The Road to Jesus Leads to Holiness

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From the very beginning of Isaiah’s preaching, he has emphasized that mankind’s fundamental problem (even that of God’s own people, Israel and Judah) is sin: iniquity, evildoing, lawlessness, refusing to hear and submit to God’s law (1:2-6).

Isaiah 34 & 35 fit together. In chapter 34, we have God’s judgment, yet again. In chapter 35, we have (again) a promise of His coming blessing. This time, this blessing is portrayed in terms of holiness. That’s what Israel needs. They need to be right with God.

But, that holiness is open to more than just Israel. It is also open to the nations. Observe 34:1-4. Isaiah draws attention from the nations of the world, the neighbors of his people Israel: nations, peoples, earth, world. Consider the commands Isaiah gives the nations:
1. Come near to hear (obey);
2. Listen
3. Hear (obey)
“These paragraphs contain many imperative verbs that exhort the audience to change its worldview” (Smith, 578). In chapter 35, Isaiah is going to talk about the “Highway of Holiness.” Here, Isaiah is calling on all the nations to listen and learn about that highway that leads to holiness, that leads to righteousness, that leads to redemption. Yes, this highway is open to all the nations, all the peoples, the whole earth, the entire world.

In looking at the positive side of God’s nature, in chapter 35, Isaiah continues with his “desert” theme he has used in chapter 34 but here, he portrays the desert as being revived and brought to life. The desert and the wilderness will be glad. Clearly inanimate objects cannot be glad. The desert and wilderness are metaphors for God’s people, for the remnant, the faithful.

Lebanon will enjoy this new found peace and security, as will Carmel and Sharon. They will all see the glory of the Lord and the majesty of God, just as Isaiah did back in chapter 6! They just need to imitate Isaiah’s humility: “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5).

It is in this context, that Isaiah foresees the opening of the “Highway of Holiness” (35:8). We’ll talk more about the “highway” next Tuesday. Let’s think now about “holiness.” The word “holy” is found 60 times in Isaiah, almost once per chapter. “Holiness” is found only here. A highway will stretch through this new land, blessed by the God of heaven and it will be a highway that leads to holiness.

Remember the evildoers and those who work iniquity that Isaiah criticized back in 1:4? They can’t go. The unclean cannot travel on the highway of holiness. The last time the word “unclean” was used in Isaiah, it was in 6:5 where Isaiah pictures himself as of “unclean lips.” These are not men who are unclean because they ate unclean animals; this is a description of their spiritual lives.

The highway of holiness will be for him who walks on the way of holiness, who follows the way of holiness. Isaiah will tell us in just a few chapters, chapter 40, that someone is going to come to prepare that way. He will clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness. He will make smooth in the desert a highway for our God (40:3). Matthew (3:3), Mark (1:3); Luke (3:4-6); John (1:23) and Jesus Himself (Matthew 11:14) are unanimous that the one who would prepare that way is John the baptizer. Without a doubt, John came to prepare the way for Jesus.

Isaiah is preparing his people for the coming of the One who would provide holiness. Through his preaching, he is paving the way to holiness, leading Israel to Jesus Christ.

–Paul Holland

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Purpose of the book of Judges

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Here Comes the Judge

Life is a cycle. Our own lives are a cycle sometimes. We live faithful to God for a period of time, then we slip back. We might even be strong and faithful to God every Sunday but we slip back into sin on Tuesday. We might not intend to do it but our faith is weak and our self-control is fragile.

But book of Judges is just straightforward history. But, when you read through these twenty-one chapters, the “impression is one of self-inflicted chaos suffered by a people who forget who they are and how they got to Canaan” (House, 214).

There are a lot of horrible sins committed by God’s people in Judges: murder, rape, idolatry, homosexuality, fratricide. At this time, Israel no longer has a leader like Moses or Joshua. Most of the leaders who rise up in Judges are seriously flawed. It seems that failure and defeat are the norm as opposed to victory and success, under Moses and Joshua.

The history begins by showing how God brought Israel into the promised land. Judges takes place after the death of Joshua. Just as the historian has told us there was no “king” in Israel, it seems also that he is telling us there is no “Joshua” in Israel. Notice verse 1 begins by pointing out that, at this time, Israel “inquired of the Lord.” As long as Israel inquired of the Lord and then did what God told them, everything worked out well. But this is the last time Israel will inquire of the Lord until the end of the book when they have descended into moral chaos.

The beginning of Israel’s problems is seen in verse 28 – economic and military security. When things go well for us financially, we decide we don’t have time or need for God anymore. It seems that Israel decided they could be smarter than God and not do things God’s way. God had warned Israel to destroy all the inhabitants of the land or they would drag them back into idolatry (Deut. 7:1-6).

