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New Life Church, Bonita Springs, FL

Is seeking a part-time Children's Ministry Director.  We are looking for a candidate that has a heart and passion for children but that also has a heart for the discipleship of parents. We are a multigenerational church and are seeking to grow our family ministry. For more information or if you are interested in joining our family ministry team, please contact Pastor James Julian at pastor@nlcbonita…

Hillcrest Baptist Church, Jacksonville, FL

Is seeking a full-time Worship Pastor. Our mission is to equip disciples to pursue and serve Christ. We are looking for a dynamic, high-energy candidate that can grow a blended contemporary service with the praise team, band, and choir and help us revitalize a second campus. It is our goal to help every believer grow as a worshipper and remove any barrier in their worship. Please send resumes to…

Bible Studies

Bible Studies For Life

Florida Baptist Convention, BCF, Richard Elligson

Richard Elligson

Richard Elligson is associate professor of missions and chair of the theology division at The Baptist College of Florida.  Archives

Session 5

February 9, 2020

DOES GOD REALLY UNDERSTAND MY PAIN AND SUFFERING?

Isaiah 53:2-9

When living through a difficult, hurtful time, we often hear folks say, “I know what you’re going through,” or “I know what it’s like.” Perhaps they really do. Yet in many cases, those supportive friends are simply doing their best to be compassionate and empathetic. But in those difficult times, there really is someone who understands. He loves us, cares for us, promises never to leave us, and really does feel our pain. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). The word “tested” here means more than being tempted to sin. It means “tried.” While Jesus never sinned, He certainly suffered! Isaiah’s depiction of the Suffering Servant gives us some insight.

Christ the rejected (vv. 2-3). As we have already seen, suffering is a part of the human condition. Job reminded us that “Man, who is born of woman, is short of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). One aspect of suffering is emotional. Few physical darts are as painful as the emotional dagger of rejection. These verses remind us that the full humanity of Jesus included both social and emotional interactions, not all of which were pleasant. Both the construction of the passage and the imagery used are significant. The passage is definitely future; yet the verb tenses are in the past, indicating they are already accomplished. In contrast to Isaiah 11:1, where Jesus will be a “strong rod” out of Jesse, His initial appearance is depicted here as a tender shoot; humble and somewhat disappointing (v. 2). Unlike King Saul, who stood head-and-shoulders above the crowd (1 Sam. 9:2), or King David who was ruddy and handsome with “beautiful eyes” (1 Sam. 16:2), the King of Kings had no halo around His head to set Him apart or beauty in His appearance that would attract anyone’s attention (v. 2). He was despised by those He came to save (see John 1:11). The word rejected means “forsaken.” Job suggested in his affliction that his friends had all forsaken him (Job 19:14); and when Jesus was arrested His disciples did the same to Him (Matt. 26:56). The utter abandonment promised Him in Psalm 22 was ultimately fulfilled in the dark hours of the cross (Matt. 27:46). The sorrows of verse 3 can be taken as pain or suffering, and applied to mental as well as physical anguish. His familiarity with sickness (v. 3) is better understood as understanding the agonyof sickness. The Lord Jesus was held in blatant disregard; He was the kind of person from whom people would avert their eyes and turn away. Such hateful rejection is hurtful to us…and we are guilty sinners. Imagine how awful the pain must have been for the innocent One who knew no sin!

Christ the redeemer (vv. 4-10). One of the clearest, most sacred doctrines in all of Scripture is called the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. In the simplest terms, this doctrine affirms that Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins. It was substitutionary, because the wages of sin is death, and Jesus died in our place. It is penal, in that the full penalty of God’s judgment was placed on Christ on behalf of sinners. In other words, Jesus took our sins as well as God’s judgement. The Bible is replete with references to this exchange (for example, see 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18 et al), but few passages portray it as vividly as Isaiah 53. Notice all that HE did in these six verses: He bore, He carried, He was pierced, He was punished, He was oppressed, He was afflicted, He was taken away, He was cut off, He was struck, He was crushed. Now notice on whose behalf this was done. He took upon Himself our sicknesses, our pains, our transgressions, and our iniquities. Verse 6 summaries it nicely: “and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.”

So, does God really understand my pain and suffering? Of course He does. He’s been there before.

