Healing the Spiritually Deaf

“The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night”

1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10

Thieves do not forewarn their intended victims because they know that if they do they can expect a reception that would prevent their objective. In the unlikely circumstance they did warn the intended victim and the warning went unheeded they might still be successful.

The Day of the Lord – Jesus’ Second Coming – is presented in the Bible as coming like a thief. That is, His coming will not be expected by mankind. It will be a surprise to most, but not all. Paul writes, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4). At this point I believe Paul is directly addressing believing Jews in the Tribulation period that culminates in Jesus Christ’s return but it certainly has application to believers today.

Unlike an earthly thief, the Lord has given clues in the Bible as to the timing of His coming (e.g. Matthew 24:32-35). No exact time is given or even suggested but conditions in the world at that time are described and, while some have always been observed the confluence and intensity of all descriptions can be observed now.

Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:15) and Peter (2 Peter 3:11f) believed Christ’s coming could have been in their lifetime so how much more us today? Peter goes on to say that this prospect should affect our daily lives as we “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). This will affect how we live.

Jesus (Matthew 24:43), Paul and Peter all attest that Jesus’ Second Coming will be unexpected by the general population but a few will be prepared (cf. Matthew 25:1-13). The difference is that some hear the warning and believe it. The problem in the world is that we have not heeded the Father’s admonition in Matthew 17:5, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” This is also a problem for the church as Jesus tells us in each of His letters to the seven churches recorded in Revelation 2 & 3, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” We don’t hear God speaking because we are not listening. We are not listening because we do not believe God has spoken. Only Jesus can cause the spiritually deaf to hear (Mark 7:31-37). Come to Him!

To Be With Jesus

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”

1 Timothy 2:3-4

The Bible teaches that God is not willing that any should miss His gift of salvation (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). Hence we read in several places that Christ died for all (e.g. John 1:29; Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2). Since God created us in His image we have the ability to choose how we respond to God’s invitation and He will not override that choice or we would be no more than robots. Out of love for mankind God sent His Son to deliver us from sin and death by dying in our place. Now that the price is paid God invites all who want to, to come to Jesus and receive eternal life in Him as a free gift (John 1:12; Romans 6:23).

Sadly, most will go to anyone or anything except Jesus; but Paul writes that there is only one Mediator between God and man and that is Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). The reason He is the only Mediator is that He alone died for our sin and is therefore the only one qualified to forgive sin (Romans 5:8; c.f. John 14:6; Revelation 5:1-7). There are some who want a heaven without Jesus but that is impossible. Heaven is being with Jesus. Anything else is hell. If you don’t desire to be with Jesus then it may be that you have a false or futile hope of heaven. Jesus says that He is preparing a place for the saved and it is with Him (John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 5:8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:10).

In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes that he was appointed to preach Christ primarily to Gentile unbelievers but also to unbelieving Israel (1 Timothy 2:7).  That mission has also been given to the church, a living body composed of all individuals who have received Christ as Lord and Saviour. The Gift of God, which is Jesus (John 3:16), is offered to all people because Christ died for all people. But God will not usurp a person’s own will. He invites, He provokes, He persuades but He does not force anyone. Only those who will of free will receive God’s Gift and appropriate Him will benefit. Many years ago I was conscripted into the army but there will be no conscripts in heaven. Everyone in heaven will be there because they believed God’s offer, wanted to be with Jesus, accepted His invitation and received His Gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. “And thus we shall always be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Deifying Mankind

“The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them all”

Psalm 89:11

If we base our knowledge on the theory of evolution we might unwittingly find ourselves right where the world now finds itself. We are led to believe that the world is in crisis by way of living creatures becoming extinct and a change in the climate that will lead to the destruction of all things living, including mankind.

Listening to David Attenborough one could easily be led into thinking that evolution is guided by the intelligence and will of the creature. While he doesn’t say so directly in as many words this subtle implication is clear. He marvels at the beauty, complexity and built-for-purpose intricacies of living things but attributes them to the living thing itself as though it had guided its evolution into the perfect creature it is without any input from outside its being.

If (as many believe) living creatures have evolved, i.e. intelligently and purposefully created themselves to perfection, then the highest order in the creation must also have created itself. The highest order in the creation by far is mankind. What we have in the theory of evolution is therefore the deification and worship of man. This began in the first days when Adam and believed Satan’s lie, “You will be like God” and “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:5, 3). Ultimately, the worship of man is worship of Satan because it is his lie.

