Know Your Bible

VOL. 12                                                                                                                          January 19, 2014                                                                                                                            NO. 47



Is your vehicle equipped with OnStar? This much-advertised feature allows owners of GM automobiles who subscribe to the service to push a button and receive instant help in an emergency. Of course, the Christian has much better emergency help available. For those who are in fellowship with God, it is a tremendous comfort to know that the help of Almighty God is only a whispered prayer away.

This wonderful blessing is not enjoyed by everyone. Everyone does not have heavenly OnStar. This is so, despite the fact that most people in the world apparently have the perception that they can call on the Lord anytime they are in trouble, and He'll be there to help lickety-split.  The consistent teaching of Scripture is that God doesn't much listen to people who don't listen to Him.  

Note the following:

"One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is and abomination." (Proverbs 28:9)

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)

"For what is the hope of the hypocrite . . . Will God hear his cry when trouble comes upon him?" (Job 27:8-9)

No one really wants to be in the position of having the Lord far away when needing help. Here are three keys to keeping the Lord near:

Sincerity. Psalm 145:18 states that, "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth." The first part of this verse may seem to be saying that the Lord is near to any and all who call upon Him. But we've already noted that this is not the case.  Look at the last part of the verse. He is near to those who "call upon Him in truth." For God to be near, this condition must be met. We must call upon Him "in truth." Though not reliable translations, some of the modern paraphrases do a good job of catching the basic meaning of this particular verse:

The Lord is "near to everyone whose prayers are sincere” (Contemporary English Version)

The Lord is near to "all who pray and mean it." (The Message)

The Lord is near to all "who call to him with sincerity" (Good News Bible)

Righteousness.  Just as sin and unrighteousness drive God away from us, obedience and righteousness keep Him near. Psalms 34:17 declares that "the righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles." 1 Peter 3:12 says that "the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

Humility and Sorrow for Sin. Pride and rebellion drive God away, but humility and godly sorrow bring Him close. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." (Psalms 34:18)

At some point, all of us experience emergencies, hard times and trouble. Keep God near.

---Steve Klein

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E Many religious people reject the requirement of specific obedience, arguing that the spirit of one's religious service is the thing that matters. They base their concept in part on 2 Cor. 3:6 which says:  "Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."  A reasonably careful examination of the passage shows that the contrast being made by Paul is not between the exactness of Scripture and the spirit (aim or desire) with which a person does what he does.  Rather, Paul is reminding the saints that they became such by obedience, not to the Law of Moses (letter) but to the New Covenant (called the ministry of the Spirit -- vs. 8).

       The letter (Law of Moses) is also called the ministry of death (vs. 7) written and engraved on stones, and the ministry of condemnation (vs. 9). Why would Paul refer to it thus? If we see from the Scriptures what the Law of Moses did and what it could not do, we can see why Paul used the strong contrasting language which he used. The Law of Moses made a consciousness of sin and brought guilt upon those who committed sin, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20).  Paul said: "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Rom. 7:9). "The law entered that the offense might abound" (Rom. 5:20). But, the blood of bulls and goats (offered by the law) could not take away one's sins (Heb. 10:4). Therefore, the Law of Moses gives birth to bondage (Gal. 4:24), but it cannot deliver from bondage to sin, for "by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3:20)

What the Law of Moses could not do (take away sins), the New Covenant (ministry of righteousness) provided for through the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ once for all (Rom. 8:3). By one offering, Christ has delivered those from sin who come to God through Him (Heb. 7:27; 9:28; 10:10). Because sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ, they are remembered no more (Heb. 8:12). How then does one benefit from the ministry of the Spirit?  Hear the Mediator of the covenant Himself: "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" (Lk. 6:46). "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matt.11:15). "Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me" (Jn. 6:45).  "... I am from above...I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (Jn. 8:23,24). "Thus it is written, and thus it is necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk. 24:46,47). "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in Heaven" (Matt. 10:32). "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk. 16:15,16). "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn. 4:24). "Be faithful until (unto) death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).

       The ministry of the Spirit (New Covenant) teaches us to deny ungodliness and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-14), as we reach forward to the hope of eternal blessings, pressing on to reach the goal in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 9:24-27), a striving with our body and spirit to serve Him in the Spirit as He has directed in His Word (Phil. 3:8-12).

—Gilbert Alexander

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