Gospel Wednesday | A look at Law and Gospel in Zephaniah

GWI apologize for getting this post published a day late. Today we’ll be looking at one of the minor prophets, Zephaniah. Since the book is a short book, I thought it would be great for us to read through the whole book together. I’m going to assume that most of you have never read through Zephaniah, much less with your mind on birth of Jesus Christ. If your church follows a 3 year lectionary, you’ll probably be reading through the end of the book soon. Let’s work through this book of prophecy with Advent in mind. As with our look at Jeremiah last week, there is going to be an immediate context for this book of prophecy regarding the coming Babylonian exile and return to Jerusalem, which is itself a foreshadowing of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of Salvation from our own sin and the Wrath of God.

Zephaniah 1-3 (ESV)

The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

An interesting introduction to who the author of this book of prophecy was. Zephaniah traces his lineage to King Hezekiah who ruled over Judah during the attack of the Assyrians under Sennacherib (2 Kings 18-20). Hezekiah ruled while Isaiah was the Prophet of the LORD. We are now 4 generations after Hezekiah and Isaiah. Notice also the phrase in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, which we saw last week in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:1-3 (ESV)

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.

Now, Jeremiah spans several rulers into the captivity of Jerusalem, but Zephaniah’s prophecy coincides with the earlier prophecies of Jeremiah. We’ll see some similarity between Zephaniah’s prophecy and Jeremiah’s prophecy of coming judgement against Judah. The northern Kingdom of Israel has been scattered by Assyria and Judah’s exile is coming. Now that we have our historic context, let us continue reading through Zephaniah.

Zephaniah 1:2-6 (ESV) | The Coming Judgment on Judah

“I will utterly sweep away everything
    from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will sweep away man and beast;
    I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
    and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
    I will cut off mankind
    from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will stretch out my hand against Judah
    and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
    and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
those who bow down on the roofs
    to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the Lord
    and yet swear by Milcom,
those who have turned back from following the Lord,
    who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.”

The declaration of coming judgement is reminiscent of God’s anger with creation in the time of Noah. We know that God made a covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood, but a full destruction is coming, the wicked will be judged. v2-3 points to the final judgement, while the details of 4-6 are a bit more specific to the sins of Judah (though as we see in Romans 1, these sins ARE the sin of all mankind).

Zephaniah 1:7-18 (ESV) | The Day of the Lord Is Near

Be silent before the Lord God!
    For the day of the Lord is near;
the Lord has prepared a sacrifice
    and consecrated his guests.
And on the day of the Lord‘s sacrifice—
“I will punish the officials and the king’s sons
    and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
On that day I will punish
    everyone who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master’s house
    with violence and fraud.

10 “On that day,” declares the Lord,
    “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,
a wail from the Second Quarter,
    a loud crash from the hills.
11 Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar!
    For all the traders are no more;
    all who weigh out silver are cut off.
12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
    and I will punish the men
who are complacent,
    those who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good,
    nor will he do ill.’
13 Their goods shall be plundered,
    and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
    they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
    they shall not drink wine from them.”

14 The great day of the Lord is near,
    near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
    the mighty man cries aloud there.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
    a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16     a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
    and against the lofty battlements.

17 I will bring distress on mankind,
    so that they shall walk like the blind,
    because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
    and their flesh like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
    shall be able to deliver them
    on the day of the wrath of the Lord.
In the fire of his jealousy,
    all the earth shall be consumed;
for a full and sudden end
    he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Again, the day of the LORD had an immediate fulfillment in the fall of Jerusalem, but it also points ahead to the return of the LORD Jesus Christ, the final day of Judgement on mankind. Notice what is in the hearts of the idolaters toward the end of v12, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’ They have no faith in the LORD God to do anything. In their worship of false gods and man-made idols, they’ve forgotten that the One True God is a Living God with a strong and mighty hand. We live in a time now that is aptly described as “post-modern”, but it is also rightly described as “post-Christian”. The world used to give mental ascent to the idea of Christian morality, but those days are past… we are predominantly a secular, humanist people willfully bowing to false gods while boasting in the LORD Gods apparent inaction. May God have Mercy on us. 

Zephaniah 2 (ESV) | Judgment on Judah’s Enemies

Gather together, yes, gather,
    O shameless nation,
before the decree takes effect
    —before the day passes away like chaff—
before there comes upon you
    the burning anger of the Lord,
before there comes upon you
    the day of the anger of the Lord.
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the Lord.
For Gaza shall be deserted,
    and Ashkelon shall become a desolation;
Ashdod’s people shall be driven out at noon,
    and Ekron shall be uprooted.

