Thursday, September 21, 2017

apostates


It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:31

Apostasy is a very serious matter, perhaps the “worst case scenario” in the life of the Church. Hebrews 10 warns against Christians deliberately denying Christ by choosing a life of sin over their Savior. This choice denies Jesus in some conscious way, leaving the accountability and encouragement of His church (Hebrews 10:24-25), and deliberately rejecting repentance and faith in Christ’s sacrifice (Hebrews 10:29), grieving the Holy Spirit Who convicts of sin and enlightens God’s Word so we know the right way. All that is left is God’s judgment (Hebrews 10:27).

We live in an age where such easy apostasy can get instant “support” from outside the church. With internet communications instantly letting us connect with those who “think like us”, we can be fooled into thinking that since other people share our thoughts, we are right. But that just means that other people are under God’s judgment as well. And outside of Christ, the whole world is under the influence of Satan. It would make sense that sinners can congregate in their sin, in great numbers, and with loud voices. They may even “care” for those who share their sin. But this does not mean they are right.

Apostates simply choose to join the nations that rage against God. But all who reject Christ cannot be saved because they have rejected their only hope of salvation, and as long as they do that, their rejection keeps them from eternal life. That means that their willful rejection is their worst sin. Until such person willfully repents and believes, and trusts Jesus for salvation and life, surrendering to His Lordship, they will remain in the fearful condition of judgment in the hands of the Almighty, Great I Am... the living God.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

sin bites


Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own
is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
Proverbs 26:17

This is wise advice. The proverb warns us against inserting ourselves quickly into the quarrels and conflicts of other people. No matter what we do, we have just put outselves in a position where we are going to get bitten! Meddling in a quarrel creates greater conflict and will turn at least part, if not all, of the conflict against the one who meddles.

It is much better to mediate a quarrel. The mediator can secure two parties in conflict into a relationship where a third party can be a person of peace who can lead the quarrel to end in peace, forgiveness, and restorative grace. But that can only happen if everyone is brought to the gospel first. And people have to be ready to do that. Often they are not.

I am no longer amazed at the conflict I see around me both inside and outside the church. Sin creates enmity with God. It is divisive, separating us from God and creating distance and difficulty in human relationships. Right after Adam and Even sinned, they hid from God and covered themselves from each other. Sin creates uncomfortability and conflict. It is at some point at the root of all our quarrels. It can turn a simple disagreement into an all out war.

Sinners in conflict don't need other sinners meddling in their quarrels. Sinners in conflict need the gospel. Only the restorative grace found in Jesus' death and resurrection can resolve our fights and calm our hearts. Jesus is our Mediator. Jesus is our Peace Who made peace with God and with other people possible! If I want to make peace, I must point people to the gospel, lest I meddle and get burned by the conflict.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

new = good?


“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:18-19

If you just look at these verses out of context, you might be quick to see an awesome Christian motivational poster. But that is not the intention behind the "new thing" springing forth. God is making a declaration of judgment against His people who grew weary of Him and no longer sought Him (Isaiah 43:22-24). The new thing God was doing was to bring the Chaldeans down upon His people in Jerusalem, and use them to lead a captive remnant back to Babylon because the people have sinfully disregarded their God and their covenant with Him.

New things aren't always good things. A new hurricane spinning through the Atlantic, a newly elected leader, a new decision in a court case, a new scientific breakthrough in a rogue nation... all have destructive consequences inherent in their "newness". And sometimes God uses that new thing to call His people back from complacency as the hard consequences shake us up to the reality of who God is and who we need to be. 

Contemporary culture is idolatrously enamored with what is new... the latest smartphone, the current movie, the hottest holiday toy for children, the viral video, or the celebrity sensation of the day. And it moves faster than ever at the broadband speed of the worldwide web. But the gospel is an old story, and mankind has been answerable to our Creator for millennia since the world was made by Him. These new things that enchant us might be what He hurts to see in us, so another "new thing" we cannot anticipate might be what He uses to destroy our false worship and shake us up so that He can draw us back to Him.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Not Guilty!


Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”
Luke 23:13-16

Not guilty
yet He died for sin
not His own
but ours
lead Him to be accused

Not guilty
Holy Lamb of God
bore our sin
upon Him
beaten, mocked, abused

Not guilty
Pilate said so clearly
but then caved
to soothe
God's accusers, he washed his hands

Not guilty
yet on a cross
Jesus would die
in love
taking sin's punishment as the God Man

Not guilty
such a Savior
is our Jesus
for us,
Praise His saving power!

Not guilty
He makes us holy
through His love
always known
by believing Him this hour.

Friday, September 15, 2017

priest and sacrifice


He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Hebrews 7:27

Jesus is the better high priest because He is perfectly sinless and is both priest and sacrifice. As our Great High Priest He intercedes for us before God in a way that we cannot. As our perfect sacrifice Jesus atoned for all sin once for all time at His crucifixion. His sacrifice was offered only once for all people, all sin, and all time. There is now no need for priests or daily sacrifices. Jesus has guaranteed a better way of dealing with our sin (Hebrews 7:22).

Jesus willingly gave His perfect life as a sacrifice forever on the cross. Through His death, sin is atoned. And God the Father raised Him back from the dead as a guarantee of our own new life in Christ. And now Jesus always lives to make intercession for us, pleading for sinners, always bearing the scars of His love and redeeming work for us.

Lord Jesus,
You are "holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens" (Hebrews 7:26). You are the only sacrifice for sins that brings us forgiveness and that satisfies God's wrath on sin. And You willingly gave Yourself for us. I believe. I trust Your sacrifice. I plead it's effectiveness. I know You are my Savior and I commit to You as My Lord. And in that commitment is all I need for this life, and solid trust for my eternity. I live because You willingly offered up Yourself.
Amen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

wealth has wings


Do not toil to acquire wealth;
be discerning enough to desist.
When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
for suddenly it sprouts wings,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.
Proverbs 23:4-5

The acquisition of wealth alone is a poor life's goal. One can never have enough and money has a way of being spent as fast as it is earned. Material goods require maintenance. The more one has the more one must spend. Wealth flies away. The picture here of it sprouting wings would make a humorous comic strip. But it is sadly too real. Mammon is a cruel, fickle, elusive master.

The picture of this proverb is of someone hunting wealth with high purpose. They toil at it. The can see their quarry always just ahead in the bushes. It is so very, very close. And just as they can take their best shot at it, wings sprout out and away it flies never to be seen within range again. And if someone spends their lifetime in that pursuit, the cost and frustration can be catastrophic.

How much better it is to wisely place our energy into the pursuit of God and His provision and wisdom. Then, whatever resources we have become blessings with which to worship Him, not flying idols that flee from our worship. The issue at stake is our heart. The heart that constantly fixates on wealth will find satisfaction out of reach. The heart that holds every blessing in life as a gift of God to share with others for God's glory will be blessed. God satisfies our longings. Wealth can only elusively fly just out of reach.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

disdain for scripture


And the word of the Lord will be to them
precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little,
that they may go, and fall backward,
and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Isaiah 28:13

The leaders of Jerusalem had a deadly "ho-hum" attitude toward God's Word. They disregarded the word of prophets that the Lord had sent to them. They were bored by the Law they were supposed to respect and follow out of love and obedience to God. They no longer even had any cultural respect for the significance of scripture. It had became a monotonous litany repeated in routine, but not believed and obeyed from the heart. This would be the downfall of the priests and leaders.

They mocked scripture with their sing song "precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, there a little" attitude. God saw them as scoffers rejecting the holy Word and rejecting Him (Isaiah 28:14). This attitude toward scripture would lead to a fall from which they could not recover. Jerusalem and its leaders, the officials and the priests, would be broken, snared, and taken away to Babylon.

I always want the Holy Spirit to awaken my heart when my Bible is open. I want my thinking to be crisp and my heart to be open. May I never, ever let my selfish heart treat scripture as repetitive religion. It is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts through my sin and life's confusion and gives me through grace the thoughts of God for each day of my life. In it I see Jesus. In it God speaks, and is there anyone else more important to hear than God? No way! I want God to always converse with me in His Word. I always want scripture to lead my life and show me my Savior!