September 30, 2010
God, through Christ, has made Himself always available to us, inviting us to run to Him for help in our time of need. However, we are to do so in repentance and humility, turning completely away from anything that displeases the Lord. This is what people often have a hard time doing. Therefore, sometimes, even often, we see that people, in seeking to relieve their affliction, find it easier to turn to evil. They resort to compromise, deceitfulness, impurities… and they look to idols and worldly philosophies for help and answers.
Job 36:21 speaks to this. It says, “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction.”
People do hate being afflicted, for it certainly can be painful. But instead of enduring the trial by clinging more tightly to Christ and trying to grow in faith and strength through the training, many people turn away. They do not listen to the Spirit. They do not wait on the Lord –for Him to speak, teach, guide, or act. They get impatient, ungrateful, and fearful, and in so doing, instead of allowing the discipline to mature them, they become spiritually weak.
How many times have we seen people, when caught in financial trouble, turn to unrighteous ways of making money? They may turn to dishonest means or even illegal means. How many times have we seen a person whose spouse turned unfaithful, become unfaithful also? Or when a divorced individual resorts to running around trying to get a “fix” of admiration from others to make up for the rejection?
We’ve probably all seen too, when people have caved in under the continued persecutions of insults and shunning from friends, family, co-workers, or from those in their church or community. They try to walk the narrow road, but thorns and weeds of worry, loneliness, or doubt begin to strangle them, and instead of putting on the full armor of God and battling with spiritual weapons, their faith dulls and they are enticed into the world’s methods for gaining comfort. Yet they find little. As Job 8:14,15 say, “What he trusts in is fragile; what he relies on is a spider’s web. He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold.” These weaklings sell their values for a few bowls of acceptance and toss away their vows of holy living just to gain a few laughs amid shallow friendships. Rather than go to the effort of drawing the Living Water from the Well themselves, they’re soon running hither and thither, excitedly proclaiming some new formula to soothe affliction, when really all it does is sap everyone’s energy and produces no healing.
Any effort made to get out of affliction that is not a turning to the Lord, is a turning away from the Lord, and God considers it evil (Isa. 31:1-3), for it is a show of contempt toward Him as He holds out His hands to us all day long. (Isa. 65:2)
Let it not be said of us that we preferred evil to affliction. Affliction can be God’s best method of training that we may become useful shining tools for His purposes. But turning to evil? Well, that never ends in anything but destruction.
Therefore, “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction.”
September 29, 2010
One of the most freeing and glorious things about the Christian walk is that we can “fix our eyes on Jesus.” (Heb. 12:2) For He is “the author and perfecter of our faith.” (same verse) Why would anyone who wants to live a life of faith let their eyes wander elsewhere? For truly, just as Peter learned when he walked on water (Matt. 14:29), it was his steady gaze of faith on Jesus that enabled him to do the impossible. But when he looked around at the stormy waves, fear took over and he begin to sink.
It’s not only storms with their fear that cause people to falter or fall. It’s often lawlessness. People allow their eyes and ears to drink in corruption, and then they wonder why they are so weak spiritually. “I’m not doing anything that bad,” they say. But they deliberately forget that to follow and love Jesus means we keep a steady gaze on Him, we follow Him, and we obey Him. And that we are to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and… run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb. 12:1)
Let’s look at what Jesus says in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters –yes, even his own life– he cannot be My disciple.” Now a disciple is one who listens to and learns from a particular teacher, and who adheres to what he is taught; so don’t listen to those who teach that a person can be saved without being Jesus’ disciple.
Do we see the list of what we are to cast aside as we come to Jesus? He says even “his wife and children.” That’s a teaching that doesn’t get mentioned much! No, it doesn’t mean we are to abandoned them, but it does mean that we are not to let their opposition, insults, slander, or mockery affect us in adhering to Jesus and His commands to us.
