Monthly Archives: August 2011
TRUTH IN GENESIS:
Snapshots of foundational belief
By Michael C. Lewis
I. THE ORIGINAL OPINION
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27
God spoke and things became.
It’s really that simple. The omnipotent Creator made a decision and the material world sprang into existence by the force of His will. The finite cosmos was sculpted by the infinite mind of God, and His medium of choice was the formless clay of nothingness. Space, time, and matter are the expressed opinion of the triune Creator of all. The eternal Spirit created that which can be touched!
Although God is complete (in need of nothing else) in the reciprocal love and relationship found within His Trinity, He chose to reach outside Himself for fellowship, and mankind became the recipient of the capacity for communion with the Divine.
By consensus of the Godhead, man was molded into God’s image from the base elements of the earth He created. Then, in an act of tender intimacy, the God of creation breathed life into man.
The divine CPR.
Dust became a living soul.
The image of God reflected upon us allows us abilities not shared by His other creatures. Because of the divine image within us we can give and recieve selfless love. We can bring vision to fulfillment by creating within the confines of time, space, and the materials available to us. And we can communicate with, and focus our attention on worship and adoration for our Maker. And, as bearers of this precious image, our lives should continually mirror Him in our behavior. We should live in holiness, separated unto His service.
The crowning gift bestowed upon mankind by God’s image is the gift of “free will.” For without it:
Love could not exist.
Human behavior becomes instinct.
Worship becomes religion.
Our freedom of choice is the very reflection of the Almighty’s freedom to say, “Let there be . . . .”
Before death marred the landscape, the earth teemed with physical life that knew only peace and harmony. And God walked with man and declared it all, “Very good.” The paradise that was the world at the end of the “sixth day” of creation week began with divine desire, and came to be by the power of His word. The universe and all it contains is indeed, the product of God’s original opinion.
II. THE CONSEQUENTIAL CHOICE
“But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:17
“. . . . Yea, hath God said . . . . ?” Genesis 3:1
Eden was paradise; a utopian existence that blessed all who dwelt there. Man and woman had all the necessities and joys of life that walking daily with the Creator could afford. So, why then did God introduce them to this “tree” of contention in the midst of the Garden? Why disrupt utopian serenity with such a choice? And, with myriads of other fruit trees undoubtedly available to them, why would they even consider this lone, forbidden one?
Without the forbidden, and without the temptation to choose wrong, man is not truly free to choose right. Choice had to be introduced into the equation of God’s perfect creation if man was to be the free moral agent, and reflector of the divine image entrusted to him. So, God planted the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden and declared, “If you eat of it, you will surely die.” A line in the sand was drawn. The possibility of disobedience entered paradise, and a choice had to be made.
Enter evil. Satan, the first of the fallen, took on the guise of the serpent, and made mankind’s choice even clearer, and mankind’s parents — Adam and Eve — heeded the siren call of temptation. The evil one’s strategy was then — and continues to be — to give mankind pause when considering God’s infallable Word. Mankind chose Satan’s introduction of doubt, denial, and distortion of holy instruction over the truth of what God actually said.
Enter sin. Mankind tasted the forbidden, and a great chasm of separation from God opened up, bringing upon humanity immediate spiritual death, and ultimately all created life began to die. For mankind, this was the day of the dark disconnect. Direct fellowship with the divine Spirit of the universe was no longer possible.
This was man’s choice.
And all of creation still groans.
III. THE PROMISED PRODIGY
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15
The rise of evil brought on the fall of mankind, as well as the deterioration of God’s creation. As is always the case, where sin treads, destruction follows. Because of Adam’s transgression against God’s Holy Word, and the Creator’s subsequent curse, the cosmos began to break down.
God’s perfect character demands justice. So, in His righteousness, He cursed His creation. Suffering and death began its rule on the sin-marred earth. But, there was mercy in God’s judgment, and promise in His curse.
