that Jesus is “the Arm of the Lord” whom most did not believe in.

This phrase only appears in one other place in the Old Testament. The phrase “the arm” or “Your arm”, etc.., speaking of the Lord’s strength, and the Messiah in certain contexts, does appear in other places in the Old Testament, but the whole phrase “Arm of the Lord” only appears in John 12:38, Isaiah 53:1, and Isaiah 51:9.

“Awake, awake, put on strength, O Arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Are You not the Arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent (Isaiah 51:9)?”

Rahab is a reference to Egypt when God delivered Israel from enslavement. The serpent is probably a reference to crocodiles in the Red Sea as they crossed over during the Exodus. Egypt is used as a prophetic type of sin in the Bible, and Israel’s deliverance from captivity in Egypt is a type of the believer’s deliverance from sin and death through the redemption found in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 51 as an amazing chapter to read in its entirety, but I have shared in this article a journey that led me to another verse in this chapter. And I hope this next verse brings as much comfort to you as it did to me when I saw it. Isaiah 51:5 says,

“My righteousness is near, My salvation (Hebrew: yesha) has gone forth, and My Arm will judge the peoples; The coastlands will wait upon Me, and on My Arm they will trust.”

In Hebrew the word “coastlands” is ‘iy (ee) and effectively means Gentiles here. Um, if you’re not Jewish, that’s you and me! And the “Arm,” that’s Jesus!

And here is what got me: “and on My Arm they will trust.” I immediately see a young child laying across their father’s arm, fully trusting in and resting in their father’s strong, loving embrace. He is holding us, keeping us safe and keeping us near. And how has the LORD accomplished this? The Arm here is Jesus Himself, our Savior, our Lord, our Redeemer. He is the One mentioned in Psalm 77:15 who redeems God’s people.

Are you trusting in Jesus? Do you have the assurance of resting comfortably in your Father’s Arm, in His strength and blessing? If you do not know God, He is calling you to become His child today. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. No good work will ever make up for the sin we’ve committed, or make us right with God. But Christ’s finished work on the cross paid the price for our sin. You can be made right with God through Jesus Christ. When you repent of your sin and turn to Jesus, you will be born again, set free from sin and death. You will have the promise of eternal life through Jesus, the Messiah. Turn to Him today. Trust on the Arm of the LORD!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Guest Post: The Most Important Commandment

