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AUGUST 2006

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Romans 8:28 And we know that all things (that is, all these things) work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

 

Does this verse teach that everything that happens in life is designed by God for our good? Many people think that is what this verse means. According to this view, when Eve sinned in the Garden, it was for her good. Since God is sovereign, He actually intended to have Eve sin. So, according to this interpretation, it was good for her to have to leave paradise. It was good for her to have pain in child bearing, and it was good for Adam to become a man of sorrows. It was good for the ground to bring forth thorns and thistles; and it was good that Cain killed Abel. I have a hard time believing that these things were good, or that a good God caused these things to happen even though He allowed them to happen. The sin of David with Bathsheba certainly wasn’t good, particularly for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband who was ultimately killed by David to cover his sin. Having said that, I know that God ultimately uses bad things to glorify Himself and to accomplish good.

I think this verse is teaching us about the work of the Holy Spirit. And in the context, all the things that the Holy Spirit does, He does for our good. He even allows suffering for our good, but He doesn’t always cause the suffering that He allows. The Spirit assures us that we are children of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Because of the sufferings of this present time, the Spirit reminds us of future glory. So the Spirit comforts and encourages us. The Spirit guides, intercedes and groans with us when we pray. Every one who loves God has been predestined to become like Christ and the Holy Spirit even uses things that are not good to do that. The Spirit reminds us during trials that God is for us and not against us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Yes, things that the Holy Spirit does all work together for good to them that love God.

When we see a young person who is not saved take his life, or when we see a car accident where a drunk driver kills innocent people while he walks away, this is not the good referred to in this verse.

All things that happen to us are not good or for our good. Satan who often causes these problems, does not intend them to be for our good. Many things that happen to us are just plain bad because we live in a world were sin abounds. But I am thankful that God is good and the work that the Holy Spirit is doing is definitely good. He is so good that He allows us the opportunity to trust His Son for salvation. He is so good that He brings things into our lives to make believers more like Christ. He is so good that nothing can separate us from His love.

Yes, everything that the Holy Spirit does in our lives is good and is for our good. Unfortunately, not everything that happens in this world is caused by the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is possible to interpret this verse in such a way as to charge God with doing bad things. God certainly allows these things, but the verse is not talking about these bad things working together for our good. However, the Lord who can turn water into wine and who can turn sorrow into joy can certainly take these bad things and bring good out of them.

 

Meditation for the week of August 6, 2006

Philippians 4:13 I can do all (these) things through Christ which strengtheneth  me.

 

Does this verse give us the ability to play Superman and jump off a roof and survive? Can we stop a speeding bullet or even do miraculous things for the Lord based on this promise? Of course not! The Bible is a practical book but sometimes we make it very impractical by the way we interpret it. Usually that means that we take the verse out of its context.

When Paul says that he can do all things through Christ Who strengthens him, he is referring to the things in the previous verse, “I know both how to be abased (humbled), and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need ( Philippians 4:12).” Paul had experienced want and he had experienced plenty and he was content in both conditions. Now that is a lesson I would like to learn since being content in the circumstances where the Lord places us is one of the things we should be able to do through the strengthening power of the Lord.

Sometimes this verse is used in such a way as to discourage those who are serving the Lord rather than encouraging them. When we desire to see loved ones saved or restored to the Lord and we pray about it but nothing seems to be happening, this verse should not make us feel guilty as though we are failing somehow. When we have personal weaknesses or sicknesses (Paul calls them infirmities) where the Lord reminds us that He is not going to change the situation but is going to give us grace to bear the circumstances, we shouldn’t feel like the Lord has forsaken us (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we are called to a ministry that seems to be going nowhere, we need to remember that Isaiah was sent on “Mission Impossible” in Isaiah 6:9-10. He was to preach until there was no one left to listen to his preaching, but he wasn’t going to be able to change the hearts of those who had already rebelled against God (Isaiah 1:2). God would use Isaiah to prove that He would do everything possible to warn the Israelites of coming judgment and to prove His love for them so that they would be without excuse when the judgment came. But Isaiah was sent on the mission with Lord telling him not to expect success.

I personally have never saved an individual. I wish I could but that is something that only the Lord can do. I have had the opportunity to preach the Gospel and witness the Lord save individuals as the Word of God convicts them of their sin and turns them to the Lord for salvation. On several occasions, I have held meetings where I didn’t think the Lord had worked at all and later found out that a work had been done that I didn’t know about. We cannot do all things since there are some things that only the Lord can do. I do not expect to ever physically raise the dead. I am not convinced that I will ever cure someone of cancer. But I have been called to preach the Gospel and I can do that through Christ Who strengthens me. And while I am doing it, I can assure you that there are sometimes when we who believe that we should not charge for our services (Matthew 10:8), abound and have plenty in a material way to do our work and sometimes we are abased and wonder if we can even feed our families. But since we have been called to do these things, I have personally seen God’s hand work miraculously to keep us doing a work that we could not do if we were “on our own” instead of being strengthened by the Lord.