Session 6

February 16, 2020

WHERE DOES COMFORT COME FROM?

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

James’ encouragement to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2) is easier said than done! Sure, tests and trials increase our faith. And yes, working through difficult times ultimately produces patience. But the pathway to such virtues is certainly painful. So where do we turn for relief in the midst of our anguish? In our focal passage, the apostle Paul offers three sources of comfort for those who hurt.

Comfort from God (v. 3-4). Since God is the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), it is no surprise that He is the source of comfort in our times of distress. As always, the Trinity works in concert. God declared, “I, even I, am He who comforts you” (Is. 51:12). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4), and “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Comforter” in John 14 and 16, and Luke said His comfort “was multiplied” in the churches throughout the region (Acts 9:31). Paul’s statement here is the most inclusive anywhere in the Bible. Notice the richness of the language: He’s the Father of our Lord, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction. Paul makes it clear that God’s comfort is available to all God’s children (himself included) and in every hurtful circumstance. For this, He is praised. The lesson for us? When we hurt, we can find comfort in our God.

Comfort from the church (v. 4-7). Paul makes much of suffering that identifies us with Christ. One of his goals was to identify with Christ so intimately that he understood both the “power of His resurrection,” and the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). In these verses, Paul suggested that the sufferings Christ endured “overflow” to those who serve Him. Jesus reminded His disciples that “a slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The good news is that comfort also overflows to those who serve Him (v. 5). In both the sufferings that come and the subsequent deliverance God offers, the apostle saw great benefit for the church. While the statements are drawn from his own personal experience, the application is certainly for all believers: we suffer and receive God’s comfort so that we can in turn share both the experience and that comfort with others who need it. The lesson for us? When we hurt, we can find comfort in those in the church who have experienced both despair and God’s deliverance.

Comfort from prayer (v. 8-11). Again, the apostle draws on his own experiences. This time, he uses them to demonstrate the comfort found in communal praying. The word “affliction” (v. 8) comes from the word pressure. No specifics are offered, but the term is broad enough to cover physical dangers, persecution, imprisonment, and even illness, all of which occurred on Paul’s journeys as recorded in Acts. The extent of Paul’s afflictions—and those with him—were sufficiently serious that they “despaired of life” (v. 8); that is, they felt absolutely hopeless, even to the point that they assumed they would die (v. 9). The only hope they dared grasp was the faithfulness of God who had delivered them in the past, and who they knew could deliver them again (v. 10). The immediate addition of verse 11, “while you join in helping us by your prayers” is not an afterthought but expresses the means by which God so often delivers His children from their afflictions. When many pray, and many see God work through prayer, then many rejoice in the results of prayer. The lesson for us? When we hurt, we can find comfort in the prayers of God’s faithful people.   

Session 7

February 23, 2020

HOW CAN I HONOR GOD IN MY SUFFERING?

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

How often have we been told that it’s okay to give thanks in everything, but not necessarily for everything? Yet the Bible teaches both (see 1 Thess. 5:18 and Eph. 5:20). So how do we do that? How is it possible for someone who is going through great suffering to maintain an attitude of gratitude both in the midst of the pain, as well as for it?  It’s all about our focus. In this week’s text, the apostle Paul uses contrasting concepts to help us focus on God’s bigger picture.

Weakness vs. power (vv. 7-11). The treasure that Paul refers to is the message of salvation. He describes it as God’s truth (4:2), and God’s light (4:6), given to God’s servants (4:5). In verses 7-11, the apostle points out the irony that such a powerful message (see Rom. 1:16) has been entrusted to such weak guardians: us! Such important matters should be placed in a safe or vault. We are but clay jars; imperfect and frail, often cracked and easily broken. It makes me wonder: what in the world was God thinking? Yet even this irony is part of God’s plan. Two main ideas are emphasized. First, our weakness helps highlight God’s power (v. 7). The suffering incurred by the followers of Christ in each verse is painfully severe. His ministers are pressured, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. Yet in the midst of it all, there is startling strength. They are not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, and not destroyed. His divine presence empowered them to “keep on keeping on,” even in the worst of circumstances. Second, our mortality helps highlight Jesus’ life. In verse 10, Paul admits that living for Christ means death to self. In his case, Paul bore the physical scars of suffering, a powerful witness of his commitment to Christ. Paul’s purpose in life was to die to self. His purpose in death was to point others to life in Christ (see Gal. 2:20).

