Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Denying Sin

The idea that we are all sinners is not congenial to modern man. We want to believe that human beings are basically good in spite of all evidence to the contrary. We then blame whatever is bad in us on our environment. It is all society’s fault, it is all our parents’ fault, it is all other people’s fault. But the question is where do the bad things in society, our parents, and other people come from? Granted there are physical catastrophes-- earthquakes, hurricanes, disease--the majority of our environment that we normally blame our misbehavior on is from human sources. But the big problem with blaming my moral deficiencies on someone else is it makes them unfixable. If my sinfulness is a result of what other people do, I can never really deal with it till my environment is fixed. (Don’t hold your breath). But if I am a responsible person who has real guilt before God, then I can come to Him to be forgiven and He can change me. That’s why the bad news that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6) is in a sense good news when put with the good news of the gospel--that God has done something about it (Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 4:10; 1 Peter 1:18-21). 

But if I am a sinner, if I am dead in my sins (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) and a captive of Satan (Hebrews 2:14,15; Ephesians 2:2) and do not on my own seek God (Romans 3:10,11), then if I am ever to come to God, He must seek me. Scripture says that the Spirit convinces the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11), that when Christ is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32), and that no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws them (John 6:44). Jesus is the Shepherd who goes after the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7; 19:10). His sheep come to Him because He calls to them (John 10:27-29). A beautiful picture of this in the Old Testament is the story of Isaac and Rebecca (Genesis 24). Abraham is seeking a bride for his son Isaac. He sends a servant back to his homeland and the servant, by the leading of God, finds Rebecca. The servant then brings Rebecca back to be the bride for Isaac. In the same way, God the Father sought a bride for His Son. (We are that bride; see Ephesians 5:25-27). The servant pictures the Holy Spirit who seeks us that we might be Christ’s bride. It is not Rebecca who does the seeking, but rather she is found and brought to Isaac. In the same way we have been sought by God to become those who are called and beloved (Romans 1:5-7). Let us rejoice in this fact. And if you are reading this and have not yet responded to the voice of the Shepherd, accept His invitation that those who wish to come should come (Revelation 22:17).

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Touch of Humor - Key Question

Are here dangers to preaching grace? What is the right approach?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Old Erich Proverb - Flunky

God did not send a flunky to help us; He came Himself.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Voice from the Past - Chesterton

He [H. G. Wells] thought that the object of opening the mind is simply opening the mind. Whereas I am incurably convinced that the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936, Autobiography, (as quoted in As I Was Saying...: A Chesterton Reader, edited by Robert Knille, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985, p. 265).

What is the right way to be open minded? How can we acquire this?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Focus on Activity

We live in an age that is high in activity and low on trust in God. Now activity is a good thing in its right place and in its proper perspective. Laziness has never been a Christian virtue (Proverbs 6:6-11; Romans 12:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-15). But the question is, who are we trusting in? Scripture says that if God does not build a house, we are wasting our time building (Psalms 127:1,2). That when the world is falling apart, we need to stop and realize that God is God (Psalms 46:10). That Christ will build His church (Matthew 16:18). That we who have put our faith in Christ are created for good works, which God has already prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). Now none of this justifies inactivity. But it should affect our priorities.   

It is easy to get caught up in meaningless activity, or even good activity, and to forget what the activity is all about. We can become like Martha, working hard to serve the Lord but not stopping to listen to Him (Luke 10:38-42). Or worse, we can become like the Pharisees, looking good on the outside but corrupt on the inside (Matthew 23:25-28). To avoid this we need to remember we are sinners (Romans 3:23, Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5,6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of this we can only live for the Lord by His power working in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). This means that my key priority should be a life focused on Christ. This implies a general attitude, but it also implies specific requirements. It implies a life focused on His Word (Psalms 1:2; Colossians 3:16; John 17:17). It implies a life focused on prayer (Luke 11:1-13; Philippians 4:6,7; Ephesians 6:18). It implies a life in fellowship with other children of God so that we might be built up by each other (Hebrews 10:24,25; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:10,11). But we must be careful not to make these things into just another series of activities we engage in. Rather, they should be motivated by our love of God (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; 1 Peter 1:8), resulting in knowing Him more (Jeremiah 9:23,24; Philippians 3:7-10; Colossians 1:10).