God’s curse upon creation brought about the great spiritual battle between mankind and Satan’s minions, and humanity’s struggle for physical existence. Because of this consequential curse, mankind now suffers magnified pain in childbirth, the battle of the sexes, toil for sustenance, an uncooperative earth, and banishment from paradise and its “tree of life.”
Yet, God’s mercy is wonderously seen in His very judgment of death for His creation. The world would not be allowed an eternal existence in its fallen state. Physical death was His remedy for sin. He would evict His image bearers from the Garden of Eden, and guard the way to the “tree of life” until a worthy price was paid for humanity’s sin.
Enter grace. A Redeemer was promised to reconcile sinful mankind to his holy Creator. A bridge would be built by a future Messiah, to span humanity’s great chasm of spiritual separation from God.
Enter faith. The promise of the One who would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), and deliver humanity from sin was given. And all it required of mankind was to trust in their Creator to bring it about! Again, the bearers of God’s image — now marred by sin — were faced with choice. They could believe the Word of God, or follow the whims of their own fallen, sinful natures and heed the persistent voice of temptation that soon resonated triumphantly in the world outside of Eden.
The epic journey of mankind now became one of daily choices. Good versus Evil. God’s Word or worldly wisdom? God’s way or humanity’s effort? Faith in the supernatural unseen Creator, or reliance on the natural senses, and the world He created?
Mankind’s successful trek through a decaying, broken, and evil world would now require trusting God’s promise of a future Redeemer.
And the faith walk began.
IV. THE SOILED SACRIFICE
“Unto Adam also and unto his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21
“But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Genesis 4:5
An innocent animal was slain to cover the shame of the guilty. Life’s precious blood was spilled to provide skins for clothing at great cost. This was God’s illustration of sin’s ultimate consequence, and His revelation of required sacrifice. God’s Word is clear; forgiveness of sin comes only by the shedding of innocent blood (Hebrews 9:22).
This first death became the foreshadow of a sacrificial system that would one day culminate in the work of God’s promised Redeemer. This was the bloody road to mankind’s undeserved future redemption. This was God’s provision, and God’s way.
Life outside of Eden began for creation’s premier couple, and they began to have children. The Bible only names three of the children born to Adam and Eve, but there must have been many more, given Adam’s 930-year lifespan.
Cain and Abel were the first two sons mentioned in Scripture; the farmer, and the shepherd. Humanity’s first-born, Cain was a tiller of the sin-cursed earth. He understood the concept of hard labor to harvest a crop from among thistles and thorns. It is easy to imagine, at the time of sacrifice–a time, place, and method established by God–Cain’s harvest was especially bountiful because of his hard work. And, because he was proud of it, he decided to sacrifice to God the very best of it, and bless the Creator with the work of his hands.
Enter humanism. Man’s way versus God’s way. Ideas have consequences; and ideas that disregard God’s Word, will, or way produce sinful rebellion in the heart of man.
God was not pleased with ehe efforts of Cain to supercede His demand for the blood payment for sin. Cain could not reach redemption by the work of his hands. Nor can anyone else. Any attempt to do so is abomination to God. He will not respect the effort.
Cain’s rejected sacrifice, compounded by his jealousy of Abel’s accepted blood offering led to the first murder in recorded history, and Cain’s banishment from the presence of God.
And mankind, in willful rebellion against the Creator of all, determined to fulfill the satanic hiss of the serpent who promised, “Ye shall be as God.”
V. THE CIVILIZATIONS CONTRASTED
“And Cain went our from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” Genesis 4:16
“And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” Genesis 4:26
A fugitive and a vagabond, Cain left the presence of his Maker to establish a civilization based on human endeavor. His rejection of God’s way, and his unwillingness to turn back to his Creator left humanism his only path. It is the same path, and the only way available for the unrepentant sinner of today. Cain and his wife set out to establish a secular civilization east of Eden.