God does not force anyone to love Him. God will not force someone, against their will, to respond to Him in faith, humility, and obedience. God does not give up on Israel but He gives them up to go which ever way their heart leads them. That is similar to the statements Paul makes of God’s attitude toward the Gentiles in Romans 1:24, 26, 28.

Please observe the verbs describing Israel’s actions in verses 11-13. But, because God is holy, you cannot sin with impunity. God is going to react. Why? Because sin keeps man out of God’s presence and God hates sin. Therefore, God gets angry and punishes those who do sin. It might bring that individual to repentance or it might bring someone else to repentance who sees God’s punishment. So, we see the anger of God emphasized in verses 14-15.

God raised up judges as an act of grace to lead these stubborn and hardhearted people back to Him. Only one judge was a judge as we understand the term (Deborah). Most of the judges were military leaders. The word “judge” can be translated “deliverer.”
Unfortunately, Israel, in large part, did not listen to the judges (verse 17). Why? Because they found it more appealing to commit spiritual adultery with the religions around them. Judges 10:6 will identify seven gods / idols the Israelites will serve. They do that because (2:17), they were not obeying the commandments of the Lord.
God raised up these judges (vs 18) and He worked through them and brought rest and peace to the land. Why? Because that is Who God is. He was moved to pity by the groaning of the Israelites. In 11:27, God is described as a judge – the Judge, the true Deliverer – of Israel.

Once again, God will not allow sin to go unpunished. It will be punished now or it will be punished throughout eternity. We have another reference to the anger of the Lord in verse 20. Observe God’s judgment of Israel: They transgressed the covenant and would not listen. So, He will not help them by driving out the nations that were left. This is going to test Israel to see if they truly did love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
The Lord allowed those nations to remain to see if Israel would stay committed to God. That’s why God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. That’s why God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. That’s why God allows challenges to come into our lives – to test us to see if we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Will we stick with faithful obedience to the covenant of Jesus Christ or will we follow the cycle in judges and look for approval from the world?

Remain dedicated to God’s covenant and refuse the enticements of Satan.

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Letters to the Seven Churches in Asia

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You’ve Got Mail: Letters to the Seven Churches in Asia
(Part 2 of 7)

The second letter in Revelation 2-3 is to the church in Smyrna. Most of the letters had the same structure. It opened with a mention of Jesus, looking back to the vision of Him in chapter 1. Next, there would be a commendation for what they had been doing well. Then, there was an exhortation for what they were not doing or what they should be doing better. Finally, there was a warning and/or a promise. This letter is one of the two that does not have an exhortation. That doesn’t mean the church was perfect, it just shows their passion for fearing God and keeping His commandments.

The city of Smyrna (which is presently known as Izmir) heavily supported and was heavily influenced by Rome. We see the church’s struggle has many similarities with the church in Rome through parallels in this brief passage (Rev. 2:8-11) and the letter to the Romans.

In Revelation 2:9, we begin to see who these people are and what their struggle is. First, the Christians in Smyrna were persecuted (afflicted). The heading in this section of your Bible might say “The Persecuted Church,” and for good reason! From the context, we can see that these people were going through many trials and they were about to go through more. Verse 10 shows us that many would be thrown in jail. Some might even die. History shows us that many of the church in Smyrna were brutally killed in a variety of ways. These people were faithful, even under such extreme persecution. The Christians in Smyrna rejoiced in hope, they were patient in tribulation, and they were constant in prayer.

Secondly, the Christians in Smyrna were impoverished (poor). In verse 9, Jesus claims that they are poor, but immediately after says, “Though you are rich.” The Christians of Smyrna were poor financially, but they knew where their true riches were. “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33) They were rich in that they had been given salvation, a gift that goes far beyond wealth. They had a hope of Heaven that could not have a price tag.

And finally, they were suffering from the influence of false Jews. These Jews were similar to the ones Paul warns of in Romans 2:28-29. These men were simply Jews outwardly, seeking approval from men rather than from God.

The church in Smyrna had the odds stacked against them. They were being pressed from all sides. They were bent, but never broken. What was their secret to overcoming? They listened to God’s promise in verse 11. “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” These Christians did not have anything to fear in this life, so they persevered in hope of the next life.

Here are two things we can take from the church in Smyrna:
1. They stayed faithful even in the strongest persecution
2. They knew where their true riches were.

