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The Importance of God’s Word and God’s Servant October 8, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Bible, Second Timothy.
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GOD’S WORD AND GOD’S MAN
2 Timothy 3:10-17

Many believers are fearful today. They look at the moral and political situation in our country and fear that we are fast approaching the end (and they may be right). About 225 years ago, however, there was a similar situation in our country. “There was, for a season, a woeful want of Bibles in America, caused partly by the prevalence of French infidelity, and partly by the general religious apathy which followed the Revolutionary War. In that period a man went into a book-store in Philadelphia and asked to buy a Bible. ‘I have none,’ said the bookseller. ‘There is not a copy for sale in the city: and I can tell you further,’ said he (for he was of the French [infidel’s] way of thinking), ‘in fifty years there will not be a Bible in the world.’ The rough answer of the customer was, ‘There will be plenty of Bibles in the world a thousand years after you are dead and gone to hell’” (The Christian Age quoted by C. H. Spurgeon).

A. We must learn God’s Word (verses 14-17). Why did America not go the way of French infidelity? Because there were backwoods preachers and small town pastors who preached the Word of God resulting in the Second Great Awakening that transformed this country into what later became known as Christian America. Why then today’s decline? Because too many believers lost confidence in and knowledge of the Word of God. Whatever strength there is in the church today can directly be related to God’s Word and what it is capable of doing.

1. God’s Word is capable of producing faith in Jesus Christ (verse 15b). “The Rev. James Wall, of Rome, relates the following [instance] of conversion through the reading of the Scriptures: – One… when first presented with a New Testament, said, ‘Very well; it is the very size for me to make my cigarettes,’ and so he began to smoke it away. He smoked away all the Evangelists, till he was at the Tenth Chapter of John, when it struck him that he must read a bit of it, for if he didn’t, there would soon be no more left to read. The first word struck home, and the man read himself into Christ” (C. H. Spurgeon).

2. God’s Word is capable of producing wisdom to salvation (verse 15a). W. A. Criswell tells of a man in his church who had been a wicked man married to a good Christian woman. She brought him to church where he heard the word of God and was saved. “He became a new and a different man. He loved to come to church where we read the Holy Scriptures together and where I preach the Bible. Both at home and in his business office he constantly read the Book … [One day] he was stricken with a heart attack and died immediately… I went to the memorial service…To my great surprise, his right hand pressed his Bible against his heart. I turned to his wife in astonishment. ‘What an unusual thing,’ I exclaimed, ‘that he holds his Bible in his hand! Why?’…’[Because], she replied, …he loved it so. We read the Bible at church; we read it together at home. He read it at his business office. It seemed appropriate that his Bible be in his hand as his last testimony to the saving power of the Word of God’” (Why I Preach That the Bible is Literally True).

3. God’s Word is capable of producing life transformation (verse 16). Sometimes that transformation is instant. Sometimes it is progressive. Sometimes it is progressive and just appears instantaneous. God’s Word will, however, produce life transformation. It determines how to think, what to do, what to avoid.

4. God’s Word is capable of equipping you for every good work (verse 17). You don’t have to be mature to work but there are certain types of work that demand maturity. The problem sometimes is that those who are mature forget that there is no retirement in the Christian life.

B. We learn from God’s people (verses 10-13). It is true that Paul is writing about his relationship to Timothy but he also seems to be referring to Timothy’s mother and grandmother and perhaps to the elders of the church in Lystra who recommended Timothy to Paul for training. This, however, should be true of all of us. Other churches (see First Thessalonians 1-2) should be learning from us how to impact others for Christ. It is not that we don’t know how, it is that we don’t show how and I’m afraid the reason we don’t show how is because we don’t do it.

1. We learn from God’s people what to believe and how to live (verses 10-11a). We talk about a Christian heritage and about passing down a Christian heritage but it seems it is easier to pass down our political heritage than our religious heritage. It is easier to pass down our passion for our sports team or for hunting or for cooking or for a hundred other things but we need to pass along, intentionally, what we should believe and how we should live.

2. We learn from God’s people about our relationship to Jesus Christ (verses 11b-12). LeRoy Eims tells how after he and his wife became Christians they “met Waldron Scott…I asked him why there seemed to be such an obvious difference in our Christian lives…He came over that night and asked me some questions. Did I read my Bible regularly? No, hardly ever. Did I study it? Again, no. Did I memorize it? Aha, here I had him. The previous Sunday our pastor had preached on Matthew 6:33, and I had been so impressed by the verse that I memorized it when I got home. ‘Great,’ Scotty said, ‘Quote it for me…’ I couldn’t remember it… ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Well, yes,’ I told him. ‘At meal times I repeat a prayer I have memorized.’ …Scotty taught us how to read the Bible and get something out of our reading. He taught us how to do personal Bible study and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, apply its lessons to our lives. He taught us to memorize the Word…He taught us how to assimilate the Scriptures into the spiritual bloodstream of our lives through meditation on the Word. He taught us how to pray and expect answers from God… The next year I began my sophomore year…Midway through the first semester, a classmate came up to me and said, ‘You know, LeRoy, I’ve been watching you. Your Christian life is sure on a different plane than mine.’ …I smiled and asked, ‘Well, do you read your Bible regularly?’” (The Lost Art of Disciple Making). Eims then tells how the next year he got a letter from that classmate telling how he had met a fellow who noticed something about his life. He began to ask some questions like “Do you read your Bible regularly?”

When was the last time you taught someone how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to study, how to use Scripture to fight temptation? We impact other believers most when we show them the keys to our Christian life. Otherwise we are just letting them struggle along on their own.

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How to Know God’s Will? June 11, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Bible, Body of Christ, Holy Spirit, Paul's Life, Will of God.
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KNOWING GOD’S WILL
Acts 21:1-14

There is a story told of a successful retiring from a company being questioned by a young, up-and-coming employee. The young man asked the one about to retire, “What does it take to be successful?” The older man said, “Good decisions.” “But how do I learn to make good decisions?” the young man asked. The older man replied, “Bad decisions” (adapted from The Good Book of Leadership by Borek, Lovett, Towns, 2005).

