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The Authenticity of Disciple Making

Category: Francis Dixon (page 1 of 3)

Francis Dixon: Hebrews

WORDS OF LIFE SERIES 60
BIBLE STUDY NOTES HIGHLIGHTS IN HEBREWS
by Francis W. Dixon

Study 12 ARE YOU LIVING FOR TIME OR ETERNITY?
(Key verses: Hebrews 13:10-16)

In these verses the writer refers to the old Jewish sacrifices offered upon the altar, but the bodies of the animals were taken outside the camp and burned. The Lord Jesus was taken outside the city of Jerusalem to be crucified (John 19:15-18). In these verses there is a sequence of practical truth and teaching which will force itself upon you: Are you living for time or eternity? Consider:-

1. AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE CALLED TO LIVE A LIFE OF SEPARATION (verse 13).
This is separation from all that is sinful, doubtful and displeasing to God. It speaks to us of the Pathway we are to tread and should be read in conjunction with verse 12. The word “us” refers to Christians. In plain words, these verses mean that the Lord Jesus suffered and died for us “outside the camp”; we must tread the same pathway along which He travelled. To the Jewish Christians the reference was to the old altar and sacrifices. The call to them was to go out from Judaism to Christ; the call to us is to leave all that is contrary to God’s will for us as Christians. We are to be separated from the formality of a powerless religion (2 Corinthians 6:14-17); from the pleasures of a sinful world which include worldly associations, worldly fashions, worldly standards, worldly speech (1 John 2:15-17); and from the deceptions of a self-centred life (3 John 9). Are you living for time or eternity?

2. THIS LIFE IS A LIFE OF SEPARATION TO THE LORD JESUS
(verse 13).
It is not only separation from all that is sinful. We must consider the Person we are to follow, not only leaving behind the things which are displeasing to God but going forward, following Him and finding fellowship with Christ Himself. God’s call to separation is both negative and positive; it is “from” but it is also “to”. The Christian life is not one of “do’s and don’ts”; it does include these, but when we leave the world behind us we are to go to Jesus Himself – as those who believe on Him (John 16:31); who love Him (John 21:17); who belong to Him (Mark 9:41); and who live for Him (2 Corinthians 5:15). Christ’s call to us is “Follow Me” (John 21:19); but where are we to follow Him to? Where does He lead us? The answer is – “outside the city gate” (verse 12), “outside the camp” (verse 13) and we must “go to him”. If you stay inside the camp you will not find Him, for He is outside! The formality of powerless religion will not bring you to him, or the pleasures of the world. “A Christian outside the camp becomes a disciple in fellowship with his Lord” – look up and meditate on Mark 3:13-14 and John 6:66-69, and then notice the third truth:-
3. TO LIVE THIS LIFE OF SEPARATION INVOLVES SACRIFICE, MISUNDERSTANDING, SUFFERING AND EVEN COMPLETE REJECTION (verse 13).
We get this in the words “bearing the disgrace he bore”. This speaks of the Persecution we are to share. During His earthly life and ministry our Lord was misunderstood, ostracised and finally rejected, and He is still misunderstood and rejected by the world. The word ‘disgrace’ is strong; it is the word ‘stigma’ and refers to the contempt, the abuse and the shame which He bore for us, and which we are now to bear with Him as we follow Him and identify ourselves with Him in His rejection. If we are faithful and loyal we must not expect an easy time – look up and compare Matthew 5:11-12; John 16:33; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12-14; and then compare Luke 9:22-26 and Philippians 3:7-10. It is a costly way to follow Jesus but it is the most satisfying way and one which glorifies Him.

4. AS WE LIVE THIS SEPARATED LIFE WE MUST KEEP HEAVEN IN VIEW
(verse 14).
This speaks of the Prospect we are to keep before us. The A.N.T. rendering is, “For here we have no permanent city, but we are looking for the one which is to come”, or better still, “which is coming”. Everything down here is going to pass away but we are looking for a new environment altogether. This is why we are to live like pilgrims and not get settled down here as if this were our home. We are to be like Abraham (Hebrews 11:8-10); and like the patriarchs (Hebrews 11:13-16). Our home is a heavenly home – look up and compare John 14:1-3; Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11. Then compare Matthew 6:19-21 and Colossians 3:1-3. As we live in the light of this glorious prospect we shall gain a true sense of values. Now, it’s very important to notice that although we are a heavenly people and have a heavenly home, this doesn’t mean that we have no responsibilities while we travel as pilgrims through this world. In other words:-

5. WE ARE NOT TO BE “SO HEAVENLY-MINDED THAT WE ARE OF NO EARTHLY USE”
(verses 15-16).
This speaks of the Privilege we are to enjoy. It is a two-fold privilege of sacrificial service which reaches up towards God and out towards man – look up and compare Luke 10:27.
(1) We are to offer the sacrifice of worship to God. This is indicated in verse 15. Day by day we are to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving – look up Leviticus 7:12 and Psalm 50:14.
(2) We are to offer the sacrifice of service to man. This is indicated in verse 16, and the reference is to kind and loving actions – look up Matthew 25:40.
Are you living for time or eternity?

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Great Questions in OT 10

Study 10         WHO CAN ENDURE THE DAY OF HIS COMING?

(Scripture Reference: Malachi 3:2)

 

This passage in Malachi speaks to us of the First Coming and Second Coming of Christ. It clearly refers to the first coming (v. 1-2). In verse 1 we have the prophecy of the coming of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus; in the second part of verse 1 and in verse 2 the reference is also to the Lord’s first coming because these prophecies were literally fulfilled when Jesus came 2000 years ago. However, the second part of verse 1 and verses 2 and 3 also refer to our Lord’s second coming, which we await. When the Old Testament prophets wrote of Christ’s coming they could only see the fact that in a general sense He, the Messiah, would come. They probably thought in terms of one coming only; but as we compare scripture with scripture now, we can see that in actual fact they declared Christ would come twice. See some examples:-

1. Genesis 3:15 – a prophecy that Satan would bruise the Saviour’s heel. This he did at Calvary. But there is also the prophecy that Christ would bruise Satan’s head. This He will do when He comes again – compare 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

2. Psalms 22 and 24. Psalm 22 is a prophecy of Jesus’ first coming and of His suffering; Psalm 24 is a prophecy of the return of Jesus as the King of Glory.