Among the nomads, musicians, and metallurgists found in the descendants of Cain, sin found a home. Polygamy and murder arose in his descendant, Lamech.
Meanwhile, God blessed Adam and Eve with another son to replace godly Abel, the victim of Cain’s self-centered rage. They named him Seth, and he adhered to the way of God to raise up his descendants.
It is probable the two societies intermingled; possibly with Adam acting as patriarchal advisor of both. Undoubtably, some members of Cain’s tribe chose the way of God, while some of the tribe of Seth succumbed to sin’s siren call. But, after the birth of Seth’s son, Enos, a wondrous thing happened. Men began to proclaim the God of creation in an organized context, and preach God’s way to those lost in sin.
Enter evangelism. Because of God’s great love for His image bearers, He would give a continually rebellious humanity a chance at reconcilliation. And He would do this by the religious means of preaching the promise of the future Messiah, teaching obedience to His Word, and calling all people to worship by way of sacrifice.
By these new religious means, even Cain would have been welcomed back into fellowship with his Maker, had he only repented! But sadly, the Holy Scriptures give no indication that he ever did.
Cain is a picture of lost humanity. His God-less leadership led multitudes to hopeless destruction. He chose to reject the only way of reconcilliation to God. The same consequences that Cain faced due to his rejection of God’s promise of a future Redeemer holds true for anyone today who rejects the historical Christ! It is the consequence of eternal separation from God!
Seth and Cain can be seen as representatives of two distinct races of mankind. But these races have nothing to do with skin color or physical characteristics. They are spiritual. In God’s eyes, man’s choice to accept the Redeemer or reject Him determines the race in which he belongs. The spiritual races of those who are eternally lost or those saved through God’s grace by faith in His promises are the only two cultural divisions the Creator recognizes. Everything else is human prejudice.
VI. THE REQUIRED REMNANT
“And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his own image; and called his name Seth:” Genesis 5:3
“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not: for God took him.” Genesis 5:24
Man begets man. The promised Redeemer would descend from the bloodline of the godly Seth. And yet, the promised One would come on the scene as both fully human, and fully God . . . and only God begets God.
Although born in the fallen image of Adam, the faithful Seth would produce the descendants from which God would bring about the supernatural birth of His “Only Begotten”, the man called Jesus Christ. The Messiah would be made in the physical image of man, but filled with the Spirit of God, and become the sinless sacrifice that is required to blot out humanity’s sins.
By the time of Seth, the lure of humanism had taken hold of many of Adam’s descendants. After all, it had been 130 years since anyone had seen this God of creation of whom Adam and Eve often spoke. Why be accountable to some invisible deity when you could plainly see man’s accomplishments everywhere you looked? Man’s cities were growing, and his technologies were advancing. Why should he chain himself to the “god” that couldn’t be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched? So, humanity began to doubt the relevance, and even the existence of the holy Creator.
But, God’s grace abounded, and His prophets proclaimed His Word, and His faithful remnant continued to stand against an ever-darkening world. This was the required remnant from which God would bring His Redeemer. This was the remnant of The Promise.
Out of this remnant there arose a prophet more faithful that any of his day. His name was Enoch, and he walked by faith with God. He prophesied that the Lord would one day come with ten thousands of His saints, and he likely proclaimed God’s judgment coming in a worldwide flood. Enoch was so faithful and close to his Creator, he was translated directly to heaven, bypassing the sting of death. There is only one other person mentioned in Holy Scripture who by-passed death in such a way. The prophet Elijah was taken to heaven in a “chariot of fire”. It is speculated that Enoch and Elijah are the witnesses who will preach in Jerusalem for three and one half years during the great tribulation just before Christ’s return.
God’s remnant stood firm although evil grew by leaps and bounds, and Satan gloated at the success of his influential lies.
