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MARCH 2010

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Does the Lord Really Know Best?

 

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding.

 

My wife was given a GPS system by our children. We recently left for an extended trip to Texas so I updated all of the maps before leaving. We have found this little gizmo to be quite marvelous. On our way to an out of the way address in the Houston area, it took us right to the door. We had the same experience in Orlando, Florida, during a trip there. We wanted to find a little congregation of Christians, and we had the address but didn't have a clue as to how to get there. I put the address in the little machine and it started giving us directions. We turned this way and that way and in a little over a half an hour we were right at the doorstep of that little building.

However, as good this little invention is, I have a problem with it when I am going somewhere that I have gone before. I find myself trusting my own sense of direction instead of trusting the gizmo. We had been to the area in Texas several years back that we were going to on this latest trip. I was absolutely sure this invention was taking me too far south. But I steeled myself and did what it said and it was right and I was wrong!

My problems with my GPS system are similar to my problems in trusting the Lord. Most of the time my "own understanding" gets in the way. Before I was "born again," I found myself thinking I knew how God should save me. When I finally trusted the Lord, I had come to a point where as a lost sinner, I couldn't find my own way. At that point, I was able to let the Lord tell me how to be saved. Being saved is easy. The process of coming to the point where we trust the Lord rather than ourselves is generally not easy.

In addition to leaning on my own understanding, sometimes I ask somebody who should know about the things of the Lord and they lead me astray. I find that asking the wrong person for directions in a city where people don't know their own neighborhoods can be disastrous. The same thing is true when we ask the wrong people for spiritual directions. Today it is possible ask people who have never trusted the Lord for guidance as to how to trust Him. Some of them are not even sure that you can know for sure that you are going to heaven. Some think the Bible contains the Word of God but that some of the passages may not necessarily be the very Word of God. Others say they are trusting the Lord and then they "sell" the Gospel which is free. They use man's marketing techniques to support what they call their ministries rather than letting the Lord provide for them. We should certainly talk to other spiritual people and get counsel from them, but it would be wise to make sure that they themselves are trusting the Lord before we trust them. I suspect we forget that our best approach to trusting the Lord and letting him guide us is to pray and to study the Scriptures. Counsel from others should agree with what we are convinced God is telling us in the Bible.

God has given us a road map when He gave us the Bible, and He has given us a conscience. Using the two together with a prayerful attitude will get us where the Lord wants us to go. Those who have never trusted the Lord for salvation will find out that God loves sinners and that He provided salvation at the cross. When they trust Him and lean not to their own understanding they start for heaven. After we are saved we need to learn over and over again that our own understanding will get us into trouble Spiritually. The Lord will not guide us wrong if we trust Him. However, often His way just doesn't seem like the right way. But it always is, I guarantee it!

 

Meditation for the week of March 7, 2010

The Bible Uses Four Letter Words!

 

John 3:7 "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

 

The birth of a healthy baby is usually a joyful experience. There is a moment of conception after which there is growth within the womb of the mother. Then comes the time of delivery. Usually that involves a certain amount of pain. With love, care and nurture, the baby begins to grow outside of the womb of the mother. There is growth before the delivery and there is growth after the delivery, but there is a point of deliverance.

The new birth is much like a physical birth. People hear the Word of God and when it falls on good ground, the Word takes root. The Gospel causes the person to think about eternity. Before the person is "delivered," they will experience the pain of conviction of sin. A young person will not understand sin the way an older person will, and all people are not convicted of all sins. But all people find out that they are sinners and that they are lost. They have to come to the realization that they cannot find their own way into the kingdom nor can they save themselves. When a person comes to the point where they look away from themselves to Christ for salvation, they get peace with God by trusting in the truth that Christ died, was buried, and was raised again the third day to put away their sins. They are then "delivered" from the penalty of eternal conscious punishment that we all deserve because we are sinners who sin.

Can a person be "born again" and not remember the event? The Bible says that we MUST be born again or born from above. How can we know that we are born again if we don't remember it? The process of being born again is sometimes likened to a lost sheep or to a lost son being found. I once worked with an older preacher who would ask those who said they were saved or born again what it was like to find out that they were lost. Most people who have gotten so completely lost that someone else had to find them and lead them home will remember that experience.