Here’s a question regarding persecution we should ask ourselves. Are we persecuted? Do we feel persecuted? This may not be universally true, but if the answer is “No, I don’t feel persecuted” is it possible it’s because we have been compromising our faith and convictions for personal gain, so that we would not be persecuted? Are we willing to be hard pressed and looked down upon for being different and making a conscious effort to follow God?

And secondly, in regards to riches, are we scared of death? Are we scared of losing the things that we have, or are we willing to give them up for Christ, knowing that this life is only the beginning? Would we have the attitude of Paul in Philippians 3:8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Is Christ what we treasure the most in life?

Let this put things into perspective: Christ gave up the surpassing riches of Heaven to die for us. We should be willing to give up the passing riches of Earth to live for Him.

–Paul Holland

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How do You Confront Your Goliaths?

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The Marine officer, when he saw that he and his men were surrounded by the enemy, said, “Men, we are surrounded by the enemy; don’t let a one of them get away.”

Every one of us have our own “Goliaths” in life, that is, challenges, trials, problems. But, the difference between the one who gives up and the one who conquers is attitude! Attitude matters- attitude is altitude! But, if you want to succeed in life (altitude), you must have the right attitude. How do you confront your Goliaths?

Goliath was the Philistine warrior from Gath (1 Samuel 17). He is estimated to have been nine feet tall while David was still a boy, too young to be in the army. Goliath’s armor was tremendous. In every way, he intimidated the Israelites, even King Saul who was supposed to have been a valiant warrior himself.

When Goliath ushered his challenge – that whoever won would be the slave of the other – 1 Samuel 17:11 says, “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” No confidence in God. No trust. No faith. No optimism. Is that how you confront your Goliaths?

That is how unbelievers confront their giants. For forty days, Goliath challenged the armies of the Living God and the army acted like their God was dead. “The army was going out in battle array shouting the war cry” (vs 20). They were making a lot of noise but they weren’t accomplishing anything! “When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid” (vs 24).

David shows up on the scene, small in stature but great in faith. When the soldiers of Israel saw Goliath, they thought: “He is so big, we can never kill him!” David looked at Goliath and apparently thought, “He’s so big, I can’t miss!”

David had courage – a word that comes from the Latin word for “heart.” He told King Saul: “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (vs 32). David, himself, had heart. He had courage.

One reason David had courage was because he remembered what God had done for him in the past. “The Lord delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear. He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (vs 37). David was optimistic that God would do it again.

David also had faith. He could not see God killing Goliath through his hand, but he believed God would do it. David told Goliath: “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (vs 48).

Courage. Optimism. Faith. God answered David’s faith with a blessing. God felled Goliath through one stone, one shot from the slingshot of David (vs 49). God gave David encouragement. It was then that the whole army of Philistines fled, themselves now in terror (vs 51).

How do you confront your Goliaths? Courage. Optimism. Faith. Encouragement. COFE. The next time you have a cup of coffee, be reminded that you can conquer your Goliaths through the power of Almighty God.

–Paul HOlland

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Titus 1:8 – Elders and self control

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Elders and self-control

1. From time to time we see warning signs.
2. Many warnings signs are red.
3. Some warnings signs are red with a circular shape and perhaps have a line through the middle of the sign.
4. A red sign with a line or a slash mark means, “Do not do something.”
5. In contrast to warning signs we also see signs which approve behavior.
6. One sign of approval may be something like a “thumb’s up” sign.
7. Another sign might say, “Welcome” or “enter here.”


i) In the Bible we have some signs.
ii) God has not given us actual pictures, but He has given us words and these words are like signs.
iii) In the Bible the word “do” is like a sign which invites or commands us to take a certain action.
iv) The words “do not” are like a warning sign which says, “do not do” or “avoid.”

2) When we see signs in life we make decisions about the signs we encounter.
3) Will we stop or will we slow down when we see a sign?
4) Will we choose to obey all the signs we see and disobey or disregard others?
5) Will we act as if no signs exist and thus do whatever we want whenever we want?

6) I ask these questions and call our attention to signs because of what we find in Tit. 1:8.
i) At the end of Tit. 1:8 we find a word which is translated “self-controlled.”
ii) If you have the KJV, this word is rendered “temperate.”
iii) The NIV uses the word “disciplined.”
iv) This word is found only here in the New Testament and it just happens to describe elders.

7) Though this term is used just once, we can offer a pretty good definition for it. One source (R.R, 652):
8) “Control over one’s self. It means complete self-mastery, which controls all passionate impulses and keeps the will loyal to the will of God.”

9) This is a book definition so let’s put it into everyday language.
10) Paul told Titus: “elders seek to read signs and then try to do what they say.”
11) Based on what elders see, they seek to act in the proper manner, even though their desires may not agree with the signs they see.”

