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JULY 2005

 

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Mark 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and [their] sins should be forgiven them.

 

Conversion is Biblical but does not seem to be emphasized in our preaching today. We do hear about repentance from time to time, but we hear very little about being converted. When I began to study Biblical conversions, I came to the conclusion that I had not understood the way the word was used in the Bible.

Repentance has to do with a change of mind. We see that change through actions and so we often associate repentance with a turning away from sin. However, true Biblical repentance does not occur until the mind is changed in those areas where we find ourselves arguing with God. Once we find out that God is right even if that makes us wrong, we usually have no trouble trusting the Lord with our souls for eternity.

Conversion is a similar concept, however, the Biblical word translated convert or conversion in the new testament means revert or reversion according to the Strong‘s concordance. That means that we are turning back to something that was once believed. I have heard it said that we can be converted many times but we can only be born again once, and I think that might be true. Peter was told that when he was converted he should strengthen His brethren (Luke 22:32). Peter didn’t need his relationship with the Lord reestablished but He did need to have his confidence renewed and his fellowship restored after his denial of the Lord.

If the Jewish nation is to be converted (Acts 3:19) and if individuals need to be converted, there should be some evidence of a change somewhere when that conversion occurs. It seems to me as I listen to people today that many become Christians by signing on to the Christian lifestyle, and they often just move from religious to more religious. I constantly hear people say that they always believed in God, but there was a time when they really committed their lives to the Lord. The idea that they might have been wrong about something doesn’t seem to enter into how they became Christians. The idea that faith in Christ brings about a conversion or change doesn’t seem to concern them. However, the Jewish nation will evidence its conversion by confessing that the nation crucified the Messiah (See Isaiah 53). They will turn from their sin of rejecting Christ and be restored to the faith of their forefathers who not only believed in Jehovah but in a future suffering Savior.

Conversion in the Biblical sense recognizes that the whole world originally believed in the Living and True God but that societies continually move away from that belief. The new birth or faith in Christ brings us back to the original position that God intended for this world. We are constantly moving away from God and God in His mercy is constantly seeking us through the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us back. And of course, if we believe the story of creation and then of the flood, we can see that all of our first parents believed in the Living and True God. Because we are born in sin, children are not born believing what their believing parents believe, but the fear of God is a part of their heritage. Individually we need to be born again because we are born in unbelief. When we believe or trust the Lord we are converted or reverted to what God originally intended for us in the Garden and on the ark.

The worship of Jehovah and ultimately of Jesus who has revealed Jehovah is not the “new thing” in religion. It is the original thing. Thank God for everyone who has been truly converted so that they can be what the Lord intended them to be: Worshippers of Him!

 

Week of July 3, 2005

Luke 12:20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

Acts 13:30 But God raised him from the dead:

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

The phrase “but God” reminds us that we simply do not understand how God thinks (Isaiah 55:8). We plan for time and God tells us to plan for eternity (Luke 12:20). We worry about what men think and God says we should be more worried about what He knows (Luke 16:15). We think death is the end and that it is represents defeat. God says that it is just the beginning and proved it by raising Christ from the dead (Acts 13:30). We think we have to cease sinning to find favor with God and God says that He has offered His love to us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).

“But God!” This encourages me. He will reward those who plan for eternity rather than for time. We buy our life insurance and plan our funerals but have we obtained “life assurance” by trusting in the Lord for eternity?

Some of us look back over our lives and wonder if we made a mistake when we committed our lives to spiritual things and failed to make “earning a living” our number one priority. We sometimes feel as though many of our “friends” think we should have a “real job”. When I get discouraged, I remember the words, “but God knoweth your hearts”. A successful CPA practice and a cabin and a boat on a lake would have satisfied my ego, and would have made me look successful to my friends, but would it have pleased God? I thank God for those who have been called to stay behind with “the stuff” (1 Samuel 30:24) and provide support for those of us who are on the front lines in the spread of the Gospel. But for me, the cabin, the boat and the lake would have become my master.

Satan would like us to believe that Christ died as an imposter and that His death proved that His ministry was a fraud and a failure. However, Satan forgot one thing. “But God” raised Him from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:6 records over 500 who saw him alive after His resurrection. Doesn’t this give us encouragement when it seems that Satan has been victorious in this world?

I am so glad that the plan of salvation is based on another of those statements, “but God.” If we had to get good to get saved, we would all have been in trouble.. But God didn’t wait for us to get good to love us and send His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. He didn’t wait for us to get educated or rich or beautiful or anything else either. He just asks us to get simple enough to trust His Son. Then we will know the love that He offers even though we don’t deserve it. Think of it, “but God” offers His love to us sinners so that He can make Saints out of us and bring us into the family of God.

Sometimes I am glad that I serve a God that I do not understand.

 

Week of July 10, 2005

Ephesians 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Ephesians 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

Being of “one accord” or in agreement was characteristic of the early Church, but it didn‘t take long for Christians to be divided. When Paul writes to the Philippians, He pleads with them to be of one accord (Philippians 2:2). The Corinthians were following men and had divisions because of it (See chapters 1-3). The church as it exists today is divided on many issues as well.

In Ephesians 4, the body, which represents the church, is associated with the Spirit. Faith and baptism are associated with the Lord. God as our Father is seen as supreme. Since faith and baptism are associated with Christ as Lord (or master), I believe that one faith represents the things that we believe and one baptism represents the water baptism that follows our trusting in the Lord for salvation. When it comes to our faith (not our believing but the things that we believe), Christians today are not agreed. If we just take the apostle’s doctrine as found in the Epistles, there is disagreement as to whether those doctrines apply to us today or whether the instructions are even important. Many people feel that if one has convictions about the doctrines found in the Epistles, that those convictions divide the body of Christ instead of creating unity. So today, in the interest of unity, we try to understand all points of view and we achieve a sense of uniformity. I have wondered if that uniformity leaves us in unity with (or in agreement with) the Lord.

