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JUNE 2017

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Are We Growing?

 

1 Peter 2:2  as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.

 

Peter the Shepherd

Peter was called as a fisherman to become a fisherman.  He had a business fishing for fish.  Then he became an evangelist fishing for souls.  But Peter learned that he had feet of clay and he failed the Lord.  He denied that he knew him three times while the Lord was being unjustly charged with crimes in the palace of the high priest.  After the Lord's resurrection, the Lord met Peter and asked him about his love for Him.  Peter now knew his weakness and as such he could identify with the weaknesses of others.  At this juncture, the Lord commissions Peter to become a spiritual shepherd.  He wants him to feed and to tend His followers who are seen as sheep.  So Peter starts as an evangelist and ends up as a shepherd.  This is often the case even today.  Those who see souls brought to the Savior want to see them grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord.  Their concern for the newly saved often makes shepherds out of them.  In Peter's case, he wrote two letters that grew out of his love for those newly saved.

 

Genuine Faith

1 Peter 1:7  that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

Peter knows that the faith of those to whom he is writing is genuine.  One way that is seen is that they are willing to endure trials.  He says in 1 Peter 4:12,  “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.”  He knows that they have been born again.  They have turned their back on their own reasonings and ambitions and have trusted the Lord to save them and keep them.  He says in 1 Peter 1:23 that they have “been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”

 

While his readers have genuine faith, they still need to be fed the milk of the word so that they might  grow.  In the Bible, great faith doesn't have to do with the intensity of our believing but it has to do with our ability to depend on more and more promises.  When we are first saved, we know that Christ died for our sins.  Then we understand that he “cares for us.”  We begin to put him first with regard to decisions in life even when those decisions are contrary to the logical reasoning of the world.  (See Matthew 6:33).  Heaven becomes more important than our lives on this earth.  We begin to understand what it means to be sojourners and pilgrims.  1 Peter 2:11, Peter writes, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”  A sojourner is a temporary resident and a pilgrim is one who is traveling to a holy place.  That holy place for the Christian is heaven.

 

Conclusion

In 2 Peter 3:18, Peter admonishes his readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”  In the first epistle he wants them to desire the sincere milk of the word so that they may grow.  That means that we start out as spiritual infants but we should mature.  With maturity comes a settled peace about the truth of Scripture.  It also brings about a realization that this life is not what is important.  We are just passing through.  On that journey, we need to remember that we are to be a “holy people,” that is, a special purchased possession that the Lord wants to set apart for Him and Him alone.  He wants us to be living stones in the living organism called the church.  He does not want us to be dead weights with regard to the work of building the church.  He also prepares us for the fiery trial that often comes in the life of a Christian since in Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

 

Questions that need to be Answered

Have we been born again?  Is our faith genuine?

Are we growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus?

Are we living as though we are citizens of this world or are we living as sojourners and pilgrim?

 

Meditation for the week of June 4, 2017

The Real Deal

 

Acts 4:12  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

 

Problem--myths

Many people have given me many reasons for not wanting to believe the Bible.  Some say that the Bible is a set of myths.  It is good for moral instruction but cannot be depended upon as the inspired word of God.  Of course, that is their opinion and they have obviously never studied the history and prophecies of the Jewish nation.  Since the Israelites have been given to the world as an object lesson that teaches us the principles of God's righteousness, we have evidence that there is a real God known as Jehovah in the Old Testament and as Jesus in the New Testament.  We also know the principles that please Him.  One is belief in Him.  Isaiah 53:1 starts out with “Who hath believed our report?”  Neither have they studied the prophecies connected with the Lord's first coming.  The academic work done on the age and accuracy of the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the Lord fulfilled prophecies written years before he came into this world.  The Bible is not a myth.

 

Problem—eternal conscious punishment

Another reason some do not want to believe the Bible is because the Bible teaches eternal conscious punishment for the unbeliever.  It is difficult for us in our permissive society to accept the fact that death is not the end and that rejectors of the Lord go to a place of separation from God eternally.  That place is a place of torment   Frankly, I would not have done things the way God has done them, but God is God.  And because I believe that this is the clear teaching of the Bible, I am glad the Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  I am also motivated to preach the Gospel of God's grace to those who may not fully understand God's love and plan of salvation.  If someone reading this has trouble with the idea of eternal conscious punishment, you need to take that up with God and not with me or with those who preach the Gospel.  Convince God when you meet Him that He had no right to create a place like this. 