The new birth also is likened to being saved. Salvation is deliverance from danger while the new birth is deliverance for a new life with the Lord. If a person were drowning and a lifeguard saved them, do you think they would remember that? I am reasonably sure that they would.

The new birth requires us to repent in order to believe. That involves a change in mind. We need to find out that God is right and we are wrong on any issue that is keeping us from trusting the Lord. Our issue may have to do with whether there is a God, or we may resist the truth that we are sinners who deserve to be banished from God in hell and ultimately the Lake of Fire, eternally. It may have to do with whether baptism or good works save which they do not. That is why we are commanded to repent and to believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15). I think most people know when they change their minds about important things.

When we believe, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Many of us wondered why the Bible seemed to come alive when we were saved and why the promises of God seemed so fresh and reliable. Many of us didn't know that we had been sealed by the Holy Spirit, but things changed because we now had the Holy Spirit within us guiding us and teaching us. I personally remember that change.

Since the new birth is a MUST, it is necessary for us to know that we have been born again. The new birth involves a new life, but sometimes it is difficult to know the difference between reformation and regeneration. Many people who have never claimed to know the Lord or to be born again have changed their lives, but the regenerated person changes because of a new love for the Lord. Nicodemus in John 3 was born again. It was evidenced ultimately by his love for the Lord and his willingness to publicly confess that love as he helped bury the Lord.

I know that there are things that happen in our lives that we don't remember very well in later life. I don't remember my baptism as well as I remember the day I was saved. But I do remember both. I cannot read hearts and I don't decide who is born again and who isn't, but I do know that if a person is going to be in heaven, there was a new birth experience in their life. I know that because the new birth is a MUST. Many people tell me that they are born again but that they don't remember how it happened. While that may be possible, I personally wouldn't trade places for five minutes with anyone who truly believes that they are going to heaven but who cannot remember their new birth experience.

Meditation for the week of March 14, 2010

The Graciousness of God's Grace

 

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

 

Nearly two thousand years ago a baby was born in Bethlehem to Mary who had never been married nor had she been immoral. The baby was called Jesus because he would save His people from their sins. This baby grew to manhood and proved that He was the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. He was rejected by His people and died on a cross. While on that cross He cried, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34)." He was the grace of God that brings salvation and He has appeared to all men.

Grace is favor that is freely offered. Grace often expresses the love of the person offering it to the person receiving it. It is not earned nor deserved. It is a gift. Grace can be manifested by showing mercy or by pardoning someone. But grace is not the norm in this world. In this world we have wars, we believe in defending ourselves, and we talk about getting all that we deserve. We are in an economic system that encourages greed and we call it competition. Our political system, which is the best humans can offer, is still a self-centered system that is filled with corruption. When we see someone who manifests grace in their lives, we tend to notice that person because grace makes them very attractive and quite different.

The grace of God has appeared to all men. While the Lord was born in Bethlehem, His appearance was not designed to be just for Jews. He offers Himself to Jews and Gentiles (non-jews), rich and poor, rulers and servants, male and female. He appeared to provide salvation for all men. Many argue that not all men have heard about Him so He hasn't appeared to all men. But I do know that those who seek Him find Him even if they are from "darkest Africa." In Acts 8 the Ethiopian Eunuch who was from Africa was searching for the Lord and went to Jerusalem to find Him. The Lord gave Him the scroll of Isaiah and then sent him an evangelist while he was traveling back home. He was reading Isaiah 53 from the scroll when Philip the evangelist found him, and Philip was given the privilege of explaining Isaiah 53 to him. This man became a recipient of the grace of God and he was from "darkest Africa."

