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An Invitation! JOIN US! Seriously!

A group of my friends recently completed going through my book DocTALK! We had some great discussions on the doctrines of the Christian faith. We spent just one hour going over the chapter and talking about whatever issues the chapter raised. And you missed it! That might not be the worst decision you’ve ever made in 2021, but, hey! 2022’s a whole brand spanking new year!

Well . . .  Want to join us in discussing the next book in that series, DocWALK? [You don’t have to have read DocTALK to go through DocWALK with us]. It is subtitled: Putting into Practice What You Say You Believe. Very easy to read chapters. A touch of humor tossed in. We meet via Zoom and we don’t keep attendance or have any quizzes!

Information - Dee Millen Rabbit AccessoriesIf so, I’ll send you a copy for a mere $10.00! Or you can buy it on Amazon. If you order from me, send me a check for $10 (Dr. Larry Dixon, 117 Norse Way, Columbia, SC 29229) or pay me through PayPal (theoprof@bellsouth.net). But you should order quick like a bunny!

Our 1st discussion will be February 6th and we will meet the first Sunday night at 8 pm of each month. If you choose to join us, please let me know, especially if you need a book (theoprof@bellsouth.net).

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2022 in theology

 

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Living for Jesus in an Un-Christian World: A Study of the Epistle of Jude (Principle #4)

 

 

 

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

The woman sitting next to me at the concert was about 80 years old with upswept silver hair. Her whole manner indicated a background of genteel breeding and taste. As the concert progressed it was obvious that she was caught up in the performance. Her rapture built until, after a particularly moving number, she could restrain herself no longer. Tapping me on the knee, she implored, “Oh, do shout `BRAVO’ for me!” (W.P. Hovey, Jr. in Readers’ Digest)

With an economy of words, Jude has written to a group of believers under attack. Although he originally wanted to discuss the joys of our common salvation, he (led by the Spirit of God) issues instead not just a survival strategy, but a battle plan to help the believers confront false teaching. (vv. 1-4)

If the gospel is true, it deserves our best efforts at defending it. If it has indeed changed our lives, we would be without excuse if we did not fight earnestly for the good news about Jesus for the sake of others.In an environment which perverts God’s grace and denigrates God’s Son, Jude does not encourage these believers to huddle together, sing hymns to one another, and allow the world to go to hell. He uses his knowledge of biblical history to speak of the God who both delivers and destroys, who hates unbelief, and who bring His sternest judgment upon those who stand against Him. Unbelief is spiritual mutiny — and God will not hold guiltless those who so rebel. (vv. 5-19)

But the battle plan is not just defensive. The believer is to go on the offense, especially regarding his own life. (vv. 20-23) He is to grow deeply in the truths of God by putting into practice the implications of his most holy faith and by reaching out to those who are presently outside the family of God.

The atmosphere in which these three principles are to be applied is found in verses 24-25. We are to live our lives as a hymn to the One who has saved us! Daily doxology (praise) is be rendered up to this mighty Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

His Two Abilities
We learn in verse 24 that Christ is able to perform two actions on behalf of the believer:

(1) He is able “to keep you from stumbling . . .” The theme of God’s keeping power was mentioned in the first verse of this epistle as Jude addressed his audience: “To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” The normal Christian involves a confidence in God’s keeping power.

Chuck Swindoll put it this way: “I may tremble on the Rock, but the Rock never trembles under me! And that inner assurance not only relieves my fear, it allows me to carry on with much greater efficiency. And rather than causing me to be indifferent and irresponsible, it inspires me to direct all my energies toward those things that please and glorify the name of my heavenly Father . . . eternally protected because He has me in His all-powerful hand.” (Eternal Security)

(2) He is able “to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy . . .” Christ is looking forward to making that presentation as we learn in Ephesians 5. There we are told, “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

In this Ephesians text He is going to present her (you!) to himself (2 Cor. 11:2) as a radiant church.Please notice that the church will be “without fault” and He will make His presentation “with great joy.”

