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DECEMBER 2006

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Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.

 

We have all seen the bumper sticker that says, “Wise men still seek him.” This time of the year we all want to fight for the right to celebrate a Christian holiday, but I wonder how many of us are really wise.

There are people in the Bible that are called wise men that weren’t really wise. The magicians that resisted Moses and Aaron are an example (see Exodus 7). They knew how to fake the power of God up to a point. Wisdom is the ability to understand and to discern what is good and right and starts with the fear of Jehovah (see Proverbs 9:10). The magicians were opposing the God of heaven; and, therefore, they weren’t very wise.

A wise person considers consequences. He is a prudent person who foresees evil and hides himself (Proverbs 22:3). He recognizes that there are consequences associated with accepting or rejecting the Lord Jesus. Not only will a person be happier in this life if he or she walks in fellowship with the Lord, but that person who trusts in Christ will be saved for eternity.

People often think they are wise when they think they are smart enough to understand the how’s and why’s of life without considering God. We want to be self-reliant. We are proud. We don’t want to be dependent on anyone. Actually, those of us who act this way are very foolish. A wise person doesn’t try to fix a car without using the manual that was produced by the manufacturer and a wise person doesn’t try to figure out life without considering the manual of the Creator which is the Bible.

A wise ruler will put the welfare of his subjects ahead of his own just as the Lord did. A wise scientist will try to figure out how God put the world together rather than trying to figure out how it just happened. A wise philosopher will try to understand how God thinks. A wise preacher will preach the truth of Scripture and will not try to explain the principles of Scripture away. In other words, a wise person will try to work with God instead of working against Him.

A wise person in general will seek the Lord just as the wise men from the East did. Daniel in the Old Testament was considered one of the wise men of the kingdom of Babylon which is present day Iraq (See Daniel 2), Some of the wise men in that kingdom were magicians, but while Daniel was trained in their colleges, he stayed faithful to Jehovah. He had it revealed to him that the Messiah would come and even when He would come in Daniel 9:25-26. I suspect that the wise men of Matthew 2 were aware of the teachings of Daniel and as a result were looking for the Lord to be born. So some heathen magicians were wise while the Jewish religious rulers were so blind and foolish that they were not able to recognize the Lord when He came, even though His coming fulfilled their prophecies.

A wise person will believe the Lord when He says that our sin has separated between us and our God and that we need to be forgiven. A wise person will recognize that he or she is accountable to God. A wise person will want the only salvation that God says is available. A wise person will not want to live independently from God. A wise person will want to be prepared for death. A wise person will believe God when He says that the unbeliever is condemned already (John 3:18) and that the believer has eternal life. Yes, a wise person still seeks Him.

 

Meditation for the week of December 3, 2006

Titus 3:4-7

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

Here we have the true Christmas story. Christ has come to display the kindness and benevolence of God toward man. Many have trouble with what they consider to be a very judgmental God in the Old Testament. The Old Testament shows us what sin has done to mankind and it also shows us what we deserve because of our sin. But in the New Testament we are clearly reminded that God has given us mercy that we do not deserve. We are reminded of his love and his kindness in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who has truly revealed God to us.

I notice that this story includes words like saved and mercy and regeneration. These are all words that are important in our relationship with God. Notice that according to Paul, he and Timothy were saved. I am saved. I am not saved because of my works of righteousness even though we are to maintain good works if we are saved (Titus 3:8). So what does it mean to be saved? It means that we are delivered from the penalty that we deserve because of our sin. That penalty is permanent separation from God and eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15). A saved person is also born again or from above (John 3:7, 1 Peter 1:23). A birth is a deliverance as well but a birth delivers us for something while salvation delivers us from something. So I have been delivered from the penalty of sin and for a new life with Christ. Being born again is somewhat like getting married. The moment you say, “I do” things change. Your time is not your own, your possessions are not your own, and you can’t make decisions on your own. But this is a good thing if you have married one that you love and with whom you want to live a new life. When we are born again, we start a new life like that with the Lord Jesus.

