Monday, August 31, 2015, 8:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “What the Lord Says.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 3:8-15 (NASB). Spiritually speaking, I believe there are four distinct classifications of people in the world, which we can learn about by reading the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. First there are those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ at all, and who have never made a profession of faith in Christ, some of whom have heard the gospel preached, and some who haven’t, but those who haven’t are still without excuse based on the teachings of Romans 1:18-32. Then, there are those who have made a profession of faith in Christ, but it is surface only. Their faith never really took root, i.e. there is no transformation of the Spirit of God present in their lives but only a shallow declaration of faith which has little foundation in the teachings of the gospel in scripture, so they, as well, are not true believers in Jesus Christ. Then, there are those who genuinely believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives. They were transformed of the Spirit of God in spiritual birth, they were crucified with Christ to sin, and were resurrected with Christ to new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Yet, at some time in their spiritual walks, they drifted away from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ, and they got caught up in the ways of the world again, and so they became unfruitful in their Christian lives, and they are thus in need of revival via repentance and renewed faith in Jesus Christ as their only Lord. And, lastly, there are those who are walking in faithful obedience to their Lord, though not necessarily in sinless perfection. These are those who conduct their lives according to the Spirit of God, and are no longer living their lives to please their sinful flesh. They are bearing fruit for the kingdom of heaven in their own lives and in the lives of others. They Have Fallen (vv. 8-9) For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, Because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, To rebel against His glorious presence. The expression of their faces bears witness against them, And they display their sin like Sodom; They do not even conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. Jerusalem today is heavenly Jerusalem, the church, the body of Christ, so today this would be speaking of particular believers in Jesus Christ who have fallen back into sin, and have forsaken their first love. Although they once were committed to following their Lord in faithful obedience, they have since been deceived by the trappings of the world, and have drifted away from their pure devotion to Christ. Although they are in genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, the words they sometimes speak, and the actions they sometimes take are against the Lord, and are against his divine will and purposes for their lives. As well, this sin of theirs is willful rebellion against God, i.e. they knowingly and willfully are going against what they know is wrong. Some will conceal their behavior via lies and deception, while others seem to have no shame at all, and openly display their rebellion against God. Yet, even if they attempt to conceal their sin, their faces (countenance) witness against them. Yet, we must be careful here that we don’t misjudge people merely on the basis of countenance. We could be wrong. Yet, many who are habitual sinners, in particular, although they try to hide their sin, reveal what they are doing through their faces, and those who know them well can usually tell when they are not telling the truth. Well With Them (v. 10) Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, For they will eat the fruit of their actions. The righteous in this context, I believe, is speaking of those who live righteously before God, and who are not merely righteous positionally through faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, I don’t believe this is a promise of health, wealth and prosperity. When we read about the life of Jesus, and we read the writings of his NT apostles, we soon learn that the faithful are not promised loss of hardship, or of tribulation, persecution, and trials, etc. In fact, we are taught that we are destined for them, and that we can expect to be hated, persecuted, abandoned, mistreated, beaten and even killed for our faith and testimonies for Jesus Christ. Yet, we have the promise and the hope of God’s spiritual protection over our lives, of his continued presence with us, and of his unending love, grace, mercy, help, comfort, strength and encouragement to help us in our time of need, to get us through these difficult times, and to bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom. What will go well for us is that we will bear spiritual fruit (outgrowth, produce) for God’s eternal kingdom, both in our own lives, and then in the lives of others whose lives have been touched by ours. Those Who Guide You (vv. 11-15) Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, For what he deserves will be done to him. O My people! Their oppressors are children, And women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray And confuse the direction of your paths. The Lord arises to contend, And stands to judge the people. The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses. “What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the face of the poor?” Declares the Lord God of hosts. The reason