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APRIL 2013

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We can and should Enjoy life, but not Everything is about Having Fun!

 

Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment

Heb 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

 

What is our purpose in life? Is it not to glorify God? Is it not to love God and to love one another? Is it not being concerned about others and being willing to sacrifice self for "the greater good?" Isn't that why soldiers are trained or disciplined to fight for their country? Are we who preach the Gospel making it clear that life is not all about the here and now, but it is also about the afterwards? Are we making it clear that while joy is an important result of a godly life, "fun" is a word that is not even found in the Bible? The idea of having fun is in the Bible because many people "partied" and they had unpleasant experiences afterwards. Normally this partying included alcohol and today it includes other intoxicants. But while Christians can and should be happy and they can and should be filled with joy, their objective in life is to glorify God and not to have fun.

I was saved because of my concern about the "afterwards." I knew this life was not all there is and when I died I wanted to be in heaven and not in hell. People today want to preach a gospel that makes our present life more worthwhile. It seems to be politically incorrect to tell people that if they die without trusting Christ as their own personal Savior they will be punished in hell for eternity. Many people want to be spiritual but not Biblical. But I was saved because preachers were faithful about the concept of a very unpleasant afterwards for the unbeliever. After I was saved, I quickly realized that the life of a Christian was a life of discipline. We are called to be disciples. In school, I studied the discipline of accounting. It took work. The joy came the night I got a call saying that I had passed the CPA exam. But the road to that call involved work, study, focus and a lot of money for tuition. It involved going to a lot of classes and taking a lot of tests. We call that discipline. We don't call that fun. Those who come to college simply to have fun usually do not have the joy of getting a degree. Christians are called to be disciples who learn from and who follow our instructor or master. The road isn't always easy. The lessons are designed to teach us sacrificial living and not self-indulgent living. It is not all about having fun.

Now fun is not all bad. In Luke 15, it taught the prodigal son the emptiness of life. He didn't "repent" until he had spent all and had no place to turn but to the Father he had misused. He thought he was living when in reality he was "dead." He didn't find "joy" until he came back to his father who loved him and who was willing to pardon him. But the self-indulgent life was not a life that satisfied.

John the Baptist lost his head after a birthday party for Herod. In Daniel 5, Belshazzar lost his life after he had a drunken party where he rebelled against the Living God of Heaven. He should have been defending his city but instead he was "having fun." There are parties in the Bible that I think the Lord honored. I think of one where Mary was sitting at the feet of the Lord, listening to Him. Martha was so busy serving that she missed the joy of communion. The Lord attended feasts and meals and weddings. He used them as times to teach. His objective in going was not to kick back and "have fun."

Even Solomon found out that a life lived for self was empty. After he had tried everything that life has to offer he said, "Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:11)." He had partied, he had built, he had acquired, he had obtained. People thought he was great. He had become self-indulgent. But his life and heart were empty. There was NO PROFIT in anything he had enjoyed under the sun.

I believe that we all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We need to have purpose in life and we need to have things that we look forward to doing. But "fun" is not the answer. Living for self is not the answer. Christians are disciples and that requires discipline, training, instruction and even chastisement. We need to be honest with people when we preach the Gospel. We need to tell them about the discipline required by a true disciple.

The Christian life is a blessing and our afterwards is secure. But the Lord has not called us to "have fun." He has called us to be disciples and to make disciples and that requires discipline.

 

Meditation for the week of April 7, 2013

A Simple but Powerful Message!

 

Luke 13:3, 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

 

This must be an important statement since it is repeated. In this chapter we have people who think they are saved but they are not. Even though we don't like to be negative, there is a lot of teaching in the Bible about people who think they are right with God who need to repent and believe. In this chapter the fig tree that had three years of opportunity to bear fruit before it was cut down likely speaks of the nation of Israel. They thought they were worshiping Jehovah. In fact they were rejecting Him by rejecting the Lord Jesus. There are those in this chapter who expect entry into heaven simply because the Lord has eaten with them and He has taught in their streets. The Lord says to them, "I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity (Luke 13:27)."