Woe to you inhabitants of the seacoast,
    you nation of the Cherethites!
The word of the Lord is against you,
    O Canaan, land of the Philistines;
    and I will destroy you until no inhabitant is left.
And you, O seacoast, shall be pastures,
    with meadows for shepherds
    and folds for flocks.
The seacoast shall become the possession
    of the remnant of the house of Judah,
    on which they shall graze,
and in the houses of Ashkelon
    they shall lie down at evening.
For the Lord their God will be mindful of them
    and restore their fortunes.

“I have heard the taunts of Moab
    and the revilings of the Ammonites,
how they have taunted my people
    and made boasts against their territory.
Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord of hosts,
    the God of Israel,
“Moab shall become like Sodom,
    and the Ammonites like Gomorrah,
a land possessed by nettles and salt pits,
    and a waste forever.
The remnant of my people shall plunder them,
    and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.”
10 This shall be their lot in return for their pride,
    because they taunted and boasted
    against the people of the Lord of hosts.
11 The Lord will be awesome against them;
    for he will famish all the gods of the earth,
and to him shall bow down,
    each in its place,
    all the lands of the nations.

12 You also, O Cushites,
    shall be slain by my sword.

13 And he will stretch out his hand against the north
    and destroy Assyria,
and he will make Nineveh a desolation,
    a dry waste like the desert.
14 Herds shall lie down in her midst,
    all kinds of beasts;
even the owl and the hedgehog
    shall lodge in her capitals;
a voice shall hoot in the window;
    devastation will be on the threshold;
    for her cedar work will be laid bare.
15 This is the exultant city
    that lived securely,
that said in her heart,
    “I am, and there is no one else.”
What a desolation she has become,
    a lair for wild beasts!
Everyone who passes by her
    hisses and shakes his fist.

Notice that God isn’t just proclaiming judgement on His rebellious people. He will judge the unbelieving nations as well, even the agents of destruction used by God to punish Judah… they, too, will be judged. God is Sovereign over His creation. But this is not connected with any kind of comfort to Judah. There is a promise of a remnant of Israel being preserved… but this is not glad tidings at this point. Notice the list of Woe to the nations, and we get a Woe to the rebellious and defiled here at the start of the next chapter. Remember when Jesus proclaimed His list of woes in Matthew 11 and again in Matthew 23?

Zephaniah 3:1-8 (ESV) | Judgment on Jerusalem and the Nations

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,
    the oppressing city!
She listens to no voice;
    she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord;
    she does not draw near to her God.

Her officials within her
    are roaring lions;
her judges are evening wolves
    that leave nothing till the morning.
Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men;
her priests profane what is holy;
    they do violence to the law.
The Lord within her is righteous;
    he does no injustice;
every morning he shows forth his justice;
    each dawn he does not fail;
    but the unjust knows no shame.

“I have cut off nations;
    their battlements are in ruins;
I have laid waste their streets
    so that no one walks in them;
their cities have been made desolate,
    without a man, without an inhabitant.
I said, ‘Surely you will fear me;
    you will accept correction.
Then your dwelling would not be cut off
    according to all that I have appointed against you.’
But all the more they were eager
    to make all their deeds corrupt.

“Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord,
    “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey.
For my decision is to gather nations,
    to assemble kingdoms,
to pour out upon them my indignation,
    all my burning anger;
for in the fire of my jealousy
    all the earth shall be consumed.

Note the charges against Jerusalem. Are they not the charges Jesus levied against the chief priests and elders of Jerusalem? That they do violence to the Law in preaching the commandments of men, the traditions of the elders? Notice that it is Jerusalem who will not listen, who will not submit, and will not accept correction. She is faithless and unbelieving.

Zephaniah 3:9-13 (ESV) | The Conversion of the Nations

“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples
    to a pure speech,
that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord
    and serve him with one accord.
10 From beyond the rivers of Cush
    my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones,
    shall bring my offering.

11 “On that day you shall not be put to shame
    because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from your midst
    your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
    in my holy mountain.
12 But I will leave in your midst
    a people humble and lowly.
They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,
13     those who are left in Israel;
they shall do no injustice
    and speak no lies,
nor shall there be found in their mouth
    a deceitful tongue.
For they shall graze and lie down,
    and none shall make them afraid.”

