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February 2009

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Is God ashamed of me?

 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16

 

When Paul was suddenly converted to Christianity on the Damascus road, he began to embrace a Person and a doctrine that was very unpopular at the time. Before he was saved, he was climbing the political ladder of leadership and he was a part of the "in" group that was leading the country. After he was saved, he was associating himself with a man who had been considered a common criminal. He began to witness to the fact that the Lord was alive and that He was coming again. This was not popular with those that had crucified the Messiah. Paul who was a Hebrew by birth and Hebrew by religious practice was all of a sudden an outcast where he had been a well accepted person in the political party called the Pharisees. But instead of avoiding the reproach of Christ and the cross, he boldly preached that the One he had persecuted was in fact the Messiah. He was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.

The Gospel is still a message that some find shameful. The message starts with sin, and who wants to hear that they are not acceptable as they are? The message deals with the cross and a bloody sacrifice. This seems cruel to many. The message is humbling because it tells us that we can't save ourselves by anything that we do, but that we must become like little children and trust in One that we have never seen to have our sins forgiven. But the message is really wonderful. It tells us that we are loved by the God who created us and that when sin came into the world, He was willing to sacrifice His Son so that He could righteously forgive those who had sinned against Him. When we are willing to accept the truth that the Lord Jesus paid the penalty that we deserve because of our sin, we are saved, forgiven, justified, and set apart for God. All things become new. This is not something of which we need to be ashamed.

But my question is, "Will God be ashamed of the way I have presented the Gospel when I meet Him?" Do we present a balanced Gospel recognizing that we are all in the sin problem together, or do we tend to to make the Gospel an "us Saints against those sinners" kind of message? Sometimes we preach the Gospel from the standpoint of one of two sins that others practice that we find repugnant and we forget that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" and that includes those of us who are doing the preaching. Our sins may be different than the ones we find repugnant, but God finds them all to be offensive. We need to remember that we are all in this sin problem together. We need to preach from the standpoint of weakness and not self righteous pride. We need to go to those who are hurting and those who have been robbed by sin, and we need to make them realize that the only real difference between them and us is that we have faced the sin problem and have trusted the Lord to forgive us. Oh yes, that has no doubt given us a conscience about sin that we never had before, but in the final analysis, we are only sinners saved by grace.

We who are saved by grace have been given the opportunity to represent Christ to a world steeped in sin and rebellion. We need to remember that the sins of pride and hypocrisy were the sins that seemed to be most repugnant to the Lord. These were the sins of the religious people that thought they had it all together. These could easily be our sins and they could the the sins that keep others from coming to the Saviour who loves them.

 

Meditation for the week of February 1, 2009

 When I am Weak, than am I Strong

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 

2 Corinthians 12:10

 

We spend all of our life making sure that we are prepared to be strong when life throws curves at us. As children, we take karate or boxing or we have wrestling matches with our family. We do this so we are prepared to defend ourselves. We don't want to show weakness that encourages others to take advantage of us. As we grow older, we prepare for careers so that we can "get ahead" and provide for a family. If we go into business, we are taught that it is a "dog eat dog" world and that we we need to do unto others before they do unto us. No one wants to be weak in this world. That is the sign of a loser. Of course, that gives us a problem because that makes the Lord a loser. He could have called legions of angels and destroyed the world, but instead He allowed the self-assured Judas to betray him into the hands of a motley crowd who found comfort in numbers. Judas was confident in his decision to betray the Lord. After all, the Lord had delivered Himself from crowds before so He should be able to save Himself, so no harm should come from his decision. Judas was not happy that a woman would waste ointment worth a great sum of money and use it to anoint the Lord. To compensate himself for the loss of this money which he would have embezzled if it had been given to the work of the Lord, he sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Judas was strong and he identified with strong people. But of course Judas ended up committing suicide when he realized he had betrayed the Lord to His death.

Poor Judas. He was a thief and since there were thieves crucified with the Lord, he could easily have been on one of those crosses. But he had a foolproof method of stealing. He stole from One who couldn't possibly be hurt by what he was doing. After all the Lord had fed multitudes with five loaves and two small fishes. He had paid taxes by having Peter find the money in a fishes mouth. So the Lord could easily find ways to replace the embezzled money. And even if the Lord did know what Judas was doing, He was not likely to go to the authorities who were looking for Him and wanting to crucify Him. As a matter of fact, at the Last Supper, the Lord told the disciples that one of them would betray Him (Matthew 26:21). The other eleven asked if it was them. They recognized their weakness and wondered if somehow someway it might be them. Judas also asked if it was him and the Lord told him it was. Judas didn't ask because he wondered about his weakness. Judas wanted to know if the Lord knew that it was him The Lord knew but because Judas was self-willed and self-assured, He carried out his plan anyway. After all, how could he lose?

When Judas realized that his plan hadn't worked the way he thought it would, he tried to give the money back. But now he was on his own. His dastardly deed was done, and the chief priests and elders were no longer his friend. They basically laughed at him. The Lord had said that it would be better for the man who betrayed him not to have been born (Matthew 26:24). Now Judas understands what it is like to do the wrong thing just because you can and then to realize that there is no way to undo some decisions that are wrong, wrong, wrong!

I am convinced that when we are most confident we are right, when popular opinion supports the decisions we are making, when every "sign" seems to confirm our decision and when any other decisions seems to put us into an impossible bind, then that is likely when we are about to do something foolish that cannot be undone later. Often we make our decisions based on circumstances and popular opinion rather than the principles of the Word of God. Of course Judas was unsaved and this is the way an unsaved person makes decisions, but saved people can fall into the same trap. When we make Godly decisions, we usually are making decisions that seem foolish, that seem to waste resources, that no one encourages, that require us to rely completely on the Lord. That was the case with the woman who anointed the Lord with ointment in Matthew 26 before Judas betrayed the Lord in that same chapter. Her name lives on in fragrant memory. His name lives on in infamy.

