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JANUARY 2008

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Genesis 22:1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (tested) by the devil.

 

Many years ago, the phone rang late at night after I had gone to bed. I woke up and answered it, thinking that there must be an emergency. The call, however, was to read a telegram to me telling me that I had passed the C.P.A. Exam. Telegrams were sent to successful candidates in those years and Western Union felt this telegram was too important to hold until morning. I had passed what I thought was THE TEST!

When we sign on to be Christians, most of us do not realize that we are signing on to be tested as well. The Lord allows us to be tested to prove to Satan and to the angels and to other people that we are real and faithful. Satan tests us to see if he can trip us up. I wonder how well we are doing with these tests?

Abraham was tested by God to prove His faithfulness. His was a test to see if He would trust the Lord to keep His promises. Isaac was conceived according to the promise of the Lord after both he and Sarah were too old to have children. Abraham was supposed to have a lot of children through Isaac. Now the Lord was telling Abraham to offer his Son Isaac on an altar. This did not make sense. God demanded animal sacrifice, not human sacrifice. Even though the natural mind would have said that God would not ask for this sacrifice, Abraham obeyed with the expectation that God was going to raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham has always been an example of faith. He passed THE TEST.

Satan tested Job but apparently God allowed it because he knew he could trust Job with a trial. Satan thought Job worshiped God because God has blessed him with wealth and with health and with a nice family. When all those things were stripped from him, Job still remained faithful. His wife failed THE TEST (Job 2:9, 10), but he passed.

The Lord was tested at the beginning of His earthly ministry and again at the end. The first test was in the wilderness and the last test was in the Garden of Gethsemane. God did not allow Satan to test the Lord because He thought He would fail. He tested Him to prove to Satan and to us that He was the real deal. One of the tests in the wilderness was to see if the Lord would be willing to take the kingdoms of this world without going to the cross. All the Lord had to do was to sell Himself to the Devil (Matthew 4:9). In His last test in the Garden, He was "delivered from death" according to Hebrews 5:7. In the garden the Lord had said that His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death (Matthew 26:38). I think Satan was trying to convince him to die and to avoid the cross. But of course, the Lord passed THE TESTS.

We are to "count it all joy" when we fall into various tests (James 1:2). The tests will make us stronger according to James. The genuineness of our faith will be clearly seen through tests according to Peter (1 Peter 1:7). No one likes to be tested, but there is a real sense of relief and accomplishment when the test is successfully passed. I can attest to the fact that I was excited when I found out that I had passed the C.P.A. Exam. But there is another exam I want to pass. Angels are observing our faithfulness in worship (1 Corinthians 11:10). Men are wondering if we really believe what we say we believe. Satan doesn't understand why anyone would worship God without a self-serving interest. Are we going to be among those that the Lord can trust with a test to show that we will be faithful? We don't always go through trials because we have done something wrong although that could be the case. Often we go through trials because the Lord knows that we can be trusted to trust Him, even when we don't understand why we are being tested.

If something is happening in our lives that we do not understand and if we have trusted the Lord to take care of us for eternity, will we be faithful during the test? Can we have peace about the fact that God is using us to advance His purposes? Will we pass THE TEST?

Meditation for the week of January 6, 2008

Matthew 24:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Luke 21:34 "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.

 

One of the truths that motivated the early church and kept it energetically serving the Lord was the truth that the Lord was coming again. When the Lord ascended to heaven, angels reinforced this truth. They said, "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11)." They were expecting the same Jesus who had died, who had been buried and who had risen again to come and set up His Kingdom. In that passage, they asked if the Kingdom was going to be restored to Israel and they were told that they were not to going to be told WHEN the Lord would come to set up His physical kingdom, but they were to be witnesses to the truth WHILE they waited.

The teachings of Paul have given us a clearer understanding of the return of the Lord than these early disciples may have had. They expected the Lord to come to set up His kingdom. We understand that the Lord will come to "catch away" the church before He sets up His kingdom according to 1 Thessalonian 4:13-18. This is not two comings of the Lord but two events that occur when the Lord comes the second time. In the Gospels, the Lord talks about His coming again, but it is often not obvious that that He will come to rapture the Saints and then come to set up His kingdom. But both events will occur when He comes again.

Believing in the imminent (any moment) return of the Lord Jesus has always been true of those who are fervent in the work of the Lord. In the 1800's, when there were great revivals, one of the truths that was recovered was the truth of the "rapture" or "catching away" of the church. Those who believe that the Lord is coming will not want to be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28). They will want to be "pure" when He comes (1 John 3:3). They will want to be watching and not sleeping (Romans 13:11) when He comes. His coming is the "blessed hope" that motivates those who are saved (Titus 2:13).

Today many of us have become like the unbelievers around us. They are questioning the promise of His coming (2 Peter 3:4). We have become earthly oriented instead of heavenly oriented. Our treasure is down here and not up there. The Lord's coming has been preached so long without the Lord coming that it seems like an academic doctrine rather than a living reality. When the Lord comes, will we be among those who are so weighed down with the cares and "fun" of this world that the Lord's coming will be unexpected?

I know that when we are expecting company at our house, things start to get done. We pick up the house, we vacuum the floors and mop the kitchen. We want to make a good impression. We then wait for the company to arrive even if they are late. If we believe that the Lord is about to return, I suspect we would be getting things in order so that we would make a good impression on Him as well.

Does the promise of the any moment personal return of the Lord move our hearts anymore? When I was unsaved and wars broke out in the middle east, I expected the Lord to return momentarily, and it moved me because I knew I was not ready. Now I am ready and when things happen in the middle east that we didn't expect to happen until after the rapture, I am not nearly as concerned. I know I need to be touched once again by the reality of the Lord's promise to his disciples, "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 (John 14:3)."