 

Problem—Old Testament Battles

Some have problems with the Old testament battles where there was genocide.  So do I.  I can justify them and I can understand the reasons God had for these battles.  But I certainly would not have allowed people to slaughter each other in this way.  But God did and if he has used these battles to show how much he hated idol worship and how much he hates sin, so be it.  I am glad that I live in a different day.  In my day, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.  Our battles are spiritual and not we do not raise physical armies or carry physical weapons to advance the cause of the Gospel.  Our weapons are the Word of God (the sword of the spirit) and prayer.  We cannot force anyone to become a Christian though we earnestly persuade all that we can to believe.  Christians make a big mistake when they try to make people live like Christians through force or political means before they have become convinced that the Lord Jesus is the only way to heaven and that trusting Him is the only way to please God.  Forcing people to act like Christians when they are not only causes them to resent Christians.  When they resent Christians, they resent Christ.  When they resent Christ they reject Him and seal their own doom and we as Christians have contributed to that process.

 

Problem—Only One Way

When Christians say that there is only one way to heaven, people think that we are condemning those who do not believe that.  We are not condemning them, we were once just like them.  But we do believe that there is only one name under heaven whereby we MUST be saved.  This does not cause us to annihilate those who do not believe like us because we want to see those who do not believe reached with the Gospel of God's grace.  Zealots in most religions have tried to murder and annihilate those who disagree with them.  That didn't work in Old Testament times and it does not work now.  Can people of other faiths be saved?  Yes!  But whether they call themselves Muslims, or Hindus, or Buddhists, or Catholics or Lutherans, or whatever—they MUST believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved.  Unfortunately, many of those who are carrying the banner of Christianity in the public sphere today are not manifesting the grace of our Lord Jesus.  One could wonder if they really understand the truth of the Gospel.

 

One Way

There is only one way to heaven.  Salvation is available to Jews and Gentiles (all non-Jews).  But it is time to quit judging Christ and His teachings by those who call themselves Christians who are not demonstrating his love, or grace or the values of Christ.   It is time to judge that one way by the One who was willing to die to save us.   When you come to know Him, you will understand why we who believe in Him are so convinced that He is the real deal. 

 

Meditation for the week of June 11, 2017

There are Fathers and then there are Fathers

 

2 Corinthians 6:17-18  Therefore "COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU.  I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY.

 

Becoming a Father

Becoming a father in a physical sense is relatively easy.  I realize that there are some families that cannot have children and will take exception to what I am saying, but generally speaking a father can become a father rather easily.  However, being a Father to the children that have been born may be a whole different matter.

 

Fathers can be fathers without wanting to be fathers.  Other fathers take on the responsibilities of a father without being the reason that the child came into the world.  They may adopt children or just befriend them.   Fatherhood is both a title of one who has produced a child biologically and a responsibility or function of one who provides for a child whether that person is the biological father or not.

 

Responsibilities of Fathers

The first responsibility of a father is to love his wife.  This provides a secure environment for a child's nurturing.  A father should provide food, shelter and protection for a child.  A father should instruct a child in a practical way and in spiritual things.  The father should be a leader that the child can respect and honor. Of course mothers share in these responsibilities as well but today I am considering the responsibilities of fathers.  Today, many fathers are not providing these things for their children.  On the other hand there are those that are not biological fathers that have provided these things for children that are not their own.

 

Some fathers are good and kind even if they are firm. Other fathers are cruel and evil and destroy the children that they are around emotionally and in some cases they destroy them physical.   However, as a child matures, a Father cannot act like a father if the child will not let him.  We see these things in a practical way in this world and we see them in our relationship with God who wants to father us.

 

Who is our Father Spiritually?

In John 8:44 the Lord tells the religious Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”  That was fairly blunt language.  But children tend to act like their fathers and the Pharisees were acting like their father the devil.  Who would want the devil as their father?  He is the evil father that we have mentioned earlier.  He is a murderer, liar and destroyer.  Those who are captivated by his lies end up being destroyed in this life and they end up being destroyed spiritually for eternity.  Satan is really the father of all of us by our first birth.  We have his nature of sin and rebellion.  And apart from the intervention of the Holy Spirit, none of us would get released from the hold he has over us.  Paul says he is the god of this world and he has blinded the minds of those who believe not (2 Corinthians 4:4). 