I am so glad that I was born in new testament times rather than in old testament times. In the old testament, there seems to be an emphasis on God's righteous judgment of sin rather than upon His grace. Yet because the Israelites so often were unfaithful and because men seemed to be so wicked, when God's grace was shown, it was so undeserved that it glows like a perfect diamond on a black velvet cloth. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). I suspect this is saying that He had trusted in Jehovah and had received grace because of it. Joseph realized that he was sent to Egypt by brothers who hated him in order to be a deliverer for His family. He saved them when he could have destroyed them (Genesis 45:8, 50:20). Rahab the prostitute was shown favor because she believed God and hid the messengers sent as spies when Jericho was to be destroyed (Joshua 6:25). She didn't deserve the grace shown to her even though her faith was evidenced by what she did.

Ruth, in the book of Ruth, is another of example of God's grace. Moab was a descendent of Lot by incest and Ruth was a Moabitess so she had the wrong father (Genesis 19:37). She symbolizes us. We are born in sin and we need to be born again. Moabites were traditionally the enemies of Israel. When she embraced the God she learned about through her mother-in-law, she is shown grace or favor in the land of Israel. One of the most remarkable verses in the Bible is found in Ruth 2 when Boaz takes an interest in her. She says in verse 10, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" God gave her the privilege of being King David's great-grandmother.

Grace is like the scent of lilacs in the spring. It is like the first robin that appears after a long winter. It is like a cool breeze on a hot night. It is that drink of cold water on a hot day. It is the voice of a friend telling you that they love you. It is refreshing.

None of us who are saved have any reason to be proud. We are only sinners saved by grace. We are not special people who deserve to be saved, but salvation makes us special in God's eyes because we have believed in His Son and have become recipients of His grace.

 

Meditation for the week of March 21, 2010

Why the Donkey instead of a Horse?

 

Zechariah 9:9 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

 

On the Sunday before the Lord's crucifixion, he made what is often called His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. By doing this he publicly declared Himself to be the Messiah predicted in the old testament. He had proved Himself to be the Son of God through the miracles that he had done, particularly by the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. But He had not allowed the disciples to publicly declare Him to be the Messiah before this event. He commanded His disciples in Matthew 16:20 to tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.

So why did he enter Jerusalem on a donkey rather than on a horse? It was necessary because that was what the prophet predicted, but why did the prophet predict that? I think it was because the Lord was coming to offer peace and not to make war. Apparently, a donkey was considered a noble animal and a king that was coming in peace rode one. But a King that was making war would usually ride a horse. That is what most scholars that I have read seem to think. That makes sense because the Lord is coming on a white horse in Revelation 19:11 and in that passage He comes to make war.

The Lord is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6. He tells his disciples that he has come to give them peace in John 16:33. The world does not provide peace but the Lord does. He provides peace that passes understanding in Philippians 4:7.

But the nation of Israel did not want peace, they wanted war. They did not want someone who came without an army and without weapons. They did not want someone whose purpose was to save rather than to destroy. They wanted someone like Barrabus who had resisted the Romans. He was in jail for insurrection (Mark 15:7). I am afraid that we still live in a world like that today. I don't think the world is ready for a true man of peace. The Lord was rejected within a week of making His so-called triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and yet He won by losing. He got the victory by dying. This is a lesson that is well-worth noting. Violence only begets violence. The one who lives by the sword dies by the sword (Matthew 26:52).

While the nation of Israel rejected the Prince of Peace, individuals have received Him by believing in Him (John 1: 12). They have accepted His offer of peace. Sinners who are God's enemies by nature, have been reconciled to God through the death of the Lord (Romans 5:10) when they trust in Him.

Peace is a wonderful thing. We remember with great joy when peace came at the end of the World Wars. But do we also remember the peace that we got when we trusted in Christ? Some have described that peace as having a burden roll away. Being reconciled to God and realizing that you are saved for eternity is a great relief. We who are saved have found out that the sin for which we should have been punished has been punished on the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). What a relief it was to find that our sin debt had been forgiven, that the enmity between us and God was now gone, and that we were not condemned and never would be. We had peace.

I wonder what kind of a Palm Sunday most of us have had? Some of us have the peace that God offers and some of us do not. But just like Israel, we have all been offered that peace. Did we pass through another Palm Sunday learning about Him but not trusting in Him? Or are enjoying the peace of God that passes all understanding?

 

Meditation for the week of March 28, 2010