• A REPROBATE MIND

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    “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”
    Romans 1:28

    It would be good if every person would familiarize himself with the message of Romans 1. The second half of the chapter documents the human descent from spiritual awareness to utter depravity. Our text uses the term, “a reprobate mind.” The word “reprobate” means that they have been “rejected, abandoned to error and spiritual destruction, unable to discern between right and wrong.” Notice that the verse says, “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” In this chapter, the phrase, “God gave them over”, is found more than once. There is no hope for a person when God turns them over or gives them up.

    How many times have we heard people lament the deplorable condition and direction of our country, and wonder how we could ever have become so sinister? Is there any explanation for the increasing acceptance of sodomy, the plague of pornography, and the epidemic of sexual deviancy toward innocent children? Where is the conscience of a nation that allows the murder of more than a million unborn babies a year? What kind of logic would cause a politician to fight for the life of an endangered animal while insisting a woman has the right to terminate the life of her child? How unreasonable is it that children are exposed to sexually explicit information in government schools, but the Bible is a forbidden Book.

    The minds of Americans are becoming reprobate, unable to distinguish between good and evil. How does this occur? According to Romans 1, it follows a predictable path. People go from knowing about God and seeing His evidence in creation, to rejecting Him. They then make themselves the center of their universe, and worship the creature rather than the Creator. They change God’s truth into a lie. They do not want God to have a place in their minds. This is the journey to reprobation. When God is removed from the minds of people, the lie of evolution is accepted, the Word of God is rejected, humanism is promoted, and the end will be what we are seeing so much of in our society. There are severe consequences when individuals or nations reject God and His standard of truth. If there is any hope for such a people, they must turn to God in true repentance.

  • FAINT, YET PURSUING

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    “And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.”
    Judges 8:4

    Gideon led his three hundred men against the vast army of the Midianites. The Israelites were divided into three groups of one hundred and equipped with trumpets, lamps, and pitchers. At Gideon’s signal, around midnight, the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, exposing the light of the lamps. They were holding the lamps in one hand and the trumpets in the other hand, and continued blowing the trumpets. The enemy fled and the Israelites pursued them.

    In our Scripture, we see that Gideon and the three hundred crossed over the Jordan River, “faint, yet pursuing them.” They were understandably weary and faint from being up through the night, continually blowing their trumpets and pursuing their enemy. Even though they were exhausted, Gideon’s army did not leave off the pursuit. They were determined to continue until the victory was complete. We know that fatigue can come to even the most dedicated of Christians, causing them to become weary in the battle for right and truth.

    Sometimes we get tired of having people disappoint us or ignore our warnings. If we are not careful, we can get weary of helping people who do not seem to want to take our counsel seriously. You may feel from time to time that you are expected to do your job and also the job of others. Perhaps you have faithfully labored with little recognition or reward. It is disappointing to invest your life in others, only to see some of them go back into the world. What are we to do when we are tired in the fight? Obviously, we all need our rest and should not overextend ourselves. However, the lesson we learn from Gideon is clear. We need to continue the fight. They were “faint, yet pursuing them.”

    Our job will not be complete until our Lord takes us home or comes for us. There is much work to be done. We cannot allow discouragement or disappointment to defeat us. Like the apostle Paul, we are determined to finish our course. Jesus finished the work that He was to do while He was here. We must keep our eyes on the Lord and our focus on what He would have us to do. Many people have given up serving the Savior when they became weary in well doing. There is no time to quit. By grace, we must persist in our pursuit of His will and work.

  • GOD IS IN YOU

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    “And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”
    I Corinthians 14:25

    In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, one thing he addressed was the problem in the Corinthian congregation having to do with the abuse of spiritual gifts. In particular, there was great confusion caused by languages being used that could not be understood by the people. In his teaching, Paul contrasted the gift of languages with the gift of prophecy. As he wrote of the superior benefits of prophecy, he said if an unbeliever came into the congregation and heard the Word of God being proclaimed, he would be convinced of truth.

    Our text goes on to say that through preaching are “the secrets of his heart made manifest.” This is the miracle of how the Holy Spirit uses the preaching of truth to convict the sincere listener. Paul goes on to say that the convicted person would fall down on his face and “report that God is in you of a truth.” What a great truth this is for us to consider! It shouts to us about the power and importance of preaching. The convicted listener recognizes that God is in the midst of the prophets and teachers, as well as in the congregation.