Tom: Dave, as you know, last week we talked about the biblical view of love, beginning with the Great Commandment. I want to read that again for our listeners. This is from Mark 12, I’ll read verse 29-31. “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Now, Dave, you say that God commands us to love Him with all our heart because nothing less could save us from our incorrigible enemy, self. So, God is actually giving us the solution to our worst problem, isn’t He?
Dave:  Well, I would say so. He is the solution, of course. And to turn from ourselves to Him, as we mentioned in our last program—our problem is self. Self had its awful birth in the Garden of Eden, as we all know, when Satan deceived Eve into thinking she could improve herself by eating of that fruit. And all she was thinking of was self. “I, my, me, how beautiful, how attractive it looks to me, how delicious it would taste to me, how wise it will make me.” She wasn’t thinking of Adam. She certainly wasn’t thinking of God. She trampled upon the rights of her husband. She didn’t consult him at all, but she listened to Satan’s voice, and she was very self-assertive, very self-centered, self-interested; and that’s where . . .
Tom: This is stunning because it was prior to sinning, prior to her really disobeying God, but she was leaning in that direction. I mean, she didn’t come from a dysfunctional family—I mean, we’ve kidded about that, but really, this was a perfect environment, perfect, certainly in God’s love for them, for Adam and for Eve.
Dave: You can’t blame it upon anything except Eve herself, and Adam himself. That really raises a problem—in some ways, a philosophical problem that philosophers have philosophized about for centuries. But for God to create creatures—that’s what we are, we’re creatures created by God—who have the power of choice, who are morally responsible and who can determine what they will do, what they will believe. That was a very dangerous thing, because what will prevent us from thinking of ourselves. So even a perfect, sinless Adam and Eve, since they had the power of choice, it would be inevitable that they would choose self. The Bible defines sin as coming short of the glory of God, and any creatures that are less than God would make less than godly choices.
Tom: Right.
Dave:   Would come short of the glory of God. So this is why Jesus said, “You must deny self. Take up the cross and follow Me.” But our whole society . . . and it has come into the church, as we’ve mentioned, I don’t want to hammer away on that again, but . . . is taken up with self. Self-improvement, self-development, self-confidence, self-image, self-love, self-expression, self-assertion, self-ad nauseum, on and on it goes.
And Jesus, in contrast, said, “Deny self. Take up the cross. Follow Me.” So this is what He’s trying to express to us in this statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
But, Tom, can I go back to something before that?
Tom: Sure.
Dave: Jesus is quoting from the .  .  . it’s known as the shema, Deuteronomy:6:4. And you could say almost, well there was a command even before “Love the Lord your God.” He said, “Hear, O Israel. Listen to me, Israel.” So we don’t want to emphasize that, but we really need to listen to the Lord. We really need to listen to His Word; and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
But let me just take a minute. In the shema, He says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” Now, you read that. That’s what Jesus is quoting. But in the Hebrew, it’s rather interesting. Wherever—maybe this is too elementary for many of our listeners, but I think some of them would find it helpful—wherever you see “Lord” in small caps, all caps, in the Old Testament, that’s Yahweh, “Jehovah,” some people call it. And wherever you see “God,” it’s generally Elohim, which literally means “gods.” All through the Old Testament, you have a plurality and a singularity. You cannot explain it away.
Elohim, I think, is about 2,500 times in the Old Testament, and I think Yahweh is about 9,000 times in the Old Testament.
So, here’s what it says, “Hear, O IsraelYahweh our Elohim is one Yahweh. And the word “one” there, in the Hebrew is echad. It doesn’t mean a singular, but it means a joining together of more than one into one.
Tom: A collective.
Dave: Right. So, in Genesis:2:24, when God presented Eve to Adam, husband and wife, and they became one flesh—two became one—that’s echad. Or, in other places where a number of men became one troop. Or Ezekiel:37:17, where God said to take the stick of Judah and the stick of Israel, and they would become one—one nation. So that’s echad. So the God of the Old Testament, the God of Israel, is not a singular being, but a unity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this is what Jesus quoted.
And then it goes on: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” And how can I love Him if I don’t know who He is, if I have a false idea of Him?
Tom: Right.
Dave:  So He’s explaining; He’s presenting Himself, and it’s important that we understand this.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, I want to quote a couple of other scriptures. In Jeremiah:29:13, it says, “And ye shall seek me and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Now, this is a command of God, and if it's a command of God, we have to be able to do it. But how do we go about searching for God with all our heart? Now, before you answer that, let me give you my own crisis of faith, which I’ve mentioned on the program before.
