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JANUARY 2013

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Guilt trips, Who Needs Them?

 

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Romans 3:19)

 

Every so often I get a rather good email having to do with the Gospel that gets spoiled by telling me that if I am ashamed to pass it on, then the Lord will be ashamed of me. I think I can say that without exception I have not and will not pass an email like that along. If the Lord had these emails in mind when He says He will be ashamed of those who are ashamed of Him, I have a lot of demerits behind my name in heaven. I have been tempted to send the emails along with the "guilt trip" part deleted, but I figure that whoever wrote the email is the only one who should have the right to revise it. Without getting the author's permission to make the revision, I do not feel that I can justify changing what someone else has written.

Guilt has many facets. There is actual guilt when a person has committed an offense against the law of the land. There is actual guilt when a person has intentionally violated ethical standards even when there is no actual law to condemn the person. Usually that person is bothered by a bad conscience for doing something that they knew was not right. There can be emotional guilt that is not justified when people try to control others by making them feel substandard if they don't do what the other person asks. This guilt is emotional blackmail. Sometimes parents control children that way, and sometimes friends control their friends that way and sometimes religious leaders control those that respect them that way. Is it proper to control people through guilt?

God has made it clear that because of the righteous standards of the law, we all know that we are guilty sinners. We deserve to be punished. If it wasn't for that "guilt" most of us would never have found out that we were sinners in need of a Savior. This is not emotional blackmail, however. This is the actual guilt that arises from actually violating the righteous standards of the law and of our consciences. But God doesn't use guilt just to "awaken" us to our sin. He uses it to bring us to Christ who has justified us by grace (Romans 3:24). Justification in Romans 3 has been defined by different experts in different ways. Some say justification makes us just as though we had not sinned. However, justification is a legal term and while God does wipe our slates clean, all of us will remember sins we have committed. Some of those sins may mark us for life. So I would say that is probably not the correct definition. Some say that justification in this chapter is simply being declared righteous before God. God has provided a way to declare us righteous in His court of law. And I like that. But I think justification not only declares a person righteous, it also makes them righteous. Trusting in Christ is the first really righteous act that any man can do. Until we have faith in Christ, everything we do is self-serving and denies our need of a Savior. Faith says that Christ is right and does right even when that condemns us for doing wrong. When we do that, God not only declares us righteous, He makes us righteous and calls us saints or holy ones. We become new creatures in Christ.

After we have trusted Christ, should we continue to be motivated by guilt or should we be motivated by love? Was Mary motivated by guilt or devotion when she washed the Lord's feet and anointed Him with oil? Were Joseph and Nicodemus motivated by guilt or devotion when they buried the Lord in Joseph's previously prepared new tomb? Was Paul motivated by guilt or by love when he preached the Gospel after he was converted on the Damascus road? Are we who are saved motivated in our service to the Lord by devotion or guilt? Do we "remember the Lord" because we HAVE TO or because we WANT TO? Do we try to adhere to new testament principles of worship and service because we HAVE TO or because we WANT TO?

Paul says there are some great gifts given to the church. Among them are faith (depending on the Lord), hope (looking to the future with confidence and joy), and love (self-sacrificing devotion). But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Some of those emails that lay guilt trips on the recipients are fairly good and timely. I would probably pass some of them along if I could do it out of devotion rather than out of guilt. As it is, some good stuff ends up being deleted since guilt is not my best motivator.

 

Meditation for the week of January 6, 2013

God's Friend Was a Flawed Man!

 

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS." And he was called the friend of God. (James 2:23)

 

Abraham was the friend of God. He was the model that God uses to explain faith. Yet when I read about him in the old testament, I would have thought he was a flawed man. When the Lord told him in Genesis 15:6 that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars, he believed God. But when the Lord told him in Genesis 17:17 that he would have a son by Sarah he didn't believe God. After all he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. But he still believed that he would have a lot of descendents, only he thought that they would come through Ishmael. Ishmael was a son of the flesh. Isaac had believed God's promise; but he and Sarah had tried to help God fulfill that promise by having Abraham produce a child by Hagar, Sarah's servant girl. But God didn't need help, Isaac was on his way.

On two occasions Abraham had Sarah tell kings that she was his sister rather than his wife. He knew she was a beautiful and desirable women, and he was afraid that he would be killed so that kings could take her as their wife. Pharaoh almost took her to be his wife in Genesis 12 and Abimelech almost took her in Genesis 20. God protected Sarah in each case, but I can't imagine what that did to Sarah's relationship with Abraham. He certainly wasn't a model husband. How could he love his wife and misuse her in that way? By the second occasion, he had the promise that he was going to produce a great number of offspring through a child that had not yet been born so he didn't really need to fear for his life, but he did. Was that faith?

