The Crossroads

Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Robert Johnson

There is a legend in the world of blues music.  The story goes that sometime in the 1930’s, at the modern intersections of U.S. Highways 61 and 49, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent.  Eric Clapton understood this to be a metaphor.  He said, “the crossroads is about choosing which path to go down.  It’s about the moral decisions you make everyday” (What Eric Clapton Thinks About Robert Johnson’s Devil Legend by Rafael Polcara, rockandrollgarage.com).  Another theory is that the story was created to explain how Johnson went from being a mediocre blues player to a highly skilled blues musician in a short period of time.  Johnson died in 1938, at the age of 27.  Let us understand that nothing is worth one’s soul (Mark 8:36-37).

Judah   

The text in Jeremiah is about a crossroads.  Judah was at a spiritual crossroads.  The LORD tells them: (1) Stand in the ways and see.  They needed to carefully consider which direction they would travel.  (2) Ask for the old paths, where the good way is.  God has a plan for how man is to walk (cf. Psalm 17:5; 23:3).  They were to “ask for,” that is, seek God’s ways.  (a) It is called “the old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16; 18:15).  God had long ago by Moses told them how to conduct themselves as His people (Jeremiah 7:23).    (b) It is called “the good way” (Jeremiah 6:16).  It is the way that God promised the bless and not curse (Deuteronomy 28).  (3) Walk in it.  This refers to obedience (Jeremiah 7:23).  They were not to direct their own steps, but they were to allow God to direct them (Jeremiah 10:23).  (4) Then you will find rest for your souls.  Spiritual rest is found in following the way in which God leads (Jeremiah 6:16 cf. Matthew 11:28-29).  Adam Clarke comments, “A traveler is going to a particular city; he comes to a place where the road divides… (he) gets proper directions -proceeds on his journey – arrives at the desired place – and reposes.”  There is a rest to come for the faithful (Revelation 14:13). 

Alas, Judah refused to walk in the ways of God.  They said, “We will not walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16).  Wayne Jackson comments, “One writer notes that God had provided three incentives to walk in the old paths: History (v. 16); Prophecy (v. 17); the Law (v. 19), but the people rejected the testimony of all three” (Wayne Jackson, Jeremiah and Lamentations, p. 19).  The consequences of their rejection did not bring rest.  The LORD declared, “Hear, O earth!  Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people – The fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it” (Jeremiah 6:19). 

Us

We face many choices in life.  Some of these choices have spiritual consequences.  Consider: (1) Stand in the ways and see.  Do we thoughtfully consider which way we should go?  (2) Ask for the old paths.  Do we consider what God’s word says?  Do we consult the scriptures?  (3) Walk in it.  Do we seek to order our lives according to His will?  (4) Then you will find rest for your souls.  Are we following a path that will lead us to heavenly rest?

Consider: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119: 105).  “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).  “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by in.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 cf. Luke 13:23-24).

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Missed Opportunity

The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!” (Jeremiah 8:20).

These are extremely sad words.  Judah was not in a saved condition.  There are two common interpretations of this verse.  Wayne Jackson comments, “This may suggest that opportunities for repentance were now wasted and now hope is gone, or else: ‘We expected deliverance – time and again – but none came’” (Wayne Jackson, The Prophets, p. 132).  I lean toward the second.  They clearly had expected things to turn out differently than they did.  “We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and there was trouble! (Jeremiah 8:15).  Hananiah, a false prophet, proclaimed that the captives would return within two years (Jeremiah 28:3, 11).  They did not.  Then came the siege of Jerusalem.  It lasted for two years (2 Kings 25:1-3).  No deliverance came.  Adam Clarke comments, “This seems to have been a proverb: “We expected deliverance… none came.  We hoped for it… we were disappointed.”  Keil & Delitzsch comments, “As a countryman, hoping for a good harvest, falls into despair as his chances, so the people have been in vain looking for its rescue and deliverance. The events, or combination of events, to which it looked for its rescue are gone without bringing any such results… From Jerusalem 8:19 we see that the words are spoken by the people while it pines in exile.” 

Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there?  Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of My people?” (Jeremiah 8:22).

Gilead was known for its medicine (cf. Genesis 37:25; Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11).  Robert Taylor Jr. comments, “Gilead lay east of Judah and the Jordan.  It produced a balsam highly valued by the ancients for medicinal purposes.  Is there no balm, no physician?  Yes, there are but Judah had rejected both balm (God’s truth) and the physician (Jehovah).  There could be no spiritual recovery when both the medicine and its Dispenser (Deity) had been adamantly rejected and forthrightly refused.  Today our balm is the Gospel; our Physician is the Christ.  Too many want no part of Him or His balm.  This is sad, it is immeasurably sad” (Robert Taylor Jr., Studies in Jeremiah and Lamentations, Vol. 1, p. 76).  Wayne Jackson comments, “Figuratively speaking, a healing remedy was so near – yet so far.  Why had Judah not been healed?  Because the sickness was of the soul, and she sought not the Great Physician” (Wayne Jackson, The Prophets, p. 152). 