After being a Christian for—I don’t know, five or six months—I really had a . . . my appetite for God’s Word seemed to really be insatiable. And I got to this verse, that I was to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my strength, and so forth, and I just had to close the book. Because I said, “I can’t!” I wanted to do everything that was in the book, remember? I have a Catholicbackground, you want to get it done, you want to do what it says. And I felt that way as a former Catholic. But here was something that I knew I could not do. But now I know I can do it!
But mainly, and I don’t want to answer this . . .
Dave: Well, how are you going to do it, Tom, then? We talked about it last week that now you said you couldn’t do it, and now you believe you can.
Tom: Yeah. Well, I called you up on the phone, and you said, “Tom, now you’re understanding what Christianity’s about. It’s “not by might, nor by power,” that is, the “self” doing it. It’s by God’s Spirit. That not only will He enable you, He’ll give you the desire, and you will grow in Him. You will get to know Him better. And the better you know Him— we mentioned this last week, but, I go way back with this, and I’m not saying that I’ve arrived, but I do know Him better; I do understand more and more what He has done for me, what He continues to do for me. And why He would even do something for me is more than I can take sometimes, you know, in my heart.
Dave:  Well, you were quoting from Jeremiah, and the Lord says, “You will seek for me and find me, when you seek for me with all your heart.” The word “me” is important. A lot of people want some kind of a god that’s like a magic genie. You rub the lamp and here it comes, “At your service. What would you like?” That’s the kind of a god that . . . To most of us, prayer is a religious technique to get our own way.
Tom:  In many cases.
Dave: Yeah. We try to talk God into working out our plans the way we would like. And so, God becomes sort of a Star Wars force that we can manipulate to get what we want. That’s not the God of the Bible, and if a person is seeking that God, they will not find the true God.
So, the true God is saying, “You will seek for Me and find Me, when you seek for Me with all your heart.” Do I really want to know the God who is so pure, so holy, that He cannot tolerate sin at all for one moment. Do I want to know the God who is so great that I’m nothing! Is this the God that I want to know? Or do I want to know a God that I can sort of put my arm around, and say, “Okay, God, you know, I’ve got a little favor I’d like to ask of you.” Or some kind of white-haired grandpa up in the sky with a long beard who will pat me on the shoulder when I do something wrong and say, “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
Or do I want to know the God who is so holy that sin must be punished: the penalty must be paid. Do I want to know the true God, or do I want to know a false god. And, by the way, there are false gods. There. Are. False. Gods. People have false ideas of God, and there are idols, for example, that have been constructed by pagans here and there. There are millions of these idols in India. And the Bible—Paul very clearly says in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 that the Gentiles who give offerings to these idols are giving offerings to devils. That demons literally use these idols as a front for their activity.
Tom:  Yeah, but, Dave, these people are sincere. Doesn’t sincerity count for something here?
Dave: Tom, I don’t believe you can be sincere and worship an idol.  You know, Isaiah mocks them.
Tom: So, it’s not really sincerity, it’s really delusion, based on self and what self wants.
Dave: I think it’s a . . . the Bible says, “Of this they are willingly ignorant. They don’t want to know the true God. The prophet, Isaiah, you remember—God is inspiring him. He mocks them! He says they cut down a tree. Part of it they cut up and warm themselves, they build a fire with it, and they roast their meat on it. Part of it, they take a little splinter and picks their teeth. And then, part of it, they make a god out of it! It has eyes—it can’t see. It has ears—it can’t hear. You have to carry this thing. It has legs and feet, but it can’t walk. You’ve got to carry it.
And then, Isaiah says, “They that make them are like unto them. Their hearts are darkened.” How could you imagine that a little god that you formed out of wood or stone or clay—that you yourself have made—that this has power?
So, . . .
Tom: Somebody says, “Well, I don’t worship idols.” No, that applies to the god of your own imagination, one that you have created, crafted, in your head to do your bidding  . . .
Dave: And, Tom, we have this in the church as well. We have a teaching that came out of Group Publisher, to “visualize God.” How can you visualize God? “He dwells in a light that no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen or can see,”
So, whatever “god” you’re going to visualize in your mind, you might just as well make this god out of wood or stone or clay. This is a false god.
Or, the teaching in the church—many Christian psychologists: “Well, if you really want to understand the Bible, visualize Jesus. See Him there, and He will really speak to you.” Now you’ve got a fraudulent Jesus. You’ve made him up with your imagination, so . . .  “You will seek for me,” God says, “and find me, when you seek for me with all your heart.”
And we do not create God in our imagination. We do not create Him in our mind, or with our hands . . .
Tom: Dave, let me quote Hebrews:11:6: “But without faith, it is impossible to please him, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Dave: “Him,” right. I’ve probably said it before, Tom, but nobody remembers what I say anyway, but I can remember as a young Christian reading that verse and thinking, Ahh! There’s the formula of success! I can get that Cadillac. I can get that big house. I can get what I want.He’s a rewarder of those that seek Him!
