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FEBRUARY 2010

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You Were not Willing!

 

Matthew 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

 

Jerusalem is the center of the earth as far as God is concerned. We could likely go farther and say that the earth is the center of the universe and that Jerusalem, the City of David, is the center of the earth. Jerusalem is a city that was privileged. Jehovah was worshiped there long before it became the capital of the nation of Israel. In Genesis 14:18 we are introduced to Melchizedek king of Salem (Jerusalem), and he was the priest of God Most High.

But Jerusalem developed a form of worship that was more important to them than the God that they were supposed to be worshiping. They had a religion but they were rebellious. In Isaiah we read, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master's crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider (Isaiah 1:2-3).'" While the Lord has always had a faithful remnant that truly worships and believes in Him; and while there were partial revivals under Ezra and Nehemiah and again under John the Baptist, the religious leaders over the years had their minds made up, and they didn't want to be confused with the facts. So when prophets were sent to some of the Kings who were worshiping heathen Gods with critical messages, the Kings of Israel actually killed the prophets of the Lord.

Things may be bad for Israel and Jerusalem right now but as I understand Scripture, during the tribulation period things will get worse before they get better. And it didn't have to be that way because the Lord tried to speak to them over and over again. When destruction comes it won't be because God didn't love them or try to save them. It will be because the occupants of this privileged city "were not willing."

I think of people who call themselves Christians today and I wonder how many of them really understand what it means to "repent and believe." Repentance isn't just turning from immorality. Many religious people who have never been saved do that when they decide that they want to live "better" lives. Instead it is "turning from idols to God (1 Thessalonians 1:9)." In the Bible turning to idols usually causes immorality and turning from idols is the best way to cause people to turn from immorality. When I go to my place of worship on Sunday morning, I wonder how many people who are sitting by me have "turned from idols to serve the living and true God." We break bread together and we listen to the Word of God being preached, but do we all actually know the Lord as our Savior? Or are we worshiping a God that we have made up in our own minds? How many of our children who have been raised in Christian homes have really been born again and how many of them have been told that they were born again by their parents or friends or Sunday School teachers? How many of us really believe that God can only be worshiped One Way and that way starts by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? That One Way involves trusting and not doing to go to heaven. No ceremony, no good work, no system of religion will ever take the place of the Lord Jesus who offers Himself to the world as the way to heaven.

What scares me is that if Jerusalem in the Lord's day could think that they were so right and be so wrong, could that be true of ME? Yes, it could! And could it be true of my church or congregation where I worship? Yes, it could! None of us are going to enter heaven based on what others say, nor are we going to get there based on what we "thought" was right. We are going to get there only through faith in the blood of Christ. I can't give anyone that faith. I don't even know for sure who among my friends and family really have it. But I do know that none of us will get to heaven any other way.

Those who miss out on God's salvation will no doubt be haunted by their memories as they spend eternity away from God and the joys of heaven. They will not doubt remember "how often" the Lord offered them His salvation and they WERE NOT WILLING!

 

Meditation for the week of February 7, 2010

Does the Lord know that we Love Him?

 

John 21:17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.

 

The Lord knows all things. We knew that. The Lord knows whether or not we love Him.

Men in particular seem to have trouble using the L world. Sometimes it is because they are afraid of the commitment that might be involved when they say the word. Sometimes it is because they haven't seen love expressed in their own parent's relationships and never had it properly expressed to them. I know a man who told me that when he got married, he told his wife he loved her. He told her that if things ever changed he would tell her. They had been married for many years when I knew them, so apparently things hadn't changed.

