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November 2008

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Lifestyle Evangelism

 

Jeremiah 17:9-10

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

What is the heart of man? We think with the heart according to Genesis 6:5 where every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was evil continually. We believe with the heart according to Romans 10:9. Pharaoh's heart was hard and because of that he kept the Israelite's in bondage. The heart in the Bible then is more than the organ in our body that pumps blood. It seems to be the source of our emotions and our motivations. It controls how we think.

The Lord says our hearts are desperately wicked or perhaps incurably wicked. That is a hard pill to swallow because most of us think that we are pretty good people and that everyone should want to be like we are. Sometimes I don't think we know what really motivates us. For example, I often wonder if I preach the Gospel because I love people and want to help them or because I love the Lord and want to please Him or because I just love to preach the Gospel. I don't know if I really know. Many of us have prejudices and emotional handicaps because of things that happened in our childhood and we don't really know that we are making decisions that are not good decisions because of pain that we feel that we don't even acknowledge. Regardless of what we may think, by nature our thoughts and hearts and motivation are wicked or evil. I do think our hearts are changed when we come to Christ and trust Him. But even then most of us still have heart problems at times.

We cannot take a person whose heart has never been changed by the Holy Spirit and force them to live like a Christian who is in love with the Lord and obedient to His word. Christians are often improperly involved in what I call "life-style evangelism". We tell the unsaved whose hearts are not in tune with God's how to live and then we condemn them for not living the way we think they should. Even though many of them actually live better lives than the people who are preaching to them, all we do is alienate the very people we would like to reach with the love of God. We come across as total hypocrites because they know that we are asking them to remove specifics sins from their lives that we abhor, but we are not dealing with other sins that are just as bad. For example, we are very vocal about being against homosexuality, but I don't hear the same vocal criticism of couples who are living together without the benefit of marriage. Both involve sexual immorality and one is not worse than the other in God's eyes. Living together without marriage does not repulse most of us like homosexuality does and so we don't condemn it in the same way. This is just one of many examples where we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. People tend to judge Christianity by Christians and not by Christ. And since we don't always know our own hearts, and since we don't always have our acts together, I think it would be better to preach about Christ and how he loves those whose hearts are incurably wicked, rather than trying to convince people to change their lifestyle before they change their belief system.

Those of us who are believers in the Bible and reverent when it comes to God, need to remember that people do not become Christians by changing their lifestyles. However, when people change their minds about who Christ is and realize that He loves people whose evil hearts are well known to Him, then they should be motivated to change their lifestyles. We need to help people change from the inside out. Forcing people whose hearts are not right with God to live like Christians only causes resentment.

 

Meditation for the week of November 2, 2008

Curing a killer disease

 

Mark 2:17

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

 

I go to the doctor only when I know I am sick and when no home cure will work. If you are like me, going to the doctor is the thing you do only when you are convinced there is no other choice. Over the years, I have been to the doctor maybe two or three times. I am sort of like people who go through life not wanting to get "checked out" by the Great Physician. Many of them know something is wrong but they don't want to face the problem. However, the Lord can see inside us and always gives a proper diagnosis (sin is eating away at us) and has the proper solution (the blood of Christ that cleanses from all sin) and His price is right (He pays the bill and we go free).

Recently I had a physical examination. It was the first complete one of my whole life. I went into the physical feeling fine. I came out being told I was sick. The tests showed that my heart wasn't all that it was supposed to be. I was told that the problem could have been congenital and the problem might be something that I could live with until I die (and that is sort of what they said), and the problem might be something that they could correct if I would let them do it. I decided I had to trust the doctors who tell me that they know what they are doing so, even though I was symptom free, and I let them do an angiogram. They found out that I had one artery that was ninety percent blocked high on the trunk of the main artery tree. A complete blockage there would have affected at least half of the heart and would likely have meant instant death. The doctor was able to put in a stent and he says he corrected the problem.

Again, I think this is the case with many of us when we hear the Gospel. We don't think we are sick. Life is good, and we are feeling good. Who needs God to tell us that we really aren't "well" at a time like that? But if we allow our Great Physician to "check us out", we will find out that we have a disease that needs correcting and He has the ability and the authority to correct it. He has the ability because God not only created us so He knows how we work, but He also sent His son to Calvary to redeem us or buy us back from the slave market of sin Most of us don't know we are sick until we start reading the Bible and looking at how we should live and think and then as we compare the Biblical standards to how we do live and think we are convicted that something is wrong. Once we are convinced we are sick, we usually are willing to find a good doctor.

Many people today say that they are Christians but they seem to lack an understanding of their disease or their depravity. It is almost as if the Lord cured or saved those who were well. God doesn't save the saved, he saves the lost. And we are all lost because of this disease called sin that we inherit from our forefathers. So whether we found out we were in need of a physician because we knew we were sick or whether we found out we needed a physician through a Biblical check up, I can assure you that once we acknowledge that we have the disease, the Lord has the right prescription. I trusted a doctor I didn't know and he has found and corrected the problem. He probably saved my life..