3. Isaiah 61:1-2. Compare these verses with Luke 4:19-19, and notice that in quoting from Isaiah 61, Jesus left out the words “and the day of vengeance of our God”, since these words were not fulfilled at His first coming, but will be at His second coming.

4. Matthew 16:21,27. In verse 21 Jesus predicts His death on Calvary; but verse 27 speaks of His coming “in his Father’s glory”.

5. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Paul gives the order and significance of the Lord’s Supper, which points back to, and is a reminder of, our Lord’s first coming, and points forward to His second coming – “until he comes”.

6. Hebrews 9:24-28. Verse 26 refers to Jesus’ first coming; verse 24 refers to His present session in heaven; verse 28 is the promise of His second coming.

7. Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. The two comings of Christ are kept before us right to the very end of the canon of Scripture. Here Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb…”, being special reference to His first coming, no less than seven times – Revelation 21 verses 9,14,22,23,27; Revelation 22:1,3; Then three times in Revelation 22 the cry goes up, “Behold, I am coming soon” (verses 7,12,20)!

 

From these references we see the harmony of the prophetic word; throughout Scripture there is an interwoven testimony to the two comings of Christ that are inseparable. See what Malachi 3:1-6 says about the second coming of Christ.

 

1. The Lord Jesus is most surely coming again the second time. The word ‘messenger’ is used twice in verse 1. The first time it refers to John the Baptist; the second time it refers to Jesus, particularly to His first coming, where He is described as “the messenger of the covenant”. But in verse 2 the reference is also to His second coming. Is it possible that you are not rejoicing in the amazing truth of this? If so, what did Jesus mean in John 14:1-3? What did He mean in His parables, for example Matthew 25:1-12; Luke 19:12-13, and clear references to His second coming in Matthew chapter 24?

 

2. The One who is coming the second time is the same Lord who came the first time. This will not be a different Jesus! In Malachi 3:1-6 both comings are placed side by side and refer to the same Lord Jesus, who doesn’t change (verse 6). To his disciples He said, “I will come back” (John 14:3). When He ascended the angels said that the second time it would be “this same Jesus” (Acts 9:1-11); significantly the Apostle Paul says it will be “the Lord himself”, not just “the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

 

3. Prophecies relating to his first coming were literally fulfilled, and will be again. This is very important and very logical. We have two illustrations of this in our Scripture:-

(1) In Malachi 3:1: we have the prophecy of the coming of John the Baptist (literally fulfilled, as the following Scriptures make clear – Matthew 3:3; 11:10; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 1:76; 3:4; 7:26-27; John 1:23).

(2) In Malachi 3:1-3: we have the prophecy of the coming of the Lord Jesus at His first coming. He came to the temple and was recognized by the aged Simeon (Luke 2:27); He came to the temple again at the age of twelve (Luke 2:49); He entered the temple again when He rode in triumph to Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12,14), and in the temple He performed His gracious work of healing. Notice that the work of purifying (verses 3-4) is the work He is doing today in the lives of His people – compare 1 Peter 1:7.

 

4. The Lord Jesus is coming back again on a certain specified day. “Who can endure the day of his coming?” is the question asked in verse 2. This ‘day’ speaks of a date or a specified time, but we do not know when the day will be, as Matthew 24:36-37 and Matthew 25:13 make clear.

 

5. He is coming suddenly (verse 1), and it means that He will come at the time when most people are not expecting Him – look up and compare Luke 12:39 with Matthew 24:40-41 and 25:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 16:15.

 

6. His coming will mean separation and judgment for the unbeliever. Malachi 3:2-3 refers to a refining process and a separating of the godly from the ungodly (Matthew 13:30). The Lord will separate the dross from the silver with patient love and unflinching justice. Here we are reminded of the rapture of the Church which will take place before the Lord’s return in glory (1 Corinthians 15:51-52;   1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). How solemn!

 

7. The coming of the Lord will mean rapture for the child of God. Notice in verse 1, “whom you desire”, and in verse 3, “Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness…” Do you delight in Him? We are awaiting the Son of righteousness (Malachi 4:2), so – look up 1 John 3:2-3!

 

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Great Questions in OT 9

Study 9                          IS NOT MY WORD LIKE FIRE?

(Scripture Reference: Jeremiah 23:29)

 

This verse is couched in the form of a simile because Jeremiah likens God’s Word to fire. Similes are used by the writers of books of the Bible, for we find God’s Word is also likened to: (1) A sieve to sift (Psalm 105:19); (2) A light to search (Psalm 119:105); (3) A hammer to break (Jeremiah 23:29); (4) A knife to cut (Acts 5:33); (5) A seed to sow (1 Peter 1:23); (6) A sword to kill (Hebrews 4:12) – and here, in our verse, the Bible is likened to: (7) A fire – to do what? Before we consider this, notice that in our key-verse we have:-

 

(1) The SOURCE of God’s Word. It is spoken of as “My word…” Notice also the words “declares the Lord”. The Bible is God’s Word. It is inspired and authoritative (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).

(2) The FORCE of God’s Word. It is said to be “like fire”; which is active, energetic and powerful. What a mighty force it is when it is released through the lips of the preacher and when it is received into the heart!

(3) The COURSE of God’s Word. If it is a force, having energy and drive, how does this force operate and along what lines does it proceed? In other words, in what way is God’s word like fire?

 

1. IT IGNITES THE SOUL

Fire ignites, and God’s Word sets light to men’s souls. Any gardeners will know what it is to clear up the dead leaves and weeds and place them in a pile for burning. The rubbish is heaped high, but it is only a dead mass until it is ignited – and then it goes up! By nature man’s soul is like the bonfire heap before the match has been put to it; it is dead, dry and an ugly mass! But God in His mercy and grace ignites man’s soul so that becomes alight and alive with divine life and light. The Holy Spirit applies the ‘match’ of God’s Word, which is “like fire”, for it begins a conflagration in the soul and sets it alive with the light and life of God. Has God’s Word set light to your soul, are you dead and lifeless?