In application to today, time and opportunity to be saved will one day run out.  Some seem to think little about the matter (e.g. The Rich Fool – Luke 12:16-21).  Some procrastinate and neglect opportunities before them ( e.g. Felix, Acts 24:24-25).  “‘Almost persuaded’ harvest is past! ‘Almost persuaded’ doom comes at last!  ‘Almost’ cannot avail; ‘Almost’ is but to fail; sad, sad, that bitter wail – ‘Almost but lost!’” (Song: Almost Persuaded by P. P. Bliss). 

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Two Evils

My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn for themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

The bulk of the book of Jeremiah concerns Judah’s final years before Babylonian captivity (Jeremiah 1:2-3, apx. 626 B.C. – 586 B.C.).  There is a post-script which refers to a later development (Jeremiah 52:31-34, apx. 560 B.C.).  It concerns events that occurred long ago.

However, the nature of man has not changed.  Man continues to commit the two evils mentioned.  Let’s notice…

1.  They had forsaken the LORD, i.e. Jehovah.

He was/is “the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13 cf. 17:13; 18:14; Psalm 36:7-9; John 4:13-14; 7:37; Revelation 21:6; 22:1, 17).  He is the source of life.  He is the source of blessings (Psalm 35:7-9; Matthew 5:45; James 1:17).  He is the source of eternal life (John 4:13-14; 7:37-38; Revelation 21:6; 22:1, 17).  Man depends on God as crops do the rain.  Man depends on God as sheep do water (Psalm 23:2), or deer do water (Psalm 42:1). 

Judah had forsaken the LORD (Jeremiah 2:13 cf. 1:16; 2:17, 19; 15:6; see also, Judges 2:13; 1 Samuel 12:10).  How had they forsaken Him?  (a) They had done so by turning from the way that He led them (Jeremiah 2:17-19), and going backwards (Jeremiah 15:6).  (b) They did so by turning to idols (Jeremiah 1:16).

Why do men turn from God?  (a) One reason is that they do not want to listen to Him (Jeremiah 6:16-17).  Aldous Huxley admitted, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently, assumed it had none… the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation… liberation from a certain system of morality.  We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom” [Aldous Huxley (1966) Confessions of a Professed Atheist quoted by Bert Thompson in Rock Solid Faith, Vol. 1, pp. 81-82].  Julian Huxley told Merv Griffin, “the reason we accepted Darwinism, even without proof, is because we didn’t want God to interfere with our sexual mores” (quoted by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, p. 163).  Former atheist Lee Strobel has written, “I was more than happy to latch onto Darwinism as an excuse to jettison the idea of God so that I could unabashedly pursue my own agenda in life without moral constraints” (Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, p. 91).  Some “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).  They do not like to retain God in their knowledge (Romans 1:28).  (b) Some have the wrong priorities.  The rich young ruler is an example (Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23).  Demas is an example (2 Timothy 4:10).  If He is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all in one’s life. 

2.  They had created broken water pots.

What is meant?  It is explained in the context.  The LORD said, “Has a nation changed its gods which are not gods?  But my people have changed their Glory for what does not profit” (Jeremiah 2:11 cf. 2:8; 7:8).  They had rejected the LORD for idols.  They had rejected truth for lies.  They had turned from living water (running water) for pots of their own creation which held no water, i.e. which did not profit.  They had turned from God from whom all blessings flow to false gods that contained no blessings. 

Man tends to be a worshipping being.  “Although all known societies have religious beliefs and practices, religions vary greatly from society to society” (Religion by Stephen D. Glazier and Carol R. Ember, May 24, 2019, hraf.yale.edu).  Notice the words “all known societies have religious beliefs.”

What do men do when they do not like the message of the God of the Bible?  (a) Some live as if there is no God (Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12; 9:9).  This may describe some in Judah (Jeremiah 23:23-24).  (b) Some listen to another message (e.g. Isaiah 30:10-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; 2 Timothy 4:1-5).  This is what many in Judah did (Jeremiah 6:13-14; 6:16-17; 7:8; 8:10-11).  (c) Some change gods.  They turn to other gods, and create idols.  Some recreate the God of the Bible into what they want Him to be.  Some in Judah changed gods (Jeremiah 2:11-13).  It is possible that part of the reason that they did this was so that they could follow their own desires.  Steven Lloyd tells this story: “Phil Donahue asked his TV guest, who by the way had five wives, ‘If God said polygamy was wrong would you stop practicing polygamy?’  The guest with five wives said, ‘Oh, I’d change gods.’”  (Steven Lloyd, Coping: A Biblical Approach, p. 93).  So it is with many.

Here are a couple of thoughts: (1) May we not be guilty of shaping God into our image.  May we seek to be like Him.  (2) May we not twist the scriptures to mean what we want them to mean.  May we seek to conform ourselves to His revealed will.

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The Gods Perish and It Is Not in Man

Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens” (Jeremiah 10:11).

