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Archive for June, 2010

In my forthcoming commentary on 1 Thessalonians, I write the following concerning 1 Thess. 4:3-8 and sexual immorality:
The Greek word translated “immorality” (porneia) referred to any sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman alone; thus, fornication, adultery and homosexuality are all condemned by God and will be judged by Him, as we’ll see later.

Of course, there is certainly forgiveness for sexual sin; v.3 is referring to those who engage in sexual immorality and do not repent of it; the warning is extended to the church (vv.4-8) not to succumb to the societal pressures to give in to it, to tolerate it, or to go back to it.

But while God will forgive sexual immorality (let’s include pornography here, for that is essentially the desire to have sex with what a person watches), sexual sin also has consequences – and not just the acquiring of sexually transmitted diseases!

Whenever a person has sex with someone who is not his or her spouse, that person becomes one with the other person (1 Cor. 6:16). Soul ties are developed with that person and unless those are broken through prayer and repentance, the person who commits that sexual act is emotionally and spiritually engaged to that person.

When he or she is emotionally and spiritually engaged to that person and then enters into another (hopefully marital) relationship, more than two parties are involved and problems ensue that neither person may even understand.

Moreover, since God cannot bless sexual immorality, a person’s conscience is defiled, character is weakened and the chances of a successful relationship later in life within a marriage are diminished. No wonder Paul tells us that “Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).

Let it also be emphatically said here: There is no such thing as a person having a homosexual orientation, just as no one is “oriented” to commit fornication, adultery, murder, stealing, child abuse, etc.

Such a lifestyle is a preference and any homosexual can be delivered from such a lifestyle, just as an alcoholic or drug addict can be delivered from those powerful intoxicants.

It is true that a variety of outside circumstances can cause a person to be vulnerable to sexual sin; the same also holds true for alcoholism or drug abuse. But God is well able to deliver a person from whatever sinful trap he or she falls into – if the person will cry out to Him and then obediently live in the center of His will.

I grieve for our own culture that is so quickly abandoning the dignity of a Christian foundation upon which this nation began for an increasingly pagan culture. The result is an ever-widening and deeper society that is broken personally, culturally and among families.

Even more serious, people who habitually engage in sexual immorality and still think they’re Christians are deceiving themselves into hell (1 Cor. 6:9-10; cf. Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8; 22:15).

“Vessel” (v.4) is another word for body. To “possess” one’s own body is to gain mastery over it through self-control, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22f). The man or woman who exercises it has the greatest of peace, joy, liberty and power, all what our generous Lord delights in and desires that we have in abundance!

Those who do not exercise self-control are those who are ultimately not free (John 8:34). Christians who are involved in immorality treat the things of God in a profane manner (in contrast to a holy or sanctified manner) and bring dishonor to them and to God. This is why Paul connects “sanctification and honor” because “sexual immorality brings dishonour and shame.”

The contrast between self-control (v.4) and “lustful passion” (v.5) is highlighted in the difference there should be between a child of God and the “Gentiles.”

Moreover, sexual immorality affects not only the individual but others as well – another reason God takes sex sins so seriously. This is why Paul, inspired by God, calls sex with another outside of marriage a transgression and a defrauding of another (v.6).

To “transgress” meant to exceed the proper limits and has the sense of getting the better of another. To “defraud” meant to claim more or have more than one’s due; to selfishly attempt to gain more at all costs and with all means, disregarding others and their rights.

A marriage is generally thought not to be consummated without intercourse (unless the couple is unable), which is the sealing of what is supposed to be a deep, spiritual covenant between a man and a woman.

To have intercourse with another apart from marriage and God’s blessing is to sin, or transgress against that person, again violating the man or woman at the deepest level. To defraud also means, in this case, to fail to deliver what has been promised.

The sex act outside of marriage is initially done for pleasure (physical and/or emotional) and to satisfy lust in its various forms, including emotional lust. It further defrauds both parties because neither person is able to provide the life-long commitment to the other designed by God.

This is not to say people who live together apart from marriage are unable to provide a life-long commitment to one another; rather, they are living outside the will and blessing of God. Because they’re created in God’s image, they’re capable of loving each other. But that does not change the fact that they are still in rebellion against Him.

People think they get away with sex sin because God doesn’t necessarily appear to deal with them immediately (though pregnancy or venereal disease and AIDS may immediately result), but He actually speaks to their conscience right away to warn them.

And note also in v.6 that Paul calls Jesus (in context – v.2 – Jesus is “the Lord”) the “avenger in all these things” (cf. 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Cor. 4:5; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:5-6).

Certainly because of technology and the rejection of the biblical world-view, our culture no longer treats sex as something special and sacred, but rather as cheap and common and to be gotten at all costs.

From God’s point of view, sex is an expression of what should be the deepest level of intimacy between a man and woman, in addition to the physical pleasure and procreation it results in (we should remember that sex is God’s idea and His gift to men and women!).

Finally, sex sin always starts with the thought life, which is why it is imperative to protect the mind by consistent use of spiritual authority and the choosing of a holy lifestyle, especially in the things we watch and listen to.

To emphasize: God is for sex! He created it for pleasure, intimacy and procreation! But just as in any other aspect of life involving the choice between His will and man’s rebellion, sex outside of God’s will always come to judgment, again, as we have just seen in v.6.