VII. EVIL EPITOMIZED
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
“And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”
How Satan must have rejoiced as he watched his diabolical plan to destroy God’s creation come to fruition. Most of humanity had succumbed to the lies he first uttered in Eden. And all it had required was a small nudge here, and a quiet whisper there, an occasional lure dangled in the right place, and mankind submitted easily to his basest sinful desires. Even God’s mighty remnant would soon be totally compromised.
The Evil One would depend just so far on humanity’s fallen nature to triumph in his revolt against God and His creation. He would send his own devilish minions into the very midst of humanity and introduce the children of Adam to levels of sexual perversion, violence, and bloodshed never before experienced on the earth. He would route the very image of the Creator from mankind, and produce demonic progeny to rule over them.
The goal of Satan was to pervert the bloodline which was to culminate in the future Redeemer. And his most diabolical move toward that end was to have his demonic legions invade humanity to infect the heart of man with continual evil and to wipe the Sethitic bloodline off the earth. He aspired to make God’s promise of mankind’s future redemption null and void.
Never before or since in human history, has the darkness of sin permeated creation to such extent. Although mankind has endured pockets of evil, enslavement, and even genocide in his volatile history, never has Satan held the entire creation in the grip of evil such as he did during this time.
And God looked down with sadness as He watched mankind embrace the spreading darkness, and become enslaved to its prevailing evil. His heart was broken to know that judgment must now come upon His beloved humanity. But, within that judgment, He would cleanse His creation of all who were separated from Him, and He would preserve the Seed of His promise, as well as that of His creatures. For within the darkness that hung like a pall over the earth, there was still a pin-prick of light piercing the gloom. The remnant lived on in a single family. The last hope for doomed humanity became clear when, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”(6:8)
VIII. THE DESTINED DELUGE
“And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” Genesis 6:13, 14
“And, behold, I even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.” Genesis 6:17, 18
Judgment declared. All of creation is sentenced to catastrophe on a global scale because of man’s initial foray into sin—a chosen path of separation from his Creator. Humanity’s escapade into immorality and decadence would now culminate in the near-total destruction of mankind and his dominion. And the coming flood of waters would cleanse the planet of all vestiges of Satan’s prevailing reign of evil.
Salvation directed. And God told Noah, the last of His prophets, to build a boat—a 450 foot ark—to save Noah’s family of eight, and the animal kinds of the earth from the coming deluge. This ark of salvation would preserve the seed of God’s creatures, as well as the Seed that would one day produce the Savior. The holy remnant would survive.
Fellowship desired. God said, “Build the ark, and come inside.” The Creator would ride out the storm of judgment with the faithful, keeping His people secure in His care. This was an act of an unchanging God, who does the same for His children today. He never forsakes His own.
Through the imagination’s eye, we can see the horrors Noah and his family must have experienced, as the only remaining worshippers of the Creator. Outside the sphere of his family, only sin and evil prevailed in all areas of society. His resolve had to have been incredible, his courage rock-solid, and his faith unshakable. For Noah alone remained faithful to the God of creation. He and his sons built the ark regardless of the mocking of scornful neighbors, and despite the fact that rain had never been seen.
Noah, whose name means “rest”, understood that God’s creation was dying, and needed relief from the onslaught of continuous evil wrought by sin. The creation, separated from its Sustainer could only degenerate to destruction, and the faithful prophet was watching it happen in the spiritual and physical chaos around him.
So, approximately 1600 years after creation, Noah preached repentance for 120 years, begging the people to accept God’s promise of redemption from sin while His mercy could still be found. And as this seemingly useless monstrosity of a vessel was in construction before them, the sinful populace of Noah’s day failed to hear the ticking clock of God’s grace winding down.
IX. THE LONE LIFEBOAT
“And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” Genesis7:1
“And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.” Genesis 7:10
“. . .and the Lord shut him in.” Genesis 7:16
“. . .and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.” Genesis 7:23
God’s personal invitation: “Rest in my protection, for your faithfulness has bought you passage.” Noah and his family would ride out the coming deluge, with representatives of every animal kind, in the lifeboat of God. And the Creator would actually pilot them through the flood of judgment.