This helps us to understand that the question implied in the sermon title is the wrong question. Haddon Robinson in Decision-Making by the Book (1991) frames a better question for us to ask, “How do we develop the skills necessary to make wise and prudent choices?” Paul exemplifies for us in his life three skills we need to develop in knowing God’s will.

A. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the Holy Spirit (verses 4, 10-11). I am starting with what seems to be the hardest, guidance from the Holy Spirit.

1. The Holy Spirit never leads us astray. How do you try the spirits to know that it is the Holy Spirit speaking? First, you check it by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit breathed the Word of God into holy men of God. He will not contradict what he has already said. Second, if we think the Holy Spirit is guiding us, we had better be sure that it was the voice of God. Haddon Robinson tells about “Edgar Cayce, Cayce…known to his followers as the sleeping prophet,’ began as a Sunday school teacher. But over the years, his spiritist ‘readings’ on the truth of God began to seriously disagree with God’s revelation at all major points…the sleeping prophet had doubts about the heretical teachings that began to pop up in the readings, but his mother reassured him, saying, ‘The devil cannot speak through a righteous man’ ” (taken by Robinson from The Story of Edgar Cayce: There Is a River by Thomas Sugre, 1967).

2. The Holy Spirit does not always give us clear instructions. That is why we need not to ask, “How can I know the will of God in this decision?” but rather “How can I make a wise decision that honors God?” (adapted again from Haddon Robinson).

3. The Holy Spirit generally only leads those who will do all He demands. Are you willing to take responsibility for depending on the Holy Spirit in order to know what God wants? Prayerlessness is a characteristic of someone who does not want to know and do God’s will.

B. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the body of Christ. Now there is a danger here. “Christians who have already made up their minds about their lifestyle seek out churches and pastors who approve of it” (Haddon Robinson). Yet it is clear that Paul listened at times to other believers (Cf. vs. 4, 12-14 with 17:10-15) and recommended even to a church like that in Corinth to exercise their own spiritual judgment in settling issues between other members.

1. In some situations the church has authority. There are many issues where we do not have authority and should not attempt to force our views on others but there are some areas where a congregation has authority. It is interesting that God commanded the church in Antioch to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries. It is the church that made doctrinal clarifications in Acts 13 concerning circumcision. It is the church that makes decisions about who is a member and who is not, that is church discipline.

2. In other situations the church has no authority but it may have wisdom (see Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). Henry and Richard Blackaby report (in Spiritual Leadership, 2001) tell about Warren Bennis’s suggestion “that the downfall of President Richard Nixon came after he surrounded himself with clones of himself. Observes Bennis, ‘They couldn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know and so were useless to him.’ The key to effective counselors is not that they agree with their leaders and always support their decisions but that they tell their leaders things they would not know or recognize otherwise.”

C. In order to know God’s desire we should understand His Word, the Bible (Cf. 20:25 with 14:21-23). How important is it to know God’s Word? It helps us to know where we are going in life. If you know that, you have won most of the battle.

Alice, while in Wonderland, comes to a crossroads and is trying to make a decision about which road to take. The Cheshire Cat asked, “Well, where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know!” “Well, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will do very nicely.”
Young person, if you know and believe your Bible, the decision to marry a believer and not an unbeliever is already made for you. Which believer to marry, you need to figure out for yourself. The best decision I have ever made in my life was which girl to marry, yet I must admit her good looks spoke to me a whole lot more than the Holy Spirit did. How did I keep from making a mistake (and I have made more than enough of those), by knowing the Word of God and following it to the best of my ability.

Richard and Henry Blackaby in 2001 wrote in Spiritual Leadership, Harry Truman has been called a great leader because he had the ability to decide. But more than that, he was willing to accept the consequences of his decisions. Truman’s famous dictum, ‘The buck stops here,’ encapsulated his belief that leaders cannot shirk their responsibility to make decisions or bear the consequences of their decisions. Truman repeatedly modeled this philosophy during his presidency.”

Next week: Leaving the Children Home (Acts 21:5)

New Sermon Series from Proverbs 30 February 5, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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CONFIDENCE IN LIFE
Proverbs 30:1-6

We live in an age of speculation and cynicism. The experts are proven wrong often enough that it is not surprising when people refuse to believe them.

Experts are finite. They are sometimes dishonest. They can also be blinded by their own arrogance. Although there is nothing wrong with respecting an expert, his or her statements must be evaluated for accuracy. We all understand this. This, however, destroys the confidence that we would like to have in our experts. For example, there are many parents of autistic children who recognize this and for that reason, refuse to accept the pronouncements of the medical community concerning the causes and cures of autism. It is easy to attribute their refusal to the emotion to which they come to this issue.

Yet we often hear of reversals in earlier medical opinions. Last year a panel of doctors suggested raising the recommended age for breast examinations from forty to fifty. It became a battle of the experts. One of the biggest worries was that women would no longer be confident in their doctors recommendations.

Another example is that of W.C. Heuper of the National Cancer Institute who was supposedly quoted by the New York Times in 1954 as saying, “If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.”

Such examples cause us to lack confidence in the experts. The lack of confidence in politicians, journalists, authors, and even pastors is not surprising. Too often we have found to be fallible, blind to the truth, or even dishonest and self-seeking.

It is possible to have confidence in life. Our confidence in life, however, should not rest on human experts but rather on divine truth. That is the message that Agur the son of Jakeh has for Ithiel and Ucal. We know nothing of these men but we do know the purpose of the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs was written so that young men, particularly young men of the royal family, would understand that wisdom begins in God and is expressed in life through our actions. This certainly applies to all of us but many of the dangers addressed in this book are uniquely dangerous to young men of some means. They had in those days temptations to face that were not common for the poor or for women.