Peter (2 Peter 3:1-13) and Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-9) warned of the perilous times ahead that will result from believing Satan’s lie. The circumstances they describe are now evident. Attempts by mankind to improve itself have proven and will prove futile. Knowledge may have increased but character has not changed. Education has not improved man’s character. It has opened up new ways to express sinfulness. Turning from God, who alone gives life, means a decline into physical and spiritual death (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27). Deifying mankind will not prevent climate change in the future (see e.g. Revelation 6:12-17). Human effort to save this world will prove futile. Only Jesus Christ’s return will save the world (Matthew 24:22). Yes, we should care for our environment as a delegated responsibility from God (Genesis 2:15) but not as an act of deified mankind in defiance of our Creator (Revelation 4:11).

Regular Reminders

“I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease”

2 Peter 1:15

From very young we learn and remember many things as a result of repetition. A parent may often say, “How many times have I told you …!” Repetition was how we learned the “times tables”, and how we memorised verses from the Bible.

Where did Peter get the idea that we needed reminders of the essential truths revealed by God? Since Peter spent more than three years with Jesus and heard him preach some things several times it seems likely that he is following Christ’s example. There are two key examples of repetition given by Jesus that He has commanded His church to observe. These remind us of what He has done for us and what He has done in us.

Communion, or the Lord’s Table, is a reminder of what Jesus has done for us and the church has the responsibility to observe this in a manner that will express true teaching to the unsaved as well as remind the saved how that came about. Paul refers to it as an opportunity to focus and reflect on what Jesus has done for us in remembrance of Him (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The focus is on Jesus but we can’t do that completely without remembering what He has done for us. Remembering Him and reflecting on what He has done will keep our hearts humble and thankful.

Baptism is the other ordinance that He has given to the church (Matthew 28:19) and is given as a living picture of what Jesus has done in us. Baptism tells the story of what has already happened in us from being dead in sin to being created new in Christ and rising to new life in Christ. It reminds us of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

Communion and Baptism tell the Easter story and its application. They are regular reminders for us. Peter writes in this letter that there are those who would corrupt the message. This is all the more reason to keep reminding each other of these essential truths. Some nominally Christian groups have corrupted both these reminders by giving power to the ritual which is only a shadow of that which is real. Shadows have no power in themselves and disappear when the true light comes. Jesus, Paul and Peter all expect us to be continually mindful of the means by which we are saved and the extent of that salvation but primarily be mindful of the One who made it all possible.”I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things” (2 Peter 1:12).

The Insanity of Idolatry

“It is the land of carved images and they are insane with their idols”

Jeremiah 50:38

The reason for God’s judgment of a nation is expressed in several ways but it always boils down to man’s pride.

Against the people of Moab Jeremiah expresses the reason for God’s judgment as being arrogance: “Because he exalted himself against the Lord” (Jeremiah 48:42). The people of Moab are not alone in this. Satan’s lie (Genesis 3:5) is gladly consumed these days although the source of the lie is denied. In order to do what seems right in their own eyes people declare they are answerable to no one. Exalting themselves against the Lord they deny His existence and His word. In doing this they confirm their enmity with God. Mercy, love and forgiveness are available through Jesus Christ but when God’s existence is denied all these provisions are also.

Against Babylon Jeremiah expresses the reason for God’s judgment as being idolatry (Jeremiah 50:38 quoted above). We still observe people worshipping the works of their hands. The objects of worship may not be in the form of statues of wood, stone or metals. The things that are idolised may be cities, buildings, ships, bridges and other structures. There are TV programs that assist in worshipping these works of the hands of people. Likewise people may worship the talents of athletes, singers and actors.

Rarely does anyone give God the glory for these abilities and talents because they prefer to exalt themselves above the Lord. They forget that it is God who “made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, and stretched out the heaven by His understanding” (Jeremiah 51:15). It is the Lord who created all the materials, laws and principles in creation that people use to make their objects or perform their art yet they will not give Him the glory. We ought to remember that our next heartbeat and our next breath are at His pleasure.

The last time God judged the whole earth He sent a flood. The rainbow is both a sign that He has judged and destroyed the whole earth, except those on the ark, and that He will not do so again by flood. Next time it will be by fire (2 Peter 3:7, 12).