Love has many facets. In the Bible, the word can mean charity or it can mean friendship. Charity is usually love for an object that may not return the love, and it usually involves doing something sacrificial. Friendship usually has to do with a shared relationship. Peter had told the Lord that he would die for Him and then denied him three times when the Lord was being examined in the palace of the High Priest. Now after the resurrection, the Lord asks Peter if he loves Him. Our English versions of this exchange do not make it obvious that different concepts of love are being used in the questions. The first two times the Lord asks the question, He asks if Peter has charity for Him. In other words, would Peter really be willing to die for Him? Peter tells the Lord that he loves Him, but his answer uses the word friend. It seems to me that Peter was confessing his weakness and his sin in denying the Lord without really having to describe all the details of what he had done. The last time, when the Lord asks Peter if he loves Him, He asks if Peter really is His friend. And Peter says, "Lord you know all things, you know that I am your friend." Now I realize we should love the Lord with charity and we should love the Lord as a friend. Both are important. My question is, does the Lord know that we love Him at all? Have we ever told Him that?

Some relationship experts tell those of us who have trouble saying, "I love you," to ask ourselves if we really do love the other person. If we don't love the other person, saying, "I love you," would then be dishonest and a lie. However, if that is not the problem, then the experts say that we should say the words whether they make us uncomfortable or not. They say that saying them will be honest and make it easier to say the words the next time. And saying the words just once like my friend did, usually isn't enough.

Now if saying the words to a person that we love is so important, how much more important is it to be able to say it to the Lord? And when we tell Him, I am sure that He would like to called by His name. It is one thing to say that we love God, but those of us that are saved love the Lord Jesus. Calling Him God seems formal and abstract. Calling Him the Lord Jesus, makes Him personal and real.

The only reason that I can see for not saying, "Lord Jesus I love you," would be if we don't. If we have never really seen our sinnership and depravity and our need of the Lord's sacrificial death, we probably would not be able to say these words honestly. And being honest would be the first step toward coming to that place where we do trust the Lord to save us and where we do come to love Him. Then we would be able to honestly sing the hymn:

 

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;

for thee all the follies of sin I resign.

My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;

if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

 

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,

and purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;

I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;

if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

 

Meditation for the week of February 14, 2010

Getting Things Backward!

 

Luke 13:30 "And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last."

 

The Lord keeps doing things backward. When will He get with the program and start running things like man would run them if man really were God?

The last will be first? Who wants to be last in this life? I remember what it was like to be picked last for gym teams in junior high school. It was not fun. I couldn't see very well and was a little over-weight, so I was usually considered to be the best person the other team had. But God says the last will be first so maybe my time is coming. I think the Lord was saying that the Jews who were proud of their heritage and who thought they were number one in their relationship with God would one day be standing at a closed door to the kingdom, and the Gentiles who were last and unclean in the eyes of the Jews would be the ones who would accept Christ and enter in. This reminds me of another place where the Lord seems to have things backwards:

In Luke 5:32, the Lord says, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." He appears to be saying that the righteous do not see their need of repentance while sinners do. Now of course we find out over and over again in Scripture that no one is really righteous. But surely trying to live right has got to count for something, right? How can a person who has "done the best they could" all of their lives be shut out of heaven while somebody who has lived like sin but ultimately repents and believes on the Lord Jesus gets to enter in? That certainly doesn't seem right, now does it? Of course it was those who knew how to tithe and fast and publicly pray and do alms that seemed to have no conscience about crucifying an innocent man that they envied. Maybe the righteous aren't so righteous!

Then I think of how the Lord says that we live by dying. In Mark 8:35 the Lord says, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it." Now some people actually lost their physical lives for the sake of the Gospel, and the Lord says they were the ones who saved their lives. We know that salvation from the penalty of our sin is based on faith alone in the Lord Jesus. But there is another sense in which we can save or preserve our lives. If we live our lives with eternity in view rather than with present temporal blessing in view, we will lose our lives now but save them so that God can use us in His eternal program. Paul seemed to understand this. He turned his back on a political career as a Pharisee in order to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. He died at the hands of the Emperor Nero, but because of his denying Himself and taking up his cross many of us are saved today. His letters written while he was in prison have been the doctrinal guide for Christians down through the ages. He could have prospered in this world because he had "potential," and I am sure that his relatives and friends would have cautioned him against the path that he took. But it appears to me that he lived by dying.