 

2. IT BURNS THE CONSCIENCE

Fire burns. Put your hand into the fire and see if this is not so! God’s Word is the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to touch and burn our consciences, so that we become aware of the things that are displeasing to God and contrary to His will. Read John 8:1-9, and particularly notice verses 6-9. Jesus wrote on the ground, and His word was like fire; how it burned the consciences of the scribes and Pharisees! Does your conscience burn as you read Ephesians 5:25; 5:28 or Ephesians 5:29? There are three illustrations only of the way in which God’s Word is like fire in that when we read it and apply it to ourselves it burns our conscience, showing us the things that are grieving to the Lord and leading us to do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

 

3. IT PURIFIES THE LIFE

Fire purifies. We have an illustration in Isaiah 6:1-7, particularly verses 5-7. God’s Word is the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to effect this purifying of the life – look up Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; 2 Corinthians 7:1. What an argument this is for the regular studying of His Word to bring about a purified life.

 

4. IT ILLUMINATES THE MIND

Fire sends out an illuminating ray (Psalm 119:105,130). Compare Psalm 78:14. Fire sheds forth light. That is why we claim that the Bible is our all-sufficient guide for faith and practice. If we reject its authority the result is darkness, for only God’s Word illuminates the individual Christian and groups of His people.

 

5. IT ENERGISES THE WILL

If fire is put into a steam engine great energy is generated; and God’s Word in the hands of His Spirit energises the will of the Christian. It gives inward strength so that we desire not just to please Him, but have the will and strength to do so. Notice the psalmist’s constant prayer, such as Psalm 119:28. He is saying, ‘Let your Word come to me like fire, to energise me and fortify my will…’ Compare Ephesians 6:10, and link this with Ephesians 6:17.

 

6. IT WARMS THE HEART

We sit in front of a fire to be warmed, encouraged and cheered up; and God’s Word does just that. Often we are discouraged and downcast, despondent and cold. Then we attend church and hear His Word faithfully preached – or better still, in our personal devotions we faithfully read and take in the portion for the day – with what result? We are warmed, encouraged and cheered up. For three illustrations look up Psalm 39:2-3; Jeremiah 20:9; Luke 24:32-34.

 

7. IT FUSES THE FELLOWSHIP

Mix a heap of iron ore with some earth. How can the metal be separated from the earth to become a glowing mass? Well, the ore must be flung into a white-hot furnace and the fire fanned by a powerful draught so that it plays upon the mass of ore and earth until the dross separates from the metal, and the metal is then fused together into a molten mass. How can a variety of men and women, all different and imperfect, be welded together into one holy Christian fellowship? Only by the Holy Spirit’s work. See Acts 2:41-47 and compare Acts 4:32 to see this illustrated. We enjoy the truth of Galatians 3:28 when we receive and rejoice in the full inspiration and absolute authority of the Bible as God’s Word. It fuses us together and produces the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3,13). Is God’s Word working as a fire in your life?

 

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Great Questions in OT 8

Study 8             WATCHMAN, WHAT IS LEFT OF THE NIGHT?

(Scripture Reference: Isaiah 21:11-12)

 

In biblical times, when great cities were contained within high stone walls, it was customary to appoint watchmen who were stationed in special towers on the  walls of the cities. Their task was to raise the alarm if an enemy approached. Look up 2 Samuel 13:34; 18:24-27; 2 Kings 9:17; 2 Chronicles 20:24; Nehemiah 4:9; 7:3; Isaiah 62:6; Jeremiah 31:6. In chapter 21, Isaiah is assuming the role of an eastern watchman. Evidently the night is very dark and suddenly he hears footsteps approaching. To his relief it is not an enemy, but a friend who enquires how things are going, and he makes a careful reply. To see the relevance of these words for ourselves we need to recognise at once that they have to do with the unfolding of God’s prophetic programme, today and in the future. They have something solemn to say to us about events that will take place soon on the earth, and about the destiny of believers and unbelievers.

 

1. THE QUESTION THAT IS ASKED

Twice in verse 11 the question is asked, “Watchman, what is left of the night?” This repetition marks its urgency and the concern of the one who speaks. There is a note of anxiety as the questioner is asking, ‘How long will it be before morning comes?’  From this repeated question we learn two things:-

 

1. It is now the world’s night -time. Many people, of course, are benefiting from what is called our affluent society; many can say, ‘We’ve never had it so good!’ – and yet everywhere there is a deepening moral and spiritual darkness. Sin is rampant, selfishness abounds, man is greedy, and everywhere we hear of war, of want and of – night. In this 21st chapter of Isaiah there are three ‘burdens’ referred to:-  (1) The Burden of Babylon (verses 1-10), and the word “Babylon” means CHAOS.  (2) The Burden of Dumah (or Edom) (verses 11-12), and this word means TENSION;  and  (3) The Burden of Arabia (verses 13-17), and this word means SUSPICION, or contention. How aptly these three words describe the prevailing condition in the world today! – look up Luke 21:26. We are living in the dark, and it will get darker yet.

 

2. Christians are (to be) the Lord’s watchmen. As Christians we are His disciples to live for Him (John 15:8); His servants to labour for Him (Titus 1:1); His stewards to trade for Him (1 Corinthians 4:2); and His ambassadors to represent Him (2 Corinthians 5:20); but we are also to be His watchmen. We, as children of the light, are set in this dark world, and what is our task? To warn of danger ahead. This is the watchman’s special duty. He must be deeply concerned for the safety of souls – look up and compare Acts 20:20,26,27,31; and Colossians 1:28 with Ezekiel 33:7-9.

