In or Out?

Monday, April 17, 2017, 4:30 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Bless This House.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 2:17-29 (NASB).

Do We Teach Ourselves? (vv. 17-24)

But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.

I have made a commitment to not teach beyond what I live. Yet, I am not infallible (perfect). So, I regularly ask the Lord to search my heart and to reveal to me any areas of my life where I am not living what I teach, and then when he shows me something, I make it my practice to obey him. I am not saying I have never failed in this respect, but I make it my goal to please my Lord in all ways, and to not fail him in what he has called me to do. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Yet, I can’t think of any time since God called me to this ministry where I have knowingly preached (taught) what I knew I was not living. I don’t want to ever teach others what the scriptures say we should do, if I am not doing it myself. So, I asked the Lord, again, when I read this passage, if I am teaching anything I am not living.

I give this example, not because I pride myself in this. All glory goes to God for whatever good he has accomplished in and through my life. But, I share this that we might all be aware that it is really important, as servants of the Lord, that we are people of integrity, and that we are not hypocritical in what we do. If we tell others they should not steal, do we then cheat on our taxes? Or, do we falsify our time sheets at work? If we preach to others that they should not commit adultery, do we view pornography, or lust after someone not our spouse, or do we romanticize in our minds what we see in movies, wishing we could have that kind of man or woman instead of our spouse? Or, are we having private chats with a person of interest without our spouse’s knowledge? And, if we teach about gluttony, do we knowingly make it a practice of eating far beyond what our bodies require? Etc.

The large majority of Christians here in America are not living what they profess. They are mingling with and are adopting the ways, behaviors, thinking and values of the world. TV and the internet are big culprits in this, as those who spend hours upon hours in front of a TV set, or surfing the NET, or getting on social media sites, etc. are daily being influenced by the world and its thinking and values, whether they are consciously aware of this or not. Many, many Americans are being hypnotized and mind-controlled by whatever they see on TV, and they believe whatever they see or hear without question. Thus they are ripe for deception. And, this includes many Christians in America, too, including those who teach and preach the Word of God. Thus, it is barely distinguishable these days between the church and the world, because so many Christians live no different than the unsaved.

So, because of the hypocrisy of those who profess the name of Jesus, and of those who teach the word of God, whose lifestyles do not reflect what they profess or what they teach, the church here in America has gotten a bad reputation. Although many who participate in these modern churches (congregations) are mesmerized by all the glamor, fun and entertainment, those on the outside looking in can often, or sometimes, see through all the glitter and fakery, and they are not impressed. In fact, they are turned away from Christ because they can see right through all the bells and whistles to see that so much of it is just a big show; just theater for the people’s entertainment, with no real substance underneath, or else they see that it is largely just marketing in order to attract “customers” to their businesses.

So, if we teach others to not do what we knowingly are doing ourselves, and/or if our lifestyles do not match our profession of faith, or what we teach others, then we are being hypocritical, and thus we are dishonoring God. If we claim we have been saved from our sins, and yet we continue in the practice of sinning against God, the Bible says we are liars. This, too, dishonors God. How can we be the light of the world and the salt of the earth if our lives are not much different at all from those who are unsaved? How can we reach them for Jesus? What do we have to offer them that they don’t already have? If Jesus did not die to deliver us out of slavery to sin, then we are still dead in our sins, and we have no hope of eternal life, and thus we have nothing of value we can offer to others.

Of the Heart (vv. 25-29)

For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Basically what this is saying is that we are not saved by outward performance, ritual, tradition or works of the flesh. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. The law could not save us, because it was weakened by the flesh, because none of us can keep the law perfectly. Even circumcision did not save the people of old. Abraham was justified by his faith, and he was considered righteous before God before he was circumcised. And, yet, his faith is what led him to obey God. We read in scripture that “his faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected” (Jas. 2:22). So, works do not save us, but when we obey God, that is evidence that our faith is genuine.

For the Christian, circumcision is not required. A possible equivalent for us might be water baptism, which is to follow our belief in Jesus Christ, and which I believe to be an outward sign of an inward faith, symbolizing our death with Christ to sin and our resurrection with Christ to new life in him.

Many people are baptized in the church who have not been born again of the Spirit of God, thus their baptism is of no value to them, for God-given faith in Jesus Christ was not present at the time of their baptism. Thus, it had no effect on their lives whatsoever, as far as God is concerned. Yet, if they are genuine believers in Christ who practice righteousness, who follow the Lord in the waters of baptism, the baptism is an outward sign of their inward faith and gives testimony to God’s saving grace in their lives.

The point of all this, I believe, is that externals, in and of themselves, do not affect our salvation. A person cannot be saved merely because he or she was baptized. Going to church gatherings, serving in ministry, giving of tithes and offerings, feeding the poor, providing for the needy, etc., apart from faith in Jesus Christ, do not impact our eternal life with Christ. It is not what we do on the outside that makes us Christians, but it is what happens on the inside, in our hearts, that determines our eternal destiny.

Yet, if we are truly born again of the Spirit of God, and we have God-given faith in Jesus Christ, this should result in a heart change about sin and about God, and our faith should be proven to be genuine by what we do. When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, circumcised of the heart by the Spirit of God in the putting away of our sinful flesh so that we can be given new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived to his righteousness – all in the power of God’s Spirit now living within us, as we surrender our lives to Christ and submit to his will.

God’s Blessings

Jesus Christ wants to bless our lives. If we believe in him with God-given faith, we are his house. Yet, I think that often we think of blessings more in terms of what makes us feel good, or what makes us happy. Or, we think that if he is blessing us that it always means our lives meet with his approval. But, the way in which he wants to bless us, I believe, is to give us eternal benefits from God, which have eternal and lasting value.

He wants us to live holy and godly lives, and not be hypocritical or to be Christians by outward performance only. And, so his blessing may come in the form of trials and tribulations which will test our faith, and which will refine and purify us, so that we will walk righteously before our God and not in the ways of this sinful world, or so that we will come to genuine faith in him and not in name only. God/Jesus wants to revive his church and to save people in this world from their sins before he returns for us, his bride. So, I believe we should expect his blessings to come in ways we would not have imagined, because he wants us to be holy, set apart from the world of sin because we are being conformed to the image of Christ, our God and Lord.

Bless This House
Helen Taylor / May H. Morgan

Bless the people here within,
Keep them pure and free from sin . . .

Bless us all that we may be,
Fit O Lord to dwell with thee . . .

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