17 November, 2009

~snapshot of wk 9 of 10, lesson 8; BHT study: "What is our Gain? our Reward? our Prize? ~ CHRIST!"

Snapshot of wk 9 of 10, lesson 8; BHT study: "What is our Gain? our Reward? our Prize? ~ CHRIST!"

Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 11/17/2009 - 12:39pm

"No Half-Godfearers"

Malachi 3:13-18
"Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, 'How have we spoken against you?' You have said, 'It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.'" Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. "They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

Intro: Let's start at the very .... end of this week's lesson. P. 147 in your books. We listed on the board all the "promises" and benefits that attach to those who fear the Lord according to: Psalm 25:14, Psalm 31:19, Psalm 33:18-19, Psalm 103:13, Psalm 115:11, and Psalm 145:19

1. What's in it for me? Exposing a heart set on itself
We talked through our "consumer" mentality here in America, today. We have the luxury of a multitude of vendors trying to woo us by our own self-importance with ad campaigns like "Because you're worth it," and "Have it your way, right away...."

The mentality exposed in v. 13-15 in the hearts of these unfaithful people of God is this exact idea - "What's the point? Clearly God is letting the arrogant and evil-doers get away with murder! Why should we even bother being righteous when God is so indifferent as to just ignore this unrighteousness all around us?!" Not only are they implying accusation against God's character, but they expose their own self-righteousness. What self-serving superiority! They might as well be saying "God, I thank you that I am not like other men who do evil against you. But SEE what righteousness I do! Where is my reward?!" (see Luke 18:9-14)

Read Psalm 73 - Notice the turning point in Psalm 73:16-17. What is the Psalmist doing to remedy his misconception about God's seeming lack of justice against the wicked? He is recalling to himself God's character, seeking company with the Lord in prayer, and reminding himself that his only hope is that God save him, even if he does not see the playing out of this in his earthly life. He can nevertheless trust God's goodness to execute justice - justice which he himself also rightly deserves (notice v. 21-22) BUT for God's mercy.

2. What's in a word? (self-esteem; isn't it just semantics?) Self-worth? or Self-evaluation?
The problem in wailing to God about "all those unrighteous out there" is that we are ignoring the wickednesses of our own heart, first of which is pride! And in our culture, we are not only taught to be self-confident and self-actualizing, we are taught that we "ought" to esteem ourselves. So, let's examine that. We talked through a host of synonyms for "esteem" and considered them in relationship to "self" -

to prize self, to revere self, to bow down to self, to honor self, to favor self, to marvel at self, to pay homage to self, to respect self, to laud self, to value self, to hold self in high regard, to admire self, to delight in self, to glorify self, to cherish self, to idolize self, to adore self, to treasure self, to extol self, to think the world of self, to venerate self, to applaud self, to apotheosize (to "deify") self, to worship....self.

"well, when you put it like that...." does ANY of that sound remotely biblical?

So called "High" self-esteem and "Low" self-esteem are at their root the same error because at the root of each is "self" and "self-focus."

If by "esteem" we mean to "estimate" as in to "compare to a standard so as to assess the true value of," then we MIGHT be able to redeem the term, but only in this respect - if we are "esteeming" ourselves rightly - that is, according to God's unchanging standard of righteousness, then the only "estimation" we can rightly appraise is something that looks like "Woe is me, I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips and I come from a people of unclean lips! God have mercy on me a sinner!" (see Isaiah 6, and again Luke 18:9-14)

This is the point. Our "value" - whether high OR low! - is not something WE have the luxury of assessing. GOD makes the assessment by having created us in his image and by whether or not he chooses to declare us righteous. So our "self-evaluation" then ought to be only for ONE purpose - to examine ourselves to see if we are in Christ. Because it is CHRIST who is worthy of our laud and honor. See what happens when we DIE to self, DENY self, and "fix our eyes on Jesus,"

we prize Christ, revere Christ, bow down to Christ, honor Christ, we favor Christ, marvel at Christ, pay homage to Christ, respect Christ, laud Christ, value Christ, hold CHRIST in high regard, admire Christ, delight in CHRIST, glorify CHRIST, cherish CHRIST, adore CHRIST, treasure CHRIST, extol CHRIST, think the world of CHRIST, venerate CHRIST, applaud CHRIST, worship....CHRIST!

I am not saying we ought not think of ourselves at all - See Romans 12:3-8 - but we ought to examine ourselves, think of ourselves with sober judgment and NOT think more highly of ourselves than we ought....