12) The quality described in Tit. 1:8 can be difficult to apply on a regular basis.
i) Most of us have been on a trip which involved traveling on an interstate or highway.
ii) As we zoomed down the road we likely saw a sign which said there was reduced speed ahead.
iii) For the next 15 miles road construction was underway and a sign said we were to go a lot more slowly.

13) I cannot speak for every driver, but I know that not all interstate drivers chose to follow the signs.
14) I know this to be true because there are some cars with flashing lights in speed zones.
15) Not every driver watches for or cares about following some signs.

16) Elders are men who work to know what some signs say and then follow them.
17) What is required of elders in this area is also what God requires of every Christian.


1) As mentioned earlier, we can associate what God says to do and what to avoid with signs.
2) In the Scriptures we have some “signs” which tell us which way to go.
i) One of the better known signs is found in Mt. 7:12.
ii) This is the place where Jesus gave the so-called “golden rule.”
iii) The Lord said “do” unto others not as we want to do, not as we have time, not as others do.
iv) Jesus tells us to “do” unto others as we want them to do unto us.

3) Would we say it takes some self-control to treat others as we want to be treated?
4) It’s not easy to treat mean, intolerant, bigoted individuals as we want to be treated.

5) God’s sign to us (the word “do”) is made possible by possessing and practicing self-control.
6) We work to control our thoughts, our feelings and our actions so we can better conform to God’s will.

7) In the next chapter of Matthew (Mt. 8) we read about some “servants.”
i) The life of a slave may be hard for us to imagine, but let’s try to get in our minds what it was like.
ii) Imagine being owned by another person; try to imagine we are nothing more than a piece of property.
iii) Our owner has complete control over us; we can be bought, sold, beaten, killed, or anything else.

8) Verse 9 in Mt. 8 records a small of conversation Jesus had with a military man – READ

9) If a slave wants to have a halfway decent life he or she must learn and must practice self-control.
i) If a slave is in bed and the master wants a stake supper at 2 am, the slave likely needs self-control.
ii) Self-control means no arguing about getting up, getting the stove fired up, and cooking the meal.
iii) Self-control means offering loyal service to the master regardless of all circumstances.

10) The military man in Mt. 8:9 understood a great principle; good self-control means people act.
11) The Lord is Lord is not like a human owner; he does not make unreasonable and unjust demands.
12) He does, however, have a will and we will only start to fulfill it if we learn to practice self-control

13) When we see a sign from God (a Bible teaching) which says “DO” this or that, we do it.
14) Developing the self-control to follow God’s will again and again takes some practice.
15) This is possible, we should get better and better at it, and it brings some great rewards.
16) In the secular realm, slaves with self-control may avoid death, beatings, or some other punishment.
17) God says self-control in regard to His will comes with some much better benefits.
18) Mt. 12:50 – READ

19) There will be times when it seems pretty difficult to have the self control to thus “do” what the Bible says.
20) There may be occasions when we ask ourselves why bother to engage self-control and be obedient.
21) By using self-control and doing what God has told us to do we will be one of His people.
22) We will be blessed and share in great glory throughout eternity.

23) When we begin to reflect on today’s lesson we might think to ourselves:
24) “I can practice self-control,” but I will certainly not be happy about it.
25) We might have the attitude of a human slave: “Practice self-control or else – I will chose to obey.”

26) God knows all about man and His knowledge includes how we might view self-control.
27) God is fully aware that some may show self-control but this control is based on fear instead of love.
28) For this reason and perhaps others the Bible has something to say about obedience and the heart.
i) In Phil. 2 Paul said some amazing things about Jesus.
ii) Verse 8 in Phil. 2 says the Lord was “obedient” even to the point of death.
iii) Think about how much self-control was needed to suffer on the cross

29) The Lord’s obedience and control as not forced; Jesus went to the cross without being pushed by anyone.
30) After we read about Jesus’ obedience Paul said this to the Philippians: 2:12-14 – READ

31) Paul wanted the Philippians to “follow God’s signs” (be obedient), and to do this with the right spirit.
32) In another letter (Rom. 6:17) this same writer spoke about “obedience from the heart.”
33) By learning and practicing self-control the “do” passages in the Bible become a lot earlier and joyful.
34) When we find verses which say “do,” “put on,” “be,” “go,” “show,” some self-control will likely be required.


i) These verses are like a red sign which has a slash mark through them.
ii) The Bible also has some signs which are like, “stop, slow down, turn back, no entrance, wrong way.”