The world in which we live is spiritually and morally dark, and it will get darker. Our task as Christians, as children of the light, is to warn men and women of the increasing darkness and of the judgment if they do not find salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

2. THE REPLY THAT IS GIVEN

“Morning is coming, but also the night” is the reply in verse 12. This seems a strange answer; why did the watchman say “…but also the night?”  In the light of prophecy the answer is this: for the Christian the morning is coming; for the unbeliever the night of judgment is coming. If you are a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ your prospect is the coming of the dawn; if you are an unbeliever your prospect is the dark night of judgment. The “morning” speaks of the coming again of Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:16). Thank God we shall not experience the darkness of sin, of war, of want, forever. Look up Psalm 30:5.

 

1. The morning speaks of the certainty of His coming. Morning always follows night. The burden of biblical prophecy is the glorious truth of the certain return of the Lord Jesus.

 

2. The morning speaks of the nearness of His coming. Sometimes the night seems long, but relatively speaking the morning is always near, and so is the coming of Christ  – look up Romans 31:12 and compare James 5:7.

 

3. The morning speaks of the pure joy of His coming. See Malachi 4:2. What a relief it is when, after a long night of trial and difficulty, the morning comes!

 

With these thoughts in mind, look up and compare John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But how solemn to realize that it is not only the morning that is coming, but also “the night”! – unutterable joy for the Christian but indescribable sorrow, suffering and despair for the unbeliever. Night in scripture always means calamity (Job 35:10; Micah 3:6), and compare John 13:30 with 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. The Lord Jesus may return today, tonight, tomorrow…Will you be ready to meet Him when He comes?

 

3. THE APPEAL THAT IS MADE

“If you would ask, then ask; and come back…” is the appeal in verse 12. These words surely indicate that we are to preach the gospel to the unconverted and plead with them to come to Christ.

 

This is the appeal that we, as the Lord’s watchmen, are to make to people who are still in darkness and in the shadow of death. These words indicate what they must do to be ready when Jesus comes, ready to welcome Him and to escape the judgment that must fall upon the ungodly and the unbelieving.

 

What will it mean for you when Jesus comes – morning or night? – light or darkness? – deliverance or despair?

 

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Great Questions in OT 7

Study 7         HOW CAN A YOUNG MAN KEEP HIS WAY PURE?

(Scripture Reference: Psalm 119:9)

 

The answer to this important question is given in the second part of the verse – “…by living according to your word.” The Bible answers every question that is vitally important to us in this life and the life to come. Some people think the Bible is not relevant to us: for David or for Paul it was ideal in its teaching and application, and even for the Lord Jesus (the Old Testament was His Bible), but they think it is not relevant to our day. Such ideas are entirely wrong since it is the only book that speaks with authority about the great needs of time and eternity; it is the only guide to holiness, to a life that is pure, dedicated and pleasing to God. The Psalmist, who was deeply concerned about personal purity, was really saying, ‘What is the secret of personal, practical holiness?’

 

1. In Psalm 51:10 we read of a clean heart. But how can we have a clean heart?

2. In Isaiah 52:11 we learn of the importance of being clean before God can use us. But how can we be clean?

3. In Jeremiah 17:9 we read of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of our hearts. But how can our hearts be cleansed and changed?

4. In Matthew 5:8 we read about the pure in heart. But how can we gain this purity?

5. In Romans 7:18-24 we have a description of a struggle that we all experience. But how can we gain the victory?

6. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 we read of the importance of entire cleansing. How can this be?

7. In 1 Timothy 5:22 we read of the importance of personal purity. But how…?

 

This is the great question: How can I be clean? Carefully consider this:-

 

1. THE QUESTION THAT IS ASKED

“How can a young man keep his way pure?”  Notice three things:-

 

1. It is a plain question. There is nothing ambiguous or difficult about it; it means exactly what it says. Here is a young man, with a sinful heart, an offensive life, impure thoughts, dirty habits, foul conversation, his reading matter is vile, his relationships are immoral – how can this young man become clean? That is a plain question – look up Mark 1:40-41. Whether we are young or old, we know that the question touches our deepest need.

2. It is a priority question. This is the chief question we need to ask. There are other important questions, especially for young men and women, such as: How can I reform my ways? – but notice the question here is: How can I keep my way pure? This is not to do with education, a career, success, marriage, security, but it does have to do with the life and heart being pure. By nature we’re sinful and we’re surrounded by evil forces. Our eyes, lips, feet, hands and ears – they all want to sin. How can I be clean?

3. It is a practical question. It calls for action because it is not just a theoretical question. Psalm 119:9 is not simply beautiful poetry but the inspired testimony of a man who knew his deep need of cleansing and who also knew how that need could be met.

 

This great question contains: (1) an admission of need;  (2) a confession of desire; (3) a suggestion of urgency.

 

2. THE ANSWER THAT IS GIVEN

How can my heart and life be kept pure? – “by living according to your word.” Examine this sentence carefully and you will see there are three things to do:-

 

1. Stop in your tracks and give careful thought to your ways (Haggai 1:7).

2. Take yourself in hand. It is easy just to drift and to get more and more enmeshed in all the sordidness of sin. Do you read impure literature? Do you indulge in unclean habits? Do you foster unclean thoughts?

3. Apply the remedy. This simply means, take the Bible and apply it to every part of your life and conduct. That is the way to be cleaned up spiritually and morally.

 

But what does this mean? Psalm 119:9-16 gives us the answer. Verse 9 contains our key-verse – but the remaining verses will help us too:-

 

1. Verse 10 – Search your Bible and be ready to obey all that God commands. You will immediately begin to experience cleansing – look up John 15:3.

2. Verse 11. Let God’s Word enter right into you. It not only has the power to cleanse you but to keep your heart clean – look up Proverbs 4:23 to see why.

3. Verse 12 – Be humble, lowly and submissive. Notice the words “teach me”. You must do what Mary did (Luke 10:39) and take note of Matthew 11:29.

4. Verse 13 – Declare the truth of God’s Word in your daily walk and at your work. This will help you to exert a cleansing, purifying influence from day to day.

5. Verse 14 – Rejoice in God’s Word and treasure it above everything else. It is abiding and enduring (1 Peter l:25). Riches and possessions disappear; God’s Word abides!