Man tends to be a worshipping being.  Nearly every culture that has existed on this planet has worshipped something.  Even those which claim not to do so, do so (e.g. nature, state, self). 

In context, some looked to creation for guidance, i.e. astrology (Jeremiah 10:2).  Some created their own gods out of wood and metal (Jeremiah 10:3-5, 8-9, 14-15).  False gods could not save.  Created idols could not even save themselves (Jeremiah 10:11 cf. 10:15).

On the other hand, there is the LORD.  There is none like Him (Jeremiah 10:6).  He is the true God (Jeremiah 10:10).  (1) He made the earth by His power (Jeremiah 10:12).  (2) He established the world by His wisdom (Jeremiah 10:12).  (3) He stretched out the heavens at His discretion (Jeremiah 10:12).  (4) He created the hydrological cycle which man and life on earth depends (Jeremiah 10:13).  The “gods” did not do these things.  He is the true God (Jeremiah 10:10).  He declares, “Before Me there was not God formed, now shall there be after Me” (Isaiah 43:10).  Again, “I am the First and the Last; Besides Me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).  Again, “I am the LORD, Who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself” (Isaiah 44:24).

It is worth nothing that Jeremiah 10:11 was written in Aramaic and not Hebrew (see also Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; Daniel 2:4b – 7:28).  Why?  Wayne Jackson comments, “This seems to be an oracle addressed to the Babylonians in the form they could read” (Wayne Jackson, Jeremiah and Lamentations, p. 28).  It seems that He wanted the Babylonians to be able to see this point.

   What is it that we truly worship?  In what do we put our trust?  In what do we turn for guidance?  If our ultimate trust is in anything or anyone other than the LORD, it is misplaced. 

O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:24).

This is not a completely distinct point.  While some look to creation, and others to man-made gods and religious systems, others look to themselves for guidance.

This too is the wrong place to turn.  Robert Taylor Jr. comments, “No verse in all the 1,364 penned by Jeremiah in this prophetic product is more familiar than this one.  It should be memorized by all and then never forgotten.  Man is totally void of having the inbred wisdom to chart his own course and plan his own path.  He needs God’s word as a lamp to his feet and a light for his path (Psalm 119:105)” (Robert R. Taylor, Jr., Studies in Jeremiah and Lamentations, Vol. 1, pp. 87-88).  Wayne Jackson comments, “One of the great truths in the book of Jeremiah is that the ‘way of man’ is not within himself. This is a mortal blow to subjectivism.  Man does not have the intellect and spiritual resources to direct his ways” (Wayne Jackson, p. 29).  When every man does what is right in his own eyes, chaos follows (Book of Judges).     Have you considered the implications of man being his own subjective standard of right and wrong?  Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek tell this story.  “The professor, who was teaching a class in ethics, assigned a term paper to his students.  He told his students to write on any ethical topic of their choice, requiring each student only to back up his or her thesis with reason and documentation.  One student, an atheist, wrote eloquently on the topic of moral relativism.  He argued, ‘All morals are relative; there is no absolute standard of justice or righteousness; it’s all a matter of opinion; you like chocolate, I like vanilla,’ and so on… After the professor read the entire paper, he wrote on the front cover, “F, I don’t like blue folders!’  When the student got his paper back, he was enraged… ‘That’s not fair!  That’s not right!’… The professor calmly retorted, “…Let me see… wasn’t your paper the one that said there is no such thing as fairness, rightness, and justice… Didn’t your paper argue that it’s all a matter of taste?  ‘You like chocolate, I like vanilla?’  The student replied, ‘Yes, that’s my view.’  ‘Fine, then,’ the professor responded.  ‘I don’t like blue.  You get an F!’ Suddenly the lightbulb went on in the student’s head.  He realized that he really did believe in moral absolutes.  He at least believed in justice…  If Moral Law doesn’t exist, then there’s no moral difference between the behavior of Mother Theresa and that of Hitler.  Likewise, statements like, “Murder is evil,’ ‘Racism is wrong,’ or ‘You shouldn’t abuse children’ have no objective meaning.  They’re just someone’s opinion, on par with ‘chocolate tastes better than vanilla.’” (Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, pp. 173-174, 178-179).

God had earlier pleaded with His people.  He said, “Stand in the way and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.’  But they said, “We will not walk in it.’  Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, “Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’  But they said, ‘We will not listen.’” (Jeremiah 6:16-17).

Whose words do we follow?  Who is it that truly directs our steps through life?  If is anyone or anything other than the LORD, it is the wrong voice and wrong guide.  “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25). 

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Sexual Identity and Sexual Confusion

This is a very confusing world.  Bruce Jenner is now known as Caitlyn Jenner.  The NEA considered replacing “mother” with “birthing parent.”  Employers are requiring employees to use preferred pronouns.  Toronto police were recently asking for help finding a missing woman.  However, the “woman” looked very much like a man.  Some female sports are now dominated by those who are genetically male (so much for Title IX). 