This would be the first generation to realize the wrath of righteousness. Since man’s fall in the garden of God, mercy upon mercy, and grace upon grace had been bestowed upon rebellious humanity, yet they continually rejected the Creator, and His way to reconciliation. And now, it was time for God’s faithful to enter the ark of security while judgment rained.
Judgment day had arrived, yet the Creator would extend His amazing grace to the wicked world one more week. The ark could still be entered. Salvation was still available. There was still room for the repentant.
Then, the waters of wrath burst forth from subterranean chambers, and fell in judgment from the sky. And God shut the door of the ark, resigning all outside to a just fate. Unbridled sin had run its course, and the cleansing of creation began. God would no longer strive with the rebellious humanity of Noah’s day.
Imagine the struggles of doomed humanity as the waters relentlessly rose outside the ark. During the ensuing weeks and months, the race for higher ground would have sparked war and bloodshed on a massive scale as demon-possessed warlords and societal leaders vied for king of the hill.
The ark eventually rose upon the flood to float above the watery grave of the earth. And the sovereignty of God directed the course of His lifeboat of salvation, keeping all life within secure from the storms and struggles raging outside.
The ark is a picture of God’s sovereignty over His salvation. No power on earth or in heaven was able to enter in, or exit the ark once God shut the door. And the waters rose until only those inside God’s lifeboat of salvation remained alive.
X. COVENANT OF COMFORT
“And God remembered Noah . . . .” Genesis 8:1
“And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” Genesis 8:21
“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22
How lonely it must have been to humanity’s eight representatives as they rode out the deluge of judgment. As the last of mankind kept the Lord God’s creatures high and dry in the ark of salvation, how they must have wondered at their plight. Would the creator and destroyer of all creation even remember this pitiful few left afloat on this tiny flooded planet in the vast cosmos of His making?
But, God did remember. Ever-faithful, and ever-present to walk with His chosen through all catastrophe and adversity, He never forgets, nor forsakes His own. After He shut the windows of heaven, the waters assuaged for 150 days, and the sovereign God piloted the ark to rest upon Ararat’s mountain.
The Author of salvation did not forget.
After 53 weeks aboard the ark, the Lord God opened the door and commanded Noah to disembark upon dry land with His creatures. Noah obeyed, and he built an altar of sacrificial worship and thanksgiving with burnt offerings. And God was pleased.
A divine promise of extraordinary mercy was decreed. Although sin would continue because of mankind’s fallen nature, the Creator would never again “curse the ground” in such a world-wide manner. Never again would the Lord God destroy the world’s creatures, or subject the earth with the flood of a global cataclysm. The earth would continue in its cycles of the seasons until the consummation of all things in the future, when Christ will be the source of all light, and sin and its curse will be no more! (Revelation 22:3-5)
COME TO THE WATER
By Michael C. Lewis
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come, And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17
Water is the stuff of life. It nourishes and sustains, and three quarters of our planet is covered with it. It refreshes and it necessarily precedes the harvest. And, as a metaphor for the life-giving truth found in the Word of God, “living water” brings life to the spiritually dead, and if a weary, journeying Christian will drink of it, he will become refreshed and restored to produce fruit to feed a hungry, dying world.
Come to God’s inerrant, infallible fount of truth. Drink your fill, wash away the filth of this world, and refresh yourself with its precious precepts. Come to the water . . . .
Wading in . . . .
“For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89
Most serious writers ply their trade with the understanding of the old adage, “writing is rewriting.” Few published works come about after only a single session at the word processor. Multiple drafts, replete with changes of word or phrase, or even the introduction of new information normally precede the completed story or article.
