Friday, November 17, 2017

I need to give.

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
1 John 3:17

God’s love leads us not only to care about those in need, but to share with those in need. God’s love is outrageously generous, coming to us while we are sinners totally unable to change our desperate broken lives. Yet God gives to us, providing all we needed for salvation in Jesus Christ. Now that we are so outrageously and extravagantly loved, how can our hearts be closed to ways we see the need of others around us?

It is once again the “holiday season”. And American culture is rife with all the commercial trappings. So charities are also out in force knowing the best time to catch at least a little generosity is right now. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if people were so generous that end of year appeals based on holiday sentiment or tax incentives did not have to dominate charity work? Wouldn’t it be cool if we helped people for other reasons than just wishing they had a nice Thanksgiving dinner or that a kid who might not get a Christmas present would get one? Those things are good, but they are kind of temporary. And the needs of the poor, the hungry, the immigrant, and the ill all go on long after Christmas.

For Christians, the case for charity is rooted in the love of Christ. Because Jesus meets my greatest heart need and is transforming my heart from radical self-centeredness to radical God-centeredness, I can love a brother or sister in need. My possessions are tools for the kingdom to advance the love of Christ in the gospel. They are no longer toys for me to hoard. I know God’s love lives in me when I share it through the physical blessings God has entrusted to me.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

I need to know my sin.

How many are my iniquities and my sins?
Make me know my transgression and my sin.
Job 13:23

Job was a righteous man, commended by God to none other than the tempting devil himself. A man of integrity. A man of character. And in his sufferings, Job trusted God, even in his confusion. And although his friends accused him of somehow sinning to incur wrath and punishment from God, Job knew his own heart well. He knew he did not deliberately disobey God, but he also knew he was certainly capable of great sin. And so he asks God to make his sins known to him.

The speeches from his friends have accused Job broadly and strongly of unspecific grievous sin. They lack specifics. Job knows sin is never vague. And his plea is to seriously see the sins... to know the specific charges against him. He is a man of repentance and faith. He wants to turn from real sin and believe a real God and obey with real actions of real faith. This mythical accusations can’t get him to real faith. Job wants to know where he needs to change.

And that aspect of spiritual readiness to deal with sin is still needed for a man of God today. I must know my sin in order to move toward holiness. I must let God shine the light of His truth on my heart by regularly exposing my thoughts and actions to His Word. I must seek His Holy Spirit’s conviction of my sin. And I must trust Him to keep my heart soft to His work so I will repent of sin and trust my Savior. I want to know my transgression and my sins so that I can be changed by God’s work in me!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I need a watchman.

But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
Ezekiel 33:9

Ezekiel, as God’s appointed prophet, was watchman for the house of Israel. He was called to warn the people of the coming destruction. He had advance warning by God of the army coming to shatter the walls of Jerusalem and destroy the city. He was to faithfully deliver this message to the people despite their unwillingness to listen or repent. Once they had been warned, their choice was on them. The watchman was to faithfully warn. The people had to respond to save themselves and the city.

Of course, the hard part of the role of watchman is seeing disregard from the people for the words of warning. But the watchman could not lead the battle or fight it alone. He could only alert the people and prepare them. If they chose to ignore him, their defeat was not the fault of the watchman.

And so it is with my own wickedness. Scripture and the Holy Spirit, along with loving Christian brothers and sisters, warn me of my wrong. And if I don’t listen and refuse to repent, put off sin, and put on holiness, I will be defeated. And with watchmen’s warnings, I will be saved by heeding the words so that I am not defeated in battle. Obeying the warning call, I can fight the good fight, find victory over sin, and rejoice in the salvation Jesus brings me. But I need the words of the watchmen to warn me, to correct me, to alert me to battle, and to find hope in deliverance in Christ. That is why I need people to be preaching the gospel to me through relationship and accountability. Thank You, Lord, for alerting me. Thank You, Lord, for giving me the words of warning from the watchman.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

empty promises from slaves

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
2 Peter 2:19

Peter’s vivid apostolic warning about false teachers is some of the strongest language in the New Testament. It warns Christians to stay true to the Word of God and their Savior Jesus Christ. Not everyone who claims to be speaking to Christians is speaking Christian truth. False teachers stray from the gospel. They want followers. They carefully craft both message and personal image to gain a crowd. They supplement and diminish the gospel with deceptions they devise.

