Three times, James states, 'Faith without works is dead!' Here's how James' teaching agrees with and complements the teaching of Paul on justification.
Many think works and faith are incompatible, but the Bible tells us to do works of faith. What are they? These are things we must do during the salvation process.
What is faith? Is it something we work up or does God give it to us? Do we have the faith to be saved? Do we really trust God?
How do we obey this call to test ourselves, to know whether we are in the faith? A good place to start is to see how God measures faith, beginning with Abraham.
The brain is unquestionably the most complex organ of the human body. It is also the most important ...
Millions who say they believe in Jesus Christ have no salvation at all because they trust in the wrong kind of faith. Saving faith is largely misunderstood.
At times we exhibit some faithlessness, perhaps because we have viewed faith just in terms of what we do rather than what God does through His gifting to us.
We need to be working on increasing our faith and ridding our lives of attitudes that block faith. Then we can begin to be profitable servants.
The Bible makes it plain that salvation is by grace, but it is also clear that we are 'created in Christ Jesus for good works.' Grace and works fit together.
It is a given that works cannot earn us salvation. However, they play many vital roles in our Christian walk toward the Kingdom of God. In this concluding article, John Ritenbaugh gives specific reasons for doing good works, showing their close relationship with holiness.
Using assumptions, some have concocted some nine conflicting calendars. The preservation of the oracles has not been entrusted to the church but to the Jews.
Those reveling in the 'new freedoms' of apostasy cannot be persuaded to return to former beliefs because they no longer believe in the sanctified Word of God.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes the necessity of work (dressing and keeping our life, our health, our possessions, our calling, etc.). God has called us to a lifetime of productive work. We cannot allow Satan to cause us to resent working or to feel victimized, slighted, bitter, or lazy, rejecting God's ordained purpose for us—creating obedient children who work as He does. It takes hard work to live up to the virtues of God; it does not happen automatically. Living by faith requires patience but certainly not passivity; it requires that we work toward a God-ordained purpose (of which we currently do not entirely see the outcome). Both spiritual and physical healing require us to work intensely, asking for God's merciful intervention while actively working toward a solution, exercising wisdom and common sense as we consider the array of possible procedures.
Because we are all sinners, we have earned only death; justification is not earned, but must come through faith and believing God as did our father Abraham.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on God's gifts to Abel and the other luminaries in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11), suggests that all of us called-out ones are in the same spiritual predicament, needing to humbly use the gifts God has given to us, faithfully pursuing God's purpose for us. Nobody evolves into a God-being on the power of his own will. God is pleased to save those who humble themselves, allowing Him to perform a mighty work through them, giving everyone a fair chance and putting everyone in debt to Him for the purpose of creating humility. This humble submission is described metaphorically as a walk, interacting with a person (namely God), making (spiritual) progress over a period of time, and conforming to a godly lifestyle. The conversion and sanctification process depicted by this metaphorical walk takes considerable time; it took Paul 20 years to get up to speed before God used him to write scripture. The progression in Hebrews 11 is not so much chronological as it demonstrates depth and latitude of conversion or sanctification. Likewise, our walk with God should demonstrate an incremental sanctification as characterized by Ephesians 3 and Colossians 3, a benchmark that Enoch fulfilled, a benchmark that unequivocally demanded righteous works, becoming working partners with God.
Works are necessary for a Christian, and have not been neutralized by grace. Good works serve as the evidence of faith; faith without works is dead.
The Bible abounds in metaphors of warfare, indicating that the Christian's walk will be characterized by stress, sacrifice, and deprivation in building faith.
In this Feast of Trumpets message, John Ritenbaugh reiterates that salvation is not a one time event, but a continuous process analogous to the birth process—not just immunity from death, but a total dramatic transformation of our nature into a totally new creation. Six major reasons why works are necessary (following the initial justification stage) include: (1) to undertake godly character building and preparation for God's Kingdom; (2) to give evidence of our faith; (3) to witness to the world that God is God; (4) to glorify God; (5) to prepare for a reward; and (6) to exercise living faith toward a covenant partner who has been eternally faithful.
Martin Collins, reflecting on the many struggles we all undergo as Christians, suggests that people who have no conflict in their lives cannot really be Christians. As we attempt to overcome the world, we soon realize that we battle against invisible principalities, requiring us to form a close relationship with Christ, developing His faith to subdue the pulls of the world. As God brings His children to perfection, He allows all manner of sore trials to shape us. We cannot afford to lose faith while He perfects us through afflictions and trials. The one factor that gives us the power to overcome the world is our relationship with Christ, which according to Philippians 4:13, enables us to do all things. As we walk with God, we need to exercise living faith, one that requires good works. The indwelling of God's Spirit enables us to be faithful, having a kind of second-sight into the spiritual world, making faith possible even without physical evidence.