Regeneration or new life cleanses us from the sins of the former life. God says we are clean because of the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). But, in addition, we are renovated by the Holy Spirit. That’s what the word renewing really means. God takes us and does to us what remodelers do to old houses. He cleans us up, fixes us up and makes us presentable because now we are seen in the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10). We are also justified which means that have been made right with God by the grace of God. Being made right by grace simply means that we didn’t do something to deserve to be made right and underscores the fact that our salvation is not by works of righteousness that we have done. Think of it! We who are saved, now have hope. We have something to which we can look forward. Eternal life is a life from eternity (quality) and a life for eternity (quantity). This hope is what motivates us to live our lives for Christ now.

The Christmas story tells us of the love of God. God became a man so we could know who God is and so that we could have a sacrifice for our sins. The Lord was born to die. He died so we could live and the proof of that is in that fact that He was raised from the dead. It would be possible to know the whole story and never really believe in the Lord who came to save us. What a waste that would be. This time of year, we need to ask ourselves if really understand the Christmas story and if we can say, “but according to His mercy He saved me.”

Meditation for the week of December 10, 2006

James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

 

Recently as I was making my breakfast, my eye fell on this verse which is sitting in a display on our kitchen window sill. I have read it many times, but as I read it that morning, it seemed to come alive with new meaning and promise.

In the context of the passage, when we draw near to God who Paul says is not very far from any one of us (Acts 17:27), we submit to Him. Our hands will be cleansed, our hearts will be purified and we will afflict ourselves in order to humble ourselves. This may refer to fasting. Since sin separates between us and God (Isaiah 59:2), we can’t draw nigh to God without dealing with the sin issue which will keep our hearts from being pure. Our hearts will not be right unless we truly know the Lord as the One who has forgiven our sins and as the one who loves us unconditionally (1 John 4:19). If we have come to know the Lord, our relationship may have grown stale and cold because of our willful ways. We may have to confess that sin so we can be cleansed from it (1 John 1:9) before we will have a desire to draw nigh unto God. This humbling will purify our hearts, correct our thinking and will lead to our doing that which pleases God.

Obviously we cannot draw near to God if we don’t believe that there is a God. Once we believe there is a God we must have faith in Him to draw near to Him. Hebrews 11:6 says it this way, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

The only reason that any of us draw near to God is that the Father draws us (See John 1:14, 6:44, 12:32). We draw near to God when we draw near to the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that though creation, through conscience, through circumstances and through the Word of God, we are all drawn by the Holy Spirit to God at some point in our lives. But many of us, like Pharaoh of old, not only do not know the Lord; but we do not want to know the Lord (See Exodus 5:2). I am convinced that most people do not want to know the Lord because they do not want to be accountable to Him. Each of us would like to be the final authority in our lives. As a result, we often don’t want to draw near to the Living God who created us and who wants us to submit to Him.

So we may need to be drawn to God for the very first time and we will not do that unless we are convicted of our sin that has come between us and God. Trusting in Christ will cleanse us from that sin and will give us the near relationship with God that the Lord wants us to have. But we who profess to know the Savior we may still need to go through a similar process in order to draw near to God. We may need to be restored to the Lord and to His fellowship. We don’t need to be saved again, but sometimes dealing with our distance from God might seem like we have come to trust the Lord again. There will be renewed joy and renewed strength because of the renewed joy. I have never been sure if James was writing to true believers or if he was writing to Jews who thought they were worshipers of God and who needed to be saved. He may have been writing to both classes. But either way, if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. I know that to be true because of the promise that God has given us. And I know that to be true because it has worked in my own life.

 

Meditation for the week of December 17, 2006

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Hebrews 2:1-4

The story of the Gospel is everywhere this time of the year. Most of us know that the Lord Jesus Christ was born as a human baby in a manger in Bethlehem. We all know that this baby grew up and proved Himself to be the very Son of God and the Messiah that was predicted in the Old Testament. The signs and wonders and various miracles proved that He was who He claimed to be. The resurrection after the crucifixion proved that God had accepted the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus as the sacrifice that satisfied Him on our behalf. Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Now the question is: Are we going to let these truths slip away like water out of a leaking boat? Are we going to neglect these great truths? These are solemn questions this time of the year in a country that has easy access to the Truth of God's salvation. This is a solemn question for many who have turned to science and reason and have turned away from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a solemn question for those who once embraced these Truths but now have turned away from the Lord whom they once found precious. These are people who confuse us. We wonder if they were ever saved or if they are saved and are just living a life in opposition to the Lord. But this I know, if we reject the Lord and His great salvation, we will not escape His judgment.