 

But God wants to be our Father.  That is why we must be born again (See John 3).  Once we have believed on or trusted in the Lord Jesus, we have a new Father and a new nature.  We now can enjoy the benefits of a benevolent Father.  However, God can't function as our Father if we as Christians won't let Him provide for us, guide us, discipline us, and instruct us.  One thing we have to do in order for him to be able to father us is to separate from those who do not believe in Him.  Now many wonder just what this separation involves because we live and work in a fallen world and the unsaved are all around us.  However, we don't voluntarily put ourselves in a position where we let unbelievers make ungodly decisions for us.  We have to be careful in our social, political, marriage and business relationships so that we don't end up worshiping in the wrong way and living in a disobedient way in order to get along with people that don't understand their own sinnership and who have never turned from “idols to serve the living and true God.”  (See 1 Thessalonians 1:9).  In other words, God cannot function as our father if we are letting Satan and the world he controls function as our father.

 

God wants to be a Good Father

Surely, we need to let God be our Father.  We cannot do that without the new life and the new relationship that results when we come to end of ourselves and our own reasonings and strength and trust wholly in the Lord for salvation.  And after being born again, we need to separate from unbelievers so that we are not sucked back into their attitudes and lifestyle.  We need to be obedient children (1 Peter 1:14).  Then the Lord will call us beloved like He did Daniel and we will be able to praise Him for all that He has done for us 

 

Meditation for the week of June 18, 2017

The Unseen Battle

 

Ephesians 6:12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 

Where are these heavenly places where the wicked spirits do their dastardly deeds?  We are here on planet earth in this life and we are wrestling something very real but unseen.  It seems to me that heaven may be up but it must also be another dimension all around us.  If we who are the Lord's could really see the battle that is going on, we would have a much greater appreciation for the power of God and for the love of God in our lives.  We would also be much more aware of the need to pray and rely on the Lord for preservation.  We would not be so self-sufficient and confident of our abilities if we really understood the power and craftiness of Satan and his minions.  They are doing their best to mar that which glorifies the Lord Jesus.

 

With Regard to the Unsaved

2 Corinthians 4:4 says he blinds: “Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”  Revelation 12:9 reminds us that he deceives: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

 

We can see that Satan is not omnipresent but he has angels that serve him and because of them, it often seems like he is everywhere. One of his missions is to keep the unsaved in darkness.  He wants them to believe any lie rather than the truth.

 

With Regard to those who are Saved

Satan presents the believer’s faults to the Lord.  If Satan cannot keep a person from believing in the Lord, he will try to prove to God that the faith of a believer is not really genuine.  Revelation 12:10 reminds us, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.'”

 

We see this in the book of Job when Satan attacked Job's motives.  Satan said Job was worshiping God only because God had blessed him with family, wealth and good health.  In Job 1:9-11 we read, “So Satan answered the LORD and said, 'Does Job fear God for nothing?  Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!'”  Job had not bought into the lie of the prosperity Gospel so when Satan tried to destroy him he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21)."

 

Satan resists the prayers of a believer.  Daniel experienced this.  In Daniel 10:12-13 we read that an angel strengthened Daniel and spoke to him saying, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.  But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia."

 

Conclusion

Satan is a great tempter.  He tries to get temptation and opportunity to come together so that Christians will fail in their desire to serve the Lord.  He did that with Peter in the palace of the high priest.  As a result, Peter denied the Lord three times.  He lies to us.  He sometimes comes across as a bear that seems tame but is really wild and dangerous.  Other times he approaches us a roaring lion.  He knows how to win hearts as Absalom did who wanted to seize the kingdom that belonged to David his father.  He can be beautiful, and sweet. He can be ugly and confrontational. 

 

How can Christians deal with his desire to destroy us?  Obviously we can only do it with prayer and the word of God.  When he shoots his fiery darts of doubt we need to remind him and ourselves of the promises of God.  We need to pray so that real answers will remind us of the power of God in our lives in a real way.  The unsaved will only be saved from his snare by considering the eternal cost of believing the Liar rather than the One who is the Truth.  As Christians we need to be reminded of Paul's message to the Romans where he says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).”  Amen and Amen!

 

Satan knows that ultimately He loses but He wants to destroy the joy of the saint and the soul of the unsaved.  We need not give him that satisfaction!

 

 

Meditation for the week of June 25, 2017