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JUNE 2015

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Faith, Hope, Charity!  

 

1 Corinthians 13:13  And now abide faith, hope, love (charity), these three; but the greatest of these is love (charity).

 

Permanent Gifts

The permanent gifts of the Spirit are faith, hope and charity.  The greatest of these gifts is love or charity.  This is the love that God had for the world when He gave His Son to be the substitutionary sacrifice for sin.  Notice that for God, charity is natural. For men, it is a gift, which implies that it is not a natural part of our make-up.  We know a lot about the love of friends, and the erotic love of romance and the love of things.  But how much do we know about a love that is not self-centered but is other-centered?

 

Definitions

The Biblical description of  faith is found in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  The Net Bible translates this, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.”  Faith in the Bible is not a leap in the dark.  It is the willingness to believe the promises of God even when the promises of God make no sense.  Faith in the promises of God is based on sound reasoning.  For example, because the promises that God has made in the past with regard to the first coming of the Lord have been fulfilled, we believe that God will fulfill His promises with regard to eternal life and with regard to the Lord’s second coming.   That confidence in the future is called hope and is based on faith in the Lord.

 

The Biblical description of hope is found in Romans 8:24-25, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  Hope always has to do with confidence (faith)  in future promises.  The  future that God offers is always better than the present.  Some preachers say that we have our best life now, but the Bible says that the best life for the Christian is still to come.  Hope in the Bible normally has to do with the blessings associated with the Lord’s second coming.

 

Love or charity is described and defined for us in John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”  We get further instruction on this kind of love from Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Wow!  Do I have this grace in my life?  Would I lay down my life for my friends?  Christ not only laid down his life for His friends, He laid down His life for His enemies.  Unfortunately,  most of them will be condemned eternally because they won’t believe on Him (John 3:18).  He loved His enemies, but those who remain enemies after the Lord has offered them His love, obviously do not love Him.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:3 mentions these gifts of the Spirit.  “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.”  When we have faith, we will manifest it by works.  When we have love, labor will be involved—it will be costly.  When we have hope, we will manifest that by patient endurance. 

 

Abiding In Him

We are told in John 15 that apart from Christ we can do nothing.  Judas did not abide in the vine.  Israel as a nation did not abide in the vine, but disciples are to abide in the vine.  My understanding of this passage is that we abide in the vine by keeping the Lord’s commandment to love one another as the Lord loved us.  No wonder I feel so alone and weak at times since I confess I have never loved as Christ  loved me.  There is no way apart from the enabling Spirit of the Lord that anyone could honestly say that they have measured up to this standard.  But we should want to measure up. 

 

Conclusion

1 Corinthians 13 makes it clear that we don’t have “all faith”.  Neither do we always live for the future so hope is not always what motivates us.  Obviously, we have not consistently had the love or charity that the Lord had for sinners.   I am glad that the Lord is merciful to sinners.  He didn’t die for the righteous or for the good.  He died for sinners.  Which means He died for me.  And now He is trying to make me more like Him.  He has His work cut out.

 

Meditation for the week of June 7, 2015

What if?

 

Romans 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 

Consequences

I am meditating on a very solemn subject this week.  That subject has to do with the consequences of offending God.  Our society today is much like the Roman society that Paul was describing in this epistle.  Paul uses Old Testament references to describe the wickedness of his day.  He concludes that description with what seems to be the reason for all of this wickedness.  That reason is that there is no fear of God before their eyes.

 

What is the Fear of God?

Some say that the fear of God is just reverential trust and respect.  For those obedient to God that may be true; but for the disobedient, fear involves trembling and even terror.  Fear in the Bible and even in this chapter involves God’s righteous judgment.  Paul says in verses 5 and 6, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)  Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?”  God’s judgment always concerned me and it should concern every one of us.  I am saved today from “the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10)” because I feared God.

 

I was raised with a healthy respect for authority.  As a result when God talked about His wrath, I assumed He meant wrath.  When he talked about a rich man lifting up his eyes in hell, being in torment, I believed that is exactly what happened to the rich man in Luke 16.  When he talked about a place where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched, I assumed that there was a place like that for unbelievers in eternity.  When Revelation 20 refers to a Lake of Fire as the final destination of the person who wants to be judged by their works and who finds out their good works didn’t offset their bad ones, I believed that was a real place.   I certainly did not want to go there.

 

I still believe that one aspect of the fear of God is a healthy respect for His anger against those who reject Him and who worship other gods.  Many people criticize the preaching about God’s wrath.  They believe that we should only preach about the love of God.  However, I would not be preaching today if I didn’t believe in God’s wrath.  And because I believed in God’s wrath, I didn’t want to get on His bad side.  And I don’t want my friends and loved ones to get on His bad side either.

