Psalm 26:7--That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Are You Personified?

Isaiah 10:15--Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

 The verse above contains two literary devices I would like to draw out: personification and simile. For review, personification is the attribution of human characteristics to an inanimate object, and simile is a comparison using like or as. In this verse, Isaiah adroitly uses these two techniques to detail the steps in the progression of pride.

Pride is the most subtle of all sins, and all sin can be traced back to some form of pride. Even when we think we are without pride, we have pride because we are in essence boasting that we are humble. Furthermore, God hates pride severely. In my rationale this is because of two reasons: 1) Lucifer, one of God's highest angels, was cast out of Heaven and became the devil, enemy of anything God loves, because of his pride; and 2) pride, as stated above, is the root of all sin.

All of these are reasons why we need to watch out for pride in our lives. We must constantly be on the lookout for it and be praying for God to humble us, even as He humbled Himself and came to this earth (see Philippians 2:3-8). I am so thankful that Jesus humbled Himself and died on the cross for me; and I'm thankful that God, through Isaiah, gave us this description of the way pride can sneak into our lives and corrupts us. Let's take a look at what the Scripture says so we will better know how to combat pride.

Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? The first simile given by Isaiah is the personification of an axe. Specifically, Isaiah is dealing with the pride of Assyria's king--but this applies to everyone--and Isaiah states that his pride is like an axe boasting itself against the one using it to cut something. How foolish is it to think that an axe, a simple tool, would think itself better than the one who uses it, who controls its every action and maintains its condition? Likewise, it is foolish for us to think we are somehow out of God's control and doing our own thing, when in reality, God is ultimate Sovereign over all and it is only by His grace we still live. He raises kings and brings them low; He grants us every breath; He provides for us all our sustenance. What foolishness for us to think we are masters of ourselves! However, this pride is only in the mind, or, at most, verbal (but God still hates it). Pride, like all sin, begins in the mind (Matthew 15:18, 19). This is the first step in pride's domination of someone, and it is the hardest to combat. We must strive to keep our minds free of pride and have the humble mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). If not kept in check, prideful thoughts quickly and eagerly lead to more wicked things.

Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? This is where true outspoken pride, the second step in pride's siege, comes in. Prideful thoughts will lead to prideful words about yourself. As Isaiah's similes move from boasting to magnifying, so we will escalate from inwardly boasting of ourselves to outwardly magnifying ourselves as better than others, or even God. This is where pride becomes noticeably evident to others besides God and ourselves. By now, our attitude, words, and demeanor have been corrupted to haughtiness. This is where pride begins to destroy relationships and hurt others, and it severely weakens our relationship with and testimony for God. Remember, what proceeds out of the mouth comes from the heart (Matthew 15:18). Once in this stage, proud actions quickly come into play.

As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up. Now Isaiah's personification focuses on prideful resistance against the One Who holds us in His hand. This is when pride becomes extremely dangerous, when we actually act out against God. Imagine holding a rod, and it begins to shake. What are you most likely going to do? First, get a tighter grip on it. Then, when it shakes more violently, you'll drop it and it will fall to the ground. This is exactly what will happen to us. When, in pride, we act out against God, or sin, it causes our relationship to become strained and difficult. God will get a tighter grip on us by convicting us, but if we continue, He'll let us fall on our faces and punishment will come to pass. There are terrible aftereffects of pride that God, in His great love, never wishes on us. When we act out against God in pride, we are saying we don't need Him, and when God lets us go, we will utterly fail.

Or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Lastly, Isaiah brings out his most interesting point, and, to me, his most laughable. I mean, how ridiculous is it to think that a staff, a piece of wood, could lift itself up? It's impossible, and the point is clear: without God, we are helpless and can do nothing (John 15:5). By using this analogy, Isaiah is also stating that when we act in pride, relying on ourselves and not God, we're not even acting like what God created us to be. That phrase "as if it were no wood" means the staff is behaving as if it were made of something other than wood. When we do not rely on God, we are not acting like humans, because God created us to run on Him. C. S. Lewis says it better: "God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other."

I hope you have seen how destructive and dangerously deceitful pride is. Pride causes us to turn away from the Source of our strength, the very Source of our life, and brings horrendous consequences. It causes us to ignore our God-given purpose. In a sense, pride "personifies" us because it makes us behave like something we were not created to be. This is grotesque and disgusting to God, and I hope it has become so to you. I hope you will join me in daily praying for God to eradicate pride in our hearts and give us His mind of humility.

If you are not saved, you will never be able to humbly submit to God, your Creator. Pride is the only nature you know, and maybe that's what is holding you back from being saved. Please, give up your pride. To quote C. S. Lewis again, "As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you." Surrender yourself to the all-powerful and loving God. On your own you will only fail, and you will go to Hell. You need help, and God is graciously offering it. Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Brotherly Exhortation

Brotherly Exhortation

I greet you in the righteous name
of Christ Jesus our King and Lord.
And may He always in our hearts
be worshiped with love and adored.