And now the Gospel: God will save, He will grant mercy, He will give His remnant saving faith… even from among the nations. The Gentiles will be saved. This is wonderful news for us. This next portion might be included in your Advent readings/lectionary.

Zephaniah 3:14-20 (ESV) | Israel’s Joy and Restoration

14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
    shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
    O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
    he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
    you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
    let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
    so that you will no longer suffer reproach.
19 Behold, at that time I will deal
    with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
    and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
    and renown in all the earth.
20 At that time I will bring you in,
    at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
    among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
    before your eyes,” says the Lord.

Amen. As surely as Israel was restored from their Babylonian Exile, so will those who are of the Household of Faith in the LORD Jesus Christ be restored in the New Heaven and the New Earth after Jesus Christ has returned to judge the nations, indeed all of creation.

The LORD Our God is in our midst, by Faith in His Promise.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Jordan Smith

ApprovedThis post will serve as a bonus/appetizer to today’s DiM. I’ve already confessed here before that my wife and I enjoy watching The Voice on NBC. What happens on prime time television is rarely something worth discussing on this blog, but I would be remiss to not share Jordan Smith’s studio rendition of Selah’s version of Great is they faithfulness. It may be a bit shallow, but I love the fact that this was not accompanied by an organ.

Jordan Smith – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Studio Version – The Voice 9

 

Shorter Version that was aired on NBC’s TheVoice Season 9

 

Great is Thy Faithfulness (Selah) Lyrics

Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

And All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness,
Great is Thy faithfulness,
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

*Jordan’s changes are in italics

Discussion

This is a song of thanksgiving and praise to God the Father for all He has provided for us… including forgiveness, peace, strength for today and hope for tomorrow. This is an excellent song that has endured for well over 100 years.

The song draws from Lamentations 3. You’ll see the refrain in verses 22-23, but to get the full picture, please read the whole chapter.

Lamentations 3 (ESV) | Great Is Your Faithfulness

I am the man who has seen affliction
    under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
    into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
    again and again the whole day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
    he has broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
    with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
    like the dead of long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
    he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
    he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
    he has made my paths crooked.

10 He is a bear lying in wait for me,
    a lion in hiding;
11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
    he has made me desolate;
12 he bent his bow and set me
    as a target for his arrow.

13 He drove into my kidneys
    the arrows of his quiver;
14 I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
    the object of their taunts all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitterness;
    he has sated me with wormwood.

16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
    and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
    I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
    so has my hope from the Lord.”

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
    the yoke in his youth.

28 Let him sit alone in silence
    when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
    there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
    and let him be filled with insults.

31 For the Lord will not
    cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart
    or grieve the children of men.

34 To crush underfoot
    all the prisoners of the earth,
35 to deny a man justice
    in the presence of the Most High,
36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit,
    the Lord does not approve.

37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,
    unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that good and bad come?
39 Why should a living man complain,
    a man, about the punishment of his sins?

40 Let us test and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord!
41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands
    to God in heaven:
42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
    and you have not forgiven.

43 “You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us,
    killing without pity;
44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
    so that no prayer can pass through.
45 You have made us scum and garbage
    among the peoples.

46 “All our enemies
    open their mouths against us;
47 panic and pitfall have come upon us,
    devastation and destruction;
48 my eyes flow with rivers of tears
    because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.

49 “My eyes will flow without ceasing,
    without respite,
50 until the Lord from heaven
    looks down and sees;
51 my eyes cause me grief
    at the fate of all the daughters of my city.

52 “I have been hunted like a bird
    by those who were my enemies without cause;
53 they flung me alive into the pit
    and cast stones on me;
54 water closed over my head;
    I said, ‘I am lost.’

55 “I called on your name, O Lord,
    from the depths of the pit;
56 you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
    your ear to my cry for help!’
57 You came near when I called on you;
    you said, ‘Do not fear!’

58 “You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
    you have redeemed my life.
59 You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord;
    judge my cause.
60 You have seen all their vengeance,
    all their plots against me.

61 “You have heard their taunts, O Lord,
    all their plots against me.
62 The lips and thoughts of my assailants
    are against me all the day long.
63 Behold their sitting and their rising;
    I am the object of their taunts.

64 “You will repay them, O Lord,
    according to the work of their hands.
65 You will give them dullness of heart;
    your curse will be on them.
66 You will pursue them in anger and destroy them
    from under your heavens, O Lord.”

Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

 

Friday Sermon | “I Believe In” by Matt Chandler

MattChandlerIt has been some time since we last visited the Village Church for a sermon given by Matt Chandler. They’ve wrapped up their sermon series in James and have begun a 12 week series working through the Apostle’s Creed. Today we’ll be looking at the first sermon in the series which was preached on Saturday Evening, August 22, 2015.

Excerpt from Intro

…We’re going to do 12 weeks on the Apostles’ Creed. Here’s what I know. Let’s chat. Let’s just talk about it. Those of you who have more liturgical backgrounds… Maybe you’re a formal Catholic or an Anglican or grew up in a Reformed Presbyterian church or something like that. You’re geeked out of your mind right now. You’re like, “Can you even do this? Is he allowed to do this? I thought we weren’t allowed to do creeds.”

If you’re a modern Baptist… Not a historic Baptist, because historic Baptists were also creedal people, but if you’re a modern Baptist and you’ve heard something like, “No creed but the Bible,” then you’re probably concerned about me right now and wondering what in the world the elders are thinking. “How could they let him do this, and how do we shut it down?” So there’s this mixture of excitement and nervousness in the room about the Apostles’ Creed.

Let’s just talk very briefly. What I want to do today in our time together is tell you why we would spend 12 weeks on the Apostles’ Creed. I’m going to give you my outline right out of the gate, and then we’re going to very quickly get to the Bible. Here’s my outline. The creed will help us develop better symmetry as Christians, give us a more robust understanding of the God of the Bible. The creed helps us with clarity. It makes it clear who God is. The creed informs our community, who we belong to and who we are with. Finally, the creed informs our counsel, both to ourselves and to others…

(ref: The Village Church Sermon Page)

Sermon Video

https://my.ekklesia360.com/Clients/download.php?sid=13119&url=http://media.thevillagechurch.net/sermons/audio/201508221700FMWC21ASAAA_MattChandler_TheApostlesCreedPt1-IBelieveIn.mp3&mediaBID=3781175

Sermon Transcript

http://media.thevillagechurch.net/sermons/transcripts/201508221700FMWC21ASAAA_MattChandler_TheApostlesCreedPt1-IBelieveIn.pdf

Sermon Text

Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven…
And sits on the right hand of the Father almighty…
From whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit…
The holy catholic church…
The communion of saints…
The forgiveness of sins…
The resurrection of the body…
And the life everlasting.
Amen.

Have a blessed weekend, and I pray you are encouraged by this sermon.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Heart of Worship – More Than Emotion

trebleclefIn our DiM posts, we come down hard on the focus on emotionalism that permeates Evangelical Christian Music. It is the biggest problem with so-called Worship music being pushed by Bethel, Hillsong, Vineyard, and even Integrity Music. While visiting a small local church-plant recently, I realized that something needs to be said of why this genre of music is so compelling, especially to growing churches, and to recognize its well-intentioned though misapplied reasoning. The idea being that if we can stir our hearts to experience a deeply felt emotional love for God, then we are worshiping God with our hearts and that is pleasing to Him. The intent of “worshiping God with our emotions” sounds good, but it is misguided and carnal.

The Summation of the Law

I think it best to begin at the beginning, so let us remember the Law of God. Jesus was asked what is the great commandment in the Law. Let’s see His answer below:

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Now, modern-day evangelicalism likes to confuse this summation of the Law (on these two commandments depend all the Law…) for the Gospel. “Love God, Love Neighbor” is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ… it is the Law. None of us live up to this law. Only Jesus Christ fulfilled this Law. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven will be by His fulfillment of the Law imputed to us by Grace, through Faith in Jesus Christ. Does this mean the Law is no of no use to us? Absolutely not! Let’s look at what Paul puts together in Eph 2:8-10:

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

By Grace, through faith, we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared for us to walk in. How do we know what is a good work? The Law. So you see, while no amount of law-keeping can grant saving faith… Faith received as a Gift of God will lead us into good works prepared in Christ Jesus. This is the focus of the book of James, that a faith that does not lead us into good works in Christ Jesus is not true faith.

James 1:19-27 (ESV) | Hearing and Doing the Word

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 2:14-26 (ESV) | Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

You don’t get true faith by doing good deeds, you get it by hearing the Word of Christ (Rom 10:12-17) and receiving with meekness the implanted word (Matt 13:23 ESV). It is the Word of God that produces faith, and that faith should produce fruit. How much fruit will depend on your maturity and the extend to which you’ve died to your flesh, because until the Great Day of Christ’s return we continue to walk in bodies of sinful flesh and have been charged to take up our crosses daily.