Bible

The Bible seems clear.  God created mankind “male and female” (Genesis 1:27).  Jesus said, “Have you not read?  He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’…? (Matthew 19:4-6).  God created two sexes, male and female.  The sex of Adam was male.  The sex of Eve was female.  Their sexes were determined by God in creation.  All is declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Luke wrote of “men and women” (Acts 8:12; 9:1-2).  A third sex is not mentioned by any writer of the Bible.

Science

Science seems to be clear.  Those born with XY chromosomes are male.  Those born with XX chromosomes are female.     There are some rare abnormalities.  (1) Some males are born with an extra sex chromosome.  (a) There are XXY males (Klinefelter Syndrome).  This affects about one in 500 males (Klinefelter Syndrome by Cynthia M. Smyth M.D. and William J. Bremner M.D., Ph.D., jamanetwork.com). (b) There are XYY males (Jacobs Syndrome).  This affects about one in 1,000 males (XYY Syndrome by Kimberly Holland, healthline.com).  (2) Some females are born with only one X chromosome.  These are XO females (Turner Syndrome).  This affects about one in 2,000 females (turnersyndromefoundation.org).  (3) Some females are born with an extra chromosome.  These are XXX females (Triple X Syndrome).  This disorder affects about one in 1,000 females (Triple X Syndrome – Symptoms and Causes – Mayo Clinic, mayoclinic.org).  (4) Some are born with ambiguous genitalia (Intersex or hermaphrodite).  About one in 1,000 babies are born this way (study: About 1 in 1,000 Babies are Born ‘Intersex’ by Robert Preidt, webmd.com).  “Hermaphroditism is a rare problem.  In such cases, through abnormal development a person is born with ambiguous external sexual features but usually has make or female internal sexual organs… In an XX female hermaphrodite, the internal Wolffian anatomy (female) is developed with both external genitalia present.  The XY make hermaphrodite has internal male structures and both external genitalia… Nature usually produces a clear-cut make or female.  These exceptions are very rare and even they are thought of in terms of one sex or the other based upon chromosomes and sexual structure” (Counseling Homosexuals by Bill W. Flatt, Ed.D.; Jack P. Lewis, Ph.D.; and Dowell E. Flatt, Th.D., p. 66-69). 

It is important to understand that these abnormalities do not create a third sex.  Moreover, they are not the cause of the LGBTQ movement.  The LGBTQ movement has nothing to do with science.

Identity and Reality

We live in an age when some believe that their thinking, what they inwardly identify as being determines reality.  Rachel Dolezal became a news story in 2015.  She presented herself as a black woman.  She even became the head of the Spokane NAACP.  However, her own parents outed her as being white.  She said in a Vanity Fair interview, “If people feel misled or deceived, then sorry that they feel that way, but I believe that’s more due to their definition and construction of race in their own minds than it is to my integrity or honesty, because I wouldn’t say I’m African American, but I would say I’m black and there is a difference in those terms.”  Again, “I don’t know spiritually and metaphysically how this goes, but I know that from my earliest memories I have awareness and connection with the black experience, and that’s never left me” (An Interview with Rachel Dolezal by Allison Samuels and Justin Bishop, July 19, 2015, vanityfair.com).  In 2019 Elizabeth Warren apologized for almost two decades of claiming to be Native American (Elizabeth Warren Apologizes For Calling Herself Native American by Annie Linskey and Amy Gardner, February 5, 2019, washingtonpost.com).  A woman in Norway claims that she is a cat trapped in a human body (Woman Claims She’s a Cat Trapped in Human Body by Katherine Timpf, January 28, 2016, nationalreview.com).

There are things done which do not change reality.  (1) Subjective thoughts do not change objective reality (Proverb 16:2, 25).  (2) Behavior does not necessarily change reality.  David once pretended to be insane (1 Samuel 21:13).  He was not insane. Nebuchadnezzar once ate grass like an ox (Daniel 4).  He was not an ox, though he behaved like an ox.  (3) Surgery and hormone treatment does not change one’s sexual chromosomes (These points are made in an article by Weyland Deaver, Transgenderism and The Bible, biblicalnotes.com).

Gender and Sex

Brent Pollard has suggested that a distinction can be made between the words “gender” and “sex.”  Yes, the terms can be used interchangeably.  They can also be used with distinction. He cites the Oxford English Dictionary. OED references in 1945 the Americal Journal of Psychology, saying gender is the “socialized obverse of sex. “Sex has to do with biology.  Gender can refer to what society perceives as masculine or feminine.  Esau might be considered by some more “manly” than Jacob, but they were both males by sex.  He writes, “Even today, what constitutes ‘manliness’ is subject to varying cultural concepts around the globe.  In South Korea, for example, men are more likely to use cosmetics than men elsewhere in the world.  And in Scotland, men might wear a kilt.  It looks like a ‘skirt’ to Americans, but we understand it is culturally appropriate apparel for Scottish men” (Sex and Gender, May 20, 2022 by Brent Pollard, preacherpollard.com). 