We can sometimes treat God in a way similar to the old stereotype of a husband who works hard to provide his family with money and things, but does not spend any time with them. Now the husband who wants to change that situation will probably have to do something beyond working up a vague feeling that things need to change; he will have to come up with specific ideas of what to do. But if he approaches the whole situation as checking items off a to-do list, he will not be very successful either. So if we want to go from being workaholics for Christ to being those who do what we do from love and knowledge of God, we need to cultivate specific actions with the right attitude.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Sword of the Spirit

We are to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). While other pieces of the armor are related to God's Word, like the belt of truth, the Sword of the Spirit is the specific passage that applies to the specific situation. We see the example of this in Jesus, who met Satan's specific temptations with the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). To do this, we need to know, meditate on, and even memorize the Word of God (Colossians 3:16; Psalm 119:11; Psalm 1:2). But we must be careful not to use God's Word as a magic talisman, feeling that if we merely wave it around like a cross in front of a vampire, it will be effective. God will not let His things be used that way (Acts 19:13-17; 1 Samuel 4:5-11; Judges 16:4-22). And God's Word is not just to be heard but obeyed (James 1:23-25; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Mathew 28:20). We must understand what we are saying to use it as a weapon against Satan. But it is our key offensive weapon to attack the devil's schemes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spiritual Disciplines

How do we develop what is commonly known as the spiritual disciplines (scary word, that) in our personal lives?  The solution does not seem to be to simply grit our teeth and try harder. (At least it has never worked for me).  And even if we succeed, the whole thing can become a dry duty rather than a passion (Psalms 19:9,10; 37:3-5; 42:1,2; 119:97-104).  Therefore, while I do not want to minimize the need for self-control (we all have a lazy streak), I do want to ask where we get the motivation to make these disciplines a part of our life. 

I believe one of the basic things that will motivate us in this is how we view our God.  First of all, He is the God who loved us enough that, though we were hostile to Him (Romans 3:10-18, 23; Ephesians 2:1-3; Isaiah 64:6), God redeemed us at a great cost (Romans 5:6-10; John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:4-9).  Also, as a result of our accepting this, we know God and can grow to know Him more (John 17:3; Jeremiah 9:23,24; Colossians 1:10).  We are His children (John 1:12,13), His friends (John 15:14,15), and His future bride (2 Corinthians 11:2,3).  Furthermore, He is always with us to help us (Matthew 28:20, 18:20; Isaiah 41:10) and is at work within us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13).  If this is true, if the God who put the stars in place (Isaiah 40:12-26) was willing to pay an incredible price (Romans 8:32) so that we can have a relationship with Him both now and through all eternity (John 17:24-26), should we not reciprocate by seeking to know Him in return?

For this is what the spiritual disciplines are about: learning to know God.  Because no relationship can grow without communication.  And it is here, I think, the real difficulty with these disciplines frequently develops.  I think we often have a fear of God becoming too real in our lives.  Sometimes this comes from a distorted idea of God; we see Him as someone who is waiting to whack us if we get just a little out of line. Also, if I let God become to real to me He might require of me something I am not willing to give. But I think the most basic problem I see in myself is pride.  I want to believe I can run my own life. Or I might be willing to admit I need God, but only for emergencies. But if Jesus who was the God-Man needed prayer (Luke 6:12), who am I to think I can do without it? The bottom line comes--are we willing to trust God for all of life?  And if we are willing to realize that the one who broke the power of sin and death is a loving Father who can aid and direct us in all the details of life, although we all struggle with laziness, we can approach the spiritual disciplines in a new light.