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DECEMBER 2012

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Casting Pearls Before Swine!

 

Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. (Matthew 7:6)

 

Bible interpretation is an interesting art. As we read commentaries and listen to preaching, it is obvious to me that we tend to interpret the Bible so that it says what we want it to say. I am sure that I have done this many times myself even though I try to let the Scriptures explain the Scriptures. We often interpret according to the ditty, "Wonderful things in the Bible I see, Things put there by you and by me!" For those raised in a good Sunday School, they know that the ditty should say, "Wonderful things in the Bible I see and this is the dearest that Jesus loved me."

Because of this problem of interpretation, there are some verses over the years that I have had to admit that I didn't understand. I have just left some of these passages on the "back burner" waiting for something to come along and open my spiritual eyes so that I could understand them. Often when I do find out what the verse really means, the gem of truth that I have been missing is quite beautiful while the forced interpretations of the passage are anything but beautiful. One of the passages that I never understood had to do "heaping coals of fire" on your enemy by doing him good instead of harm (Romans 12:20). I used to think that the Lord would vehemently judge the person we treated right when that person treated us wrong. For some reason, that interpretation never satisfied me. One day, I realized that this just meant that our enemy would be publicly embarrassed and humiliated if we did right by him. That might be a better reason for getting him to change his behavior than a future judgment by the Lord. The picture is that of someone whose head is red and sweating.

Whenever we read things into the Scripture that are not there we take power and joy away from what could be a vibrant relationship with the Lord. The passage for today is one example. Many have taught over the years that there are certain people to whom we should not preach the Gospel. They maintain that it will do more harm than good and that these people just want to know how Christians think so that they can destroy us. According to them, we would be casting pearls before swine. Others think that there are some precious truths in the Bible that we Christians should not share with certain kinds of wicked unbelievers because they will just use those truths against us. However, the Lord produced a whole Bible and has made it universally available, at least in the countries where people can read. He didn't tear sections out before giving it to some people nor is there a special clasp on the Bible that only certain people can open. He has made the Bible available to ALL. In addition he has commissioned the Christian to preach to Gospel to "every created human (Mark 16:15)."

When studying this verse, I began to realize that it has to do with judging and not with preaching the Gospel. In the first part of the section we are told not to judge in a way that we would not want to be judged. In other words, we should not judge hypocritically because the Lord is going to hold us to the standard that we set for others. This first part of Matthew 7 is not a passage telling us NOT to judge but a passage telling us HOW to judge. Then in this verse, he tells us WHO should do the judging. When we have unbelievers judge things that only believers should be judging, that is when we are giving holy things to dogs and casting pearls before swine. Paul deals with this in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 where he tells the Corinthian church that they should suffer wrong rather than allowing the unsaved to judge things that only Christians should be judging. I have seen lawsuits filed by Christians before unsaved judges in our courts of law that should have and could have been mediated by other Christians. All that came of it was that the unsaved became rich and our Christian testimony was marred. I think that whenever we use the unsaved to judge things that only the saved should be judging, we are casting our pearls before swine. When we fight the right battles the wrong way and in the wrong places, we tend to polarize good and evil. We make things worse and not better.

This verse has reaffirmed my conviction that the business of Christians is to preach the Gospel and to leave the world and the world systems alone. We should not expect the unsaved to sympathize with our principles or point of view. But when the Gospel takes hold of the unsaved and convinces and converts them, then they will be helpful in advancing the cause of Christ and of Christians.

 

Meditation for the week of December 2, 2012

Who AM I?

 

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. (3 John 1:11)

 

John, the aged apostle, must have been grieved to see the churches of God become organizations that men of ambition used to control people. True religion is to take care of the orphans and widows and to stay unspoiled by the world (the society that Satan is controlling). See James 1:27. People who are really controlled by the Holy Spirit have themselves under control. They worry about their own sins. When a person who is in fellowship with the Lord and who is serving Him preaches about sin, that person always includes themselves in the preaching. They know that they may not have committed the sins that they are condemning, but in the right circumstances they might have done so. They also know that while they may not have committed some of the grievous errors of our present society, they have committed sins of other kinds that may even be acceptable in the eyes of their peers, but those sins are sins nevertheless. By contrast, evil people often use the sins of society to control people and to advance their own ambitions. They tend to use religion as a club to keep others in subjection.

