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FEBRUARY 2011

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The Joy of Being in the Saving Business!

 

Acts 16:30-31 And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

 

Recently, I came out of our house and saw a car stuck in the snow bank on a curve near our garage. In other years, we have seen cars end up there. So far none of them have ended up in the garages or houses near that particular icy spot. Now normally, that curve would not be a problem. But when the road is slick. if a person violates the ten mile per hour speed limit it is possible to end up stuck.

Being the "Good Samaritan" that I am, I went over and tried to help push the car out. A young women had been driving. She was late picking up a daughter from a relative who was caring for her. I could not budge the car. So I got a little sand and put it under the wheels, and I pushed while she spun the wheels with no luck. So I got an ice hoe and started freeing up the snow around the tire and bumper that seemed to be the problem. While she used my cell phone to call her relative to tell her she might be late, I got in her car and rocked it out. I heard her yell over the phone, "Oh he's got it out!" Then she thanked me over and over again for being her knight in shining armor and "saving" her. Normally, I am the one with a problem that needs fixing, and I have to rely on others to "save" me. This time I got to do the saving and it felt good.

The Lord has made it clear that we are to help one another. We are to love one another as God gave us commandment (1 John 3:23). But often we are like the ruler in Luke 13 who says, "Who is my neighbor (Luke 10:29)?" The Jews would have normally considered other Jews neighbors, but not Samaritans or other non-Jews that they called dogs. Christians know that they are to help other Christians, but what about unbelievers? What about other ethnic groups? What about drug addicts, the homeless, and the openly gay community? Sometimes we seem to fear that by helping them we will only enable the poor to stay poor and the immoral to continue living in immorality. Our instructions are clear however. We are told, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10)." Doing good to all is the way we show our love, It does not suggest that we approve the actions that caused the problems. I helped the young lady get her car out, but I also suggested that maybe she ought to slow up.

In Genesis 4, Cain tried to dismiss the fact that he had killed his brother by pleading ignorance about where Abel was and by asking the Lord if he was his brother's keeper (Genesis 4:9). Yes, we are supposed to be our brother's keeper. We do have a responsibility for those who are less fortunate that we are. If we do our "saving' the way the Lord does His, we will do it because we want to show favor that is not deserved even if that enables the person to continue in a destructive lifestyle. We can pray for them, we can counsel them; and where there is a church problem with sin, we can discipline them. But ultimately, we are our brother's keeper; and we must help them with their practical needs. We also need to help them spiritually.

I have "saved" other people that needed practical help and it felt good. I want to have more opportunities to do that and I hope I am not too blind or busy to take advantage of those opportunities. But I have also been the instrument that the Lord has used to "save" people from the penalty and power of their sin. That feels even better. Paul and Silas must have been ecstatic when they realized that the Lord had called them from Turkey to Greece to see a man who was guarding them in jail saved.

It felt good to be able to "save" this gal who slid into the snow bank. I wonder how it makes the Lord feel when He realizes that He has been the means of seeing another person delivered from the penalty and power of sin? I know there is joy in heaven when sinners repent (Luke 15:7, 10). I may never be Roy Rogers or Superman, and I may never really be a knight in shining armor. However, I can dream can't I? This saving business is the best business there is, particularly when people are saved eternally.

 

Meditation for the week of February 6, 2011

The Best Love Story of All!

 

Job 4:7 "Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?

 

Who ever perished being innocent? The Lord did! Fortunately He didn't perish eternally. He was raised from the dead; and now those who of us who deserved to perish eternally because of our sin, do not have to perish.

Was the Lord truly innocent? Pilate thought He was. He washed his hands in front of the crowd to declare his own innocence in executing an innocent man. But, of course, what he was doing was wrong whether he washed his hands or not. Pilate's wife thought the Lord was innocent and warned him not to be a part of his execution. Judas, who betrayed the Lord, also thought he was innocent. He knew he was betraying innocent blood but apparently expected the Lord to use his "magical" powers to keep from being harmed. When that didn't happen, he was remorseful; but he couldn't undo what he had so foolishly done. Matthew 27 records all of these declarations of innocence. Yet the Lord was still crucified for being the Son of God. That was considered blasphemy by the Jews. But it isn't blasphemy if it is true, and the resurrection of the Lord declares this to be true.