3. What's the Big Idea? "Choose you this day whom you will serve"
Read Joshua 24:1-28 In this chapter, God first lays out "It was I who...." and all the things he had done for the people of Israel having led them into the promised land. Only after this recounting does Joshua finally say in effect, "All right, people, you've heard what the Lord your God has done, NOW choose whom you will serve, whether the one true God! or the false gods of your past!" which is to say "There really is no choice, here!"

And how do the people respond? "We will serve the Lord!" To which Joshua then says, "Well, you can't. He is HOLY! And if you prove to be unfaithful, he will turn and consume you!" (see Joshua 24:19-21) That is to say, "Understand what you are committing yourselves to!"

(consider what it means to "fear the Lord" rightly!)

4. What's in your .... book? Rebuke - Repent - Restore - Remember - (Reward?)
Now, in Malachi 3:16, we get our first glimpse of how the people respond to this so far 2 1/2 chapter rebuke from God.

Those who feared the Lord - those who were his true followers, the remnant - and we do not know how many this entailed - got together and started to talk with one another. About what? About the word of the Lord! They started discussing the rebuke of God and whether it has any merit, and are they guilty of these very things, and what will they do now....And where are they meeting? "in the presence of the Lord" or "before Him." Where are they? Scripture says that where two or more are gathered, there he is in the midst of them? They're at "church," in essence. Or their Wednesday night Bible study! And what are they doing? They are remembering the Lord.

We didn't get into this in detail as it would involve a whole 'nother study, but "Remember" is a covenantal term. This is why we "remember" Jesus in his blood and body given when we participate in the Lord's supper - which we also call "communion" - why? Because it is a term of intimacy. It is akin to "knowing God" - quite literally "in the biblical sense." As we've said before, knowing/communing/remembering - all are terms of covenant. (Remember God's first words to open the book of Malachi, before he speaks his rebuke to his people?)

So they create a book of remembrance in the presence of the Lord, and he takes pleasure in them - who are "them"? Those who FEAR HIM and who meditate on his name. And because they fear him, they in turn commit themselves to him. And again we see God's stamp of ownership on them, as we see similarly in 1 Peter 2:9-10. See Malachi 3:17-18. He will make those who fear him to be his jewels, his "spared ones" who are able to discern - to REALLY see the truth - about those who are righteous in God's sight, and those who are wicked, who are able to discern what it means to REALLY "serve the Lord."

Conclusion -
God's rebuke is to turn us to repentance! To get our eyes off our Self and to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith! And God's promise, then, to all who repent and who rightly "fear Him" is to restore them. To what? To intimacy with Himself!

HE is our reward! HE is the one we adore! HE is the one on whom we have fixed our eyes....and our affection! HE is the object of our desire, and HE is the object of our remembrance. HE is the one to whom we are running. HE is our reward.

~May we truly decrease and He increase....~
Groups: Women of Grace

~snapshot of wk 8, lesson 7; BHT study: "Robbers of God ~ What are we depending on?"

Submitted by Leah Page on Wed, 11/11/2009 - 7:35am

"Before His Throne" week 8, lesson 7 ~ Robbers of God: What are we depending on?

Intro: Mortifying Darling Sins (see prev post for text)

Unchanging God ~ Restating Malachi 3:6-7 in our own words: "I haven’t changed. I am still the God of your father Jacob, still the one who has promised my love to you. As has always been true, return to me; see that I am still your God, see that I will return to you."

Throughout the book of Malachi, we have seen God’s rebuke of his people for their unfaithfulness. Again, now, in Mal. 3:6-7 we catch a glimpse of God’s promise. And his promise is both a call to repent (return), and a confident declaration of his faithfulness.

On p. 116-117 in our books, we had filled in charts listing the many things in our lives upon which we "depend" – relationships, jobs, finances, health, intelligence, our reputations, church – things which in and of themselves are good gifts from our Father, but which we often come to clutch and keep nearer our hearts than God our Father himself. The perhaps obvious implication being that all of these things are changeable, and therefore not dependable!

We were challenged with regards to how we have placed our faith in our idols rather than our God?

