Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at The Word of God P45 (05-19-21)
As we are looking at the application of the word of God in our lives, we ask ourselves, “How do we do this?” Do we obey because it is a command of God, and therefore, we must do it? If the law says, do not steal, then should I not steal? The law is holy, righteous and good, but there is a deeper problem in the heart of man. If we try to live the Christian life that way, that would be putting ourselves back under a law that the Jews lived under in an Old Covenant system, and the entire Old Testament is a history of their failure, yet also of God’s faithfulness. Such a system says that you are cursed if you do not continue to do everything written in the law. The law, and what Jesus explains concerning the law, buries us, showing us our unrighteousness that we might see our need of a Saviour and look for Him to save us from ourselves, our condition of death.
So then how can we live the Christian life? The quick and direct answer is that we cannot do it. The law shows us we cannot do it. Jesus came to explain the meaning of the law, the interior issues of the heart, so we may see our condition of spiritual death so as to see our need for a savior. Then to see His righteousness, in contrast to seeing our own unrighteousness, that we might desire His. So, the desire of God is that by sending Jesus to the rescue, we might turn to Him through Jesus Christ for the life He came to give.
Jesus, being God in the flesh, is the only one who can and did live a perfect life, and he lived it in love, because God is love. So He is reaching to mankind to come to the living God for life you and I never had so we may live as God intended. We were never designed to live independently from God, but in vital union with Him, in a dependent relationship, where He is the one who perfectly loves me and cares for me, and I can trust Him, who created me, to supply all my needs according to His riches in glory. The love of God is the key ingredient to all that mankind needs to live in the new way of the Holy Spirit, which has been poured into our hearts, when we came to Christ by faith.
So as you listen or read the transcript, with additional scriptures provided, ponder over the heart of God, the attitudes of the heart of God towards us, and see what kind of response that produces in you. You will see that the natural response to dealing with anxiety and worry, a critical spirit, the trials and tribulations of life, and even dealing with your enemies or a brother or sister who hurt you, is in proportion to your understanding of God’s forgiveness, provision, care and concern, to you personally, and indeed the revelation of the very nature of God Himself. For God is perfect love, totally truth, totally noble, totally right every time, never been wrong, totally pure, totally lovely, absolutely admirable, absolutely excellent, and I tell you, worthy of praise.
So we turn our eyes on Jesus, and allow the attitude of His heart toward us to be that source of life that we draw from, that bubbles out of us, and flows out of us into the lives of others. As the attitudes of heart in Christ Jesus are revealed to you and me, our life then becomes a living example of what Jesus was talking about in the parable of the vine and the branch in John 15. That is the best illustration of how the Christian life is to function.
We began the lesson on James 1:22.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it- not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.
What it is dealing with there is looking at that perfect law that gives freedom, and that, of course, is love. Without love we have absolutely nothing. That is what the whole thing is dealing with.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
When we are talking about biblical application and applying the word of God, everything must begin with that vantage point of love. If that is not there, then anything we do is absolutely of no consideration whatsoever. So I believe one of the things we have done in Christendom is to place great emphasis on all of the things that the bible tells us what to do. As an example, to think upon things that are true, noble, right pure, lovely and admirable, but to try to do those things without love is an impossibility.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Again, if you could do all of those things without love what in the world would it mean? So what we do is put the cart before the horse in many instances, and to realize that these things he is talking about are a by-product of being filled and controlled by the love of God, the very thing that Paul was praying for in Ephesians.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled [or controlled by] to the measure of all the fullness of God.
When you are talking about focusing on application, there is no way to focus on application unless we are resting in the promises of God. There is one thing I noticed about that is when a person is walking by faith in the promises of God, there is nothing to prove. You do not have to go out and prove yourself. I do not have to go out and make myself worthy. I have already been made that way. I do not go out and work in order to be worthy. I work from my worthiness. God made me worthy, nothing I did in and of myself. God made me that way so you work from that vantage point. That is like forgiveness that we are going to talk about.
I do not work in order to be forgiven. I forgive because I am already forgiven. I do not go out and work to make myself righteous. It is because I have already been made righteous that you go work. All these things tie in, but, like I said, we put the cart before the horse. Everyone is trying to function with legalistic obedience before we ever get in love.