I’m afraid that many Christians, although they acknowledge that God loves them, are not all that sure that God likes them very much. I appreciate the preacher who said to his congregation, “Never doubt His affection for you. He’s crazy about you!”

What He Deserves
What does the Lord deserve from us? Our uninhibited adoration. He is the only God — and He is worthy of all the glory, majesty, power and authority. Do we bring Him any of these things?I think the answer is a qualified “yes.” Although the Lord is the All-Sufficient One, and His perfections can never be improved, Scripture indicates that we can bring Him glory (Ps. 86:9- “All the nations . . . will bring glory to your name”; Rev. 15:4- “Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”).

When are we to ascribe glory, majesty, power and authority to God? This great little epistle ends by saying, “before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2021 in CHRISTIAN LIVING

 

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Living for Jesus in an Un-Christian World: A Study of the Epistle of Jude (Principle #3)

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

“[E]very time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.” (C.S. Lewis)

Be Responsible
In light of all that Jude has said about these false teachers and their destructive ideas, he shifts his focus in verses 20-23 to the believers themselves. Although he seems to have criticized the leaders for not noticing these negative elements sneaking into their assemblies, he now directs his attention to the believer’s primary responsibility: his own Christian growth.

Although there is room for some disagreement, it appears that Jude is saying in verses 20 and 21, “By building yourselves up in your most holy faith and by (or while) praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love . . .” The main verb is “keep yourselves in God’s love.” How does one do that?
We know that we can’t force God to love us. And He has promised that His love for us is everlasting (Ps. 107:1). Perhaps Jude is saying that we show our love for God by taking responsibility for our own growth (in our most holy faith) and by cooperating with (praying in) the Holy Spirit and His ministries in our lives.

We are prone to blame others for our own poor choices, aren’t we? Barry Beck of the New York Rangers, one who started a brawl during the NHL’s 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs, said, “We have only one person to blame, and that’s each other.”

We build ourselves up in our most holy faith. Here is a second use of the term “faith” in Jude that refers to the content of truth God has given us. You would expect a theologian to say that doctrine is important, but Jude agrees with me! We need to know what we believe — and we need to grow in our beliefs.
Notice, please, that we are to build “ourselves” up. Personal discipleship is not the primary responsibility of your pastor, your spouse, or your mother. It is yours. Plain and simple.

If you are not building yourself up in your most holy faith, you are not growing. You are not getting prepared to deal with the false teachers of your culture. You will become a victim of self-feeding shepherds, unstable and rainless clouds, twice dead fruit trees, shameful wild waves of the sea, and condemned stars which have no stability. And you might find yourself participating in the Lord’s Supper with such “blemishes.”

“Praying in the Holy Spirit” here probably does not refer to the spiritual gift known as tongues (speaking languages one has not learned). The expression “pray in the Spirit” is used by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 where he writes, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (v. 18) Jude uses the expression “praying in the Holy Spirit.” If we may interpret Jude’s expression by what Paul says, it seems likely that Jude is referring to serious prayer in the life of the individual believer.

When is the believer “praying in the Holy Spirit”? May I suggest that when I express my utter dependence upon Him to guide me, to put His divine finger on what needs to change in my life, and to specify how I might become more like God’s Son, that is praying in the Spirit. I am cooperating with His ministry of conforming me to the image of the Lord Jesus in my thoughts and behaviors.

When am I to show my love for God as I am building up myself in my most holy faith and as I am praying in the Holy Spirit? While I am waiting for the Lord Jesus to come back! Believers in Christ are in a waiting mode. He has promised to return for us (see John 14). In the meanwhile, we are to be growing into His image more and more.

One of my all-time favorite passages is Titus 2 where we read —
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope— the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2)

We are a waiting people. We are waiting for “the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Be Reaching Out
Jude emphasizes not only personal spiritual growth, but challenges these believers to reach out beyond themselves to those who need to be saved. He says in verses 22-23- 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

A major aspect of the growing deeply in the Christian faith is a longing to reach others with the gospel. If that is not a priority in my life, there is something seriously wrong with my life in Him. If He has saved me, the most logical response is to seek to win others. Hungry beggars who have been given bread should look for other hungry beggars to feed.