The message that we believe was spoken by the Lord. John 3:16 is a quote directly from Him. The message was confirmed by the Apostles who heard him. Peter says that we have not followed "cunningly devised fables" when he refers to seeing the Lord on the mount of transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16). This was a real experience, not a dream or a myth. Peter says that the Lord suffered for our sins in order to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). So it was confirmed by those that heard Him. God the Father bore witness to this message through the signs and wonders and miracles and also by raising the Lord from the dead.

Many scoff at the resurrection. However, it is one of the best documented events of history. In 1 Corinthians 15 over 500 saw him alive after the resurrection and, if we had lived then, we could have talked to them about this. Likely Paul had been in Jerusalem on some of the feast days when the Lord spoke to the crowds since Paul was trained by Gamaliel, a great teacher of the Pharisees who taught in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3). But Paul was not convinced of the Truth until he met the resurrected glorified Lord on the way to Damascus. So Paul was one who heard him and who at first did not believe. When he did realize that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah, he also confirmed the message of salvation (see 1 Timothy 1:15) and in his writings, he emphasized that the Lord was alive and was coming again (See 1 Corinthians 15 particularly verses 51-52).

We are going to be held accountable for what we know. If we are so foolish as to let the things that are true slip away--if we neglect these things, then as far as God is concerned we have rejected the Lord. Since there is no other means of salvation, "How shall we escape if we neglect a salvation that is so great?." And of course the answer is, "There is no escape (John 3:36)."

Since this salvation is so great and so necessary, we who are saved should not neglect it either. Of course, we do not have to worry about being lost, but we may have friends, relatives and neighbors who will be lost if we neglect this great salvation.

Meditation for the week of December 24, 2006

Ecclesiastes 1:9-19

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

 

We have reached the end of another year. I can hardly believe that we are looking at the opportunities and challenges of a new year when I am not done with the old one yet. Where did the time go?

We are surprised at the technological advances of the past 50 years or so and we tend to believe that we are doing things and making things that have never been done or made before. Yet, Solomon tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. The new year will turn out much like years in the past have turned out. Political campaigns will be organized. Wars will be fought. People will be born and people will die. The cycle of life will be repeated over and over again, and this will be just one more year in that cycle. However, does that mean that air travel, automobiles, cell phones, computers, space travel, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, transplants and other scientific advances are not really new?

I have often wondered how sophisticated cultures really were in the years before the flood. If people could live nearly a 1,000 years, think of the knowledge and experience that they would have stored up in their minds. We accumulate knowledge for 70 or 80 years and then have to pass the baton of knowledge to someone else. But if you lived 1,000 years, instead of people having to relearn everything often, they would only have to relearn those things every 1,000 years or so. A man like Adam must have been very advanced in his understanding of the universe. But whether or not the technology that we enjoy was available before the flood, the desires of men and women, and the cycle of life were the same, even though it might have taken longer to go through a complete cycle from birth to death. One thing has not changed, and that is the fact that whether we die in infancy or whether we die at 80 or whether we die at 930 like Adam, 100 percent of us die.

When we die, we don't know if we will be remembered. We don't know if any of our accomplishments are going to be appreciated. We don't know if our heirs will use any wealth that we leave to them wisely. We don't know if our children will miss us. That is why it is so astounding that 2000 years after the Lord Jesus died and rose again, He is still being remembered by some of us every Lord's day when we take a loaf of bread and a cup of wine and proclaim the Lord's death until He comes (1Corinthians 11:26).

We know that the cycle of life will continue until the Lord sets up His new heaven and His new earth. Life could get fairly routine and pointless if we were not reminded at times that we who are true believers do have something new to anticipate. Some day we will be in a place where there is no more sea, no more death nor sorrow nor crying nor pain, There will be no night there. No one who would defile that place will be there. Those who are abominable or detestable and those who lie will not be there. The curse that causes the first creation to groan will not be there. But the Lord will be there (See Revelation 21 and 22). He is the One who loves us, and the One who died to be a sacrifice for our sins. There is really nothing new "under the sun", but the Son has promised those of us who trust Him a new home in a place that Lord has prepared specially for us (John 14:2).

 

Meditation for the week of December 31, 2006