Three men are involved in John's letter. Gaius is the one to whom the letter is addressed. He wants to do right, but needs John's encouragement. Diotrephes is the evil influence in this church who wants to be in charge. Demetrius is one that Paul knows has a good reputation and whose example should be followed. So John encourages Gaius to imitate Demetrius and not to follow a man like Diotrephes who is only masquerading as a Christian to promote himself rather than promoting the Lord.

In Matthew 7, the Lord says that we will know false prophets by their fruits. They will come in sheep's clothing, that is they will look like meek believers who need a shepherd, but all the while they are hungry meat-eating wolves out to destroy the work of the Lord. This verse really does not tell us how to recognize the saved and the unsaved in general, but it tells us how to recognize false prophets. Diotrephes should have been easy to recognize as one of these prophets. A person who claims to be speaking for God but who is really promoting his own selfish ambitions, is from a "bad" tree. Just as a wolf is a ravenous wild animal, these people are self-centered, covetous and controlling. They are dividers and not uniters. They can't help themselves because they "have not seen God." They have never humbled themselves. They are not "born again (John 3:7)."

Why do men like Diotrephes seem to have such control over the true Christian? First of all, Christians are likened unto sheep and sheep are easily led astray. Secondly, these men rule out of fear or out of flattery or both. People are afraid to rebuke them particularly when the Bible tells us to obey our elders. But just like we are to obey the rulers of our land until they REQUIRE us to do that which is contrary to the will of the Lord, we are to obey our elders until they start REQUIRING us to support evil as well. Sometimes when someone who claims to be godly says things in an authoritative manner that we know to be wrong, it is hard for a true believer to accept the fact that this person really should not be imitated or followed. After all shouldn't we esteem others "better" than ourselves (Philippians 2:3)? Just as Satan knew how to misuse Scripture to test the Lord, these people often do the same thing. They know all the Scriptures on forgiveness and obedience and use them as a club to control their followers. In my experience, first they flatter, then they will lie and if those things don't work, they will confront.

Christians are not to take up arms and fight physical battles, but we are to prayerfully fight spiritual battles. In the world today, there are many popular preachers and leaders claiming to do the Lord's work. When I listen to them, I ask myself, "Do I want to be like these men?" If my answer is "No," I simply try to avoid them since we are called to separate from the world and not to reform it. If they are in a position to directly affect my life, I try to reason with them. But where I see them leading others astray, I try to separate myself from their influence. But I don't try to develop a group of my own followers to help me destroy them. Judgment of that nature is the Lord's business, not mine.

Even the early new testament church had people that were "problems". Can you imagine a man having the "chutzpah" to speak maliciously against the Apostle John? Hopefully, something like that would never happen in one of our churches.

 

Meditation for the week of December 9, 2012

Grace is not Satan's Middle Name!

 

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

 

This last week we had an unimaginable kind of horror inflicted on innocent children by a very demonic adult. At least 20 children and 6 adults plus the gunmen were killed in a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school. Some would blame God for allowing this tragedy. Some would blame the shooters genetics, some would blame society, some would blame his parents. But who is blaming the real culprit, Satan. Satan is a murderer and a liar and he goes about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is sometimes subtle and sometimes cruel, but he could never be accused of being gracious.

I remember when the 9/11 tragedy occurred. I was at a gym in my home town and after talking with some of them about "why" this happened, I told them that it would seem hard to deny the existence of Satan after such a tragedy. While people seem to want God to explain Himself after these tragedies, I would like to suggest that God allowed this but didn't cause this. The real culprit is a created angel who wanted a place in heaven that didn't belong to him (Isaiah 14: 12-15). He "fell" and has been trying to destroy anything that is good and godly ever since. He is called the "god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)." Grace is not his middle name.