2) Since we have given a little thought to God’s “do” and “go” signs, let’s think about this other type of sign.
3) Jesus gave one of these warnings signs in His Sermon on the Mount – Mt. 6:1.
i) Here the Lord spoke about making a show of religion.
ii) The text reads, “do not your righteousness before men.”

4) It is not uncommon for people to do something good for someone but they can’t keep quiet about it.
5) Lacking self-control some will run right out and tell anyone they can find about their good work.
6) If there is no one to communicate this person to face to face, the do-gooder may make a phone call to share it.
7) Or, the good deed may be posted on some type of social media.
8) It is also possible for someone to tell others what they will be doing BEFORE THEY DO IT!
i) Self-control can stop this type of activity.
ii) God has put up a sign which says, “Do not brag or boast about what you do.”
iii) There are warnings about broadcasting the good we may do.

9) In the Bible we have multiple “warning signs” from God.
10) In some parts of the Bible His “do not” signs involve moral issues.
11) We have “do not signs” for items like theft, adultery and murder” (Jas. 2:11).
12) There are “warnings signs” when it comes to fear (choose faith over fear).
13) There are signs when it comes to truth (do not reject and do not leave the truth).

14) In today’s world it can be easy to compromise on a lot of matters when it comes to Bible teaching.
i) There are compromises on the church, worship, how to become a Christian. There are concessions on
ii) What marriage is, marriage, divorce and remarriage, who is a Christian and who is not, etc.
15) If we are going to maintain doctrinal purity, we must maintain self-control.
16) We may feel pressured or great hostility, but self-control will help keep us on the right road.
17) Self-control may be just what we need to avoid compromising the truth.

18) It may also be what we need to avoid pride.
19) Self-control can eliminate laziness or sluggishness.
20) It can keep us from getting into wrong relationships or keep us from damaging good relationships.
21) Self-control has a direct relationship to how we use the tongue.
22) It can be really important when it comes to religious persecution.
23) Anger can be better dealt with by learning and practicing self-control.

24) In the Old Testament there is a proverb (25:28) which sums up man’s need for self-control.
25) Here is a paraphrase of what Solomon said:

26) “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.”

27) If we do not have the self-control to follow God’s “do” and “do not signs,” we will suffer brokenness.
28) We will have broken lives, broken hearts, broken homes, broken churches, and a broken nation.
i) Self control is not developed overnight, so ideally it is instilled in the early years.
ii) If you are a parent with children in the home, teach your children self-control.
iii) Illustrate self-control on your home and tell children they will learn to practice it.

29) Form the time we get up to the time we go to bed, self control should be on our minds.
30) Are we a Christian who is seeking to practice self-control?


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Do not trust in man!

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The Road to Jesus Leads to a Kingdom of Righteousness

We have seen in Isaiah that one major theme is: Do not trust in man! Do we have issues with this today? Do we not seek the approval and accolades of man today instead of seeking to honor Jesus Christ by trusting His word and being simply obedient slaves to His word? Just like today, the issue with Israel was not a weak economy. It was not a weak military. It was not irreligious people. The issue today as it was in Isaiah’s day is commitment to the wrong religion. It is commitment to something else or someone else besides Jesus Christ and His word. Man has not changed.

Frequently Isaiah has critiqued the leaders of his own people. What Israel needs is a new leader, a righteous leader. He has hinted at that and pointed it out clearly several times in earlier chapters. When we come to chapter 32, we see that the nature of the kingdom to be established by the Messiah is one of righteousness.

This first few verses of chapter 32 picture that king that Isaiah saw would come, back in passages like 9:6-7. This king will reign righteously and His people will rule justly. Back in 9:7, righteousness characterized the King’s throne. In 11:5, righteousness characterized the King’s character. Here, it will characterize the King’s administration. He and His people will be a place of refuge for the needy, a shelter from the storm, like water in a dry country and a shade in the heat of day.

We need elders and preachers, to the extent they lead in their preaching and teaching, to follow the King in being leaders who are righteous and just. But if man fails, our ultimate allegiance needs to be to God and His word. False teaching should never enter a congregation of God’s people, if they are following God’s Word. If it comes in through the preacher, it should be stopped by the elders. If it comes it with the elders’ permission, it should be stopped by a biblically knowledgeable congregation.

The righteousness that will characterize the kingdom of the Messiah will be available through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (32:15-20). Isaiah has told Israel that the Messiah would be empowered by the Holy Spirit (11:2ff). Here, the Spirit will be made available to all the subjects of the kingdom.