Suffering vs. glory (vv. 12-15). So what was the benefit of their suffering? Four thoughts are shared. First, simply put, their physical afflictions—that ultimately led to death—were worth it if others came to spiritual life in Christ (v. 12). Second, drawing on the Psalmist’s confidence that even in the midst of suffering (or perhaps because of it; see Ps. 116:10), faith in God is increased; a lesson worth sharing (v. 13). Third, the sufferings of this world pale in comparison to the reward that awaits (see Rom. 8:18); a reward that includes presentation of those won to Christ (v. 14). Finally, the sufferings—and subsequent victories—demonstrate God’s marvelous grace, result in thanksgiving from God’s people, and bring glory to God (v. 15).

Temporary vs. eternal (vv. 16-18). Because suffering in the life of the believer has such potential to positively impact the world and glorify God, Paul said, “We do not give up” (v. 16). No doubt, the outer person (that is, the physical flesh), is indeed being destroyed. What suffering and affliction does not destroy, the God-appointed penalty for sin will. But ironically, while the outer body is continually falling into ruin, the inner person (that is, spiritual vitality) is continually being renewed. This continuity is expressed in the verb form Paul uses, but also in the direct statement tagged on, “day by day” (v. 16). That enthusiasm grows in the next verse. Unlike the afflictions of this world which are light burdens (Matt. 11:30 uses the same word) and last for only an instant, their result is excessively weighty, glorious, and eternal. For this reason, Paul reminds followers of Christ to focus on the unseen and eternal results of suffering in God’s grand plan, rather than the more visible—but blessedly temporary—sufferings themselves (v. 18).

 

Session 1

March 1, 2020

HOLY VOCABULARY: THE WORD HOLY

Isaiah 40:25-31

Isaiah 40 brings a word of comfort to God’s people. It’s a promise of present deliverance from the penalty of their sin (vv. 1-2), and future deliverance through the promised Messiah. Besides that, it has several key Scriptures that are well known and often quoted, like “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord…’” (40:3); and, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (40:8).

By the end of the chapter, the Lord suggests that God’s people should be comforted and confident because they belong to Him…and there is none like Him. The idea that God is separate, different, unique, and perfect is all part of His holiness.God’s encouragement of Israel in this chapter is based on those things that only Holy God can do.

Incomparable in creation (vv. 25-26). In its most basic sense, “holy” means set apart, or sacred. Isaiah uses the phrase Holy One as a title for God twenty-five times in his book. In their narrowest context, these verses refer back to the man-made idols mentioned in vv.18-20, but their applications are much broader. The questions are more rhetorical than actual: how could anyone possibly choose to worship a created idol above the one true Creator God? (see Rom. 1:22-25). After all, the heavens themselves “declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). First, the Lord points out the great care with which the stars were made (v. 26). He spangles the night skies with infinite multitudes of them but knows each so intimately that He calls them by name. Second, He highlights the great power He exercises over them (v. 26). As 18th century English Baptist John Gill wrote, “the hosts of heaven cannot be stopped in their course, or hindered in their work appointed to do, or be deprived of their being,” all because of “the power of His might.” There is none like Him in creation.

Incomparable in understanding (vv. 27-28). The focus now shifts from God’s creation, to His understanding. The Bible teaches that God is omniscient (“all-knowing”). While His knowledge and wisdom and understanding are over all things, He still knows about the little things…and cares deeply about them. Foremost in His mind are His people (see Matt. 6:25 ff). Israel’s complaint was two-fold. First, they felt neglected by God. They felt as though God paid no attention to their way; that is, the situation and circumstances they faced. Second, they felt as though God was ignoring their pleas; most likely their complaints of mistreatment! Again, rhetorical questions are used as a gentle rebuke to set up God’s answer (v. 28). His three-fold explanation emphasizes the faithfulness of God. His works of the past (creation), His works in the present (never growing weak), and His works in the future (continuous, limitless understanding), all point to God’s greatness. Is anything really hidden from His sight? Is any thought really beyond His comprehension? Of course not…there is none like Him in understanding.