    What a contrast we see between this teaching and what is occurring in many of today’s churches. Rather than placing an emphasis on preaching, as the Bible does, many other things are being substituted for the convicting proclamation of the Word of God. Time for preaching is being deliberately reduced in favor of things like concerts, drama, teaching, etc. Preaching is being looked at as being old-fashioned. Many churches are reducing the number of preaching services in their schedule and limiting the time of those services.

    However, it is through the preaching of His Word that God promises to manifest His Word and convict sinners. Nothing can make a person realize his need for Christ and salvation like the preaching of the Bible. Because of the spiritual value of preaching, all of us should strive to make the most of the messages presented by the man of God. We ought to appreciate preaching and respond to the truth that is proclaimed. Make it a matter of discipline to be attentive to the time of preaching and to anticipate hearing from God as His Word is declared. It is through the preaching that God often reveals Himself to us.

  • DISOBEDIENT, STUBBORN, PRIDEFUL, INDEPENDENT

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    “She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.”
    Zephaniah 3:2

    Zephaniah cried out against the filthy and polluted city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah. As God’s prophet, he proclaimed the truth to a wayward people. He firmly and faithfully warned them of the judgment that awaits them. Every generation needs true servants of God who are willing to stand strong as God’s messengers, calling men and women to turn from sin and turn to the Lord. In describing their apostasy, Zephaniah describes four particular aspects of their backsliding. These words serve as a warning to us, that we might avoid similar behavior and negligence in our spiritual walk.

    They were guilty of being DISOBEDIENT. Zephaniah said, “She obeyed not the voice.” Israel refused to hear and heed the voice of God through His prophets. This tendency continued as they later refused to respond to the message of John the Baptist, rejected the preaching of Christ, and contradicted the voice of the apostles. When anyone refuses to listen to God’s Word and begins to ignore His commands, he is seriously headed in the wrong direction.

    They were also guilty of being STUBBORN. As the Scripture says, they “received not correction.” Because they disobeyed, God chastened them. Yet, they would not respond to His correction. God chastens us because He loves us. To refuse to humble ourselves and repent at His correction will bring sorer judgment from the Lord.

    They were PRIDEFUL. “She trusted not in the LORD.” They trusted in their flesh and in their self-righteousness. They were not inclined to trust in the Lord. When Jesus came, they did not submit to Him and did not trust that He was the Messiah that would die for their sins. We must all recognize this sinful tendency to trust in the arm of the flesh and not to rely completely on the Lord.

    In addition, they were INDEPENDENT. “She drew not near to her God.” Israel was willing to live with a distance between her and the Lord. We should guard against such independence in our own lives. As sheep, we are to rely upon our Shepherd and follow His direction, always drawing near to Him. Israel had strayed far from the Lord, becoming DISOBEDIENT, STUBBORN, PRIDEFUL, AND INDEPENDENT. Let’s heed Zephaniah’s warning, that the same never be true of us.

  • THE HOME AND CHURCH

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    “Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch.”
    Numbers 2:2

    This Old Testament passage gives us insight about the place of the two most important institutions for our lives, THE HOME AND THE CHURCH. We see this typified in the positioning of the tribes or families of Israel around the tabernacle. Every man was to pitch by “his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house.” Every family had its own standard, or flag, and its own ensign, or insignia, to identify them from the other families.

    Family identity is important. In our nation, we have lost much of this. A few generations ago, it was common for extended families to grow up on the same piece of property that their parents and grandparents once farmed and lived on. Often, more than one generation lived in the same house. Our society has become much more mobile with occupations and other interests moving families far away from their relatives. In the Old Testament, they were to pitch their tent under the family banner. The families camped with their family, but they also pitched “about the tabernacle of the congregation.”

    The place of worship was central to their lives. Each family was positioned around the tabernacle as the Lord directed them. Each tribe had their assigned place around the house of God. When the tabernacle moved, they moved. They kept their family identity and maintained their nearness to the place of worship. I believe this typifies to us the importance of these two institutions in our lives. Our lives, in essence, should include a close relationship with our family while maintaining a close relationship and participation with our church family.

    This picture not only reveals how important these two relationships are, but it also reminds us of the importance of keeping a wholesome balance between the two. It is easy for us to over-emphasize one and neglect the other. There are those who are so zealous about the church and its work that they fail to give the home the attention it deserves. Then there are others who, for the love of the family, neglect the place and ministry of the church God placed them in. This example teaches us to keep THE HOME AND THE CHURCH in their proper places.