In order to be cured from the disease of sin, we have to trust the Lord who loved us enough to die for our sins. Trusting anyone is hard for me but I have trusted the Lord and I have let the Lord deal with my sin problem. If a person can trust a doctor that he doesn't know and who is making quite a little money off of curing his patients, one should not have a problem trusting the Lord who wants to cure us and save us for free. We can read all about Him and in that way get to know Him by reading the Bible. He has the cure for this disease called sin.

Meditation for the week of November 9, 2008

God or Jesus?

 

Matthew 27:22 Pilate said to them, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!"

 

Matthew 16:15-16 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus is a name that either provokes awe and worship or it is a name that often provokes anger. Pilate said Jesus was "called" Christ. Those of us who believe in Him know that He is the Christ, the anointed one of God, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies connected with the coming Savior. He is the Messiah. Those of us who believe in Him call Him Lord.

When we talk to people about the Lord, most say He was a good man and some even say he was a prophet. But often they deny that He is the Son of God which He claimed to be. However, it is not possible for him to be a prophet if he didn't know who He was and He wasn't a good man if he pretended to be something He wasn't. So it is not possible for Him to be a prophet and to be good unless He is who He claimed to be.

Jesus is the personal revelation of God to us. When we know the Lord Jesus we know God. In John we read, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)." John also says that in the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). It is quite clear that John is introducing us to the the Lord Jesus when he calls him the Word. The Lord Jesus is both the message of God and the messenger that carries the message. That is what a word does.

Today it is quite acceptable to talk about God and to feel that we have something in common with all those who worship God but "in a different way." We are told that we all worship the same God. But if Christ is God and others worship God without worshiping the Lord Jesus, we are not worshiping the God who gave His Son to die and to take the punishment that our sins deserved. The other gods do not have the same Lord Jesus who is introduced to us in the Bible as the Son of God..

When I listen to Christians talk about their faith, many of them talk about God and not about the Lord Jesus. There may be a time to do that when we are first trying to get people to listen to the Gospel and when we know that they don't accept Jesus as God. But at some point, we have to talk about the Lord Jesus. He is the rock or foundation of the church that He is building (Matthew 16:18). We need to ask the hard question, "But who do you say that I am?"

Is it possible that we are uncomfortable talking about the Lord Jesus because we are ashamed of Him? Or Is it possible that we don't talk about the Lord Jesus because we don't know Him? If we are ashamed of Him, one day he will be ashamed of us according to Luke 9:26. I have become very concerned about the many Christians who are trying to save the world through the political process and who tend talk only about God and not about the Lord Jesus. I have begun to realize that many Christians are trying to change the world without introducing the world to the Lord Jesus.

I for one want to get back to the basics. I recently faced the fact that I am mortal when I had a stent put into my heart to open up an artery that I had no idea was blocked. When I thought about death before I was saved I was fearful. Now I do not look forward to dying, but death is not something I fear. The difference is that I know the Lord Jesus Christ and I know He is my Savior. I always knew that there was a God and always believed in Him, but I didn't always believe in or trust the Lord Jesus Christ. I think we need to get back to talking about Him if we really know Him. He alone is the solution to the world's problems and He is the only one who gives us peace when we face our mortality.

Meditation for the week of November 16, 2008

Singing and Giving Thanks

 

Colossians 3:16-17

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

 

When was the last time you heard someone sing who wasn't in a choir or a congregational setting? When was the last time you felt like singing? A redeemed person should be happy and happiness is usually associated with singing. We don't read of angels singing though we often presume in our hymns that they did. But angels were not redeemed. They were not bought back from the slave market of sin by the blood of Christ. Perhaps that is why saints sing but angels are those who "say".

Singing in this passage is associated with having the word of Christ dwelling in us. In the parallel passage in Ephesians 5 verse 18, being filled with the Spirit leads to singing. Clearly we are filled with the Spirit when the Spirit controls us. If we are filled with anger or envy in the Bible those things have taken control of us. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit cannot take control of us until the word of Christ has taken control of us or dwells in us richly. The Spirit and the Word always work together just as they did in creation when read that the Spirit of God moved or hovered over the waters and then God said (Genesis 1:2-3).

A singing people then is a redeemed people who are energized by the Spirit of God and who allow the Spirit to guide them by the Word of God. When that happens we are not only singing but we are thankful. What could a singing people be thankful for this time of year? There are many things that I could list, but at Thanksgiving time I am always reminded of the goodness of God in not leaving me alone until I had rested on the Truth that Christ had died for me. On November 24, 1963, the week before Thanksgiving that year, I found out that Christ had died for me and as a result I could be sure that my sins were forgiven and that God had reserved a place in heaven for me when I died. I am not always as thankful as I should be about the goodness, grace and mercy of God to me, but at Thanksgiving time, I always remember that I am indeed fortunate be called one of God's holy ones or saints. I am a Christian. That is, I am a follower of Christ.