6. Verse 15 – Learn, mark and inwardly digest God’s Word and never question what it says. To “meditate” means ‘to chew the cud’; to “respect” (KJV) means to submit to the fact that God’s will and His ways are always best.

7. Verse 16 – Persevere at this daily process:  take His Word, apply it, obey it and make it your all-sufficient rule for faith (what you believe) and practice (what you do).

 

Before long you will come to Calvary, recognise why the Lord Jesus died and shed His precious blood; you will discover how to be cleansed from the guilt and penalty of your sin (1 John 1:7). But you need to know that daily cleansing through His Word, when you humbly and in repentance confess to Him and receive the assurance of His forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

 

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Great Questions in OT 6

Study 6               WHY ARE YOU DOWNCAST, O MY SOUL?

(Scripture Reference: Psalm 42:11)

 

How grateful we must be that the psalmist David knew what it was to be depressed, despondent and dejected, otherwise we would have been deprived of many of his most helpful psalms! Two of these which are placed side by side are Psalms 42 and 43. They were obviously written at a time when this great man of God was very downcast. In Psalm 42 compare verses 3,5,7,9,10. It would be true to say that very few Christians escape the experience of depression, and writing of these verses C. H. Spurgeon said, ‘Most of the Lord’s family have travelled the path which is here so graphically described… This psalm is eminently calculated to instruct those pilgrims whose road to heaven is of the same trying kind as was the writer’s.’ This leads us to ask, what should we do when we are downcast?

 

(1) We may wallow in self-pity. Should we do this? No, a thousand times, no! This is the easiest thing to do when we are depressed, just to feel sorry for ourselves and to become completely preoccupied with ourselves.

2) We may complain. It is also very easy at such times to feel that everything is wrong, and to say so! – but we must not do this. Christians should not be grumblers – look up Exodus 16:8.

(3) We may burden others with our troubles. Of course, there is good therapy in sharing our burden with someone else, and there is a great ministry that we can exercise towards those who are depressed by seeking to help and encourage them, but when we are downcast we must be careful that we do not become a constant nuisance to other people.

(4) We may do nothing at all about it and just let the depression go on. This is wrong too, for when we are depressed some action is needed.

 

Study this psalm carefully to see that when David was downcast he took action in seven ways, and as he did this he experienced deliverance from his depression. What should we do then? What should you do?

 

1. GET ALONE WITH YOURSELF

It will help to get alone to some quiet place. David did this, and it is evident that he got alone with his own soul – compare verses 4 and 5. Life is so hectic and there is so much noise everywhere! Have you been alone with yourself lately? What a strange situation! It must be remedied. This is the first step if you would be delivered from your depression. But of course you must not stay alone with yourself, otherwise you will become more depressed than ever.

 

2. FRANKLY ADMIT THAT YOU ARE DOWNCAST

Notice that David did this, as verses 5 and 6 make clear. It is very noble in these circumstances to go about with a smile on our face, to give the impression that we are free from worry – but we should be honest and frank with ourselves about our true condition. We should say, “I am downcast.”

 

3. ENQUIRE THE REASON FOR IT

In verses 5 and 11 David asks, “Why?…Why am I like this?” – and we may ask the same question. There may be a number of reasons for your depression:-

 

(1) It may have something to do with your TEMPERAMENT. Some people always look on the black side of life; that is how they are made and they can’t help being negative.

(2) It may have something to do with your HEALTH. People in good health are often  bright and optimistic, after a time of illness can become depressed and despondent. Maybe your depression has been caused by overwork.

(3) It may be due to your CIRCUMSTANCES. Have you been experiencing persecution, as David did (verse 4)? Perhaps you have suffered bereavement or a great disappointment. All these things can bring us into a depressed state of mind.

(4) It may be due to a REACTION. Depression often follows after a long session of work, after studying for an examination, after a wonderful holiday, or after having made a very important decision.

(5) It may be due to SIN or DISOBEDIENCE, as was the case with Jonah (Jonah 2:5) and Peter (John 21:3).

 

4. SPEAK TO THE LORD ABOUT IT

Verse 6 tells us how well David did this and how wise it is when we are downcast to share our experience with the Lord. Pour out your troubles to Him and tell Him all about it, however wrong it seems to you to be feeling like this – and you will experience relief and release.

 

5. THINK ABOUT GOD

This is wonderful therapy for the despondent soul. David thought about the Lord as (1) the living God (verse 2);  (2) the helping God (verse 5);  (3) the delivering God (verse 6);  (4) the commanding God (verse 8); and (5) “my God” (end of psalm). You need to remind yourself that this God is your God.

 

6. PUT YOUR WHOLE TRUST IN GOD

Notice verse 5: “Put your hope in God” – compare Psalm 43:2-3. Faith has to be exercised. Faith is not just a mental conception, but it is reaching out and trusting God to do what He waits, wants and promises to do for us.

 

7. AFFIRM YOUR FAITH IN GOD

You must declare your faith in Him and express it, as David did (Psalm 42:5,8,11; Psalm 43:3-4. David was in fact saying, ‘It’s going to be all right!’

 

If, when you are despondent and dejected and very downcast, you will take these seven steps you will rise out of your depression into “inexpressible and glorious joy” which the Lord wants you to experience each day (1 Peter 1:8).

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

PO Box 334, EASTLEIGH, SO53 2UB, UK

www.wordsoflife.co.uk

Great Questions in OT 5

Study 5               WHAT WOULD WE GAIN BY PRAYING…?

(Scripture Reference: Job 21:15)

 

Many unbelievers ask this question, and sadly even Christian people ask it. There are some things that can only bring loss into our lives; we can think of certain habits, such as the use of alcohol or the practice of gambling, which can result in forming wrong habits. But there is one exercise which is always profitable, and that is the exercise of prayer. In the Bible we are commanded to pray (Luke 18:1) and encouraged to pray, and there are hundreds of promises that should inspire us to lay hold of God and bring our requests to Him. We are challenged to pray by the prayer lives of the Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul and others, and in this study we will notice some of these benefits that we can receive when we pray. Ross Rainey, an American writer, calls them ‘the by-products of prayer’.