O let the Father’s love be shown,
and let the grace of God be known.
And whether brother stand or fall,
forgive of one another all.

In my prayers you’re always known;
I thank the Lord you found His grace.
I bear your name to Heaven’s throne
and pray your love would all embrace.


Let us thus be nobly living:
Patient in all tribulation,
tender-hearted, kind, forgiving,
found in hope with jubilation.


Let us be a great light of love,
and let our light on hilltops glow,
humbly pointing all to above
that glory all to God would go.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Antithetical Cases: Condemnation and Freedom

John 3:18--He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Technically defined by Merriam-Webster, antithesis is "the rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences". Basically, it means you contrast two things by using structurally similar items. This is seen in the above verse. On one hand, you have a person who believes and is not condemned; on the other, you have a person who does not believe and is condemned. See how they're set up the same, but have opposite ideas? That's antithesis. The only thing added is the clause "because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

This example of antithesis is extremely important, as it deals with the paramount topic of every living person: the destination of his or her eternal soul. In the first part, the reader is told that "he that believeth on him is not condemned". The one who is to be believed on is Jesus. This is wonderful news! Imagine you are standing in court, guilty of a heinous crime and sentenced to life in prison, or even death. Then someone walks in and tells you, "I have a way for you to be free. You will not be condemned. All you have to do is trust me." You do so, and it works; you're free! Wouldn't you be relieved?

In reality, we are all in the same situation, though actually much worse. We are all guilty of heinous crimes: breaking the perfect law of the holy God. The death sentence we have received for our sin is eternity in Hell, a place of never-ending suffering and torment. This is what is meant by the second clause in the verse, "but he that believeth not is condemned already". You see, even though you may be a "good person", you're still a sinner, and unless you've accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you're already condemned to go to Hell. There's nothing you need to do to go there; you're already on your way!

But there is a way out. That's where your deliverer walks into the courtroom. That person is Jesus. Just like in the illustration above, Jesus is offering a way out of condemnation--out of Hell--for every person. The reason He can do so is because He is the perfect and righteous Son of God Who died for everyone's sins on the cross. Even though He was guiltless, He suffered the punishment that justice required for our crimes. All we have to do, like the verse says above, is believe on the Lord Jesus.

And yes, it is that easy. The verse simply states "he that believeth on him is not condemned". Nothing but faith in Jesus is needed. Someone once told me that other things were necessary for salvation because that verse didn't say that only believing was needed. But that is simply not true. If anything else were needed for salvation, then this verse would only be stating half the truth, and that would make it a lie. God cannot lie, and His Word is inerrant; therefore, faith is the only thing needed for salvation. You don't need baptism, church attendance, a good life, confirmation, confession, communion, or anything else--just believe.

All lives are parallel cases: everyone is guilty of sin and, because of this, condemned to eternity in Hell; all sins have also been paid for by the blood of Jesus, and salvation is offered to all. However, there is one thing that makes lives antithetical to one another: whether or not they accept the free gift of pardon offered by Jesus. That is the crucial point. Two lives can be lived exactly the same, yet one can suffer in Hell while the other rejoices in Heaven. This is perfectly seen in the two thieves crucified with Jesus. They were both criminals convicted for their crimes, but because one was penitent and believed on Jesus, he went to Heaven while the other perished in Hell.

If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, please do. Don't put it off a moment longer, because you never know when your last breath will be. Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

If you are saved, rejoice and thank God for His work of redemption in you! Take a special moment to get on your knees and humbly thank Him for rescuing you from an eternity in Hell, for taking all the punishment and wrath you so rightfully deserve. Then go tell someone about the wonderful and mighty God you serve. Tell them the greatest news ever to grace their ears: that they too can be free of sin and eternal death.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Unequal Examples

II Corinthians 6:14-16--Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church, he stresses the importance of being separate from unbelievers. He presents his main point, that we should not be "unequally yoked together with unbelievers", and goes on to use rhetorical questions as examples to illustrate what a ludicrous idea this is. He uses five rhetorical-question illustrations to explain the absurdity that believers can have fellowship with unbelievers.

Before I go any further, I want to clarify that this is not an extremist call or argument that all Christians should band together and live alone on an island in isolation. That is absolutely wrong and not Biblical. If Christians isolate themselves, they are breaking one of the two great commandments, to love your neighbor as yourself. The word "neighbor" used there includes every living human being. If you isolate yourself from the world, you cannot show love and compassion for those in need; you cannot weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice; and, paramount to all, you cannot share Jesus with them. The spreading of the Gospel is the main point for God leaving Christians on earth after their salvation. We must be in the world, but not of it.

Now that that's out of the way, let's look at how Paul uses his illustrations in his argument for separation. Starting with a contrast of righteousness and unrighteousness, Paul goes through five examples, each one contrasting two completely opposite ideas or things.

