Monthly Archives: February 2015

Rejoice Always

I Thes 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God.”  And in many places the Bible says, “Rejoice Always.”  (Phil 4:4,6; Eph 5:20; Col 3:5; I Thes 5:16)  This plain Bible teaching is another of the long-neglected truths which are being emphasized nowadays in the renewal of the Church.

There are 3 classes of people in the world:  1.  Unbelievers, who thank God for nothing (Romans 1:21, I Cor 10:10).   2.  Carnal Christians, who are “Thankful in prosperity and patient in adversity.”   3. Spiritual people, who seek to obey God’s clear commands in this matter.

There are many Bible statements besides the ones listed previously:  Romans 5:3, James 1:2, I Peter 4:13, Matthew 5:12 and Luke 6:23.  There are passages that refer to Paul’s example as found in Col 1:24, Phil 1:18 II Cor 6:10, II Cor 12:9,10.  Examples of Christ are found in John 17, Luke 10:21, John 11:41, Luke 22:15-17.  Examples in the early church are found in Acts 5:41 and 16:25.  The World’s greatest crime is cause for our greatest praise. (Gal 6:14)

The meaning of this is not that we have to be unnaturally happy, pretending to be thankful when we are not; it does not mean that we have to praise God for the affliction itself, but rather what God will do for good by means of it.  We are not to blame God for “evil” in our lives; nor is it wrong to seek relief, escape that which is unpleasant.  (e.g., Paul’s thorn in the flesh.) But it does not mean either that we seek out suffering; some Christians get perverse pleasure out of being miserable, “chastised”.  Praising God for everything is not easy; the Bible speaks of the “sacrifice” of praise! It surely does not mean that we do evil so that some good can come out of it.  Christ avoided some attacks; prayed for escape from the cross.  Paul also avoided some situations.  It does simply mean that I realize that NOTHING happens to me by chance, but that it has a good purpose in my life; that it is absolutely necessary, and I will be better off on account of it.  We’ll see later how to express this faith.

There are multiple reasons to praise God in everything, rejoicing always:  1.  The explicit commands in the Bible.  Even if it did not make sense, simple unquestioning obedience is our duty.  But like all God’s commands, we are the gainers by obedience; his yoke is easy, God’s law is more precious than money, sweeter than honey.  Satan tries to sell us on the opposite.  2.  Praise, thanksgiving is our best service to God.  “God inhabits the praise of his people.”  3.  It shows faith.  Nobody hates Santa Claus.  “What a man sees, why hope?”  (Romans 8)  4. We simply do not know what IS good and what is bad for us.  How then can we pick out certain things for praise, when they may be the very “worst”?  5.  Praise is all or nothing; if not for all, it’s not at all.  6.  In order to get Satan off our back.  Nothing makes him quit afflicting quicker than when we praise God for it.  He is not crazy!  7.  To enable God to work.  God cannot “use” the bad things for our good unless we play our part by being in the right attitude toward them.  Think for Joseph in Egypt; of Israel in Wilderness.  Billheimer (“Destined for the Throne”) says that the current “charismatic” movement is being prospered because of its strong emphasis upon praise in all!

So, how to be thankful, rejoicing in everything:  1. Be a positive person.  Some people can see bad in the best; others see good in the worst. “Bumper crops are hard on the soil.”  2.  Look for God’s pleasant purposes; make a divine detective game of it.  It is all right to ask, “Why, Lord?” if one looks forward and not back.  3.  Express joy, praise, especially verbally.  James 5:13, Eph 5:18-20.  Say it to others; say it to God.  Say it to yourself! (Ps 103:1,2)

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Seven Propositions regarding Faith, Prayer, Sickness and Health

1.  “Salvation” is much more than going to heaven upon death.  Our first prayer is, “If I should die before I wake.”  Most people keep this fire-escape concept as long as they live.  It is one reason why Christianity has not been accepted more by the American Indian, whose religion is a here-and-now matter.  Fact is, a religion that is little use for living is no good for dying.  Sickness and death must be prepared for, long ahead.  It is possible to work through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five steps years before the end of life.  Genuine 11th-hour conversions are few.

2.  Prayer is not just asking for things.  Most of our problems as to “answered” prayer, of “miracles”, is based upon a low view of prayer – something to be used only to get things.  Imagine thinking of marriage in terms of what you get out of it; marrying only because married people live longer, etc.  Here too is where the matter of “believing you shall receive” comes in.  The person with true belief does not stake his faith in God on whether he gets what he wants; he believes that God is perfectly capable of giving him anything, and faith is most shown by believing that whether he gets it or not, God is all-wise and all-loving.

3.  There are different kinds of faith.  It is obvious from Scripture and from experience that many non-Christians have their “prayers” answered.  Jesus fed 5,000 people, most of whom did not trust him for salvation.  (John 6:66)  Of 10 men healed of leprosy, only 1 even thanked Christ, which is about the present average of hospital bill-collections.  A chaplain, or any one ministering to the “spiritual” needs of a patient, does not fail his assignment by failing to convert a person, any more than Jesus failed with the many he helped, through faith, that were not converted.

