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DECEMBER 2009

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1John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

 

1 John 3:9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.

Do Christians sin? John seems to say both yes and no. Our experience says yes. Most Christians agree that they have sinned at least accidentally after they found out that God had righteously forgiven them. Some of us are honest enough to admit that we have some "accidents" over and over again. So even if we don't sin as much, if we find ourselves sinning even in "small ways", aren't we continuing in sin, and doesn't John say that Christians do not do this?

The Catholic church has outlined the seven deadly sins. They are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. How many of us always have our wrath completely under control? How many of us can honestly say we weren't gluttonous on Thanksgiving day? How many of us have watched TV when we should have been doing something productive? How many of us have wished that we had our neighbors house or job or car? And if we haven't had recent problems with any of these sins, aren't we kind of proud that we have everything under control? Now unfortunately there are some sins that aren't included in the seven deadly ones. Galatians 6:20 lists selfish ambition (NKJV) as one of them. Isn't that considered a virtue in a competitive free enterprise capitalistic system?

I believe that there are two kinds of Christians in the world. The first kind are those who sin and have a conscience about it. They show their conscience by confessing their sin. The second kind are those who sin and lie about it by saying that they don't sin. John says that we actually make God a liar when we say we have not sinned.

Some would like to believe that when John says "we have no sin" and "we have not sinned" that John is only talking about our lives before trusting the Lord as Savior. But since this is a family epistle dealing with fellowship with the Lord and with one another, I am convinced that he is referring to the kind of sin that breaks fellowship in the family. That means he is talking to Christians after they are saved. 1 John 2:1 says that Christians have an advocate or lawyer with the Father when they sin. So John seems to imply that Christians do sin after they are saved. Therefore, I believe that Christians who say that they do not sin and who say that they do not continue in at least some kinds of sin are deceiving themselves.

So what does John mean when he says that a Christian does not sin? He says that the commandments are that we believe in the Lord and that we love one another (1 John 3:23). He comes back to the theme of loving one another over and over again. He says Cain is one who hated his brother and that we can not be like him and be saved. He says the devil sinned from the beginning and we cannot be like him and be saved. John 8:44 says that the devil is a liar and a murderer. So when John says we should not continue in sin, he is saying we should not be acting in hate like Satan or Cain. We cannot continue in the sin of hating our brother and of not believing in the Lord and be saved. Now we don't always love our brother as we ought so we can confess our sins and in that way keep the commandment as our standard even when it condemns our actions. Keeping the commandments actually means that we guard the truth. The truth is that the born again person never wants to harm another brother or sister in Christ. Cain and Abel fought over religion and Cain murdered Abel. When religious authorities kill in the name of Christ as some have in the past, according to John, those people who do that are simply not saved. I think that is what John means in 1 John 3:9, "Whoever has been born of God does not sin (or hate), for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." God's seed plants love in our hearts.

John sees things black and white. We walk in the light or we walk in darkness. We love or we hate. I wonder what his analysis of our lives would be just based on our love of "one another"?

Meditation for the week of December 6, 2009

Who is Wise?

 

Hosea 14:9 Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right; The righteous walk in them, But transgressors stumble in them.

 

Who is wise? Is it the scientist? Is it the philosopher? Is it the person who knows how to make a billion bucks? Is it the person with the most friends? Or is it the person who not only believes that God exists, but who believes what He says and worships Him?

In this book the northern ten tribes of Israel had turned away from God. As a result, God was judging them as a nation. Instead of turning back to Him, they were looking for human help from other nations to deliver them. Hosea was calling the northern ten tribes to repentance that their blessings might be restored. In addition, he was pleading with the two southern tribes to be faithful and not to follow in the footsteps of the northern ten tribes. Today, since the kingdom is a spiritual kingdom and not an earthly one, I would apply these warnings to the church which is the society where God's authority is honored. In the world, we have a society where Satan is in charge (Ephesians 2:2). In the church, we are supposed to be a society where the Lord Jesus is in charge. But does the visible religious professing church consist of those who are wise today?

So who is wise? He is the person who "builds his house on the Rock (Matthew 7:21-29)." We do that by doing what the Lord asks. Verses 22 and 23 indicate that when we do the right things for the wrong reason, we do not please or even know God. But when we do the right things for the right reason, that pleases God. The first thing that the wise do is "repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15)." Then we who have believed in the Lord Jesus will have a desire to live to please Him. When we do the good things mentioned in Matthew 7:22 to honor God rather expecting those things to earn us a place in His kingdom, God is pleased and we are wise.

I remember that shortly after I was saved, I began to wonder if I had believed right and if I had believed in the way others had believed. Whenever I would ask myself if I believed, I would lose my confidence. When I asked myself if Christ had died for me, I would say, "Of course" and regain my joy. Before I was saved, I had never really trusted in the fact that the work of salvation was finished completely when Christ died and rose again. I kept waiting for God to do something to "save me". I realized one Sunday afternoon in my room that God had done everything that He was going to do to save me. I got peace about my sins and my relationship with God. But then I began to ask myself if I had repented enough and if I had really believed. When I ran across this section in Matthew 7, I realized that when I had trusted in the truth that the work that saves is finished, I had trusted in bedrock truth. And it was that truth that gave me peace, not my repenting and believing. We must believe the truth to be saved, but I found out that we can't depend on our believing. We need to depend on the Truth.

I was getting an education back in those days and thought I was a pretty good student. Yet the first wise thing I ever did was to trust the Lord Jesus.

The longer I live the more confused I get when I talk to people about the Gospel. People say they are believers and yet they have organized churches in ways that are totally opposed to the principles of Scripture. They say they are saved but never preach the Gospel of God's grace from the pulpit. They say they are saved but never talk about their love for the Lord Jesus. These were all things that I thought were part of our devotion to the Lord after we come to know Him and trust Him as our Savior. Sometimes I wonder if the professing church is like Israel in the book of Hosea. Are we really wise?