Love

We need to show love.  Consider the story of Chloe Cole.  She decided to transition at age 12.  She began hormone treatments at age 13.  She had a double mastectomy at age 15.  She regretted it by age 16, and began detransition.  She says, “I was going through a period where I was just really isolated at school, so I turned to the internet… My dysphoria was definitely triggered by this online community.  I never thought about my gender or had a problem with being a girl before going on Tumblr… I started being exposed to a lot of LGBT content and activism… I saw how trans people online got an overwhelming amount of support, and the amount of praise they were getting really spoke to me, because at the time, I didn’t really have a lot of friends of my own… Because my body didn’t match beauty ideals, I started wondering if there was something wrong with me.  I thought I wasn’t pretty enough to be a girl, so I’d be better off as a boy” (‘I Literally lost organs’: Why De-transitioned Teens Regret Changing Genders by Rikki Schlott, June 18, 2022, nypost.com).  This is a girl who needed love.

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“Crucified”

“Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?  No there’s a cross for ev’ryone, and there’s a cross for me / The consecrated cross I’ll bear till He shall set me free, and then go home my crown to wear, for there’s a crown for me” (Song: Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone? By Thomas Shepherd).

The book of Galatians contains the word “crucified” four times (Galatians 2:20; 3:1; 5:24; 6:14).  It is not only Christ who has been crucified.  Paul had been, and every Christian should be. 

1.  Crucified Self 

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by Faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

What is meant?  Some believe that this teaches that the “old man” is to be put to death (cf. Romans 6:6).  There should be repentance.  One is raised from baptism to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).  Marshall Keeble told the story of a man who used to beat his wife.  The two separated.  She returned to her father’s house.  The man converted to Christ.  He showed up at his father-in-law’s house.  He said that he wanted to speak to his wife.  The father-in-law confronted him about the abuse. The man replied, “that man has died.”  True change had come to Paul.  People said, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23).  

However, the immediate context seems to refer to Paul’s dying to the idea or self-righteousness, justification by law-keeping alone (Galatians 2:16, 19-21).  Paul came to understand that the only way that he could be counted righteous was through faith in Christ (cf. Philippians 3:9).  This realization will humble one.

Paul not only died to self, but he also let Christ live in him (1 Corinthians 11:1).  He magnified him (Philippians 1:20-21).

Christ went to the cross saying to the Father, “not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).  This should be our attitude.  Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

2.  Crucified Before Eyes

O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (Galatians 3:1).

Some had been wrongly influenced by Judaizing teachers.  They were not continuing to obey the truth (Galatians 3:1 cf. 5:7).  They were seeking to be justified by law (Galatians 4:10-11, 21-31; 5:2-4). 

Christ crucified had been clearly portrayed before their eyes (Galatians 3:1).  Paul preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; 2:1-2).

It seems to be that it is essential that we continue to keep Christ and Him crucified before our eyes.  We must continue to look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).  It is by continued beholding of Him that we are transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Robert H. Mounce comments on 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We become like that which dominates our thoughts and affections… Note that the participle (beholding B.H.) is present tense.  It is a continual contemplation that effects the transformation.  As the participle is present tense, so also is the finite verb ‘are being changed’ …The transformation keeps pace with the contemplation the are inextricably bound together.  By continuing to behold the glory of the Lord we are continually being transformed into his image” (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, p. 298).

3.  Crucified Flesh

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions” (Galatians 5:24).

This is said in the context of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25).  The works of the flesh include such things as: (1) sexual sins (adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness); (2) wrong guides, religious practices (idolatry, sorcery); (3) lack of peace, unnecessary conflict (hatred, contentions, jealousy, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders); (4) Partying, hedonistic life (drunkenness, revelries, and the like). 

There are two possible directors in life.  One can choose to direct his own steps (cf. Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 16:25).  One can let God direct one’s steps (cf. Psalm 119:105; Galatians 5:16).

Who directs your life?  Yes, a Christian may struggle with sin from time to time.  And, yes, a Christian may frequently stumble.  But the true Christian is clear about who directs his life.  He has God as his King.  He has dethroned self.  He has put to death the idea of himself being king (regicide).

4.  Crucified Boasting and World

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). 

Men glory in many things.  Some glory in their might; some glory in their riches (Jeremiah 9:23).  In the immediate context, some gloried in circumcision, or circumcising others (Galatians 6:12-13).  Paul said that he gloried or boasted not in anything that he himself had done; his glory was in the cross, and what Christ had done [The act of circumcision itself was nothing to boast about, in and of itself.  “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6)].

Paul said that the world had been crucified to him.  The things of the world and its vain-glory no longer appealed to him (cf. Philippians 3:3-11; 1 John 2:15-17). 

Paul said that he had also been crucified to the world.  What is meant?  Some believe that this means that the world in general, especially the Jewish world, had rejected him (cf. John 15:18-21).  However, this may be a restatement of the previous clause for emphasis.  It is not that the world itself had died.  But Paul had died to previous desires and ambitions.

Are we crucified?  Consider the song None of Self and All of Thee by Theodore Monod.  It moves from “All of self, and none of Thee” to “Less of self, and some of Thee” to “None of self, and all of Thee.”  Where are we in truly being crucified?

