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APRIL 2005

 

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Romans 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

 

My wife and I have been trying to help our daughter who is in college by providing her with a car. The car doesnít have to be pretty and it doesnít have to be new, but because it is transporting that which is precious to us, we have to have confidence in the car. The car my daughter has been driving has been leaving her on the road so often and has had so many repairs that we have lost confidence in it. Because we no longer believe in the car, we decided to try to find her a different one.

Over the years, I have had trouble maintaining confidence in the mechanics to whom I take my cars. Lately, I have been going to the dealer where I bought my Hyundai and have been impressed with the service manager. He not only listens to you, but when he talks he acts like he knows his business. I took my car in the other day for an intermittent problem that some shops would have used as an excuse to provide for their next winter cruise. Instead, they inspected the car and the service manager told me that the issue would never cause me a problem and if it got worse, he knew exactly what to do to cure it. I paid for the service that I needed but did not get sold parts and service that I did not need. Because I have developed confidence or faith in this manager, I decided to trade my daughterís car at this dealership.

I find it interesting that we make important decisions by faith all the time and yet we have trouble accepting the fact that our relationship with God is based on simple faith. While my faith in my daughterís car was lost, how can one lose faith in the One who never lies, who created all things, who loves sinners so much that He would die for them and who not only has the power but the authority to forgive all of our sins?

Faith in our verse is not depending on ourselves (that is, our works), but it is depending on another Who is trustworthy. In this case, our faith is in Him that justifies (makes right) the ungodly. Faith is defined as believing on Christ in this verse. Even the new testament writers had trouble distinguishing between the faith of a casual believer who did not trust Christ and the faith of a convicted believer who did. That is why we are told to believe in or on or to believe with all our hearts (Acts 8:37). Earlier in Acts 8, Simon had believed, but he had not trusted in the Lord. Peter told him that his heart was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21).

My faith in my daughterís car was misplaced, my faith in the service manager of the auto dealership may be misplaced, but faith in Christ can never fail--not because our faith is so great but because our God is so great. We can trust Him for time and for eternity. We not only can and should believe Him, we can and should believe in or on Him. We can trust Him because He is trustworthy. He will not fail us.

 

Week of April 3, 2005

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

 

How can we know the will of God in our lives? In spiritual matters, we have some things that God clearly says are His will. We know it is His will that we believe on His Son. It is His will that all men would be saved. It is His will that believers in Christ have their sins forgiven and go to heaven. It is His will that we tell others about His Son. It is His will that believers separate from unbelievers which means that it is His will that we develop discernment as to who is saved and who isnít. I could go on.

We also have areas where we donít have a clear statement as to what the will of God is for our lives. We arenít told what person to marry though we are told what type of person to marry if we are to marry at all. We arenít told what our occupations should be although we are given guidelines as to the kinds of occupations Christians should pursue.

In the above passage, I once thought that God was telling us that if we presented our bodies as living sacrifices, He would help us know His will in the areas where we do not have a clear statement. While that principle may be true, I now believe that God is saying that presenting our bodies as living sacrifices is the will of God. When we do it, we will find out how good and perfect and acceptable that plan for our lives is. Verse 2 might be paraphrased as follow, ďthat ye may prove that this is the will of God and that His will is good and acceptable and perfect.Ē In other words, you will find out that this way of living and thinking is the way of blessing.

Some say that this is a one time presentation for all time. Others say that it is an act that must be repeated. Even though the word present represents a point in time experience, I would be inclined to believe that it is something that must be repeated in the sense that we take up our crosses daily and follow Him.

What does it mean to present our bodies as living sacrifices? It likely means total submission to the Lord. I suppose it means that we let God tell us how to do things even when that leads us to a cross instead of to a crown. Many times when things seem to be going awry we do things that seem to work for others rather than going to God and doing what will prove to be good and acceptable and perfect. We are conformed to the world rather than being transformed. Israel got rid of bad judges in favor of kings who in many cases were worse (1 Samuel 8). They thought the nations around them were better off with their kings. Did they find the God given sacrificial solution? Of course not. In contrast, Paul went to Jerusalem knowing that martyrdom awaited him. But he preached the Gospel to Nero (who probably did not receive it.) Did Paul present his body a living sacrifice? Of course he did, and he could say at the end of His life, ďFor I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6-7). May the Lord help us to be willing to lose in order to win.

Week of April 10, 2005

Luke 12:30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.

 

Your Father knows that you have need of these things. Isnít it great that He is our Father in this promise? A father not only disciplines and teaches, he provides. He doesnít provide for the neighbor children in the way that he provides for his own. Because we have a Father who loves us (if we have been born into the family of God by faith in the FatherĎs Son), and because we have a Father who is rich, why do we find ourselves occupied with ďtreasure on earthĒ. Most of our lives are spent worrying about ďearning a livingĒ or worrying about ďretirementĒ. We are taught to plan ahead and to be industrious. These things are taught in the Bible (Proverbs 30:25 and 31:16), but we are not taught to fret. Why then do I find myself fretting from time to time? I am going to speak for myself, you may not have these difficulties.