Jesus also says we are to hate even our own life. Again, that doesn’t mean we are to commit suicide or take foolish risks. It means we are to obey Christ –even if it should cost us our physical life or our acclaim in the world’s eyes. In other words, we are to have crucified the sin nature and are to continue to do so daily. As Jesus says in the next verse (Luke 14:27), “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.” It’s not a literal cross. It’s a death to Self. And to carry one’s cross means it is a daily death.
How do we walk this death march? We do it by fixing our eyes steadily on Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (some more of Heb. 12:2) and who enables us to do the same. Therefore, “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (v. 3) For in our “struggle against sin” (v. 4) and opposition, we attain victory by our faithful adherence to Jesus who is the perfecter of our faith. We do not become weary, but instead press on in joyful anticipation as we near the goal –that goal of perfection.
Without casting off all hindrances (sin and “enemies of the cross” –Phil. 3:18), we will not be freed up to keep the steady gaze we need to walk toward perfection. We will get lured away, tripped up, and drown.
May we therefore do what is necessary to reach the Goal.
September 28, 2010
Are some of Jesus’ teachings hard to take? Yes, many are. This was stated by His disciples in John 6:60 concerning eating and drinking their Master: “On hearing it, many of His disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'” Apparently not many could, for verse 66 says, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”
Had these individuals been following Jesus? Yes, for they were called “disciples”, and in order to turn back and not follow Jesus, they had to have been walking with Him, following after Him, listening to Him, and believing enough to have been doing so.
Now, let’s ask ourselves, “Did these people make it to eternal life?” To answer, let’s look at what Jesus says in Matt. 24:10-13. He warns that many will turn away from the faith through sin, by being deceived, and by allowing their love to grow cold. “But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (v. 13) In other words, those who turn away have not stood firm, and therefore, by the end, will not be saved. We see then, that one great essential to being saved is commitment.
A similar warning is given in Heb. 3:12-14: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God… so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence [faith] we had at first.” Verse 18, as well as chapter 4, verses 6 & 11, inform us that God will not allow us into the Promised Rest (Jesus / Eternal Life / Heaven), if we fall by disobedience. For as 5:9 says, “He [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”
Are we to believe these verses or not? And if someone does not believe these, can such a person claim to be a “believer in Jesus”, a “believer in the Truth”, or claim to “know Jesus”? No. Well, actually, he can make the claims, but Scripture states that he has deceived himself (James 1:22) and lied. (1 John 2:4)
2 Peter 2:18-22 gives another alarming warning, and it concerns those who “are just escaping from those who live in error” (v.18) by having been promised freedom (v. 19), but who have been enticed back to indulge in the “lustful desires of sinful human nature.” (v. 18) These are people who have escaped the world’s corruption “by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 20), but have been “again entangled in it and overcome.” (v. 20 also) Peter says they are “worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (v. 20)
So at the end such people are worse than they were in their unregenerate state? –Their unbelieving state? –Their state of not knowing Christ? Wow. That’s a bad enough state to be in (yea, headed for Hell), yet this state is worse? Yes. “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred commandment [to repent and believe the Good News] that was passed on to them.” (v. 21) Just how wretched is an unfaithful person who Christ once cleansed? Verse 22 compares such a person to a dog returning to slurp up its vomit and to a washed hog returning to wallow in mud. Such a person will be under extra wrath from God. Why? Because he knew better (Luke 12:47,48), for he had “once been enlightened… [even] shared in the Holy Spirit…” (Heb. 6:4), but then fell away, thus “crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace.” (v. 6)
“How severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him [washed, cleansed, purified, and made holy!], and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29) Well, the blows won’t be light. As verse 31 says here, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And as Jesus Himself warns in Luke 12:5, “Fear Him [God] who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell.” Then He adds for emphasis, “Yes, I tell you, fear Him.”
I do not know how to emphasize this more: Belief in Jesus and what He did on the cross is not enough. The demon world believes. Also, to have repented, but to not have repented enough to quit the sin, or to only quit it for a time, is not repentance unto salvation. To follow Jesus, but to do so half-heartedly or grudgingly, is not the kind of love and trust for one’s Master that is going to overcome. True faith is not merely what is in one’s mind, but what is strong enough to come out through one’s behavior –throughout life. True love is that which lasts and never grows cold. All of this is what Christ Jesus, the King of Kings, is looking for in His subjects. It is what the Father is looking for in His children.