Incomparable in empowerment (vv. 29-31). Finally, the focus shifts to God’s continuous empowerment. Here, the emphasis is on strengthening the weak. Notice the contrasts between human weakness and divine strength. The word weary is used in every verse. Apart from God, people are powerless (v. 29) and they stumble and fall (v. 30). But those who trust in the Lord will find strength in Him (v. 29). Notice His empowerment regardless of the activity. When required to soar…they will do so like eagles. When asked to run…they will not grow weary. When they are allowed to walk… they will not get tired. Who else could do such a thing for fallen man? The answer is obvious…there is none like Him in His sustaining power.

Explore The Bible

Sherard Burns, Florida Baptist Witness, Explore the Bible

Sherard Burns

Sherard Burns is the senior pastor of Renewing Life Church in Miami, FL. Archives

February 2, 2020

VALUED

DEUTERONOMY 5:17; 19:4-13

INTRODUCTION
We live in an increasingly violent world.  Major cities in America are littered with bodies, young and old, black and white, rich and poor etc., who have been murdered. School shootings have shed light, not simply on the need for better gun laws and background checks but, they have also shown that the evil of murder extends even to the youngest of hearts. In a sense, none of us should be surprised by these things and yet, the sheer number of events that have taken place makes anyone wonder whether or not the people of God are actually bringing to bear the vision of God’s kingdom on earth. Murder must be decried, not simply by marches, but by the legal protection of the innocent and the swift justice handed out to those who commit homicide or manslaughter with intentional evil.

PROHIBITION (Deuteronomy 5:17)
The wide range of understandings regarding the aspect of murder has caused debates and divisions in almost every sector of culture, including the church. When the Lord, however, commands us not to murder He has one specific aspect in mind: murdering someone for reasons other than being enemies of war or for committing a crime that warrants capital punishment. In other words, what the Bible is set against is the deliberate and intentional killing of someone outside of the legal (biblical) sanctions within the Word of God. In a word, we are not to commit homicide. This understanding is not so controversial as that of euthanasia and abortion. Some feel the freedom to decide, on their own, whether or not they, or someone else has the right to take their life. Assisted suicides have created a moral foray in which sympathizers come from all stripes, some of whom are Christian. Abortion is by far the greater “controversy” creating division both political and spiritual with many believing the right to choose is actually life giving.  However, when one considers the biblical and even the scientific evidence, it is clear that fetus’ not only have heartbeats but are known by the Lord in the womb (Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5) and have a purpose determined by the Lord (Galatians 1:15). The social and emotional aspects related to these issues are very real, but we must give way to the Bible at all times which calls anything other than killing for war or heinous crimes (homicide OR manslaughter) – murder. Euthanasia is wrong and abortion is wrong. We should not commit murder. 

GRACE (DEUTERONOMY 19:4-10)
There was a difference in the law between accidental and premeditated homicide. Accidental murder was shown in the example of a man’s axe, while being used to cut down a tree, accidentally flew off and killed another person. In this situation the offender could flee to a sanctuary city and not be condemned (Deuteronomy 19:5). In light of the possibility of such incidents the people were to add additional sanctuary cities throughout the land to mitigate against the possibility of unjust killings due to accidental deaths (Deuteronomy 19:7-10). This law was put in place because it is within the heart of the injured person to return evil for evil seeking to avenge the murder of a relative, as in the example of the axe already given. Therefore, the law was given to protect the offender from harm since he held no previous animosity towards the one accidentally murdered (Deuteronomy 19:6). Underneath the essence of this law is the grace of God extended to the people in which they are to extend to others in such circumstances. While we may have never murdered anyone – accidentally or intentionally – Jesus declared that murder is different within the economy of the Kingdom of God. Murder, physically speaking, meant the taking of a life, but Jesus says that murder happens in being angry with, insulting or calling another believer a fool. Such action is liable of judgment and hell (Matthew 5:21-22). The actions Jesus mentions are intentional sins – intentional acts of spiritual murder – and the Lord, in them all, provides grace for our repentance, restoration and reconciliation with one another. If the Lord had not provided the law of sanctuary cities the people of Israel, in some circumstances, would have continually violated God’s law.  But the Law preserved the brother or sister who, in their anger, was seek vengeance. They were protected from their own sin (grace) because the Lord provided these sanctuary cities.