Notice the focus in the Apostolic teaching is on faith, not on emotion. Neither Paul nor James calls Christians to whipping up an emotional experience of love. Our flesh has its own definition of “love”, and the world usually focuses on the feel-good emotion or physical displays of affection. God defines Love differently:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

Love isn’t an emotion; love is a Character trait, a fruit of the Spirit of God. Emotions come and go… Love never ends. Where do emotions fit in the fruit of the Spirit of God? Self-control.

Our Hearts of Flesh

Let’s talk about the condition of the heart of mankind. To put it bluntly, our hearts are wicked, idolatrous, and adulterous. We are in-fact defiled by what flows from our sinful hearts.

Matthew 15:10-20 (ESV) | What Defiles a Person

And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Romans 1:18-25 (ESV) | God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Now, when the Spirit of the Living God regenerates us by the Grace of God, granting us saving faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, our flesh yet remains and must be daily crucified in repentance until the Day of the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do we have the power to change our sinful hearts? No. King David knew this, and spent a great deal of time in prayer asking the Lord to change his heart. Probably the most prominent expression of this Truth, that we need God to cleanse our hearts, is Psalm 51.

Can We Worship With Our Emotions?

When we read through the Old Testament prescriptions for Worship, we see sacrifices, statutes, and ordinances for the People of God keep in Worship of the One True God. Many like to point to the exuberant praise of King David before Lord in 2 Samuel 6:16-23. Clearly, David’s worship was received by the Lord, and Michal was made barren for her judgement against David. But we don’t see Jesus or His disciples demonstrating such worship in the New Testament. I point this out, not to say that such worship is off-limits, but to make a point that worship remains, even when such emotional exuberance is missing or subdued. In fact, had David’s heart NOT been in the right place, his exuberance would not have been received as worship. There will be times when your emotions fall in line with your worship… and it is awesome. However, there are times when our emotions will fly completely against our worship, such as when Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice of worship to God. If the key to right worship were found in the emotions, Abraham would have failed. Praise be to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that our emotions are not the key to right worship; rather, it is by faith that our worship can be pleasing in His sight.

Hebrews 11:4-6 (ESV) By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

How Do We Worship With Our Hearts?

Firstly, we need to adjust our understanding of what the Scriptures mean when our hearts are being referenced. It isn’t just your emotions. Your heart is the core of your being. David charged his son to value Wisdom in Proverbs 2. Let’s take a look at how he references the heart.

Proverbs 2:1-15 (ESV) | The Value of Wisdom

My son, if you receive my words
    and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
    and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
    and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
    he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
    and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
    and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
    understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
    from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
    to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
    and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
    and who are devious in their ways.

The thrust of the first several proverbs is growing in Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding so that the man of God will walk in the paths of righteousness. That growth comes from inclining the heart to understanding, and seeking the wisdom of God and receiving that wisdom in the heart. David isn’t just talking about emotions, he’s talking about studying, memorizing, meditating, and walking in the Word of God.

Conclusion

When it comes to corporate worship, our focus should NOT be on our emotions; rather, it should be on the Word of the Lord. Whether or not we feel that ‘puppy-love’ gushing of euphoria… we are called to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. The songs we sing, the confessions of our mouth, should be in accordance with Scripture. The world knows how to manipulate emotions… and the evangelicalism has attempted to short-cut maturity in spiritual growth by focusing on emotional manipulation disguised as “worship”. Such carnal focus only serves the worshiper’s felt needs and does not edify the church. Singing songs about how you are dancing, singing, crying, embracing, and worshiping doesn’t actually lead to Worship. There are no short-cuts… it’s time to get back to the heart of worship.

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) | A Living Sacrifice

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Faith in Christ Jesus gets you there… not emotion. May the Grace of God abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Pleading the Blood of Jesus?

Have you ever heard someone giving a testimony and in their details of what they did in response to the situation or spiritual warfare they were engaging in was to Plead the Blood of Jesus over the situation, their surroundings, or themselves? Once again, we will be addressing a popular Charismatic / Pentecostal practice of “pleading the blood”. If you’ve never heard of this practice, this charismamag article will explain their teaching on this practice.

Where are we taught to include this in our prayer?

