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FEBRUARY 2013

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Peer Pressure

 

Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?" (Matthew 21:23)

 

The Lord had just made his "triumphal entry" entry into Jerusalem. He had cleansed the temple, overthrowing the tables of those who were merchandising religion. He had healed the lame and the blind and had cursed a fig tree which withered up because it wasn't bearing fruit. Then the chief priests and elders of the people had the audacity to come to the Lord and ask Him who had given Him the right to do these things because they surely hadn't.

The Lord was born in Bethlehem without a natural father which meant that he appeared to be illegitimate to those who didn't believe the Scriptures. He grew up in Nazareth, a town despised by most Jews. He didn't get the formal schooling that a religious leader would normally get from the Rabbi's. He didn't have riches and the power that sometimes goes with that. However, He spoke with authority and the people could detect that from the beginning of his ministry. In Matthew 7:29 we read, "For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." I think even the average citizen of that day knew that the Lord knew what He was talking about while the scribes and religious leaders did not. But if that is true, why did the people listen to the scribes and Pharisees and encourage the Romans to crucify the Lord? I believe the answer is "peer pressure."

The religious leaders had the right education, they had the right connections, they had the approval of their peers, they had riches in most cases, and they were "in" with the Roman leaders. But they didn't know their own Bibles. They didn't see that Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 and other old testament prophecies required the Lord to suffer before He could reign. They could quote the Scriptures and they could teach their traditions, but they simply didn't know what they were talking about.

My question is, "Had I been there in that day and at that time, who would I have followed?" But a better question is, "In our day and in our time, who am I following?" If peer pressure caused the people to listen to the leaders who wanted to crucify the Lord in His day, how much easier it must be for us to be affected by peer pressure and listen to the wrong leaders today.

The Lord got His authority from His Father who on two occasions said that this was His beloved Son and that He should be listened to and followed. One time was at His baptism and one time was at the Mount of Transfiguration. The first time, quite a few likely heard the voice from heaven. The second time only three disciples heard that voice. But even without the voice from heaven, after the Lord taught the people the principles of the Kingdom in the sermon on the mount, they detected that He knew what He was taking about. They seemed to sense his authority even though His message was radically different from what a Jew would normally be taught. The Lord taught them to worship in private, not in public. They were to be peacemakers. They were to turn the other cheek, to have their riches in heaven and not on earth. They were to depend upon the Lord for their daily needs, to forgive, to not judge hypocritically; and to recognize that the most people are on the broad road that leads to destruction. This was not a message that the people would usually hear from their religious leaders.

So who are we listening to today? There are some basic things that I want to know before listening to a teacher. I want to know how that person was reached and saved. How did he or she become a believer in the Lord Jesus? I want to know if that person was willing to identify with the Lord in an immersion ceremony called baptism in order to confess his or her faith in the Lord. If those foundations are not clearly understood, I question the ability of that man or woman to be able to be spirit led in their teaching and understanding of the Scripture. If a man or woman is truly saved and has spent time alone with God, I don't think it is difficult to detect the "touch of God" in his or her ministry. That's the kind of person we should be listening to today.

Because of the power of peer pressure, this is something we all need to pray about. I personally want to follow men who are obviously getting their authority from the Lord Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Meditation for the week of February 3, 2013

A Word for the Wise!

 

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30)

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

Even when we were dead in trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Ephesians 2:5)

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)

 

Years ago, I had a junker for a car. I was having the tires wear so I took it to a tire dealership that did front-end work. I remember the mechanic getting under the car and poking here and prodding there. He then rolled out from under the car and looked at me with a grin and said, "We can save her." He was the man who could do it. So I drove that car for some more miles because the car had been saved.

