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DECEMBER 2015

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Radical Christianity

 

James 5:16  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

 

Last week was another week of bad news.  It was also another week where news and social media arm-chair quarterbacks were certain that they knew what the leaders in our country did or did not do as well as what they now should or should not do.  Those seeking the nominations for President are using the current tragedy in San Bernardino, California, where fourteen people were killed at a Christmas party as the spring board for their own campaigns.  Everyone seems to have the answer, but no one is quoting the only book with the wisdom to deal with this tragedy.  That book is the Bible. 

 

Bad Thinking

It appears that the shooters were Muslims.  Apparently some think all Muslims in this country are to be looked at as our enemies.  However, many of the Muslims in this country are here because they fled persecution in their own countries, many times at the hands of other Muslims.  Nearly all who are here want the freedoms that we say we have when it comes to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to vote and the other freedoms our constitution allows.  I just don't think all Muslims are the problem.

 

It appears that the shooters went berserk at a Christmas party so I suppose it is fair to say that Christmas parties should be banned.  I have been waiting for some absurd political commentary along this line to be suggested.  The shooters used assault rifles and had pipe bombs.  Obviously outlawing pipe bombs and assault rifles would help control these situations, right?  But I think they are outlawed.  Pipe bombs are certainly outlawed in the US and assault rifles are at least heavily regulated in California.  I am not in favor of the anarchist movement that wants every citizen in this country to be armed, but it seems obvious that outlawing these weapons would not have changed what happened in San Bernardino.

 

I am suggesting that no one has the final answer as to how to handle mass shootings and terrorism.  But these events have put fear in the heart of everyone; and when people are making decisions in that state of mind, sometimes those decisions cause more harm than good.  But I do have two very radical suggestions.

 

The Two Radical Suggestions

First, as Christians we need to quit speaking evil of dignitaries. Those of us who claim to be Christians should act like it.  We say we believe the Bible but many who call themselves Christians apparently don't believe Peter when he said in 2 Peter 2:9-10,  “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries.” Christians should certainly not act like the rebellious angels and the rebellious societies described in the passage.

 

Second, instead of spending our time criticizing, I would like to suggest that we pray for those who are in authority.  Right now!  And it would be nice if we meant it.  We don't need to call prayer meetings although that would be good as well since the Bible says that the faithful fervent prayer of a (one) righteous man (or woman) accomplishes much.  I realize the verse I am quoting has to do with sickness that is associated with specific sin or sinful lifestyles, but the principle cannot be ignored.  The example of Elijah's praying in the passage does not have anything to do with the healing of diseases.

 

Radical Christians

I know it would be radical for many who claim to be Christians to pray for our President and those in authority instead of attributing evil motives to them.  But the whole idea of true Christianity is radical.  It doesn't make sense to die to selfish ambition in order to live.  It doesn't make sense to esteem others better than ourselves.  It doesn't make sense to be swift to hear and slow to speak.  It doesn't make sense to have a Savior who dies on a cross rather than raising a fighting army.  No, these things don't make sense.  These principles are radical and that is the kind of radical the Lord wants us to be.

 

Meditation for the week of December 6, 2015

Who is the Overcomer?

 

1 John 5:4-5  For whatever (whosoever) is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.  Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 

The Apostle John and the Overcomer

John writes a lot about the overcomer.  Many people think the overcomers in John's epistles and in the book of the Revelation are a special class of Christian.  I am convinced that all people who are Biblical Christians are overcomers in John's writings.  The overcomer is mentioned in each letter to the seven churches of Asia Minor (Turkey) in Chapters 2 and 3 and their blessings are blessings that all Christians enjoy.

 

Ephesus: Revelation 2:7  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." '

Smyrna:  Revelation 2:11  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."

Pergamos: Revelation 2:17  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."

Thyatira:  Revelation 2:26-28  “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-- 'HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON; THEY SHALL BE DASHED TO PIECES LIKE THE POTTER'S VESSELS'-- as I also have received from My Father;  and I will give him the morning star.”

Sardis:  Revelation 3:5  “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

Philadelphia: Revelation 3:12  “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”

Laodicea:  Revelation 3:21  “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

 

These congregations all existed when John wrote but each congregation had its own problems and personality.  I believe our current congregations likely are much like at least one of these congregations although current congregations may have more than one personality type.  But John is definitely giving us a panoramic view of the state of local churches at the time that he wrote.  Within each church there were overcomers.  When you see that the overcomer has faith in Who the Lord Jesus really is in John's first epistle; and when you see that the blessings to the overcomers in the seven churches are blessings that true believers would claim as their own, then I conclude that the overcomer is not a special class of believer; but the overcomer is the true believer in each of these churches.  The particular blessing mentioned for the overcomer in each church is the blessing that would most encourage the believers living in those conditions.  If you take all seven blessings together, one gets a fairly good description of what the future looks like for a Christian.

 

What about those who are not Overcomers?