They will have no guidance until the Spirit is poured out from above (vs 15). Then the wilderness will become a fertile field. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness will be found in the fertile field (vs 16). We are probably most familiar with Joel’s prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit in the kingdom, since it was his prophecy that Peter quotes in Acts 2:14ff. But Ezekiel (36:26-27), Jeremiah (31:33), and others, as Isaiah does here, also predicted the coming of the Spirit of God. “God cannot fill where he does not rule” (Oswalt, 587). That’s why one must obey the Gospel first before he receives the Holy Spirit. One does not receive the Holy Spirit in order to obey the Gospel – Acts 5:32; Galatians 3:2; 4:6. One obeys the Gospel in order to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Isaiah elaborates again on these spiritual virtues in verse 17: the work of righteousness will result in peace and the service of righteousness will result in quietness and confidence forever. What a stark contrast with what the Jews were experiencing at that very moment! Can you have peace in the midst of chaos? Yes, the peace only God can give.
At that point, in the Messiah’s kingdom, His people will live in peace, secure, undisturbed, and restful (vs 18). When the forest comes down and the city is laid low (vs 19), these individuals will be blessed (vs 20). “These claims demonstrate that people cannot produce peace and security on their own through human efforts or political alliance” (Smith, 547).

Yes, if you want to have peace, you must be righteous before God. In order to enjoy that righteousness, you must be in the Kingdom of the Son of God. To be in that kingdom of righteousness (Romans 14:17), you must submit to His righteousness (Acts 10:34-35).

–Paul Holland

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Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus

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Endless Genealogies

Joachim Jeremias wrote a book published over four decades ago that can be very informative. The book is Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Jeremias does not have a proper view of the inspiration of the Scriptures, but his work is beneficial nevertheless.

First, let me share some definitions. The “Mishnah” are teachings from the Jewish Rabbis on the Hebrew Old Testament. The “Talmud” is found in two forms: a Babylonian Talmud (dating formally to 500-600 A.D.) and the Palestinian Talmud (dating 400-450 A. D.). The “Talmud” are collections of “Mishnah,” discussions among the rabbis based on the “Mishnah” (called “Tosefta”) and other commentaries by Jewish rabbis on the Old Testament. The “midrash” were Jewish interpretations of biblical texts and usually were not based on the literary, grammatical, or historical context.

Now, to Jeremias… He writes that in the first century, Jews were very concerned about racial purity. “Only women of Israelite descent were qualified to bear sons worthy of serving before the altar in Jerusalem. …Only those families who had preserved the divinely ordained purity of the race, which Ezra restored through his reforms, belonged to the true Israel” (297).

We remember that during the days of Ezra, when the Jews were returning from exile in Babylon to Judah, there were priests who could not prove their levitical descent. Consequently, they were barred from serving in that role (Nehemiah 7:61-65).

Jeremias quotes the Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin (70b, pg. 301 in Jeremias): “Rabbi Hama ben Rabbi Hanina said: “When the Holy One, blessed be He, causes His divine Presence to rest [on Israel in the Messianic age] it is only upon families of pure birth in Israel, for it is said [Jer. 31:1]: ‘At that time, said the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel.’ It is not said ‘of all Israelites’ but ‘of all families.’” The same Talmud says that Elijah writes down “at the time of marriage, any who marry wives not their equal in purity of descent” (Jeremias; emph. mine, p.h.).

Also, from the Midrash, Pasahim 20:2, Jeremias quotes: “At that time your people shall all be delivered (from Gehinnom), everyone who shall be found written in the book [Dan. 12:1]. By whose merit [will they be saved?] …Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman said: Through the merit of the legitimacy of their ancestry – as it says [in Dan. 12:1, quoted above], everyone whose name shall be found written in the book [kept by Elijah on the legitimacy of marriages].”

Here is Jeremias’s conclusion based on those two quotations: “Only families of pure Israelite descent could be assured of a share in the messianic salvation, for only they were assisted by the ‘merit of their legitimate ancestry.’ Here we have the most profound reason for the behavior of these pure Israelite families – why they watched so carefully over the maintenance of racial purity and examined the genealogies of their future sons- and daughters-in-law before marriage (Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 71b)” (301-302).

Also these quotations – from the Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin and the Midrash are dated 260 A. D., they might give us insight into Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:4: “nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith” (cf. Titus 3:9).

Salvation, even under the Law of Moses, was never based on biological descent. While the Jews had a host of advantages over Gentile nations (Romans 9:3-5), automatic salvation from sins as a descendant of Abraham was not one of them.

In this light, Paul statement in 1 Timothy 1:4 is parallel with John’s warning to the Jews in Matthew 3:9: “Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”

Genealogy will no more get us to heaven today than it did the Jews in biblical times. Each individual will be judged on his or her own faithful obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

–Paul Holland

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What is Wrong with the Aborigine?