Agur wants these two men to understand that even though there are many temptations in this world, one can through life with confidence if his confidence is placed in the truth.

A. First of all, Agur illustrates for them that confidence in life comes with an understanding of the nature of God (verses 1-4). Agur is a wise man but he makes it clear in verses 2-3 that he is unable through his own wisdom to obtain knowledge of God.

a. That does not mean that God cannot be known. He is knowable by man through the Word of God (verses 2-3, 4b-5). There is much that we do not know about God but He has not kept Himself secret from us. He has revealed Himself to us through His Word.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 2:20-21 says, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

We can have confidence in this life because we understand that God wants us to know Him.

b. He is all-powerful in maintaining creation (verse 4a). God has gathered the wind in His fists, bound the waters in a cloth, and fixed the position and rotation of the earth. God determines where and when storms hit and where the oceans are located. He controls creation.

Yet this God who controls the creation wants us to know Him for it is in knowing Him that we can have confidence in life. In Ecclesiastes 12:1, 7 Solomon wrote, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come…[for] then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Young person, do not wait until your old to seek God. Look at the wind and the waves and the horizon and seek the face of the Creator and Controller of those things now!

Where should you look? Not in creation. The creation reveals God’s power and judgment according to Romans 1 but if you really want to seek God, then you must go to His Word. In Romans 10:6-9, Paul echoes Agur’s first question in Proverbs 30:4, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

c. He is the protector (the shield) of those who trust in Him (verse 5). That is why you can have confidence through God’s Word. In it you will understand that you are protected through faith in Him.

Warren Wiersbe tells in his book, “Walking with the Giants” how that G. Campbell Morgan was beginning to lose confidence in his faith. “In desperation, he locked all his books in a cupboard, secured a new Bible, and began to read it. ‘If it be the Word of God, and if I come to it with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul of itself,’ he said. He canceled all his preaching engagements and devoted himself to the Bible. The result?” Wiersbe quotes Morgan as saying, “That Bible found me!”

Let me add my testimony to Morgan’s. It was not until I put total confidence in God’s Word rather than in my own ability to be righteous that I was about to confidence in this life. When you are afraid then look to God’s Word. When you are plagued by doubts then look to God’s Word. When you are ridden with guilt then look to God’s Word. When you are burdened with sin then look to God’s Word. When you are facing the unknown look to God’s Word.

d. He will correct those who reject Him (verse 6). Know you might say, “Nah! I know better!” Like Pinocchio on Pleasure Island, you will one day be corrected in your ways. The question is not if God will correct your ways but rather when, before or after it is too late.

B. Confidence in life comes with dependence on God as revealed in His Word (verse 5). The word “pure” means “refined.” There are no impurities in God’s Word.

a. God’s Word is dependable because it was pure when written. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” God’s Word is God breathed. It is as pure as the breath of God. Was it not, you ask, written by men? Peter answers in 2 Peter 2:21, “…prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” It is God’s Word not man’s word. Men were merely the tools used by God to give us His pure word.

b. God’s Word is dependable because it is pure in its preservation. Did you realize that the book of Proverbs was not put into its final form until at least two hundred years after Solomon’s death. Look at Proverbs 25:1, “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.” What if they miscopied something. God preserves His Word. Now that does not mean that there were never mistakes made in the copying. Mistakes were made. Nor does that mean that mistakes were never made in translation. Mistakes have been made. What it does mean is that God preserves His Word. None of God’s Word has been lost. The form may not be on tablets of stone as given to Moses or on scrolls as used by Jeremiah but we have God’s Word today.

My son and I were talking the other day about drawing a 90 degree angle. He said it was impossible to draw a perfectly accurate 90 degree angle because we have no tools that can do that perfectly. We can, however, with a very close degree of accuracy draw a 90 degree angle and have confidence that an angle measures 90 degrees but we are limited.

In the same way, God has miraculously preserved His Word through multiple manuscripts and through careful study of those manuscripts and through careful translation of the resulting texts we can have confidence that we have the pure Word of God despite the fact that our understanding of all the issues and our solving of all textual issues is limited. We have God’s Word and it is pure.

c. God’s Word is dependable because it is pure in its teaching. Now teachers make mistakes. I sometimes make mistakes in my preaching and teaching of the Word of God but when I teach God’s Word as God intended it to be understood and apply it appropriately to my life then I am applying the pure Word of God and I can depend on it. I can be confident in life because I am confident in God’s Word.

C. A false confidence in life comes when we add our wisdom to God’s wisdom (verse 6). When some person, whether with the spoken word or with the verbal word claims to have additional revelation from God, that is a dangerous thing. It gives one a false confidence. The Mormon has a false confidence because he believes Joseph Smith’s addition to God’s Word. The Muslim has a false confidence because he believes Mohammed’s addition to God’s Word.

This applies to more than religious organizations. Some try to correct God’s Word through psychology or science. Others try to add to God’s Word through visions and dreams. Some claim to speak directly for God. All of these things add to a false confidence.

The IRS has a government website. There are, however, websites that claim to give help that are not from the IRS. You may follow their advice. When, however, the IRS makes a ruling, it does not matter how anyone else interprets the rules. The IRS has spoken and must be followed. Following anyone else will lead to false confidence.

a. Our additional wisdom is undependable when it contradicts God’s Word.

Have you ever tried to make a decision based on something of which you were not sure if it was true? Have you ever tried to use a map in which you had already found errors? You have no confidence. The map may be lovely to look at but if it is wrong, it will lead you the wrong way.

b. Our additional wisdom is undependable because it is not based in truth. Lies, sooner or later, lead to a day of reckoning.