When we come to Hebrews 11, we find that Abraham did several things right. When he was called to go to a foreign land and live as a pilgrim, he obeyed God. He didn't even know where He was going. His life may have been flawed when it came to his relationship with other people, but he obeyed God. His commitment to the worship of the one true and living God was never flawed. He had his hopes set on a city that he never entered on this earth. Its builder and maker was God. He lived for eternity and not for time. When he was called to offer Isaac upon an altar, again he obeyed. He had thought God would raise Isaac from the dead and he was willing to make this offering of his unique son. Apparently, by Genesis 22 he was in sync with God and realized that God would fulfill his promises to him through Isaac, but God would do it His way and not Abraham's way.

Abraham had been called out of idolatry and the man-made worship of God. That was what the Tower of Babel was all about. Men had decided to approach God their own way. As a result, they began to worship god's who were not god's. Abraham was never tempted to do that. Even though he was a flawed man when it came to this life, he was not a flawed man when it came to being loyal to the Living God of Heaven. I believe that is why he was called the friend of God. Abraham reminds us of the truth that without faith it is impossible to please God for he that comes to God must believe that HE IS (Hebrews 11:6).

I am glad that God saves sinners (Romans 5:8). He saves all kinds of sinners. I realize that when a person is saved, they should show their faith by their works. but there has to be some balance as we preach about the moral life of one who is born again. Would we would have considered Abraham a Christian if he had lived in new testament times?

I think we all need to ask ourselves today whether we are practicing a Christian lifestyle that we have been taught or do we really have unwavering loyal faith in the Lord Jesus who is God and Who died to be our Savior? That unwavering loyal committed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is what pleases God. We can be taught to live like a Christian but only the Holy Spirit can take the Word of God and use it to bring us to this kind of faith in the Lord. Abraham had that kind of faith and was the friend of God. His morals may have been suspect in the way that he treated his wife and his practical faith was sometimes lacking, but He was always loyal to the worship of the Lord. He did believe God. I hope we are known as a friend of God as well.

 

Meditation for the week of January 13, 2013

Moved with Compassion!

 

And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

 

According to Dictionary.com, compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. The Lord had compassion on the multitudes and was able to alleviate their suffering. He healed their sick. In our day when there are so many friends and acquaintances that have untimely sicknesses it would be great to be able to heal them. When the Lord was here, He didn't heal everyone; but He did heal everyone that came to Him or that was brought to Him requesting healing. He proved Himself to be the Son of God by his ability to heal. He proved himself to the Son of Man by His compassion. Even now as our Great High Priest, He is touched by the feelings of our infirmities according to Hebrews 4:15.

I usually think of the Lord Jesus as being full of compassion in the new testament but I tend to think of the Jehovah of the old testament as being more judgmental. I have therefore been pleasantly surprised to find the number of places that God was "full of compassion" in the old testament. I personally believe that God would rather show compassion than judge sin. But in a practical way, God has always tried to preserve his own people of faith by judging the sin of unbelievers so that believers will not be caught up in the desire of unbelievers to worship other gods. These gods are not gods at all, but they are man-made idols that encourage people to cater to the lusts of their flesh.

If God is compassionate, why does He not manifest His ability to heal today? I believe that He does. Every cold and or flu that we get is healed by the Lord if it is healed. Broken bones may be set by doctors but only the Lord can mend the broken bone. When the Psalmist says, He heals all my diseases in Psalm 103:3, every disease and illness that the Psalmist had experienced to that present time had been healed by God. Doctors can aid in the healing process, but only God can truly heal--even today. The Lord didn't heal every disease and affliction when He was here on earth because there is an overriding principle in the Bible that physical sin brings physical death. So even those who were healed and some who were raised from the dead ultimately died. They all had a grave at the end of their lives. When God doesn't heal today, it may be because of His compassion. I believe he uses disease and death as a means of reminding us that that sin is real, eternity is forever, and that we need to be ready to meet God when we die. He has shown His compassion to us by providing a righteous way to put away our sins and then by using disease and death to remind us of our need to prepare NOW to meet Him. I believe death often occurs because the Lord does care, and often the only sermons we will listen to are the ones preached by the deaths of our friends and loved ones. Satan brought death into the world in order to defeat God and to destroy His creation. However, God has been able to use death to bring many of us to a saving faith in the death of the Lord Jesus.