Most of us hate to see a miscarriage of justice. Today many people who have been found guilty of crimes committed years ago have been declared innocent through technological advances involving the testing of DNA. But while this is terrible, since many of these people have spent years in jail, these people were thought to be guilty. The Lord was thought to be innocent, and yet He was crucified. What a miscarriage of justice this was, particularly when religious leaders were the ones wanting Him to be crucified.

Religion without a relationship with Christ can be very cruel. It tends to be self-serving and hypocritical. Generally religious people tell others about their supposed sins without dealing with their own. The Jews proclaimed Jesus a sinner because He made Himself the Son of God while even Pilate knew that the only real sin was their own hypocrisy and envy (Matthew 27:18). It is easy to point out the sins of others while failing to deal with our own. The Lord tells us to deal with our own sins so we can see clearly to deal with the sins of others. Matthew 7:5 says, "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

The Lord had no sin. He was the One who perished being innocent so the guilty do not need to perish. We who are saved are not good (Romans 3:12), instead we are forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). The injustice of man has proven the goodness of God. The goodness of God is seen in his love for the guilty and in His willingness to sacrifice His innocent Son in whom was all His delight in order to spare the guilty that He loved. If there is a true love story for Valentine's day, this would be it.

 

Meditation for the week of February 13, 2010

Throwing Good Money after Bad!

 

Mark 2:21-22 "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins."

 

In business, sometimes we make bad investments. There is a tendency to think that spending more money on a bad investment might turn it into a good investment. But by spending more money, all we are doing is throwing good money after bad. It would be better to accept our losses and save our money. In a similar way, new cloth cannot properly repair an old garment and new wine cannot be put into old wineskins. What does this mean? The law was the old garment that new cloth could not repair, and it was also the old wineskins that were not able to hold new wine. Christ had come to preach good news, but a people used to fasting and failure under the law were not ready for the changes that the Lord was bringing to them. He was healing. He was mingling with publicans and sinners so that they could have new lives. He was bringing joy. He was not setting aside the law, but He was bringing something that the law could not provide. He was bringing salvation from the penalty of sin. He was bringing deliverance from bondage. He was freeing the Jews from the deadness of religion to live a new life in Him. While the Jews had failed under the law and so do we, they still wanted the comfort and structure of a legalism that brought death. They weren't able to see that the Lord wanted to free them from failure and servitude to sin. But since ritualism and law was what they knew, the Jews wanted to throw good money after bad. They wanted to continue doing what had not worked and will never work. The law brings guilt, the Lord brings forgiveness and justification and joy.

Today, we still have people who are trying to please God by keeping the law. But they pick and choose which laws they think we should keep. Some want us to keep the Sabbath. Others want us to obey the dietary laws. Some churches seem to think that they should be patterned after the priestly rituals of the old testament. But I don't hear any of them valuing men and women differently as was done in the old testament. See Leviticus 27 for valuations of people dedicated to the Lord. I don't see farmers leaving their ground unworked every seventh year. I have never seen debts forgiven and slaves set free as required by the law. Generally, I don't think most Christians are willing to stone the immoral today. Nor are they willing to stone unbelievers who blaspheme the name of the Lord as required under the old testament law. Many people believe that the covenants of the old testament that were given to Adam and Eve and then to Noah and ultimately to the children of Israel are the covenants of the church today. They fail to realize that when the Lord said to Adam and Eve and then to Noah to go forth and multiply, the new wine counterpart would be to go into the world and preach the Gospel so that people are born again and disciples are multiplied.

