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Converts by Force
Chronicles 15:13 . . . whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel was
to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
was one of Judah's good kings. He tried to get rid of idolatry in the
land. He put loyalty to the Lord before his loyalty to his mother. He
made mistakes late in life, but the Lord said in 2
Chronicles 14:2, "Asa did
what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God."
think he did one thing that simply does not work, however. He tried to
make worshipers of the Lord by force. Since he was king and since he
wanted his nation to be worshipers of Jehovah, he gave his subjects no
choice. This might have made Judah a better society with less crime and
God certainly gave him credit for wanting to do right, but it certainly
didn't change the hearts of those in the land. Likely, many who were
forced to worship "Asa's way", resented him for interfering in
their private lives. I suspect he may have actually made people hate the
"gospel" of that day rather than really embracing it. It is
impossible to make true converts to the Lord by force.
is a saying that goes like this "A person convinced against his
will is of the same opinion still." Asa could force his people to
worship the Lord formally. He could make sure that the worship of idols
was penalized by death. He could get the people to make an covenant with
God that they would worship Him and only Him. But while he had the power
to do all of that, he did not have the power to change hearts and minds.
He could make the people of Judah conform their behavior to the worship
of Jehovah. However, he couldn't actually make believers out of them.
Israel and Judah, the two divisions of Israel after Solomon's death
found it more to their liking to worship idols than to worship Jehovah.
I was asked by a friend how a person comes to faith. He wanted to know
why it is that some believe in the God of the Bible and most do not?
People have given different answers to this perplexing problem down
through the years. While I believe that the death of Christ is
sufficient for all to be saved, and while I believe that God wants all
to be saved; it is clear that whenever we preach the Gospel, some
believe and some do not. No one has adequately explained to my
satisfaction why that occurs.
Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
It also says, that when the Lord was lifted up (on the cross), he would
draw ALL men to himself (John 12:32). That doesn't mean that everyone
who is drawn comes. The Lord has sent the Holy Spirit to convict the
world of sin and of righteous and of judgment (John 16:8). I believe
that conviction occurs at some point in every person's life no matter
where they are born. However just because people are convicted that
something Is wrong does not mean that they are willing to search for or
believe the truth. We may believe we have cancer but we may not believe
in the doctor who says he has the cure. Many of us are like that with
the Lord who has the cure for sin.
told my friend who asked the question about how people come to faith,
that I can explain the Gospel to people, I can read the Bible to them, I
can pray for them, but I can't make them believe. Asa couldn't do that
and neither can I. The only person who can do that is the Lord who uses
the Word of God and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to bring
people to faith in Christ. However, even the Lord will not force people
to believe if they stubbornly resist Him. The Lord knows that those who
are loyal to Him are loyal from the heart. They are loyal in good times
and bad. They are loyal like Job when it makes sense and when it doesn't
Being a believer or a worshiper of the one true God is not an outward
religion but an inward conviction that leads to a trusting relationship
with the Lord. Why some believe and some do not is certainly a mystery
to me. One thing I know, we can't legislate true Christianity.
Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, apparently approached the people
differently. He set an example himself and then sent Levites to teach
the people the law. I suspect he made true converts of many of the
people of Judah.
can and should preach the Gospel knowing that some will believe and some
will not. We can make people act like Christians, but they will still be
lost if they haven't been convicted and converted by the power of the
Holy Spirit as He uses the Word of God. Forcing people to act like
Christians when they are not is not the solution for this world's
problems. Preaching the Word and seeing people believe in their hearts
is the solution (Romans 10:9).
for the week of June 5, 2011
Joy of being Saved and Baptized!