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Roe v. Wade Overturned, Now What?

A great legal victory occurred on June 24, 2022. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade after more than 49 years (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization).  The issue of abortion is returned to the states.  Now what? 

1.  How one votes matters.

Elections have consequences.  Key to overturning Roe v. Wade was the Supreme Court appointments of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.  These appointments were made by Donald J. Trump. This is not a political statement. It is just the facts. These appointments made the difference (joined with Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and John Roberts). I have heard Christians through the years say things like, “I no longer vote with abortion as a major issue in my mind.  Roe v. Wade is the ruling of the Court.  It will never change.”

However, things can change.  They can change for the better or for the worse.  This ruling demonstrates such.     

May we as Christians always seek to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  Do not separate your Christian beliefs from how you vote.  Let us wisely seek to apply our beliefs to all of life, including how we vote. It is important to remember when voting that we are not seeking a utopian candidate. We are not seeking one without sin; there has only been one. We should ask which one of the candidates will be most likely to help create an environment friendly to Christianity and Biblical principles. Admittedly, this is sometimes difficult to discern. However, this should always be the goal.

The political/legal battle is not over.  The current decision does not outlaw abortions.  It simply makes it a state-by-state issue.  Moreover, future U.S. Supreme Courts could reverse this ruling. Court packing could occur. Congress could seek to codify the right to abortion in federal law.

2.  Hearts and minds need to change.

One can outlaw murder, rape, prostitution, abortion, suicide, and other moral issues.  Doing so may deter and reduce numbers.  However, it will not eliminate these things.  Prohibition did not eliminate alcohol consumption. 

Hearts and minds need to be won.  The brethren at Thessalonica had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).  The brethren at Corinth had once been guilty of unrighteous behavior, including such things as: fornication, idolatry adultery, homosexuality, sodomy, theft, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, extortion (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  Paul said that he once was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1 Timothy 1:13).  The gospel has the power to change hearts and minds. 

3.  Salvation is more important than politics.

We should want more than political and legal victories.  What have we really accomplished in gaining political and legal victories, if we leave man in a lost condition?

We should be making effort to save souls.  Are we passionate about this, and even more so, that we are about politics?  The early Christians “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).  Do we?

A utopian America is not the goal of the Christian.  Instead, we are to seek to glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31), magnify Christ (Philippians 1:20), and win souls for Christ (Acts 8:4; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 2 Timothy 2:1-2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:9).

4.  Let us be truly pro-life and pro-family.

Let us not just be against things.  We should not just be anti-abortion, but pro-life.  We should not be just anti-same sex marriage; we should be pro-family as God designed it. (The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015, to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage. Obergefell v. Hodges)

Let us be truly pro-life.  Let us be ready to help those who are in unexpected, unwanted pregnancy.  Let us be a neighbor towards those in need (Luke 10:25-37).  Let us do good as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10; James 1:27).  Moreover, let us not just seek to save physical life of the fleshly body, but also the soul (Matthew 10:28).  If we want these children born, we should also want them to be saved.

Let us be truly pro-family as God designed it.  Let us do what we can to help strengthen families (Ephesians 5:22-6:4; Colossians 3:18-21; Titus 2:1-8).

5.  Let us be forgiving.

All have sinned (Romans 3:23).  This includes you.  This includes me.

It is easy for some to think that the sins of others are worse than their own.  However, the truth is that we all deserve the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3).

However, God is gracious and merciful.  He does not want us to be lost (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).  Paul said, “Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).  If God can save Paul, then he can save others.  He can save those who have done every manner of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). 

We too much learn to be forgiving of others.  We do not want to be guilty of the attitude of the elder son (Luke 15:11-32).

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The Glory of the LORD and Mount Olivet

The Bible is filled with amazing details which are sometimes missed.  This is the case in the passages which we will consider in this article.  Jesus ascended from the mount called Olivet (Acts 1:9-12 cf. Luke 24:50-53).  Is there a significance?

1.  The Book of Ezekiel

And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city” (Ezekiel 11:23).

The glory of the LORD is mentioned.  (1) The glory of the LORD once filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35).  (2) It later departed from Israel (1 Samuel 4:21-22).  (3) The glory of the LORD once filled the Temple (1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 5:14; 7:1-3).  (4) It is now pictured as again departing.  It departs the Temple and the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10:18-19; 11:22-23).  Destruction is coming (Ezekiel 12). 

The mountain which is on the east side of the city is mentioned.  This mountain to the east is the Mount of Olives or Olivet (olive garden).  Baker’s Bible Atlas says, “Paralleling the eastern elevation of Jerusalem, separated from it by the Kidron Valley, is the mile-long range of limestone hills known as the Mount of Olives or Olivet (elevation about 2,680)” (p. 142). 

2.  Jesus

Jesus was (is) the glory of the LORD.  John wrote, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  The writer of       Hebrews said of Jesus,  “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” (Hebrews 1:3).  James referred to Jesus as “the Lord of glory” (James 2:1).