It’s called COMMITMENT. As Jesus says in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Believe it: Commitment is vital for salvation. It is a requirement to inheriting eternal life.
September 27, 2010
Last week a young man got off the train and stopped beside me. “Thank you for what you’re doing,” he said, referring to my signs and tracts. In talking with him for a few minutes, I found that he knew Scripture. He also agreed with me about the importance of keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world (James 1:27) and in showing that our deeds confirm our faith. (2:22, 24) However, when I asked him to tell me how his own spiritual walk was going, this guy said that it was good, and that though he knew he was living in a sinful situation (living with his girlfriend and baby), he also knew that God is gracious and forgiving, and that since he believes in “once-saved, always-saved”, he felt he was doing well.
How strange… Had we not just been quoting to each other several verses from the book of James? Had we not just been discussing obedience to God and His Word? Had we not spoken of Jesus, the perfect example we all are to follow? But this guy suddenly switched belief when the discussion changed from abstract to personal. Suddenly, it really did not matter to him what God’s commands are, for to him, they are wonderful, yet not necessary to be obeyed. I know… –I’m shaking my head even now, trying to figure out his mentality. –That God’s commands are important… but not important. Something like that.
Let me try to get this straight. The guy believes Scripture, thinks it’s great, thinks it to be the Truth, believes it is to be obeyed, but… doesn’t believe he absolutely has to obey it. And why? His stated reasoning went something like this: “I’m saved because I believe in Jesus. I also believe in ‘once-saved, always-saved’. Otherwise Jesus would have to die more than once.”
Sad. Sad reasoning. Faulty reasoning. Non-sensical reasoning. And futile.
But… it’s typical reasoning of many, many, many, many…. –everywhere. Including within “Christianity”.
What strange mentalities… To pretend to embrace God’s Word as a wonderful thing, yet to care less about obeying it.
Well, here’s a few things Jesus says in God’s Word:
“If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.” (John 8:31) And who was Jesus addressing? The beginning of the verse says, “To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said…” Does it matter if someone believes Jesus and His teachings? Not exactly. There has to be belief and adherence, for as Jesus says in verse 32, this will bring about the knowledge of the Truth and Truth is what sets one free.
Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” Again, in verse 23: “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching.” Verse 24: “He who does not love Me will not obey my teaching.” Jesus in 15:10: “If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love…” So, if someone does not obey Jesus’ commands, is that person “remaining” in Jesus’ love? Through simple logical reasoning the answer is easily arrived at: No.
Does it matter if someone claims to have unfailing love if he is not obeying Jesus’ commands / teachings? Jesus answers this in 14:21: “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me.” So, the claim can be a lie; for only obedience proves love. Will a person who doesn’t prove he loves Jesus by obeying His commands, be loved by Jesus and the Father? Well, let’s use logic again in reading the rest of verse 21: “He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him…”
And let me finish this verse: “… and show Myself to him.” Jesus will show Himself to the one who loves Him. Will He show Himself to the one who does not love Him, does not obey Him? No, He will not. Jesus is making contrasts: The ones who love Him versus the ones who do not. How does Jesus determine the difference? –Obedience.
We cannot belong to Christ without obedience to Him. As Jesus says once again in 15:14, “You are My friends if you do what I command.” No, no, don’t let someone say “friends” of Christ must obey, but “servants” can get off more easily. Turn to Matt. 24:48-51 and see what happens to the disobedient servant. Yea… –he is assigned “a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 51)
Jesus states this love/obedience concept plainly in John 8:42: “If God were your Father, you would love Me…” Again, using logic, can we say that if someone does not love Jesus (consequently, does not obey Him), that God is not that person’s Father? We can. In fact, Jesus goes even further in verse 44: “You belong to your father, the devil…” How does He say this is proved? He tells us in the rest of the verse: “… and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” Which is what? Murder… lies… “not holding to the Truth” (v. 44 still)… In other words, sin, rebellion, disobedience.
