Hidden Treasures

The Bible is much more than a book of religion.

Suffering series #1: Bitter or Better

 

God is at work in the life of every Christian beautifying us and fully equipping us to serve Him. Every circumstance He allows us to face is for our good and for His glory. Romans 8:28  The church is not only a spiritual health clinic, but it is also a beauty salon.  Faithful pastors and teachers are not only spiritual doctors, but also spiritual beauticians  who use God's Word to deal with spiritual infirmities and  to remove spots and blemishes from our lives.  Ephesians 4:11-13;   5:25-27

When it comes to our natural bodies, most of us have the good sense to go to our doctor or health practitioner who examines us and  tells us the truth about ourselves and prescribes the remedy.  However, when it comes to  spiritual needs, many Christians avoid preachers who tell them the truth about their spiritual ills and prescribe for them Biblical solutions.  Instead, they  flock to those preachers who tell them what they want to hear about themselves, help them feel good about themselves and provide for them exciting "worship experiences".   II Timothy 4:2-4

Why does God allows difficult circumstances in our lives?

When confronted by Biblical truth we all make a choice.  We either receive the truth and become better,  or we reject the truth and become bitter.   When the child of God rejects the truth,  God in His love for us, takes more drastic measures by allowing disappointments and often tragedies in our lives. It's times like this that we have the opportunity to submit to God and become better Christians, or else we rebel against Him and become bitter Christians.  Hebrews 12:5-17

In the past year you have no doubt faced some difficult circumstances that are absolutely beyond your control. Some of you have had to deal with some unreasonable, cruel people in your life.  How have you responded to this? Do you feel that you have been tossed around by an uncaring God and have you grown bitter;   or have you recognized these  unkind, uncaring people and difficult circumstances as God's tools to make you more saintly? 

How can we attract people to Jesus?

If we are to be winsome  to the lost, attract people to Jesus and reflect His glory,  we must radiate the beauty of Christ. in all our relationships with others.  Ask God to remove all trace of bitterness from your life.  Get under the faithful preaching of the Word,  submit yourself to God and let Him make you a better Christian.

Albert Orsborn wrote a little chorus we used to sing as young people.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity;

Oh, Thou Spirit Divine,

All my nature refine

Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. 

May 9, 2006 Posted by | Suffering | Comments Off on Suffering series #1: Bitter or Better

Spiritual Barrenness

 

In Luke 13:6-9 Jesus, using  a parable of a barren fig tree, speaks to us of the shame of spiritual barrenness.

 

Fig trees and olive trees, as well as grape vines,  are indigenous to Palestine. The fig tree and olive tree are used in the Bible as a type of Israel.  See Deuteronomy 8:7-9.

 

The first-ripe figs come about June from the old growth and then the fall harvest begins about September, coming from the new growth.   Figs come first, then are followed by the leaves.

 

No effort is too much to get the fig trees to produce, as the farmers dig around them and work in the cattle dung to encourage their productivity.  Fruitless fig trees are rooted up and destroyed to make room for new fig trees.  Destroying the fruitless trees is no more immoral than pulling weeds in a garden.  

 

In this article I want to deal with two issues.

1. Prophetic truths concerning Israel as they relate to fig trees.

2. Practical truths concerning spiritual barrenness, illustrated by barren fig trees.

 

Prophetic truths concering Israel. 

 

Their Dispersion.

 

In Jeremiah 8:4-13 God speaks through Jeremiah about Israel‘s rejection of Him as they turned to idolatry and refused to repent.  I encourage you to read this passage that describes how Israel has become like a barren fig tree.  Hosea 9:10 continues this theme and Joel 1:6-7 prophecies their judgment by Babylon and Assyria,  pictured by a lion ripping the bark off the fig tree and destroying it.

 

During Jesus’ short ministry with Israel, He cultivated them and worked with them, but they refused to repent.  In AD 70 the Roman Empire destroyed them.  That’s the warning Jesus is giving Israel in His parable in Luke 13:6-9.

 

Their Restoration

 

Not only does Jesus warn of their dispersion and judgment, but He also speaks of their restoration and blessing, as prophesied in Matthew 24.  There in verses 32-34 Israel is pictured as a budding fig tree.  The budding has already begun to take place as Israel has become a nation and returned to their homeland in the past sixty years. This prophecy of Israel‘s restoration and blessing  will come to full fruition at the conclusion of the Great Tribulation, prophesied in verses 15-31 of that same chapter.

 

 

Practical  truths concering spiritual barrenness 

 

As God made fruit trees to produce fruit and glorify Him, so  God saves sinners to bear fruit.  Fruitless Christians dishonor God.  Read through John 15, noting Christ’s expectation of fruit in verses  5,8 and 16.

 

The fruit produced is the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.  This is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian who is surrendered to Christ.

 

The fruit is basically  Christ-like attitude and actions.  Giving to the work of Christ is also a fruit of the Spirit. See Romans 15:26-28  and  Philippians 4:16-17.

 

Although no one becomes a Christian through his good works,  these are the fruit of one who has come to Christ by faith.  Normally, one can distinguish a Christian from a non- Christian by his works.  Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 7:16-20.

 

Even praising God can be a fruit of the Spirit.  There are times when circumstances are going badly for us and we don’t feel like praising God.  It is at such times that we can make a sacrifice of praise to Him, as  Hebrews 13:15 encourages us.

 

Every Christian has been gifted by the Holy Spirit and called to exercise those gifts for the glory of God and for the building up of Christ’s Church. Those gifts are listed in Romans 12:6-8  and another list is given in I Corinthians 12:4-31. Each of us have different personalities and different blends of gifts, but God has given our gifts to us for a purpose. The gifts are given to us; not for our glory, but for the building up of others.  I Corinthians 13 teaches us that without loving those to whom we are ministering , our gifts and Biblical knowledge are totally useless. 