Martin Collins, focusing on Habakkuk's stance of assuming the position of a watchman, being willing to accept God's ultimate judgment on his people even when the circumstances seem to contradict revelation, emphasizes that all of God's called-out ones are also watchmen, needing to live continually by faith, discerning, listening to, and responding to God's instructions, not only hearing them, but taking them to heart. Without having faith like Abel, Abraham, Noah. and Enoch, judging by faith rather than outward appearances, we cannot please God. Abel, Enoch, and Noah all believed God and were willing to endure temporal loss for a greater reward. Faith constitutes unshakable belief and confidence in God that He will do everything He has promised. Like the apostle Peter, we must learn that human faith, at its best, is not sufficient; Godly faith cannot be worked up, but is a gift from God which we must constantly put to use. This kind of faith comes by hearing God's Word. God holds His called-out ones to a much higher level of accountability, but He has also provided the necessary tools for overcoming and as well as for producing spiritual fruit. In spite of doubts arising from negative appearances, we need to cling to God's promises, even in the worst of times, realizing that all iniquity will be punished eventually. Like the heroes of faith, all of which had to do something to demonstrate their faith, we must be productive in our faith, understanding that faith without works is stone dead. Faith is not a preference, but rather a commitment. Even faith as little as a mustard seed is an open door to God.
God requires His people to put their faith in action, giving evidence of their hope, demonstrating godly behavior rather than abrasive carnal behavior.
Kim Myers, acknowledging that we are celebrating an event yet to happen in the future, suggests that we need to have intense faith to move from point A (the present) to point B (the Millennium).Faith is a trust in things we cannot see, the same kind of faith that Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego had to endure the threat of the fiery furnace. We are also promised to be tested by fiery trials, as well as deceptions which threaten even the elect. Jesus warned about pestilence, wars, calamities, false prophets, offenses, and betrayals. How do we get the faith we need to endure this present age? Living faith requires that we match hearing with productive works. Faith without works is a dead faith. Works are what we do every day; everything we do matters. Our most important works are: (1) prayer (2) Bible study (3) meditation and (4) fasting—which all take work. Everything we do is a work, and it all matters. Sometimes God will make the people who humiliate us become dependent or beholden to us. Sometimes God will take things that people intended to be a curse to us into a blessing, as long as we glorify God rather than ourselves. As natural disasters and violence increase, maintaining faith will become problematic unless we also maintain works that please God.
God works all the time. In fact, it is the first thing we see God doing in His Book. We must follow His example to become skilled in living as He does.
Both the 'eternal security' and 'no works' doctrines are destroyed by the remarkable example of Noah, who performed extraordinary works based upon faith.
The apostle James informs us that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). Continuing in his theme of the Christian and works, John Ritenbaugh exposes just how corrupt sin is, and by this we can begin to understand just how holy God is—and just how much we need to change to conform to His glorious image.
The letters in Revelation 2 and 3 are for the end times, shortly before Christ's return. Each emphasizes repentance, overcoming, and judgment according to works.
Martin Collins, commenting on the progressive liberal media's charge that women are discriminated against, points out that the feminist-goaded media fails to take into account that more men place themselves in life-threatening, dangerous occupations which women generally eschew, often receiving less pay than women competing with men in safer occupations. Men account for 93% of the workplace deaths. The liberal, progressive media continually lies in their attempt to divide the genders, the races, and ethnic groups. Both men and women have received a judgment from God as a result of Adam and Eve's sin. For men, the ground has been cursed, and he has been forced to live by the sweat of the brow; for women, they would have anguish in childbirth. God wants to remind us of the manifestations and awful consequences of sin. God requires us to work and not deliberately seek welfare or food stamps; He also does not want us to obsess on acquiring riches. Sadly, many mainstream churches have waxed socialist in their social gospel, claiming that the early church was communistic. Our current government has catered to laziness and non-productivity by bailing out companies which underpay their employees for turning out inferior products. Mentally weak and docile men with "lace-hanky fairness" support the welfare system. Real men (and women) work hard to be charitable and generous. Our forefather Jacob worked for a scheming uncle, who changed his wages ten times, serving him as he would God. Likewise we, as God's called ones, must serve our employer as we would Jesus Christ, with a self-sacrificing attitude, desiring to benefit others. The Millennium, which this Feast symbolizes, will be a beehive of activity, with the wealth that the Gentiles will accrue as tribute, benefitting all of mankind. We must now trust God to supply our needs as we work for our employer with the lo
If we are not following the true gospel that Christ proclaimed, we will wind up somewhere other than the Kingdom of God!
A summary of the Covenants, Grace, and Law series, reiterating the differences in the Covenants and the respective places of grace and law in God's purpose.