A Concrete Example ~ The primary rebuke in Malachi 3:6-12 is that God’s people are "robbing" him of his due. We studied through the week the various elements of what it meant that they were to "tithe" and make offerings. And we learned that God’s kind intention was to teach his people to fear him rightly.
So we talked about how faithfulness in tithing is one of the ways we learn to fear God (see Deuteronomy 14:22-23 as well as Numbers 18:21-29 and Leviticus 27:30-34). And how the nature of the "tithe" (similar to our earlier discussions about the nature of the sacrifices of the OT) reveals to us God’s character, especially his holiness – they were to offer firstfruits of what? Fruit of the ground, fruit of their livestock, everything. The first and the best, consecrated to God because he is worthy.

Perfect love casts out fear ~ We got back to this question from the beginning of class, from 1 John 4:13-21. How is it right and good that we are to fear God, that the fearing of God is full of so many wonderful promises, it pleases God, it receives blessing, etc., AND that perfect love casts out fear?

We talked about the tendencies of our hearts to works-based theologies, and how when the Lord reveals his grace, it's like our "Yes, but!" flip flops. I shared from my own life story, that I would repeat to myself passionately that "Yes, God is gracious, but I have to STRIVE for holiness!" and "Yes, God is the one who works in us to will and to do his good pleasure, BUT we must DO his good pleasure! we must RUN the race as to PURSUE the prize!" and "Yes, God loves us, but we must MAKE EVERY EFFORT to make our calling and election sure!" And I would punctuate each exclamation point with a clenched fist and a clenched jaw!!

But when the Lord finally "removed the scales from my eyes" as regards HIS sovereign love (my df. for grace), my sister and I would marvel that it was like our "Yes, but!"'s had completely swapped places. So now, "Yes, we must strive, and make every effort, and run this race as to pursue the prize, BUT, God is GRACIOUS, and it is GOD who will accomplish his work, because he is FAITHFUL to complete what he has begun, it is GOD who empowers us by his spirit and sustains us by his grace...." etc.

We suggested - and we may have opportunity to flesh this out more before our time together in this study comes to a close - that in effect, "the fear of the Lord" AND "perfect love" are equivalent to one another....So you COULD say, "the fear of the Lord casts out fear....."

The hinge point, here, is God's GRACE. Which is anchored in the fact that God Does Not Change.

So - Repent! Turn FROM your sin and idolatry; and Turn TO your heavenly Father who loves you and having saved you in Christ Jesus is now faithfully working to discipline you as sons, refine you and purify you as silver and to conform you to the likeness of his Beloved son in whom he is well pleased.....

Groups: Women of Grace

Mortifying Darling Sins (Thomas Brooks)

~Mortifying Darling Sins~ (grace gem shared last night)
Submitted by Leah Page on Thu, 11/05/2009 - 3:32pm

The best means to mortify sin

(Thomas Brooks, "The Crown and Glory of Christianity,or, HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness", 1662)

"Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5

While a darling sin lives and keeps the throne in the heart, grace and holiness will be kept exceeding weak and low. But when your darling sin is dethroned and slain by the power and the sword of the Spirit—grace and holiness will quickly grow stronger and stronger, and rise higher and higher.

When a man has eaten poison, nothing will make him thrive, until he has vomited up the poison. Beloved sins—they are the poison of the soul, and until these are vomited up, and cast out by sound repentance, and the exercise of faith in the
blood of Christ, the soul will never thrive in grace and holiness!

If ever you would attain to higher degrees of holiness, then fall with all your might, upon subduing and crucifying your most raging corruptions, and your most daring lusts!

Oh do not think that your golden and your silver idols will lay down their weapons, and yield the battle, and lie at your feet, and let you trample them to death—without striking a blow! Oh remember that besetting-sins will do all they can to keep their ground, and therefore you must arise with all your strength against them, and crush them to powder, and burn them to ashes!

Oh deal with your most enraged lusts, as the Philistines dealt with Samson—pluck out their eyes, and force them to grind in the mill of mortification, until their strength is utterly consumed and wasted.

I have read of five men, who being asked what was the best means to mortify sin, gave these answers. Said the first, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on death."

Said the second, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on the judgment-day."

Said the third, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on the joys of heaven."

Said the fourth, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on the torments of hell."

Said the fifth, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on the death and sufferings of Christ."

Doubtless the last man hit the nail on the head!

The daily sight of a bleeding, groaning, dying Savior—is the only thing which will subdue and mortify darling sins!

O friends! Never leave looking up to a crucified Christ, until virtue flows from Him to the crucifying of those special besetting sins which do most obstruct and hinder the growth and increase of holiness.