Honest and dishonest sinners

Jude - Twelfth in a series

Jude gives three final defining points about the mockers… who walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 1:18, 19)

Some commentators state that the concept of separating oneself from others in the church is to hold back from works of ministry whether by teaching or serving. Historically, at times certain tribes would not join in the larger effort to protect Israel. (Judges 5:16, 23)

Another, John Calvin, says, "He means that they separated from the Church, because they would not bear the yoke of discipline, as they who indulge the flesh dislike spiritual life."

It was not simply that they formed separate factions. Paul points out that there must be divisions in a church at times. The Lord uses differences in opinions to train us in good doctrine, for we must discern what is right in important questions. (1 Cor 11:18, 19) By hearing two sides we must choose, which is a strengthening action.

So, it was not simply that they held separate views; it was much more than that. Their lives were ruled by the flesh. To a new or non-believer, what does that mean? We all have flesh. We all have bodily urges and many needs to fulfill. We are all sensual to some end or desire and that is normal. So what is Jude's point? It is best summed up in Jesus' flat comment, The Spirit is what gives life, the flesh is of no use at all. (John 6:63)

The Spirit is God's Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, given to believers to enable them to live in Christ. All believers have the Spirit, but it is a different matter to be FILLED with the Spirit.

I once heard a sermon that gave four points on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I wrote them down:

  • Put away all known sin.
  • Do not grieve the Spirit.
  • Do not quench the Spirit.
  • Be filled with the Spirit.

The first is not too hard to understand, and with the help of the Lord, not impossible to do. We are not conscious of many of our sins, so start with the things you are aware of. If you delay bringing your behavior in line with God's revealed will— the commands and enlightenment we are given in the Bible— you have made a choice to oppose God.

The second point reveals good things about God. Imagine, He is grieved if we fail to conform to his high standards. (Eph 4:29-32) Perhaps we envision him as angry, and this is true when people continuously rebel and commit extremely sinful deeds, but for the Christian trying to be obedient, taking one step forward and two steps back, the Spirit is grieved, an emotion attributed only to those who love us. Don't grieve Him further by giving up on your goal to make progress in your walk with the Lord; go back to step one-- put away your sin, and try again.

What is it to quench? Quenching is extinguishing a fire, to suppress, to stifle. Paul's instruction to the Thessalonians not to quench the spirit (1 Thess 5:19) was encouragement to stay strong in their devotion to Christ. The Spirit makes us zealous to serve and honor the Lord. We can put out this fire by being sensual and attending to the things that support the flesh rather than putting first God's kingdom and righteousness. (Mat 6:33)

Finally, seek greater fullness in your commitment to serve the Lord. We are told in Luke 11:13 that we must ask for the Spirit. Though we receive Him when we first turn from sin and confess belief in Christ, we need to continually be filled: Ask and you shall receive. Be earnest in your desire to have more life! (Eph 5:18; Ps 51:10-12)

The Christian is under strict instructions to be wholly committed and devoted to the Lord:

  • Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37)
  • No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
  • Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. (Mat 8:28)
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mat 5:48)

Can the flesh assist us to fully give our hearts to God? No, only the Spirit can move us to zeal and total devotion.

The abundant life promised and flowing freely from Christ (John 10:10) requires being full of the Holy Spirit. The flesh comes under the rule of the Spirit, making it much easier to (mostly!) obey God's commands. And we are promised strength for this goal to follow Christ wholeheartedly: For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chr 16:9)

The intruders did not have the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:19) Like the sincere Christians, they were sinners, but unlike them, they did not worry about putting away their sin. In that sense they were dishonest sinners. The honest sinner acknowledges failure and prays for help to be obedient. The dishonest one is settled in sensuality and sins willfully and without conscience. These ones are even more comfortable in their sin when they succeed in attracting followers. They honestly love it.

Give of your best to the One who intercedes for you

MALACHI -Fifth in a series

Malachi 1:7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

This is not a cryptic verse, yet, from reading the comments of many theologians, it is a baffling one.

Several commentaries pointed out that the bread offering was set on a table and not an altar, and that the reference to an altar would suggest that the word bread here refers to the animal sacrifice. You can read for yourself the various comments of many expositors on StudyLight.org. Calvin states: "I have no doubt but that God means by bread here every kind of offering, and we know that the shew-bread was not offered on the altar; but there was a table by itself appointed for this purpose near the altar." Wesley says: "Bread - Either the meal offerings, or rather in a more large sense, all sacrifices and oblations…"

The Word of God is a rich feast, and those who delve into it enjoy many hours of banqueting. Then, too, it is a masterfully cut diamond with so many facets and inner lights that we become enamored of its complex beauty. Or, we may become overawed.

In regard to this verse, the more commentaries I read, the more confused I became. I finally looked in my ROL (regular old library) and found a paperback, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, first published in 1955 by Christian Literature Crusade. I have not been able to find much background information about the author, a British pastor, C.W. Slemming.

This is a study of the Offerings and Feasts of Israel that enables clarification regarding the bread offered upon the altar— which was polluted by the priests in the day of Malachi's prophecy.

The bread offering was called, in the King James Version, the meat offering. The reason for using the word meat was that, in the days when King James ruled England, a person would not be asked out to a meal. He would be invited to "meat." (Thus Shalt Thou Serve, p 27) Slemming terms it a "meal" offering to better define it.

The Hebrew word for meal offering denotes "the gift of an inferior to a superior." Thus, the gift must be worthy of the one to whom it is given. The preparation of a meal offering is described in Leviticus. (Lev 2:1-2). It was never to be prepared with leaven (Lev 2:4, 11) nor with honey (Lev 2:11) "The fermenting properties of leaven reduce the whole of the meal into a condition of corruption." (ibid, p. 31) (see 1 Cor 5:6-7; Mat 16:11-12) Honey, in excess, can sour the stomach, which could affect the priests' enjoyment of it. Both ingredients typify heart attitudes to avoid: pride and self indulgence.

The bread (meal offering) given by the people to the priests was seasoned with salt and further prepared (Lev 2:15) before a portion of it was burned on the altar (Lev 2:2, 8, 9,12) as a sweet savor unto the Lord.

How had it been polluted by the priests addressed by Malachi? Was it not prepared properly? Or, did it not reflect the best the offerer had to give?

The meal offering was a voluntary offering. Those who prepared it according to law gave it to the priest to show him appreciation and honor. As already noted, it was a gift from an inferior to a superior. It could be made from uncooked flour, unleavened cakes or from roasted grain; baked in a pan or cooked in a frying pan. Thus allowances were made for the person's circumstances. (ibid, p. 29) If the person had not respected the priest by using his best ingredients, then it ought to be rejected, for the priest was his mediator to God. And it was the job of the priest to uphold standards and respect for his office.

Verse 7 states that the Lord accuses the priests of polluting God himself. They had made the table where this bread was set "contemptible" to God. Yet they protested, "Wherein have we polluted thee?"

It was not immediately clear to the priests what they were doing wrong. Perhaps they would spend much time discussing this prophecy and praying to discern what their particular sin was. Something was amiss, or much worse: The God of their fathers, the Creator and Lord of all was offended by their service in His House. How could they remedy the crisis?

We today should question whether our worship practices are an offense to God. Do we pollute Him by anything we offer? Or, is it even important to worship inside a building? If it is, how should we dress? Does it matter?

These are not questions we can quickly answer or even understand. Our response will reveal our secret thoughts as well as our level of understanding of what God wants. As Slemming notes, "Ignorance is not easily established; much of the ignorance we seek to claim is willful. We could have found the facts but we did not bother." (ibid, p. 43)

Josiah's courage, part 1

Fifth in the COURAGE series

If you were asked to name the most courageous king of Israel, would King David come to mind? Probably so, but what if the challenge was to name the most courageous king of Judah? There were many good and brave kings of Judah, but none in Israel once the kingdom was divided.

Arbitrarily, I have chosen Josiah based on his many reforms in the face of sickening blasphemous and entrenched evil.

Josiah was the great grandson of good King Hezekiah and the grandson of Manasseh who seduced Judah to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel. (2 Ki 21:9) Manasseh reigned over Judah for 55 years, as a co-regent with Hezekiah for 10 according to scholars.

After Hezekiah made the mistake or sinned by showing the visiting Babylonians all the treasures of his house, he was warned by Isaiah that in the future …all that is in thine house…shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord (2 Ki 20:17). He was told that all of his sons would be taken away to be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. This did not seem to bother Hezekiah (2 Ki 20:19). Perhaps he knew what sort of man his son was?

Josiah's father, Amon, emulated Manasseh. After reigning two years his servants killed him, and the people made Josiah their king when he was only eight years old. He reigned in Jerusalem 31 years, (2 Ch 34:1) dying at midlife.

At 16 Josiah began to seek the Lord in a determined way (2 Chr 34:3). This was also the year his first son was born, the same age as Amon when he first became a father. Perhaps Josiah reflected upon the duties and affairs of men and the brevity of life.

At age 20 Josiah's reforms began (2 Chr 34:3) and at 21 his compatriot, Jeremiah, began to prophesy (Jer 1:2). Thus, he ran a little ahead of the weeping prophet who announced the destruction and fall of Jerusalem.

As Josiah built up the homeland and place of worship, Jeremiah foretold their demise, yet in these opposed roles the men had deep affinity because of their intense love of God. Each was obeying the Lord, and God was not at cross purposes. He was preparing the hearts of his own since they would be exiled in the not distant future, so they would need a deep faith that Josiah was assisting them to develop.

For example, Daniel was one who no doubt benefitted from Josiah's devotion. Had his parents not learned or been strengthened to worship and serve God thanks to Josiah's reforms, would he have become the seer of the kings of the East or had the spiritual reserve to pray through to the time of the return of the Jews to their land?

This is something to reflect upon: our courage is not always to the end nor purpose for which we exercise it. Yet the Lord may be glorified by it, though we seem to fail in our goals.

In small matters and large we should exercise courage. As we determinedly seek to follow Christ, victories in daily provocations and dilemmas increase the fitness of our emotions and spiritual life. There is physical fitness and there is also inner strength gained by choosing the right way in little things.

To understand the courage of Josiah, we will review the litany of evils facing him, that comprised Manasseh's legacy. We will look at these in our next post.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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