Jesus said, 'Believe in Me,' and hundreds of millions have said, 'I believe.' But true belief is impossible until a person has been appointed to eternal life.
Kim Myers, reminding us that the Egyptian army perished on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, suggests that the army typifies the aggressiveness of sin determined to utterly destroy us. He suggests we are admonished to diligently deleaven our homes demonstrating to God that we are serious about getting rid of sin. Getting rid of sin is difficult, demanding economic and social sacrifices. We should be willing to give up anything for the Kingdom of God, controlling our speech, thoughts, behaviors, and even our lives. Jesus Christ gave up everything to spare us from the death penalty. Once we have come out of sin, we cannot go back to our previous behaviors. There are works required in addition to faith to overcome and get rid of sin. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins indicates that work is required to grow in grace. The rich young man could not give up his lifestyle (evidently his last bit of leaven) for the Kingdom of God. We cannot grow in grace without works.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that both Jesus and Abraham rose above their emotional pulls by exercising living faith- a faith built on a foundation of incremental acts of obedience. Living faith can never be separated from works, nor can it ever stand independently or inertly as if in a vacuum. James points out that as the body without the spirit is a lifeless corpse (James 2:26), faith without works is equally dead. God's Holy Spirit (given as a part of the New Covenant) provides the primary driving force or the motivation for obedience (good works) which pleases Him, causing us to be regarded as a new creation.
In this Unleavened Bread sermon, Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that learning God's way (and unlearning Satan's way) takes a lifetime- spiritually speaking, perhaps the most difficult and arduous task on the entire earth. Over a lifetime, with our cooperation, God fashions us into vessels of honor. The commands to eat unleavened bread outnumber the commands to refrain from eating leavened bread three to one, indicating that the most efficient way of eliminating sin is to do righteousness (eating God's word and applying its principles in our lives) If we do good, we won't have the time to do bad. The epistle of James applies to the Christian after the justification process has begun, indicating that after receiving forgiveness, after receiving God's implanted word, we are obligated to fulfill God's purpose in our lives, yielding to trials, bringing forth the fruits of character by doing (not just hearing) God's word. Paul and James steadfastly agree that faith without works is stone dead.
While we must express some of our own faith as we come to salvation, the great bulk of "saving faith" is a gift of God, given graciously and miraculously as part of God's creative process in us. In particular, John Ritenbaugh uses the examples of Abel and Enoch to illustrate the pattern of faith through which God walks His people.
In Galatians, Paul took issue with the Halakhah, not God's word. Halakhah was a massive collection of human opinion that placed a yoke on its followers.
Having experienced the turmoil of the Catholic—Protestant clash, the framers of our Constitution did not want any sect dictating religious doctrines or practices.
What many religious people do not seem to understand is that justification before God is just the beginning of something far more involved—and that is living by faith. John Ritenbaugh covers the faithful life and work of Noah, illustrating that walking by faith with God is a practical responsibility.
With all the military metaphors in the Bible, there can be no doubt that God likens the Christian life to a war against the evils and temptations we face.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that the seven "I will" promises given to our forefather Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 were truly "big deal" foundational promises impacting the lives of multiple billions of lives up to the present day and that Abraham and that Abraham could fathom them only by calculating within his limited nervous system. Abraham calculated, adding things up in order to esteem those things which he learned to be truly important. To Abraham, God's words were a beacon, directing him how to live his life. Abraham believed in the counsel God gave him, redirecting his steps to accommodate this counsel, advice which all God's called-out ones are obliged to follow. Everything hinges on whether we, as our father Abraham, are willing to live by faith. When God read Abraham's mind, He found no skepticism, but found instead trust and faith, qualities we are to emulate. If we do not believe God, we will not submit to Him. We begin with faith, and the works automatically follow. Faith motivates us to keep the law, steering us away from the death penalty which is the automatic curse for disobeying the Law. Before God established the Old Covenant, a sign or guidepost anticipating the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, Abraham (as well as Abel and others before him, and David and others after him) realized that a promised Seed-an incarnation of God—would eventually emerge as a Savior, making possible the forgiveness of sins for all of Adam's offspring (Abraham's spiritual seed, which included the Gentiles) who would call on Him and follow His guidance and counsel.
Our conviction reveals itself in living by faith. Moses is a stunning example of how a convicted Christian should live — with loyalty and faithfulness to God.
We can sum up the epistle of James with one verse: 'Pure and undefiled religion...is this: to visit orphans and widows..., and to keep oneself unspotted...."
When properly evaluated, there are no discrepancies in scripture; God is not the author of confusion. God does not enlighten us until we are mature enough.
The yoke of bondage Paul refers to in Galatians was a combination of the code of regulations added by the Pharisees and Gnostic ritualism, not God's Law.
