Monday, May 9, 2016, 8:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 16 (select vv. NASB). Servants of the Lord (vv. 1-5a) I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house. When we are involved in ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ, it is most helpful if we have brothers and sisters in Christ to assist us and/or to offer us words of encouragement to strengthen us in our faith and commitments to Christ. Most especially, if the ministries to which we are called result in much opposition and persecution, it can be so helpful if there are brothers and sisters in Christ along the way to minister to our spirits and to help us in the work to which God has called us; and who will stand strong with us against all opposing forces, even at the risk of their own lives and reputations. Yet, it doesn’t always work that way. So, even if we must stand alone with no one with us but God, we must still stand knowing that God is on our side, that he is with us, that he will never abandon us, and that he will see us through all difficult circumstances. He will give us all we need to survive, to thrive, to persevere, and to keep trusting him in spite of much opposition and persecution. Contrary to Truth (vv. 17-20) Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Many modern preachers of today have twisted these words to their own advantage. I believe that most of them are following the same (or a similar) human role model which has been passed down to them by their trainers and by their superiors. They have tagged as “dissenters” those who have strong spiritual convictions which are based on the truths of scripture and on the teachings of Christ and that of his NT apostles. You may be called a dissenter or a troublemaker in the church if you do not adhere to the humanistic teachings and marketing schemes of this modern generation, and if you do not agree to a diluted gospel absent of the cross of Christ in people’s lives. If you stand up against lies, and if you tell the truth, you may also be targeted to be brought down and/or to be dismissed, and you may end up standing alone with no one on your side but God. Yet, we must stand for truth and against Satan’s lies and trickery, no matter what. So, we need to be wise and discerning about these matters. For it is not those who disagree with humanistic philosophy who are the dissenters, but it is those who cause hindrances to the teaching of Christ and of his NT apostles who are the true dissenters. These dissenters will try to turn you away from those who would tell you the truth, and they will try to convince you that they are the ones you should listen to, so it is absolutely imperative that we do not accept everything we hear from anyone, but that we should test everything we see, read and hear against the Word of Truth, and against God’s divine character and will for humankind. Many preachers today know how to cleverly blend truth and lies together to make them sound like truth, and many people of this TV generation just accept whatever they hear because it sounds good to them, or because a preacher said it. Yet, Jesus said that if we hold to his teachings that we are really his disciples. Then, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (See: Jn. 8:31-32). So, we need to hold to his teachings, but in order to do that, we need to know what Jesus taught and what his apostles taught, so that we can discern truth from error. We must read scripture verses in context, and compare scripture with scripture, and pray for wisdom from above, because many preachers and teachers pull scriptures out of context and they build false doctrines around those verses. But, scriptures out of context don’t always give us a complete picture. Sometimes they are just small pieces to a complete whole, so it is important that we read the Bible in context, and that we know what other verses teach on the same subject so that we are not easily led astray. Yet, in all things, we must rely upon the Holy Spirit of God to lead us to all truth and to give us a spirit of discernment to recognize lies and truth. Able to Establish You (vv. 25-27) Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen. God is able to strengthen and to fortify us in our faith according to the gospel of our salvation as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles, and according to the preaching of Jesus Christ in accord with sound doctrine and the teachings of the prophets of old. Many preachers today are not preaching the Jesus of Scripture, but a humanistic concept of who they would like Jesus to be and in order to give themselves liberty to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. So, be wise and discerning, and test what you hear, and read scriptures in context because many false teachings are being brought to the people cloaked by scriptures taken out of context, and in order to pass lies off as truth. One of the tricks is just to quote a scripture but then to teach something else, but then to make you feel it is scriptural because you heard or you read a scripture, but don’t be fooled! Pay attention!! For instance, if you are being told that all you have to do is repeat some words after someone and then you are congratulated that you are now saved and that heaven is guaranteed to you no matter what, then beware! The Bible says that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. It says that Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. It teaches us that God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin, for if we continue living sinful lifestyles, we will die in our sin, without hope, and without God. We are taught, instead, that God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. We are also taught in scripture that when we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (master-owner) and Savior of our lives that it means that we die with Christ to sin and self and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Our lives are no longer our own to be lived how we want. We were bought back for God with the price of Jesus’ blood shed on a cross for our sins so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His stripes we are healed. Amen! The old has gone, the new has come. We are born again of the Spirit of God. We are turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified through faith in Jesus Christ. The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives (our lifestyles) according to the Spirit. Amen! Jesus/God demands repentance and obedience. It is a lie when someone tells you that God requires nothing of you other than some ambiguous “faith” which does not submit to Christ, which does not obey his teachings, and which does not turn away from sin and follow God/Jesus in surrender to his will for our lives. Jesus said that if we want to come after him we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25). If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 Jn. 2:3), yet not in sinless perfection (1 Jn. 2:1), but by walking according to the Spirit and no longer conducting our lives according to the flesh (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14). Near the Cross Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane Jesus, keep me near the cross; There a precious fountain, Free to all, a healing stream, Flows from Calvary's mountain. Near the cross, a trembling soul, Love and mercy found me; There the bright and morning star Sheds its beams around me. Near the cross! O Lamb of God, Bring its scenes before me; Help me walk from day to day With its shadow o'er me. Near the cross I'll watch and wait, Hoping, trusting ever, Till I reach the golden strand Just beyond the river. In the cross, in the cross, Be my glory ever, Till my raptured soul shall find Rest beyond the river.