Christians differ greatly on the reason for as well as the mode and timing of baptism. When it comes to the doctrines of salvation, some say that the saved are the chosen people of God. They teach that all can be saved and become a part of that elect group. Others say that God chooses people to be saved and that the blood of Christ was never intended to save everyone. When it comes to the issues of women's verses men's roles in the church, most people today say that the passages that Paul wrote were for a social situation that existed only at that time and in those particular churches. Others think that those passages apply to us today. When it comes to speaking in tongues and to divine healing, some believe that the original miraculous sign gifts have passed away with the maturing of the church. Others believe that we are missing out on great blessing and revival today when we do not practice these gifts. Some think we should keep the Sabbath and others think that the Sabbath is part of the old testament covenants and not an ordinance for the new testament church.

I am convinced that we can all be wrong when we disagree on these basic issues, but we cannot all be right since there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism. We need to pray for unity and ask the Lord to help us understand why the Holy Spirit is not teaching us all the same things today. I personally do not want to be the cause of division but neither do I want to be so understanding that I accept that which the Lord does not accept.

 

Week of July 17, 2005

Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.

1John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

 

Think of it, God cannot lie! Why should He? He is not accountable to us, we are accountable to Him. Because He cannot lie, we can be sure that we have eternal life, that is, that we have a life that prepares us for eternity and that allows us to enjoy the blessings of eternity now. We don’t have to hope we have eternal life even though eternal life gives us hope. Hope is the confident expectation of future blessing and it gives us something to look forward to.

Some people are satisfied to feel saved. I would rather know I am saved. The only way that I can know that is if I have confidence that the Bible is the Word of God. I also need to know that the God who cannot lie makes me promises in that Book on which I can depend. I believe God when He says in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” I believe God when He says in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

I have good and well meaning friends who often make me feel guilty and uneducated because I haven’t read all that man has to say about the Bible. New books are constantly coming out questioning and in some cases supposedly authenticating the truth of the Bible. My problem with these books is that men constantly change their minds. Science tends to come up with new “truth.” I believe the Bible has probably had more work done on its scholarship by archaeologists, philosophers, and scientists than any other manuscript, and while some of these scholars have raised questions about the truth of the Bible, none of them have proven to me that what man says about God is more reliable that what God says about Himself and what God says about man. Most of the material that I have read that challenges the Bible gives me nothing to replace it. These authors tell me what not to believe but they can’t tell me authoritatively what to believe when it comes to eternal matters. They take away but they give nothing back. Even a simple person like me knows that something will continue indefinitely after I am gone. Some might argue that I will be nonexistent and will not be aware of the future. But until someone can prove that to me beyond a reasonable doubt, I am going to believe this Book that men cannot prove is wrong and that God says is right.

There is a song that we sometimes sing that is titled, “Standing on the promises!” The second verse and the refrain go like this:

 

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

by the living Word of God I shall prevail,

standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,

standing on the promises of Christ my Savior;

standing, standing,

I'm standing on the promises of God.

 

As for me, I like the promises the Bible makes to believers (John 3:18). My confidence in those promises is called faith (not reason although I do have some logical reason for my faith), and that faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Because of my confidence in Him, I know that I have eternal life.

Week of July 24, 2005

Psalms 27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.

 

Was David in love? He wanted to be where the Lord dwelled, he wanted to look at the beauty of the Lord and he wanted to talk to the Lord. This sounds a lot like someone who has been smitten by the “love bug.” If you are single and have never been “in love,” you will have to forgive me for my analogy, but for the rest of you, do you remember what it was like when you first “fell in love?” You just couldn’t spend enough time with this person and you listened to everything he or she said, and you liked looking at the one you loved.

That was the relationship David had with the Lord. No wonder David was the sweet Psalmist of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1) since he wrote songs to express his love. No wonder David was considered a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22), and no wonder God promised him that the Messiah would be one of his descendants (Acts 13:23).

I wonder if those around me know that I am “in love“ with the Lord Jesus? If we are in love we should want to be where the Lord is and the local church is one of His temples today (1 Corinthians 3:16). Do we enjoy being there and observing His beauty? Have you ever noticed that when preachers preach, some are anecdotal using illustrations to bring us light on their topics, some are expositional using explanations to give us understanding and some are descriptive. They describe scenes so that we can see them in our minds. I like the descriptive ones, particularly when they begin to describe the beauty of the Lord (Isaiah 52:14, Isaiah 53:2, Lamentations 1:12).

Enjoying the beauty of the Lord would be something that should be the result of preaching and also of our times of meditation when the church is gathered together. Today, we seem to think that we need some kind of activity at all times to keep the interest of the congregation. But some quiet times that are spirit led would seem to enable us to enjoy the beauty of the Lord. This is particularly true when we come together to remember or memorialize the Lord (not ourselves) and to proclaim His death (not the wonderful events of the week) during the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

I know we can talk to the Lord at any time but David liked to inquire in His temple. Why are our congregational prayer meetings so poorly attended and why do they seem to lack spontaneity? Is it because we really don’t enjoy talking to the Lord? This is something that should be the natural response of a child to his or her father. No relationship can grow without communication. When we talk to God He listens, if we are praying “in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).” In addition, He often talks to us by bringing the Scriptures to our minds during our prayer times. He certainly talks to us during the preaching times if the preaching is spirit led.

David made mistakes but His love for the Lord was obvious. In many cases, others are probably more aware of our love or lack of it than we are. May our love for the Lord be like the love of the bride for the bridegroom in the Song of Solomon 5:16, “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

 

Week of July 31, 2005