 

Meditation for the week of February 8, 2009

Consequences

 

Judges 17:6, 21:25

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

 

When the nation of Israel was delivered out of Egypt, they became God's special people. As they traveled through the wilderness, He gave them a lot of laws to obey. Some of them had to do with diet, some had to do with sacrifice and the tabernacle, some had to do with diseases, and some had to do with moral issues. Some had to do with separation from those worshiping other Gods. Guarding these truths was necessary to be considered worshipers since devotional obedience is the basis of our worship. The Lord says "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams (1Samuel 15:22)." I wonder if they always understood the reason behind some of the laws or if they did what they were asked to do just because they were asked to do it?

When we look at their dietary laws, I wonder if they understood how bad animal fat was for a person. They were to trim the fat off of their animals and burn it on the altar to the Lord. They were to bleed the animal thoroughly and then not eat the blood which probably saved them from being exposed to blood related animal diseases. Most of the unclean animals of the old testament were either meat eaters or scavengers or animals that we now know were likely to carry disease. While we have modern means to overcome some of these dietary problems, eating a Jewish diet based on their laws would have been a healthy way to eat.

When we look at the tabernacle and the way they were to worship the Lord, they were given specific instructions as to how to build and what materials to use. I am sure that they did not understand that the tabernacle would teach us a lot about the Lord Jesus in new testament times. But since different parts of the tabernacle were built by different people, can you imagine how this elaborate tent would have looked when they began erecting it if each part had not been built according to the pattern?

The priests functioned as doctors when it came to keeping infectious diseases under control When a person was afflicted with what was then known as leprosy, they were to be placed outside the camp and they were to warn others that were approaching them that they were unclean. This kept the infections from spreading.

The moral issues of incest and adultery were given for the benefit of a smoothly running society and to keep genetic problems as well as the diseases that come with sexual immorality under control. Obeying these laws would have made them a healthier happier people.

Keeping the Israelites separate or holy was designed to keep them from being attracted to people who would tempt them to worship other Gods. Solomon in all his wisdom violated this principle and it ultimately led to a divided kingdom.

By the time they came to the end of the period in their history where judges ruled, things had deteriorated to where "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" rather than every man doing what God had decreed. They didn't respect the judges that ruled over them and they didn't seem to care what their own law said. As a result, bad things began happening in Israel and our verses sandwich an event that almost left Israel without the tribe of Benjamin.

As Christians, we may not fully understand why God has given us some of the new testament commands that He has, but I am convinced that they are given to us for a reason. If we walk by faith and not by sight, we should be faithful to what God desires and not do what is right in our own eyes. We should worship the Lord by obeying Him because of our devotion to the Lord and because God really does know what will bless us.

 

Meditation for the week of February 15, 2009

Sinning Willfully

 

Hebrews 10:26

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

 

We all have our own will. Whether our will is a totally "free" will could be argued. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, we are programmed to do the wrong thing with regard to our relationship with God and not the right thing which is to trust and obey Him. Left to ourselves our path would be away from God. We don't seek Him, He seeks us. The Holy Spirit has been sent into this world to seek us by convicting us of the truth that God lives and has sent His Son to be our sacrifice (see John 16:8-13). There is no doubt that all of us have the ability to respond positively to the Holy Spirit and to be convinced of the truth that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)."

Our verse seems to imply that we can be saved and then turn away from the truth and be lost forever. Many expositors interpret it that way. That would mean that we are saved by grace and kept safe by something that we do or do not do. However, we are saved by the work of Christ and not by our own works or efforts. That work never changes, and eternal life is just that, eternal. The God who saves us is the God who has the ability to keep us safe and secure until we enter the gates of heaven. We cannot depend on ourselves in any way to get to heaven. We must depend wholly on the the Lord Jesus Christ and His promises.

The book of Hebrews was written to the Jewish nation and when Paul writes "we," He is talking about "we Jews" and not necessarily about "we believers." The Jewish nation was favored by having God in their very presence in the old testament. They had Him dwelling in the tabernacle as they traveled from Egypt to the promised land. They had Him dwelling in the temple during the days of the Kings. They had the prophets who told them of the coming Messiah. They as a nation had received the knowledge of the truth but in spite of that, the leaders of the Jewish nation condemned the Lord to die on an old rugged cross. They willfully rejected the Lord and and they willfully rejected His death as being the means of our salvation. All of their animal sacrifices and all of their keeping of the law could not save those who had rejected the Lord. There is only one way of salvation and that is through faith in Christ.

This verse, then, is not telling us that we can be saved and lost. This verse is telling us that there is only one way to be saved; and, if we willfully reject that way, there is no other way of salvation. Matthew Henry in his Concise Commentary says this about this verse:

The sin here mentioned is a total and final falling away, when men, with a full and fixed will and resolution, despise and reject Christ, the only Saviour; despise and resist the Spirit, the only Sanctifier; and despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life.

The Jews fell away from what they could have had, not from what they did have.

 

People have always wondered if there is an unforgivable sin. There is. It is not the sin of adultery, or the sin of covetousness or the other moral evils that are so prevalent in our society. It is the sin of turning our back on our consciences as the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to draw us to the Savior. If we say no to that conviction, we are saying no to the Holy Spirit and His desire to teach us the things concerning Christ. That sin cannot be forgiven. John 3:18 says, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

 

Yes, there is a willful sin. Why should anyone commit it and be condemned for eternity?

 

Meditation for the week of February 22, 2009