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FEBRUARY 2004

 

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  • And he died, Genesis 5: 5, 8, 11, 14 ,17, 20, 27, 31; Genesis 9:29

  • Christ died for us, Romans 5:8

Death is a fact of life and seems to stand in stark contrast to the original purpose of God when he created Adam and Eve. Man was created “very good” and yet he ends up dying. Death is the last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26. Death is the “preacher of the old school” who makes us think about eternity. “And he died” will be said of all of us, no matter how long we live, apart from the Lord‘s return for the church. Why?

Death is the result of Satan’s deception of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan is the one who brings death. God is the giver of life. God considers life precious while Satan considers life expendable. He was a murderer from the beginning and a liar and the Father of Lies (John 8:44). Why is it so easy for men and societies and nations to kill each other when we know that life is precious and that death seals the everlasting punishment of those who die in rebellion against God and His Son, Jesus Christ? Is it because they are unwittingly doing Satan’s work?

Murder is commonplace today and many people see premeditated killing as a solution to political problems, to family feuds and to settling of grudges against individuals. Taking life is a way of controlling people. While the deaths of Genesis 5 remind us of the reality of sin and of the reality of God’s judgment because of sin, God’s desire is to give life. While we may die physically, He has provided His Son to die in our place (Romans 5:8) so that the curse of sin can be overcome. Satan is trying to hasten the deaths of men and women so that they will die before they trust in Christ. God is trying to woo us through the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) to become a part of His special (holy) people, set apart for blessing and service, by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ “who died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Unbelievers should fear death since death ends their opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15). Those who do not trust Christ die in their sins and the Lord says, “where I go, ye cannot come” (John 8:21-24). There is no reason for a believer in Christ to fear death (even though we might be anxious about the process of dying) because Christ has overcome death for us. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). He considers the death of His holy ones (saints) to be precious (Psalm 116:15). He likens death unto sleeping (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). He tells us that after we die we are present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

I am astounded at the ease with which some people take life, an act that can never be undone. Young people even take their own lives and we are told that they do not understand the permanent nature of what they are doing. I am sure that we all agree that taking life in self-defense is certainly just and this includes defending our families and by extension our countries. Sometimes life is taken unintentionally, but taking life in a premeditated way is not the characteristic of God or of the godly. John says no murderer has eternal life dwelling in him (1 John 3:15). My prayer is that my life will be remembered for being involved in giving life, both physical and spiritual, rather than in the taking of life.

 

Week of February 1, 2004

Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.

 

Being filled with the Spirit is a command. Obviously, this is in contrast to being filled with wine which is often sold in the “spirits” section of the grocery store. Wine can take control of us if we are filled with it. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, He takes control of us. In Acts 2:15, being filled with the Holy Spirit was confused with being drunk with wine by some of those that were there. The Bible is quite clear that being controlled by the Holy Spirit is a good thing and being controlled by any other spirit(s) including wine is a bad thing. When we are filled with the Spirit, it is much like being the Lord’s hand puppet. The puppet has no life of its own but the hand of the person controlling the puppet “fills” the puppet and makes the head and hands and feet move. The puppet never does its “own thing” but always does what the hand inside the puppet does. God wants to fill us in that way with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work if we have a mind or life of our own. That is why Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Today, everybody seems to have a different idea as to how to obtain this filling and what effect the filling has on us. But I believe that Paul is quite clear as to how to be filled and the results that will accompany this filling for us today.

In our passage, filling results in singing, thanksgiving and submitting. In Colossians 3:16-18, having the “Word of Christ dwell in you richly” results in singing, thanksgiving and submitting. The Word of God and the Spirit of God always work together in the Bible. In John 6:63 the Lord says, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life.” So if we are going to be filled with Spirit we are going to have to be submissive to the Word of God. We can’t make up our own minds as to how things should work but we need to let God instruct us. We can’t be like the man who said, “If all else fails follow the instructions.” Nor should we be like the one who said, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up.” Do we tell God how to save us or do we let Him tell us? Do we tell God how we want to worship Him or do we let Him tell us? Do we submit even when we really don’t think it makes sense for us today? For example, have we been immersed in water after we were saved (baptized) to show we are Christians? Do we let the Epistles guide us in our interpretation of the Bible and do we reverence these letters as the “Apostles’ Doctrine” or do we pick and choose the sections of the Apostle’s Doctrine that we want to obey? How many times have we told God how He should behave instead of listening to Him tell us how to behave?