Grace is one of the characteristics of the Lord. People marveled at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth (Luke 4:22). He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). None of these things have ever been said about satan (our adversary) who is a serpent (subtle) and a devil (evil). He flatters us and he lies to us. He is a destroyer rather than a builder. He sometimes appears as a bear, sometimes as a lion, but he is always our enemy (Matthew 13:39). He is never gracious.

Ephesians 2:2 tells us that before we trusted the Lord for salvation, we walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. We all did this "Prince's" bidding. Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ and frees us from this bondage. Satan can huff and puff and try to blow our houses down but because of the grace of God, he cannot deceive and destroy us. John tells us in his first epistle, chapter 4, verse 4 that He who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. Satan has been defeated at the cross but that doesn't mean that he doesn't still try to control this ungodly society in which we live. And he uses those who are his captives to kill young children because he is wicked and not at all gracious.

So, are we going to blame God or are we going to put the blame where it belongs? Are we going to recognize that Satan is real and, of course, that implys that God is real as well. We have a choice as to whom we are going to serve. Joshua, a man who had trusted in the Lord and who had been used of the Lord in a mighty way, knew that not all in Israel were convinced that the Lord was the only God that they should serve. At the end of his life, he reminds the children of Israel of a decision he had made many years before. This was a decision that the miracles of their wilderness travels should have made obvious. Joshua said, "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15)."

Yes, there is evil in this world. But there is also good represented by God's grace. A person might ask, "Why did God allow this and other tragedies to happen? He allowed that for the same reason that he allows men and women to lie, cheat, steal, over eat, over drink, smoke and live in immorality. He is gracious and longsuffering and wants us to worship Him voluntarily. He will not force us to do right, but He will do everything He can to encourage us to do right. I personally want to serve the God who wants to make me more gracious. Doing His work saves. Doing Satan's work destroys because he is filled with hatred and does not know what the word grace means.

 

Meditation for the week of December 16, 2012

The Disappointment of an Unappreciated Gift!

 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

 

This is the gift giving season. I have never figured out how worship of the Lord by the Magi who gave the Lord gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, has somehow translated into the giving of gifts to each other as a way of worshiping the Lord. But give we will; and, hopefully, the economy will really start "purring" as a result of our unbridled spending for gifts that people don't really need. And in many cases, they don't really want them.

A good gift requires thought and is valuable. It may not cost much in terms of money but it will cost a lot in terms of the care and effort put into either making or buying just the right gift. The giver is usually happy with themselves unless the the person receiving the gift is obviously disappointed when they open the gift.

The best gift of all is the gift of eternal life that God gave by giving His one and only Son to the world. Yes, the Lord came as a baby, but He died on an old rugged cross at about 33 years of age—actually in the prime of life. Mankind does a lot of things that offend God and as a result we are separated from fellowship with God by our sin. God wasn't happy with that, but He wasn't surprised when sin came into the world either. He had a plan and the plan included the best gift of all—the gift of His one and only Son. His Son would bear the punishment that we deserved because of our sin. God could righteously punish sin and man could have fellowship with God restored. Mankind needed a Savior and God was willing to provide one. His Son was willing to be that Savior. But how many of us really appreciate the gift that God has given us.

The old testament Scriptures give us a glimpse of the value of this gift in the animal sacrifices that were offered to the Lord. None of these pleased the Lord unless they were offered by a person with a believing heart. But even when believers offered lambs and bulls and goats, they were only pictures of that which the Lord would be. He was the one sacrifice that really satisfied God.

The bulls and goats and lambs cost a lot of money. But the Lord has paid that price with His blood and now He offers eternal life freely to all who will believe. In Isaiah 55:1, Isaiah says, "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." How can we BUY without paying anything? I think God's gift is worth paying everything for but can be had without paying anything. Sometimes we sing a hymn that says, "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe." I like the hymn but it isn't accurate because I don't owe the Lord a thing. Jesus did pay it all and as a result my debt is totally paid.