8:39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord
caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on
his way rejoicing.
official from "darkest Africa" is an example of what happens
when we seek the Lord with all of our hearts. First, the Lord makes sure
that the official gets his hands on a part of the Bible but not on just
any part. He gets the scroll of Isaiah the prophet that so clearly
speaks of the coming suffering savior. Then the Lord sends a busy
evangelist to him and only him so he could understand the message of the
book he was reading. When he understands the message and trusts the
Lord, he immediately wants to be identified as a Christian by being
baptized (or immersed) in water. This man had experienced the presence
of the Lord in a most remarkable way. Because of that he believed, he
was baptized and he went on his way rejoicing.
it the baptism that caused such joy or was it his salvation or was it
both? I think it was both and those who are saved but who never get
scripturally baptized miss out on the joy that comes with simple
obedience to the command of the Lord to be baptized.
are some things in our lives that we don't need to pray about, we just
need to do what the Lord has commanded. We may need to pray about how to
do it, but we don't need to pray about whether we should do it. Baptism
for a believer is one of those things. In Acts 10: 48, Peter commanded
Cornelius who had just come to faith in the Lord to be baptized. In
Matthew 28:19, the commission to the Lord's disciples is threefold. They
are to make disciples, baptize them and teach them all things.
Bible teaches that faith in Christ saves. Baptism marks out a saved
person in this world as belonging to Christ. It is like a ranchers brand
on his cows. The rancher marks those that are his so that when they run
with other cows, he still knows which ones are his. The Lord sees this
mark even if men do not. A person can go to heaven without being
baptized but a person should not go to heaven without being baptized. If
a person had opportunity to be baptized and did not do it, what is it
going to be like to meet the Lord who loved them enough to die for them?
I don't think it will be easy trying to explain why they didn't love the
Lord enough to be baptized for Him.
Scripture there is only one way to be baptized and only one time to be
baptized. All the examples of believer's baptism in the Bible involved
people who had made a confession of faithe in the Lord Jesus. Some
churches baptize infants who cannot make their own personal confession
of faith. This only gives the child a false sense of security when they
are old enough to believe on the Lord themselves. All the examples in
Scripture involved immersion which is what the word baptism really
means. So adults should be immersed In water but only after they
believe. Thus, the way to be baptized is by immersion in water and the
time is after a confession of faith in the Lord Jesus. In the Bible, new
converts were usually baptized immediately after they were saved. They
weren't asked to wait to prove themselves, they were encouraged to be
baptized to prove themselves.
joy that comes with believing in the Lord and being baptized can't be
explained, it needs to be experienced. I hope everyone reading this
meditation has "gone on their way rejoicing."
for the week of June 12, 2011
Ye Have Crucified!
2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge
of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
2:36-37 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God
hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said
unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall
is fairly direct in his preaching of the gospel. He calls the Jews
wicked. Even though the Gentiles were also guilty of the crucifixion, he
is preaching to Jews and he says specifically "whom ye have
crucified." Peter is holding his audience accountable though his
preaching. In his case, his audience realized that what he was saying
was true. Their hearts were pricked. They repented and believed the
Gospel. When Stephen preached in the same way in Acts 7, they stoned
him. But there was still one young man who heard Stephen's message and
saw him die who was convicted or "pricked" in his heart. In
Acts 9, he met the Lord on the Damascus road. His name was Paul.
there a difference between the way we present the Gospel today and the
way they preached it in the early days of the church? I think there is.
We want to "share" the Gospel. They preached it. One word that
is often used for preaching is to herald the Gospel. Another word has to
do with announcing good news. Both words assume that the audience has a
need that only the Gospel can meet. When we talk about sharing, there is
always the idea of participation on the part of the recipient. Sharing
assumes that the what you are apportioning is something the recipient
wants. We can share a meal, we can share our time and our money, but can
we really share the Gospel? When a person is truly convicted and ready
to believe in the Lord, perhaps at that point we can "share"
the gospel with them. But up until they have been pricked in their
hearts, we need to preach the Gospel to them.
we "share" the Gospel, we are careful not to offend. When
those in the early church preached the Gospel, people were often
offended. Sometimes the preacher was stoned. Sometimes he was jailed,
but there were always some that realized the truth of the Gospel being
preached. When there is something wrong and people are lost because they
have a religion without Christ, do we love them if we don't preach the
Gospel to them? If I "share" the Gospel with them, I have to
be careful not to give them the impression that I think they are unsaved
and lost. When I preach the Gospel, I can be honest about people that
have signed on to Christianity because they think it is a good thing
verses those who have truly repented and believed. I can distinguish
between the saved and the lost, between the believer and the unbeliever,
between those that are going to heaven and those who are going to hell.
