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Meditation for the week of January 9, 2011

Ye shall be as gods!

 

2Thessalonians 2:3-4 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

Genesis 3:5 "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

 

Wouldn't it be nice to be God or at least "like God?" People would respect and fear us. We would be able to control everyone and everything around us. People would follow us and fight for us. We would be rich. We would never be sick. We would be smarter than everyone else. We would "have it made."

People who want to be "like God" do not worship God, they worship themselves. They do not submit to God, they ask others to submit to them. They do not ask people to take up their crosses to follow them, they ask people to take up their swords to follow them. They do not use "religion" to serve others, they use "religion" to control others and to get others to serve them.

We all have differing ideas about what God is really like. But nearly everyone thinks that when God says "Jump," people should say, "How high?" on the way up. God is more powerful than everyone else, and He is smarter than everyone else. Even though most of us would like to be all powerful, the crucial issue in the deception of Eve was that she would have knowledge and would know things. The early church had people called "gnostics" that also told the Christians that they had mystical intuitive knowledge that others didn't have. If a person can convince people that they have understanding and knowledge that most people don't have and if that person also has a charismatic type of personality that causes people to like him, a person like that can get most people to do just about anything. He ends up being very powerful.

Deception in spiritual things has always been an issue. Satan is a liar and the father or originator of lies (John 8:44). We all want to follow people we admire. How can we tell whether we are following a good person like the Lord or a bad person like the man of sin of 2 Thessalonians 2? I believe the answer is in Matthew 7:16. The passage has to do with knowing people by their fruits. The passage is not dealing so much with whether people are saved or lost but with whether people are false prophets. A false prophet will be known by his fruits. A false prophet is compared to thorns and thistles. These are weeds that can hurt us and that do not produce fruit that can nourish us. The Lord was meek and gentle. A false prophet will usually deceive by flattery and then if that doesn't work, he will intimidate. He will ask people to fight for him and his causes. He will usually ask them to take up a sword and not a cross.

In order to avoid being deceived by a person like this we need an intimate knowledge of the Lord. This is gained through the consistent prayerful meditative reading of the Word of God which we call the Holy Bible. Those who are saved have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, and He teaches them the things concerning the Lord Jesus. The Bible tells us to be careful with whom we associate and to identify quickly with no man, especially if that man is going to be a leader (1 Timothy 5:22).

While I believe that the deception referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2 occurs after the believers of our day are caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and will be part of the seven years of tribulation that is to be poured out on the earth, yet religious deception is abounding in our day. Basic truths with regard to the need to "repent and believe" are not being taught. Eternal conscious punishment is considered too cruel for our God of mercy. Social ills are being corrected without correcting the heart of man through the new birth and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. The sinless nature of Christ is denied and He is not seen by many as God. The accuracy and reliability of the Bible is questioned.

Who we believe and follow is an important issue. Our destinies for eternity depend upon believing and following the right person. That person is the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not God, He is!

 

Meditation for the week of January 16, 2011

Thank God for Grace!

 

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

 

I am so glad that we do not read in Scripture, "For by the law you are saved." Instead we read, "For by grace are you saved (Ephesians 2:5)." The children of Israel had a wonderful leader and deliverer in Moses. But Moses didn't get to enter the promised land because the law cannot save, and Moses represents the law. However, there is a deliverer who can get us into our promised land. That deliverer is Christ who provides salvation by grace.

The grace of God is usually defined as the undeserved love and favor of God. While the old testament is not usually seen as the testament of grace, yet the grace of God is illustrated there in profound ways. In one illustration, Ruth is a Moabite who would be considered unclean by Israelites. Yet because she has faith in the God of her mother-in-law, Naomi, she was shown favor. When she follows Naomi back into the land of Israel and begins trying to feed herself and her mother-in-law by gleaning in the field of Boaz, Boaz shows her favor that she doesn't deserve. When he is kind to her she says, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner (Ruth 2:10)?" Boaz of course illustrates the favor of the Lord Jesus that we non-Jews do not deserve.

In Matthew 15, there is a woman from Canaan that wants the Lord to heal her daughter. She understands that she is not an Israelite and that she doesn't have the same relationship to the Lord that a true Jew would. But she knows that the Lord can help her and is willing to be called a dog that only enjoys the crumbs from the master's table in order to have her daughter healed. And of course, the Lord showed her grace. She had great faith, but she still got blessing that she didn't deserve.

One could ask, "Are only non-Jews saved by grace?" The answer is no. All, including Jews, are saved by grace. The Jews rejected Jehovah over and over again. They rejected their Messiah. They don't deserve to be saved. But they can still be saved by grace.