 

1. When we pray our strength is renewed.

Read Isaiah 40:28-31 (KJV) and notice the argument here: God is great and He is our Creator; we are small, weak and frail. When we wait upon God in prayer He exchanges our weakness for His strength. How reasonable and logical this is! But the question is: do you believe this? Rainey, who we referred to earlier, points out that the word ‘wait’ (KJV) can have at least three meanings: first, it means to stop, as a father says to his child, ‘Wait here!’; second, it means to be in an attitude of expectation, as we might go to a railway station to meet a friend; third, the Hebrew word means ‘to bind together by twisting’. If we will pause in the hectic rush of life and wait before God in expectancy, we shall become entwined in His purposes and experience Ephesians 6:10.

 

2. When we pray our every need is supplied.

Read Matthew 7:7-11. Notice that these verses record something that Jesus said, and says, and can be summed up in the words, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” What is your need? – is it personal, a family or financial need? Does it have to do with property or investments, or some relationship? Read Matthew 7:7-11 again, and see how ready and willing the Lord is to hear and answer your prayer – but before He can answer, you must pray. How foolish we are to live like paupers, with such a promise in our hands! Look up James 4:2.

 

3. When we pray our inward joy is increased.

Read John 16:23-24. Here are Jesus’ words, and He tells us that when we present our requests to our Heavenly Father, in His Name, we shall receive the answer to our prayers, with the additional benefit of fullness of joy (John 2:7). Do you know this supernatural joy which is unaffected by testing and trials?     (1 Peter 1:8; John 15:11) Compare Nehemiah 8:10; Acts 5:41; Psalm 51:12.

 

4. When we pray our supply of grace is guaranteed.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. We read of the Apostle Paul’s very trying physical affliction which he describes as “a thorn in my flesh”. Although we are not told what it was he prayed three times that God would remove it; his prayers were urgent and persistent, and God answered his prayer – but not in the way he expected. God said, “My grace is sufficient for you” – after which Paul gave the most wonderful testimony in verses 9-10. This is an example of how God gives His grace – compare Acts 16:25; 2 Corinthians 9:8.

 

5. When we pray our hearts and minds are fortified.

Read Philippians 4:6-7, and see the promise of peace for heart and mind. The important word ‘and’ at the beginning of verse 7 links the two verses; and while verse 7 tells us of God’s peace, verse 6 speaks of the condition that must be met if we are to experience it. It is that “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” we are to make our requests known to Him. If we pray, God says our heart and our mind will be fortified (Isaiah 26:3).

 

6. When we pray our request for wisdom is answered.

Read James 1:5. What a promise this is! – and is there anything we need more each day than divine wisdom? We have to make decisions relating to our employment, to the matter of engagement or marriage, spending money, buying a house, selling a car… How easy it is to do the wrong thing! But if we come to God in our need and make our requests known to Him, He will give wisdom and will guide and guard us.

 

7. When we pray our fellowship with God is maintained and deepened.

Read James 4:8. This short sentence means that as we, with all our heart and mind, in humility and in sincerity, approach God to worship Him and make our requests, He actually begins to approach us – we feel His presence near us – see what David said about this (Psalm 73:28). It is amazing to think that we who are so weak, sinful and needy can come near to God, but how much more amazing it is that He, who is so great and loving, wants to come near to us! His is fellowship at the highest level.

 

We have heard that expression “Prayer changes things” – how true this is! – but have you ever thought that in fact prayer changes the pray-er? When we experience a renewal of strength, provision for our every need, His joy in full measure, His supply of sustaining grace, His peace to fill our hearts and minds, His heavenly wisdom, and the enjoyment of His constant presence, then we realize how beneficial it is to pray.

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

PO Box 334, EASTLEIGH, SO53 2UB, UK

www.wordsoflife.co.uk

Great Questionsin OT 4

Study 4             WHY IS THE HOUSE OF GOD NEGLECTED?

(Scripture Reference: Nehemiah 13:11)

 

This pertinent question was asked by Nehemiah of the rulers of God’s people. In those days God’s house and His holy things were neglected. Even God was forgotten, His day was disregarded and His Word and commands were disobeyed. It is easy, therefore, to see how very practical this question was when it was first asked, and how relevant it is to our day when the majority of people do not attend places of worship. Many who do attend church are formal, half-hearted and irregular in their attendance. In Nehemiah’s day a nucleus attended God’s house and were zealous, dedicated followers of the Lord. This has always been so, and only a minority has ever been willing to go on with the Lord. Jesus addressed His words to a small company of people (Luke 12:32); and all through the centuries it has been that minority who have maintained the Lord’s testimony. While we thank God for local revivals, generally speaking God’s house, His truth, His Word, the Spirit of God and the gospel are all neglected by the majority. Why are so many people outside His kingdom?

 

1. God’s house is neglected because of the spiritual condition of unregenerate human nature. We must begin here, for the fundamental reason why people do not seek God and desire His Word is because of the state of their unregenerate hearts. What is the spiritual state of someone who is not a Christian?

 

1. He is spiritually DEAD (Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 5:11).

2. He is spiritually BLIND (1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

3. He is spiritually ENSLAVED (John 8:34; Ephesians 2:2-3).

4. He is an ENEMY of God (Romans 5:10; Philippians 3:18).

 

This is God’s picture of the natural man and is summed up in Romans 3:11 – look it up! This is the fundamental reason why unsaved men and women do not want God or the things of God; this is why people do not attend church.

 

2. God’s house is neglected because very often there is no vital, soul-saving and heart-satisfying ministry and testimony in our churches. We say this to our shame. In many cases there is no message of authority being proclaimed from our pulpits; perhaps good advice is given, but little good news. It is a sad fact that there are many students in our theological colleges, and who minister from our pulpits, who no longer believe the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16); no longer preach the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:18); no longer invite sinners to be saved (Romans 10:1) – consequently our churches have been emptied or turned into little more than social centres; they have neglected God’s house.