The word "saved" or "salvation" is used quite frequently in the Scripture but it doesn't always mean the same thing. The Scriptures that I have included with this meditation, all have to do with being delivered from the penalty that we deserve because of our sin. It is the idea of being delivered from danger. This concept of salvation is sometimes looked at in the Bible as a new birth (John 1:12-14, 1 Peter 1:23). Sometimes it is looked at as a resurrection (John 5:24). It is always an important event in the life of one who is going to heaven. When a person is saved, the lost is found, the unbeliever changes his or her mind and trusts in the Lord, and the spiritually blind begin to see or understand.

Salvation can also mean preservation. I believe that is what Paul is talking about when he writes to Timothy and says, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:16)." The word can also deal with the future deliverance of the Christian from the wrath of God that will be poured out on this world. This deliverance has to do with the Lord's return. In Romans 13:11, Paul says, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed." So believers in Christ have been saved (delivered) from the penalty of sin, they are being saved (preserved) from the power of sin, and they will be saved from the presence of sin at the coming of the Lord.

Salvation is the most important doctrine or teaching of Scripture. The Lord died to save us, God sent the Holy Spirit to draw us to the Savior so we can be saved, God gave us the Scriptures to tell us how to be saved and how to be sure that we are saved. God's way of salvation shows us our value to God. It is the most sacrificial expression of love that the world has ever seen or can ever know. Yet in the so-called Christian church, often this doctrine is either ignored, watered down or changed.

When people tell me that they are saved, I like to ask them what it was like to be lost. Then I like to ask them how they are sure they are saved. I am personally sure because God says Christ died for me and I can give you a number of Scriptures that make me that promise. I am not saved and sure of it because somebody told me I was saved. I am saved because Christ died for me and I have the promise of God for that.

One thing I have found out over the years is that God is faithful and He keeps His promises. One of His promises is, "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. (John 3:18)." I take comfort in the promise of the first part of that verse. However, the promise to the unbeliever in the last part of the verse is just as dependable.

Are you sure you are saved? I am!

 

Meditation for the week of February 10, 2013

Do You Know what You are Missing?

 

Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it. (Psalms 69:4)

 

Recently I was listening to an ad on the radio for a company that specializes in situations where people are in serious trouble with the Internal Revenue Service One man testified that he had "made a mistake" on his return and was $70,000.00 in debt to the IRS. He would have lost his house, his car and probably his marriage if this company had not come along side and helped him. Within an hour they had his problem solved and he didn't have to do a thing. They did it all. Now I have worked with the IRS and this seemed a bit unrealistic to me. Nevertheless, can you imagine the relief of getting the IRS "off of your back?" The Lord has done one better than that. He has never stolen or sinned and yet according to the old King James Version, our verse for today says He restored that which He took not away.

In the book of Leviticus we have five offerings detailed as the basis for the worship of the nation of Israel after they have been delivered from the bondage of Egypt. Those offerings are the burnt offering, the meal or grain offering, the peace or fellowship offering, the sin offering, and the trespass or guilt offering. The first three offerings are ascending offerings and are called sweet savor offerings. They are also voluntary offerings. The last two offerings are required offerings. It takes all of these offerings and more to help us get a little understanding of the value to God and to us of the ultimate sacrifice made by Christ when He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.

In order to trust the Lord as our Savior, we must be convicted of our sin before we are willing to believe in Christ as our sin bearer. After we are saved, we begin to realize that there is much more to what the Lord has provided for us than just forgiveness of sins. In other words, we appreciate the value of the trespass and sin offerings before we enter into the value of the ascending offerings. However, when the Israelites worshiped as a redeemed people, the ascending offerings are mentioned first and the first of the ascending offerings is an offering that is ALL for God. Neither the priests nor the person offering the sacrifice get any portion of that offering. It is completely burned on the altar and it ascends as a sweet savor to God. It will take an eternity for us to fully appreciate the value and meaning of the burnt offering. So the trespass and sin offerings are prominent in the salvation experience while the ascending offerings are prominent when we worship.