The CharismaMag article doesn’t say. That’s because it cannot be found in Scripture. Nowhere do we find any reference to pleading the blood of Jesus Christ over a situation, person, or place. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, there was no mention of declaring, decreeing, or pleading anything.

Matthew 6:5-15 (ESV) | The Lord’s Prayer

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them,for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Notice Jesus’ teaching here about the purpose of prayer. He warns not to pray like the hypocrites that they may be seen by others (decree / declare / plead?). We don’t pray to demons, or principalities or powers, or schemes of the devil… we pray to Our Father in Heaven. In fact, the closest example of invoking a plea / command in an attempt to exorcise a demon went horribly, horribly wrong for those doing the invoking.

Acts 19:11-20 (ESV) | The Sons of Sceva

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

They confessed and repented of their mysticism (don’t think it was only pagan mysticism, Jewish mysticism is included here), and burned their costly implements. The Word of the Lord, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what increased and prevailed, not invoking the name of the Jesus Paul preached… if the Name of Jesus didn’t work for these mystics, neither will invoking His blood in this way.

But how can this be wrong for Christians?

First, I go back to the critical point that we are never instructed in Scriptures to pray that way. Second, there is a lot of convoluted philosophical rationale based on proof texting that starts with idea that Jesus has been given all authority… which is true… but ends with an odd notion that we are deputized to decree the blood of Jesus over ourselves (as believers), others, situations, and places to expand Christ’s Kingdom here on earth. For starters, let’s go to the Great Commission (a passage not quoted in the article):

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) | The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Indeed, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. Jesus gives us our charge here… to make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded us. Were we given all authority? No. We were given a charge by the One to whom all authority in Heaven and on Earth resides.

Here is where the philosophical rationale comes in… by first limiting the understanding of the authority of Jesus Christ coming only from His shed blood. The blood He shed on the cross He gave as payment for our sins and unrighteousness. He laid down His life for the sheep, His body was broken for us, and His blood is the new covenant. If my wording seems familiar, you’ve probably guessed by now where we are going to look next.

1 Corinthians 11:23-34 (ESV)

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

This is for believers, those who are by faith adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the New Covenant, that He laid down His life on the cross for our sake, so that in Him we might be justified by faith. This is a serious matter, one not to be taken lightly by any means. I really wish the phrase “pleading the Blood” was connected to the communion cup… but it isn’t.

The next step in the logic train, is to confuse our charge of preaching Law and Gospel pointing the lost to Christ with some self-aggrandizing theology of expanding the Kingdom of God by exploring new lands and claiming them in the Name of Jesus. I don’t know if this comes from dispensationalism or post-millenialism, but it’s self-focused and works-based. God saved you when you were dead in your sins and trespasses… He doesn’t need you to expand His Kingdom. By Grace you get the opportunity to preach the Gospel. This is an important distinction to grasp. For the purpose-driven folks reading this… I’m sure there is a lot of resistance to this idea. We’ll continue working through that barrier as the weeks progress.

Finally, the end of the logic train is the notion that (despite it NOT being taught in Scripture to do so) the “pleading the Blood” thing is taught as spiritual warfare. As deputies of Jesus Christ, the logic goes that it’s somehow your job to pray against demonic forces a certain way to secure peace, reprieve, health, and even salvation for another who is imprisoned in darkness. What we should be doing is preaching the Word of God to those who are in bondage while praying to God the Father for their salvation.

 

Conclusion

There is no Scriptural basis for praying this way. This is at-best, a bad mysticism-driven alternative to preaching Law and Gospel, Sin and Grace, Repentance and the Forgiveness of sins. We pray to God, not to the enemy. We Preach the Word of God, not our desires mixed with an invocation of the Blood of Jesus Christ to give our desires validity. It is natural for the flesh to want some measure of control over any given situation… even if it has to invent those measures and proof-text the philosophy behind it. This natural, fleshly desire is to be submitted to the Scriptures along with every other temptation. Pray to God, not things, situations, nor spirits. For additional thoughts on this matter, the folks at GotQuestions? covered this. Their focus is primarily on the Word of Faith (WoF) movement.

Instead of attaching some form of pleading the blood to your attempts at commanding authority over spirits, Preach the Word to the lost and hurting. Also remember that Christians still need to hear both Law and Gospel. We need to hear that our sins have been forgiven by the finished work of Christ on the cross. How wonderful it would be to redefine “plea the blood of Jesus” as a reminder of the communion cup, the sign of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ!

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge