Friday, November 4, 2011

Clean out the rot from among you

     "Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.  When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand  and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them—through the Israelite and into the woman’s body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped."

          When did we stop believing that God disciplines those He loves? The modern thought among Christians is that sin was something of the Old Testament and that now days Jesus views it more as an inconvenience that He will tolerate until  He returns and makes all things new; that He will gently persuade someone as long as they want to be persuaded, but that He is a gentleman and will not force His desires and beliefs on us. According to this bunch,  all the punishments of the Old Testament were to atone for their sins, as if God didn't have a choice in the matter. He did love them and that is why Jesus came, so that He wouldn't have to be so harsh and demanding with us anymore. Consider this,

"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Jesus has standards. He desires purity. "Be Holy, as I am Holy". Holy doesn't mean perfect, it means set apart for a special purpose. "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." and, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." The hot words of our generation are compromise and tolerance. These words are not in God's vocabulary. I'm not advocating preaching fire and brimstone or aggressiveness towards the world. This message, this language, is against those who call themselves Christians and live as if they were apart of this world. Remember Jesus words,

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

Did you see the word He used there? "I know your..." Not faith. Not beliefs. Deeds! How you act. These worldly Christians argue for mercy and say that Jesus doesn't hold their sin against them. But that is not what His mercy is for. When Jesus completed and did away with the Old Covenant He didn't leave it at that. He established a new one. Which means He does something for you and you do something for Him. Will He accept us at the judgement throne if we live worldly lives? No. He will tell us, "I never knew you!" Does this mean He will give up on us if we turn our backs on Him while still alive? Never! "If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." So what does He do? He disciplines. "For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself..."

Is this eternal judgement? The final Judgement?

"...That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep."

If you sin against Him under the New Covenant He may strike you physically or He may even kill you to keep you from poisoning the rest of the fellowship and dishonoring His name. Or He may discipline you verbally through another believer like He did Peter through Paul.

"When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?"

So what should we do about the unfaithful among us? We were commanded in this respect as well,

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

This is clear in it's command. Confront sin, rebuke your brothers and sisters in love, if they will not listen and change their ways put them out of your fellowship and treat them with hostility as you would someone who worships Satan or another false god because if they will not submit to Christ that is what they are. He demands purity and submission. It is not optional.

How strict should we be about this? How strongly should we hold to this? This brings us back to the passage that I opened with. Take a minute and go read the 25th chapter of Numbers, it's exciting. No censuses or genealogies, I promise. So here we have the Israelites gathered together as an assembly. They have just heard directly from God regarding their most recent sin and have been given a direct command. Moses and the elders are before the Tent of Meeting weeping and repenting when this guy walks right by them chatting it up with a prostitute. Not Moses, not Aaron, not Eleazar, but Phinehas gets up and says, "No way, this stops right here, right now, today." He then proceeds to follow the guy into his tent carrying a spear. And while the guy is on top of his hired lady friend he drives the spear through both of them. This appeases Jesus and then the plague lifts. It wasn't the Israelites gathering together that made His anger pass. It wasn't their repentance or contrite hearts. It was action. So what is the mercy that Jesus bartered for us for? For ignorance and immaturity. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." If you didn't know any better or are new and weak, there is mercy. If you have been told or are a seasoned believer, there will not be mercy.

But this is not only about eternal consequences, it has application to the here and now. A day is coming when the Antichrist will be revealed and I believe it to be soon, certainly in my life time. He is not going to be obvious. He is going to be the best "wolf in sheep's clothing". We must be diligent and not allow impurity and compromise to be among us. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." And devour us He will. If you think you are too strong or too wise to be deceived or devoured you make the greatest mistake in confrontation; underestimating you enemy. What makes a wall safe and secure? A strong foundation and quality construction. If we allow impurity in the materials or poor workmanship in the things that make up our life we will not be able to stand in the day of trouble. He will divide us and pit us against one another. And He will conquer us. And will there be mercy if the master comes and finds us defeated?

"But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— IF you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel."

Feel free to comment or ask questions! 

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