Commitment to a course of action is essential for physical or spiritual success. Faith motivates and sustains right action, protecting us from the yo-yo like fits of starting and stopping. Shallow or incomplete faith is contrasted with complete or mature faith. Our simple faith must transform into mature or enduring faith, which enables us to metaphorically see God. The honor roll in Hebrews 11 consists of plain, ordinary individuals who out of weakness, by trusting God, were made spiritually strong. Likewise, our faith, a gift from Almighty God, can be made strong and life-sustaining, leading us toward salvation if we move beyond recognition through evaluation and ultimately into action.
Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that the epistle of James stresses both faith and works, emphasizing those factors necessary for growth, enabling us to produce a bountiful harvest of fruit. We are to exercise humility and impartiality, taking particular effort to bring our tongues under control, being cautiously slow to speak, acknowledging God in all our thoughts. We are obligated to do practical works of goodness and kindness to our brethren, being solicitous of their needs, and making intercessory prayer for them. To him who knows to do good but doesn't, it is sin. Eating unleavened bread is equivalent to practicing good works.
Christ will empower us, but will not live our lives for us. The marching orders for our pilgrimage derive from God's Word, containing His holy law.
John Ritenbaugh, suggesting that most of us resemble the Samaritan woman in our understanding of the value of our calling, maintains that our relationship with God is our sole protection from carnal human nature and the deadly pulls of the world. Whatever consumes our time has the power to either edify or distract us. Faith and works are interchangeable components in our salvation, demonstrating a cause-and-effect relationship. The apostles Paul and James preached the same message, approaching the faith-works coin from different sides. Faith grounded in truth produces works in agreement with truth. Faith without godly works resembles an automobile without an engine. As a minority religion, God's Church appeared on the world scene in the midst of cultural upheaval. Peter's message on Pentecost led not only to exponential growth, but also to vicious persecution. As God stirred the cultural pot then, so He is doing today, on the cusp of Jesus' return. The frightful conditions during the First Century are only typical of the horrific times yet to come. To weather these horrendous conditions, we will need the encouragement of the Epistle of Hebrews.
Becoming equipped for leadership requires that we discipline ourselves in following God's way of life, allowing the mind of Jesus Christ to be in us in.
Under both the Old and New Covenants, refusal to keep to keep God's Law severs the relationship. God's law protects us and brings us quality life.
Are we 'once-saved, always-saved'? Once God grants us His grace, are we assured eternal life? The fallacies of the doctrine of 'eternal security' are exposed.
God has invited us into a love relationship—one in which He has already shown Himself to be absolutely faithful. If we truly love Him, severing our affections with this world, we will meet the demands of becoming holy. God's Holy Spirit enables us to have this love (Romans 5:5), but we must actively use it or lose it. We must seek God as ardently as we would a physical love relationship, spending quality time with Him. If we make no effort to pursue this relationship, it cools. Similarly, unfaithfulness (idolatry) will destroy it. Obedience (expressing our love toward God and proving that we trust Him) will strengthen this relationship, giving us a higher quality, more abundant life and increased blessings.
John Reid, inspired by the early farming experiences of one of his sales colleagues, reflects that the Feast of Tabernacles (a harvest season) depicts the reward of diligent management of time and resources. The images of plowing (breaking up clods), sowing seed, cultivating, and harvesting are applied to our spiritual condition of overcoming.Reaping rewards are depicted in both farming and building metaphors. We have to be careful what we sow and what we build, proving our faith by concrete deeds, obeying what God would have us do, overcoming our carnal natures, yielding to God's shaping power, letting our lights shine, guarding our minds, and glorifying God in our example.If we are diligent in our sowing, building, or training, the rewards will be awesome.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that a spiritual Israelite, following Jacob's example, undergoes a metamorphosis in which his own stubborn, self-centered will is broken so that God's creative work can be completed within him. Abraham, whose very name connotes faithfulness, learned to work through fearful catch-22 dilemmas, walking by faith rather than sight, carefully calculating on the basis of his previous and on-going relationship with God. Likewise, God today, as master teacher, carefully and methodically guides His students to higher levels of understanding and trust. We need to exercise devotion to God (faith, works, and worship) in every area of our life, from marriage, work, or human relationships- coupling iron clad faith with concrete works of obedience.
Richard Ritenbaugh reiterates that the command to eat unleavened Bread outnumbers the command to refrain from eating leavened bread three to one, indicating that if we actively engaged ourselves in studying God's word and doing righteousness, we wouldn't have time or place to participate in unrighteousness. Ingesting God's word and actively applying its principles gives us life-sustaining energy to fulfill our personal commission.The book of James had to be written as a counterbalance to antinomian elements that had crept into the church around 60AD, twisting Paul's writings, teaching that grace nullifies the need for works — a condition which has an eerie parallel today. James emphasizes the works required for sanctification after the justification process has been completed. Doing good, like eating unleavened bread, is proactive, displacing sin by righteousness.
