Truth Has Fallen in the Streets

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In Isaiah 58, God tells Israel the virtues which would prepare them to be covenant-keepers and to carry out His Messianic plans.  But, in chapter 59, Isaiah reveals that these people are so entrenched in sin and rebellion against God’s program of righteousness that they must be constantly warned of the judgment of God to come upon those who despise God’s covenant laws.  The time is 687 B.C.  Manasseh, a very wicked king, sits upon the throne in Judah.  Manasseh outstripped his predecessors in wickedness.  He reintroduced idolatry.  He persecuted God’s prophets.  The pathway of rebellion now chosen would eventually lead to Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C.
Significantly, Isaiah describes the times with the phrase, “truth has fallen in the streets” (Isa. 59:9-15).  The prophet declares, “For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them.  In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.  And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”
What are the consequences of the practical aspect of the death of truth?
First, iniquity abounds.  When there is no respect for truth, there is no righteousness.  Isaiah states that sin interrupted relationship with God (Isa. 59:1-2).  God is not weakened by man’s sin.  He still retains fullness of all powers of His perfections.  The sins of the people separated them from God and stayed God’s blessings while inviting God’s wrath.  Isaiah names several sins:  hands defiled with blood (murder); fingers with iniquity; lips speak lies, tongue murmurs wickedness (59:3); no justice, no faithfulness, men trust in vanity (destitute of truth); men speak with deception, they conceive trouble and bring forth ruin, feet run to evil (make haste to shed blood); and thoughts of iniquity.  If you look closely, you will see that every part of their being was tainted by sin: hands, fingers, lips, tongue, feet and thoughts.  When truth dies, iniquity abounds!
Second,  when truth dies, chaos results.  Where there is no truth there can be no peace.  Isaiah states, “the way of peace they know not” (Isa. 59:8).  Ignorance of the truth obscures the pathway of peace.  Where there is no peace, there is violence and the land is marred by the shedding of blood.  Where there is no truth, there is no judgment or spiritual discernment.  The distinction between good and evil,  truth and error is lost.  Individuals begin to call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20).  If there is no truth, there is no light.  Isaiah describes this condition, “We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men” (Isa. 59:10).  When there is no truth, there is no safety (Isa. 59:7).  Finally, if there is no truth, there is no hope.  God is cast off.  His word is no longer heeded. Hope vanishes when truth dies.
Third, God’s judgment comes.  In Isaiah 59:18, the prophet says, “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies, to the islands he will repay recompence.”   You reap what you sow (Gal. 6:8-9).  God sees all and will recompense evil.  Ultimately, God’s truth will vindicate the righteous and punish the unrighteous.  God’s justice will prevail and His truth will go marching on!
Fourth, where there is truth, there is redemption.  Isaiah foretells of future salvation through the promised Messiah. “And the redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD” (Isa. 59:20).  Truth holds forth hope again.  Redemption comes to those who turn from their transgressions and honor God’s Word–the truth.  God’s truth will endure forever.  When people reject God’s truth, then, for them it dies.  Its power is lost to them because of their unbelief.  Where there is truth, there is a foundation for faith and where there is faith, there is hope in the sure word of the LORD.

Be Ye Holy!

