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MAY 2013

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Enjoying the Nearness of the Lord

 

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5)

 

I like technology. I especially like a program that we use on our computers at home called Skype. That program has made it possible for us to call our family members and for a little while it "seems" as though they are right in the room. We see them in real time and in living color. We hear them talk just as though they were visiting in our home. In actuality they are miles away but for a little while, they are "at hand."

This phrase "at hand" is interesting. It is sometimes translated near. The Greek word that is used can mean close in terms of location. For example Bethany was near Jerusalem. Sometimes it means close in terms of time as when summer is near. Many would say that Paul is referring to the imminent return of the Lord Jesus in our verse for today. Imminence has to do with time and refers to an event that is ready and could happen at any time.

I am inclined to believe that Paul is referring to the close presence of the Lord in this verse rather than to the imminent return of the Lord. I have been giving a lot of consideration to the fact that in the book of Philippians Paul wants to obtain to some kind of resurrection. He seems to feel that he has not obtained to it but is striving to obtain this particular condition. We won't have to strive to obtain the physical resurrection at the rapture so I believe Paul wanted to live as though he had already experienced the resurrection. He wanted to live as though the Lord was present at all times which would be true if he were living as though he were already resurrected. This assembly had two valuable sisters who were not getting along and this verse seems to be the way that they could work our their problems. First, be gentle. Second, remember that the Lord is not far off. In fact He is present. Therefore, these sisters should live as though they were already in the presence of the Lord.

Paul had been in the presence of the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. It appears that Paul was caught up into the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:4 and had an experience that it was not possible for him to properly describe in human words. He also says he received an abundance of revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:7. He likely received many of those during those three years that He spent in Arabia and Damascus from the time he was saved until the time of his going up to Jerusalem to visit Peter. Paul tells us that he didn't receive the gospel from man. It was revealed to him by the Lord Himself (Galatians 1:12). Apparently, the Lord ministered personally to him in those three years just as he had ministered personally to the other apostles for three years. I think Paul knew what it was like to be in the presence of the Lord both in heaven and on earth. And that is why his citizenship was in heaven. The physical problems of life did not interfere with his enjoyment of the spiritual blessings of communion with and service for the Lord.

I know that the Lord is always present in the person of the Holy Spirit once we are saved. He seals us according to Ephesians 1:13. While the Holy Spirit is a person, He is nameless. But the Lord's nearness in Philippians seems more real and more personal to me. The Lord has a name; and for Paul, He was a very real presence in his life. Paul didn't serve an idea, or a philosophy, a myth or a religion. He served the Lord that He had met and with Whom he had talked. He had been invited into His present home in the Father's house and had visited with Him there. That kind of relationship with the Lord is only possible for one who has had his or her life changed by trusting the Lord since trust is the basis of any relationship.

Paul knew that the Lord was at hand (or near or present). If we who are saved could enjoy that kind of nearness to the Lord, most of our problems would become insignificant. We would be so heavenly minded that people would wonder why we are "glowing". We would truly be the salt of the earth. We would turn this world upside down.

But more than that, we would look forward to getting up in the morning since each day would be a new adventure with the Lord.

 

Meditation for the week of May 5, 2013

The Simplicity of an Equal Sign!

 

John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

 

Mother's produce children that they love. The child that a mother brings into the world has physical life that only lasts for a period of time. That life that fits us for life on planet earth. There is a life that is more important, however. It is everlasting or eternal life. This life is spiritual and is produced through the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23). The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to convict and convert those who only have physical life. A saved mother will rejoice when she gives birth to a child, but she will rejoice more when that child obtains the spiritual life that comes from eternity and that fits us for eternity. That life is obtained by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many times people have asked me what it means to believe in the Son as it says in John 3:36. Many of us were raised to believe in the truth of the Bible and from our earliest recollections we believed that God had prepared heaven for those who were saved sinners and hell for those who were not. We believed that Christ had died on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins and that He was buried and was raised again the third day. We believed He ascended to heaven and promised the world that He would come again. We believed these facts, but did we believe in Him? The answer is no we did not. It is impossible for someone to believe in the Son without believing the facts of the Gospel, but believing the facts is not the same as believing in or trusting the Son. Those who have believed in the Son know that they have eternal life, they don't wonder or hope that they do.