The first two are basic illustrations, but after that Paul ups the ante. He contrasts Jesus Christ with Belial, the devil. This isn't such a simple contrast; this isn't even between two opposites. Jesus has no opposite, not even the devil. He is in a state of His own. Satan doesn't even come close to comparing, so much so that he is not even considered worthy to be God's opposite. Now the game has become serious. With this example, the reader understands how insane an idea it is for a believer to be yoked together with an unbeliever in anything. Could you seriously imagine God and Satan as coworkers and companions in something? For believers, this includes marriage, business, friendships, recreation--anything. This doesn't mean you can't be around unbelievers. As stated above, that is not Biblical and, let's face it, pretty much impossible. It simply means do not take part in their sin. If coworkers, schoolmates, friends, family members, or whoever want you to go drinking, gamble, steal something, or practice any other sinful art, tell them no. Then tell them why. Let them know that you have been saved by a righteous God and freed from sin. Tell them the consequences of their sin and how they can be saved from it. Reprove their dark works, but always do it with love.

Then Paul brings his examples back to his original point, asking "what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" In case the reader has forgotten, Paul directly relates his illustrations back to his main point. This reminds the believer that he or she is not to be mixed in with unbelievers. Then he gives an example of why, stating that we are God's temple.

As God's temple, we are God's property. Remember, you were bought with a price--a huge price. God owns us and wants us to be holy as He is holy. We are the Holy Spirit's home, and we should strive to keep His house as clean and pure as possible. We cannot do this when we are unequally yoked with unbelievers. Furthermore, we should not be doing this out of fear, but out of love and gratitude toward God. After God has forgiven and forgotten all of our sins and saved us from an eternity in Hell, why would we not want to keep ourselves clean and righteous for Him? This shows we appreciate what He has done for us. Also, it is an honor and privilege to have the Lord of the universe choose to make your body His temple. What a blessing! Strive to keep yourself free from sin. Will you be perfect? No. But God understands this, and daily helps you in the housecleaning Himself.

Here are other very important reasons to keep yourself clean from sin and separate yourself from unbelievers:
  • As your companions are, so you will be
  • Maintains your testimony
  • Allows you to witness to the lost
  • Pleases God and does not invoke His chastening
  • Allows God to fully use you and work in your life
  • Gives true joy and fellowship with God and other believers
  • Actions speak louder than words
  • Shows there is something different about you
  • Will draw the lost to Christ
As you can see, there are many reasons we should be separate from unbelievers. This is a crucially important point in today's Church, especially in America. All across Christendom, we have compromised the truth and weakened our stance, leading to spiritually debilitated Christians, false teachers, spiritual "leaders" who's lives have been ruined by sin, a wicked and morally blind nation around us, an apathetic view toward the lost and the Church's impact on the world, and numerous other problems.

We cannot take part in the sins of the world. We must separate ourselves. America, the world, the lost need believers who will not compromise and condone their sin. We need revival, and this can only happen when we turn from our sin and seek God. If we're honest, we all have something in our lives that shouldn't be there. We all in some way are unequally yoking ourselves together with unbelievers, taking part in their dark works. I urge you to objectively and deeply search your life and heart. Pray for guidance, wisdom, and humility. Ask God to reveal to you your sin and give you the power to be free from it.

Lastly, if you have never been saved, this post has no application for you. You have never been cleansed from unrighteousness and saved by God. Spiritually, you are still lost, dead, and headed to Hell for eternity. But there is hope; there is freedom; there is life. All you have to do is accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and ask Him to forgive you of your sin. If you don't, your spiritual and moral condition will only grow worse. Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Citizen's Cry to Country

A Citizen’s Cry to Country

In the midst of a country great I stand,
gazing out across the land,
where once from sea to shining sea
our hearts were moved by God’s decree,
where valor fought for home and love
and trusted all to Him above,
where once the family built its home
upon the Word of God alone,
where churches preached the crimson tide
that flows from Jesus’ humbled side,
where faith was strong and love was grand,
which prospered great this noble land.

Now from coast to crippled coast
every heart to sin is host.
Now for gain and greed we fight,
not to show our love or light.
Now the houses weakly stand
upon the mounds of shifting sand.
Now the church is compromised
by culture’s deep, destructive tide.
Now where faith and love were brave
there only lie forgotten graves.
Now I see a growing rift,
as I stand at the edge of a crumbling cliff.

But hope still lives through pain and loss!
So who will bravely bear their cross?
Who will travel throughout the land
and tell of God’s salvation plan?
Who with faith will carry forward
the blood-stained banner of the Lord?
Who will take the family’s need
and turn it unto Joshua’s creed?
Who will rouse the sleeping church
and make the cross its stalwart perch?
Let me, as Isaiah cried,
bow to God, say, “Here am I.”