If we understand what the Lord is strengthening us to do in this verse, it is a great encouragement. If we think that this verse is promising us that we should be able to do everything that we want to do, we are going to be greatly discouraged when things do not work out the way we had thought that they should.

 

Meditation for the week of August 13, 2006

Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Matthew 7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

I believe that one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:1. How many times have we been told that we should not judge lest we be judged? How does that square with the rest of the Bible that tells us to judge certain things in certain situations? For example:

1 Corinthians 5:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

1 Corinthians 6:3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

1 Corinthians 10:15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.

1Corinthias 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

We have to apply Scriptural principles in order to make proper judgments as we go through life. We have to distinguish between right and wrong and there are some things that people do that we are supposed to condemn. Sometimes elders of churches have to make Scriptural judgments with regard to sinning believers that may require some kind of discipline or even excommunication from the church. We have to discern or judge whether the teaching that we are getting is Scriptural. We cannot avoid the unequal yokes of 2 Corinthians 6:14 without somehow discerning who is saved and who is not. So what is the Lord saying in Mathew 7:1?

I believe that the passage does not tell us not to judge at all but it is telling us not to judge hypocritically. The next verse says that the standard that we set for others is the standard that will be set for us. So when David told Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:5 that the man who had taken the poor man’s lamb should die, he was condemning himself. He had taken another man’s wife and had killed her husband. He was judging hypocritically. Fortunately, the Lord had mercy on David and said in verse 13, “The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”

So in the context, the Lord is not prohibiting judging or discerning right from wrong. He is not saying that we should overlook sin But he is saying that when we judge we should not be hypocrites. Most of us think that our sins are not as bad as our neighbors sins and so we can be rather hard on things that we are not tempted to do.

One thing I have learned is that all of us have feet of clay and at times it shows. A Christian, though, has a new nature through the new birth. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). As a result, we should have a conscience about sin; and when we commit sin, it should bother us. Because we each have our own weaknesses, we need to make sure that when we judge others by pointing out their failures and sins that we don’t end up condemning ourselves. The standard we use to judge others is the standard that the Lord will use to judge us.

 

Meditation for the week of August 20, 2006

Mathew 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts. . .

Psalm 94:11 The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity (futile).

Psalm 44:20-21 If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.

 

Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time". No matter how hard we try, we cannot fool God any of the time. The Lord knew the thoughts of the religious hypocrites who were taking counsel to destroy Him in Matthew 12. He also knows our thoughts. This is very searching.

He knows that our thoughts are futile. Most of us think that we are the center of the universe and we intend to make sure that others know it. We want to make a great name for ourselves and do great things so that people will remember us. The King who likely was the wisest apart from the Lord and who likely accomplished the most as far as this world is concerned was King Solomon. Yet, his conclusion as to earthly achievements is found in Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

God knows all about us and He knows that there are many people who claim to be Christians so that they can be influential in churches and in their circles in society who don’t have a clue as to Who God is. I am convinced that there are pastors in some churches who do not believe in God let alone trust in Christ. But they like the “job” that they have been hired to do. But, I have been impressed recently with fact that no matter how clever we may be in fooling others, God knows.

The Lord was generally fairly kind in the way he confronted sin in the Bible. There was a woman taken in adultery in John 8 that He could have been hard on because she had been caught in the act of sinning. But instead He treated her with respect while still rebuking her sin. He did the same thing for a Samaritan woman in John 4. He forgave a thief on the cross that had been criticizing Him. But he was harsh when it came to hypocrites. In Matthew 23, eight times He pronounces a woe on hypocritical leaders and teachers. I think He was saying, “Alas, you don’t know the sorrows that are coming because of your hypocrisy.”

Yes, it is easy to convince others we are Christians and that our motives are pure so that we can get the futile things that we want in this world, but if we are not Christians and our motives are not pure, the Lord knows. There is still only one way to please God and that is to trust in His Son who is the sin bearer. The Bible says that we need to be born again, and that we are born again when we receive His Son by believing on Him (John 1:12-13). This isn’t a game that we play in order to get those in our religious circles to accept us, this is a heart matter between us and God. And God knows whether we really have confidence in His Son and whether we really have been delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The Jesus who knew the thoughts of the religious hypocrites who were trying to destroy Him in Matthew 12, also knows our thoughts. So when the question is asked, “What think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:43), we may as well be honest. Because the Lord knows.

 

Meditation for the week of August 27, 2006