You determine where to place your confidence by comparing what man says to God’s Word. If man contradicts God’s Word then place no confidence in what that man has said. Look at Deuteronomy 4:2-4, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, not take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal Peor; for the LORD your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you.” Balaam had been given God’s Word and had given it out in its purity but he then called the king of Moab and said, “I couldn’t curse these people. God wouldn’t let me do it but if you will follow my advice and intermingle and intermarry with these people, God will destroy them” God did destroy those who intermarried but He also destroyed the king of Moab and his advisor, Balaam, the man who added to God’s Word.

Will you trust God’s Word today? In the coming weeks we will learn from Agur some of the things that he has learned from God’s Word. Today, I want to ask you if you will believe Jesus Christ. We saw in Romans 10 that faith in Christ is learned from God’s Word. Will you obey God’s Word today and put your faith in Jesus Christ, who died for your sins and rose again so that you might be saved.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:7-9 “Lead Me Not into Temptation”

God’s Word – Divine or Human (Last Sermon at Fellowship Bible Church) August 16, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Old Testament, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.
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Most of my readers I do not know but you come by often. The sermon blog will continue but I will be at a new church, Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan. I trust you will continue to check in for the weekly sermon.

Finally, to the members of Fellowship Bible Church in Castleton, Vermont I say, “Thank you for your generosity and graciousness. I trust that I have been as much a help to you as you have been to me.”
Divine or Human?
2 Peter 2:20-21

Introduction: It is appropriate today that the subject today is the Word of God. It was the advertisement written by the pulpit committee of this church that emphasized the teaching of the Word of God that drew me to apply to this church. Every good thing that has happened in this church during my time here can directly be connected through the transformation worked by the Word of God in my life or in the life of some other person or persons. Also, every failure can directly be connected to disobedience to the Word of God in my life or in the life of some other person. I cannot think of an exception.

The reason every true spiritual success can be tied to the Word of God is simple. It is God’s Word and not my word or your word. It is from God. This is what Peter is reminding us of here. You can have confidence that God’s Word, in this case, the Old Testament and what had been written already of the New Testament, will change you because it is God’s Word.

“Peter, how do you know that this is God’s Word?”

Peter’s answer is found in verses 16-20. God’s Word is not confirmed by human inspiration but by divine signs (verses 16-20). Peter says in verse 16 that the message he declared was not cunningly devised, that is, it is not derived from human wisdom. Mankind has written many wonderful works of literature. When I read certain works of literature, I find them inspiring.

I own the history of the Civil War as written by Shelby Foote. He draws you into the conflict and makes you wish you could have been there to see with your own eyes the battles and events that he describes. His history is cunningly devised.

When I was in junior high school, we had an English teacher who would read Edgar Alan Poe, O. Henry, or Mark Twain. The gang of guys I sat with were not particularly literary and the language of some of them was very inferior but we found as she read to us that these men wrote things cunningly devised.

When you go to a play or a movie or watch a TV show, occasionally the words which are being spoken take over the movie and you forget the actors and become enthralled with the words. That is a wonderful experience, cunningly devised by men and women.

But human inspiration, no matter how cunningly devised is vastly inferior to the Word of God because only God’s Word is confirmed by divine signs. That is what Peter is trying to tell us in verses 17-19a. God’s Word is confirmed. Peter mentions specifically the transfiguration of Christ but there are many other examples. The events of Christmas confirmed the prophecies of Christ through the exactness of their miraculous fulfillment. The resurrection of Christ confirms along with the other miracles that He performed that He is the Messiah of the Scriptures. Jesus said to the doubters, if you do not believe my words, believe me because of my works.

When men write, there may be scientific or historic confirmation but when God writes, the confirmation is miraculous. That is why the apostles were given the ability to perform miracles and why on occasion, the early believers spoke in tongues, to confirm the Word of God.

God’s Word, unlike human inspiration, is worthy of an active faith (verses 19-20). That is why that confirmation is necessary. We need to know what we can believe. We need to know what is worthy of an active faith.

Charles Darwin wrote his books and people began to believe and put their faith in his theories. When they did, men changed. No longer did it really matter what we do. To survive as one of the strongest was the new meaning of life. God was no longer necessary. But Darwin’s theories are doubted even by evolutionist and have proven unworthy of active faith.

But God’s Word has brought spiritual liberty and freedom and high morals everywhere where it has been obeyed. Peter describes it beautifully. It brings light into darkness. Remember though that obedience to the Word of God means faith in Christ. Obedience to the Word of God is not keeping the Ten Commandments or following the Golden Rule. Obedience is faith in Jesus Christ. That is what the Scriptures preach and teach and only through the Jesus of the Bible can one come to God (1 Peter 1:6-12).

God’s Word is disclosed clearly by God. Any human inspiration is a corruptive additive (verse 20). That is why I emphasize when I preach and teach that we must understand what God is saying through a careful but thorough reading of individual Scripture passages and their context. Great literary men are sometimes very obscure. You know they said something but you are not quite sure what they said. I remember going to a play once in Chattanooga. It was a relatively modern play. It was very funny, very literary, very cunningly devised. It was a lot of fun but I could not tell you what the playwright was trying to say because he was trying his hardest to say it in such a way that you could not truly understand it. But God speaks clearly. That does not mean that we always understand what God is saying. It is sometimes difficult because it was written during ancient times in ancient languages through ancient thought patterns for ancient readers and “most” of us really are not that ancient. But for those who take the time to simply read and study their Bibles as God’s Word through men to men, it reveals God clearly.

God’s Word is revealed only by the Holy Spirit’s working through holy men (verse 21). These men did not sit down and decide they were going to write Scripture. God decided they would write Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired them. He used their wisdom, He even used their language abilities but the words are His. If you study the chronologies of Chronicles, you will see that even the scribes, who wrote name after name after name, were well aware of the awesomeness of the task before them. They were penning God’s Word. Their motivations came from God, the message came from God, their meanings came from God. That is how that holy men through the Holy Spirit produced the holy Word of God.