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Holiness is a necessary aspect of relationship with God. I will be your God and ye shall be my people.  “Be ye holy for I am holy” saith the LORD (I Pet. 1:13-16).  The people of God are defined by holiness.  Those who belong to God by virtue of redemption (I Cor. 6:19-20) are called to holiness.  Paul states, “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (I Thess. 4:7).  Without holiness, no man shall see God (Heb. 12:14).
In I Pet. 1:13-16, Peter gives several imperatival participles that direct us in living the Christian life.  An imperatival participle has the force of a command.  There are four given in these passages:  be decisive, be sober, be setting your hope on the heavenly inheritance and be holy.
Be Decisive
In v. 13, Peter says, “Gird up the loins of your mind.”  We often say, “Get a grip on yourself.”  We mean the same thing that Peter states.  Instead of falling apart, stay focused and determined.  Be decisive.  Decisiveness precedes action.
Be Sober
Soberness is a steady state of mind which weighs things aright and enables us to make right decisions.  The opposite of sobermindedness is impaired judgment.  When faced with making important decisions about life and following God, we must make good and correct decisions.  We need knowledge of the truth and sound judgment in order to make good decisions.
Be Setting Your hope
Peter says, “…hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 13).  Set your hope with finality on the heavenly inheritance.  Peter mentions this inheritance in I Pet. 1:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” Hope and grace are tied together just like faith and hope are tied together.  If we have no faith, then there is no hope.  If we have no grace, then there is no hope.  Consequently, hope and holiness are tied together. If there is no holiness, then there is no hope.
Be Holy
If we have hope, then we purify our hearts before God and pursue godliness and righteousness (I John 3:3).  As obedient children…we are begotten by God through His Word (I Pet 1:22-23).  We are redeemed by the blood of Christ (I Pet. 1:18-19).  Since we have been bought with a price, we belong to God and must glorify God in our body and in our spirit which are God’s.  We pursue God and imitate Him (Eph. 5:1).  We imitate His holiness.  Peter expresses this both negatively and positively.  He states, “…not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance” (v. 14).  To fashion refers to the design of life.  Former refers to life before becoming a Christian.  Ignorance indicates a lack of knowledge of the truth. In the former life, before becoming a Christian, they had lived in ignorance of God and the truth and so pursued the lusts of the flesh.  Now that they have been redeemed, they have a new focus and a new purpose.  They live to glorify God in the pursuit of holiness.  Paul declares, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1).  Positively, Peter commands, “Be holy.”  The contrast is with the former life.  The comparison is with God.  “Be ye holy, for I am holy” is a quotation from Leviticus 11:44-45.  God loves everything that is good and right and hates evil.  In imitation of God, we must hate evil and love good.
The pure in heart shall see God (Matt. 5:8).  The pure in heart eliminate lying, murder, the entire process of drunkenness, indiscriminate divorce, fornication, adultery, cursing and taking God’s name in vain, lasciviousness and all manner of evil.  Christians must strive to maintain the distinctiveness between themselves and the world.  They must maintain holiness or they will never see God.  No holiness, no hope!

Last Impressions

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First impressions are the impact that we make upon others when we first meet them.  We may say or do things that they will remember for a lilfetime.  Last impressions are equally as important.  Before Jesus’ death, He met with His disciples in the upper room and told them some very important things.  The Upper Room Discourse is found in John 13-17.
Service Motivated By Humility
Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and washed His disciples’ feet.  Peter protested at first, but then conceded once he realized that if he did not permit the Lord to wash his feet he would have no part with him.  Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).  He further explains this example, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”  Jesus taught a service model of leadership.  This model, if followed, will lead to greatness in the kingdom of God. It is no surprise that those in the business world have picked up on it and utilize it.  Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store leads with respect and emotional intelligence.  He tells his employees that he loves them and can often be seen giving them  a hug.  People will work harder and be more loyal when they believe you love and respect them.  Our greatness is not determined by occupying the highest positions.  It is accomplished by doing good for others and working diligently in the Lord’s kingdom.
In John 14:1-3, Jesus emphasizes faith in God and in Him.  Comfort comes to the heart through faith in the promises of  God.  Faith and hope are inseparably linked.  If we will follow Jesus, we can live for eternity with purpose and peace.  Only in this way can we know real joy.
In John 15:1-8, Jesus taught that He was the vine and the disciples were the branches.  “I am the vine and ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Strength and productivity are the result of being spiritually connected to the vine (Jesus).  Spiritual nourishment strengthens the human soul for the struggles of the soul.  In John 15:9-14, Jesus mentions another source of strength.  Jesus desires that they abide in His love.  By keeping His commandments, they will abide in His love.  Then, He commands them, “That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:12-14).  His disciples must abide in love for Him and for one another.  This way they will be spiritually connected to Him and to each other.  They will never be alone!  There is strength in numbers when those we love stay close and supply help.
In John 16:5-15, Jesus promises that after He ascends into heaven, He will send the Comforter (The Holy Spirit) to be present with them and to empower them.  The Holy Spirit  would guide them into all truth.  He would reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.  His word would be the means of communicating God’s grace and goodness to men.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ contains this message of good news (Rom. 1:16).  The power to save men is still found in the gospel.
In John 17:1-26, Jesus prays for Himself, His disciples, and all those that would believe on Him through the gospel.  Jesus prays that His disciples would be one “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:21).  Spiritual union with Christ is the foundation of unity among brethren.  Christ is the only foundation upon which we can build (I Cor. 3:11).  He is the central force that holds all Christians together.  Jesus prayed for unity and we must pray for it too and then endeavor to keep it.
The golden thread that runs through the entire discourse is love.  In John 13:1, John tells of Jesus’  love for His disciples. John states that Jesus loved them unto the end.   In John 13:34-35, He commands the disciples to love one another.  In John 14:15, He speaks of the disciples’ love for Him.  In John 14:31, He mentions the love that He has for the Father (this is the only passage in the New Testament where Jesus directly affirms His love for the Father).  In John 15:12-13, He speaks of the greatest love, i.e. sacrificial and selfless love manifested in His own death.  In John 15:17, He repeats the command for them to love one another.  In John 16:27, Jesus references the love of the Father for the disciples.  In John 17:23, He tells of the love of the Father for the Son and the disciples.  Finally,  in John 17:26, He prays that the love of the Father for the Son may be in the disciples. The discourse begins with love and ends with love.  Love is the bond that holds every relationship together.
The last thoughts expressed by the Lord to His disciples were designed to sustain them through difficult times and guide them to greater service in His kingdom.  Faith, hope and love are intermingled in these thoughts.  Together, they make a formidable last impression.