What is wrong with the world? If you say, “Sin,” you would be right. But, I ask, “What sin?” Who defines what is sin for the aborigine? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be greedy? Is it sinful for the aborigine to have evil desires? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be full of anger? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be full of wrath? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be malicious? Is it sinful for the aborigine to slander his fellow aborigine? Is it sinful for the aborigine to speak abusively about his fellow aborigine? Is it sinful for the aborigine to lie? Why or why not?

Under what law does the aborigine live? Besides the law of man, which can be changed on a whim, under what law does the aborigine live? Under what law is he obligated before the God of heaven?

Is it sinful for the aborigine to be evil? How would you define “evil” for the aborigine? Is it sinful for the aborigine to murder innocent aborigines? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be envious? Is it sinful for the aborigine to deceive other aborigines? Is it sinful for the aborigine to gossip? Is it sinful for the aborigine to hate God? Under what law? What commandment tells aborigines to love God?

Is it sinful for the aborigine to be rude? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be arrogant? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be boastful? Is it sinful for the aborigine to invent evil things? Is it sinful for the aborigine to disobey his parents? Is it sinful for the aborigine to lack understanding? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be untrustworthy? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be unloving? Is it sinful for the aborigine to be unmerciful? By whose standard?

Under what moral and spiritual law does the aborigine live? Under what law is he accountable to the God of heaven? The Law of Moses? The Law of Christ?

Is it sinful for the aborigine to practice homosexuality? Is it sinful for the aborigine to live in fornication? Is it sinful for the aborigine to live in adultery? Under what spiritual law does the aborigine live? If you were to say that the aborigine cannot engage in any of these behaviors and be right in the sight of God, under what law is he responsible?

Is it not the law of Christ? Is that not the only spiritual law through which God has a relationship with man? These two lists of sins have come from the law of Christ, from Colossians 3:5-9 and Romans 1:29-31.

Isn’t it the truth that the aborigine is obligated to seek out God’s will for his life? Isn’t it the truth that the aborigine is obligated to submit himself to that will and fulfill that will in his life? Isn’t it the truth that the aborigine is obligated to obtain a copy of the Bible, read it, love it, and obey it?

Isn’t it the truth that the aborigine is obligated to understand Matthew 1:1? “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Isn’t it the truth that the aborigine is obligated to understand (and obey) Matthew 28:18-20? “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

If you are with me to this point, then isn’t it true that the aborigine is obligated to understand and obey everything in between Matthew 1:1 and Matthew 28:18-20?

Isn’t the aborigine obligated to understand and obey Matthew 19:9? “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Regardless whether he has a copy of the Bible on his coffee table or not, isn’t he obligated?

If the aborigine divorces his wife and marries another, without the reason being immorality, isn’t he guilty of committing adultery? Wouldn’t the aborigine be obligated to end the adulterous relationship and be restored to his first wife or live in abstinence (see 1 Corinthians 7:10-11)? Isn’t he obligated?

Isn’t it true that ignorance of God’s law is not really a reason to live immoral and ungodly lives? If the aborigine is obligated under the God of heaven to understand and obey, how much more obligated is the American whose home is full of Bibles that are hardly opened?

Teach the Word to every creature and baptize those who have believed and repented.

–Paul Holland

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What is Obedience?

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In the New American Standard version, the word “obey” is used 109 times. The word “obedience” is found 30 times. That does not touch the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to this concept in the Scriptures. The first time “obey” is used, for example, is not until Genesis 22:18.

Did God not expect Adam and Eve to obey in the Garden of Eden? He surely did for He punished them when they did not obey. In fact, His directive not to eat of the fruit is found in the verb “commanded” (Genesis 2:16). That verb “commanded” and its corresponding noun, commandment, are found 953 times! That’s an average of over 14 times per book.

Clearly, God expects man to obey. What does it mean to obey? It means: 1.) to comply with the command, direction, or request (of a person or a law); submit to the authority of; 2.) carry out (a command or instruction); and 3.) behave in accordance with (a general principle, natural law, etc.). Thus, when God gives a command, direction, request, instruction, principle, etc., then obedience means to do what God says to do. Any time God specifies what He wants, then obedience means we “comply” or “submit” or “carry out” or “behave in accordance with” what He has commanded, directed, requested, instructed, etc.

To put it simply and easy to understand, obedience is doing: what God says do, the way God says do it, and for the reason God says to do it. If God specifies any one of those three aspects, then we are obligated to obey in those aspects specified. If God does not specify any one of those three, then we are only obligated to obey in those aspects specified (You can’t obey something not specified).