Understanding our obligation to Christ leads to a deeply held, personal loyalty to Him. John Ritenbaugh explains that our redemption by means of Christ's sacrifice should make us strive to please Him in every facet of life.
John Reid emphasizes that we have a responsibility after our calling to conform to the image of Jesus Christ, actively giving of ourselves to overcome. God has called us in order that we glorify Him in our behavior, being His representatives. God wants His people to be just like Him, to imitate Him, to adopt His very nature. If we aren't putting into practice what we have learned, actively overcoming and bringing forth fruit, serving others, becoming a totally new being, we are not glorifying God. We have been called for the purpose of glorifying God by totally changing our lives, conforming to His character and image.
Abraham, the father of the faithful, did not have a blind faith; it was based upon observation of God's proven track record of faithfulness.
Martin Collins, identifying reasons why false teachers are able to entice people out of God's church, asks us which "button or buttons" would someone have to push in order for us to leave the truth of God. The doctrines of grace and Christian liberty have been perverted to become synonyms for tolerance of sin. Similarly, the doctrine of faith was twisted into spiritual inactivity or an anti-works mentality. Faith and works were never meant to be mutually exclusive or adversarial concepts, but instead complementary; faith without works is stone dead. Peter warned us that people unskilled in the Word (scoffers) have deceptively twisted Paul's letters to advocate deadly lawless antinomian heresies. These intellectually gifted heretics have been extraordinarily persuasive, but obviously lack the fear of God. We must be sufficiently skilled in God's Word (using prayer, Bible study, and meditation through the help of God's Holy Spirit) to safeguard ourselves against the enticements of Satan, our human nature, and these scoffing false teachers, guarding the truth, developing an iron-clad steadfastness and progressively developing Christian virtues (identified by Peter as knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love) clear-sightedly and diligently practicing these godly behaviors, following the example of our Elder Brother Jesus Christ, producing abundant spiritual fruit, enabling us to make our election sure.
In this Last Great Day sermon Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that the Lake of Fire (Second Death or Third Resurrection), dreadful as it initially appears, produces both immediate as well as ultimate benefits or good. As a deterrent against sin, the Lake of Fire has an immediate benefit for those who, after having accepted Christ's sacrifice, might be tempted to sin (Hebrews 10:26-27, 12:26-29, II Peter 3:10-11). The future benefit of the Lake of Fire will be a thorough scouring of all evil, perversion and filth from the universe, ushering in an eternity without the pain or misery of sin (Zephaniah 3: 14-15,Revelation 21: 8, 27). As God's called out ones, our time of judgment (our Great White Throne Judgment) begins right now (I Peter 4:17, II Peter 1:3-11)
We must avoid forgetting the connection between past and present, especially as our forebears had to battle outer and inner enemies of God's truth.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing upon II John 5, an epistle which cautions about deceivers who would denigrate the value of work, considers the straining on the point "we cannot earn salvation" a red herring, diverting our attention from the true value of Christian work. God indeed judges the quality and quantity of what we do in our Christian responsibilities. Our calling is a vocation; work or labor is vitally important in our calling. God is our model regarding work, mandating that we produce fruits of righteousness. Christ admonishes that our highest regard should be seeking the Kingdom of God and righteousness. We work for Christ as His slaves. Profit from life is produced by work, requiring sacrifices of time and energy. Christians have been created for the very purpose of doing good works which God has prepared for us. We will be continuing in this work for all eternity. Christian works were never intended to save us; Jesus' works as our Savior and high Priest is what saves us. Doing the works provides practice in God's way of life, engraving in us His character, providing a witness to the world, glorifying God. It takes work to put things in order and prepare for the return of Christ. Three parables in the Olivet prophecy (The Two Servants, Wise and Foolish Virgins, and the Talents) emphasize the necessity of work in the preparation for Christ's return. One's faithfulness in productivity does not transfer to one who has been a slacker. We are all being scrutinized and judged by Almighty God as to what we do, especially as it related to our service to our fellow servants. Whatever we sow, regarding our relationships with one another, we will reap. Sin (of commission or omission) describes the failure to maintain God's standards. The failure to work is sin. Works do not save us, but everyone who is saved works. We will be judged and rewarded according to our
John Ritenbaugh, after recapping the parallels and differences between the pilgrimage of ancient Israel and the Israel of God, affirms that God intends that we go forward, prodding us onward as well as blocking us from returning to spiritual Egypt. God has always abundantly supplied our needs, even though we have tried His patience by yielding to temptations. God has given us major tools, such as His written word (Truth) and His Holy Spirit. The trials we go through are part of His providence, putting us into humility and determining what really motivates us. God not only gives His children Truth, He enables us to understand it and use it, preparing or empowering us to reach the Kingdom of God. Jesus, as our High Priest, is able to supply continually what is needed. Regarding the Truth, there is no place for neutrality in our lives. It is not good enough merely to be clean. We cannot make a religion of emphasizing what we can not do. We cannot stand still; evil can be conquered, but it cannot be destroyed. The best way to avoid evil is to do good. If we habitually do good, it becomes difficult to sin.