 

Warning is Demonstrating Love!

We don’t have a problem telling people that there are consequences for drinking and driving.  One of the consequences may be death and another may be bankruptcy if a policeman stops a person who is drunk.  The fines, penalties and insurance costs are enormous.  We don’t have a problem “scaring people” with the signs of cancer or diabetes or stroke because we believe that those warnings will ultimately save lives.  We actually believe we are showing love to those we are warning about those things.  I believe that we should view the warnings about the wrath of God in the same way.  We who preach the Gospel would be unloving if we didn’t warn our audiences that God is going to hold them accountable.   Sin is real, we cannot deny that.  We might call it by different names and we might try to justify it, but sin is sin.  Sin offends God.  Either we have our sin forgiven through faith in the death of Christ or there will be eternal wrath on those who reject God’s solution and God’s Son.  If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be saved today.  If I didn’t believe that,  I wouldn’t be preaching today since if God does not hold us accountable, we don’t need to worry about life after death.  If I didn’t believe that. I wouldn’t be concerned about making sure that my preaching and worship of God is Scriptural.  We should be concerned about the consequences of our decisions, particularly when those consequences will affect us for eternity. 

 

The Questions that have to be Asked

I know many people will read this and say that God is not like this. And of course what they are really saying is that the Bible may contain truth but it isn’t always true.   If you should be one of those who say this, I have to ask you, “How do you know that you are right?”  If the Bible cannot be depended on, what can we depend on to know how God thinks? 

 

People, who say that they believe in the Living God of heaven today, have by and large rejected the full description of God as given in the Bible.  Many want to believe in the God of love Who gave His Son to save sinners, but they don’t want to think about His wrath and anger on those who reject Christ.  So again I ask, “If you have rejected the God who gets angry, what if your concept of God is wrong?”

 

Meditation for the week of June 14, 2015

The Lord wants to be your Chef!

 

Psalms 107:8-9:  Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,

And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul,

And fills the hungry soul with goodness.

 

I just finished eating a wonderful breakfast.  The menu was eggs over easy, hash browns with onions, whole wheat toast with grape jelly and turkey sausage patties.  I also had a gourmet cup of coffee.  I am satisfied.  But one thing is sure, in a few hours, I will be craving a good hamburger and another cup of coffee.  I won’t get them because the nutritionists tell me that what I like and what is good for me is two different things, and I have had enough of what I like for one day

 

The Lord tells a woman in John chapter 4 verse 10 through 14 that He can provide her with water that will completely satisfy.  He compares His water to water from a clear cool stream or perhaps water from an artesian well where the water bubbles to the surface cool and filtered and satisfying.  His water is not the dead water that has been caught and kept in a cistern. In John 6:35, the Lord gives us further explanation and says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

 

Obviously, the Lord is talking about spiritual satisfaction rather than physical satisfaction.  The water is the Holy Spirit which satisfies, and the bread is the Lord Himself.  We partake of that break and of that water when we believe in Him.  We believe in Him when we believe His promises and revelations as found in the Word of God.

 

How many of us are really satisfied?  How many of us really want to be satisfied?  From a natural stand point, eating is one of our greatest pleasures.  Who would want to lose their appetite for another good meal?  Who would want to never crave a clear cool drink again?  The only people who would like water that completely satisfies would be people for whom a drink of water is not readily available.  The same would be true of those who do not have enough quality food to eat.  If a person were to go to bed hungry and thirsty, these blessings would be very satisfying.  Never having to worry about dying of thirst or starvation would be a great blessing.  But for someone who has never been really hungry or really thirsty, I suspect that there would be little desire to have their hunger and thirst quenched once and for all.

 

The woman at the well in John 4 was burdened by her need for water.  She had to carry the water in a container.  She was ready to give that chore up.  She was also burdened by five failed marriages and a present live-in relationship.  She confessed her sins to the Lord who knew all about them.  She then found out that the One she was talking to was in fact the Messiah of the Jewish literature.  This Messiah had come to her personally.  She believed, she was satisfied and she left her water pot at the well and went and told others.  She would need physical water again, but she would always be satisfied by the drink that the Lord had given her spiritually at that well.  It had become a well of water springing up into everlasting life.  She had been satisfied.

 

The Lord had done a great miracle in John 6.  He had fed the multitude physically but they had not been fed spiritually.  He says that they were seeking Him because of the miracle but He also says, in John 6:36, “But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.”  They liked eating of his loaves but they didn’t want to believe In Him.  They were never satisfied.