Jesus ascended from the mount called Olivet (Acts 1:9-12).  Baker’s Bible Atlas says, “The summit of Olivet, is often called the Mount of Ascension” (ibid).  Destruction of Jerusalem would follow (Matthew 23:37-38; 24:15-16 cf. Luke 21:20-21).  The place of His departure is significant.  It connects Jesus’ departure with the departure of the glory of the LORD in Ezekiel’s day.

3.  Us

It is important that we keep Jesus within us.  Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17).  Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).  We are exhorted “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16).  It would indeed be sad for Him to not be in us (Romans 8:9-11; John 14:23 cf. 15:6). 

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Put On… (Colossians 3:12-15)

It is said that a tradition sprang up, in the early years of church history, concerning the garments worn following baptism.  The historian Philip Schaff wrote, “During the week following, the neophytes wore white garments as a symbol of purity” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, p. 252).  Of course, this is not something the Bible requires.  It was a human tradition practiced by some.

However, the Bible does speak of a change of spiritual clothing that should occur.  There are things that should be put off (Colossians 3:8-9; Ephesians 4:22).  There are things that should be put on (Colossians 3:12-15; Ephesians 4:24).  We should be concerned about how we present ourselves before the world.  We should want others to see Christ in us (Colossians 3:10-11; Romans 13:14; Galatians 2:20; 4:19).  It is not enough to put off certain bad characteristics.  We are to put on Christ-like characteristics.  We are to be Christians, followers of Christ.

Remember Whose You Are

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on…” (Colossians 3:12).  Alan Adams remarked, “We are not to dress like commoners, rather as ‘God’s elect, holy and beloved’” (editor Garland Robinson, 1997, Seek The Old Paths Lectureship, The Church at Colosse, p. 149).  We are God’s special people (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10 cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2).

How To Dress (Notice that the first letter of each point spells out Christ)

Compassion for Others

Put on “tender mercies” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), compassionate hearts (ESV).  We need to care about others.  Jesus did (Philippians 2:5-ff).  May we rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

 Put on “kindness” (Colossians 3:12).  The original word can refer to “kindness shown, beneficence” (Perschbacher).  Think of it as kindness in action.  Our compassion for others should be manifested in actions (Galatians 6:10; 1 John 3:17-18).  Jesus’ was (Philippians 2:5-ff; 1 John 3:16).

Humility With Others

Put on “humility” (Colossians 3:12).  We should not think of ourselves as too good to associate with others and serve others (Romans 12:16; Matthew 20:20-28).  Jesus didn’t (Philippians 2:5-ff; Matthew 20:28; John 13:14-15).  May we each be “clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).

Put on “meekness” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “gentleness” (NASB).  The original word “described negatively… is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest” (Vine’s).  We should be considerate of others.  Jesus was.

Resilience/Restraint in Relationship

Put on “longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “patience” (NASB, ESV).  God has been “longsuffering” toward us (2 Peter 3:9).  Jesus is “longsuffering” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).  We should not be quick to give up on others or cut others out of our lives.  “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Put on “bearing with one another” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “forbearing one another” (KJV).  A.T. Robertson rendered it “holding yourselves back from one another” (studylight.org).  God has been forbearing with man (Romans 3:25). 

Imitate Christ in Forgiveness

Put on “forgiving one another… even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).  Christ forgives.  If we are Christians, He has forgiven us.  God forgives (Ephesians 4:32).  Shouldn’t we be forgiving?  We must be (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:21-35).

Superlative of Love

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14 NKJV), “…the perfect bond of unity” (NASB), “…brings together perfect harmony” (ESV).  The word is agape.  Alan Adams considers the things to be put on as the following garments: (1) vest = compassion, kindness; (2) pants = humility, meekness; (3) shoes = longsuffering, forbearing, forgiving; (4) belt = love.  He said, “without this Christian ‘belt,’ one is at best unkempt and disheveled” (Robinson, p. 150).

Think of God’s love (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).  Think of Jesus’ love (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16).  We need this kind of love for others (1 John 4:11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). 

Trust/Thanksgiving Toward God

“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15 NJKV), “… the peace of Christ” (NASB, ESV).  The word “rule” means “to be an umpire, to decide, determine; to direct, control, rule” (Thayer).  Some believe “the peace of God” refers to “the system of peace” (cf. Ephesians 6:15; Romans 10:15).  Others believe that it refers to inner peace which comes from God (cf. Philippians 4:6-7; John 14:27; 16:33).  Either way, the world needs to see that we trust Him in this life and live for Him. 

“And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).  The subject of thanks comes up often in this book (Colossians 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2).  We have much for which we should be thankful.  Don’t be a pessimist.  Show the world the joy of Christian living.

The book of Colossians is Christ-exalting, and our lives should be as well.  Let us put on Christ each day.  As the song says, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me…” (Song: Let the Beauty of Jesus by Albert Osborn).