Thankfully, the Christian guide—the Holy Scriptures—remain wonderfully immutable (unchanged) from the day of Moses to the present. Since the day God first whispered His Word into the ears of His chosen scribes, He has not changed His mind! There has been no divine “rewrite!” As the psalmist assures us, the original words of God stand firm and unchanging—even in heaven!
In the New Testament, our Savior declares that unlike the philosophies and ideologies of man which come and go with each new theory in the market place of ideas, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35. What a gloriously comforting promise! It is this unchanging nature of the Word of God that gives us confidence and security as wayfaring believers navigating through life in an ever-changing, deceitful world!
Swimming out . . . .
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” II Timothy 3:16, 17
Scripture does not “contain” the Word of God; it “is” the Word of God. And as such, “all” of it is profitable to mankind. The more the Christian immerses himself in the precepts of God’s Holy Word, the more he will learn about God (doctrine), the more he will know how to identify what is wrong (reproof), and how to correct that which is wrong (correction), and he will know how to live right with God (instruction in righteousness). God’s Word is “profitable” because it completely equips the Christian to live as an effective and powerful servant of God in all areas of life!
The Lord Jesus Christ showed us how to apply the Word of God to the trials and temptations of life. As He was tempted in the wilderness, the ancient Holy Scriptures were the only answers He employed against the enticements of the evil one (Matthew 4: 1-11). This should be our example to follow when we are confronted by Satan or his minions. We don’t flee from the devil; we confront him with the Word of God!
The Holy Bible is clear that it is a living, and powerful “sword” (Hebrews 4:12) that pierces the heart of man to reveal his sinful nature, and it is also an effective weapon—a “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6: 17) — that arms the Christian and allows him to hold his ground against “the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6: 11)
The Scriptures exhort us to:
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4: 7
Just remember to heed this verse in the order in which it is written. Satanic resistance is a futile exercise for the person who remains in rebellion against God!
Diving deeper . . . .
The Lord Jesus Christ prayed on our behalf:
“Sanctify them with thy truth; thy word is truth.” John 17: 17
Jesus Christ, the “truth” personified (John 14:6), endorsed the written truth of God! Every idea of man must be measured by the inerrant, infallible truth of God’s Word. There is no higher standard.
God’s Holy Word stands “pure” and perfect, regardless of the ideologies of mankind. It has been tried in the fiery trials of human lives, and it has been found to be without impurity! Just as the psalmist proclaims:
“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” Psalm 12: 6
The preservation of the God-breathed Holy Scriptures is in the hands of our almighty God!
“Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.” Psalm 12: 7
And finally, consider this remarkable verse:
“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving-kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” Psalm 138: 2
It is almost impossible to hold God’s Word in too high esteem! While the names of God give general descriptions of God, the Holy Scriptures teach us of the person of God. For example the name, Elohim means “God Almighty”, and speaks of the godhead’s unequaled power, but the Scriptures magnify or expand our knowledge about this omnipotent Being. They teach us that God is also honest and just (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2), and loving (John 3:16)—even the very essence of love (I John 4:8)!
The Holy Scriptures help us to truly know our God as Creator, Savior, and coming King! Explore the depths of God’s Holy Word! And when you swim back to shore, don’t towel off! Let the waters of life sink into your very pores! When we pray, we speak to Him. Let us also listen to what He has to say!
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
By Michael C. Lewis
Sometimes I teeter . . . .
The fence seems relatively safe and noncommittal. It borders the crossing of two very different roads. I sit, clinging tenaciously to its smooth rail . . . and procrastinate.
On one side of the fence a wide path opens like a super highway; its billboards flashing neon promises. A suspicious darkness lies beyond the glitz, and a still, small voice in my head warns of worldly pleasures crouching with velvet shackles. Yet, the allure of this wide path, with its advertisements of instant, sensual gratification is strong. . . .tempting me.