When I preach the Gospel, I can distinguish between religion and true
trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Religion is a burden, while trusting in
the Lord removes burdens and frees us to serve the Lord "in newness
of life (Romans 6:4)." A truly saved person's walk is marked by
devotion to the Lord and serving Him is seen as a privilege, not as a
burden. When we are truly trusting in the Lord, we are no longer
consumed with guilt, but we are motivated by love.
Paul "reasoned" with people to whom he preached (Acts 24:25).
He often reasoned with the Jews in the synagogues. But I suspect that as
he reasoned, he would have been considered to be a "Bible Banger."
He didn't try to make the Gospel something that it wasn't in order to
convince people to believe in it. He was honest about salvation
requiring conviction of sin, an understanding of their lostness, and a
turning from idols to God in order to be saved.
wonder how many of us are being as faithful as the early preachers were
when we "share" the Gospel? Do we confront the sin issues and
the unbelief of our natural hearts in the same way the early preachers
did? Or as we "share" the Gospel do we change it so that it
will be attractive to unbelievers?
Jews crucified their Messiah. Peter's confronting that issue was not
easy or pretty. However, when those in his audience faced their sin,
they were able to repent and believe. Anything less, does not show real
love for the lost.
for the week of Jun 19, 2011
7:6 And Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!"
So Haman was terrified before the king and queen.
was wicked. The men of Sodom were wicked (Genesis 13:13). People who
claim to be Christians but who persist in immorality, covetousness,
worshiping idols, slander, drunkenness or extortion are called wicked in
the King James Version (1 Corinthians 5:13). They are considered evil in
newer versions. I have been wondering what it takes to get God to tag us
"evil" or "wicked". There are a number words that
are translated wicked or evil in the Bible, but in nearly every case the
person is a rejecter of the Living God.
know that we are all sinners who sin and as such we do not do good. We
are unrighteous and we are ungodly (or not like God). Thank God, the
Lord came to save people like us (Romans 5:6-8). But even in our unsaved
state, would the ungodly and unrighteous all be considered evil? I don't
think so. An ungodly person could be sinning without realizing the
gravity of what they are doing. They might be mislead as to the truth.
Paul seems to put himself in that category when he describes his life
before salvation and says that he did what he did in ignorance and
unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).
evil or wicked person rebels against God and knows that is what he is
doing. In Psalm 10:13 we read, "Why do the wicked renounce God? He
has said in his heart, "You will not require an account." A
wicked person does not believe that there is a God in heaven to whom he
will one day give an account. The men of Sodom practiced evil without
restraint. They did not love their fellow human beings, they only wanted
self-gratification Their end was to be suddenly destroyed.
the man in the verse we are considering, was a man who wanted t0 be
exalted. He wanted wealth and the power that it brought. His power was
tested by a man who would not bow down to him by the name of Mordecai.
Mordecai is a picture of a spiritual man who will not bow down to the
dictates of the "evil one" or Satan. Mordecai should have been
destroyed, but miraculously he was saved by events that were beyond his
control. While in this world, evil seems to triumph over good, but in
this case good triumphed over evil.
is scary, however, is the statement in 1 Corinthians 5 about evil people
being those who consider themselves to be brothers or Christians. We are
told not to associate (or have fellowship) with such people. In 1
Corinthians 5:8 we are told, "Therefore let us keep the feast, not
with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with
the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." In the passage, the
feast is the old testament feast of unleavened bread which speaks of the
life of a Christian who has been redeemed by a passover lamb. A
Christian's life should be characterized by sincerity and truth. The
life of the wicked is a life of malice and wickedness. Even many unsaved
people do not live like this. It is the Baalam's of this world who know
the truth and who seem to know the Lord's mind but who sell the Lord and
his people out that are really wicked (2 Peter 2:15).
Many of us are reading their books and are joining with them in politics
and business without realizing that we are not cleansing ourselves from
evil. Instead we are being contaminated by it.
there evil people in this world? The answer is "Yes!" Are some
of them claiming to be Christian leaders? The answer is "Yes!"
Paul warned us to be careful that we aren't destroyed by philosophy and
empty lies (Colossians 2:8). Let's be careful who we read and follow so
that we don't end up practicing the evil that is being promoted by some
of these very charismatic teachers.
for the week of June 26, 2011