This is a divine book. This summer we had the opportunity to memorize a section of God’s Word. Did you do it? It is the Word of God. It is not a Shakespearean sonnet or a political speech by Patrick Henry. Those are cunningly devised. It is not a lofty document like the Declaration of Independence or a beautiful New England description by Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson but the Word of God, worthy of faith, confirmed by miracles. What did you read this summer? What have you written down or memorized so that you would not forget it? Was it the Word of God or the words of man? Did you give yourself this summer to the Word of God or did you waste it on the cunningly devised inspiration of men? If you want light in the dark places in your life, turn to and learn the Word of God.

I am not saying that human wisdom has no value. It does and you should not ignore human words but give yourself to the Word. You have the autumn before you. Begin now! Read His Word! Hear His Word! Memorize His Word! Meditate on His Word! Study His Word! Feast on His Word!

Questions regarding yesterday’s Sunday School class July 28, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, First Corinthians, Religion, Signs and Wonders.
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Good morning!

Thank you for your questions arising from the Sunday School class yesterday. Since I will not be able to follow-up since the class will be resuming with John and there was another question that I thought also to be important, I am going to answer them one at a time in an email, also posting the answer on my blog so that anyone might respond there if they should so wish.

I’m going to take the questions in this order. The easiest, the most important, and the most difficult. That is, of course, my opinion. The three questions are…

1. A question was asked about knowledge, is not knowledge that which is deemed “God’s Word?”

2. Could you provide me with express scripture that indicates that membership in a church is commanded? I can not seem to find it.

3. Is it not a threat to the inerrancy of Scriptures when we claim that certain teachings in the epistles are cultural?

These are all good questions but I will start with the first one in this email and get to the other two as I have opportunity.

1. A question was asked about knowledge, is not knowledge that which is deemed “God’s Word?”

Answer: The exact question was this, what is the difference if any between a word of knowledge and the gift of prophecy?

The phrase “word of knowledge” is mentioned only once in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 12:8 (although it is likely that 1 Corinthians 13:2, 8, and 14:6 are all referring to the same gift). It is near the beginning of a list of nine miracle gifts. Some of these gifts, like healings, tongues, and interpretation of tongues are fairly easy for us to understand but the Scripture does not give us any help in differentiating between a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge or a prophecy. All that seems clear is that it is likely some type of miracle gift.

The question that you have is this, does knowledge here refer specifically to the “God’s Word.” I am assuming that you are referring to the Bible, the canonical Word of God. In that case, based on 1 Corinthians 13:8, I would say no because it indicates that the gift of knowledge will pass away but we know that not one jot or tittle of God’s Word will pass away.

However, if you mean that knowledge here refers to a word from God, then I would say “yes”, if that word of knowledge meets the preconditions set down in 1 Corinthians 12:1-4.

Certainly, we cannot always assume that the word “knowledge” refers to “God’s Word” in the canonical sense. If it did then we would have to interpret 1 Corinthians 8:1 to mean that the Word of God(knowledge) puffs up but that love does not. Obviously, that cannot be the main meaning of the word although there are contexts in which the word knowledge might be an equivalent of the Word of God.

Blood on the Book November 3, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Religion.
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No one consistently writes better posts than Challies.

Follow-up on sign seeking September 11, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Faith, Religion, Signs and Wonders, Will of God.
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Yesterday received this comment,

“Whilst waiting for an answer to prayer, is asking God for a sign as encouragement) in the meantime, a form of unbelief? Will God give the sign or He will regard it as not trusting Him?”

I gave a short answer yesterday in the comments here.

Question:  Is it unbelief to ask for a sign while waiting for an answer to prayer?

Answer:  It certainly could be. When we pray in God’s will, we assume that He will do what is best but there are a number of situations that can drive one to doubt God on some level and ask for a sign.

  1. Impatience.
  2. Desperation for an answer.
  3. Lack of confidence in His Word.
  4. Lack of faith that He will answer our prayer exactly as it should be answered.

Certainly we are not commanded as Ahaz was to seek a sign. Ahaz, by the way, refused to seek the sign and he was known for not having faith. So the fact that someone seeks or refuses to seek a sign tells us little about their spiritual condition.

Most often God gave signs without them being sought for. Many signs were not believed anyway. What is the attitude that causes you to seek a sign? If God refused to give you the sign, would you walk away from Him? Many do.

This brings us to the second question. Will God give the sign or will He refuse in regard to our unbelief? I don’t think I should presume to speak for God. It is possible that He sometimes gives signs. He can do what He wants but He has already given us His Word and proclaimed it sufficient. If He gives a sign, it would not be because we need it but because He had a reason to give one. But if I have the Word of God, why would I desire a sign? In other words, we do not need signs but rather God’s Word and God’s church both of which were given to us for encouragement and guidance.

Jesus, the most superior revelation of God (last in the series on the Word of God) September 2, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Falling Away, Hebrews, Jesus, Religion.
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JESUS, THE WORD

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

We finish today our series on the doctrine of the Word of God. The Word of God can be summed up in one person. Jesus Christ, the Word. Jesus is called the Word in John 1 and Revelation 19:13. Jesus was not sent with a word from God but was sent into the world as the Word of God. This is one of those concepts for which we do not have an adequate word in English to express but we can understand it better through the beginning chapters of the book of Hebrews and we can also understand what it means to you and to me personally.

TO WHOM IS JESUS PRESENTED AS “THE WORD”?

There were some to which the letter was written that the author was not certain whether they were saved or not. Sometimes we look at people’s lives and we find it hard to determine if they have trusted Christ. This book was written for such people.

Another characteristic of these people is that many were disillusioned with Christianity. Some of you are disillusioned with Christianity or at least with the church. You feel you are not being fed, your needs are not being adequately met, your spiritual experience is not full enough. That is what these people were going through.  You are drifting away. Some of you been drifting long for a long time. You have been drift so long that you and others wonder about your salvation.