We talk about the three-fold element of the Christian life, which is my love of God. And it is not that I loved Him but He loved me first. But it is my love of God that results in my dependence upon God that then results in my obedience to God, in that order. We are out trying to get people obedient to God before we get people in love with God. You cannot be in love with God until you understand His love for you.
So it is easy to see isn’t it, that all of this ties into the love of God.
In prior lessons, we talked about dealing with anxiety and worry, to cast all our cares upon Him. Why? Because He cares about you. If you do not understand that He cares for you, why would you cast your cares upon Him? That would be like going to Him and casting your cares on someone you thought hated your guts. That would not make any sense.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Why would your requests be made known unto God unless you knew that there was a God who loved you perfectly, a God who desired to give you peace, because that is a by-product of doing that?
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Why would you want to commit your problems and your anxieties to God if you did not know He loved you and cared for you? So just doing it for the sake of doing it is not the issue. The issue is to do it because you know why you are doing it. That, of course, is what caused so much confusion in the book of James.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[or dead]?
True faith in the love of God is going to produce a heart of love, and therefore, actions of love. And if your heart is not filled with the love of God, then it will produce attitudes of a Pharisee. Yet we have everybody out trying to do instead of being. As I said before, that is why God made human beings instead of human doings. On the other hand, if I truly understand my identity, and the more I see that, the more I become convinced of the unbelievable importance of that, the more I see my identity in Christ, then I work from the vantage point of who I am instead of doing in order to be. It is the same thing we talked about in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, a very familiar passage.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I have heard that taught many times, and you hear this, that people are more engrossed in grammar than in what the word of God is trying to say. You hear that all the time. “In the Greek tense, that is a command. Here is God commanding.” It is like saying, “He commanded, so love God.” Go try that on based on a command. So what we are talking about, that being a command of God, that is ludicrous. When I hear that it turns my stomach. I do not care what tense is in the Greek language. Do not come up with that is a command of God.
What He is saying is to give thanks in all things. There is a by-product. It is a by-product of something. Do you love your wife? Yes. Then serve her. There is a command. Does that mean, “Okay, I will go serve the old bitty. I do not love her but I will go serve her.” That is not it. It is a by-product of love. Do you understand that God is causing all things to work together for our good? Yes, I do. How come? Because of His love.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
If that is the case, then give thanks in all things. Do not be sitting around trying to take things into your own hands. You can give thanks in all things for this is the will of God for you concerning Christ Jesus. It is a by-product. That is what we have to understand, that there is a by-product. The by-product is where the obedience comes in.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
We talked about dealing with problems, about considering it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds. How come? Those trials that the world is going to bring upon you is going to bring faith in God if you have faith in God. It is not going to bring faith in God if you do not have it. If you do not believe God loves you, it is also not going to develop anything except fear when you run into problems because you think God is causing those. No, the world causes those. But if you can have faith in Me in the midst of that, that faith in Me is going to develop perseverance until you are going to come to the place of hope in Christ Jesus as Paul said.
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Perseverance is hanging in there with God. That perseverance produces godly character and that character produces hope in Christ.
5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
As we were talking about, until we come to grips with the love of God, we really do not have anything to fear from anybody. As you read in the passage in Romans 5:3-5, you see that “because” in there and that is a very important “because”. He talks about rejoicing in our sufferings. That is an unpopular mindset to anyone who does not understand the love of God. Many times we think God is putting His suffering on us, thinking it is His way of disciplining us and His way of keeping us under control. But He said in this world, you are going to have tribulation. And He says God tempts no one. For us to think God is putting our problems upon us is ludicrous. The world puts problems upon us.
John 16:33 (NASB)
33 These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
You are in this world but you are not of it. Inasmuch you are in it, but not of it, you are going to be subject to it. It is like a ship in the water. The ship is in the water, but it is not of the water. It would be like saying the captain of the ship is causing the storm. And he is out there causing the storm. Here the storm comes and the waves are battering the sides of the ship and it gets tossed to and fro. So, such thinking is like saying to that lousy captain, “What is he doing to us?” “Well, I am trying to develop your faith.” That is ludicrous. What we realize it is the ocean, the elements, that are battering against the ship, the captain is saying, “Trust in me and I will get you out of here.” There is no person on that ship who is going to be able to ride through that storm and take the ship to its final destination. That is the job of the captain. If you have been in enough storms of life and had seen the talent of the captain, and seen the proficiency of his ability to get that ship through the worst of storms into safe harbor, what would it do? It would build your faith in who? In the captain. You would recognize faith that you did not know you had before.