  • This article first appeared in the Christian Worker June 2022
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Three Bears

There are 8 species of bear in the world: (1) North American Black Bear; (2) Brown Bear (Grizzly); (3) Polar Bear; (4) Asiatic Black Bear; (5) Sun Bear (Honey Bear); (6) Panda Bear; (7) Sloth Bear; (8) Andean Bear.

While living in Alaska, we frequently saw Black Bear and Brown Bear.  We were cautious.  We tried to make noise when walking in the wilderness and even on walking trails in the city.  We didn’t want to surprise one.  They are big (Black Bear can be 5-6 feet in length and weigh 500-600 pounds.  Brown Bear can be over 9 feet in length and weigh up to 1,500 pounds).  They are fast (up to 30 m.p.h.). There is an old joke: “You do not need to outrun the bear, just the one (human) with you.” They can kill (In 2003, Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard were killed by Brown Bear in Katamai National Park, Alaska).  You do not want one of these bears to get you.

However, there are some bears that should get us.  Let’s notice 3 bears from the book of Galatians.

1.  The Helping Bear   “Bear one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Christianity is not to be lived alone.  “One another” (allelon) occurs 100 times in the New Testament.  59 of these occurrences concern Christian relationships (Mark 9:50; John 13:14; John 13:34×2; John 13:35; 15:12; 15:17; Romans 12:10×2; 12:16; 13:8; 14:13; 15:7; 15:14; 16:16; 1 Corinthians 11:33; 12:25; 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; Galatians 5:13; 5:15; 5:26; 6:2; Ephesians 4:2; 4:32×2; 5:19; 5:21; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:9; 3:13×2; 3:16×2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 4:18; 5:11×2; Hebrews 3:13; 10:24; 10:25; James 4:11; 5:9; 5:16×2; 1 Peter 3:8×2; 4:8; 4:9; 4:10; 5:5; 5:14; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7; 4:11; 4:12; 2 John 5).  We are to help one another.

In context, this passage is about helping one another overcome sin (Galatians 5:1-2).  If we are spiritual  (guided by the Spirit, Galatians 5:16, 18, 22a cf. Galatians 6:1), then we should seek to help restore a brother overtaken by sin.  This is an expression of love (Galatians 6:2 cf. 5:14). 

2.  The Responsible Bear. “For each shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5 NKJV) “burden” (KJV)

The wording is different.  In Galatians 6:2, the word “burden” is baros, meaning “a weight” (Vine’s).  In Galatians 6:5, the word “load” is phortion, meaning “something carried” (Vine’s).  What’s the difference?  Vine’s says, “The difference between phortion and baros is that phortion is simply “something to be borne,” without reference to its weight, but baros always suggests what is ‘heavy or burdensome.’”   Wayne Jackson comments, “Phortion is found in Acts 27:10 of the ‘cargo’ which a ship was designed to carry” (Wayne Jackson, Notes From the Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, p. 93). 

Here is my explanation.  (1) Galatians 6:2.  In this life, we should try to help one another.  In context, we should help restore one another (Galatians 6:1-2).  (2) Galatians 6:5, ultimately we each have responsibilities before God.  We are accountable to Him (2 Corinthians 5:10).  This is true whether others help us in this life, or not.  Furthermore, in context one does not become a saint by another’s sins (Galatians 6:3-5).  Stop comparing yourself with others.  They are not the standard. 

3.  The Genuine Bear.  “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

Slaves and soldiers were often marked.  Thayer says of the word “marks” (stigma), “A mark pricked in or branded upon the body.  According to ancient oriental usage, slaves and soldiers bore the name or stamp of their master or commander branded or pricked (cut) into their bodies to indicate what master or general they belonged to, and there were even some devotees who stamped themselves in this way with the token of their god.”    Paul was marked.  How so?  Thayer comments, “The marks of (the Lord) Jesus, which Paul in Galatians 6:17 says he bears branded on his body, are the traces left there by the perils, hardships, imprisonment, scourgings, endured by him for the cause of Christ, and which mark him as Christ’s faithful and approved votary, servant, soldier.”  Remember the hardships which Paul had endured in service to the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:22-28; Acts 13:50; 14:5-6; 14:19-20; 16:19-24; 21:30-36; 22:22-29; 2 Timothy 3:10-11, etc.).  Paul was willing to be identified with Christ and pay the price for it.      

Why does Paul mention the marks in his body?  (1) It is not that he felt that these marks merited salvation (cf. Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:8-9).  (2) It is because his integrity had been questioned.  The book of Galatians is primarily a defense of Paul’s apostleship.  Some may have even considered him a man-pleaser (Galatians 1:10 cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). 

Have these three bears gotten you?  (1) The Helping Bear.  Do you care enough about your brothers and sisters in Christ to seek to restore them, helping them out of sin when needed?  (2) The Responsible Bear.  Do you understand that you are ultimately responsible for yourself before God?  It does not matter what others do or do not do.  (3) The Genuine Bear.  Are you willing to pay the price for following the Lord?  Does your life bear evidence that you identify with Him, and are committed to His cause?

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