There are, however, some of you who have just started drifting. Your focus is not on Christ. This book says, “Turn back to Jesus and anchor yourself in Him. If you drift away, there is no escape for you.”

THE PROBLEM…

Ligon Duncan puts it this way, “The author of Hebrews says, ‘Look, if you thought that you tried Jesus, and He wasn’t satisfying, you never knew Jesus. So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to point you right back to Jesus again and ask you to be reintroduced to Him. Because once you know Christ, there is nothing beyond that that you need. There is no more that you need to tack onto the Lord Jesus Christ.’” (from his introductory sermon to the book of Hebrews).

INTRODUCING JESUS

The Position of Christ was Obtained for Our Sakes (1:2-8, 10). Jesus has not always held the same position in God’s kingdom.

He began as God (verse 3a). Actually Jesus did not have a beginning. He is God. He is Jehovah. He is the beginning as well as the end. He is the reflection of the Light that is in the world. He is the spitting image of God the Father because He is God the Son.

He continued as the Creator (compare verse 3b with verse 10). We are also told how He created the world, by the word of His power. It is with that same power that He maintains the world and when the world is burned to dust and ashes, He will remain.

He became man to purge or purify us from our sin (verse 3c). This is what we celebrate during the Lord’s Table. Jesus came and became man to purify us. He said, “This is my blood, the new covenant, which was given for the remission of sins.” Christ came not to be an example but to solve the sin problem. In solving the sin problem, however, He made Himself the greatest example that their could ever be.

He inherited the universe because of His death, resurrection, and ascension (verses 2, 4-8). When Christ became man, He set aside His inheritance and came and earned it. He died to save man and ultimately the universe from sin. He rose to subject sin and death and hell to His will. He ascended to take His place on the throne with His Father, waiting for the day when He returns to claim for His own what is His.

HIS CHARACTER 

The Person of Christ is the Motivation of His Work for Us (1:9; 1:3). Why would Jesus do such a thing? Because of who He is. We sang last Sunday night the song, “Above All”. I love that song because it emphasizes the price that He paid to ransom me from sin but His ultimate motivation was not me but came out of His own character. He saved me from sin, not because of who I was but because of who He is.

His Person is revealed by His attitudes (1:9). Jesus is a very black and white thinker. He loves what is good and hates lawlessness. His attitude towards everything and everyone: you, me, our neighbor, everything is wrapped up in His love of righteousness and His hatred of evil. If He had not hated evil, totally and completely, there would be no reason for Him to die. But there He was. He desired to lift up goodness and destroy wickedness.

His Person is revealed by His actions (1:3cd, 2:1-3a).

Jesus being the Word and bringing cleansing to those who trust Him is an essential in understanding who He really is. If Jesus had not paid the price on the cross, we would never have understood His holiness nor His mercy. Romans 5:8 says that God commended, proved His love in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us.

Cleansing is limited to those who trust in Christ. We were unclean before God because of our sin. That was my situation and that is the situation of every person born, Jew and Gentile. There is, however, hope. Jesus shed His blood to cleanse us from our sin. That is how that Jesus gives purges and purifies us.

TRULY KNOWING JESUS WILL KEEP YOU FROM DRIFTING AWAY 

The Promises of Christ are the Anchor that Keeps us from Drifting Away (1:1-2a, 2:3-4).

The promises of Christ are better than the prophets in material and in manner (1:1-2a). That was a long time ago but now we have a current message from a current messenger, Jesus Christ. That is why this book is so precious. We can hear from Jesus daily. We can meet with Him. We can learn from Him.

They are better than the law given through angels because of the material and of the manner in which they were given (2:1-4). When God gave the law through Moses, we find that angels were also somehow involved in the giving of that law. That is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to. Jesus’ message is more direct, it is more stable. It cannot be improved upon.

They are better because they have been confirmed by eyewitnesses and miracles (2:3-4). We spoke about this two months ago.  We can have confidence because of the eyewitness and miraculous confirming testimony from those times.

They are better because they bring salvation (2:3). The law could never save but Jesus can and does.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR 

Young people, during this next year you are going to face all kinds of challenges to your faith. Some of those challenges will be people: friends, teachers, parents, classmates who like you and classmates who do not. Some of those challenges will come out of the new situations in which you find yourself. Some of you are entering high school, other of you are looking to the near future when you will be out of high school. Some of you are entering middle school and at the beginning stages of puberty. In all of these and other new situations, your faith will be challenged spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in some other way. You need to understand that Jesus is God’s Word to you. Tim Keller put it this way, “…the gospel [of Jesus Christ] is not just the ABC[s] of the faith, it is the A to Z.”

You need to anchor your being to Jesus Christ. You need to be absolutely convinced that Jesus is the only way to purpose in this life and in the life to come. If you are not sure, then you come to me and I and others in the congregation will make it a priority to teach you about Jesus Christ. If you are sure, then you need sometime in the next week to tell those with whom you go to school, “I am a Christian! I am a follower of Christ!” You do not need to preach them a sermon. Just saying you are a Christian will scare some of them half to death. You need though to anchor yourself to Jesus Christ and tell those with whom you have daily contact that you are a follower of Christ. Then you need to invite them to youth group or to Sunday morning church. Stand for Jesus. You will get questions. We will help you with those questions. Be convinced in your mind though that there is no one but Jesus Christ worthy of your devotion and follow Him openly and publicly.

John MacArthur: “I will never forget a particular lady who came into my office and informed me that she was a prostitute. She said, ‘I need help.’ And I said, ‘I guess you do.’ She said, ‘Please, I’m desperate.’ So I presented the claims of Christ to her. Then I said, ‘Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your life?’ She said yes, so she prayed and evidently invited Christ into her life. I said, ‘Now, I want you to do something. Do you have your book with all your contacts?’ She said she did. I said, ‘Let’s light a match to it and burn it.’ She looked at me and said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘If you want to live for Jesus Christ, and you’ve truly accepted His forgiveness and met Him as your Savior, then you need to prove it.’ She said to me, ‘That book is worth a lot of money. I don’t want to burn it.’ She put it back in her purse and looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I guess I don’t really want Jesus, do I?’ Then she left.” from “The Tragedy of Neglecting Salvation” by John MacArthur

“GIVE THE MORE EARNEST HEED…LEST YOU DRIFT AWAY”.