 

In John 4:35-38  Jesus teaches us that we Christians are to sow the Seed of the Gospel and we are to reap as we have opportunity.  Some may reap more than others.  The point is that all of us have occasions to sow, if we will just take those opportunities.  If the Gospel is preached in your church, invite others to go with you.  Invite them to a home Bible study.  Invite them to our Hidden Treasures web site.  If you are faithful in sowing the Seed, you are going to eventually reap a harvest.  In Heaven you may meet people who came to saving faith in Christ  because of your invitation.  Won’t that be exciting!

 

I Peter 3:15-16 encourages us to always be ready to give an answer to one who asks of the hope, or the assurance  within us.  The more you study God’s Word, the stronger you are going to be to give an answer to those who ask you of your joy and confidence in Christ.

 

What must we do to bear fruit?

 

First, make sure you are trusting, not your works; but Christ alone for salvation.

 

Secondly, make sure you are abiding in Christ and that His Word is abiding in you.  John 15:1-8  To abide in Christ we must continually walk in fellowship with Him, confessing sin to Him whenever the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin.  Read I John 1  on this topic of fellowship.  For His Word to abide in you, you must read it and study it and obey it.

 

Third,  be morally clean before God.  He will only use clean vessels.  II Timothy 2:20

 

Fourth,  be prepared for Christ’s pruning in our lives. John 15:2  He often cuts things from our lives to make us more fruitful.  The pruning may be painful at times, but it always works for our best.

 

Fifth,  travail in prayer as a mother travails in labor before a birth. Isaiah 66:8

 

Sixth, surrender yourself to Christ and make yourself available to Him for His use.

Isaiah 6:1-8

 

Are you blessed of God?  Psalm 1 tells us we will bring forth fruit for Him if we read and meditate in His Word. Psalm 92:12-14 encourages us that even as we grow to old age, we can still be fruitful. I thank God He is still using me in my 70’s.

 

One of the jobs of a pastor is to deal with sin in his preaching.  That can be done kindly and lovingly and plainly without insulting people.   Jeremiah 4:3  warns preachers to sow not among thorns.  Sin needs to be dealt with  before God will bless a church or ministry. 

 

Those Christians who refuse to be fruitful, God will eventually root up as servants and cast them aside as useless stubble. Luke 13:7-9.  If they are trusting Christ, they will not lose their salvation; but they will suffer the loss of rewards.

 

I encourage you to follow these six steps and discover the joy of bearing fruit for Christ. 

 

Remember, Luke 12:48 reminds us that “to whom much is given; much is required.”

 

 

May 9, 2006 Posted by | Service Series | Comments Off on Spiritual Barrenness

Church series: Finding the Right Church

The True Church is the spiritual Body of Christ, composed of people of all races, nationalities and denominations, who have received Christ as Saviour and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into His Body. We accept the Bible, both Old and New Testament, to be the only inspired, infallible Word of God. We believe that Jesus is Jehovah God, our Creator and Sustainer of life, who, born of the Virgin Mary, came to earth as the sinless, holy Son of God in a human body to die and shed His blood as the full and perfect atonement for our sins. He rose again from the dead, proving His deity; so that we who trust Him have His righteousness imputed to us and are made fit to dwell with Him in Heaven. Read John 1 Colossians 1 Hebrews 1 Revelation 1 for clear statements concerning the deity of Jesus.

Though members of the true Church differ widely in many areas of Biblical interpretation, we are united on the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible and on the doctrine of Christ and His blood atonement.

Because we are but mere men and not God, none of us has a corner on the truth. We all have a veiled understanding of Scripture and that veil will not be removed until we stand glorified in His presence. How arrogant of us to claim we have a complete, accurate understanding of Scripture and claim we alone have the correct view of doctrine and church polity, and that those who disagree with us are wrong. The Corinthian church evidenced this attitude and Paul in his first epistle to them shamed them for their spiritual immaturity, pride and divisiveness.

Beware of any church that claims that it alone is the true church having the correct understanding of Scripture and that all other churches are false. Not only is that an arrogant claim, but it is a primary distinguishing mark of a false cult.

The unity of believers, regardless of denominational differences, is an organic unity; just as a human body, composed of many members, is one organic body.

The Church of Anti-Christ is that Satanic counterfeit of the true church whose unity is merely one of organization. Members of this false church are found in all religions and denominations and cults who are trusting in their works or in what they believe their churches can do for them. Such are lost and hell bound.

They lack that spiritual, organic unity that comes by being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, the baptism that Paul writes about in I Corinthians 12:13. In place of that spiritual unity, they try to achieve an ecumenical unity of organization between denominations. This united church of Anti-christ is described in Revelation 17. In that chapter we learn of the fall and destruction of this church. In Revelation 18:1-4 we are warned to separate ourselves from that church to avoid the plagues God will send on her.

How do you find the right church? It is essential that we seek God’s will concerning our church home and that we study and become grounded in the Bible so that we, as the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11, are able to recognize and differentiate truth from error. Though we will never find a perfect church in this world, we can seek a church that helps us know God’s Word and grow in our knowledge of Christ.

As spiritual darkness descends upon our world, and the masses lose an appetite for God’s Word and churches give people the fluff and the fast food, and the positive sound-bites they want to hear; solid Bible preaching churches are becoming rare.

Amos prophesied of it in Amos 8:11-13 “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the Words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.”

God bless you, God bless America and God bless our world with His Word and with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and with faithful men who will courageously preach it.

May 9, 2006 Posted by | Church Series | Comments Off on Church series: Finding the Right Church