There are going to be some disappointed givers on Christmas morning. They will have spent time and effort and money to get a gift that they thought someone would like only to find out that the gift is not appreciated and will either be re-gifted or returned to the store. What a let down that will be. But what must God think when we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus and the most of those involved in the celebration do not really appreciate the gift? Some don't think God, the giver, even exists and others make God out to be a God other than the God who has revealed Himself through creation, conscience and the Bible. I am quite sure that our not appreciating the gift might leave God angry, and I think I understand. He has offered the world a just and merciful Savior and many people don't really open the gift by faith and appreciate it. They may say that they are Christians and they may go to church and they may do all of their good works, but many have not simply accepted the greatest gift of all—the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. I personally will be thanking the Lord for this the greatest gift of all on Christmas day if the Lord spares us that long. I will also be thanking Him for that gift today.

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

 

 

Meditation for the week of December 23, 2012

What a Day that will Be!

 

Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." (Revelation 21:5)

 

We are coming to a "new" year. The designation of a new year on the calendar is really artificial. The sun defines the length of a year, but we could have started a new year any where during the year. We have designated January 1 on the calendar that we use as the beginning of a new year. We will make "new" resolutions to be be better, lighter, richer, more industrious and/or nicer. But our resolutions will likely be broken by the end of the first week. We will be the same old people, with the same old problems in a year that will look a lot like last year.

In this life, Solomon tells us that there is really nothing "new" under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). I recently purchased a "new" car. The old one had served me well but when I realized that in the last two months it had cost me about $1,000.00 in repairs, I decided I needed to consider getting rid of it. I was really kind of in love with it since I had personally been behind the wheel of that car for 150,000 miles, but it was no longer "new." So I traded for another "new" car with an exceptional warranty so that I could budget my car expenses once again. I have only driven the car about 20 miles, but I can assure you that It is now a "used" car. Wouldn't it be nice if something could be made new that would stay new forever?

God is the only one who is able to do that. When sin came into the world, death, deterioration and destruction came along with sin. Iron rusts, thistles thrive, people get old and die: and, in general, we live in a decaying world. But one day God is going to make all things new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Sorrow will be gone Death will be gone. Darkness will be gone. War will be a thing of the past. Sin and all that defiles will be gone. This will be a new era and everything will be new and will stay new. I don't know just when and how all this will occur, but the Lord says these words are faithful and true. I believe this will actually happen, and I expect to be a part of it.

One new thing that we all need is a new birth (John 3:7). This birth gives us a new life. In a sense our calendar starts over when we come in simple trusting faith to the Lord Jesus and believe Him when He says, "He who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:26)." If you can't believe the Lord, who can you believe In this life? We who have believed in Him, trust Him to save us from an eternity of misery and woe that will be the portion of the unbeliever whose sins were never put away. We also trust Him to save us for an eternity of bliss. Eternal life begins the moment we trust Christ, but it continues forever. Those who have eternal life will someday live in a new heaven and a new earth in a state of bliss and sinless perfection where all things are new.

My cars may grow old and need replacing. My old body may grow old and die. But a day is coming when I will get a new body. In addition, I will never need a new car or house. I will get to live in a place that is completely new, where sin no longer confuses and tempts us, where lies are no longer told, where government will be righteous, where light and not darkness prevails, and where happiness and not sorrow abound. What a day that will be!

I don't know what the new year will bring, but I am expecting it to bring many of the same problems and difficulties of the past year. But one day all things are going to be made new and that is going to be a wonderful day. I hope all of you who are reading this meditation believe that what the Lord says is faithful and true. Because then and then only can you be sure that you will be a part of the new heaven and the new earth when the Lord makes "all things new"

 

Meditation for the week of December 30, 2012