On the opposite side of the fence, a narrow path stretches toward a distant brilliant light. Not much wider than a sheep trail, its shadowy passage requires a provided lamp to light the way. The provided lamp seems very dim in comparison to the billboards that line the wide path. It gives just enough illumination for each individual step of the way. A loving voice calls from the luminescence at the end of this rough, and rocky path proclaiming promises of an eternal hope . . . .but passage to that light at the end looks ponderously slow!
And I remain precariously perched . . . . as time ticks relentlessly by . . . .
The options seem obvious. The wide path offers indulgences and satisfaction for the “here and now”. And it reveals only darkness beyond its flashing signs. While the narrow path offers a hard road to a gloriously bright eternity. . . but a traveler is bound to stumble along its rocky path, or perhaps even lose his way in its dusky darkness! And his progress would be so slow — just one lighted step at a time!
I cling even harder to my fence of indecision.
The siren song of the wide path is like a powerful magnet to my desires. Although its fulfillment may be finite, I lean heavily toward its promises of instant pleasure, and gratification! It is by far, nature’s most appealing path.
And yet . . . the wondrous whisper calls so sweetly from the end of the narrow path, promising eternity . . . and life . . . beyond the hardships of its difficult and foreboding trail!
I must soon decide! I cannot remain perched here forever . . . I’m bound to fall off!
I feel my very nature pulling me toward the wide path . . . yet, the narrow path’s voice of promise calls so sweetly . . . .
Again, I teeter . . . .
Choose wisely . . . .
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14
But, choose today!
“ . . . behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians 6:2
And rest assured . . . .
“For whoso ever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13
To remain “on the fence” is to choose the wide path “that leadeth to destruction”, because to sit on the fence is to not choose Christ!
By Michael C. Lewis
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25
The Holy Spirit is received upon the moment of salvation. He is the third Person of the trinity, and the only reason the Christian becomes the “new creature” Paul speaks of in II Corinthians 5:17. This miraculous change from sinner to saint has nothing to do with a Christian’s resolve, and everything to do with the Spirit within him. It is a supernatural transformation orchestrated by the God of creation, Himself. And for this change to take place within a person, all he has to do is reach out and take the gift of newness of life offered him from the Savior’s hand.
It is the relationship of an individual with the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit that determines his Christianity. Paul made this abundantly clear when he wrote, “. . . Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Romans 8:9b. And also, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14
These verses should put to bed the heretical teachings of some that the receiving of the Holy Spirit is a separate event from the moment of salvation. Salvation comes “. . . by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5 This “renewing” of a natural born sinner into a “ born again” (John 3:3) follower of Christ is impossible without the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit “Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:6
The wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) would have us believe that a person must manifest certain miraculous signs—such as speaking in tongues, healings, etc. — as proof of the Holy Spirit’s presence in his life. The Holy Bible, on the other hand, makes it clear that the proof of the Holy Spirit’s presence is the manifestation of a changed life, which is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ!
The Spirit walk is all about surrender. It’s not about us getting more of the Holy Spirit, but it is about the Holy Spirit getting more of us! We, as born again followers of Christ, must daily choose our guide in life. Will we walk in our own strength this day, or will we listen closely to the Holy Spirit, and trust Christ as we traverse this fallen world toward home? As free moral agents, that is our daily privilege, and choice to make. The more we surrender to the still, small voice of direction within us, the more we will grow in the Christian life. And the Holy Spirit is most audible within the Word of God. The psalmist assures us, “The entrance of thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Psalm 119:130
The Bible plainly teaches that, for the Christian, the “flesh” or our sinful, natural desires are constantly warring with the “Spirit“of God within us. The Apostle Paul said, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
How have you decided to walk today?
By Michael C. Lewis
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Probably one of the worst pieces of advice given to those looking for direction is the counsel to, “Follow your heart.” I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard this proverb offered as guidance to a young character in a popular movie — indeed, even in real life. But, I submit that the discerning student of Holy Scriptures should consider the implications of this worldly advice.