We are saved eternally by grace and not by works of righteousness, that is, by the works of the law. Some think that grace means that we cannot do anything to be saved. But that is inconsistent with the truth that we are to "strive to enter through the narrow gate (Luke 13:24)." Also, we are commanded to "repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15)." However, there is nothing that we can do that will make us DESERVING of salvation. Grace is often seen as a free gift. A person might be told to come and pick up a gift, but that doesn't mean that they did anything to earn it or deserve it.

If we were to be saved by the law, we would be fearful that we might keep the whole law all our life and then one failure at the end of life would condemn us eternally. James tells us that if we keep the whole law and yet offend in just one point, we are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10). But because we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus and because the Lord tells us that the work that saves was finished on the cross, we are set free from the condemnation and burden of the law. We don't need to fear failure. We don't try to live right in order to go to heaven which is the legal way of doing things. Instead, we live right because we are going to heaven and we want to please the One who loved us enough to die for us. Grace removes the burden and gives us liberty and joy.

We get a little understanding of these truths by looking at the marriage relationship. Before we were married, many of us lived selfish lives; and we thought only of ourselves. After marriage we live differently because we want to please our marriage partners. We don't have to live the way we do, we do it because we love the one we married and want to please them. The way we live doesn't cause us to be married but it keeps our marriages happy. Sometimes we even take courses on how to live right so that our marriages can be happy. Christians need that same kind of Biblical instruction if they want to make the Lord happy.

The law is a burdensome thing. The law sets us up for failure. Grace frees us from the burden of the law and gives us absolute certainly that our sins are forgiven. We don't deserve God's salvation, and we can't earn His salvation; but we can say "thank you!" when we receive this great salvation by faith in the promises of God.

 

Meditation for the week of January 23, 2011

What, Sell All and Give it to the Poor? Really?

 

Mathew 19:21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

 

Money, our attitude toward it and stewardship of it, is an important subject in the Bible. Unfortunately what is said about the topic is not what is usually practiced by Christians. I have to confess, I have a couple of things I could probably sell if I really wanted to follow the instructions that the Lord gives here.

Most of us would say that we don't have to sell our houses because we need a place to live. However, if we want to follow the Lord, we would be following One who said, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:20)." The Lord "owned" the cattle on a thousand hills and yet he spent many nights as a guest in others homes and many nights on a mountain praying. Even Paul does not seem to own property other than some coats and some books as he fulfilled his missionary call to the gentiles.

The Lord didn't have a car or even his own animal to ride on his trips between the province of Galilee and Jerusalem. Most people traveled on animals, but he walked. When he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the donkey, he borrowed one. I have two cars, one for me and one for my wife. I need them in order to do what the Lord has called me to do, or do I?

Many Christians today are concerned about the liberties that the government is taking away from the individual. One of those liberties is the ability to earn and spend our own income without governmental interference. However, the Lord is the highest authority and He also wants to interfere with our earning and spending habits. He says, "give it all away to the poor." We aren't supposed to tithe, we are supposed to give it all away. We aren't supposed to give it to the "church", we are go give it to the poor. Do any of us do that? Absolutely not! How would this old world work if we didn't have pension plans and savings accounts and mutual funds and real estate investments and life insurance policies; and if we didn't give ten percent to the Lord so He can bless us with more?

I have had to confess that while I am not rich, I have not given "all" to the poor. If that were really the way to heaven, I would not be going there. While I do believe that we need to take these instructions to heart as Christians, I also believe that we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus and these instructions just point out how futile it would be to assume that we could ever be "good enough" to merit heaven by doing good.

This young ruler who came to the Lord wanting eternal life found out that the standards of God are just not attainable by those of us who are born into this world with a sinful nature. However, the Lord who was able to live up to the standards of the law that requires us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, is still able to save sinners.

I am one of those sinners. I found out as Paul did, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15)." When I was first saved, I understood that the Lord had died for me a sinner. As I have gone along life's pathway, I have become more and more amazed at how great a sinner I really am. As I learn more and more about God's grace, I become more and more amazed at the greatness of His salvation.

While I do want to live to glorify God, I do not plan on putting my humble manufactured house that I call home up for sale. I sold one house to pay debts so I could continue in the Lord's work and I hope that the Lord will understand when I keep this house. But I do wonder kind of blessing I would experience if my wife and I had faith enough to actually take the Lord at His word, and if we actually lived out this promise literally.

 

Meditation for the week of January 30, 2011