JUSTICE (Deuteronomy 11:13)
Even though the Lord provided us with so many means of grace and mercies it is still possible that we, in our sinful passions, might seek the handle matters in our way.  If this were to happen, if a person still sought and murdered someone for an accidental homicide and, afterwards, fled to the sanctuary cities for protection, the elders were still charged to be diligent in executing justice (Deuteronomy 19:13). If the person is found to have avenged another’s murder he would be punished and executed (Deuteronomy 19:14). One evident reality in this is that the Lord sees. It matters not whether the individual hides in a sanctuary city of not, the Lord who sees all and knows all will discover and expose such a person. The same is true for all of us. In our sinful passions we can act and behave in ways that warrant discipline from the Lord. Whatever the excuse or reasoning may be the Lord will shed light on our heart motives and deceptions and call us to account.

February 9, 2020

HONORED

DEUTERONOMY 4:1-9

INTRODUCTION
Honor is something that we do not quite understand in the United States. We understand what it means but our culture is not an honor culture and, therefore, the depth of the term and its varied applications escapes us. In honor cultures individuality is shunned. One’s name – last name – identifies them in all of life. To live in such culture means to live in honor of those whose name you represent. You are to honor them, care for them and be concerned, ultimately, for and about them. Anything less is dishonorable and to behave in this way isolates one socially in ways that can be debilitating and irreversible. This is the culture into which we find the people of God. They have been claimed by the Lord and, therefore, His name is their honor and is also to be honored by them. They are to not lose their identity in the land that will pose social, political and religious challenges to their honor of the Lord. They are to do three things to retain honor for the Lord.

LISTEN (Deuteronomy 4:1-5)
At the heart of what it means to be a follower of the Lord is to listen. Listening involves much more than the hearing of what God has required. It necessitates an active obedience to what is heard. Listening, in this context, is passive in the sense that what is being said by the Lord man is commanded to “not add anything … or take anything away from it, so that you might keep the commands of the Lord your God I am giving you (Deuteronomy 4:2). This same command is given by Christ in the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:18-19). Its repetition demonstrates that if the people of Israel, and we, also, the church, were add to the Word of the Lord we would find ourselves in error and rebellion. For we would be following a mixture of truth with human wisdom which, in essence, is failing to follow the Lord. To further drive home this command Moses reminds the people of Baal of Peor and the act of idolatry in which the people tolerated the Moabites. Moses reminds them that “the Lord your God destroyed every one of you who followed Baal Peor” (Deuteronomy 4:3). As the people of God enter into this new land, filled with a multitude of peoples whose worship of rooted in idolatry, they must give themselves to following the statutes and ordinances the Lord gave to Moses that they might live in honor of the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:5). Idolatry is always to fruit of minimizing the Word of God and maximizing our opinions. Paul’s words in Romans 1:21ff highlight the foundation of idolatry where man refused to honor the Lord and His word but were futile in their thinking…their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools…” (Romans 1:21-22). To live for the Lord demands that we submissively listen to Him and give our allegiance to what He says and not to what we think.

HONOR (DEUTERONOMY 4:6-7)
We are told to “Carefully follow” the statutes and commands of the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:6). The words “Carefully follow” convey two ideas worthy of note. First, the people of God are to show that they live by a standard different from the surrounding culture. They are to be disciplined and precise in their living in order to honor the Lord by reflecting His character among the nations which, like being salt and light of the word (Matthew 5:13, 16) will cause others to honor and praise the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:7-8). Then and now, believers are called to one ethic - the kingdom of God. The purpose, then and now, is the honor and praise of the Lord. To live and to permit spiritual mediocrity is to dishonor the Holy Lord who has called us to shine like lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15). Second, to carefully follow the Word of God highlights the necessity of retaining His Word, in our minds, in order to be able to use them when needed. Memorizing the Word of God is essential to living for the Lord in a contrary culture. Psalm 1 teaches us what Deuteronomy 4 commands: that the blessed life (the set part life) is rooted in our keeping the Word of God by memorizing (meditating on) it (Psalm 1:2).