These two verses (vv. 22-23) suggest that lost people will fall into a couple of categories. And knowing their category might help in being more effective in reaching out to them.

There are those who doubt. Doubt has been given a bad rep among religious people. I agree with Os Guinness in his book Doubt (first published under the title In Two Minds) that doubt in itself is not sin. Doubt can either lead to sinful unbelief or confident faith, once the evidence has been examined.

“Doubting Thomas,” I often tell my Greek students, should be renamed “Adamantly Unbelieving Thomas” because he did not express doubt in Christ being risen from the dead, but unbelief. He said in the strongest way possible to his friends who were giving him eyewitness testimony of Christ’s resurrection, “I will by no means believe unless I see . . .” (John 20:25). That’s not doubt — that’s adamant unbelief. And Jude’s advice in reaching those who doubt? Show mercy! Allow them to ask their questions. Give them freedom to look at the evidence instead of trying to push them into faith.

There are also those who need to be snatched from the fire (v. 23). Perhaps Jude is referring to those close to death who have little time to reflect upon Christianity’s claims. A more direct approach with them might be what is required.

Our sharing of the gospel with others is not to be emotionless. We ought to have a certain fear (maybe indicating that we pray with all our might that they will not turn away from the Savior) and a certain hatred (there is a godly anger at what sinhas done in the life of that lost one) (v. 23). At any rate, we look for opportunities to speak of our Savior, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us in our “methods.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the following story from the Readers’ Digest. “When I was 12,” writes Sylvester Madison, “my best friend and I broke a window playing baseball. We looked around to see if anyone had seen us. No one was in sight except my younger brother. We went over and offered him a piece of candy not to tell. He refused it. `I’ll give you my baseball,’ I said. `No.’ `Then what about my baseball and my new glove?’ my friend added. `No!’ `Well, what do you want?’ `I wanna tell.’”

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2021 in CHRISTIAN LIVING

 

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If I Really Listened to and Followed . . . Hebrews 12 —

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2021 in Hebrews 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #21 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #8

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 5 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Here are the eight blessings that I see in this passage:

1. Justified through faith (v. 1)

2. Peace with God

3. Gained access into this grace (v. 2)

4. Boasting in the hope of the glory of God

5. Glory in our sufferings (vv. 3-4)

6. A hope that does not put us to shame (v. 5)

7. God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

8. The Holy Spirit has been given to us

We will think about each of these blessings — one by one — in subsequent posts. Let’s consider the eighth blessing: THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US!

What an incredible gift! The Third Person of the Divine Trinity — the Spirit of God — has been given to us!  What does that mean? [I just finished producing four videos on the topic “Developing a Biblical Relationship with God the Holy Spirit.” We will be posting those videos on this blog].

Pastor John Piper makes the point in his little book God Is the Gospel that when you trusted Christ, you got GOD! Here Paul makes the point that having been justified by the finished work of Christ, you and I got the Holy Spirit!

What a conclusion to this list of blessings here in Romans 5!

Thank God today for this incredible gift — the Holy Spirit Himself!

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #20 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #7

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 5 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Here are the eight blessings that I see in this passage:

1. Justified through faith (v. 1)

2. Peace with God

3. Gained access into this grace (v. 2)

4. Boasting in the hope of the glory of God

5. Glory in our sufferings (vv. 3-4)

6. A hope that does not put us to shame (v. 5)

7. God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

8. The Holy Spirit has been given to us

We will think about each of these blessings — one by one — in subsequent posts. Let’s consider the seventh blessing: GOD’S LOVE HAS BEEN POURED OUT INTO OUR HEARTS THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT!

What a wonderful way of expressing the gospel! God’s LOVE. That was His motivation in sending His Son. And that love has been POURED OUT! Not doled out in small doses. But an abundant POURING OUT into our lives. And this is through the Holy Spirit. [I’ve been working on a series recently entitled “Developing a Biblical Relationship to God the Holy Spirit.” I’ll post those four videos in the near future.]