3. God’s house is neglected because very often the lives of Christians have not commended the Church and the gospel. Every true Christian who longs for revival will agree that the unconverted can be repelled by the inconsistencies of Christians. How frequently our walk does not correspond with our profession – we squabble, we are mean or we are slick in business! Are we surprised that God’s house is neglected (2 Timothy 3:5)?

 

4. God’s house is neglected because many Christians are far less zealous in serving the Lord than those who follow false ideologies and serve the Devil. Have you thought of the tremendous zeal, energy and sacrifice made today by these adherents who are seeking to engulf the world in their false doctrines? Worldly people are keen in the pursuit of their pleasures, but how true it is that Christians can be lazy, careless and lukewarm (Isaiah 66:8; Amos 6:1).

 

5. God’s house is neglected because of a sinful lack of concern to draw outsiders inside. Our commission is clearly stated in Matthew 28:19, but are we obeying it? How wonderfully the early Christians obeyed (Acts 8:4)!  We so often wait for people to come to church; we long for this, but we are quite wrong in expecting them to come because our commission is not to build a church and then wait for them, or even to pray for them to come; our commission is to go after the people. When we have a concern to do this, they will have a desire to attend.

 

6. God’s house is neglected because we are living in “the last days”.

These days are clearly foretold in the New Testament as the days of alarming and increasing apostasy (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:1-5). Everywhere there is a falling away, and because of this there is a sense in which we may expect God’s house to be neglected. However it is wrong to excuse our prayerlessness, our indolence, our inconsistency and to blame the unconverted for their lack of interest in the things of God when we ourselves are really to blame.

 

7. God’s house is neglected because the Holy Spirit is hindered.

How is it that we long for revival and pray for it, but it does not come? One reason is that the Holy Spirit is grieved and quenched and He is not putting forth His power; He does not have that pure channel of separated, dedicated men and women through whom He can do His gracious work. He does not bless liberal preaching, prayerless churches, undisciplined Christians, and God’s house is neglected because God is angry with His people and cannot bless and use them as He would (Psalm 85:5).

 

(Let us give ourselves afresh and unreservedly to the Lord (Romans 12:1), seek first those things that will glorify Him (Matthew 6:33); be men and women of prayer and soul-winning (Acts 6:4); let us search our hearts and adjust our lives (Lamentations 3:40), and of course, honour the Holy Spirit).

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

PO Box 334, EASTLEIGH, SO53 2UB, UK

www.wordsoflife.co.uk

Great Questions in OT 3

Study 3                        HOW ARE YOU, MY BROTHER?

(Scripture Reference: 2 Samuel 20:9)

 

This question, asked by Joab of Amasa, could be asked of anyone. Today we might ask, ‘How are you keeping?’ – and the one we’re speaking to asks us the same question. What about your spiritual health – how are you spiritually? It is very possible for us to become spiritually unfit or unwell, and this may well describe the condition of the Church today. So, since it is important that we have a medical check-up from time to time, we must allow the Great Physician to examine us in His presence. This will mean praying the prayer that David prayed (Psalm 139:23-24). Are you prepared for a spiritual overhaul?

 

1. How are you? What is the temperature of your love for the Lord?

Very often a doctor will take the temperature of his patient as he begins the examination. What is the temperature of your love for God? – not of your love for His service, for His house, for His people or for His doctrines, but for Him, for the Lord Himself? Look up John 21:15-17. It is possible for any of us to lose our first love for Him (Revelation 2:4) – but what is the thermometer by which we can test that love? It is called obedience – look up John 14:15. We need to take our spiritual temperature at any time by asking ourselves whether we are obeying the Lord joyfully. Is it our burning desire to please Him, or do we love to please ourselves and go our own way (1 John 2:5)? The measure of our love for Him may be determined by our desire to do those things that are pleasing in His sight. I ask the question: How are you?

 

2. How are you? Is your pulse regular and normal?

This is something else that the doctor nearly always does when he first examines his patient. It gives him a good idea of the patient’s general condition simply by feeling his pulse. This should lead us to ask the question: Is our Christian experience steady, or is it erratic? Is it consistent or inconsistent? You may say, ‘But my temperament is a very difficult one.’ But whose temperament is not a very difficult one? The Lord knows all about it and He can make us the kind of people He wants us to be. He does this by leading us to experience the amazing truth of Romans 6:11 and Galatians 2:20. How are you?

 

3. How are you? – Do you have a good appetite?

This is a question the doctor will frequently ask, and our answer to it is a sure indication of good or bad health. Are we eating well and enjoying the right kind of food? What is the Christian’s right kind of food? It is the Word of God, and if we do not have enough of this we are sure to break down spiritually and to be ineffective in our fellowship with the Lord, with His people and in our Christian service. The way to become strong, robust and healthy is to feed deeply on the Word of God – to read it, meditate upon it, learn it and practice it (Psalm 119:2,4,10,11,18,24,27,33,40,54,97,103,129). How are you?

 

4. How are you? – Is your digestion all right?

Some people eat well and they need to assimilate the food so that it becomes a part of them and brings health to every part of their body. It is important that we as Christians not only eat God’s food but that we know how to digest it, and the Word becomes a part of us (Job 23:12; Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15). How is your digestion? What do you know of meditating in the Word? How are you?

 

5. How are you? – Do you have a contented mind?

Physical health, as well as spiritual health, is often wrecked by stress and anxiety. With some people it is a disease, because they keep complaining! Nothing is ever right, but it is sad if a Christian gets into this bad habit (Hebrews 13:5-6). Compare Philippians 4:11, where Paul knew the secret of spiritual health. How are you? If we really want a spiritual overhaul which will keep us spiritually healthy, we must tell the Lord everything – not that He needs us to tell Him, but there is great therapy in confession (Joshua 7:19-21; Ezra 10:11-12; 1 John 1:9). When leaving God’s surgery He will give us parting advice;-

 

1. Avoid everything that disagrees with your health – this is sound advice – to refuse anything that lowers the temperature of love for the Lord Jesus or that robs us of peace and power! This may mean avoiding wrong friends, and it will certainly mean avoiding certain places and certain literature.

