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Isn’t it amazing that we can read the Bible over and over and still get something new out of it? I have been reading in Hebrews over the past week and got a great blessing. We all know that the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is known as the chapter of faith. It lists several instances of when someone through faith did the impossible and received a good report. Ten people are specifically listed before it goes on the say “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith…” in verses 32 and 33. Then there is a long list of obstacles that the people of God overcame through faith, through believing in the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. They hadn’t received the promise of Christ, they all came and went before his time, yet they were able to hold on to faith in God and overcome. Verses 39 and 40 explain them all “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

But wait, let’s continue reading into chapter 12 where those of faith can give us strength. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of [faithful] witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Because we have all of those that have received a good report through faith, we too can hold on to the substance and evidence of faith and complete the race.

If those that came before receiving the promise of Christ can have such strong faith in God, can’t we who are in position of the promise have that kind of faith? This is my challenge.

Last week in the Bible discussion group on Wednesday we spoke about silver and how it is used in the Bible.

1. In the days of Christ, 30 pieces of silver was the price of a slave. That was the value that was put on Jesus. He was worth no more than a slave to Judas and the Pharisees that bought him. However it was that “worthless human”, Jesus Christ that paid for our sins. He alone was the acceptable sacrifice. 1 Peter 1:18 and 19 reads “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” We were bought by the priceless sacrifice of Jesus whom the world deemed worthless.

2. Silver a costly and precious metal is used as a representation for the value of wisdom and understanding through out the Old Testament. We read this in: Proverbs 2:3-5 “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” 3:13-14 “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” 8:10-11 “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.“ 16:16 “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!” Let us value those things that need to be valued. Wisdom and understanding are not just for those that are older and have followed God for years, it is something that all saints need to strive to increase.

This world is full of religion. You can find a religion that will fit your needs and make you feel good. But what exactly are they offering you? Do they teach the Word of God? Is a change of heart a requirement for the promise of salvation? Is every level of hierarchy with in those religions built on honesty and truth?

From what I have seen of religion today offers nothing but a false hope, a half truth and hypocrisy. This practice in man made religion has been going on for years. In fact, Jesus preached about it. At that time it was the Scribes and Pharisees that were doing a disservice to those that wanted to seek God. In Matthew 23 Christ brings judgment to those that require acts from the people and not themselves. To those that are more concerned with the “law” than a heart change. To those that are busy about works that make them appear to be righteous but are not sincere in their hearts. He concludes this message with verse 23; “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” The scribes and Pharisees in Bible times were more concerned with acting like a follower of Christ than being one from the heart, as many religious leaders are today. God requires us to pay more attention to the “weightier matters of the law” those that are most important, judgment, mercy and faith.

In my observation of religion I have seen that many have two of the three. Some have mercy and faith. They preach that God is love and will forgive anything as long as you believe. That you can’t live with out sin, but God is merciful just say “I Believe”. Others are full of judgment, have strict creeds that, and are stingy with mercy. There is any combination that can be made. But if you don’t have all three, you don’t have the complete truth that God has for you. The three principles, judgment, mercy and faith all work together and the result is beautiful.

In order to receive mercy through faith, one has to experience judgment. How can you ask for forgiveness if you have done nothing wrong? Romans 3:23 reads “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Each and every one of us has committed sin. What is sin? Sin is a transgression against God’s law, something that we know is wrong but do it anyways (1 John 3:4) or something that we know we need to do, but we don’t do it. (James 4:17) The Bible tells us that we are all sinners and that God is not pleased with this. Romans 6:1 asks “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” the answer in verse 2 is “God forbid.” His plan for us is that we live in communion with him. We cannot do this if sin remains in our life. So judgment comes through the acknowledgement of sin and the need to seek forgiveness or mercy for them. If we fail to do this and continue living in sin, we have a reward, and that is hell. (Psalms 9:16-17) But let’s not forget God’s perfect plan. He does offer mercy to those that seek his forgiveness for their sins. God sent his son, the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live with out sin. In Matthew 1:21 the Bible states that Jesus came to save his people FROM their sins, not to save them while they continue IN their sins. All we have to do to receive this mercy is to confess our sins. (1 John 1:9) It is hard to say that we are wrong and to say sorry, but God loves a humble heart and will draw them close. Once we have been forgiven it is up to us to choose to live sin free every day. Sin is a choice as we discussed earlier and it is with God’s mercy and grace that we are able to choose to follow him in righteousness. We have a responsibility to keep a tight hold on our salvation, 1 John 5:18 “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” We are born into God’s family when we have sought forgiveness and received it; we then need to keep ourselves so that the enemy of our souls will have no power over us. Now where is faith in all of this? Ephesians 2:8-9 reads “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” We do need to have faith to believe that God can and will save us. That he will keep his promises. Through the power of salvation in us and his presence through the Holy Spirit, we can live each day in a manner pleasing to him. We will not make it to heaven just by doing good things, we cannot save ourselves. We need to accept the blood of Jesus as a payment for our sins and though God’s mercy continue our life with out sin. Our salvation is a work that only God can perform in our lives. It is only when we have acknowledged the judgment of sin and sought mercy through faith that we are able to live as God would have us to, holy, sin free, and in communion with him.