Again from John MacArthur: “Explorer William Edward Perry and his crew were exploring the Arctic Ocean. At one point they endeavored to move further north, so they charted their location by the stars and began a difficult and treacherous march north. They walked hour upon hour, and finally, totally exhausted, they stopped. They took their bearings and discovered that they were farther south than they were when they started! They then realized that they had been walking on an ice floe that was travelling south faster than they were walking north. I wonder how many people think their good deeds, their merits, and their religiosity is taking them to God when in fact they’re on an ice floe taking them away from God faster than their own efforts are taking them any closer. They will wake one day to find, like William Perry’s crew did, that they’re in the midst of a disaster.” from “The Tragedy of Neglecting Salvation” by John MacArthur

If Jesus is the Word, as He is, a word requires a listening ear. The phrase, more earnest heed indicates a response. In this verse, the response is anchoring your soul to the Word of God, to Jesus Christ, the Faithful and True Word.

One thing about a promise. You must believe it and respond appropriately. If you neglect the promise, if you are careless about it, as it says in verse 3, there is no escape for you. The cleansing that He offers is yours for all eternity. Only Christ, our Great High Priest who sacrificed Himself can provide cleansing. He did this by Himself without any help from man or angel. Anchor your soul in Him.

How God Reveals Himself in Affliction and His Word August 26, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Martin Luther, Psalms, Religion, Sermons, Suffering.
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THE GOOD BOOK

PSALM 119:65-72

Martin Luther is reported once to have said something to this effect, that he would not live in Heaven without the Word of God; and with it he could get along just fine in hell. He would certainly agreed with those who call the Bible, “the Good Book”. This is also the message of the acrostic poem that we are looking at today, “God’s Book is a Good Book.” What is it that makes the Bible a “Good Book”?

The Bible is a good book because it teaches a good God’s good dealings with humankind (verses 65, 68).

GOD IS GOOD! GOD IS IN CONTROL 

We received a prayer letter this week from Steve and Becky Diem, missionaries going to Resistencia, Argentina who we support financially and prayerfully. I would like to read two paragraphs written by Becky in which she tells about God’s working in their lives:

“A friend of mine has been trying to have kids for about five years, and her husband isn’t saved. We went out to eat…We were talking about God’s control and plans for our lives. I felt like the Lord wanted me to challenge my friend to give her situations to the Lord. I asked, ‘Have you given it to the Lord yet?’ To make a long story short, her husband has been doing a(n evangelistic) Bible study with us for the past month, and she is two months pregnant. God is good! God is in control!”

“I have been complaining about our small car for the past couple of months; it is very cramped on weekends with all the gear that goes along with two kids and deputation things. I started asking for a van from Steve. He said, ‘Why don’t you pray about it?’ I shared at a ladies tea how God had blessed Steve with an MP3 player that he had been praying for. I told Steve to start praying for a mini van. Yesterday we got an email from someone, and they gave us a mini van. God is good! God is in control!”

Update: Another excerpt from the same letter.

It is wonderful to know that God is good and that He is in control. It is wonderful to see God answer prayer. My wife and I have been where Steve and Becky are at and we can attest to how that the Lord works in the hearts and lives of his children, so that they may accomplish the work which He has for them to do.

WHOSE DEFINITION OF GOOD?

I want us today though to think about who is writing this in verse 65 – King David. Can it be said that God dealt well with David, according to man’s idea? This is the same David who hid for weeks on end in caves because King Saul had put a price on his head. Saul hatred for David was so great that an entire town was destroyed because the priest in the town fed David and his men. His friendship with Jonathan was broken off because of the hatred of Jonathan’s father for David. David ended up hiding with Israel’s enemies but because of fear, he pretended to go mad so that the Philistines would not kill him. He experienced an attempted coup twice during his reign, both times led by one of his sons and drawing after him some of his most trusted advisors. At least three times, because of David’s sin, people died through the judgment of God. How can this man write that God had dealt well with him. The answer is in verse 65. God dealt well with David because God acted according to His Word. As he writes in verse 68, “God is good and He does good and because He is good and does good, whatever He promises, whatever He warns, whatever He determines to do, it will be good. God’s character is not different than that of His Word. He never deals differently than His Word reveals. Good deals with everyone on the same basis – His Word.

BECOMING GOOD LIKE GOD 

The more I learn and apply God’s Word, the more like Him I will become (verse 68). David does not just want to memorize and recite God’s Word. He wants to learn it and live by it and become good just as God is good. He does not want a “crisis relationship” with God but a daily relationship with God (adapted from Wiersbe). He wants to take on the character of God and the only way to do that is to become trained in the Word of God.

Warren Wiersbe writes in his book, Why Us?, “Now, we must be careful how we use the Bible when we are going though trials. Unless we are reading God’s Word regularly, listening daily to His voice, we aren’t likely to hear Him say much when the roof caves in on us.”

The Bible is a good book because believing it will teach you good discernment (verses 66, 69-72). The word rendered “judgment,” properly signifies taste. One of the keys of tasting is confidence. I was reading this week an article about a man who had to pass a test in order to become a judge at an espresso making contest in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was interesting to find out that some of the champion espresso makers sometimes could not pass the taste test to become a judge at the very competition that they had won. The article gave several tips for passing the test. (It did not say what you should do after drinking all that coffee.) The most important tip that was repeated over and over is you must have confidence in your discernment.