TEACH (Deuteronomy 4:9)
To forget is not only human, but it is spiritual warfare. To stay alive, spiritually, in a place where your faith is constantly tested is incredibly difficult. If we, as God’s people, are to keep the faith burning and strong Moses tells us three things to do. First, “be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves” (Deuteronomy 4:9). Stand watch over yourselves. Note the plurality of the command.  No one person is to only stand watch over him or herself, but is to fight to see that they help to guard others from being deceived and walking away as well. Second, Moses says “don’t forget the things your eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 4:9). This reflects specifically back to Baal Peor, where in their idolatry God destroyed the faithless. We should never forget or be made to think that the Lord is anything other than Holy and will destroy all and any who live contrary to His character or outside of Christ. But one could also remember the great and awesome things the Lord has done as well. When we are prone to slip or to lose heart or faith, remembering His goodness and His mercy as well as the many ways in which His hand has saved and rescued us can be a compelling power to fight to honor and obey Him. Third, Moses commands, “teach them to your children and grandchildren” (Deuteronomy 4:9). The late R.C. Sproul has said that we are always one generation away from losing the gospel. I think we see the truth of this sentiment in the falling away of many in the so-called Millennial generation. If we long to see the gospel’s continued power for generations to come it begins with our present faithfulness to teach and train those who are young to be strong in the faith and devoted to the Lord.

February 16, 2020

PROCLAMATION

DEUTERONOMY 6:1-13

THE PROMISE (DEUT. 6:1-3)
In the context of multiple nations with their own ethics the people of God needed to remain distinct and reflect their devotion to the Lord.  This distinction would come by following His statutes and ordinances in the land they were about to enter and possess (Deuteronomy 6:1) so that, as a result, they “may prosper and multiply greatly” (Deuteronomy 6:2). This prosperity is described in four ways. First, their fear of the Lord would increase as they obeyed Him (Deuteronomy 6:2). They would grow in their reverence and honor of the Lord, keeping His glory and fame at the forefront of all they do. Second, they would experience a long (full) life (Deuteronomy 6:2). Obedience would not simply bring about a greater length of days but life that is full of meaning; a life of fulfilling the purposes of the Lord and walking in in His joy. Third, obedience would bring success. This is what is meant by the phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 6:3). All would go well for them because, in their obedience, God would protect and provide for them at every turn. All that they would ever need God, Himself, would provide. Finally, they would experience phenomenal growth as a people through child birth. This is more than a promise of having children. It is a promise that their seed would also be blessed because of their parents’ obedience. Today, these same blessings are reiterated throughout the New Testament, the only difference is that the blessings are, primarily, spiritual (Ephesians 1:3). As we walk in obedience to the Lord in a land full of many gods, our Lord promises His abiding presence (Matthew 28:20) but also a full life here on earth (Ephesians 6:3).

THE PASSION (DEUT. 6:4-5)
This portion of Deuteronomy is known as the shema. The shema represents the core statement of the faith of Israel that was to be repeated, often, as a reminder of their loyalty to the Lord. It begins with the call to listen (Deuteronomy 6:4). To listen was to give intense and undistracted consideration to what was about to be said. It was no passive listening being called for, but a listening with a passion to submit and obey. At the heart of the shema is this: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This monotheistic statement was the essence of Israel’s worship. Unlike the rampant polytheism of the day, Israel was known distinctly as a people who worship one God. This also pointed to the uniqueness and supremacy of the Lord over all other so-called gods. Israel is to worship the one, true and living God and Him alone! Such worship was to be more than ritualistic or a simple formality. Worship was to involve the whole of the passions and desires of Israel – “with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). In essence they were to worship with their heart (the fullness of their minds), soul (their volition and will) and strength (the intensity and fervor expressed in their actions). Worship is passion. It is whole life passion. The Lord calls for and claims the whole of all who love Him and without such totality our worship fails to exhibit devotion and fidelity. This includes the church today. Jesus quoted this verse in reference to the question of what is the greatest commandment (See Mark 12:28-30). The mark of a true saint is a passion to worship Him truly and completely. While sin limits this possibility, our faith in Christ makes growth in worship possible. As we grow in love and obedience to Christ we will find our affections, mind and lives yielded more and more to the worship of the Lord.