Through all of this we can see that we must have all three, judgment, mercy and faith to live according to God’s plan for his people. Be honest with your self and with God. Don’t be content with just a religious belief, search for a true relationship with God. Seek the truth where ever you go and God will be faithful to bring you to it. It is his desire that you find the truth.

Wednesday’s Bible Discussion finished up the Armor of God and began the new topic of sin. This week we will continue discussing how the Bible defines sin.

1. In order to be effective soldiers, we have to prove our armor and take the weapons that we know to be useful, the power of God on our side and his word. We can’t defeat the enemy with armor and weapons that we don’t know how to use. I Samuel 17:33-40.

2. In the battle, not only are we protected by God’s strength and power, but by the tenderness of God’s spirit. Psalms 91:1-4

3. What is Sin? Sin is a transgression against God’s law, 1 John 3:4. It is all that is unrighteousness, 1 John 5:17. God’s desire is for us to live with out sin. If God has saved us, we have to make the choice daily to live with out sin.

4. The beginning of God’s law can be found in the 10 commandments. Exodus 20. The first is in verse 3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” God wants to be first in our lives. We can’t allow anything to come before him, ourselves, money, love, friends, beliefs, possessions. God is a jealous God over his children.

5. Exodus 20:7 – “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;”. God’s name should only be used with proper respect and not spoken with profanity. All things pertaining to God are holy, he doesn’t want his name defiled.

6. Exodus 20:8 – “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” We know that the sabbath is no longer reserved for one specific day of the week as it once was, but that Christ is our sabbath. We need to remember him every day of the week and live holy.

This week, at the Wednesday night Bible Discussion group, we had a few carry over thoughts of the fellowship before we focused on the Armor of God.

1. If saints become careless, they will begin to allow petty things to come into their lives and will eventually leave God. We must be faithful in the “little things”, habits of every day life to be able to remain faithful in the “big things” and keep our salvation. Luke 16:10

2. We are fighting a spiritual battle, not one of physical means. 2 Corinthians 10:4 and Ephesians 6:12 .Our fight is against the evil, thoughts and ideas of the world that invade the hearts and minds of people. We are to fight this from coming over us, and show the world that there is a better way.

3. Ephesians 6:14a – having your loins girt about with truth. Jesus is the truth, John 14:6. We are to guard the truth, keep it close to us. The truth is our innermost piece of protection. It guards us where we are most vulnerable. If truth is not apart of us, what do we have to fight for or against.

4. Ephesians 6:14b – Having on the breastplate of righteousness. God is our righteousness. He helps us to live right and holy. To fight this battle against the beliefs of the world, we have to be the example of how we can live right according to the truth; we have to have fruits of righteousness. Philippians 1:11

5. Ephesians 6:15 – your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. In the battle for truth, we are to be peace makers where ever we go. As we go out among the world, one of our missions in this battle is to spread the Gospel. Mark 16:15. The gospel of truth and righteousness will produce an evidence of peace in our lives as well as those we encounter.

6. Ephesians 16:6 – Above all, taking the shield of faith. With out faith we are vulnerable and open ourselves up for defeat. The spirit of unbelief is one of the largest enemies we have. Christ was concerned about our faith. Luke 18:8. Our firm faith in God, backed by the gospel of truth and righteousness will protect us from all the weapons of the enemy. As saints, our shield of faith not only protects us, but our fellow soldiers.

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