Our verse has two parts to it. There are those who have everlasting life and those who will not see life. The people in the first group are saved or born again. The people in the latter group are lost. I often ask people, "What part of the verse describes you?" Many will hesitate. Some will say that they don't know. But the truth is we are either saved or lost. We either believe in (or trust) the Son or we do not. So I ask those I am trying to help, "Do you have eternal life?" That is, would you go go heaven if you died? Most say, "I hope so." Some say, "I don't know." Then I ask them if they know what an equal sign is because believing in the Son equals having everlasting life in the verse. If we have or possess something, we should know that we have or possess it. If a person cannot say for sure that they have everlasting life, they can not say that they have believed in the Son whatever that means according to this verse. The verse says that if a person has believed in the Son, they HAVE everlasting or eternal life. They don't have it because of the quality or the fervency of their believing, they have it because God says that they have it. Our believing doesn't make the Gospel true. It is true whether we believe it or not. But we make the Gospel effective in our lives by believing in or trusting the Son.

Sometimes I take people to Romans 5:6 and show them that God says that while we were without strength or unsaved, Christ died for the ungodly. I ask them if they are ungodly (not like God). If they say yes, I take them to John 3:36 and read it this way, "He who believes that Christ died for the ungodly has everlasting or eternal life." Believing in the truth that Christ died for the ungodly is the same as believing in the Son if the person reading these verses can see that they are ungodly. Many times those who were confused as to which part of the verse they are in say at this point, "Why I am in the first part of the verse." I ask them how they know and they tell me that they know because God says so. Usually at that point they can truthfully and for the first time, thank the Lord for saving them. Now instead of believing about the truth, they are trusting in the truth. Once a person who accepts the Biblical truth that they are ungodly finds out that it is TRUE that Christ died for the ungodly, they don't usually have any trouble trusting in that truth.

Are you thankful on this Mother's day for the life that your mother gave you? I am sure that you are. But more importantly, do you have and are you thankful for the spiritual life that comes from eternity and fits you for eternity? If you can't say that you have eternal life, then you can't be sure that you have believed in the Son. However, instead of trying to believe harder or more fervently, just take God at His Word when he says that Christ died for the ungodly. After all, that is the truth!

He that believes on the Son has everlasting life. Please believe that! The Gospel is just as simple as that.

 

Meditation for the week of May 12, 2013

A Refreshing Commendation

 

2 Kings 22:2: And he (Josiah) did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

 

This is a refreshing commendation. Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. He wasn't a conservative Jew and he wasn't a progressive Jew. He couldn’t be called reformed and while he was orthodox, that is not how the Lord describes him. The Lord said he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.

This could not be said of Aaron who made a golden calf for the people of Israel while Moses was in the mountain learning how this redeemed people should worship their God. This could not be said of Solomon who built temples to heathen gods on the Mount of Olives at the end of his life. He definitely turned aside. This could not be said of Jeroboam who was made ruler over ten of tribes of Israel by God himself. Yet, he was not confident that God would allow him to keep the rule over those ten tribes unless he kept the people of Israel from worshiping in Jerusalem. So he built two calves. He placed one in the south and one in the north part of his kingdom and established a religion like the one in Jerusalem. And thereafter his legacy was, Jeroboam who made Israel to sin.

I ask myself, "What will my legacy be?" I would like it to be the legacy of Paul as found in 2 Timothy 4:7. He says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (I have guarded the truth).

Paul kept his eye on the goal which was to preach and to please Christ. He finished his course. He did his part in carrying out the great commission to preach the Gospel in all the world to everyone. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 he says, "but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness." In 2 Corinthians 4:5 he says, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake." Like Christ, he was willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the Gospel. He did not sacrifice or destroy others, he sought to save them.

Josiah's first concern was to repair the house of the Lord or the temple. David prepared the plans and the materials. Solomon built it and Josiah wanted to repair it. Obviously, the temple was important to him just as the new testament church should be important to those who are faithful today. The church is the new testament temple. In repairing the temple, Josiah found God's written word. Imagine! The word of God had been lost in the house of God. But in restoring the house of God, he found the word of God. He read it and believed it. He found out that God's judgment had been promised upon Israel if they turned aside to worship other gods. He was concerned that God was going to judge Israel because of their departure. He turned back to the worship of Jehovah. One of the things he did was to reestablish the Passover feast. The people of Israel got a chance to remember that they were a redeemed people.