It also reminds me of airline pilots. Airline pilots get very good salaries. When you have a nice flight and you take off, and it is a smooth takeoff, a very smooth flight with a very smooth landing, hardly knowing you hit the ground. And, after landing, the pilot stands in the doorway and says, “Thanks for using American.” You might say, “That guy is overpaid.” But you get in a storm and you land safely after that, you say to the pilot, “Praise God for you.” His worthiness of being a pilot is how he will respond in an emergency, not in how everything is going to happen when things are going well.
It is kind of like the storms of life. That captain did not bring about the storm. The last thing he wants in life is a storm. But when he is in it, he is trained to be proficient in how he handles it. What does that do? It builds confidence in the captain. When we go through sufferings, we know that suffering brought about through life brought about perseverance. It is the ability to hang on there with God. It produces character. It is the kind of character that says, “If God is for me who can be against me?” It is the kind of character that Paul says He has become convinced of. What is that?
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Character produces hope. What kind of hope? First of all, I am going to get through the storm. Secondly, if I go through this again, I will get through the storm. I just have this hope built up in me that nothing can separate me from God. Therefore, I do not have to fear tomorrow or be anxious about tomorrow because I know my captain is with me. Why does this hope not disappoint us? Here is the “because”.
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
If God loved you and me so much that he poured out all of His love into our hearts through His Holy Spirit, then why should we not be able to trust Him in the trials and tribulations that come our way in life?
Another disgusting thought that sometimes hits is when we have an enemy, and to realize God loves them as much as He loves you. It is a disgusting thought yet a true one. As we discussed previously, about dealing with a critical spirit toward others, I do not know about you, but probably a critical spirit is something that God reminds me of constantly. It is very difficult to be in Christian work and not have a critical spirit to what you see going on. But again, what is going on is not what causes my nature. It just reveals it.
If I did not have a critical nature or a critical spirit, within me, circumstances could not get it out of me. In other words, you cannot stir up beans in a pot unless beans are in there. So when that spirit comes out of criticism, what it is revealing is where I am walking at this particular time in life and in the midst of this particular circumstance. Am I walking in the flesh, giving into the desires of the flesh, that are always in contrast to the desires of the Spirit, or am I walking dependent upon the desires of the Spirit, to love my brother in the midst of whatever is taking place? It reveals to me where I am walking.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
We have a tendency to resist that because we rationalize that, as we always rationalize everything. That is precisely why God said you cannot eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You do not have the ability to determine that. You will rationalize your own actions and justify them at any cost. So we rationalize those attitudes we have toward others around the fact that they deserve that. They need to be chomped on. On the other hand, you look at that and say, “What good does that critical spirit do for them and what good does it do for you? Normally, if you had a critical spirit toward somebody, it says to go to them and straighten it out. That is good advice.
15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[Deuteronomy 19:15]
If you have ought against a brother, go to them and straighten it out. If you do not go to them and straighten it out, then you will have a critical spirit toward them. Not only are you going to be angered by what they have done to you, but if you do not go to them and straighten it out, you will go through all kinds of vain imaginations of what they are continually doing to you. For that is the way Satan works.
10 The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
So instead of thinking upon those things, because as we think, we feel, and as we think and feel, we will do. Instead of that, we are told in scripture to do this.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
There is something we talked about earlier on that if I am going to think upon things that are true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and praiseworthy, there is not anybody that I know of that I can think about those things, including myself. I surely cannot be thinking about me, for I am not true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and praiseworthy. As much as I hate to say that, I cannot even think that about you. That is just factual. There is only one person, if I am going to think of those things, that comes to my mind with those characteristics. Who do you think about when you think about someone who is totally truth, totally noble, totally right every time, never been wrong, totally pure, totally lovely, absolutely admirable, absolutely excellent, and I tell you, worthy of praise, who would you think of? Jesus is the only one I could think of.
