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JUNE 2004

 

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 2 Samuel 9:8 And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?

2 Samuel 9:11 As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king's sons.

 

When I read my Bible, I look for principles in the Gospels, examples in the Acts of the Apostles, teaching in the Epistles and illustrations in the old testament. When I think of the principle of grace in the Gospels, I think of John 1:17, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The Lord Jesus could have come to punish us for our sins but instead He bore the punishment that our sins deserved. Surely, He has provided us a gift that we do not deserve which is a simple definition of grace.

When I come to the Acts of the Apostles, I am reminded that Paul was a trophy of God’s grace as was everyone who was saved by trusting in the crucified Messiah. In addition both Jews and Gentiles had the same Gospel preached to them. In Acts 15:11, the Jewish leaders of the church at Jerusalem were reminded by Peter that, “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we (Jews) shall be saved, even as they (Gentiles).”

As I go to the epistles, I am drawn to Ephesians 2:8-10 which give us definitive teaching on the relationship between grace and works. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Our salvation is a gift that we do not deserve but it provides us the motivation to glorify the One Who died for us by doing good.

The passage quoted above is one of the most beautiful illustrations of grace in the old testament. Mephibosheth was a descendent of King Saul and could have been considered a competitor to the throne of David who was recognized as king after Saul died. Most Kings would have slain Him so that neither he nor his offspring would be a threat to the leadership of the new King. However, David not only spared his life, he provided for him and made him like one of his sons. He had him eat at his own table.

What must have gone through Mephibosheth’s mind when David sent for Him? Do you suppose that he expected to die? Perhaps. But David had made a promise to Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s friend that he would show kindness to Jonathan and his descendents (1 Samuel 20:14-15). Instead of Mephibosheth dying, he was shown grace. He was born wrong and he was crippled so he wasn’t worth much. This is a picture of each one of us. We are born wrong since we are born as sinners with the nature of Adam our father. We are crippled in our service for God because we sin. So we are sinners by nature and by practice. But just as David showed Mephibosheth kindness for Jonathan’s sake, we have been shown kindness because of the Lord. We like Mephibosheth have come into great blessing which we could not expect and could not earn. Because of God’s grace we too eat at the King’s table with our feet out of sight since our sins have been covered by the blood of the Lord. We can say like John Newton:

 

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found. Was blind but now I see.

 

Week of June 6, 2004

Joshua 9:14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not [counsel] at the mouth of the LORD.

 

How many decisions have we made in life where we “asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord?” Normally, we have lived to regret making those decisions. In the case mentioned above, it is may be that Joshua and the princes of Israel were overly confident or they may have thought that the situation was obvious. Whatever the reason, they relied on their own discernment and got caught in a great deception because of it.

Sometimes we don’t ask counsel because we already know what the Lord is going to say and we don‘t want to hear it. King Ahab was like that when he and Jehoshaphat were thinking of battling the Syrians at Ramothgilead. In 1 Kings 22, they consulted the false prophets who told them what they thought they wanted to hear. But Jeshoshaphat wanted to talk to a prophet of Jehovah. Ahab knew that Jehovah's prophet would not “prophesy good” concerning him. So when the prophet of the Lord was called he was also told what to say to please the King. When he said it the King admonished him to tell the truth. When he told the truth King Ahab put him in jail for it.

Some times when we ask counsel of the Lord, the Bible deals directly with he issue. All we need to do is to read and obey. That would be the case when we ask counsel about yoking up in some way with unbelievers (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). Our instructions are also fairly clear when it comes to living holy honest lives. The instructions are fairly straightforward when it comes to baptism. However, many decisions are much more subjective. Sometimes we are considering changing jobs or moving to a different house. Sometimes there are several possible marriage partners available who are all saved and walking with the Lord and we need guidance as to whether to pursue a relationship with one of them. Do we believe that the Lord can give us guidance in these situations and if so do we ask counsel of the Lord? If we do He will make His will known. Some have said that in these areas we need to know what the principles of the Word of God are, we need to ask Godly counsel from others who have experience with the situation and we need to look at circumstances. Finally, if we make a decision having done these three things, we should have a sense of peace about the decision because the Holy Spirit will lead us to “peace” about a matter if we have not grieved Him by unbecoming attitudes and actions (Philippians 4:6-7 and Ephesians 4:30).

Life is difficult enough when we do things right. Sometimes we make things more difficult than they need to be because we want to do things our way instead of God’s way. Sometimes we are so self-reliant we simply don’t think to ask God about a decision that we think we are competent to make. My understanding is that God delights in our seeking His will and if we seek we shall find (Matthew 7:7). So let us not live to regret making decisions where we have left the Lord out of the decision-making process.