For example, God commands us: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The command is to love. In what way? In certain passages, like 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, God describes the way we are to love: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

If you look back at the definition of obey, number 3, you’ll see that obedience is behaving in accordance with “a general principle.” From 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul gives us a host of principles commanded of our love: Be patient; be kind; do not be jealous; do not brag, etc. God does not specify the loving act to do in every situation but I am obligated to apply these principles to each act of love which I am to show in all my relationships.

What about the reason for the command to love? In Ephesians 5:1-2, the apostle Paul writes to Christians: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Here, Paul tells us the reason for love: because Christ loved us. He gave Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice so we must love others. The implication is also that we must give ourselves up for others, not as a sacrifice for sin but as a living sacrifice, offered to God (cf. Romans 12:1).

Any command given in the New Testament needs to be studied and applied under this same rubric: What has God commanded? How has God commanded it to be done? And why did He command it to be done? — Paul Holland

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“How Can I Keep Christ First In A World That Demands More Of Us?”

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A soldier in one of the Prussian regiments had a watch chain of which he was very proud. But, he could not afford a watch, he used to wear a bullet attached to the free end of the chain. One day, King of Prussia, Frederick II, noticed this curious ornament and, deciding to have some fun with the man, took out his own diamond-studded watch. “My watch tells me it is five o’clock,” he said, “What time does yours tell?”
The soldier replied, “My watch does not tell me the hour, but tells me every minute that it is my duty to die for Your Majesty.” King Frederick was pleased with the soldier’s answer and gave him his own watch, saying, “Take this so you may be able to tell the hour also.”
Commitment. Loyalty. Single-minded devotion.
How can I keep Christ first in a world that demands more of me?

Pray that God will help you understand how He wants you to live, what your purpose is in life. If a greater job opportunity comes open, should you take it? Pray that God will open doors or close doors for you (Colossians 4:2-4).

Certainly, we cannot talk to God without listening to God. We must read His word. We must meditate on His word (Eph. 3:3-5). This book will help us prioritize our lives (Prov. 16:3).

Under the rubric of three priorities God has given us in His word (Him, family, work), you may need to itemize your responsibilities and then list them in order. Then, you have to put them on some kind of schedule and prioritize: what you need to do, what you would like to do if you had time, what you can ask someone else to do, or what you simply cannot do at all.

We need to leave ourselves open to providential interruptions. Leave your heart open to possibilities that God sets before you to use you in ways that you might not have anticipated.

Learn to say, “No.” You may be the best at what you do. You may be the fastest. You may be the strongest. You may be the smartest. But you can’t do everything. Many Christians are “trained” to serve others, to say “Yes,” whenever they can. But Satan can use that aspect of your personality to tear you apart – to wear you out physically, to get you distracted from your priorities, to keep you out of church.

Being evangelistic does not have to be something that we “turn on” or “turn off.” Sharing the Gospel, yes, should be done at the appropriate times. But, sharing the Gospel needs to have a foundation laid in interpersonal relationships (Col. 4:5).
Invite your co-workers or teammates or classmates into your world – your Christian world. If you need to work on a project, maybe you could invite your co-worker home to eat with your family and then work on the project (with your wife’s foreknowledge and approval, of course!). That helps the other to see your home life and it may open further doors for evangelism.

Time is something that you simply cannot control. The clock just keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking into the future. Maybe you are a fan of the country music group, Alabama, and they have a song entitled Never Be One Again. Is that how you want your children to remember you?
Use your time wisely (Ephesians 5:15-16). Do not get so caught up dealing with the immediate that you can’t deal with the important. Too many times we live our lives in such a haphazard, careless, nondiscriminatory way that we wake up long after the alarm clock goes off, and we stay behind all day long. Because we are always behind, we get distracted by the immediate needs or demands of the office or classroom and then do not have time or energy for what is important.
Learn how to use your time wisely. You cannot control time but you can control your use of time. Keep in mind that God wants us to be productive and then rest.

Ultimately, we have to recognize the fact that we are each in control of our own lives. We should not allow our boss to control our lives. We should not allow our work schedule to have a negative impact on our family life. We cannot allow our fanaticism for sports be greater than our fanaticism for God’s priorities (Prov. 16:9).
If we truly want to be faithful to God, we will allow the Lord to direct our steps…

How can we keep Christ first in a world that demands more of us?
P – raying
R – eading the Bible
I – temizing our responsibilities
O – pening our heart to possibilities
R – efusing to accept everything offered to us
I – nviting others into our world
T – ime used wisely
Y – ou are in control of your life

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