1. I tend to have more confidence in my own abilities than in the promises of God when it comes to the practical affairs of life. I was trained as an accountant and I know what the world teaches as good decision making. Many of those principle involve walking by sight and not by faith rather than the other way around. I find myself having trouble letting go and letting God handle these things for me.

2. I tend to worry that what God wants for me is not what I want. For example, I like the fact that He is able to clothe the lily of the field with more glory than Solomon (verse 27). I am not nearly as enthused about the Lordís command to sell everything and give it to the poor (that is apparently what alms were). Yet the first believers took this literally in Acts 4.

3. My priorities and motives are questionable. We are to seek the kingdom of God first. Whatever that means, I am sure that it includes putting the Lordís desires ahead of my own. So if I do what the Lord asks (that is sell and give to the poor) so that I will get, it seems that I have made an investment and not a sacrifice. Will the Lord bless that?

I realize that these principles are for the Kingdom. They were addressed to disciples who never saw the physical kingdom come but who were advancing the cause of the kingdom when they were carrying out the Lordís will. We know that when we are born again we come into the kingdom in a spiritual sense (Colossians 1:13). So I would suggest that these principles apply to new testament believers.

What do we do, then, if we are having trouble worrying about these things that we are to commit to the Lord? How do we handle the guilt of knowing that we havenít always met the practical conditions of the Lordís blessing in our lives? I am going to pray about it and confess that I have difficulty in fully trusting the Lord in this area. I am going to have confidence that even if I fail the Lord, the Father will not fail me because ďthe Father knows that you have need of these things.Ē Loving Fathers do not forsake or destroy their children.

Week of April 17, 2005

 

1 Corinthians 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (King James Version)

1Corinthians 9:27 But I give blows to my body, and keep it under control, for fear that, after having given the good news to others, I myself might not have God's approval. (Bible in Basic English)

 

Paul compares his service for the Lord to running a race which requires discipline and self-control. He knows that he will not win if he violates the rules of the competition. This verse does not teach that one can be saved and then lost for eternity since all are running the race. An unsaved person is not even entered in the competition.

I am going to look at Saul, the first king of Israel, as a saved man that he was disqualified as far as the race is concerned. I know that many think he was never saved, but bear with me:

1. He was the one who the Lord had chosen, even though he was also the peopleís choice. See 1 Samuel 10:24, and 1 Samuel 12:13)

2. He was given a new heart, was filled with the Holy Spirit and he prophesied. See 1 Samuel 10:6, 9)

Saul was called of God and commissioned through Samuel to lead the people of Israel. His problem seemed to be that he feared the people more than he feared God. Although he was disobedient in several situations, the act of rebellion that destroyed Saul was his inability to destroy the Amalekites. Amalekites speak to us of the flesh (they attack those who are tired and the stragglers in Deuteronomy 25:18) and Israel (the spiritual) have war with Amalek (the flesh) from generation to generation (Exodus 17:16). In 1 Samuel 15:20 he says he utterly destroyed them with the exception of the King and the animals that were to be sacrificed. However, if that is true, where did the Amalekite come from that apparently finished killing Saul after he fell on his sword in 2 Samuel 1? Where did the Amalekites come from that attacked Ziklag in 1 Samuel 30? Saul simply didnít carry out the Lordís command. Saul went from a man who was controlled by the Holy Spirit to a man who was controlled by an evil Spirit and who threw javelins at his own son as well as at David who was loyal to him. I believe that Christians can act worse than the unsaved when they knowingly rebel against God.

I believe that is why Paul recognizes that discipline of the body is necessary if we are to finish the race and be approved at the end. It is easy to justify not doing Godís will when the flesh (self-will) is controlling us. If Paul knew he was prone to weakness that could disqualify him or leave him unapproved and if Saul who was chosen of God made mistakes that left him disqualified, then surely we need to pray that the Lord will give us the discipline necessary to finish our course with joy. This was Paulís desire in Acts 20:24 as he exhorted the Ephesian elders to be faithful in his last visit with them.

Paulís concern in ! Corinthians 9 was that as an Apostle he had rights and one of those rights was NOT to use the rights that he had. Maybe Paul was concerned that at the end of his life he would be tempted to turn his back on some of these convictions and would end up not being consistent in his service and testimony. It takes discipline to do what you donít have to do because you believe that will glorify God.

Satan cannot cause us to lose our salvation since that is dependent on what God has done for us not on what we are doing for God. But Satan can use our love of self (the flesh) to trip us up and that can occur up until the end of the race. May the Lord help us to be disciplined and faithful to the end.

Week of April 24, 2005