  • IT SHALL BE TOLD THEE

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    “And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.”
    Acts 22:10

    The apostle Paul was giving his testimony before the angry mob that sought to kill him. He rehearsed how he met Christ on the road to Damascus and how he asked the Lord, “What shall I do?” The Lord’s answer for him was, “Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee…” God only gave him partial instructions. Paul was given a small bit of information about what God wanted him to do, but most of what God wanted him to do would be given to him later.

    The same is certainly true in our lives. God does not immediately inform us about everything there is to know about His will. He usually reveals His will a bit at a time. As with Paul, it is a good sign when those who claim to know Christ want to know His will. “What shall I do, Lord?” If we have turned from our sin and trusted Him as Savior, He is the Lord of our lives, and we should want to serve and obey Him. When a person is not interested in knowing and doing God’s will, there is cause for great concern regarding the matter of his spiritual condition. However, God is not going to give us every detail of His will from the beginning.

    For one thing, there is much that God will one day make known to us that we could not understand or accept initially. God wants us to obey Him and trust Him by faith. He makes His will known to us as He sees fit. We do not follow Christ because we know everything there is to know about His plans for us and we completely approve. Rather, we follow Him because we know His will is best, and we trust Him with our future. As we grow in grace, God gives us more information about His will.

    We see clear evidence of this in the way God dealt with Paul. In order for Paul to find out more about God’s plans, he had to obey the instructions he was given, which meant he had to go into Damascus. For us to get further instructions about what God would have us do, we must be obeying the instructions we have. Here is a common mistake that people make. They want to know about God’s will for the future, yet they are not obeying the will of God they already know. The principle is simple: as we walk in the light we have been given, we can trust God to give more light as needed.

  • AMAZIAH WOULD NOT HEAR

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    “But Amaziah would not hear. Therefore Jehoash king of Israel went up; and he and Amaziah king of Judah looked one another in the face at Bethshemesh, which belongeth to Judah.”
    II Kings 14:11

    As the king of Judah, Amaziah had challenged Jehoash, the king of Israel. He desired that they might meet on the field of battle and settle their differences. The king of Israel responded by warning Amaziah that he was acting in pride and that such a battle would prove to be disastrous for Amaziah. However, “Amaziah would not hear.”

    In the ensuing conflict, Judah was soundly defeated and the house of the Lord was plundered. Amaziah was eventually killed in a conspiracy. Amaziah could have avoided this costly and humiliating defeat in battle simply by listening to the caution that was offered him, but he “would not hear.” He was not willing to listen to the one who was offering him sound advice. It was not that he was not capable of hearing; he was not willing to hear. His decision was already made, and his stubbornness caused him to forge ahead with his ill-advised plans. Most of us can recall times when serious mistakes could have been avoided if we would have been willing to listen to the warnings given. But, like Amaziah, we “would not hear.”

    Another example of this in the Scripture is when Paul, when en route to Rome aboard ship, advised the ship’s commanders that to continue would bring much harm. However, they “would not hear” the cautions of the man of God and suffered greatly because of it. We must take our warnings seriously. I know of far too many people who have ignored the advice of godly counselors and have suffered greatly because of it. We need to take heed to the Word of God and the counsel that our Heavenly Father gives to us in the Scriptures. We need to hearken to the voices of those God has placed in our lives to help us know the will of God.

    Why is it that we are not willing to listen? Jehoash told Amaziah it was because he was puffed up with pride. Would you not agree that the same is sometimes true in our lives? We do not want to hear the advice of others because we think we are capable of making decisions on our own. Therefore, we are not willing to seriously consider the opinions or counsel of others, especially if it is different from our own. It may be that devastating mistakes might be avoided if we would take the time to listen

  • DON’T LEAVE THE OTHER UNDONE

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    “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
    Matthew 23:23

    The Pharisees were known for their strict observance of the law and also the multitude of traditions they had added to the law. In our text, Jesus recognized that they were so careful to tithe on their “mint and anise and cummin.” These were all herbs, which were of relatively little value, normally used only for their fragrance or aromatic qualities. The Pharisees made sure they tithed on these tiny plants, but they ignored more important things such as “judgment, mercy, and faith.”

    This is a perfect picture of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They emphasized the things they wanted to emphasize and neglected the things they wanted to overlook. Jesus called the other things, the things they ignored, “weightier matters of the law.” While they were tithing in a meticulous fashion, they were leaving other things of greater value undone. This would include the way they treated others, their compassion on the hurting, and living a life of trust and dependence on the Lord. Interestingly, Jesus said, “these ought ye to have done,” referring to their tithing. Some people say that Jesus did not teach tithing, but here is a clear place that Jesus commended these people for their tithing. But He brought attention to the more important issues that were not being taken seriously and were, in fact, left undone.