Who Is Jesus?

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The focus of the Gospel of John is to answer the question, “Who Is Jesus?” The answer to this question gives insight into another question, “Who Is God?” In the opening eighteen verses of this Gospel, John uses several descriptive terms to identify Jesus. They are: Word, Creator, Life and Light, Only begotten Son, and Christ.
Jesus the Word
“In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1). John is the only New Testament writer to use the term, Word, to describe Jesus. The Greek word logos is translated by the English term, Word. John is referring to the fact that Jesus is the full and complete revelation of God (deity) to the world. Jesus declares the Father (John 1:18). Every characteristic of deity was possessed by Jesus (John 14:9, Col. 2:9). He is the express image of the Father (Heb. 1:3). To affirm that Jesus is deity is to give insight into the godhead. Clearly, in John 1:1, the Word was with God (distinct from God the Father, but present with Him in the beginning-Gen. 1:1) as part of the godhead. The Word was God (God is from the Greek word theos indicating the nature of His essential being–or deity). The Word is an agent of Creation. Creative power belongs to God alone and Jesus is creator (John 1:3). Therefore, Jesus is God (deity). God (the Triune God) is an eternal, self-existing, all-powerful spiritual being manifested in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each of these persons share together in one divine essence to form one essential being–the Triune God. This understanding of the godhead is further developed in the Gospel of John. It emphatically refutes atheism.
Jesus the Creator
“All things were made by him…” (John 1:3). “All things…” refers to each item individually considered. Each minute part of the creation is included in the creative power manifested by the Word. “Made” means “came into being.” This refutes the concept of the eternality of matter. Every material thing that exists in the universe had a beginning. “By” indicates agency. Jesus was with God the Father at the beginning of all things (Gen. 1:1, Col. 1:16). Jesus possessed and demonstrated full creative powers–a characteristic of deity. If we deny creation, we deny the true identity of Jesus Christ. If we deny Jesus as creator, we must also deny Him as savior of the world!
Jesus the Life and Light
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus is the source of all life-physical, spiritual and eternal-because He is the creator of all things. All life comes from Him who is the source of life. Consequently, belief in Jesus requires that we reject the notion of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation, the notion that non-living things can produce living organisms has never been proven scientifically. Yet, this concept is an important aspect of organic evolution. Not only is Jesus the life (John 14:6), but, He is the light. The word light refers to truth and moral uprightness (John 14:6). Light is in conflict with darkness (error and moral corruption). But, light dispels the darkness (John 3:21). Men love darkness rather than light because the truth rebukes their sinful deeds. The only hope men have to win over sin and death is to come to the light.
Jesus the Only Begotten Son
Twice in the prologue to John’s Gospel Jesus is referred to as “the only begotten Son” (John 1:14, 18). In John 1:14, the affirmation is made that the Word was made flesh. This refers to the Virgin Birth of Jesus. The conception of Jesus was a miracle. Luke describes it in these words, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb…Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall these things be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35). Jesus was (eternally existed) but He was made or became flesh (at a certain point in history) (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is the Second Person of the godhead who took human form and was made in the likeness of a servant for the purpose of suffering the death on the cross and securing our eternal redemption (Phil. 2:5-11).
Jesus the Christ
“…but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The word Christ refers to the Messiah. Jesus is the anointed one. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism (Matt. 3:16-17, Acts 10:38). John the baptist was an eyewitness to this event (John 1:32-34). John’s testimony validates Jesus’ claim to be the hope of Israel and the hope of the world. Jesus Christ gives us grace and truth. Grace is the unmerited favor of God and reveals God’s goodness toward us in the unspeakable gift of His Son (John 3:16; II Cor. 9:15). Truth is the very words proceeding forth from God (the Triune God). The words of Jesus (His teaching, especially His commands) will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).
The revelation of Jesus Christ by John is convincing and faith producing. It is only by believing in Jesus Christ that we can have eternal life (John 20:30-31). Authentic faith in Jesus involves trusting Him and obeying Him (John 3:36). Do you know Jesus? Have you obeyed Him?

