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DECEMBER 2003

 

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Daniel 1:8

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

 

Daniel was faithful to the Lord and beloved by the Lord. He separated himself from the religious defilement of Babylon even while a captive in Babylon. I think Babylon represents the religious world in this story and that the king represents the god of this world who is Satan. The world recognizes the integrity and quality of godly men and women but the world always wants to “improve” upon God’s graces by instructing those who are serving God in “their way of serving God”. The world tries to take the Lord’s best and make them into the world’s best. So Daniel and his friends had their names changed to identify them with pagan gods and they were going to have their diets changed so they would have to feed on that which was defiling. Daniel didn’t take the attitude that because of the circumstances, he had to go along with these things. He purposed in his heart not to defile himself or make himself unclean with the King’s meat. He couldn’t change what they called him, but I notice that Belshazzar knows him as Daniel when he wants to know what the fingers of the man’s hand has written in Daniel 5:13. Daniel couldn’t change what they taught him, but he didn’t have to believe it. It could be argued that he couldn’t change what they fed him, but Daniel purposed in his heart that he wouldn’t eat the king’s meat. Does that mean that he was willing to starve? I don’t know, but God honored his determination and gave him and his friends a benefactor in the prince of the eunuchs who feared the king but seemed to understand and respect Daniel.

Many people today say that they are saved because they have committed themselves to the Lord. I am saved because the Lord has committed Himself unto me in giving His Son who committed Himself to the cross in order to be the sacrifice that righteously puts away our sins. I am not saved because of what I am doing or purposing but I have faith or confidence in what God has done and purposed. However, Romans 12:1-2 beseeches those of us who are saved by faith through grace to commit ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to the Lord. Not every Christian does that or Paul wouldn’t have to beg us to do it. Our commitment will involve purpose, possible reproach and separation just as it did for Daniel. Today, we are told to win others for Christ by trying to be like them, but God wants us to win others for Christ by being different from them and by offering them an alternative to the thinking and lifestyle of a Christ-rejecting world. Yes, we are to identify with different cultures and points of view in preaching the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22), but nowhere does the Gospel require us to do things that are wrong to accomplish that which is right. Daniel prospered (Daniel 6:28) because Daniel purposed. May his example encourage us be a holy (separated, distinctive and clean) people whose lifestyle testifies to our devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps we too can prosper if we purpose in our hearts to be faithful.

Week of December 7, 2003

Luke 2:7

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

 

There was no room for the Lord in the inn. Of course, the inn keeper likely had no idea who Mary and Joseph were. He didn’t know that they were chosen vessels of God that were fulfilling the prophecies connected with the coming Messiah. He likely thought that Mary and Joseph were just poor unmarried commoners, and from a human point of view, that is just what they were. Do you suppose that the innkeeper could have found room for the son of Herod? Or for the son of one of the high priests? Likely room would have been made for someone important but there was no room for the parents of the Lord or for the baby that was born to them. Perhaps the inn represents the present society of our day.

During the Christmas season, one would think that there is plenty of room for the Lord in the world today. But does the world really have room for the one who died on the cross? Does the world really have room for the one who is despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3)? We who are Christians have become a part of a celebration devised by the world to recognize a Savior that according to Scripture the world has rejected. I believe that is why the feast is on a pagan feast day and why we teach the children about Santa Claus and the Lord Jesus together so that when they find out Santa is a fiction, they will also question the reality of the Lord Jesus. We are celebrating side-by-side with those who claim that we evolved, that sin is defined by our culture and not by God, that the Bible is an archaic book that contains wisdom but that it cannot be considered the inspired Word of God.

The Lord wants our worship and He has told us how to worship Him. First of all we are to trust Him (Hebrews 11:6). Then we need to submit to Him (Luke 6:46). We are told to believe on the Lord, to be baptized to identify with the Lord and to remember the Lord in the Lord’s Supper but no where are we told to remember His birth. I personally would have a real problem being involved with the Christmas celebration if it weren’t for the fact that the Lord used the Feast of Dedication to preach the Gospel to the Jews. The Feast of Dedication was the Jewish feast that falls on the 25th of the Jewish month that comes closest to our December. It was not a Feast of Jehovah and it was not a feast that the Lord had instituted. We do not know if the Lord actually celebrated the day but we do know that He used the feast to reach those who gathered in Jerusalem at that time (John 10:22). However, when He told the Jews that He was the Christ during that feast, they tried to stone Him.

I have been thinking that if we are to use the world’s celebration in a right way, we need to be worshipping a crucified, risen Savior who is coming again rather than an innocent baby in a manger. We would do better to have displays on our lawns involving three crosses rather than displays of a baby Christ-child or of Santa Claus and his sleigh. We would do well to keep fact separated from myth and fiction. We would do well to ask ourselves and those around us, “Do we really believe the truth of Scripture concerning Christ? Have we trusted in His blood which was shed by both the secular and religious world or are we just going through the motions of trying to be good people so we can call ourselves Christians?” What we really believe and promote really does matter to the Lord.

The hymn writer has put it this way:

Room for pleasure, room for business, but for Christ the crucified

Not a place that He can enter, in the heart for which He died.