THE PROCLAMATION (DEUT. 6:6-9)
Passion for the Lord curbs the mere formality of worship. The diverse ways in which the people of God can show forth their singular devotion and love to the Lord are enumerated in these verses. First, the laws “are to be in your heart” which is a call to memorize the them (Deuteronomy 6:6). Second, “Repeat them to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7). As one sharpens a knife, believers should spiritually sharpen their children by ensuring their knowledge of the Lord and His laws. Third, everyday aspects of life whether it be “in your house” or “along the road” (Deuteronomy 6:7) – such as when shopping or driving to dance class – the law of the Lord should be central to our conversation. Fourth, the laws should be on their hand and their forehead (Deuteronomy 6:8) symbolizing that no activity is to be done contrary to the law of God and that they should occupy every aspect of our thinking. Finally, the laws should be written on their “doorposts” and on the “city gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9). In essence, every aspect of the lives of God’s people, then and now, should be marked by the Word of God.

THE POSSESSION (DEUT. 6:10-13)
The long-awaited promise given to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21), Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5) and Jacob (Gen. 28:10-17) is now become a reality. All that they have is given to them by the Lord alone and not due to any action on their own. They have been given a land already furnished with everything they need: large and beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11). God gave them the land and every possible means to enjoy the land. Just like salvation! God gives us what we do not deserve and then provides us with every grace to enjoy it (2 Peter 1:3). This prosperity, however, can be difficult, leaving us easily to not be mindful of the One who provided it for us. Moses, therefore, calls the people to “be careful not to forget the Lord” who took you from slavery (Deuteronomy 6:12). The antidote to forgetting the Lord is fearing Him and worshipping Him (Deuteronomy 6:13); living in reverence to Him at all times and in allegiance to Him with the totality of our affections. Today, Christians must fight to remember the Lord’s mercies with the many distractions to our affections.  Yet, living in a constant gaze of His majesty and glory as well as never forsaking our assembling together with the saints (Hebrews 10:23-25) are disciplines that fight against the sloth, indifference and being unthankful for His gracious ways towards us.

February 23, 2020

REVEALED

DEUTERONOMY 18:15-22

God is not doing a new thing, despite the fact that so many think He is.  There is no new message and certainly no new revelation. People often say that God has given them a revelation or that He has revealed such and such to them. This talk of revelation is problematic in our day when God’s final Word is the Bible, Genesis-Revelation.  So how can we know who represents God and why is representation needed to begin with?

 THE NEED (Deuteronomy 18:15-17)
The people stood in need of someone standing between them and the Lord. His voice, unmediated, was too much and, as a result they requested, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the Lord our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’ (Deuteronomy 18:16). Arriving at Mt. Sinai was a terrifying thing, seeing the mountain burning and shaking with lightening all about, they were not going near this awesome sight. Yet, their request for a mediator was not something that would be for this moment only. The mediator would be a permanent fixture and reality for the people and their relating to the Lord. Moses said “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15). While every other prophet would fulfill this role none, apart from Christ, would be as unique as Moses. The other prophets heard from the Lord, but God spoke with Moses face to face as a man to his friend (Exodus 33:11). Whoever Moses spoke of would need to be greater than the prophets that would follow. That one would be Jesus, the Christ. He did not need to meet with God, He was God in the flesh to the people.  He did not need any dreams or revelations, but was Himself, the revelation of God (John 1:18) and would speak the Word of God. Jesus was more than a friend, He was the Son (Hebrews 3:5-6). With all of these qualities Christ is the perfect and, thus the only true Mediator between God and man (1st Timothy 2:5). The holiness of God still demands mediation. Our sin still reveals our eternal plight. None can behold glory without dying and none can stand before it with sin. In Christ, we do not come to a mountain of wrath and dread (Hebrews 12:18-19), but to the mountain full of the grace of God (Hebrews 12:22).