I remember a friend of mine who was about to lose his job at a lumber store. He was hosting me during a series of meetings. He was at an age where finding another good job was going to be difficult. In addition, he had some hip problems that were going to require surgery. I wondered how he was keeping his life together. So one day, I decided to stop at his workplace to spend a few minutes with him. When I finally found him, he was at the back of the warehouse singing a hymn. I was impressed. He obviously had the Word of Christ dwelling in him richly and he was happy and he was thankful. Circumstances could not change the fact that he was convinced that the Lord who had saved him was also able to keep him and HE WAS HAPPY!.

I don't recommend that you sing at your place of business or at school because if you do, you will probably wind up in a strait jacket and you may be carted off to a mental hospital somewhere :-) . People do not understand those who are truly happy today. However, when we find out that we are loved by God and important to God and that He sent His Son to die for us so that our sins could be forgiven, should that not make us happy? When we trust Christ and His Word, shouldn't we be singing and happy and thankful to KNOW and not HOPE that we have eternal life.

This is the thanksgiving season. I am thankful for that late afternoon two days after the assassination of President Kennedy forty-five years ago just before Thanksgiving when I listened to God and I trusted His Son. At that moment I passed from death unto life (John 5:24). That makes me happy and thankful. I hope you can honestly and sincerely be thankful as well for a day that you remember when you too passed from death unto life.

 

Meditation for the week of November 23, 2008

Sanctified Speculation

2Timothy 4:8

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

 

My neighbor came over the other day and welcomed me to the "stent club". While I had a stent put in before having a heart attack, he had his own story to tell about having been on a motorcycle when neck pain sent him to an emergency room with a heart attack. Before he got his stents, he went into cardiac arrest and saw the "white light" and the tunnel that so many people report when they have a near death experience. He said he is no longer afraid to die.

Most Christians that I talk to tend to dismiss near death experiences as not being Biblical. Some have told me that the Bible says that it is appointed unto men once to die (Hebrews 9:27) and that we don't die twice physically. The problem with that statement is that those like Lazarus who died and were raised from the dead in the Bible, all died again. So they died twice. So Hebrews 9:27 must be a general principle, but I don't think it denies the possibility that some people die more than once.

I believe that the statement Paul makes in 1 Timothy 4:8 might actually support the idea of Christians seeing the white light at the end of a tunnel when they die. Since the Lord is light, I have wondered if they don't see Him manifested that way as they go from time to eternity. The appearing that Paul refers to in our verse is an epiphany or the outshining of light reflecting the glory and beauty of Christ. Paul talks three times of "that day" in this epistle. Once it is with regard to his confidence in the Lord (2 Timothy 1:12) and once it is in connection with the need for mercy for Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:18) and lastly it is in connection with the appearing of the Lord. What day would be on Paul's mind? Since he knows that his execution date is near (2 Timothy 4:6), it would seem likely that Paul was thinking of that day. Some say this is the judgment seat of Christ but if it is, then the judgment seat of Christ where Christians are rewarded for their faithfulness must occur when we die. And why would Onesiphorus need mercy at the judgment seat of Christ? Paul likely was hoping that the Lord would be merciful to his friend who may very well have been facing the same fate as Paul. I think Paul was hoping that his friend too would be delivered from the lions just as Paul was (2 Timothy 4:17) and that his execution would be merciful.

Now if I am right, then it makes sense that at the moment of death the Lord appears or is manifested to us in His outshining glory to meet us as we go from this side to the other side. David said in Psalm 23 that the Lord is with us when we go through the valley of the shadow of death. Paul has told us in Philippians 1:23 that when we depart we go to be "with Christ". I would like to believe that the first thing Paul expected to see after the executioner had taken his physical life was the Lord in his glory which involves brilliant light. The Lord is the light of the world (John 8:12) and He dwells in light (1 Timothy 6:16) and He clothes Himself with light (Psalm 104:2).

There is one difficulty however. Many of the people that tell me that they have seen the light and are not afraid to die are people that go to churches where the Gospel is not normally clearly presented. So there must be those who are saved in those churches. I wonder if those of us who go to churches where the Gospel is clearly presented will all see the Lord as light and love when we die. I have heard of some who have not only not seen the light but have had visions of the torments of hell due to a near death experience. One man that I know came to trust in the Lord because of what he experienced. Since we know of more who remember a pleasant experiences during their near death experiences than those who have had terrifying experiences, some have concluded that the mind blocks out things that are traumatic. All I know is that I fully expect to see the Lord when I die. When I do, I have His Word for the fact that I will be meeting the Lord Who loves me and I will be meeting One who will know me by name (1 Timothy 2:19). It will be a most pleasant experience.

 

Meditation for the week of November 30, 2008