The people who needed to repent in this chapter thought that the calamities of others was because of their great sin. Their reasoning was that good people received blessing in this life and bad people are judged in this life. So by their thinking, they were pretty good while the people who had suffered calamity were pretty bad. I remember when hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. There were those who thought that God was judging immorality. However, those who were saying that were forgetting that if God always judged sinners on this earth, none of us would be exempt. We should be honest and quit singling out specific sinners and their sins when we preach the Gospel and recognize that God says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)." I strongly believe that religious people try to control others by pointing out their sins which in many cases are abominable. But a truly born again person is more concerned with the sins in their own lives than in the lives of others. A truly saved person understands that they may not have committed the same sins that the religious world finds despicable before they were saved but they committed sins that God found despicable. And even though we may have some power over sin after we are saved, we still do sin. We need to be grieving about our failures while compassionately and faithfully pointing out God's standards to the unsaved. We have no right to condemn, only God has that right.

These self-righteous Jews were told that they needed to repent. What does that mean? The Bible usually speaks of faith in Christ saving, so why does repentance seem to save in this passage? If you study repentance and faith, the same things are said about both. Faith saves (Ephesians 2:8), so does repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Faith has works following (Ephesians 2:10) and so does repentance (Matthew 3:8). Both are commanded (Mark 1:15). Repentance is a turn or a change of mind. We have to have our mind changed with regard to whatever is keeping us from believing in the Lord, before we can trust Him. The Thessalonians turned from idols to God. These Jews needed to turn from self-righteousness and admit that they were sinners just like those they were condemning. We all have problems believing God because we all have our own notions of what is right. A person who has truly repented in the Biblical sense has come to faith in Christ. If a person hasn't come to faith in Christ, it is because that person hasn't repented in the Biblical sense. Issues over which we need to change our minds may be different, but we all have some issue that stands between us and God before we are saved. The repentant person finally admits that God is right even though that makes him or her wrong. That kind of a person has no trouble trusting in the truth that Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).

This is a powerful message, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish!" The Jews as a whole did not heed it, and as a nation they were judged for rejecting their Messiah. I trust none of us reading this will make that same mistake.

 

Meditation for the week of April 14, 2013

He Emptied Himself!

 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

 

This is a marvelous passage with a marvelous truth that I have just recently grasped. I have never spoken on this passage in a public meeting because it is a favorite of so many preachers; and when they speak on it, I simply don't grasp what they are saying. Saying wrong things about the Lord in this passage seems to be the equivalent of blasphemy in the minds of those who think they understand the passage. So while I have quoted from the passage many times in worship meetings, I have carefully refrained from expounding its meaning.

Recently I was in a Bible study where this passage was discussed. I have to admit I am not quite sure what the conclusion of the majority was with regard to the truth that the Lord made Himself of no reputation (or that He emptied Himself) because my mind started to wander. But as my mind wandered, I came to a conclusion in my own mind as to the meaning of the Lord emptying Himself. This is called meditating which is what these short articles are all about. Some would call it not paying attention.

I have concluded that the Lord did not empty Himself of His glory, He veiled that. He did not empty Himself of any of His attributes. He had all of those as God made known in the flesh. But what He did when he emptied Himself (or when He made Himself of no reputation), was to give up his rights as God. He was God, but He didn't use the rights that gave Him. That's what Paul means when He says that the Lord didn't grasp after equality with God. He didn't force people to acknowledge the authority He had as God. As God He could have called twelve legions of angels to rescue Himself and destroy His enemies. That was His right and He had that authority as the Son of God. But instead, He told Peter to put the sword in its sheath. He was going to submit to the death of the cross. At the last supper in the upper room, He should have had his feet washed by a servant. Instead He became the servant and washed the disciples feet. He was God but instead of requiring His own disciples to treat Him like the God He was, He became the servant to them.