 

Meditation for the week of January 13, 2008

1 Peter 1:15-16

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

 

The Gospel changes people. It changes our minds. By our natures we think that we are right and God is wrong which is why we must repent to believe. It changes our destinies from hell to heaven. They is why we must be saved. It changes our lives which is why we must be born from above. It changes our names. We take the name of Christ and are called Christians. It changes how God sees us. He sees us "in our sins and in Adam" before we are saved, and He sees us "in Christ" after we are saved (1 Corinthians 15:7, 22). The Gospel changes us from sinners to saints. Saints are God's holy ones.

God's people are to be holy. In 1 Peter 1 holiness has to do with our conduct and implies that we are to be clean and undefiled. Trusting in the blood of Christ makes us holy ones and confession of sin keeps us holy in a practical way (1 John 1:7). Saints or holy ones are the people that God has set apart for Himself according to Ephesians 1:4. They are a unique people in that they trust Him; they love Him; and they worship Him and only Him. They are people separated from the world to serve the Lord (Hebrews 13:12-13).

Since the Gospel is so radical, we who preach it should be offering the unsaved world a difference. We cannot not be like the world to reach the world. If we go to into the world to reach the world as we are commanded to do, the world should not change us, we should be changing the world. We should not be changing the people of the world to conform to a set of religious rules set up by our religious institutions. Instead the Gospel should change people from being concerned about what the world thinks about them to being concerned about what the Lord thinks about them. It should change them into people living for eternity rather than a people who are living for the here and now.

The Gospel today is often a socially acceptable Gospel. It offers us the good life now, rather than offering people the joy of living for eternity. It is based on what we think is right rather than on what God says pleases Him. It is a life of self-indulgence rather than a life of self-sacrifice. It is a not a life of faith but a life of reason where we think we can understand an infinite God with a finite mind. It is often a life of spiritual mysticism rather than a life of spiritual realities. People say that they experience God without ever experiencing the new birth. In short, it is a Gospel that requires "no change".

The Gospel is radical to the unconverted. The clean religious world does not understand why what they are doing should not be sufficient to save them. The immoral world does not understand how God can make people with appetites and then condemn them for not keeping those appetites under control. The social world cannot understand that while we are all created by God, we are not all God's children until we believe on the name of Christ (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:3). The political world does not understand that people are changed from the inside and regenerated when they trust in Christ and that no legislative decree can accomplish that. The world in general does not understand why a good God allows suffering and some religious leaders are even questioning the value of peaching the cross because to them it makes God seem cruel.

But we who have trusted in the blood of Christ to save us for eternity are to be holy or set apart for God. Our thinking, our lives and our messages should mark us as as different from the unsaved social, religious and political world. When we speak for God our messages should change people into holy people. Eternal destinies depend on us being faithful to the message that the Gospel changes people.

 

Meditation for the week of January 20, 2008

Psalm 51;16-17

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-These, O God, You will not despise.

 

When we break things, we usually figure that they are unusable. God finds His delight in using broken things. He used a broken alabaster box of ointment (Mark 14:3). He uses a loaf of broken bread to symbolize His body given for us ( 1 Corinthians 11:24). He used the lad's five loaves of bread to feed multitudes (Mark 6:41), but He didn't use these things until they were broken. And He can use us, but not until we have been broken.

Sometimes we get the impression that our strength comes through our tears. That is really not true, our strength is in our joy (Nehemiah 8:10). But usually sorrow or brokenness precedes joy. It did in the case of Nehemiah's revival. In the New Testament, the Lord told His disciples that He would turn their sorrow into joy (John 16:20). There was sorrow at the crucifixion but joy at the resurrection. There is sorrow when a woman begins labor, but there is joy when the baby is born. Likewise there is sorrow when we are convicted of sin before we are saved and there is joy when we find deliverance in Christ. When we face our sin as David did, and we say "I have sinned (1 Samuel 15:24)", that is when the heart is contrite and is prepared to find joy in the promise that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9)." That truth gave us joy when we came to Christ to trust Him the first time and it gives us joy when need our fellowship restored because of sin in our lives. But the tears do not give strength, they prepare our hearts for the joy which is our strength.

Many of us are broken and contrite about the sins of others. We are concerned about the sins of the nation. We are concerned about sin in our church gatherings. We are concerned about the sins of our friends and family. But the broken and contrite heart that God does not despise is a heart that is broken because of our own sin. Both Daniel and Isaiah considered the sin of the nation to be their sin. They did not see themselves as righteous in an unrighteous nation. In Daniel 9:8, Daniel prays, "O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You." In Isaiah 6:5 Isaiah says, "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts." Up until he gets his vision of the Lord, Isaiah pronounces woe on everybody else. He is contrite about the sin of others, but in Isaiah 6, he is contrite about his own sin. It took a vision of the Lord in heaven for him to realize that he was part of the problem. Once he realized he was part of the problem, an angel used live coals from off of the altar to cleanse him. Then he was commissioned to go and became part of the solution.

One of the reasons that John wrote his first epistle was that our joy might be "full" or complete (1 John 1:4). But to accomplish his purpose he had to write about our sin nature, about the need to confess our sins and about the need to cease from sin. He also needed to remind the Christians that he wrote so that they might know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). So knowing what Christ has done for us and properly understanding and dealing with the sin in us gives us "full joy". When we get that kind of joy on one can take it from us (John 16:22).

Joy not sorrow gives us strength. If our hearts are broken because of our own sin rather than because of the sin of others, we are at the place where we can again appreciate the great love that we enjoy in Christ. That should bring us full joy. And since the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), maybe we could be the beginning of a great revival.

 

Meditation for the week of January 27, 2008