Being filled with the Spirit requires us to trust God. We have to believe that He loves us and knows best. We need to believe that His way is going to be the best way for us. We need to learn to be filled with the Spirit and thus to be submissive to His will before we decide to do things our way and “mess up”. The old proverb that says “Father knows best” certainly applies here.

 

Week of February 8, 2004

Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

 

I find comfort in the fact that the inspired record leaves us an actual history of actual people. Some of them did great things for God but many of them were unbelievers and rejected the God of Adam and Eve. Noah was a person who did something great. He apparently became one of those who called on the name of the Lord (that is he prayed to the creator God of Adam and Eve and not to idols or other so-called gods, see Genesis 4:26). I believe the statement that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord refers to his day of salvation when he was delivered from the spiritual consequences of his own sinnership which led to physical deliverance during the flood.

Some define grace as not being able to do anything to be saved or to become a worshipper of God since grace is a gift that we cannot earn. I personally would differ with that definition, however. While grace is a gift that cannot be earned, I believe that grace is not being able to do anything to deserve to be saved since we are all undeserving. But grace does not say that we cannot receive God’s gift unless God enables (or forces) us to receive it. God does not force anyone to accept what He has offered. We receive God’s offer of salvation by faith just as Noah did in the old testament. Faith is more than a decision. It is a work of the Holy Spirit in the life of one who decides that he wants to know the truth and who finally accepts what God has said about him (that he is a sinner that sins) and then accepts or trusts in what God says about Christ (that Christ died for sinners).

I don’t suppose Noah understood God’s plan of salvation as clearly as we do today but he certainly accepted what He knew. He knew judgment was coming. He obeyed God in providing for coming judgment. His success was to see himself and his wife, his three sons and their wives saved. But he wasn’t saved because he deserved to be saved but because he had found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

I accept Moses’ record of Noah’s story as being literally accurate. But I believe it also has allegorical teaching. Noah is the first one born in Genesis 6 after Adam dies. All of the other persons mentioned were contemporary with Adam for a part of their lives. Adam represents what we are by nature. Noah represents what we are by faith. Noah represents the “new man” produced through the regenerating power of the new birth. Noah proved his faith by doing that which made no sense naturally but which made sense spiritually. He built an ark on dry ground for a rain that didn’t come for 120 years. But all of this did not make Him “worthy” of the grace of God. But because he appreciated the grace of God, he proved by His life that God was “worthy” of His worship (worth ship) and trust. God did not fail Noah and Noah did not fail God. And it was all because Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Have we found that same grace and has it affected us the way it did Noah? Are we willing to do that which makes no sense naturally in order to be true worshippers spiritually. Do we have enough confidence in God and His grace to do that which may not appear to be “successful” by man’s standards just because we want to be faithful to one who has shown us grace? I am glad for the day when I found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Week of February 15, 2004

John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

2Peter 3:4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

If I go. . .I will come again. The promise of the second coming of the Lord Jesus is as clear as the promise of eternal life to those who believe in (or trust in) His work of redemption. When the Lord came the first time there were a few that were waiting for Him. Simeon (Luke 2:25-30), Anna (Luke 2:36-38) and Mary his mother were among the faithful. Are we going to be among the faithful disciples who are waiting and watching for the Lord to come the second time?