Focusing upon II Corinthians 13:5, John Ritenbaugh cautions us of the futility of assenting to a code of standards we do not intend to apply. Belief without conduct equals a dead faith leading to death. Works give evidence that we really do believe and have the Holy Spirit in us. What we believe (correctly or incorrectly) will inevitably produce works. According to a survey conducted by Barna, a large segment of professing Christians have rejected major tenets of the Bible (in effect, calling Jesus Christ a liar) fashioning their own subjective, private religions, giving themselves license to sin in selected areas and fostering a tolerance for hideous societal perversions. Rejecting a biblical world-view, unfaithful modern Israel has degenerated into a habitation of demons. As God's called out ones, we are admonished not to conform or follow suit, but to yield to God's purification.
A poor spiritual diet will bring about a weak spiritual condition. What the mind assimilates is exceedingly more important than what the stomach assimilates.
Martin Collins discusses the apostle Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians, a group of dispirited, despairing Christians who had been bombarded by false teachings that the Day of the Lord had already come, prompting many to quit their employment, rest on their laurels, and become busy-bodies, as well as leading the leaders to express doubt and fear that the congregation would ever make the grade. Paul encourages the bewildered Thessalonians, suggesting that the purposes for the suffering they were now enduring consists of (1) growing in spiritual character, providing examples to the other congregations, (2) being prepared for future glory, and (3) glorifying Christ today. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to thank God for their salvation, surrender without complaint, ask God to give wisdom, and to watch for opportunities to serve, waiting patiently for God to work His purpose. We cannot be so excited about Christ's return that we neglect our own overcoming and character development. Because God's Church is under judgement now, we cannot rest on our laurels, but we must submit to God's summons to a life of purity and sacrifice. God can and will supply strength and power to all those who have been called, but our aspiration and goal of conforming to His image has to motivate our current performance. If we humbly trust in God, all of our works will bear fruit. In order for God to grow a church, the faith of its members must be strengthened through trials, love must increase, and hope must persevere, enduring under trial. Tribulation produces perseverance, which in turn leads to reciprocal glory with Christ.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the multiple nuances of the Hebrew words translated into the English word "wisdom," suggests that an acquired skill for living represents the common denominator in all of these definitions. Godly wisdom is only attained with a high degree of training. Carnal wisdom, through the labyrinth of life, has practical value even without a spiritual context, but living by faith requires that we trust and obey God in those areas where we do not have all the facts. Faith is a spiritual work. Wisdom is not hidden and is readily available if we retain God in our thoughts. Wisdom and the fear of the Lord are inextricably bound together. Both wisdom and foolishness produce fruit according to their nature. Wisdom produces life; foolishness produces death. We reap what we sow. If we repent of our sins, and cry out for understanding, we will receive knowledge, discernment, and God's Holy Spirit. Wisdom must be continually sought after. God wants us to use wisdom to change ourselves, humbly replacing our perspective with God's perspective. Only God gives wisdom. God gives wisdom as a component of His grace to His family, far more valuable than gemstones. Godly wisdom, incompatible with pride and arrogance, cannot be mined out of the earth, and it is more valuable than anything so mined, transferable through the Millennium into eternal life. The fear of the Lord is the source of spiritual wisdom.
Government may be the most important subject in the Bible because it touches on how Christians are to govern themselves under the sovereignty of God.
Richard Ritenbaugh insists that, as Christ's disciples, we have been called for a life of sacrifice'sacrificial giving as a way of life (Romans 12:1). Often we fail to grasp: 1) the desperate emotion expressed by Paul in the word beseech, 2) why he so urges us, 3) that while dead sacrifices can be made only once, living sacrifices are offered continually, 4) the totality of the sacrifice, 5) the strict qualifications of the sacrifice, and 6) that sacrifice (reasonable service) is the essence of true worship. We can only bear fruit by abiding in Christ, demonstrating love by keeping His commandments, and asking Him continually for what we need. As Christ sacrificed for us, we are called to sacrifice for others'our reasonable service, responding concretely to needs. Love is an action, a behavior, rather than an emotion, graphically described in I Corinthians 13.
John 6 has always been a difficult chapter to explain. However, Jesus' teaching is clear. Here is what it means to us.