We shy away from talking about death and hell and punishment for the sin of rejecting God's compassionate sacrifice for our sins. But God does not shy away from preaching what we do not want to face. He reminds us every time someone we know dies that "and as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (Hebrews 9:27-28)."

I believe God does care and He does have compassion or pity on those of us who are marred by sin. Sometimes He shows that compassion by healing the sick. Sometimes He shows that compassion by not healing the sick so that those who are still alive have to think about their own sin and their ultimate eternal destiny. He would have all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Sometimes it takes a little pain now to save us from an eternity of pain.

Compassion is one of the characteristics of the Lord Jesus. Would that it would be the characteristic of all of us who claim to be Christians or followers of Christ. In a day when there is a lot of hatred and division and grievous sin in society, the light at the end of the tunnel is the compassion of our Lord. We who claim to be His followers, who claim to be saved, who claim to be "born again," need to have compassion on the multitudes as well.

 

Meditation for the week of January 20, 2013

Does it really Matter?

 

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13).

 

The Lord has come. Paul writes to Titus and tells us that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. But those who are saved are looking for a second coming of the Lord. It is called a blessed hope and a glorious appearing or epiphany. The Bible is clear that the Lord is coming for His Saints to deliver them from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). But just when is that going to happen? We do not know when the day or hour of the events associated with the Lord's coming again will begin. But I believe we know the order of those events.

I once had a Bible discussion with a group of believers on the Lord's coming and had distinguished between the rapture of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and the revelation of the Lord to the earth (Revelation 1:7). One is a coming that comforts the saints and one is a coming that causes the inhabitants of the earth to wail. I had said that I believed that the Lord would rapture the Saints before the events of Revelation 6 begin. Those events are associated with the what is commonly known as the seven years of tribulation on this earth after which the Lord reveals Himself to reign for a literal thousand years. However, some think that the tribulation period and the thousand year reign of Christ are symbolic and that they are not literal periods of time. These people would believe that the church is the kingdom of God on earth and that we are presently in the thousand year reign of Christ. This is an amillennial point of view. Generally they also assume that the church has replaced Israel and the covenants made to Abraham are now applicable to the church. As we discussed several other views of the Lord's return, one of the participants in the discussion said he held to a pan-millenniel view. He explained that his view of the Lord's return held that it would all pan out in the end. It didn't really matter which view we held. At one time I would have agreed, but today I would vehemently disagree with this approach. Our view of the Lord's return does matter! It affects whether we preach the simple Gospel or whether we are out to change an unbelieving world to act in a righteous way.

Most of the Protestant churches that came about as the result of the Reformation period as well as the Catholic Church hold to the amillenniel point of view. That means that instead of our citizenship being in heaven (Philippians 3:20), believers are an earthly people, much like Israel. Instead of believing that the Lord could come at any time to deliver us from an ungodly world, this view holds that we are here to try to change the world into something righteous. The mission of the church in the amillenniel view is the reformation of the nations (particulary of the United States) through confronting the culture and through politics. While these people often say that their mission is the Gospel and that they are evangelical, their programs and writings deal more with "living right" and with political issues than with the Gospel that saves sinners. Their charge to Christians is to get involved in the world and "make a difference." Nothing is said about Scriptural separation from the world.

I realize that we have dual citizenship in a sense. We are citizens of heaven but we live on earth and on earth we have responsibilities. According to our verse for today, Christians are to deny self and live morally. It does not include the mandate to make the unbeliever deny self and live morally. Other passages are clear that we are to speak against evil with the purpose of convicting individuals of their sin so that we can fulfill the great commission which is to "make disciples, baptize them and teach them all things (Matthew 28:19-20)."

I do believe that the first thing that the Lord does when He begins the events associated with His second coming is to deliver those of us that are saved from His wrath that is about to be unleashed on an unbelieving world. I believe that coming is one of comfort and is a blessed hope. Nothing needs to happen prophetically for the Lord to come as the blessed hope after which He comes to set up His kingdom. I believe that Christ will then reign for a literal thousand years. We live in a world where Satan is still not bound and where iniquity does abound. Trying to reform a world of unbelievers without individuals being blessed and changed by the new birth is a lost cause. When the Lord sets up His kingdom, then and then only will the world be a righteous place.

 

Meditation for the week of January 26, 2013