It is very distressing to realize, but this nice-seeming guy I met downtown, plus multitudes of others like him who think they love Jesus and God’s Word, because of their careless lack of adherence to what they say they believe, are in for a very horrible shock.
September 26, 2010
I love John 6:35. Oh, what sweet words of life… wonderful words… from the mouth of Jesus, The Word. He says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” The whole passage is beautiful… In verse 51, He says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
It sounds a bit weird –eating Jesus’ flesh –like bread. This kind of talk was considered weird back then too: “Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?'” (v. 52)
Here’s how Jesus responded: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life…” (v. 53,54) So Jesus presents a choice: Partake of Him and have life eternal; don’t partake of Him, and “have no life in you.”
Jesus goes on: “For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.” (v. 55) Similar to what He says in Matt. 4:4, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Which is more important? –The physical food, or the spiritual? True, our bodies need physical food, but that’s for the purpose of staying physically alive on this earth. What about that which we need in order to remain spiritually alive –have real life –eternal life? Well, we must partake of the Bread of Life. And this Bread is Jesus.
Look at what Jesus says in verse 56 of John 6: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.” This sounds similar to what He says in John 15:4, “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you.” And in the preceding verse, He says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” Hmmm… –doesn’t that gives us a good idea as to how to remain in Him? Is it not about His Word, then? –And concerning being “clean” because of His Word?
And how does this cleansing come about? Well, if it has to do with the Word, then it must mean reading it, meditating on it, believing it, abiding by it, following it, obeying it. And if Jesus is the Word, then when we come to the Word, we are cleansed. Yes, for His Spirit cleanses us (Ezek. 36:25-27) through the Word (Jesus). For Jesus says in John 6:63, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life.” Let’s put it all together: Spirit, Word, Jesus, Life, Bread, Drink. We must feed off of Jesus to have His Spirit, and to have eternal life. How do we do this? We must eat our spiritual food. And how do we do that? We must read and mediate on the Word of God –who is Jesus. (John 1:1,14 & Rev. 19:13)
As Jesus says in John 6:57, “… so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.”
Friends, there is no other way which God has ordained for us to feed on Jesus. The only way is feeding and drinking The Word, doing so “in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23) This is the only way to the Father. Therefore, if you are not doing this, Jesus warns in John 6:53, “you have no life in you.” Which means you do not have Him (His Spirit or His Truth) in you. Which means you do not have Eternal Life.
This is why I am constantly saying, “Read God’s Word. And know it (Him).”
September 25, 2010
We went to the memorial today of the man who passed away last week who’d been one of the key leaders on staff at our church. It was an exceptional service, and a blessing to hear friends and family share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings of admiration for this guy and the way he’d lived his 55 years of life. All of them spoke of how he loved the Lord, life, and others to the fullest.
One thing that was said that really struck me was that this guy had taught others, “Live life as if you’re dying.” –And that he taught this long before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor last November. But it was also said that he actually lived his life as if he were already dead –for he had someone else’s life living in and through him instead: Christ’s.
Definitely this is the way to live, and to do so daily. I have tried to do this, but now I’ve been inspired to strive even more to attain to it. To live as if dead and dying –both. In other words, to be dead to Self and alive to Christ (His attitude, power, and love), but to also live as if time is extremely precious. The first aspiration is one I’ve focused on for years –that is, crucifying Self daily. But the second aspiration… –this is one that has become increasingly sobering to me over the last year or so. For I just keep thinking, “Time is going SO fast! There are not enough hours in the day to prepare, to serve, to spread –the Gospel.” I have felt that there’s not one moment to lose. That people are dying without the Lord when I could’ve told them. Or when I could’ve encouraged another to go and tell them.
And what about me? If I knew I was gonna be dead in two years (or less!), what would I change about my life? What would I do in order to please God so that when I met Him face to face ready for Judgement, He would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?
