With miracle after miracle, the Lord delivered his people from bondage in Egypt and brought them to the edge of the abundant land he had promised to give them. But the people shrank back in fear of losing the battle for conquest, then (ridiculously) blamed God that they were stuck in a wilderness. Moses begged God to not destroy the people, but those faithless souls had made themselves opponents of the Almighty. His judgment was severe: Not only would the adults of that generation die in the wilderness, as they feared, but their children would wander in that desolate place for 40 years as well.

These words of judgment, however, are particularly chilling: “You will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.” (Numbers 14:34 NLT)

Not a place you want to be, but that’s where fear, disobedience, and faithlessness will take you. How much better to courageously trust God and take possession of what he has promised!

Godly leaders are calling the church to prayer for great spiritual awakening in America. Like Hosea, they call on the people to “bring your petitions and return to the Lord.” (Hosea 14:2a NLT)

An outpouring of God’s spirit, however, comes only after true repentance. Genuine sorrow and confession precede true repentance and forgiveness. Hosea calls out the sins of the people like charges being read in court.

Today’s church will experience renewal when, like Israel, American Christians recognize they are Gomer to the Lord’s Hosea: enthusiastically engaging in worship that is meaningless before the Lord, following false religion and bearing children that are not the Lord’s, seeking security in military might, making idols of their silver and gold, filling the land with violence and immorality, slaughtering their own children, forming alliances with godless foreign powers, getting rich through injustice. Even the king makes a fool of himself.

Why would God pour out his Holy Spirit on such a church? “They have become as worthless as a half-baked cake!” (7:8b) They are like “an old man with graying hair, unaware of how weak and old he has become.” (7:9b)  They are “a crooked bow that always misses its target.” (7:16b) “They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind.” (8:7) The prophet describes in horrific detail the punishments God is about to personally inflict on his people.

The people arrogantly refuse to walk in God’s ways. “The people have been offered new birth, but they are like a child who resists being born.” (13:13a) O foolish people! You will be destroyed, for you refuse to understand.” (4:14b)

Hosea’s call: “So now, come back to your God! Act on the principles of love and justice, and always live in confident dependence on your God.” (12:6)

Hosea’s warning: “Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those who are discerning listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But sinners stumble and fall along the way.” (14:9)

 

John 15:1-8

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing . If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (NAS)

The “once saved, always saved” expositors consistently assert that the fruitless branch refers to nominal Christians who were never believers in the first place.

If that is the case, why does Jesus say in v.2 that the branch that does not bear fruit is “in me”? How could an unredeemed person be “in me”? How is this verse not speaking to the need for a person who is in Christ to maintain a vital connection to Christ? Isn’t that the point of v.4 — indeed, the entire passage?

The Greek word translated ‘abide’ is meno. Among the various definitions: “not to depart;” “to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure;” and “to remain as one, not to become another or different.”

If you are in Christ, work at maintaining your vital connection to Christ. Otherwise, this passage warns, you will be cut off, tossed aside, and eventually thrown into the fire. Don’t allow yourself to become dried-up deadwood.

Related: If his branches don’t bear fruit …

No sugarstick sermon here

January 26, 2015

You’ve heard many sugarstick sermons from “once saved, always saved” preachers based on this passage in Luke 12, encouraging you to be a good servant in the Master’s house:

For example, vv.42-44 — And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”

Then there’s v.48b — From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

But, from those same preachers, how many sermons have you heard on these words from the mouth of Jesus?

But if that slave says in his heart, “My master will be a long time in coming,” and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (vv.45-46)

And what do you suppose those words might mean to a servant of the Master?

The Scripture warns believers that unholiness will keep them from seeing the Lord and subject them to his wrath:

“For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. God’s terrible anger will come upon those who do such things.” (Colossians 3:3-6 NLT)

The holy soul is consecrated — set apart for God’s purposes. Holiness is more than just a list of what we don’t do (though that must be part of it). Holiness is a positive characteristic of the shalom justice God is bringing to the world. If we want to be part of God’s new earth, our lives must be holy and we must be engaged in God’s mission of multiplying justice in his world.

God’s children must get rid of wicked behavior because it is an evil, ruthless enemy that wages war against our souls. A wild lion is not a pet — keep one hidden in a back closet and it eventually will devour you.

Stay on the safe path

November 16, 2014

Whoever abandons the right path will be severely punished; whoever hates correction will die. (Proverbs 15:10 NLT)

Your journey into salvation isn’t over just because you have taken the first step. You still have much to learn, and the path leads through dangerous territory.

The apostle Paul asked the believers in Thessalonika to pray that, in his own missionary journeys, he would be “saved from wicked and evil people.”

Pray, too, that we will be saved from wicked and evil people, for not everyone believes in the Lord. But the Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are practicing the things we commanded you, and that you always will. May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and the endurance that comes from Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:2-5)

Paul’s enemies wanted him dead because he left them to join Jesus’ revolution. And in every city, Paul would be confronted by people willing to do anything — even kill — to protect their wicked way of life.

Paul knew, however, that God can be trusted. Those who trust him, he will make strong and guard them from the evil one. What was essential was that believers would always keep walking in God’s ways — practicing the things Paul had commanded.

As they stayed on those paths — walking with Jesus in the Way — they would learn more and more about the love of God. They would understand the importance of enduring trials and not giving up. They would realize that Christ is the one who strengthens them to keep walking.

As you muster the determination to take each new step — difficult as it may be, impossible as the destination may seem — you find that Jesus gives you the strength you needed to make it.

When you are on a dangerous road, you need to keep moving.

[Cross-posted at ]

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