Monday, February 27, 2012

The Undefiled Way

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!  ~Psalm 119:1

Jesus said there is only one way... and a lot of people don't like that.
There are many paths one can choose from today. We can pattern our lives after one of numerous "ways", but there is only one way  leading to truth and eternal life. The problem is many of these other ways may look good or sound good, but they will defile our very soul. I am so glad God has not left it up to us to figure out which way is the best, because we would never get it right on our own. It is plainly stated in God's Word which way we must go to remain undefiled.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  ~John 14:5,6

Jesus declared He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the way we are to go; His way is undefiled, good, and holy. For those who are called to follow the way of Christ, many blessings can be found by remaining undefiled by the world. We must refuse to be drawn into sin at every turn and we must not allow the way of the world to creep back into our lives. Being human, we will soon find out this is an impossible task. Then how do we remain undefiled? We must allow the life of Christ to dominate our own.

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  ~Romans 7:22-25

As we draw closer to God in prayer and the reading of His Word, His Spirit works in our lives and the very life of Jesus is revealed in us. The same Life that was selfless, loving, kind, truthful, and holy is revealed in our own lives until it is Jesus Christ who others see when they look at us. We should realize it is His life in us which perfects us. Jesus is the way as we walk in the law of the Lord! And what is the law of the Lord? Jesus Himself told us when the Pharisees asked the same question...

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  ~Matthew 22:34-40

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Filled With the Knowledge of God

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  ~Psalm 119:15

There now, nice and clean! If only it would stay that way.
Tupperware® is a marvelous invention. In our home we have Tupperware® containers which are used to store a variety of things. We have one container that holds sugar, we have another container that holds Kool-Aid, and there are also containers which hold flour, rice, beans, etc. As the contents of these various containers are used up, we refill them with the same thing. When the sugar container is empty, we don't put flour in it, we fill it with sugar. When the flour container is empty, we don't put coffee in it, we put flour. The containers are set aside for specific uses. Our lives are much like these containers.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  ~2 Corinthians 4:6,7

God has called us out of the world, washed us clean in the Blood of the Lamb, and set us aside for a specific use. He has set us aside to be filled with His Spirit and His Word. Each day there should be a time of reading and meditating on God's Word. This allows God's precepts to work in our lives, changing us, cleansing us, and setting us aside from the world for His purpose. The problem is, we contaminate ourselves after God has already begun filling us with His Word.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  ~Acts 4:31

How can anyone come to us for God's truth if we have contaminated what He has given us with the things of this world? When we find ourselves needing to be filled, let us meditate on His Word and consider what Christ has done for us. Do you find yourself having trouble speaking to others about Jesus? It is the leading of the Holy Spirit and unbroken communion with God through His Word and prayer that we find boldness to speak the truth in love. We must not allow anything to come between us and our time alone with our Father in heaven. Everything else in our lives must revolve around our relationship with the Almighty.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  ~1 Corinthians 1:9

Friday, February 17, 2012

Seek God's Forgiveness

Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.  ~Psalm 119:39

Jesus is coming and you can't hide in here!
Today the psalmist speaks of reproach. When he says "the reproach", he is talking about his disgrace and shame. Well, we all have done some things we would rather forget. There are things we have said, done, or thought that nobody else knows about except us, and of course God. Our natural tendency is to hide or cover up those things we do wrong and you can see this tendency in everyone from a young child to presidents and kings. We all have done it, we just don't want anyone to know of our sin and we will even try to hide it from God.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  ~Genesis 3:7,8

Yes, our tendency is to hide from God, but the psalm writer has the right idea; he has gone to God and cried out for Him to turn away his reproach, to forgive his sin. We can either spend a lifetime of hiding our shame, guilt, and sin, or we can go to the only One who is capable of forgiving it. We must be honest with ourselves, either we go to God now in repentance and asking for our forgiveness, or we wait until we are standing before Him on that Day of Judgment. The psalm writer also said something about dread?

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”  ~Revelation 6:15-17

When the day of wrath comes and God shakes this old world one last time, humanity will no longer be able to hide from Him. Those who have not repented and trusted the atoning work of Jesus upon the cross for sin, will be facing God's judgment alone. In one last desperate attempt, people will cry out for the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from God. Regardless of hiding beneath mountains and rocks or behind trees and fig leaves, God sees all sin and will judge all sin.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  ~Revelation 20:12

Sadly, many will still stand before God on that day, not to receive their heavenly reward, but to receive punishment for their sin. Many will choose to hide from God or cover their sin with their own faulty righteousness instead of just repenting and confessing their sin before God. If only all would trust in Christ for their redemption, if only all would heed His voice as He calls us to Himself. Have you heard the voice of God calling? Have you felt the same conviction to repent and confess your sin as the psalm writer did? I pray that you have, but if you haven't or if you know someone who hasn't, I have some good news for you...