The Ark Is Back!

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Have you noticed the upsurge in the popularity of Noah’s Ark?  Answers in Genesis hpes to build a full-scale ark in a theme park at Williamstown, KY at a cost of $73 million.  God’s ark of Safety is being built in Frostburg, MD.  It is still under construction.  In December, 2012, Johan Huibers became the first to build a full-sized ark that actually floats–Ark Van Noach in Dordrecht, Netherlands.  A full-size replica of Noah’s ark was built in Ma Wan Island, Hong Kong in 2009.  A two-thirds replica is being built by Paul Smith in Florenceville, New Brunswick.  There is an ark inside the Cornerstone church in San Antonio, TX that is a $5 million, two-story, Disney-style attraction, complete with animatronic animals.  An ark is planned for Yerevan, Armenia that would be built in sight of Mt. Ararat.  It would be the center of a theme park.

Why Is Noah’s Ark So Popular Today?  I would like to give five reasons that express my own thoughts concerning this subject.
First, the ark represents safety in the midst of a great storm.  When it rains for 40 days and 40 nights, you need some place to get out of the storm!  When the storms of life come, where do you go?  Read Psa. 46:1 and 57:1.  Where could you go, but to the Lord?  Our ark of safety today is “in Christ” and “in the church of Christ.”  Only “in Christ” do we have real peace, safety, and salvation.
Second, the ark represents heroic effort.  The story of the ark is the story of the faith of one man, Noah, who was one in a billion!  Yes, the estimated population of the earth in Noah’s day was one billion.  Noah was the only father who saved his family.  Noah’s faith was real (Heb. 11:7).  Noah’s faith was complete.  He did all that God commanded him to do.  He built the ark–a gigantic task for his day.  Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  We need heroes of faith today!
Third, the ark represents God’s faithfulness.  God was faithful to His word of judgment against the wickedness and violence in the earth (Gen. 6:5-7).  God was also faithful to His promise to preserve Noah and his family in the ark (Gen. 6:8).  God was faithful to His word of promise after the flood, i.e. not to destroy the earth by water again.  The rainbow is a sign of this promise.  God’s faithfulness gives us certainty in the midst of uncertainty.
Fourth, the ark represents peace in the midst of turmoil.  The waters of the flood were ferocious and frightening.  But, inside the ark, there was peace.  The waters destroyed the inhabitants of the earth who did not fear God.  But, the same waters lifted the ark to safety (I Pet. 3:20-21).  God’s judgment is real.  The ungodly shall perish.  We can be saved from God’s wrath through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8-9).  We can have peace through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).
Fifth, the ark represents hope.  Hope, that while others perish, we can be saved.  Hope that we can have a new beginning with God and in Christ.  Hope that is anchored to the promises of God.  Hope that all is well with us because we have hid our lives in Christ where all spiritual blessings reside (Col. 3:3; Eph. 1:3).
Why is the ark so popular?  Men and women still need salvation, peace, and hope.  In short, we still need God.  We need a place where we can preserve our souls.  That place is “in Christ.”  (Gal. 3:26-27).