Burn the Plow. Roast the Ox.

fire-1568645So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
1 Kings 19:19-21

When we repent and accept Christ as our leader and director then we leave our old life behind. In fact we don’t just turn our back on it, but we are spiritually born, no longer dead in our transgressions, but alive in Christ. From that day forward when we wake up every morning the Holy Spirit within us cries out for Christ, for righteousness. A sign of a true believer is someone who denies the desire of his flesh nature, this is called dying to oneself.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:24

You see Christ was made sin on the cross, even though He had not Himself sinned, as a payment for the debt we’ve racked up with our sin before God. However, the transaction is not complete until we offer up that sin in repentance. Burning it like Elisha burned his plow. When we repent and die to ourselves. Then and only then will Christ’s righteousness is imputed upon us to protect us from the wrath of God. We are purchased by the blood of Christ, protected by His righteousness.

The Christian life is one of continual repentance and dying to oneself, not because we lose our salvation every time we go to sleep, but because we have set our hearts and minds to accept Christ as our Rescuer which can only happen when we submit to Him as Lord. Submission means dying to self.

When Elisha was called to serve God he burned His plow, killed His oxen and ate them for a farewell dinner. He got rid of them for good, no turning back. We must burn our plows, our old life must die under the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit. While it is painful to die to ourselves it will not be as painful as it will be to come under the eternal fire of God’s judgement.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

Just like Isaiah cried out in terror when He saw a vision of God’s throne and His mouth was purified with a coal from God’s holy fire, so must our tongues be purified with the fire of the Holy Spirit. If not, our tongues will be scorched and parched for water where there is none.

And in Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have pity and mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.

But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime fully received [what is due you in] comforts and delights, and Lazarus in like manner the discomforts and distresses; but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who want to pass from this to you may not be able, and no one may pass from there to us. Luke 16:23-26

God’s purifying fire consumes all unrighteousness. Will it only be your works consumed on judgement day (1 Cor. 3:10-15) or your whole body?

“The List”

https://vimeo.com/127118312Did you know that God is intently watching every single one of us?

From His dwelling place He looks [intently] upon all the inhabitants of the earth—He Who fashions the hearts of them all, Who considers all their doings. Psalm 33:14-15 AMP

What makes this far more amazing than simply the fact that He considers the ways of all people at once, is that God is so big and so powerful beyond our comprehension that the Bible also tells that in order to regard even the heavens He actually has to humble himself. When we we view something new in the heavens it makes the news and we highly praise the ability of man to get a snapshot of one small piece of creation, but for God, the creator He is so far beyond His amazing creation in His glory, power, and wonder that it is an act of humility to pay us any attention!

The Lord is high above all nations,
His glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
Who dwells on high,
Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?
Psalm 113:4-6

This really helps me to get in perspective because really if God is in a humble state to regard us, then shouldn’t I also be walking in a continual posture of humility before Him in His awesome dominion and power? Also, there should be NO ONE that I am not willing to humble myself to talk to, to care for with dignity because God Himself regards them and myself, although we both at our best are like abhorrent, filthy rags before Him…

Furthermore, we learn that not only is God humbling Himself to watch us, and considering all of our ways, but he is also keeping track. He’s making “a list”, He forgets not one of our words or deeds:

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14

For those that reject the payment of Christ and refuse Him as Lord on earth, it will only be them, their list of sins, and an all-seeing, all-knowing God on the day of judgement. The scriptures make it clear that when we live like this we are storing up wrath for that day.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: Romans 2:5-6

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. Revelation 21:8

Andy Adams, Nathaniel Hall, and Curtis Randle recently wrote and performed a puppet skit that illustrates how Christ gave His very life for us, so if we are truly sorry for our sins and repent we can have our “list” forgiven and be protected on the dreaded day of judgement:

For those that  are protected by Christ righteousness, who had a repentant heart and turned to Christ, their offenses are dismissed because the payment of their sin was made when they submitted their thoughts, words, and deeds under the leadership of Christ. However, even they will still face God for a judgement, the judgement of what they built in this life upon their new foundation of Christ:

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

We are each accountable before God, which list will you approach the throne of God’s judgement with?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Romans 14, Steak or Veggies

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Romans 14:19-23

When I read this I started with the end of the chapter, which are the verses above, specifically “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves“. This line in isolation is really confusing and just highlights why it is not good to take a verse out of context. How can someone condemn himself by not keeping something just between them and God and by approving it? Why should we keep a conviction between just us and God? Doesn’t God want us to share what He is teaching us with others? What is Paul talking about?