But here is the rub, if the overcomer is not a special class of Christian, then these churches consist of both the saved and the lost—the believer and the unbeliever.  There are believers in Christ and Christ rejecters in every church.  That becomes obvious as the Lord mentions the faithful who have been true to Him in some of these churches.  This concerns me because our churches today are willing to accept people who have not been baptized Biblically, and who do not remember be awakened to the fact that they were lost (and we are lost before we are saved).  Many reject the Biblical doctrines of headship that the Lord gives to the local church.  Moral doctrines are considered to be old-fashioned by many.  Some are more concerned with changing the world politically than with changing the world one by one through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. 

 

I don't believe that we are showing love to those who believe that becoming a Christian involves a mental assent to the Truth rather than it being an experience where the lost are saved, where the understanding is opened, where the believer actually repents and has his thinking changed to agree with God even when that mean taking sides with God and against himself.  In many cases people also have to take sides against their families.

 

John's use of the term overcomer is searching.  We need to be overcomers ourselves and we need to be concerned about those who are not.  And while evangelism is a “go into all the world” command these messages make it clear that the world has come into the church; therefore, evangelism needs to start at “home.”

 

Meditation for the week of December 13, 2015

Neither Shall they Learn War Anymore!

 

Micah 4:3  He shall judge between many peoples, And rebuke strong nations afar off; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.

 

There is a Day of Universal Peace Coming!

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all get along?  Wouldn't it be nice if ethnic differences and national pride were a thing of the past?  Wouldn't it be nice if instead of war there were peace?  Wouldn't it be nice if even the animals would all get along with each other and lambs would not need to be afraid of lions?  I understand that day is coming.  Today, Satan has control of the world within the limits set by the Lord.  Death and destruction and war are the norm.  But the day is coming when Satan will be bound and hatred and violence will no longer be the norm.

 

The future of the Earth as the Bible tells it

We live in a period of time that the Lord calls “the acceptable year of the Lord (See Luke 4:19).”   This was likely a New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament year of jubilee when debts were forgiven and prisoners and slaves were freed.  Land went back to its original owners.   Since the Lord was rejected, the Jubilee offered to the world did not and has not occurred.  But for those who accept the Lord as their Savior, it has.  The prophecy that the Lord read is found in Isaiah 61:2.  The Lord stopped reading mid-sentence.  The prophecy says that the Lord came to preach the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God.  That day of vengeance is still future. We live in the day of grace.  According to John 1:17, “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  When the Lord came the first time He was meek and lowly (see Matthew 11:29), but He will come the second time with a rod of iron.  Revelation 19:15 says, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”  After He comes and judges the nations, after Israel finally accepts the fact that they rebelled against Him, He will make things right and set up a Kingdom of righteousness.  That kingdom will be a kingdom of peace and it will be a complete fulfillment of the “acceptable year of the Lord.”

 

I realize there are differences of opinion as to how and when some prophecies are fulfilled.  I don't want to be dogmatic about things we may not understand now but that believers will fully understand when they do happen.  But as I understand it, the world was offered peace through the Lord Jesus; and the world, led by His own Jewish people rejected Him.  The Jews are even now rebellious children according to Isaiah 1:2.  As a result, the Lord is calling out a new people to represent Him on earth.  Those who believe that the Lord is the Son of God, that He died for our sins, that He rose from the dead and that He is coming again to judge the nations that have rejected Him are the Lord's chosen people during this day of grace.  They have a spiritual birth where the Jews claim to blessing is by their natural births.  He has not rejected the Jews but they have rejected Him.  Because of that, He has set them aside for a time until they repent at His second coming and accept the fact that they crucified their Messiah.  When the Lord comes this second time, He will deliver the believers of this day from the wrath that is to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  So we are living in a day of grace and mercy, but the day of vengeance of our God is coming.  After the day of vengeance when the Lord punishes the nations for rejecting Him, He will set up a kingdom of peace.  Then the nations will no longer learn war.

 

What will that Day be Like?

How will the economies of the world survive without war?  How will the world be able to handle the increase in the population that will occur without war and disease?   I don't know how all of that will work; but I know that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, there has been hatred and violence on the earth.  The only One who was truly a man of peace, who always did good, who knew how to forgive sinners and heal the sick, was the Lord.  He didn't have an army and he didn't let His servants fight.  And He ended up on a cross dying at the hands of those he could have destroyed with twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53).

 

Because believers in this day of grace will be removed and taken to heaven before the day of vengeance of our God, we will not be on the earth when the nations no longer learn war.  But right now, we who are born again should do everything possible to save life and not destroy it.  We should certainly be concerned about every soul that goes out into eternity unsaved.   For those who think that guns will keep them safe, make sure you get trained so that no one is killed needlessly.   For the rest of us who hate guns and wars, we will have to take our chances that we just might die on a figurative cross.  May it be obvious to our friends and neighbors that those of us who claim to be followers of Christ are interested in saving rather than in taking life.  May we pursue peace and not war.

 

 

Meditation for the weeks of December 20 and 27, 2015