John Ritenbaugh, using the term "malignant narcissism" (from M. Scott Peck's book "People Of The Lie") to describe the blind Laodicean pride which denies our inherent sinfulness and imperfection by means of clever self-decptive quibbling and equivocation. Accepting one of the most pernicious gifts of Protestantism (no works mentality), the Laodicean doesn't know that it takes mental work and exertion to produce faith; it does not come by magic or by mere acceptance of certain knowledge. The Good Samaritan parable teaches that unless one practices doing good rather than just knowing good, his faith will be severely compromised.
The Parable of the Talents teaches the need for diligence in using the gifts of God. God expects us to use our talents to His glory and in the service of others.
John Ritenbaugh tackles the eternal security doctrine, a teaching that militates against good works, something that God had ordained for all of us. Works demonstrate our faith, our response to God's calling and His freely given grace. Reciprocity is always a part of our relationship with God. Trust is a response to God's tests. Abraham's response to God reciprocated his love back to God. The indictment against the Ephesian church stemmed from their lack of reciprocity (or first love). When our expectations have not been met, it becomes hard for us to maintain our zeal. We need to maintain the intensity to actively hear God's message. If we do not actively exercise our minds, work to maintain our relationship to Christ, and become dead to the world, we will drift away. We cannot allow what Christ is to slip from our minds. Where there is no love for Christ, there is no salvation and no membership in God's family. As in human love or infatuation, if we love another person, we like to think about him/her; likewise, we need to have Christ dwelling in our hearts at all times.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that understanding comes through sacrifice and that our lives alternate between light (understanding) and darkness (confusion). Abraham's experiences teach us not to try to force God's will by contrivances of the flesh. When any sin or self- will is involved, the fruits of such an endeavor will be bitter and disappointing (as was the incident involving Abraham and Hagar). Abraham's righteousness equated with his acquired humble unflinching trust in God rather than his skill at law keeping. The gift of grace comes only to those who yield to God by faith, establishing a warm working relationship with Him, performing righteousness through the power of His Holy Spirit.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that humility is not an obsequious demonstration of low self esteem, but instead it is a proper estimate of our relationship to God, which is a choice to act and behave as a servant or slave. If we would follow Christ's example of humility, we would have automatic unity. We need to have both the inclination and the follow-through act of humility and lowliness of mind. We have to cultivate the same attitude as our Elder Brother as He esteemed others above Himself. Faith, praise, gratitude, thanksgiving, and humility all work together at building character. Perseverance in prayer and faithfulness causes our faith to increase and rescues us from pernicious worldliness.
Catholics and Protestants, because of lack of belief, do not find the Bible a sufficient guide to salvation. They claim to believe Christ, yet disobey.
Because of her resolute action on behalf of the spies, God granted Rahab into the line leading to David and Christ. The just do indeed live by faith.
Charles Whitaker, reflecting on God's practice of working in patterns, points out that God has wired our minds to think in patterns, such as circles. Gestalt psychologists have demonstrated that, given a set of dots that suggest a circle, our minds are prone to automatically fill in the pattern. Other ubiquitous patterns that God has created take the form of dichotomies, such as day-night, land-sea, male-female and Jew-Gentile. The members of true dichotomies must be mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. Hence, day and night are mutually exclusive, and there is no other alternative outside of the two genders God created, male and female—attempts of mankind aside. God's dichotomies are firmly fixed in this under-the-sun order of things. While God can manipulate these dichotomies, mankind is unable to alter the parameters established by God's dichotomies. Mankind, however, often attempts to change God's dichotomies, as feminists in the matter of gender. Likewise, the world's false religions have built a dichotomy of faith and works, while the Scriptures clearly show that no such dichotomy exists. We need to be thankful for all God's patterns, and be careful that we don't misuse them.