We live in a day when we who are Christians mouth the words that the Lord is coming but I doubt if the world can see in our lives and attitudes that we really believe it. We know that the Lord’s coming is a blessing for the saved but it ushers in judgment (the wrath of God, see Revelation 6:16-17) for an unbelieving world. It appears to me that the second coming of the Lord involves His coming to save Christians from the coming judgment (we call that the rapture or the catching away of the Saints) as well as His coming to establish His kingdom which will last for a 1000 years (we call that the Revelation of the Lord as King). The rapture is taught in Revelation 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. The revelation is seen in Revelation 19:11-21. In the first three Gospels when the Lord refers to His coming, He talks about one second coming which we usually link with His coming to reign, that is to His revelation. I do not think that the first three Gospels exclude the idea that His second coming has a number of events associated with it, and one of those events is saving the believer from coming judgment. In other words, the second coming actually involves all the events leading up the righteous reign of Christ which would include the rapture as well as the tribulation period which involves God’s wrath upon a Christ-rejecting world before the Lord physically comes to establish His Kingdom.

We may disagree as to how the events of the second coming of Christ play out. But we have to agree that there is going to be a literal second coming when “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).” Peter reminds us that the second coming of the Lord will be scoffed at in the last days. As I understand Peter, the reason that the Lord has not yet come is because He is still providing opportunity for unbelievers to change their mind and to come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:9). If it is obvious that the earth is the believer’s heaven, that earthly pursuits are our goals, that earthly politics represent our solutions to life’s spiritual problems and if the church is designed to make us happy rather than God, how will the unsaved know that the Lord is coming? The unbeliever should be terrified by the Lord’s promise to come again. We who are saved should “comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18)” and then live like we believe the promise.

Week of February 22, 2004

Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: {strait: or, narrow}

Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Few there be that find it! Even though multitudes followed the Lord hearing Him preach and watching Him heal, there were only 120 that gathered together in the upper room after the resurrection to pray (Acts 1:15). There were only a few that were real.

Today, everywhere I go I hear people tell me about the believers in the area. It gets to the point where I wonder if the Gospel of the grace of God even needs to be presented because so many in the areas where I live and work seem to be believers. Admittedly, they don’t get baptized like the teaching and examples of the Bible, many don’t attend churches or congregations that worship the Lord as the Son of God and as the only once and for all sacrifice for sins. Most don’t really believe that the Bible is literally true. Instead they believe that it contains truth and therefore they aren’t too worried about “doctrine” (that is teaching of the basic principles of Christianity as found in the epistles of our Bible). Yet they have a reverence for “God” and are moral in their lives and as such we declare them “believers” and cease praying for their eternal well-being. We certainly don’t preach the Gospel to them since they apparently already know it and we don‘t want them to think that we are questioning their reality. I wonder if this really represents “love” and “consideration” for our neighbors.

Abraham must have been surprised at how few “believers” there were in Sodom. Back in Genesis 18, when the Lord was about to destroy Sodom, Abraham pleaded with the Lord not to destroy it if there were 50 righteous in the city. Sodom was a wicked rebellious unbelieving city but Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family lived there. I am sure that Abraham thought that Lot and his family were all “believers”. So after the Lord agreed to spare the city for 50, Abraham says, “What if there are only 45?” He gets the Lord to agree to spare it for 45. Then he pleads for 30, then 20 and then 10. When Abraham gets to ten he stops pleading. I think he thought the city would have to be spared. After all, in Genesis 19:12, Lot had sons-in-law (4 people), sons (2 people), daughters (2 people) and there was Lot and his wife (2 people). That adds up to 10. How it must have surprised and saddened Abraham when he saw the city being destroyed.

I don’t think we should assume that all of our friends, neighbors and family members are believers. In view of the fact that the coming of the Lord is ready or near (Revelation 1: 3), we who are believers need to be praying about our friends and neighbors and we need to keep preaching that “we must be saved (Acts 4:12)”. It is possible we may see some saved that we thought were saved and it is possible that we will see some saved that were definitely not saved. If we do, they will thank us, the Lord will thank us and we will have done our job. If we begin to think that most around us are believers in the Biblical sense, Satan will have won and we may actually contribute to the fact that “few there be that find it!”

Week of February 29, 2004