Thank the Lord today for the Holy Spirit’s action in pouring out the love of God into your heart. But ask yourself, “How can I show God’s love to people who haven’t experienced that ‘pouring out’?”

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #19 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #6

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 5 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Here are the eight blessings that I see in this passage:

1. Justified through faith (v. 1)

2. Peace with God

3. Gained access into this grace (v. 2)

4. Boasting in the hope of the glory of God

5. Glory in our sufferings (vv. 3-4)

6. A hope that does not put us to shame (v. 5)

7. God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

8. The Holy Spirit has been given to us

We will think about each of these blessings — one by one — in subsequent posts. Let’s consider the sixth blessing: WE HAVE A HOPE THAT DOES NOT PUT US TO SHAME (v. 5)!

Pastor Tim Keller has a great statement about HOPE in his book The Reason for God. Please take a few minutes and listen . . .

What would be a HOPE that does put one to shame? A hope to win the lottery only to find that one has wasted $3 on a Pick-Six? A hope to get a promotion even though one doesn’t have the experience to do that next-level job? A hope to win another’s heart even though there is no chance that other person would have any interest in one’s overtures?

Biblical hope is not wish-fulfillment or a gritting one’s teeth and believing really hard. Biblical hope is a certainty about the future promised by God Himself. And that kind of hope does not — and never will — put the child of God to shame!

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #18 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #5c

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 5 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Here are the eight blessings that I see in this passage:

1. Justified through faith (v. 1)

2. Peace with God

3. Gained access into this grace (v. 2)

4. Boasting in the hope of the glory of God

5. Glory in our sufferings (vv. 3-4)

6. A hope that does not put us to shame (v. 5)

7. God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

8. The Holy Spirit has been given to us

We will think about each of these blessings — one by one — in subsequent posts. Let’s continue to think about the fifth blessing: WE CAN NOW GLORY IN OUR SUFFERINGS (vv. 3-4)!

In the West we suffer from a poor theology of . . . suffering! We do. We need to get back to the Scriptures and recover a biblical glorying in our suffering!

We listed several clear, biblical statements about the believer’s suffering in our last post. But how do we GLORY in our suffering?

Here in Romans 5 Paul explains a bit more what glorying in our suffering involves. He writes, “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Suffering is productive! It is not wasted. There are results that can come about, presumably only by suffering. Want to persevere more? You need to do some suffering! Want to have your character built to be more like Christ? You’re going to have to go through some suffering! Want to have some biblical, not worldly, hope? Apparently that kind of hope can only come through suffering!

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe Paul is saying that we pursue suffering or that we take a psychologically-twisted joy in suffering. No! But suffering is inevitable as a believer. And the real question is — What will you and I make of our suffering?

May I ask you — how are you suffering right now? The death of a loved one? A struggle at work? Covid-fatigue? Financial challenges? Use your suffering to become more like Christ! And glory in that!

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (The Fine Print)

What’s the “fine print” in our presentation of the gospel to others? Do we understate the absolute demands of the divine Son of God on their lives IF they trust Him as their Savior? Are we guilty of a kind of spiritual “bait and switch”? Jesus didn’t hesitate to challenge listeners to “count the cost” of following Him. Shouldn’t we?

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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DON’T TELL ME HOW TO LIVE! (A Study of 2 Peter 3)

We might use less confrontive words, but all of us need to be TOLD how to live, right? By nature we run away from the Lord, make our own choices, allow less-than-biblical priorities to govern our daily lives. As Frank and I are finishing up our reading of 2 Peter, I was impressed with the commands in this chapter about how to live one’s life. Here’s the chapter, followed by the list of commands telling us how to live.

That’s a lot to work on, don’t you think? You might consider taking one of these commands and fleshing it out, figuratively and literally! Have a great day.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2020 in 2 Peter 3

 

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