 The importance of sanctification can be seen in its repetition for the third time (v.7) in vv.1-7. Paul concludes this poignant and somber passage (v.8) with the utmost authority, recognizing his own writing to be inspired by God and with authority equal to that of the Old Testament.

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“Sanctification” (cf. 1 Thess. 4:3) is the life-long process of yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. v.8) within us so that we become more like Jesus.

It also means to be “set apart” to God and from the things of this world and life that would defile us. The result of this is true freedom in life and a fulfillment of the destiny that God has for each of us who name Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

This is what we were born for: to live for and glorify Him!

How do we walk in this “sanctification”? We yield to the work of the Holy Spirit by renewing our minds with the most precious thing on this earth: His Word (Rom. 12:1-2), by daily learning to pray and hear God’s voice (note Paul’s emphasis upon prayer in this letter), through a lifestyle of praise and worship and by fellowshipping with other believers.

All the above brings joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Pet. 1:18). Isn’t that what you really want in life?

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I’ve been meditating upon Mt. 24:42-51 the past few days and delighting in how much there is in that passage. The implications — both positive and negative — are enormous!

I’m astounded at the goodness of God in His desire to reward and to bless — His intent — but His justice and judgment will come to those who willfully neglect the sinless Son of God who came to take upon Himself our millions and millions of sins.

Are you ready for Christ’s return? Are you preparing yourself for it by being eager for Him to return — or are you so enmeshed with the things of this world that you’re like the five foolish virgins of the very next passage in Mt. 25:1-13?

I’m preaching on this very theme, but from a different passage, this Sunday.

Here is the passage from Mt. 24:42-51: 42″Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

45″Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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I’m revising my commentary on Revelation and just finished 10:11 when I wrote this thought: it is indeed an amazing thing to contemplate that John’s writings in Revelation – confined as he was to the little island of Patmos — have circled the globe!

Indeed, John would finish the last book of the best-selling Book in human history. And since he finished Revelation, that book alone has caused such wonder among all the peoples of the earth.

I believe John could not have imagined — sitting on that island in the Mediterranean Sea — what a far-reaching effect his book would have.

How could he have possibly known? But maybe that is precisely the point; God calls us to obey and leave the results to Him. We never know how far-reaching those results may be!

But God certainly knew! What a faith-building thought that our God can use what seems like a waste of time or something that seems hopeless or impossible to do things that are unimaginable, except to the eye of faith!

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As part of my devotional reading, I’ve been lately reading through Ps. 119 and Genesis. This morning I came to Ps. 119:160-168 and was so refreshed and inspired by these verses; I’ll list a few of them to help make my point from the title of this blog:

160 The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. 162 I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil. 163 I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law.

164 Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous ordinances. 165 Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.

On the other hand, God’s clear and gracious word to Adam and Eve to eat from “any tree of the garden…freely” (Gen. 2:16) was met with stiff opposition in the form of a very subtle question by Satan, designed to implant a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind and heart – in order to get her to rebel against God (Gen. 3:1-7).

Here is what Henry Morris writes in his commentary on Genesis about Satan’s act and nature in successfully deceiving Eve:

If one studies each situation closely enough, he will find that sin always begins by questioning either the Word of God or the goodness of God, or both. This is the age-old lie of Satan, the lie with which he deceived himself in the first place (through his desire to become God Himself: Is. 14:14; Ezek. 28:17), and which succeeded so well with our first parents that he has used ever since (110).

Instead, we ought to always follow Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), the outstanding Christian philosopher and theologian of the eleventh century, whose approach to Scripture he coined as “faith seeking understanding.”

This follows closely the Early Church Father Augustine (354-450), who wrote in his Tractate 29 on John 7.14-18, “I believe in order to understand.”

Any relationship of worth is based upon trust; if we really trust God, we’ll trust His Word, which is absolutely certain and reliable.

It is no wonder that He tells us in Heb. 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him.”

Do you value God’s Word more than anything else? Are you getting it deeply inside of your heart so that His Word results in a deeper trust of Him – and a deeper relationship with Him?

May His grace abound over all of us in this area!

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Love ones, how are you doing in the way you speak to others? The Holy Spirit dwells in you; do you work together with Him to be His blessing to others in the way you speak to them?

I’ve always believed there is great power and freedom in the way I speak to others – especially be appreciating them, encouraging them and speaking faith, hope and destiny into them.

Here are some verses from Proverbs 18 that inspire me to turn around and pray in the first-person, asking God to help me to carry them out:

20 With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

2 A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.

I’m especially concerned for marriages as I write this. One of the best things you can do for your marriage is to ask God to give you His heart for your spouse and then to speak to your spouse the way He speaks to you – with constant encouragement, faith, hope and love.

If you carry any bitterness toward your spouse, you’ll have a hard time in the way you speak to him or her – but if you choose to walk in forgiveness, you’ll find it much easier to build your husband or wife up – or anyone else, for that matter.

I trust you’ll take this message to heart and pray over verses like those above; if you put this into practice, you’ll see amazing results!

Pastor Brad

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I just found out that the trip I’m leading to Israel in March, 2011 still has room to accommodate more people, so I’m opening it up to people who are not part of the church I pastor!

I led a trip there in 1999 and all 25 of us had an extraordinary time; this trip will be even better, for too many reasons to go into here.

But if you’re interested, here’s the link; feel free to email me at brada@southhills.cc if you have any questions as well!

http://www.internationalchristianjourneys.com/pdfs/My_Group_Tour_Abley_3-28-2010.pdf

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