Christians must be diligent with doctrine. We must know God’s Word. We must read it, study it, listen to it preached, demand that those who teach it also live by it, and base our thoughts, attitudes, and actions on biblical truth... not on what any person says. Smiling faces on book covers are a dead giveaway that the focus is being pulled away from Jesus. So is popular acclaim of the person. In fact, I still believe the best Christian writing has stood the test of time and was written by men long gone to their reward. Read the dead guys! There is a reason their books are still being published! Run right past those flashy bestseller promotional displays and find the Christian classics section. That’s where stability is.

Not everyone who claims to understand God really does so. Not every crowd gathers to the truth because usually false doctrine is much more appealing... it seduces our sinful selves. And if we take it in, we are in danger of becoming caught up in our sin again. False teaching enslaves, even as it promises a better life. Staying in the Bible consistently in personal reading and study, demanding pastors preach only the Bible, and praying hard for God to show us what His Word says so that we can stay true to Him will help keep us from such deception.

Monday, November 13, 2017

insights from a man born blind

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
John 9:35-38

The faith that the blind man (now healed by Jesus) has is growing with each challenge. He is grilled by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem twice. His only answer to them is to recount the facts of his healing. When questioned about the moral authority of Jesus, he can only go back to the events that gave him sight. And not knowing what else to say, simply states the obvious: nobody has heard of a man born blind being given sight by a sinner. So Jesus must be better than that.

When the enraged leaders throw the healed man out of the synagogue, Jesus finds him when He hears the news. And in a very short conversation, the man embraces the worship of Jesus as God, seeing and believing the truth, even as the Jewish leaders continue angrily in their spiritual blindness. Now the man can see in all senses of the word. He can see with both physical sight and spiritual insight. He is made whole both in body and in soul. And it is the Pharisees who are blind.

The insights from this episode are intense. Jesus gives sight. Jesus gives direction. Jesus deserves worship. Jesus gives hope and peace to those He heals and saves. The courage of faith can withstand the cruelest attacks. Faith can hold up to mockery and scathing ridicule. Jesus is Who He is. When He makes us whole, we know it in our souls and nothing else is as important. And believing in Jesus is what our souls were made to worship. Whole souls seek their Savior!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

knowing God too late

therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand against you, and will hand you over as plunder to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and will make you perish out of the countries; I will destroy you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
Ezekiel 25:7

It is possible in judgment to know God too late. That is exactly what God told the Ammonite nation would happen to them. They would know His justice and judgment upon them for their generations of hate and apathy poured upon God's covenant people Israel. And in the end they would know God meant business with them. It wasn't a pretty business. And it isn't how you should ever want to finally know God.

So this kind of knowledge of God came only in pain. It involved God's hand stretched against them. It left them plundered among their enemies. It ended their ethnic and cultural identity as a unique people. It was destruction. And the fact that a destroyed nation will "know" implies a knowledge of God carried beyond death and to the next life. This is an eternal judgment. Even the damned know God is in control. But it is too late for them to know anything other than judgment for their sin and rejection of Him.

It is no joy to see this side of God's justice at work. Especially since I know that Jesus took all judgment for sin upon Himself on the cross. So I must live and speak grace. I must love people. I must share the good news. I must pray for others to repent and come to Jesus. And I must be serious about my sin by always turning from it to my Savior. I want to know Him by grace and not judgment. I want every person I know to never know God too late!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Jesus changes lives.

He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
John 9:25

With this simple testimony a healed man astounded the critics of Jesus. There is no arguing that can diminish the powerfully moving impact of a transformed life. Every person in the area knew that this man had been born blind. It was an amazing miracle of transformation done only by Jesus and it could not be refuted. It happened. Jesus changes lives!

And what was true in a physical sense for this man is true in a spiritual sense for every person who finds salvation in Jesus. We know we were blind, but now we see! Jesus brings sight to blind eyes. Jesus brings light to our darkness. Jesus heals and transforms all who believe. And we know it. We experience it. It cannot be denied. It is the clearest and first evidence of the power of the gospel. Jesus changes lives.

And Jesus continues to change lives. The gospel is the power of God at work in us all the time. It leads us to regular, consistent, clear, daily repentance and faith. Jesus is in one sense always opening eyes. And I know it. I feel it. I experience it. I cannot deny it. It is how I know that I know that Jesus lives and has done His saving work in me. He removes from me a fuzzy out of focus view of life and brings Himself into clear focus, and through Him I see everything else as I should. He continues to do it each day as I walk with Him. Jesus changes lives. It is powerful! It is wonderful! It is the best thing to live for every day.