2. Learn from the mistakes of the past and of other people. Many Christians are spiritually inactive and have fallen by the way. It is important, therefore, that we obey the often-repeated injunction in Scripture and pay careful attention (Hebrews 2:1). Compare Exodus 10:28; 2 Chronicles 19:6; Job 36:21; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 24:4; Mark 4:24.

3. Watch your imagination. Look up Proverbs 23:7. Perhaps we hear of someone who is suffering from a certain illness, and imagine that because we have a small pain in the same place we are suffering from the same serious disease!  Our imagination needs to be brought under control, as one version of Isaiah 26:3 reminds us: ‘You will keep him in soundness of health whose imagination stops at God.’

4. Have sufficient rest and exercise. Determine to live a well-rounded life and see that you live every day to the glory of God. Seek to be spiritually at your best for the Lord.

5. Forget yourself. How easy it is to be totally preoccupied with our own concerns! – but surely the advice the Lord would give us is to stop thinking about ourselves – look up John 3:30, and compare Hebrews 12:2.

6. Drink plenty of water. If you want to know the spiritual significance of this injunction, look up John 7:37-39.

7. Take yourself in hand, spiritually and physically. Recognise that your whole personality belongs not to you but to the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

PO Box 334, EASTLEIGH, SO53 2UB

www.wordsoflife.co.uk

Great Questions in OT 2

Study 2       WHAT DOES THE LORD YOUR GOD ASK OF YOU?

(Scripture Reference: Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

 

Have you ever seriously asked yourself, ‘What does God ask of me?’ This question was originally addressed to Israel (verse 12), but we are spiritual Israel; the Church of Christ is spiritual Israel, consisting of His own people (Acts 15:14). Although we know we are “not under law, but under grace”, the fact that we are under grace does not free us from the law (Matthew 5:17). Are we to renounce the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount or the Law of Love in 1 Corinthians 13 because we are not “under law” but “under grace”? Certainly not! Our great need today is to recognise as Christians the authority and relevance of God’s law for our day. God does not desire certain things of His children, but He requires them – “What does the Lord ask of you? Always remember that whatever God requires or asks of us is always for our good – look at the last four words in verse 13. Here we are considering something which is not optional but imperative. On what grounds does He make His demands? Moses and Aaron made certain demands of Pharaoh in the Lord’s name (Exodus 5:2) – see how Pharaoh replied. He did not know the Lord, but we do. Who is He that He should require certain things of us? Please read the following verses carefully and notice that they place before us a wonderful revelation of the Lord, the One who seeks to conform us to His requirements.

 

1. Verse 14. God is revealed as the creator and possessor of heaven and earth. It is as my creator that He comes and makes certain requirements of me.

2. Verse 15. God is revealed as the One who has chosen us for Himself. This is a humbling truth and is gathered up in that great New Testament verse of Ephesians 2:10. It is the One who has chosen me for Himself who comes and makes certain demands of me.

3. Verse 17. God is revealed as the Sovereign Lord. He not only made us but is the One who exercises authority over us, and it is His right to require that we do certain things.

4. Verse 18. God is revealed as the universal provider. How reasonable it is, therefore, that having provided all for us He requires certain things of us!

5. Verse 21. God is revealed as our Redeemer. He redeemed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, but we have been redeemed through the grace and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the bondage of sin and of the Devil – look up 1 Peter 1:18-19, and compare Deuteronomy 10:10-22.

 

What, then, are God’s demands? These are clearly set out in our key verses:-

 

1. “…to fear the Lord your God.”

This is His first requirement. What does it mean? Are we to be afraid of God? No – certainly not in the sense that slaves are afraid of their masters! This is not a carnal fear. We are not slaves; we are sons (Romans 8:14; 2 Timothy 1:7;     1 John 4:18). To “fear” the Lord means to trust Him, to act upon His Word and to fear to displease Him. Of the unregenerate we read that “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18); but what a different thing it is when we come to know the Lord as our loving Heavenly Father! Compare Genesis 22:12. Do we fear God like this?

 

2. “…to walk in all his ways.”

This may be very simply explained. By nature we go our own way (Isaiah 53:6), and we all like to get our own way and go our own way; but here is a question: Have you ever given up your own will to go God’s way? – compare Deuteronomy 10:16. The word ‘circumcise’ indicates separation and submission. God’s way is always best – look up and compare Psalm 18:30 with Psalm 145:17 – now look up Psalm 27:11, and compare Acts 9:6. We must come to the point where we desire God’s ways with all our heart.

 

3. “…to love him.”

Notice that God does not require simply that we love His service, His house or His truth; the question He put to Peter was this: “Do you truly love me?” (John 21:15-17). Surely if we truly love Him we shall automatically hate evil and the things that He hates (Psalm 97:10), compare Proverbs 6:16-19. What does the Lord ask of you but to love Him?

 

4. “…to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

The whole thought here is of undivided loyalty, and of course the primary service that He requires is indicated in Romans 12:1. Have you ever really given your body definitely, deliberately, voluntarily and completely to the Lord? See Romans 12:1. Have you systematically yielded the members of your body to Him – your eyes, your ears, your lips, your hands, your feet (Romans 6:13)?

 

5. “…to observe the Lord’s commands.”

This seems to gather up all that God is saying into one simple statement. Deuteronomy 10:13 should be our main desire, our primary concern, our burning passion – to observe the Lord’s commands, for they are always for our good. Remember that if we keep them, we must know what these commands are; we must immerse ourselves deeply in the Word of God; we must love the Bible, read it, study it and meditate in its truth and teaching, that it may never be said of us what Jesus said of people many years ago – look up Matthew 22:29. The most joyful people in this world are those who know God as their loving Heavenly Father and who seek to do those things which He asks of them, for their own good and for His glory.

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

PO Box 334, EASTLEIGH, SO53 2UB, UK

www.wordsoflife.co.uk

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