Josiah and Paul both left a legacy that I envy. I wonder what my legacy will be. Will my legacy be that of one who loved the Lord, who believed that we need to keep the religious, political and social world out of the church? Will my legacy be that of one who believes in the power of the Gospel to change the things that need to be changed in this world? Will my legacy be that of one who believes that we can sing ever so sweetly, we can preach ever so eloquently, we can be ever so moral; but if we aren't worshiping God in spirit (in contrast to lifeless ritual) and in truth (in contrast to worship that is not Scriptural), we aren't worshiping at all.

I think it is fairly easy to be led to do evil. Evil is in the nature of man. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to leave behind the legacy of a Josiah or of a Paul. That legacy starts with a true conversion where we turn from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). It requires a reverence for and a study of the word of God. We must commune with the Lord in prayer. And we who love Him must not get side tracked from our business of preaching and worshiping Christ.

I pray that my legacy will be that "he did not turn aside."

 

Meditation for the week of May 19, 2013

Remembering what we should Forget, Forgetting what we should Remember!

 

"THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR HEARTS, AND IN THEIR MINDS I WILL WRITE THEM," then He adds, "THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." (Hebrews 10:16-17)

 

On Memorial Day many of us are going to go to a cemetery, and we will place flowers on graves of our loved ones. Most of the graves will have a stone there as a memorial to the person who has been laid to rest in that grave. These memorial stones are a reminder of the person and of the life that they lived.

We have many kinds of memorials. We have museums that memorialize certain periods of history. We have libraries that memorialize presidents. We have holidays that memorialize great men. But, thankfully, God does not have a memorial to remind Him of the forgiven sins of His saints.

In Hebrews 8-10, the Lord uses an old testament prophecy found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 to show that God has made a new covenant with Israel, a nation that had sinned against God over and over again. Under the old covenant, God blessed the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The blessing involved the possession of a physical land. The worship of God under that covenant was primarily national and ceremonial. But the new covenant involves a change in the hearts of His people. This covenant is spiritual and the worship is from the heart. While He makes this covenant with Israel, Ephesians makes it clear that Jews and Gentiles both are part of this new thing called the church and we are all saved the same way. So I am going to believe that this new covenant is applicable to me just as much as it is applicable to one born as a Jew. The new covenant is expressed in Hebrews 9:28, "So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. Hebrews 10:38 and 39 says, NOW THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; BUT IF ANYONE DRAWS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Put simply, I believe the new covenant is summarized by John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

When God says that He will remember our sins and lawless deeds no more, He isn't saying that He is going to lose His memory. He is saying that he will not memorialize them any longer. He will not have some memorial stone or some other way to make sure that these sins are being constantly brought to mind. While He doesn't say He forgets, He does say that the sins of the redeemed will be blotted out (Acts 3:19). I understand this to mean that He has a book with a record of our sins in them and the moment we trust the Savior, those sins are blotted out of that book. The page is blank. Those sins are to be remembered no more. Since the death of Christ was sufficient to forgive all of our sins (past, present and future), I don't think that God writes any sins we commit after trusting Christ in a book either.

While the sins of the redeemed are not remembered or memorialized by God, our names are remembered and memorialized. Our names are in the Lamb's Book of Life and He knows each of us by name (Luke 10:20). I tend to forget names, and the older I get the worse I get. But God will never forget the names of those who trust His Son.

God remembers what He should remember, and He doesn't remember what He chooses not to bring to remembrance. We tend to remember the sins that God doesn't remember anymore, and we tend to forget the promise that God has made to us that He will never blot us out of His book. But this weekend those of us who are truly believers need to make sure we are not memorializing our sins since God has forgiven them. Also, let us renew our commitment to memorializing the person of Christ "Who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20)." We can do that by joining with a group of Christians meeting together as a local church and sharing in a fellowship meal called the "Lord's Supper." (See 1 Corinthians 11:17-20, 33). It is only fitting that we should remember the Savior who died for our sins and it is only fitting that we should thank God that those sins are remembered no more.

 

Meditation for the week of May 26, 2013