In summary, I think Paul is saying that the Lord was willing to be a servant and to be treated as a servant even though He was God. When He emptied Himself, he didn't use the rights and authority that He had as God. But He was no less God, just because He didn't demand the submission on the part of mankind that He could have. He did not use the power and authority that were His at His first coming. As a result, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

However, He is coming again. The next time He will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Just because He allowed Himself to be humiliated and crucified at His first coming, doesn't mean that He will allow that when He comes the second time. Instead of people mocking Him, they will "wail" or morn or beat their breasts because of Him (Revelation 1:7).

No, His second coming will not be as a humble servant. It will be as God, as Judge, as King. He will wield all the power of the Almighty One, the Creator, the Sovereign Lord. Those who treat the Man of Sorrows with contempt will find out that the One who emptied Himself at His first coming will not do that at His second coming. He will come in the fullness of His power and authority. Revelation 6:15-17 gives us a little understanding of what the world could have experienced the first time the Lord came but didn't. But the unbelieving, Christ rejecting world will experience this at the Lord's second coming:

And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

 

Meditation for the week of April 21, 2013

One Night of Sin, One Lifetime of Sorrow!

 

Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: "O my son Absalom--my son, my son Absalom--if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33)

 

David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), that is He loved the Lord and was always loyal to Him. He never once was tempted to turn aside to the worship of the heathen gods of the land of Canaan. But while He was not tempted to worship other god's, he did yield to temptation. That one night of sin when he sent for Bathsheba and committed adultery with her led to a lifetime of sorrow.

In 2nd Samuel 11, David forgot that a leader serves his people. He doesn't misuse or abuse them. David did what he could because he was king, but even so God held him accountable for his sin. A baby was conceived that night. To cover his sin, David had Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba, killed in battle. David had now added murder to his adultery. As a result of this one night of passion, David's newborn son died. His firstborn son Amnon seemed to learn from his father and raped his half sister Tamar. Tamar was the sister of Absalom. He held a grudge against Amnon and finally managed to kill him. Absalom also apparently held a grudge against his father for not dealing properly with Amnon, and tried to usurp the kingdom. Ultimately Absalom is killed. Ahithophel the grandfather of Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11:3, and 2 Samuel 23:34) also carried a grudge against David that ultimately cost him his own life. If David could have lived that night over, do you suppose he would have done things differently? Even though all sin can be forgiven by God and confession of sin on the part of a Christian does restore our fellowship to God and should restore fellowship one to another, there can be terrible consequences that result from sin. While we reap what we sow, thank God we don't always reap ALL that we sow. Sometimes we have crop failures. God is gracious!

Why was David wailing after Absalom died? Could it be because David knew that he had set the events in motion that ended with Absalom's death? Is that why he wished he could have died for Absalom? That may be the reason, but I think there may be another reason. David did not wail this way when the baby born to Bathsheba, the woman he defiled, died. However, he was responsible for that death as well. When that baby died he quit weeping and fasting and said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me (2ndSamuel 12:23)." I think David knew that Bathseba's child would be in paradise because that child never had the chance to reject the worship of Jehovah, but he also knew that Absalom would be banished from the presence of God forever when he died. He had died in rebellion against David and against God. Absalom was old enough to know better. Absalom was used to fulfill God's promise to David that the sword would not depart from his house because he had murdered Uriah. But I believe Absalom was personally responsible for rebelling against God. He showed that rebellion by trying to take his father's throne. That is exactly what Satan did in Isaiah 14:13-14.

Absalom then becomes a picture of Satan and he acts like Satan and does the work of Satan. His eternal destiny is that of Satan. No wonder David wailed when he died. If David had died for Absalom, he would have gone to paradise. Christ did die for us so we can be with Him in paradise when we die. But will our lives convince our neighbors and our children that we really believe this? Or will we some day be wailing with David, "If only I had died in your place!"

David had one night of pleasure and passion and he had a lifetime to regret what he had done. However, God did raise up Solomon to rule the nation when David was gone, and Solomon was Bathsheba's son. I don't understand the ways of God, but I do know that he shows His grace in spite of us, not because of us. The hymn writer has said, "Who is a pardoning God like thee, or who has grace so rich and free."

 

Meditation for the week of April 28, 2013