I feel like the blind man in John 9 who had his eyes opened by the Lord. He didn't know very much but he could honestly say this, " One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see (John 9:25)" The one thing I know is that the Lord Jesus Christ died for my sins. God calls the one who believes that truth wise. That person will never be overcome by the storms of life.

"Who is wise?" is a good question. A better question might be, "Am I wise?"

Meditation for the week of December 13, 2009

How to Be a Successful Gospel Preacher

 

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

 

Recently a preaching friend of mine shared the story of a young person who came to trust in the Lord Jesus as her personal Savior. She was reached as a result of some preaching and as the result of some personal work. If she had not been befriended by a young lady that I know, she probably would never have listened to the Gospel. But today she has her fortune made. She has had her sins forgiven and when this life is over, she will be "with Christ" (Philippians 1:23). This is the kind of story that makes my day.

When I talked to my preaching friend, he told me that this sort of thing happens in the Philippines where he was a missionary all the time. I wish I could say that it happened in my ministry all the time but I can't. So I am wondering what can be done to be a part of a work that is fruitful in the Gospel? I know that kind of work would revive me and those with whom I worship. I have been searching the Scripture for answers and this is what I have found:

In Jonah 1, Jonah was disobedient and because of his disobedience he fled from the presence of the Lord by getting into a ship going to Spain. He tried to avoid preaching to the wicked city, Nineveh. Because of his disobedience there was a great storm and the sailors wanted to know why God had sent it. Jonah told them about his disobedience and that Jehovah was judging him for his disobedience. They threw him overboard and the storm ceased. But as a result, they feared Jehovah, prayed to Him and worshiped Him. Because of Jonah's disobedience, these men were "saved" in the new testament sense of the word.

Later Jonah is obedient and goes to Nineveh and preaches just eight words. Those words were, "Yet forth days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." There was no offer of hope or salvation but when the people heard the message, they were convicted and repented. The Lord withheld his destruction because of their change in attitude. They figured out how to be saved once they understood that God intended to destroy them. They didn't have to be told how to be saved. Jonah is called a great preacher by the Lord in Matthew 12:41, and yet all he did was to repeat eight words over and over again.

Jonah, then, saw the sailors saved through his disobedience and Nineveh saved through his obedience. So what is the key to successful Gospel preaching? The key is to let God do His work and to marvel at it. I would certainly rather God blessed me for being obedient than for being disobedient, but God's ways are past finding out. We can do everything right and it may be that God will not use us to see visible fruit. In that situation we may be planting and later on someone else may be the reaper. But a lack of fruit certainly doesn't imply that we are doing something wrong and visible fruit doesn't imply that we are doing everything right. Jonah proves that we might be doing something wrong and we might still see fruit in the Gospel.

What is the lesson here? In my mind, the only time we are doing something wrong is when we give up trying to spread the good news in whatever way we can. But even if we fail God, He will get his work done in one way or another. I would like that to be through me, and I hope you would like that as well. And I hope that when he works through me it is because I have been obedient and not because I have been disobedient.

 

Meditation for the week of December 20, 2009

Is Christ the Reason for the Season?

 

Romans10:9 -10 If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 

We often hear people say that Jesus is the reason for the season at Christmas time. I doubt very much that the Lord wants to be assigned to "a season". I think He would rather be worshiped from the heart every day. He has asked us to believe in Him with our hearts, to be baptized to show that we believe in Him and to remember Him "often" by sharing in a symbolic meal that proclaims His death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). He wants us to give Him our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). He wants the fruit of our lips which is praise (Hebrews 13:15) . Many people who have worshiped Christ during this "season" have worshiped Him as He has asked, but many have not. How many of us were honestly occupied with the Christ of the Bible that loved us and died for us this holiday season?

In the above verses, the Lord wants our hearts. I believe that means He wants our affection and love, our loyalty, our friendship and our obedience. He doesn't want us to believe about Him, He wants us to believe in Him. He is the author of our eternal salvation, He is the first and the last, He is the beginning and the end, He is the One who is and who was and who is to come, He is the Messiah, He is the Man of Sorrows, He is also the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the friend of sinners, He is the Prince of Peace, and He is my Savior, my Lord and my God.

 

Most of the world didn't believe that He came the first time even though He came just as it was predicted in the old testament. Gentiles coming from Iraq who likely believed the prophecies of Daniel believed in Him and came from the East to worship Him, but the Hebrews by and large had their hopes set on a political deliverer rather than a spiritual deliverer, and they rejected His claims. Religion missed Him but a few students of the old testament prophecies who had their hearts touched believed in their hearts and worshiped Him.

The Lord who was crucified has made a bold claim. He said He is coming again. He is coming to judge the world for rejecting Him and is going to set up the righteous kingdom that was prefigured by Solomon's reign and that is foretold over and over again in the prophecies of the Bible. Before He does that He is going to come and deliver those who have believed in their hearts from the day of His wrath. They are going to be caught up to be with Him forever. If we have believed in our hearts that God has raised Christ from the dead, surely we should be looking for His second coming. The promise of His coming assures us that our future is secure. We know that this world is not going to become "Christian" and the most of the people in this world are never going to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). The world may have its Christmas, but most people have never believed in Christ with their hearts.

The Lord wants us to believe in our hearts that the baby that was born in Bethlehem went to the cross to die for our sins and that He has been raised from the dead. He is living and He is coming again. We need to be occupied with Him all the time and not just at a particular season. He wants to be our all-in-all all of the time.

 

Meditation for the week of December 27, 2009