And then there is that business about being strong when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:10) and being wise when we are foolish (1 Corinthians 1:27). What about that business of leading and being great by serving (Mark 9:35). Is it really the humble and not the proud that are advanced in the Kingdom (Luke 14:11)? The next thing you know, we will really believe that there was great victory obtained by this King Who was crucified!

I'm afraid that it isn't the Lord who has things backwards? It is us. We like to play by the world's rules and forget the benefits that come with playing the game by the Lord's rules. Yes, the Lord may seem to have things backwards, but somehow I think He knows what He is doing. We will probably never know for sure this side of eternity; however, since nobody that I know has ever had enough confidence in the Lord to completely follow His plan, and that includes this author.

Meditation for the week of February 21, 2010

How Important is Biblical Doctrine?

 

Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

The word doctrine means teaching. The things that we are taught are very important which is why our children go to school for at least seventeen years if they want good jobs in this world. When we get done learning all there is to learn in this life, then we have to start over because the things that we were once taught were true seem to no longer be true. At one time, the sun was thought to rotate around the earth. Now it is believed that the earth rotates around the sun. I believe scientists finally have it right because it makes sense to me that the sun which represents the Son should be the center of the universe. Good doctrine keeps Him at the center of all that we believe. The apostles' doctrine does that and is found in the letters or epistles of our new testament.

Many churches today say that they don't teach doctrine. I don't know what they mean because that sentence is redundant. They don't teach teaching? I think what they mean is that they don't teach anything that is going to be divisive or that the so-called christian church as a whole disagrees on. So they don't take positions on how or when to be baptized. They don't take positions on how or when to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread. I suspect they are not teaching all the truths on separation or morality. But they are teaching something. I am afraid that many churches are teaching what the majority want to believe rather than what God says we should believe. As a result, they shy away from the truth that there is only one God manifested in three persons. They shy away from the Biblical teachings about hell and the lake of fire. They don't get too occupied with the Lord's second coming. They avoid the doctrines having to do with the distinctive roles of men and women in the local church. Many people would like to believe that we can be right with God without the new birth.

The Bible says we must repent and believe. I personally believe that means that we must repent TO believe. The teaching of good sound wholesome doctrine from the Bible changes our minds where we disagree with God. The unsaved are brought to saving faith when they hear the doctrines of the Gospel as taught by the apostles (Romans 10:17). The saved are taught how to please the Lord and worship Him acceptably as they hear the apostles' doctrine.

The Lord was a teacher. He taught with stories that had applications to real life, and He taught straight up unadulterated clear principles. Then He says in Luke 6:46, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" He says that when we hear His teaching which also became the teaching of the apostles, we are building our houses or lives on a rock. If we base our lives on anything else, we are building our houses on sand and the foundation will not stand when the storms of life come.

Doctrine is the basis for fellowship or partnership. Some would say our fellowship is based simply on the fact that we are saved. But we aren't saved unless we have believed the doctrines of the Gospel. So doctrine is what brings us into fellowship, even if that fellowship is somewhat limited because of our disagreement on what pleases the Lord after we are saved. As we hear the apostles' doctrine and agree with it, our fellowship becomes broader and we find ourselves associating with those who also agree with what the apostles said. The more we find ourselves agreeing with God, the sweeter will be our fellowship with each other. John says, "that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3)." It is possible to have agreement and partnership apart from the apostle's doctrine, but that fellowship will be man-made and will not bring us into partnership or fellowship with the Lord. But fellowship based on the apostles' teaching will keep us in fellowship with the Lord, and ultimately, we will be in fellowship with those who are in fellowship with the Lord. That kind of fellowship is based on bedrock truth and is sweet.

What we teach and what we believe greatly affects us. It will determine who are friends are, how we behave and how we worship. We need to make sure that we who teach, teach only what we can support based on the doctrine of the apostles. And as we listen to teaching, we need to make sure that the teaching is Biblical so that we are kept in fellowship with the Lord. Then we will have sweet fellowship with those who are in fellowship with the Lord.

 

Meditation for the week of February 28, 2010