The Old and New Testaments teach that the heart is the place where the intellect, emotions, will, and moral conscience reside. The word, “heart” (leb in Hebrew, and kardia in Greek) is often interchangeable with the word, “mind” in the Bible, and as such, it is the seat of reason and volition (the will). In other words, the “heart” motivates us to behave in certain ways according to its reasoning.
The problem with “following your heart” is the infection of sin on humanity. The fallen or sinful condition of man guarantees the deceitfulness of his heart’s counsel — and, if you are unconverted (lost in your sins) and you remain that way — your heart will ultimately lead you on a sure path to eternal damnation. The Holy Bible is clear; the unbelieving heart will take you to hell.
Even the person who has embraced the salvation offered freely by God, through His Son, Jesus Christ must choose daily whether to heed to his heart’s natural inclinations, or submit to the guidance of God’s indwelling Spirit. The Christian remains a free moral agent, even though his transformation to Christ-likeness has begun. He will choose every day how he will live. Submision to the Word, will, and way of God, or digressing to the yearnings of the sinful heart remain his choices. His Christian growth is measured by the occasions in which he denies his heart’s natural inclinations, and submits to the supernatural instruction of the the Holy Spirit who resides within him. The Holy Bible teaches that the battle between the “lust of the flesh” (sinful desire of natural man) and the Spirit is a constant issue in the Christian journey. The Apostle Paul instructs us:
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galations 5:16
Total conversion, or change into Christ’s image — the ultimate goal of the believer — is a supernatural process that changes the will of natural man, and conforms his mind to that of his Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a transformation that begins within the believer and works its way outward in Christian behavior. Through salvation, God supernaturally forms a “new creature”, or new creation out of a fallen, or sinful person. The Holy Scriptures say:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” II Corinthians 5:17
A positional change occurs immediately upon salvation. The Christian is immediately justified and in right standing with God, because the righteousness of Jesus Christ — who paid mankind’s sin debt on the cross — is applied to his account. But, the sanctification process only begins at salvation. His transformation, ultimately into the image or likeness of his Savior is a lifetime process. The Christian can rest assured that this change will indeed be brought about. Again Paul assures us:
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” Philippians 1:6
The Christian’s reasoning and will began a marked process of change and conformity into a sanctified (holy) creation of God. As his will is yielded to God, his heart changes. But, until total sanctification is attained (in heaven), the way of the naturally sinful heart or the way of his supernatural God remain the Christian’s daily choice. And, (this is important to understand!) the unsaved, unconverted person has no choice! The selfish and deceptive yearnings of his naturally sinful heart are his only guidance for life!
The standard of guidance through life should never be the human heart alone. Humanity’s guidance must come from outside our sinfilled experiences. The Christian standard comes from God, Himself, in the inspired writings of Holy Scriptures. The writer of the book of Hebrews declares:
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
The living Word of God pierces the human heart, and reveals its evil inclinations and motivations. Its truth reveals the lies and deceptions of our sinful natures. As it becomes reality to us (through the illumination given by the Holy Spirit — see I Corinthians 2:14), and we accept its precepts and obey its commands, we are transformed, and the light of Christ is revealed in our activities. Salvation creates an inward change that is revealed in outward behavior.
Can an unsaved person live an outwardly moral and benevolent, even religious life? Of course, the short answer is “Yes.” But, the Lord Jesus Christ made this sobering declaration about such people:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Matthew 23:27, 28
Mankind’s resolutions to behave in certain benevolent ways will eventually give way to his sinful condition. True rehabilitation for the alcoholic, drug addict, or career criminal must begin at the innermost, and darkest part of his being — his heart — to be effective and lasting. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real hope for transforming deliverance.
The redemption of humanity through the cross of Christ is the only route to eternal change available to man! It is a total transformation the happens from the inside out! Follow Jesus Christ for eternal life, or “follow your heart” to your destruction. The choice seems obvious.