Recently, however, I have been enjoying the thought that in the trespass or guilt offering, a person who defrauded another had to restore the original amount plus 20 percent. But the Lord never took anything that didn't belong to Him and yet he "restored" what He didn't take away. Sin robbed us of fellowship with God. It robbed us of peace with God and with our own consciences. It robbed us of beautiful relationships with others. It robbed us of paradise. When Christ came, He died to restore all of that and more. He didn't sin but He was made a sin offering for us. He paid all the penalties that could be charged against us. He set us free. The Holy Spirit entered upon our believing in Christ (Ephesians 1:13), and because of that we have a God consciousness that we never had before. Now the Scriptures enlighten and encourage instead of seeming to be contradictory, condemning and critical.

Satan tries to blind the eyes of them that believe not (2 Corinthians 4:4) so that they don't know what they are missing. However, trusting the Lord not only pays a great debt that we could not pay, but it restores a relationship with God that was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden. It gives us peace with God and peace with one another and peace with our own consciences. And best of all when we take that last breath and move out of these earthly bodies, our next step will be into paradise to enjoy all that the Christ through the cross has prepared for those who trust Him.

I know that there are some who read these meditations who do not really understand what I am talking about. Some of you are critical of Christianity and think that Christ is the problem and not the solution. Some of you think that Christ and his salvation will restrict your fun, your funds and your friends. All I can say is that you don't know what you are missing! Christ died to restore that which He took not away, but you will never benefit from the provision He has made unless you "believe in Him."

 

Meditation for the week of February 17, 2013

His name is Jesus and we call Him Lord.

 

Psalms 23:3 He restores my soul!

 

You coffee drinkers know how great that first cup of good coffee tastes in the morning. Some of you know how great a cold Coke or Pepsi tastes on a hot summer day. Or perhaps you have been refreshed by a cup of really clear cold water out of a mountain stream while hiking. Maybe you remember what it is like to get up refreshed and rejuvenated after a really good night's sleep. I think that is what David was trying to describe when he uses the word "restore". His soul was refreshed, revived, and rejuvenated.

When David speaks of his soul, he is talking about more than his body. I think he is referring to his mind and how it has been restored. What was the cause of David's refreshed thinking? I think it was the victory that he had experienced in fighting the enemy, Goliath. That tall, uncircumcised Philistine had been taken down with a sling and one smooth stone. I like to think of the valley of the shadow of death as the valley of Elah where Goliath was taunting the Israelites and where David realized that the Philistine was defying the armies of the living God. The Philistine had been taunting the Israelites for forty days and they were dismayed and afraid. But David trusted in God. He did not trust Saul's armor. Saul wouldn't engage the battle but seemed to know how David should engage it. David simply trusted in God and used the ability that God had developed in Him while he was tending sheep. He took down the giant with one of those five smooth stones and he had four left over in case the four close relatives of Goliath decided to take up the battle (2 Samuel 21:22). David never expected to miss and he didn't.

Now coming away in victory, he sings about His shepherd. And he says, "He restores my soul." There are a lot of other blessings in this Psalm but to have our souls refreshed after winning a battle with an uncircumcised Philistine is one great blessing. Likely the uncircumcised Philistine pictures the flesh. The enemy is tall and tests us until we are afraid and dismayed. Then when we realize we can't win the battle the Lord reminds us that He has One like David who will win the battle for us. His name is Jesus and we call Him Lord.

But David was a man like us and He was rejoicing after being used of the Lord in this way. There is nothing like the taste of victory over the enemy to help us feel refreshed. We may wonder before the battle if we are going to die in the battle. We may get to the point where we are willing to die if that is the only way to be faithful. Esther got to this point when she said, "If I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16)!" But David had defended the honor of the Living God and God had used him in a great victory. He was refreshed. I love the last words of this Psalm. They are the confident words of one who has trusted in God and who has been victorious because of that. These are the words of David, but I hope they are our words as well:

 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

 

Meditation for the week of February 24, 2013