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  ~1 John 1:9

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Security is in His Hand

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  ~John 10:28

If your security relies on your own will, then you might as well have Barney here secure your salvation.
Jesus here is speaking to the Jews and in response to their question about whether He is the Messiah or not, He speaks to them about His sheep. Our Lord explains to them His sheep hear His voice and He knows them and He gives them eternal life! He also explains His sheep shall never perish; to perish here means to be destroyed, or to be punished in hell. The Son of God holds them so securely and so certainly, that no foe can surprise Him as a robber might, or overcome him by force. What a clear presentation of our security in Christ!

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  ~Romans 8:38,39

The Apostle Paul was persuaded our eternal life, the very security of it, rested in the Lord Jesus Christ! He understood perhaps better than anyone the highest honor which could be placed upon mortal man was the calling of Christ. He understood our salvation, and the very love we have for God, comes only through the power of Messiah and there is no salvation, or true love of God, outside the work of Christ. There truly is nothing which can shake our salvation loose from the hand of Jesus, the very hand of God...

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  ~John 10:29

Jesus now tells the Jews it is God who has given Him these sheep and both the Father and the Son are pledged to keep them so they shall never fall away and perish. It would be impossible for any language to teach more clearly our salvation is secure. The salvation of our souls came not by our own power and is not kept by our own power. I understand some feel it is possible to lose one's salvation, I thought that once myself, but after reading the Scriptures and looking at what God says about the matter, I could only come to one conclusion...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  ~Ephesians 2:8-10

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Prey Part 2

Previous Series Links:
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Introduction
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Past
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Prey Part 1

The Martyr Stephen

Previously in this series, we found out who Saul hated so much that he woke up every morning breathing threats and murder. Saul hated Christians. To answer why anyone could hate a Christian so much I thought we should look at the Christian who set Saul off in the first place. The threats and murderous intentions Saul was intending to unleash on the Christians of Damascus was nothing new. He had taken part in the murder of Christians before; there was of course the martyr Stephen.

This is establishing your own righteousness in action.
And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ ~Acts 22:19,20

Stephen was a faithful man of God and one of the original seven chosen to serve as a deacon to the fledgling church in Jerusalem. During the course of his ministry, there were some Jews who accused him of blaspheming God and Moses (Acts 6:11,12) as well as speaking against the temple and the Law (Acts 6:13). When given the opportunity to answer the accusation of blasphemy, Stephen gave a defense which recounted the history of the Hebrew people beginning with Abraham (Acts 7:1-8).

He spoke also of Isaac and Jacob, and of Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt which ultimately led to 430 years of slavery for the Hebrew people (Acts 7:9-16). Stephen explained how God called Moses and through him delivered the Israelites from bondage, but the people were stiff-necked and rebelled against God. Stephen would then draw a parallel between their rebellious ancestors and their own stiff necks in rejecting God’s Messiah, Jesus...

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” ~Acts 7:51-53

When Stephen unmasked their self righteousness they responded by stoning him to death (Acts 7:54-60) and Saul, after consenting to the murder, watched over the coats and robes of those who would take up the stones so they would not be bloodied. This ferocious and vicious murder is the result of self righteousness being revealed. That is why Saul and others hated Christians so. The disciples of the Lord represent the One who exposed the dark and futile hope of a form of righteousness apart from God’s own righteousness. Saul would later write a letter to the Christians in Rome explaining the plight of these Jews.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ~Romans 10:1-4

A true disciple of the Lord Jesus is one who exposes the false hope of self righteousness by correctly and lovingly using the Word of God to reveal the total inability of man to do anything to earn, or warrant salvation. Are we as faithful to the Great Commission as Stephen was? Are we willing to risk even our lives to share the Gospel? The next installment we will see how the fragile and damning facade of self righteousness must be propped up with religious legitimacy.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  ~Acts 9:1,2

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Are You a Good Person?

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,  ~Proverbs 20:6a 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, ~Ephesians 2:1,2a
If you ask any unsaved person if they think they are a good person, nine times out of ten they will say yes. At least for me, this has proven to be true during the witnessing encounters I have had. Most people like to think of themselves in a positive light; almost as if their good impression of themselves prevents any negative judgment by God, should His existence prove to be true. You can imagine the shock and anger of people when they find out God has something very different to say about their character...

They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.  ~Psalm 53:3

The pride crushing truth is no one is a good person, at least not by God’s righteous standard. A person may occasionally do good things; some deeds might even be considered selfless, but deeds and works cannot change the inner nature. Out hearts are deceitful and corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9), a condition which we can do nothing to remedy...

Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?  ~Proverbs 20:9

The writer of Proverbs asks a rhetorical question and the obvious answer is “no one.” This is not to say nothing can be done about our sinful condition, rather this harsh truth is given by Scripture to bring a person to the place and condition where something can be done about it. God’s diagnosis and evaluation of mankind’s condition is meant to break hardened hearts and humble pride filled spirits...

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  ~Psalm 34:18

We, as Christians, must still remember we are not good. Being forgiven of sin and adopted into the family of God does not remove the nature of sin in our flesh instantly. Instead God gives us a new nature, one that we are to feed and nourish on His Word and obedience to that truth. Jesus calls us to take up our own cross daily to crucify self (Luke 9:23) and Paul declares that true Christians crucify the sinful works of the flesh (Galatians 5). When we are saved we do not become good, rather we enter into a battle with that sinful nature which would lead us to hell...

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  ~Romans 8:13

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why I Love the Church (and you should too) Part 2

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. ~1 Corinthians 12:12

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.  ~John 15:13
In the first installment of this series I introduced the idea that our relationship to Christ's church goes beyond those kinds of relationships one might have with other organizations. Mostly because the church is much more than an organization. We, who are God's people, are one body...

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. ~1 Corinthians 12:27

So, we have this one body made up of many individual members, joined and united together in Christ by God's Holy Spirit. How should these members relate to one another? The Apostle Paul likens this relationship to one human body made up of individual parts like feet, hands, eyes, and ears. As you ponder that for a minute I want you to ask yourself this question:

How do I relate and interact with these other members of Christ's body to whom God has joined me to?

If you are the hand, how should you relate to the foot? If you are the foot, how should you relate to the hand? If you are a Christian, how should you relate to the church (read other Christians here)? As a member of the body of Christ you should love the rest of the body. I should love you and you should love me and the most convincing (convicting?) reason for doing this is because Jesus loves us.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.   ~Ephesians 5:25-27

In the fifth chapter, of his letter to the Ephesian church, the Apostle Paul calls on husbands to love their wives; note the example he gives them. The epitome of love and the lofty peak of selfless sacrifice is the love Christ displayed for His church. The reason I love the church, and the reason you should too, is because Jesus Christ loves the church and died for it. What more compelling reason could there be? Maybe if Jesus commanded us to... oh wait...

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ~John 13:34,35

And again...

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ~John 15:12

Our Lord and Savior loves the church, He suffered, bled, and died for it. He also calls on us to love each other (remember we are the church) as He loves us. In fact, it is the love we have for one another by which the world will recognize we are followers of Jesus! think about that one... If our love for the rest of the church is how the world might recognize we are his disciples, then there must be some visible outworking of that love to recognize... yep.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:10

Next time we will look at how we can give some legs to our love for the church.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

We Need Not fear

Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,  ~Proverbs 3:25
Not knowing God, produces all kinds of fear!
Just watching the news at night is enough to make one very afraid. Train wrecks, mass shootings, kidnappings, plane crashes, explosions, radiation leaks, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, mudslides, new wars, old wars, political upheaval, financial doom, and etc. Thousands upon thousands dying from these disasters and to top it off we have hunger, disease, and crime. The wicked one is growing stronger today and regardless of the message of good times and prosperity we hear from some, things are going to get worse. The writer of this proverb didn't say "if trouble comes" but "when trouble comes". Yes, there are plenty of things to be afraid of, but for the Christian we don't have to fear. 

for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.  ~Proverbs 3:26

When sudden terror or trouble from the wicked one comes, we as Christians have someone who will be there for us. Fear and terror come from not knowing what is going to happen, but for those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ Jesus, there is no need to fear. We have the Lord as our confidence. He is always present with us, for we are indwelled by His Holy Spirit. Bad things still happen to God's people, but we have this confidence; God is in control.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  ~Romans 8:18

Should it be God's will we suffer, or that we experience trouble, it is overshadowed by the glory which He shall reveal in us. The pain of today will be washed away by the glory of eternal life in the presence of God. It is like when I was a child and I stepped on a nail which went all the way through my foot. The pain was excruciating and I was afraid of what might happen. Today the pain is not there, it is only a faded memory. Whatever suffering the Christian is called on to experience, it will not last forever.

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. ~Matthew 10:22

Trouble is guaranteed for those who have identified themselves with Jesus. He tells us we will be hated just because of our relationship with Him. Over the ages many have found these words to be true. Thousands upon thousands have been martyred and suffered persecution. Again, we do not have to fear, for we are His children and if we suffer as He suffered then we will be glorified as He was glorified.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  ~Romans 8:16,17