 

Why is there so much arguing and striving about spiritual things today? Is it because we are like the Athenians in Acts 17 who think that logic and philosophy have the answer as to Who God is and as to how we can know Him?  Is it because we are not simple enough to just believe what God has said about His Son in the Bible?  Is it because we try to explain away the miracles associated with the Lord’s first coming?  Is it because we do not believe the witnesses that saw the living Savior after the crucifixion?  Is it because we do not think we will be held accountable for our sin and our unbelief?  Even those of us who take the title of Christian today seem to have problems with being simple enough to evidence real satisfaction in their relationship with the Lord.

 

He satisfies the longing soul.   Most people are searching for something new and exciting even in spiritual things.  But real satisfaction is right in front of us.   The woman at the well was satisfied.  She believed in the Lord.  The multitude that ate of the miraculous loaves was not satisfied.  They did not believe in the Lord.  And that makes all the difference.

 

Meditation for the week of June 21, 2015

All have Sinned (Except for the Man on the Middle Cross)!

 

1 Peter 2:23 Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.

 

What is God really like?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we who claim to be Christians were all Christ-like in our lives and attitudes? Wouldn’t it be nice if we never reviled, that is, we never spoke with contempt or abusive language?

 

I have been having trouble explaining to some of my friends who study the Bible with me, how God can be as vengeful as He seems to be in the Old Testament.   He also seems to be vengeful in the book of the Revelation from chapter six on to chapter 20.   One of my friends told me that the God of the book of Revelation was “criminal.” I have explained to these friends that while I do think that the “wrath of God” is real and literal, God has worked in different ways during different dispensations or administrations of His rule on this earth.  We live in a day when we know God through Jesus Christ.  And Jesus Christ exhibits mercy and love in this dispensation.  He died for us in order to save us.  He does not ask us to die for Him in order to be saved although many have died for Him because they are saved.  He loves us even when we don’t love Him.  Even in the Old Testament, He shows mercy unto thousands of those who love Him and guard His Word (Exodus 20:6).  Mercy has always been one of God’s graces, but we who live in this present dispensation are particularly blessed by it.  We have seen and experienced the love of God through His Son Jesus Christ.  But we also know that those who reject this love and mercy will be exposed to God’s wrath.  As I have said before, one of the reasons I preach the Gospel is that I believe in the wrath of God against unbelievers and I don’t want anyone to experience it.

 

What should mark a Christian?

While I have trouble explaining some aspects of God’s personality to my friends, I have just as much trouble explaining the attitudes of those who call themselves Christians to my friends.  They see Christians as judgmental, hypocritical and cruel.  By judging Christ by some so-called Christians, many have no desire to be identified with a movement that in many cases is very unChrist-like.  Many of the articles that have been written by Christians on the current LGBT controversy have been confrontational and divisive. The language has been that of a reviler.  Many who are against gay marriage on Biblical grounds as they ought to be don’t seem to be too concerned with lying and cheating at business, or with heterosexuals living together without marriage, or with slandering people that they do not like, or with not showing respect to governmental authority, and I could go on.  Couples that have gotten pregnant before marriage are often congratulated rather than being admonished.

 

As Christians, shouldn’t all of these moral issues be important to us?  But it is quite obvious that many so-called Christians pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to accept and which parts they want to reject.  Many Christians want to distinguish between the major doctrines of the Bible and the minor ones and they are willing to ignore the minor ones.  The only problem is, the minor doctrines wouldn’t have to be labeled minor if we were all willing to believe that the whole Bible is divinely inspired and that God meant what He said.  I am wondering under this framework, how we know that the LGBT issues are major rather than minor issues with God?  Even though God says the practice of a gay lifestyle is sin, he also says that we have ALL sinned.  Perhaps we have not all sinned in the same way, but certainly we have sinned in ways that are major in God’s eyes.

 

The blessing of living in the day of grace

I am glad that I live in the day of God’s grace.  I am glad that I have been delivered from “the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1: 10).”  I am glad that my God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).  I am NOT glad that those who reject God’s grace and mercy as shown through the sacrificial death of Christ will perish, but perish they will!  I am also glad that Christianity should not be judged by me or my life, or by many Christians who down through the years have not been very Christ-like in my personal opinion.  Christianity should be judged by the humility and sacrificial love of Christ.  And again, I quote, “Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

 

We need to remember that it is possible to sin in trying to remedy what many of us consider to be a great sin.  Let God do the remedying.  After all He is the one who is being offended.  Let those of us who preach the Gospel preach about all sin, not just one sin.   Let us make sure that we are being criticized for our good behavior and not because we have become filled with pride in our own supposed morality. 

 

Meditation for the week of June 28, 2015