Salvation has always been through faith, but the Lord says that the ceremonies have changed. We no longer have a temple and animal sacrifices. We no longer have circumcision as a sign of our covenant relationship with Jehovah. Trying to live as though things have not changed destroys the work that God is doing in this present day of grace. The principles of the old testament have not changed. God still wants His people to worship Him and Him alone. He wants us to judge sin "in the camp", that is, in the church. But stoning in the old testament is excommunication from the church in the new. Circumcision and the animal sacrifices have been replaced with baptism and the Lord's Supper. The old covenant is replaced with a new one according to Hebrews 8 and 9. The old one had an earthly land, an earthly people and earthly promises. The new one has a spiritual land (heaven), a spiritual people (believers), and spiritual promises (eternal life). While God is not done with the Jewish nation, even the Jews have to accept the "new wine" in order to be part of this one church that God is calling out of the world to Himself. To be part of the covenant people of the old testament you had to be born right. You had to descend from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To be part of the covenant people of the new testament you also have to be born right. You have to be born again (1 Peter 1:23).

We don't fight physical battles anymore with physical weapons. We fight spiritual ones with the Word of God and with prayer (Ephesians 6:17-18). We have a new covenant, a new commission and a new joy. We know that the new testament uses the old testament to illustrate Biblical Truth, but when we make ourselves Israelites who are trying to obtain blessing using the old testament covenants and promises, we are just throwing good money after bad. We lose the strength and joy of the new wine that has been provided in Christ.

 

Meditation for the week of February 20, 2010

Standing between the Dead and the Living

 

Numbers 16:47-48 Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.

Recently after breakfast, as I often do, I opened up the home page of our local newspaper using the internet. There was a breaking news item telling about a fire that had broken out on the east side of town. A passerby who was from out of town and who is being called a hero saw the fire and called 911. He then helped a seventeen year old out of the house. The mother was on the second floor and was calling for help to get the seventeen year old out. When the person who saw the fire went back for the mother, the house was engulfed in flames and the mother lost her life.

I am sure that family had not planned for the day to turn out that way. But what I really wondered is, "Did anyone love them enough to share the love of God with them?" Were they prepared for what happened?

In a sense a person who shares the Gospel stands between the "dead and the living" and tries to save people from the judgment of God that is going to fall on unbelievers. He tries to spare people from an eternal separation from God. We are dead IN sins (Ephesians 2:1) when we are born the first time. That just means that sin has separated us from God and we have no "connection" with God, that is, no relationship with Him. We walk the way an unsaved society walks. But when we hear the Gospel, we who respond to it and who trust the Lord who died for us, are born again. We are given a new life in Christ. We are now dead TO sin where sin is our old master (Romans 6:2). But being dead to sin, makes us alive to Christ. Sin, the old master, no longer masters us and we live now to enjoy a new life in Christ. In addition, we who were headed to the second death (Revelation 20:14), are now headed to a life with the Lord in that city where never comes night (Revelation 21:5).

Moses was a great intercessor. He prayed for the people of Israel when they rebelled against God and when they rebelled against him. He kept the judgment of God from falling on them on more than one occasion. He stood in a sense between the dead and the living. I am sure that it would have been easy to see the rebellious Israelites as worthless and unappreciative and to have given up on them. Even though Moses got angry, he never ceased loving and interceding for those who sinned. On the occasion mentioned above, a plague was stopped and people were saved because Aaron was able to stand between the dead and the living according to Moses' instructions.

I wonder if we realize that we who share and preach the Gospel are really standing between the dead (those who are in rebellion against God) and the living (those who are saved). It is a solemn responsibility to realize that we have the massage that saves and that Satan has the message that kills and destroys and that we who are saved are trying to stop the judgment that sinners deserves. According to John 5:24, when a person trusts Christ, that person passes from death unto life.

Being a doctor and curing a disease must be great. Being a life guard and saving a drowning victim must be really satisfying. These people are standing between the dead and the living. But to preach the Gospel and to see souls delivered from a spiritual death that is eternal, is the greatest responsibility that mortal man can have. Someone met a physical need to stand between the dead and the living for a seventeen year old this week. I hope somebody, met that same spiritual need for this family that experienced such an unexpected tragedy.

 

Meditation for the week of February 27, 2011