And then it finally hit me. Wait a minute! If you’re seeking Him, what will He reward you with? Himself! He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Well, then, He would reward them with Himself. You wouldn’t want something you weren’t seeking. Wouldn't it be a bad bargain if you seek God, and He gives you the whole world and you miss Him?
So, we have people who are interested in the gifts that God gives, but not interested in the Giver of the gifts.
And, again, Tom, I’m not trying to be critical. It’s in my own heart. And we’re trying to learn from the Word of God.
Tom: We’re trying to understand the Scriptures, and we began with loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, all your strength, all your mind . . .  yet, if this is a false god we’re going after, it’s all for naught! How can you love something false, although we do?
Dave:  And at the same time, Tom, as we mentioned at the last program, there’s an element of fear involved. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It’s the beginning of understanding. And this God that I’m going to love—that I do love—that I’m seeking with all my heart, and I want Him to reveal Himself to me, is so awesome, there has to be a sense of awe and reverence, and really fear, before this God.
That raises a problem. It’s like the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. God came down. The mountain was on fire. Smoking. It was shaking like an earthquake, with the power and the glory of God. God spoke to them with an audible voice! Gave them the Ten Commandments, and they promised to keep them.
But do you remember what they said to Moses? “You go up to the mountain. You get close to God! We don’t want to get any closer than this, because it’s too awesome! It’s too frightening!”
Well, they had the understanding of fear of the greatness of God, but they did not have the understanding of God’s grace, His mercy, and His love.
So these two have to come together if I’m going to really know the true God. And very often when I watch television—Christian television, which I do very seldom—sometimes in some church services, I don’t think the God they’re talking about is the God of the Bible. They don’t treat Him with reverence. They don’t treat Him with awe. But it seems the God they’re talking about is someone that they almost have on a string, and he does what they want him to do. He performs when they want him to perform. He does miracles when they want him to do miracles. And they’re using him to their own end.
And again, Tom, I keep saying it. I’m not trying to be critical. I’m just trying to bring some correction into my own heart from the Word of God, and hopefully into the hearts of others who are listening, and maybe even something that will influence the church, that will influence our worship as we come together to praise God and to worship Him.
Tom: Dave, when we look to the psalms, for example David crying out or using the analogy of a deer thirsting  or panting for the water, or, Psalm 63, verse 1: “O God, I seek thee. My soul thirsteth for thee.” I’m sure we have listeners out there, thinking, That’s what I really want! I want that. I know I’ve gotten in this and gotten into that and maybe even deluded myself this way, but that’s what I really want!
How do I, how can my heart become like David’s, you know, a man after God’s own heart? How can I have this thirst, have this hunger for Him, that’s not just sincere but it’s in truth?
Dave: I think it’s fairly simple, Tom. Well, for example, if I said, “Tom, I’d like to introduce you to the  . . . (well, the things that the world goes for, but . . .) the world’s greatest athlete!” Or “the world’s most powerful politician, the greatest ruler, the wealthiest man . . . “  And let’s say that they’re good people as well as that. We do give honor to men. And we’re interested in knowing people who have some power, some greater knowledge than we have, and we would consider it a privilege if such a person would take you under their wing, and be a real genuine friend to you.
But this is the God who created the universe! Wouldn’t I want, rather, to know Him? To seek Him? He is so far beyond anything that any human being could be. He’s infinite, in love, in patience, perfect, in mercy and grace and power! And He loves me! He created me! He created us for a purpose! He made us in His image, in fact. And those of us who are Christians, who have opened up our hearts to Christ, He has come to live in our hearts! Now I wouldn’t think you would have to get behind somebody and shove them and say, “Wouldn’t you really want to know Him?” When I understand . . . I begin to understand a bit of who He is, how wonderful He is, I want Him! I long for Him! As a deer pants after the water brooks, so my soul thirsts for You, O God!” And we would say that with the psalmist, and with Paul, speaking of Christ and of God, who are one, “O that I might know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (whoops!), being made conformable unto His death.” Oh, there are some things that are required in knowing Him. He’s going to conform me to His image. He’s going to discipline me, He’s going to guide me, and make me what He wants me to be. That’s why I want to know Him, and this is all involved in it. How could we hold back from that desire?
Tom:  And if the desire is really sincere, God has His love letters for you. It’s called God’s Word, and as we—Dave, you rattled off a lot of things about God’s qualities and His character, but you didn’t make them up. You found them in God’s Word. And that’s our encouragement to everyone listening to this program.