Jesus gives us the principle that we should follow: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Bought With a Price

“The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein”

Psalm 24:1

Everything that exists belongs to the Creator. It is His by right of creation; He brought it into being and sustains it in its entirety. The foundation of atheism is the denial of this fact. Paul bases his words to the Christians in Rome on this fact in contrast to others who suppress this truth (Romans 1:18-32). Peter likewise addresses this suppression to his readers (2 Peter 3:1-9). Fallen and sinful people refuse to acknowledge that they are owned by the One who created and sustains them. This is the essence of Satan’s lie to Eve and the root of pride.

Christians recognises this and are glad that they are owned by Christ through redemption. Paul writes, “You were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Everything we are and have is on loan as to a steward. A steward serves the one who has placed his possessions into his hands. Our lives are not our own; our bodies are not our own; our talents and skills are not our own; our time is not our own. The opportunities that come our way are also given by God. Material blessings are not ours but His and He has given us all these things to glorify Himself. This means that they are all to be seen and utilized to express God’s Divine and glorious nature.

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) Jesus commended the servants who utilized what they had been given to them by their master to manage and they were rewarded. The third servant had made no attempt to utilise his master’s money. Jesus refers to him as being wicked and lazy (v 26) and not only did he not receive a reward but he was cast out from his master’s presence.

God has greatly blessed us with life, various types of talents and gifts with varying levels of these. He expects us to use that which He has given for His glory. One who despises the Creator will refuse to act as a faithful steward and will be cast from His presence.

When once we have come to know the Lord Jesus it is hard to understand why anyone would not gladly love and serve Him.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your loving kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness every night” (Psalm 92:1-2).

Don’t be Sorry

“Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me”

1 Samuel 8:7

School children will be well aware that they are now in the final term for the year and that means Christmas is drawing near. They will soon, if they haven’t already, be making a list for parents and grandparents. No parent will give their child that they love a gift that will harm them.

God loves all people and will not give any gift that will bring harm but He sometimes allows people to have what they demand so they can experience the consequences with a view to a change of heart. Those who do not know God in a personal way interpret God’s restrictions as hatred and so they respond to God and His people with hatred. They fail to understand that the commands of God are to lead us into green pastures and keep us from the dead barren desert.

In Ezekiel 18:32 we read, “’For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God.” God has no pleasure in judgment after a person dies (Hebrews 9:27). God has provided the greatest Gift possible in Jesus Christ who takes away our sin by bearing it in Himself. The Lord is not willing that anyone perish (2 Peter 3:9). The evidence of this is that Jesus Christ has already borne our sin on the cross.

While some may attest that they want to go to hell to be with their friends, if they had any real idea of hell as described by Jesus (Mark 9:42-48) they would not wish for such a thing. There is only one reason a person will end up in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 15); they have rejected Jesus as God’s only remedy for sin. They will have what they wanted; existence without Jesus Christ but they will not be at all happy or content.

As with Israel in Samuel’s day, God sometimes gives people what they demand but they will be sorry they rejected Him. There is no way to God except through Jesus because He is the only One who has dealt with sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Peter wrote “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

People who do not know Jesus see God as a harsh dictator out to spoil their fun. In reality He loves them and sets boundaries to protect us in the way a good shepherd does his sheep.

Partakers of His Holiness

“God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten.” Hebrews 12:7

The men and women of the Old Testament have parts of their lives recorded for us as witnesses to us of God’s ways and the sinful nature within us. This is for our benefit not amusement. The key phrase in chapter eleven is “By faith.” Their experiences were as diverse as ours will be. We should never expect that God will take us along the same disciplinary path as someone else or that they will travel the same disciplinary path as us.

God’s grace may also be revealed in quite different ways. For some the grace of God in response to their believing His word brought about wonderful and miraculous miracles (11:33-35a). For others God’s grace in response to their believing His word brought horrendous trials, suffering and persecution (11:35b-38) but He delivered them out of them all. Under threat of fiery furnace Daniel’s three friends said, “… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from your hand” (Daniel 3:16-18). Whether by burning or preservation they knew they would be delivered from the King’s hand.

The writer exhorts us to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us. Anything that drags us back from realising God’s purpose, revealed in 12:10, should be cast off. The sin that so easily ensnares us is no mystery. This whole part of Hebrews deals with it. If believing God’s word is faith then unbelief is the sin that turns us from faith. The fact is that we become ensnared in the sin of unbelief all too easily and may thereby invoke a disciplinary action from God. This action demonstrates that we have a special Father – son relationship with Him. The absence of it may seem good but it may also reveal that we are not sons of God.