    It is easy for a similar thing to happen to us. It is common for us to give attention to certain things that are a matter of Christian obedience while leaving other matters undone. There is probably any number of reasons this might occur. For one thing, some things are easier for us than others. It stands to reason that we might leave the more difficult or unpleasant things undone, and do the things that come more naturally.

    Another explanation might be that we can attempt to justify our neglect of certain things because of the areas in which we are obedient. In other words, because I am doing this one thing, it is excusable that I am not obeying in some other areas. In any case, we are not to leave things undone. We can see in this Scripture the value of being careful, while obeying in some areas, we should not ignore the other areas of responsibility.

  • OVERCOME AT THE LAST

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    “Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.”
    Genesis 49:19

    Jacob called for his sons to gather around him. He would pronounce a blessing for each of them before departing this life. The words he spoke of his seventh son, Gad, are recorded in our text. “A troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.” Gad would be subject to the assaults of the enemy; and at times, he would seem to be defeated. But in the end, he would be victorious.

    These words clearly describe the journey of the child of God. Gad’s name means “a troop.” From birth, he would be called “a troop.” We too are born to battle, only ours is a spiritual conflict. A war is raging around us. Our enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil. We cannot afford to ignore these adversaries. They are against God, and therefore, against us. Like Gad, there will be moments and days when we look more like victims than victors. No one wins every battle, every moment of every day. Of Gad it says, “a troop shall overcome him.”

    Sometimes we are defeated. There are days when we fail in times of temptation. We have all known the agony of wrong responses and poor attitudes. Most of us have questioned God at some time or resented some part of God’s will. We have said things we have greatly regretted or believed things that were not true. We have doubted God’s promises, and disobeyed His commands, and wondered why He even puts up with us. The question is not, “Will we ever fail?,” but “What will we do when we are defeated? How will we respond when we are overcome?”

    It is good for us to remember that we may not win every battle, but we are on the winning side. Jacob said of Gad, “he shall overcome at the last.” We are not to give up in the face of adversity or overwhelming odds. There are times when it seems that the enemy is hurling everything in his arsenal against us. We will know the despair of defeat, but we have been assured the ultimate and final victory. As we grow in Christ and appropriate His promises, we will see great victories. One day this flesh will be replaced with a glorified body, and the Prince of Peace will govern this wicked world. The devil will be bound forever. It could be said about every child of God, “a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.”

  • OF HIM, THROUGH HIM, AND TO HIM

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    “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
    Romans 11:36

    This verse of Scripture is a source of great comfort to the child of God. It speaks of the authority, sovereignty, and wisdom of God. Many times we find it difficult, if not impossible, to understand the circumstances of life. We are not always able to see what God is doing or why He allows certain things in our lives. Yet, we can trust that God is directing according to His will and that He will use these events or experiences for His glory and for our good.

    He is the source. “For of him…are all things.” God is the final authority and supreme architect of the universe. Men may do things of their own accord, and Satan himself may seek to hinder or destroy. But according to the Bible, God permits or allows it to happen. He is the source of all power and the source of all wisdom. Our text tells us that, “through him…are all things.” He is ruling as Lord of lords and King of kings. Therefore, we can be confident that if He has allowed something to happen, there must be a reason or some purpose for it. We are not simply victims of circumstances. God is very much in control. Everything will eventually return “to him.” There will always be an accounting to Him. It may happen soon, it may not happen until later. But eventually, He will judge everything. And, the final result will be “glory for ever” to Christ our King.

    For the sincere child of God, we realize that life is not simply about our having our way or being free from conflict or difficulty. Life is about knowing, loving, and trusting God to order our lives for His glory. We dare not have such a shortsighted understanding that we interpret everything only as it relates to our immediate pleasure or happiness. God uses things in our lives to affect others, not only in the immediate, but also for the distant future. Our privilege and responsibility is to trust Him and believe His promises.

    When David was forced to leave Jerusalem after the hostile takeover of his son Absalom, he made his way out of the city, weeping as he went. Then Shimei came alongside him and began to curse David and throw stones at him. Yet, David told his men that God had allowed this. We must remember that there is Someone in control that has a purpose and will receive glory for the events of life.

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