What is he saying here? If you are going to think about those things, get your eyes on Jesus. Sounds familiar? Turn your eyes upon Jesus. If you are thinking about Jesus in regard to those things, that Jesus who is pure and praiseworthy and wonderful and right, is the one that also loves that person who has harmed you. There is no way to keep thinking about those things in that manner without ultimately where that bitterness and that strife begins lessening. There is no way for that not to occur.
That brings us to the meat of our lesson today, as we come to this subject of forgiving one another. Again, we are going to forgive one another in direct proportion to the way in which we think God forgives us. In the Old Covenant, which Jesus amplified while he was here on earth, explaining the stringency of the law, in the Old Testament, the Jews had the law but they did not know what it meant. They thought it was exterior. Therefore, they camped on the exterior. Then they built laws as fences around the ten to keep them from disobeying those laws on the exterior, on the outside. That is precisely why Jesus said to the Pharisees that they are a whitewashed sepulchre. In other words, you got yourself all cleaned up on the outside, but you are dirty on the inside. Why did he say that? In order to show that the purpose of the law was not to clean up your outside, but to show you the absolute destitution of your inside. You may be able to clean yourself up to a degree on the outside, but God is looking on the heart. When you realize that God is looking at the heart, you realize that there is none righteous, no not one.
26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; [Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20]
So Jesus, when he was here on earth, he came to amplify the law. In the Old Testament, the law was proclaimed. When Jesus came, he came to explain what was proclaimed. He then not only explained the stringency of the law, he proclaimed the introduction to grace. Then you see ultimately in the Pauline writings how Paul explained grace. Jesus proclaimed it. Paul explained it. The Old Testament law proclaimed the law. Jesus explained the law.
1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
6 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
We are dealing with this area of forgiveness. We talked about the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant and under the Old Testament and under law, which Jesus came to explain, in his explanation of what it was, in order to get the attention and understanding, in many instances, of what he said was devastating to the hearer because they had had hundreds of years believing that what they were doing was making them righteous in the sight of God. A man could sit here for example and say, “I have never committed adultery. I am just as faithful as can be, so I am righteous in the sight of God.” Jesus comes along and asks, “Have you ever lusted in your heart?” “What does that have to do with anything?” It has everything to do with it. From God’s vantage point, it is the same as adultery. If you can think it, you can do it. That began to bury people. What I mean is it began to allow people to see that I do not have any hope. The bible put it another way. It silenced every mouth before God.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[Exodus 20:14] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
A person can say “I never murdered anyone.” Today you hear that. It is very prevalent in people’s minds. “Are you going to heaven?” “I never hurt anyone. I never killed anyone. I never committed adultery. I have just been a real good person.” It sounds good. There is something in the human mind that would say that ought to qualify. But God sees our hearts. The bible tells us that our hearts are wicked and deceitful above all things and who can know them.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
So Christ being here on earth, he served a phenomenal purpose. Through his life, he showed man what perfect righteousness is like, not only on the outside but on the inside. In so doing, he silenced the mouth of any man in ever obtaining the righteousness of God in and of himself. In showing the entire world, not through their outward action, but through their heart, that all have sinned. Any man should be able to realize that. When you realize that God looks upon your heart, that all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God, there is none righteous, no not one.
If that is the case, then from God’s vantage point, if man is ever going to be made acceptable in the sight of God, then forgiveness had to take place and God chose to do that. Not only did he choose to do that as God, to forgive me, but he then turned around, and said to me, “Bob, on the level of the soul, that is spiritual forgiveness, but there is a human need to be forgiven by one another.” There is a human need to forgive one another. Just like there is a human need to give. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Until you do that you will not know that. There is something consistent with being human, whereby forgiving one another, sharing with one another, giving to one another, does something inside of us that is healthy and good and productive.
13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
So God forgave us all of it, all of our sins. In the Old Testament and in the Old Covenant, it is as we quote the Lord’s prayer. Was that the New Covenant? No. The New Covenant did not go into effect until the cross. Jesus spent his physical life showing men what true righteousness was and in so doing showing them their own unrighteousness because he was heading to a cross to forgive that unrighteousness and to cleanse man from all unrighteousness. But if man does not see his condition, why would he ever need to turn to Christ? So, he said, under the law, which I am teaching the meaning of the law, if you ask God to forgive you under an Old Covenant, you are saying, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive one another.”
15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.