There is a huge consequence to us individually and corporately (church) when we do not take God at His word and act upon it. Matthew tells us this consequence: “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).

Ignorance of God’s word will produce the same effect but love for Jesus will compel us to study the Bible for ourselves. No one enjoys discipline even though the outcome is good. We also know that discipline can be avoided if we study God’s word, believe it and act upon it (the evidence that we believe it).

God’s wonderful purpose in this is that His holy Divine Nature given to us (2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 12:10) may be worked out in our experience for His glory. The O.T. record shows us many examples of God achieving this in the lives of men and women just like us.

The Goodness of God

“Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

It isn’t unusual for people to justify their belief that there is no God based on the corruption they observe among people. The nature of bias is that we only see or hear what we want to see and hear. In the previous chapter Paul wrote that the invisible attributes of God are clearly revealed in His creation (1:19-20) and so people who choose not to believe Him have no valid excuse for not believing.

We see the sun rise or set for a few minutes each day and observe its beauty; but in reality God performs both sunrise and sunset 24/7. If we travelled west at the speed of the earth’s rotation we could have a perpetual sunrise or sunset. We may observe the beauty of a rose bud opening over a few hours but at any given time there are many roses and multitudes of other in full colourful bloom. We have stood in wonder and marvelled at a new baby but there are parents in awe and wonder at their new baby all around the world all the time. We live in a world that provides far more food than required for the current population. It is only man’s greed for wealth and power that prevents it being distributed to the people or allowing them to grow their own. Some people look at man’s corruption and blame God. Others look at the goodness of God and seek deliverance from the corruption of man.

The forbearance and longsuffering of God is that He holds back on the outpouring of His wrath against evil for a reason (Romans 3:25-26). Peter agrees with Paul when he writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The delay in judgment is not because God does not exist, but because He is showing His goodness in contrast to man’s corruption, so that all people may have a change of heart and come to Him.

Those who are biased toward sin look at the corruption of mankind and say there is no God. Those who are sick and tired of this corruption look at the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God and come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing.

For the former, Paul does not have good prospects. He writes, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are storing up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37) and John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Those who believe His word may come in absolute confidence of being received, forgiven and cleansed. Those who don’t believe His word will, because of the hardness of their own impenitent heart, choose to remain under God’s wrath.

Ask Anything

“Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” John 14:13-14

These verses have been abused by some with the result that they have been led to believe that Christianity doesn’t work. When we read them it is important to read them in their context but also to read every word. There is a qualifier and the desired outcome given so that we might not misunderstand the limitations that apply to the invitation to come to the Father with our requests that carry a guaranteed positive response.

We are invited to pray always and in all situations and for everything but we are not given blanket assurance of a positive response.

The qualifier is “in my name.” After all, I am a child of God. No father who loves his child would give his child everything that they ask because some of their requests might result in harm.

Some years ago I was employed by a company that gave me the right to sign cheques up to a certain value without a second signature. However, there were limitations given not only in value but also the need to comply with procedures and instructions. It was not my money and it was not my name on the cheque. I was under delegated authority and I was required to act within the authority given.

In a similar way, when Jesus says “ask anything in My name”, He is saying that we must have authority from Him for the specific request, and we must abide by the limitations He has imposed if we are to have assurance of a positive outcome. When we fulfil the requirements He will do it. The outcome will be that “the Father [is] glorified in the Son.

We see an example of this kind of delegated authority in 1 Samuel 25 when David sent men to the foolish Nabal. “David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, ‘Go up to Carmel, go to Nabal, and greet him in my name’ (v 5). “So when David’s young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in the name of David, and waited” (v 9).

The young men only had authority to speak the words that David had given them. They were acting in his name under his authority.

While we readily see that there are limitations, we can also see that there is a huge scope for prayer. The scope is revealed in the Bible – we need to read and soak it up in order to know the multitude of things for which we may ask that are according to the will of God and therefore have an assurance of a positive response.

We could pray in accord with 2 Peter 3:9 or with the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1:15-23 and many other prayers and invitations to pray. If it is in the revealed will of God we may ask with confidence of receiving that for which we ask (1 John 5:16).

By all means, pray with regard to everything – and in everything give thanks – because God wants to commune with us and He does answer prayer. In God’s grace he has revealed some matters for which we may pray and have an assurance of His positive response. That will encourage us to pray such prayers.