FAILING THE THE SPIRITUAL TASTE TEST 

Spiritually, this is also true. You must have know and have confidence in the Word of God if you are going to develop spiritual discernment. Why is it that some people chase after the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen? They do not have confidence in God’s Word when it says, “Lay not treasures for yourself on this earth but lay up treasures for yourself in heaven.” Why is it that some gauge their spiritual well being by how they feel? Perhaps because they do not trust God’s Word when it says, “If our hearts condemn us God is greater than our heart.” Why is it that church leader after church leader falls into sin? Because we are not confident that God’s Word can be trusted when it says, “Pride goes before a fall.” I could go on and on.

If you have confidence in God’s Word, you will learn to discern between the profit of physical benefit and spiritual benefit. You will learn that the beneficial result of the Word of God in your life is to be preferred to the prosperity of the wicked (#Ps 119:69-72).

In reading a part of the one hundred and nineteenth psalm to Miss Westbrook, who died, she said, “Stop, sir, I never said so much to you before—I never could; but now I can say, ‘The word of thy mouth, is dearer to me, than thousands of gold and silver.’ What can gold and silver do for me by now?” —George Redford, in “Memoirs of the late Rev. John Cooke”, 1828

If you believe God’s Word you will develop spiritual discernment. If you do not, then you will end up chasing rainbows and fighting windmills and investing your life in things that will not satisfy.

A GOOD BOOK FOR BAD TIMES 

The Bible is a good book because it will teach you how to react to adverse circumstances/affliction (verses 67, 69-71).

Sometimes you will learn to turn from sin through affliction (verse 67). “Whipping will not turn a rebel into a child; but to the true child a touch of the rod is a sure corrective.” In the Psalmist’s case affliction worked an immediate, lasting, inward change towards God. When that happens in your life and in my life, God’s Word will give us an anchor that will keep us from drifting back into our sin. We all know of people showed up and committed or recommitted themselves when things got bad but they did not stick around. I know that every circumstance is different but what often happens is that those who have disappeared did not anchor themselves to the Word of God that was given to establish them and to make them strong.

You learn how to deal with your enemy and the injustice of this world through the Word of God (verses 69-70). We find this so difficult. We look at those who are obviously not doing what they should. Sometimes they make our lives miserable. If you do not have the perspective on the world that God gives you in His Word, you will start mouthing complaints like “It’s not fair!” You will be open to the temptations of this world. That urge to get even with that jerk will grow until you either lash out at that person or so internalize your hatred that it destroys you from the inside out. God’s Word, though, teaches how to react to those people and to those circumstances. You might object that it is two hard. Certainly, for us alone, we cannot do it but we must submit to God’s will in His Word and the Spirit’s working in our hearts. We must learn to say with Augustine, “Let the word of the Lord come, let it come; and if we had six hundred necks, we would submit them all to his dictates.” —Augustine.

GOOD OUT OF BAD 

You learn that God always intends good to come out of your suffering. Now God’s Word is a lot more realistic about what is good than the descriptions of the world that we prefer. The right guy gets the right girl and they have a few ups and downs but at the end everyone lives happily ever after until death do us part. No life long suffering because of the sins of youth. No unexplainable physical suffering. No mother’s who dreams for a child remain unfulfilled although through no fault of their own. Miraculously healings and answers to prayer are a daily occurrence. In our Christian fantasy world the real issues that people cry themselves to sleep over every night seem so easy to solve. Of course, it is wonderful when such things happen but God’s Word deals with the reality of life. It deals with the hum-drum as well as the exciting. It talks about people who suffer as well as those have their life go as planned. The Word of God is for those who never receive any relief from their suffering as those who seem to never suffer even though they live wicked lives.

Sometimes when bad things happen we say, “I know the LORD wants to teach me something but I am not sure what.” This verse 71 is an answer to that question. God lets affliction come into my life so I can learn His Word so that I can learn Him and become more like Him.

(John Piper on this subject)

Warren Wiersbe also tells in his book, Why Us?, about a couple in a church where he pastored. “Years before…their little boy had contracted a brain disease that left him an invalid. He spent his entire life in bed, unable to speak, read, or use his hands creatively. When (Wiersbe) first visited in the home, the boy had become a man; but he was still lying in bed, wearing diapers, and he needed to have someone with him constantly.

“‘Pastor, don’t feel sorry for us because of Kenny,’ his parents (said). ‘People think he’s a burden, but to us, he’s a blessing from God. We’ve learned so much about God’s grace in taking care of Kenny’”

Whatever you may be going through (and it does not matter whether humanly speaking it is big or small) God wants to teach you to trust His Word, to trust His character, to become more like Him.

QUESTIONS

Believer, have you learned these three lessons? Have you learned that God is good and does good, not just in David’s life but in your life and in mine and He deals with you well, in a good manner, according to His Word?

Do you have confidence in your spiritual judgment? You can, if you know and are following God’s Word.

Is God’s Word governing the way you react during the tough times of life? Get in God’s Word.

What we have talked about today is how God deals with humankind. He wants to deal with you if you are not a believer in the same manner. He wants you, through thick and thin to learn of Him.

You need simply to trust Jesus Christ and Him alone. He is the only one who can rescue from sin, He and no one else. He died and was buried and rose again to rescue you. Won’t you turn to Him today?

A FINAL WORD FOR THE TROUBLED 

Are you in trouble? One thing both believers and unbelievers share in common is trouble. We all have it in one form or another. We tend to compare our troubles to each other. That is not very helpful. Turn to God, not to get you out of trouble but to give you the forgiveness you need to become His child and the stability you need to glorify Him both inside and outside of any trouble that you might experience.

How to understand God’s Word August 25, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, John Bunyan, Martin Luther, Prayer, Psalms, Religion, Suffering.
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Read Psalm 119:71 in connection with these thoughts from John Piper. They concern John Bunyan and Martin Luther. In it you will find Luther’s three rules for understanding the Bible:  prayer, meditation, and… 🙂

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/1999/1122_Luther_Bunyan_Bible_and_Pain/