 

Week of June 13, 2004

Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

 

As we again honor fathers on Father’s day, there might be some lessons we can learn from the best Father that has ever existed, “Our Father which art in heaven.”

1. The best Father that has ever existed had rebellious children (See Isaiah 1:2). Since leaders in the church can be disqualified because of rebellious children (1 Timothy 3:4-5), it appears that fathers are held accountable for the behavior of their children. Yet we can do everything right and still have some in our family turn out wrong. Our heavenly Father cannot make his influence effective in our lives if we allow the unbelievers of this world to be an intimate part of our lives. In 2 Corinthians 6:18, a proper relationship with unbelievers makes it possible for God to function as the Father that He wants to be.

2. The best Father that has ever existed publicly complimented His Son at the start of the work that He had been given to do and not at the end. When the Lord was baptized, the Father said from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).” Surely that strengthened the Lord for the ministry that was ahead of Him.

3. The best Father that has ever existed has an open door policy and accepts boomerang children when they come home. In Luke 15, we have the story of the prodigal son who had left the Father’s house and made his own decisions. When those decisions led him into a pig’s pen, he began to think about the blessings of the servants of his father. He wisely decided to confess his sin and go back home. The father was waiting for him and welcomed him with open arms, even having a feast in his honor. The only person who wasn’t happy was the self-righteous older son who had never disobeyed the father (except for the fact that he wouldn’t be a part of this celebration even though his father asked him to be). It appears that only those who understand forgiveness are able to enjoy the blessings of the Father’s house. Isn’t this a beautiful illustration of God’s salvation? When we who have gone our own way realize that blessing is in the Father’s house and we “come home”, we find out that God has been anxiously waiting our arrival. The Lord has never turned a repentant sinner away. But the older son who thought he deserved the blessings of the Father because he had earned them, shut himself out of the Father’s house. He was not happy with the Father’s willingness to forgive and bless one who was so undeserving. Those who seem to think that they need no forgiveness will never enjoy a home where others are there simply because they have been forgiven.

4. The best Father that has ever existed is not our spiritual father by nature. When we are born, we are born children of wrath and children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2-3). When we are “born again” we become children of God (John 1:12).

Those of us who are saved have been brought into a spiritual family where God is our Father. Sometimes he disciplines us (and proves his love to us that way, see Hebrews 12:6-7) but He always blesses us. We have the best Father that this world has ever known.

 

Week of June 20, 2004

John 9:25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

 

Sometimes people greet us by asking, “What do you know for sure?” We live in a day when almost every truth is questioned and therefore it is not politically correct to be too sure about anything. Those who are sure are usually considered opinionated and proud. In this passage there was a man who knew something for sure. He knew that he was once blind but now he could see. He didn’t know Who the man was that had opened his eyes until later. But he knew he could see. The leaders of the Jews had trouble arguing with him even though they didn’t want to believe that this miracle had occurred. They didn’t want the Jewish people to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and many of them were beginning to believe that. This miracle was going to be difficult to explain away. The Jewish leaders didn't want to be confused with the facts because their minds were already made up.

This man didn’t know a lot of things for sure but what he knew you couldn’t take away from him. Those of us who are saved are like that. We know that we are saved from the penalty that we deserve because of our sin. Many religious leaders tell us that we can’t know that for sure. But God says we can. 1 John 5:13 says, “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.” Who is right, God or man? If I am depending on what I am doing for God to obtain eternal life, of course I can’t be sure. My works and deeds always fall short of my own standards. Surely, they fall short of God’s standards. But if I am depending on what God has done for me by sending His Son to the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, then I can be sure. Then I have the promise of God that “Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).”

Those of us who are sure we are saved are like the man who had his eyes opened. Before we are saved our understanding is darkened or confused. Our eyes are blinded by unbelief according to 2 Corinthians 4:4. When we are saved the Holy Spirit enters and we get a new understanding of the promises of God. It is not uncommon for a newly saved person to say, “I see, I see.” Obviously, they are saying that they now understand. We may not know much when we are first saved, but what we are like the blind man in that what we do know, we know for sure.

Isn’t it strange that many people believe that the Bible is God’s Word and yet they do not believe that God has told us in that volume how to be sure that are sins are forgiven. Most people think we have to wait until after we die to be sure about that. We must ask, “Did God write that volume so that we wouldn’t know how to please Him or so that we would?” I believe He wrote it so that we would know how to please Him.

We may not know very much but if we are truly trusting in the Lord who is the Truth (John 14:6), we should know for sure that we are saved. We should know that Christ died for us and that His sacrifice satisfied God on our behalf. We should have peace with God because we know that we have eternal life.

 

Week of June 27, 2004