THE PROVISION (Deuteronomy 18:18-19)
This mediator will speak the Word of God placed within His mouth and will tell the people all that the Lord commanded (Deuteronomy 18:19). Everyone who did not listen to Him God, Himself, would hold them accountable (Deuteronomy 18:19). What is most remarkable about these verses is verse 18: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers” (Deuteronomy 18:18). The prophet was not to be a foreigner, one who had joined the people of Israel throughout their journey. He had to be one who was of the people – like them. Who better to know how to lead as the Lord commands but one who understand the history and the struggles of the children of Israel.  Who could stand in the gap for a people if they did not know the origin of their relationship with the Lord or the great struggle to remain true and faithful to Him amid temptation? No one. Yet, in this we find a remarkable picture regarding the ministry of Christ and the power of His mediation. Christ came as a man, not as an angel or as exclusively the divine Son. He was God, for sure, but He was also man and it is in this fashion as man that His mediation is powerful. Who could understand a battle with being humble before God and man but one who, as a man, learned this (Philippians 2:5-11)? Who could understand the struggle to obey as a human being except one who, while as a human, battled to obey the Lord (Hebrews 5:7)

THE TEST (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
How was Israel to know if a prophet was actually sent by God? There were so many who were making predictions about what the future held for the nation! Who was actually representing the Lord. In these verses, we find the God given parameters to make such a determination. If the prophet speaks in the name of another God they must die (Deuteronomy 18:20) or if their prophecy does not come to pass they have “spoken it presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). For us it is different. We do not live in the age of prophets since we have the complete Bible to which none can add or subtract (Revelation 22:18). The ways in which we can determine truthfully called preachers of the word are through their life and their doctrine (their teaching). Jesus said you know a tree by the fruit it bears (Matthew 7:16). Paul said that if one preaches a message that mixes grace with effort, such a one is worthy of damnation; even if it is an angel from heaven (Galatians 1:6-9). Therefore, Paul calls true preachers of the gospel to study (2 Timothy 2:15) and to watch their life and their doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). Therefore, we can conclude that ungodly preachers – those whose lives bear consistent fruit of disobedience to the Lord – as well as those who are no sound in doctrine are to be rejected as representatives of God because God, Himself, has and will reject them as His children. In our day where preachers abound on both radio and television we must give great care and discernment to whose voice we give our attention to.

Meet Our Writers

Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

Barbara Denman

During her 30 years as Florida Baptists’ director of communications, Barbara ventured across the state — and to Cuba and Haiti — to report on Baptist witness and, amid natural disaster, Baptist compassion.

Barbara and her husband, Dick, are currently enjoying spending time with their first grandchild, Finley, along with Finley’s parents Ashford and Chantal and Barbara and Dick’s daughter, Addie.

Florida Baptist Convention, Writers' Network, Keila Diaz

Keila Diaz

Keila earned a B.S. in Communications from Florida International University in Miami. She writes news and stories about Florida Baptist churches, creates and posts social content to the FBC’s social media channels, and is a Baptist Press contributor.

When she’s not working, Keila enjoys bike rides and spending time with her family.

Barbara Hoffmann, Florida Baptist Convention, Writers' Network

Barbara Hoffmann

Barbara, a member at Eau Gallie First BC, Melbourne, and a graduate of Florida State University, B.S., Speech Pathology/Audiology, taught Pre-K/VPK for many years. While living and serving in Maine, she wrote articles for the NEW ENGLAND BAPTIST, and currently writes for the Brevard Baptist Association’s newsletter, THE BRIDGE. She loves serving alongside her husband Mike (Associational Mission Strategist, Brevard Baptist Association), spending time with their three grandchildren, sewing and reading.

David Moore, Florida Baptist Convention, Writers' Network

David Moore

David Moore has been writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Florida for more than 20 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. A proud member of First Baptist Church of Ocala, David serves in the worship, deacon and NextGen ministries. He and his wife Beth have three children.

Jessica Pigg, Florida Baptist Convention, Writers' Network

Jessica Pigg

Jessica received her B.S. in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She contributes to Florida Baptist Conv, Biblical Woman, Baptist Press, The Devotional for Women, and Daily Devotional Bible for Women. Her greatest joy is serving beside her husband who is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church.

Florida Baptist Convention, Writers' Network, Brandi Radella

Brandi Radella

Brandi is a writer and editor for N2 Publishing, a community magazine that honors God. She and her family attend Fishhawk Fellowship Church and are a Host Family for Safe Families for Children, Bethany Christian Services. Her background is in Healthcare Management, Policies & Procedures.