so many believers in Christ have fallen into sin, and have remained there, or the reason there are so many false confessions of faith in Jesus Christ, I believe, is the shortage of spiritually mature male leaders in our churches. So many leaders have fallen prey to the lies of Satan and have gone off to follow humans and humanistic philosophy and marketing schemes and even mysticism and myths instead of following Jesus Christ and his word. And, a large reason so many of them have become so vulnerable to following these lies, I believe, is perhaps to ease their own consciences, because so many of them have fallen into serious sin and have become entangled by it all over again. For instance, there is an alarming number of pastors, particularly here in America, who are addicted to pornography and/or who have engaged themselves in some type of extramarital relationships. Yet, it isn’t just that leadership is spiritually absent, or that they have fallen into sin themselves, but that they are leading their people in the wrong direction. So many church leaders have ceased to even speak of sin or judgment, and many are teaching that repentance and obedience to Christ are not required by God. They distort the character of God to fit their own lifestyles, and so they have no fear of God anymore. They also teach that God is pleased with us no matter what we do, even if we are steeped in sin, and in fact, that he smiles upon us even when we are willfully sinning against him. They teach that all you have to do is pray a prayer to “receive” Jesus Christ, and that once you pray that prayer you are now saved and guaranteed eternal life, no matter how badly you sin from this point on. Their gospel is more like a free license for lasciviousness as it requires no death to sin, no obedience to God’s commands (his word), and no fear of the Lord. Yet, if we read the words of Jesus Christ, and those of his NT apostles, we will learn that to believe in Jesus Christ means that we die with Christ to sin, and that we are resurrected with Christ to new lives in him, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; 1 Pet. 2:24). It means we no longer live to please ourselves, but we live to please our Lord who gave his life up for us so we could be set free from slavery to sin (2 Co. 5:15). It means we no longer conduct our lives according to our sinful flesh, but we now live our lives according to (in agreement with and in the power of) the Spirit of God (Ro. 8:1-14). It also means if we say we have fellowship with God, but we persist in conducting our lives according to our sinful flesh, that we are liars. It means, too, that if we continue in walking in agreement with our flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. So, we need to stop trusting in humans and what many of them are teaching us, and we need to start exercising spiritual discernment in testing everything we hear against the gospel of Jesus Christ as he taught it, and as his apostles taught it. Not everyone who professes the name of Jesus Christ is genuinely saved. Though I believe scripture indicates that Christians can still sin, and that Christians can even fall for deception, forsake their Lord, tolerate false teaching, drift away from their pure devotion to their Lord, become spiritually apathetic and worldly, and have need to repent and to be spiritually revived, this should never serve as security to those who willfully continue in sin after having made a profession of Christ as Savior of their lives, for scripture also teaches that if we persist in living for our flesh, and not for the Lord, that we will die, and we don’t have eternal life. We should never take lightly what Jesus Christ did in dying on the cross for our sins, or think God no longer cares if we sin or not. He cares! And, he disciplines those he loves. So, instead of walking in your own flesh, walk in freedom from slavery to sin. Instead of following after lies, follow what’s true. Instead of doing what you know is wrong, choose to do what is right. Instead of living in defeat, walk in victory. Instead of trusting in the words of humans, test what you hear, know what God’s word teaches, and put your trust in the Lord and in his word. Instead of caving into peer pressure, or falling prey to discouragement when trials come your way to test your faith, rest in the Lord, look to him for your help, and stop looking to humans to save you. And, instead of giving up in defeat when humans persecute you or when they abandon you, keep pressing on in the strength the Lord gives you, don’t fear what humans may do to you, and know God will carry you through. What the Lord Says / An Original Work February 24, 2014 / Based off Isaiah 43:1-44:5 This is what the Lord says to you: Fear not, for I have chosen you. I have summoned you by your name. You are mine. I died, you to save. When you go through your trials, so deep, I will be with you; you will not sink. You are so precious always to me. Trust in your Lord, Savior and King. This is what the Lord says to you: He who gave salvation to you; Who delivered you from your sin; Takes your burdens now upon Him: Forget the former things of your life. Give of your heart not now up to strife. See all the new things I have for you. Walk in vict’ry. Trust in what’s true. This is what the Lord says to you: He who made you; who will help you: Do not fear what humans may do. Walk in freedom. Follow what’s true. Drink of my Spirit given for you. Trust in my mercy, for I love you. I have a plan for all of your life. Follow my ways. Do what is right.