Martin Collins warns that if we look upon the Book of Daniel as a puzzle of confusing prophecies, we miss the more important point that the book provides practical strategies to remain Godly in a godless venue. In Daniel's time, there were intense pressures to conform to the world's idolatrous systems, with the world having the upper hand. In spite of appearances, God is in control of history. If we trust God, we will eventually triumph over the present evil. Following the successful invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, it appeared that God's cause was lost, but this catastrophe had been planned by Almighty God, who is sovereign over time all the time. The Lord God of Israel is always in charge of the events of history, no matter what state His people might be in. Nebuchadnezzar was a prime example of radical secular humanism, exalting his pride, boasting of his accomplishments, rejecting the influence of God, and suffering a humiliating bout of insanity for his pride. God is sovereign and He is able to bring the secular city down. Like Abraham, as well as Daniel and his friends, we must, by exercising faith, forsake the temptations and pulls of the world, concentrating on the future promises or spiritual rewards God has prepared for us. While we endure temptations and fiery trials, we learn that God is proving our faith and trust in Him. We must be wary of how the mainstream religions and pop culture has redefined religious terms, perverting the original intent. We must acquire faithfulness and holiness (involving separation from the world's culture) because (1.)Scripture demands it, (2.) it is the ultimate purpose for which Christ came into the world, (3.) it is the only evidence we have a saving faith in Christ, (4.) it is the only proof we sincerely love the Father and Son , (5.) it is the only evidence we are the children of God, (6.) it is the most effective way to do go
Martin Collins, describing different reactions of certain substances to fire, uses this variation of reaction as a metaphor of our differing reactions to fiery trials. As Christians, we can be conditioned to rejoice in trials, paradoxically having joy in the midst of grief and heaviness. Trials come in great variety, from persecution to alienation to martyrdom. We must understand why these trials happen to us. If we have a "why," we can put up with any "how," enabling us to inwardly rejoice in the ultimate outcome, realizing that we are in a special relationship with God. Faith from God will be required to endure and profit from trials, bringing about character and genuineness of faith, as well as patience and trust in Almighty God. We are not permanently under trial, but are tried for a finite time only for our purification, ultimate good, and perfection.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on David Kupelion's book How Atheism is Being Sold to America, suggests that America has never truly been a Christian nation. The founding fathers, largely influenced by Deism, gave very general guidelines of morality that could be embraced by all Christian religions. The founders did not want a state church, but wanted a kind of universal affirmation of morality. A true Christian is sanctified by the specific body of beliefs he believes and how he lives his life in accordance with these beliefs. No professing 'Christian' denomination in America has ever truly yielded itself to these teachings (the Sabbath, Holy Days, etc.). The entire process from justification, sanctification, and ultimate glorification'the Way'is a very specific package of doctrines and conduct. Americans generally do not believe or act like Christians, but are, for the most part, following the counterfeit broad easy way. Very few people have found the narrow difficult right way. They would have difficulty following Jesus Christ into a Sabbath service, let alone following His example in any other way. Satan is current ruler of this world and will be deposed when Christ returns. It is Satan's adversarial and competitive mindset that runs all nations of this earth. As God's called out ones, we are the 'enemy.' We are to follow the example of Jesus Christ, putting to death self- will, yielding to the Father, doing what pleases the Father, and demonstrating we are His children. Voluntarily yielding and submitting to God separates the Christian from the worldly.
Richard Ritenbaugh, contrasting Roald Amundsen's sterling exploratory skills in reaching the South Pole with the prideful Robert Scott, asks if we are learning to navigate through life toward God's Kingdom like Jesus Christ. As our example, He has already done the heavy lifting; our job is to follow his lead. John C. Maxwell, in his Law of Navigation, presents four laws of leadership: 1) Navigators draw on past experiences. Christianity is a process of building character that we absorb as we live, using true principles culled from our and others' experiences. 2) Navigators examine conditions before making a commitment. We should examine ourselves and count the cost of our spiritual journey. 3) Navigators listen to others, seeking wisdom and godly advice. 4) Navigators ensure their conclusions represent both faith and fact. Christianity is something we do, combining firm, unyielding belief with vigorous productivity.
The healing of the paralytic is a remarkable event. Significantly, Jesus honors the faith of the paralytic's friends who lowered him through the roof.
We are intrigued by supernatural power, and many seek to display it. Yet the Scriptures show the activity of the Holy Spirit in ways that are commonly missed.
Often physical prosperity works against godly character and spiritual well-being. To be rich toward God means to seek His Kingdom first, live His way, and trust Him.
John Ritenbaugh, soberly reflecting on the $19 trillion dollar national debt and with 25% of American private citizens two days away from bankruptcy, he warns that the prudent shouldn't continue to live in a fool's paradise, but should make common sense preparations, like the ant, (Proverbs 6:6-8) storing up provisions for at least a season. Prophetic warnings are given to motivate preparation. Both the watchman and the one who hears (Ezekiel 3:17) have a grave responsibility to make prudent economic and spiritual preparations for bad times, tightening belts, helping themselves and others through the tough times.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the insidious affliction of welfare mentality, the attitude in people who believe that because they are, they are owed something. Human nature has not changed from the days of the Israelites, who thought they were entitled to more (Numbers 11:4). By contrast, many biblical examples exist of people of integrity whose word is their bond, who keep their word even to their hurt. The parable of Matthew 20:1-6 warns against the welfare mentality, thinking other people have been given more than we have been given. Because God is completely just and fair in all His ways, we have an obligation to be content with what He has granted us, to allow Him to use us for whatever purpose He has set for us.
John Ritenbaugh discusses the depth of our beliefs, showing the difference between our preferences and our convictions. He looks at both legal and spiritual ramifications of this subject.
Persistence in prayer does not mean an incessant pestering God into action. God always looks at our petitions from the vantage-point of His purpose.
What we believe automatically determines what we do; it is impossible to separate faith and works. If Jesus is not our source of belief, our works will suffer.