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Wednesday, December 21, 2016, 1:44 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 16 (Select vv. ESV).

Who Cause Divisions (vv. 17-18)

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

In today’s modern institutional church there is much talk against divisions and for unity, but are they talking about what God’s word is talking about? I have found that they frequently use these terms to pressure people into conformity with the leadership, and with the leadership’s “church” goals, and to shame those who do not bow the knee, but are they being biblical in what they are doing? I believe the vast majority are not, and that the divisions that concern them are not the same as what concern God, and the unity of which they speak is unity with men, not with God and with his purposes.

Let’s look at Jesus’ words first. He said, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division” (Lu. 12:51). “Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). And, then we read in 1 Co. 11:19: “No doubt there have to be differences” (or divisions; factions) “among you to show which of you have God's approval.” So, differences or divisions are not all bad, and some of them have been instituted of God. For, the gospel divides us as saved and unsaved, and as those bound for heaven and as those bound for hell. If we are genuinely following the Lord Jesus Christ with our lives, we are going to stand out like a sore thumb among those who are playing church or who make no claims to faith in Christ at all. And, that is good!

And, as far as the subject of unity goes, we are supposed to be united with Christ when we trust in him to be Lord and Savior of our lives. This means to be united with him in his purpose in dying for our sins, which is that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This means to be united with him in his teachings, and in what he thinks and values. And, it means that we hate what he hates, and that we love what he loves. But, it does not mean to be united with humans who are not united with him in thought, word and deed. If someone’s goals and objectives are contrary to those of Christ, then we are not to unite with them in heart, mind and voice, and this includes many who proclaim to be ministers of the gospel, too, as well as it includes all those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives.

So, it isn’t that “division,” in and of itself is bad, but it is bad when it separates from God and from his purposes, and from his teachings in his Word. So, many of these church and political leaders now, who are crying out against division, and who are calling for the world to unite, are actually those who are opposed to Christ and to his Word. So, we need to watch out for them. And, we need to be discerning when we hear the word “division” that we don’t immediately assume that it is a bad thing, for it is a good thing when it is in line with God and his Word. It is bad when it is contrary to God and his Word, and it is leading people astray from their pure devotion to Christ, which is what a lot of these “churches” today are doing.

Many of these leaders who are crying out against division and who are calling for unity are slick. Even some who may appear to be like Charley Brown (in the comics) can be slick, as well, but just cleverly disguised. So, don’t be fooled by outward appearances. Listen intently to what these people are saying, and then compare what they are saying to scripture, including comparing scripture with scripture, and reading them in context, because they like to pull scriptures out of context to support their case. And, they are good at even telling a lot of the truth, but cleverly inserting subtle lies, disguised as truth, in order to win over naïve minds. They are good at twisting truth, too, and they count on deceiving those who don’t know the word, and who don’t test what they hear against the Word of God.

Wise and Innocent (vv. 19-20)

For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

So, we need to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. So, what does that mean? Well, to be wise means to be learned, sensible, and informed. But, it also means to apply what knowledge we do have to our lives. A person can have a great deal of head knowledge but not know how to use that knowledge in a good way, and so I would not say that person is wise. For me, wisdom is applied knowledge. So, we need to know the good we ought to do by reading God’s Word, but then we need to not be hearers only, but we need to be doers of the Word. We need to do the good we know to do, in other words. And, then we are truly wise about what is good.

We also need to be innocent about what is evil. It does not mean we lack knowledge of what is evil, for we need to know what is wicked, too, so that we don’t do it, but we need to not have experiential knowledge of iniquity by participating in what is evil. We need to be unmixed, uncontaminated, and pure with regard to what is evil. We should not even allow ourselves to be entertained by immorality via TV, movies, video games, the internet, music, and the like. Too many professing Christians are daily entertaining themselves with what is evil, and they don’t even blink an eye, because they have become so desensitized to what is truly wicked in God’s sight. So, they try to mix their Christianity with the ways of the world, but they don’t mix. And, so many of them end up accepting a diluted or half-truth gospel in order to ease their own consciences, and to make themselves feel good.

Our true enemy, who tries to convince us to follow what is evil, is Satan, but Satan has no power over us if we are in Christ Jesus by faith. Jesus already conquered Satan when Jesus died on a cross for our sins, and when he rose victorious over death, hell and sin. When we believe in Jesus as Lord and as Savior of our lives, Jesus sets us free from the control Satan had over our lives. We are set free from slavery to sin so that we can now become slaves of Christ’s righteousness. So, we don’t have to give in to sin any longer. Jesus has given us the way out from under temptation to sin. We just have to take the way out which he provided. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. Jesus will give us everything we need (See: Eph. 6:10-20) to fight off Satan’s attacks against us, and to live victorious Christian lives, pleasing to our Lord.

According to the Gospel (vv. 25-27)

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in a nutshell, can be found in Acts 26:17b-18:

I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Paul said that Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He said that Jesus died, as well, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. He said if we live according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ (for eternity). Jesus said something similar to this when he said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, and take up our cross daily and follow him. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them (for eternity), but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life. And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness, that we are liars.

Again, God is able to strengthen us by this gospel so that we can believe him and obey him; so that we can do what this says. This is not works-based salvation. Jesus didn’t save us just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die, while we live our lives for ourselves while we wait for his return. He died to turn us from sin to the light of truth, i.e. to his righteousness, that we might live holy lives, pleasing to God, no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world. And, he will give us and has given us all we need to fight off temptation to sin and to walk in obedience to our Lord. We just have to yield to him, and let him have control over our lives, instead of us trying to control (run) our own lives.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.