Week of December 14, 2003

Revelation 5:2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

Revelation 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.

 

I don’t like to be a bearer of bad news but, according to the Bible, things in the world are going to get worse before they get better. When we celebrate the Christmas season, we like to think of the Lord as the innocent baby bringing peace and good will to all men. That is what He wanted to do and that is what He will do when he sets up His 1000 year kingdom reign on earth spoken of in Revelation 20:4. Unfortunately, the world had no use for the Lord when He came the first time so they nailed Him to a cross as though he were a criminal when their own courts proved otherwise. Satan would like us to believe that the Lord is a myth or, if he really did exist historically, that the cross proves that He was deceiver (Matthew 27:63). Satan would like us to believe that the Lord has no power to save and no power to judge. But the Book of Revelation tells us “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.

Rejecting the Lord has its consequences even though those consequences may not be immediately seen. It has been 2000 years since that dark day when men nailed the Lamb of God to an old rugged cross. People are now saying, “Where is the promise of His coming (2 Peter 3:4)?” According to John in the book of the Revelation the Lord is still coming and when He comes he will judge the earth. Now the invitation is “Come (Matthew 11:28)”, but then men will be calling for the mountains and rocks to fall on them and to hide them from the face of the Lamb for “the great day of His wrath has come (Revelation 6:17).” This will take place when the Lord begins to open a book that is presently sealed. He has the right to open it and to carry out the judgments contained in the book because He was slain to redeem us (or buy us back from the slave market of sin) and to save us from the judgments that we deserve.

We have often heard that the Lord will either be our Savior or our judge. Many are involved in the celebration of the birth of the Lord Jesus who have never trusted in His death, burial and resurrection. The reality of the Lord coming to judge is just not a message that we want to think about at Christmas time. Let us be honest. Christmas is a popular holiday, but the real Lord Jesus Christ is not a popular Savior. It is easier to take His name in vain in public than to pray in His name in public. It is by far more “educated” to question the validity of the Bible than to accept it. But the baby Jesus became the Lord Jesus Christ and He is coming to judge those who have rejected Him. I believe there will be a time of judgment on the earth called the “great tribulation (Matthew 24:21)” and I think there will be an eternal judgment after death for those who die in rebellion and unbelief. It was because I believed this that I wanted to be saved from coming judgment when I was 20 years old. I wanted to have a part in God’s grace, not a part in His wrath. I searched for the Lord and found Him. I have trusted Him and have committed my welfare for eternity to the truth that the Messiah of the Bible died to save me from His own wrath that sinners deserve. John 3:36 summarizes what I believe, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Who is worthy? He is worthy! Not only is He worthy to open the book but He is worthy of our trust, praise and worship.

Week of December 21, 2003

Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; Revelation 3:1, 8, 15

I know thy works!

 

We can’t hide anything from the Lord who is everywhere, knows everything and is all powerful. We can hide the truth from our parents, our friends and maybe even from a jury of our peers, but we cannot hide the truth from the Lord. We know that works of righteousness are not the means of salvation in the Bible, but instead they reveal the way a person thinks and they reveal his character. We can’t see the heart (although the Lord can), but we can see the works that reveal what is in the heart. The Lord uses what He does not need (outward works) to prove what He already knows (whether we are truly born again or not). When He analyzes congregations of Christians, He sees their works and knows whether they are being faithful to Him. These congregations in Revelation 2 and 3 may represent periods of time during the church age. They certainly represented actual congregations that existed when John wrote. Therefore, they likely also represent different personalities of different congregations today. We could well ask, what kind of congregation am I in today?

We live in a country of riches and self-satisfaction. The Lord has blessed us and we have become very “comfortable” living for time instead of for eternity. It seems to me that the congregation that is most distasteful to the Lord is the last one called Laodicea. It is lukewarm. Hot water satisfies and cold water refreshes. We like our tea really hot or really cold. But warm water is good for nothing and often causes the person who is expecting to be refreshed by it to spit it out. That is the way the Lord describes this church. I would like to suggest that this church represents he general condition of the Christian church in the United States today. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the enthusiasm in the church that we see in the professional football stadium on Sunday’s? The Lord knows our works and He knows that our hearts are not right and that He is not even welcome in His own church since He stand outside of the Laodicean church. Can anything be done?

Yes, something can be done but it starts with individuals. We can complain about others but in this church, one person can change things. He opens a door that is shut (we could argue as to whether this person is an unbeliever who needs to be saved or a believer who wants fellowship with the Lord or possibly both). But one thing is certain, one person opens the door to the church that lets the Lord back into His own congregation. As we come to the end of another year, let us be the one who changes things. If the Lord is not obviously present in our meetings, we need to recognize that it is not everyone else’s fault but mine since I could be the one person who opens this door. I hope we are not content to be in a congregation that claims to have the Lord in their presence (Matthew 18:20) but in reality has shut the Lord out. Are we more interested in our pleasure than in the Lord’s pleasure. Let us be the ones who make a positive difference this year. THE LORD REALLY DOES KNOW!

Week of December 28, 2003