What about life itself? Was I thankful for it? Did I enjoy it –with a heart grateful to the Lord who gave it to me? Was I generous? Did I forgive as the Lord forgives?
And did I love? Did I love all people in a manner that pleased the Lord? Did I relate to each and every person in exactly the way Christ would have? Always?
Well, when we see that someone we knew no longer exists here on earth, but we believe he exists someplace else, yet he took nothing with him, we think again about priorities. When we’re dying, and there’s nothing we can do about it except call out to the Lord, we realize that not much matters except love (and all that love entails) toward both God and our fellowman. Because the possessions acquired, the wealth earned, the fame, the world’s admiration or acclaim, the contests or debates or games won, the pleasures indulged in… none of it matters one bit as our body grows weaker and weaker, our mind more befuddled, our spirit and soul about to depart this world forever.
What really matters? And what will others remember you for? –For being Christ-like, or for being occupied with Self?
And what will the Judge say about your life?
I ponder these questions often. And test myself against them. Do you?
September 24, 2010
One of God’s most precious promises is REST. Oh, what a blessed thing is rest! For if we have rest, then there is absence from all that is negative. Or, if the negative is there, it isn’t affecting us. This is actually an even greater comfort to realize, since while in this fallen world, we will certainly have negative all around us –glaring at us, howling –even fighting– to attack us. But… there we are… just resting calmly…
What are the negatives? Oh, we know. Things like fear, frustration, disappointment, anger… –things striving to take over our own spirit. And things from the outside –like criticism, neglect, slander, rudeness, disdain…
Okay. We know about all that. What is the rest? The rest is Jesus. Himself. The Rest.
How do we enter this Rest? We come to Him. Jesus invites all of us. As He says in Matt. 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
All who are humble enough, trusting enough, weary enough… will come. And how do we come? We come in repentance, laying aside the weights that hinder us from entering. Those weights such as pride, greed, and self-centeredness… for the main weight is our very self. Truly, what a burden our own self is! But Jesus offers us crucifixion –death to self. And what a blessed offer! For who wants self anymore, anyway?! Self is so conscious of itself. Self keeps whining about hurts, sufferings, and its desires. Ugh. Self is so weak! And focused on itself, it keeps allowing itself to feel hurt, offended, battered, humiliated, shy, timid, and needy.
Many people throughout the world do not know about this Good News –this offer of death to self. –This offer of Rest. But those of us who have heard, must believe it, take it, appropriate it –by faith. Jesus continues in Matt. 11:29, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Oh, there’s a “catch”. We have to take His yoke upon us. –We have to learn from Him. Yeaaa… But it’s really no “catch” when the alternative is living with Self, Sin, the world, and the devil all on one’s back. Besides, if we just crucify Self, but take on no Life, then where are we? We’re nowhere. So, to be offered Jesus, the Rest who is gentle and humble, along with His yoke and burden (which He promises in verse 30 are easy and light), then this is life abundant –life delightful. For He lives through us, and is actually the One bearing the weight. Any burden He puts on us, He will carry. And any assignment He gives, He will give His power to accomplish it.
If we enter this Rest by coming to Jesus, and we come to Him in our need, in repentance and trust, giving up our Self and our sin to be crucified, then how do we continue, how do we remain in Him? We do so by soaking in the super-natural Word of God. –That Word that is living and active (Heb. 4:12) and Who is our Conquering Glorious Sword. (Dt. 33:29 & Heb. 4:12 & Eph. 6:17 & Rev. 19:13) By doing this, we keep our mind focused on Him, trusting in Him. And as He promises the one so doing, He will keep him in “perfect peace” (Isa. 26:3) –another way of saying “rest”. Rest for the soul, the mind, the heart, the spirit, the body.
“When I bring them back from captivity…” says the LORD, “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jer. 31:23,25) What a wonderful promise! It’s for all who come out of the captivity of Self –that which is dark, negative, and sad– and who come to abide in Jesus, The Rest.
What a freedom! What a rest!