After reading the whole chapter (context!) I now understand what Paul is saying. Paul spends a lot of time talking about eating meat vs just veggies because that was a big issue religiously speaking during his time. Still today this could be a factor in some relationships. He does mention wine at the end of the chapter and today I think that is a much more relevant topic overall. However, you can plug a myriad of disputable things into the chapter (tattoos, getting dressed up on Sunday morning, what day you go to church, etc.). I’m going to focus on alcohol just because Paul does specifically mention wine and it is still very relevant.

Today you’ll find Christians who proclaim it to be a sin to drink any sort of alcohol and pass judgement on those who do, and then you find Christians who do not feel guilty about enjoying a margarita or a fresh brewski and who openly flaunt their freedom to do so (as long as they aren’t getting drunk), putting down Christians who feel guilty drinking as “old fashioned prudes”. Paul addresses both ends of the spectrum pointing out the sinfulness of both judgement and of approving a behavior that can cause someone else to stumble in their faith.

One of the most well-known Bible verses, and probably most misused is “do not judge lest ye be judged” from the sermon on the mount. What I mean by misused and misquoted is that it is often taken out of context and used to “justify” blatant sinful behavior. The Bible does say that drunkenness is sinful, and commands us not to be controlled by anything but the Holy Spirit, or in other words not to be controlled by a drug of some sort. For some, who struggle with addiction or who are living in (or grew up around drunkenness), starting to drink alcohol can be a very slippery slope that causes them to fall away in their journey of faith by allowing something else other than God to control them, or to become their “go to” for relaxation and “happiness” after work and on the weekends. For someone in this situation they may choose to abstain from alcohol. Either for the protection of their own faith, or to be an example to people in their family that true satisfaction comes from the Lord. This is right for them to do, since Romans 14 states that anyone who does partake in a disputable activity with doubt about whether it is ok for them to do so is sinning. However, when someone in this situation begins to take it upon themselves to force their own policy upon others, or judging others who do partake in alcohol (again not drunkenness), then their judgment becomes sin. They are right to abstain because of their own convictions, but wrong to judge about a disputable matter, and therefore sin in that way.

On the flip-side from judgement for behavior, there is sinning by approval of a behavior through word or action. The Bible verse quoted above “blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves” is exponentially less popular than the judgement verse. How come? Cause it is hard to “justify” sinful behavior with this one. But again, what does it mean in context of the chapter? Paul explains that if you are strong enough in your faith to enjoy “a cold one”, but then you openly put someone down who finds it wrong for themselves to drink, then you are in fact condemning yourself by what you approve with your words and your behavior. The act of putting down the person who feels convicted to abstain is unloving. Flaunting your freedom to drink a glass of wine can very easily tempt someone who struggles with addiction to fall back into their vice, or who is trying to be an example to family to cave in their convictions. This is unloving. Why? Because when you put the other down, or when you flaunt your behavior or even just your approval of it in word, you are caring more about “being right” or about “doing what makes you feel good”, just like the person who judges you for drinking does.

When we care more about being right or about doing what we want, then we care more about us and the disputable matter than we do about the salvation of others. We therefore condemn ourselves by our approval (whichever way you approve) because you are guilty of loving yourself more than your neighbor. Christ Himself said that the greatest law is to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength, and the second is to love your neighbor as your yourself. What is the one thing God cares about most? The redemption and salvation of people for His glory. It is His will that none should perish. So if we are truly going about our Father’s business then we will care more about the redemption and salvation of people than “being right” or about flaunting our freedom in Christ by partaking in something that could cause someone else to stumble in their faith.

That is why Paul says to keep your conviction to yourself, and to work your salvation out with trembling before a Holy God (Philippians 2). He reminds us in Romans 14 that we will each stand before God on judgement day–alone. We are each accountable to God, not based on technicalities of obedience, but as to whether or not Jesus Christ was our Lord on earth. If we are living in submission to God through Christ by the power of the Spirit then we will love Him and therefore love others.

In other words, care more about the salvation of others. Even if that means paying closer attention to what you are wearing, what you are drinking, or paying attention to what you are saying about disputable matters, or even if it means keeping quiet about your convictions, then do it. Be aware of and concerned about their walk with God. Their walk with God is more important. That is the loving and peaceful thing to do.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31


Notice how Paul opens up the chapter with the keywords “disputable matters.” There are black and white matters that are not disputable laid out in scripture that clearly tells us what right or wrong  is, in many areas. There are also scriptural instruction for how to judge and address sinful behavior. (i.e. Galatians 6, 1 Corinthians 5, Titus 1, Matthew 18).