4.  Almost everybody has faith of some sort, and it is not true that the more a person has faith in God, the less confidence he has in medicine, or vice versa.  The true Christian makes use of the God-given means for health that are available.  Cults like Christian Science and Jehovah’s Witnesses display their heresy (not their “orthodoxy”) by neglect of medicine, aversion to vaccinations and blood-transfusions. Similarly, the person who professes great faith in medicine but none in God, often has faith only in himself.  Perfectly able to pay the big medical bills they were eager to incur, they are slow to pay the same, because of “faithlessness”.

5.  Faith believes in miracles.  Immediately we get into the problem of what really is a “miracle”.  But faith believes that God is able to raise even the dead, and should not hesitate to ask it because of “impossibility”.  Faith may decline to ask recovery from cancer, but not because it is “incurable”.

6.  Intercessory prayer is a much-overlooked aspect of this question.  Prayer on behalf of a Christian incapable of praying for himself is like the lungs doing the breathing for the whole body; on behalf of an unbeliever by a Christian (or even a non!) is like artificial respiration until he can carry on, on his own.

7.  Faith is an intangible thing.  We cannot ascertain the existence of the true versus the false, nor the degree of either, by such means as a thermometer.  Sickness has a way of exposing the sincerity of a person’s “faith”, and its amount, but many people have conned themselves and everybody else, to eternity itself.

Holiness, Sanctification, and Sin in the Christian

A clear understanding of sanctification is not possible with the theory that man is only body and soul and regeneration renews the soul.  The Christian ends up with a soul that is somewhere between one to 99 percent holy and whatever is left over “dead”, etc.

Sanctification:  What is often thought to be “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and/or Second Blessing is the tardy discovery that salvation is NOT simply substitution, but actual identification with Christ.  This is what makes a person perfect.  This removes all self-effort.  This alone makes salvation truly God-centered.  Salvation is not just forgiveness, but making a new person.  It is not “Paradise Restored”; innocent, mortal Adam was only a stepping-stone toward God’s goal of people made in the image of Christ.  Now we are partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1); we reign with Christ.

Sin in a Christian:  There are not 2 persons, an “old man” and a “new”.  But like Jesus (1 person, 2 natures) the Christ-ian has an old nature, whose seat is in the soul (mind, emotions, will).  After regeneration, the old habits persist (like knee-jerks, momentum of a coasting auto that is “dead”).  That is what Paul says we (the new man) must work to “put off”.  See Romans 6:1-14, Col 2:20-3:3.   The battle is between the real you and the “flesh” (see below).  Gal 5:16-26,  Col 3:5-17

Romans 7:  This chapter is often thought to be a picture of the “normal” Christian life.  Watchman Nee and others show that this struggle is abnormal.  In Romans 5 Paul says we are justified in Christ.  Chapter 6 says we must also be sanctified.  Chapter 7 describes human effort (either the moral unbeliever or the carnal Christian) to become holy.  Note that Paul uses the word “I” 45 times!  Romans 8 says that the Holy Spirit sanctifies!  The defeatism of Romans 7 is often used as a defense mechanism for persistent sin in church-members.  Paul condemns this, just as in Gal 3:3.

The Christian Fighting the Flesh:  What is there different about THIS struggle is that it is not a civil war; it is occupant vs invader.  Victory is certain ultimately, and possible always.  No Christian ever has to sin!  Christ is always superior to Satan.  If a Christian is not growing in Christ (Phil 3:8-16) he is either carnal or not genuine.  John 15:1-9.  Sinning is not a Christian’s life-style.  I John 2:1 says, “If we sin…” – not “whenever.”

Flesh:  What does the Bible mean by this?  1.  Not just our bodies, as though it is evil in itself; it is morally neutral.  Jesus had a body.  “Flesh” includes our souls; many of the sins of the “flesh” are non-physical (Col 3).  The soul too, however, is not naturally bad; sin spoiled our minds, wills, emotions.  So – “flesh” is sinful soul/body as it has been since Adam.  2.  Reason why soul given that physical term too:  The physical is what Satan often uses to reach me (e.g., Eve).  I John 2:15 – the “world” too is not bad in itself.  Most sins are expressed through the body.  Body is the last part of us to be saved.  It has no eternity about it; we “share” it with animals and unbelievers.  Note: It is very likely that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was not something physical.

Cross-Bearing:  This concept is related to all the foregoing.  1.  It is not the trials we have in common with all men, even if we endure them in a Christian way, as we should.  2.  Not even sufferings that come to us because we are Christians, though they can be converted into “cross-bearing”.  3.  No, “cross-bearing” is dying to self.  This is much more important than the problem of sin.  Jesus says we have to lose our own, our old lives.  Here is where the unbeliever fails altogether, and the Christian has to die daily.

Perfectionism:  No genuine Christian claims perfection is this life.  Those who do, define “sin” to fit their attainment.  We, the “new man”, are perfect in Christ, now.  And it is possible – we are commanded to be perfect!  Alas, we fail.  But our guilt is the greater because it is not inevitable. To say, “I have to sin” is blasphemy (I Cor 10:9-13, James 1:13,14).  The Puritans had a perfect “cop-out” in the doctrine of total depravity for their failure to keep their own blue laws.  This – not their high ideals and standards – is what brought them and their faith into disrepute.