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OCTOBER 2004

 

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Mark 1:15 Repent ye, and believe the gospel.

John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

 

We know that salvation is by grace through faith (confidence) in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the word believe is used in a very casual way today and many of us are confused about what it means to “believe in or on” the Lord Jesus Christ.

While many argue that believing the Gospel and believing on the Lord are the same thing, I wonder if believing the Gospel doesn’t lead to believing on the Lord. In other words, we can’t really trust or believe in the Lord until we trust or believe what He says. We won’t be able to believe what He says until we repent.

Repentance involves changing our minds where we disagree with God. I believe that true repentance means that we are allowing God to win any arguments that have with Him about the way of salvation, or about the need of salvation or about anything He tells us that we find difficult to believe. We may need to repent with regard to the truth that we can know for sure that we are saved. We may need to change our mind about the reality of eternal conscious punishment for the unbeliever. Repenting and believing are linked in Mark 1:15 because we can’t believe God or His Gospel when we are arguing with Him about the truth of the Gospel. The Lord may have been implying that when we believe the Gospel we are actually believing in the Lord. However, I know many people today who agree with God about the facts of the Gospel who have no peace about their own eternal destinies. I do not think they have actually “believed in or on” the Lord. Let me give you an example:

Politicians ask us for our votes by trying to convince us that they can do the job better than their opponent. They want us to “believe in” or “on” them. Unfortunately in some cases we might vote for a man we “believe in” because we think that He is able to accomplish what needs to be done even though we don’t really believe Him. He may promise us that He is going to cut taxes and we may know that either he can‘t or won‘t. However, we might still believe that He is the best man to make budgeting decisions for our country. So we might “believe in” a man that we don’t totally believe.

In spiritual things, however, we will not “believe in” One we can‘t believe. Repenting and believing the Gospel makes it possible for us to “believe in” the Lord Jesus Christ who promises to save those who “believe in” Him. Believing in a person is one of the best compliments you can give that person. The Lord finds it offensive if we won’t “believe in or on” Him and says that an unbeliever is already condemned. According to John 3:36, when we believe on the Lord, we have eternal life or salvation. If we can’t say that we are saved, that is, that we have eternal life, we really can’t say we have “believed in or on” the Lord. If we haven’t believed in or on the Lord, there is likely something that the Lord teaches with which we don’t agree. We may not agree with what God says about sin in our lives. If that is true, we won’t be able to believe the Gospel until we change our minds to agree with God. Once we have repented and believed the Gospel we should have no trouble “believing in the Lord” who cannot lie. Then and then only will we know that we have eternal life.

Week of October 3, 2004

Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

 

Perfect peace or peace peace is the reward for those whose mind is stayed or fixed or focused on Jehovah. I obviously don’t have my mind where it ought to be a lot of the time because I have a tendency to get Peter’s sinking feeling in Matthew 14:30 when he tried walking on water. I have also been known to have the Israelites panicky feeling in Exodus 14:11 when they had the Egyptians pursuing them after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt. I have been known to have the tendency to complain like the Israelites in Numbers 21 when the way has seemed discouraging and the food got old. If you have ever experienced doubt when the Lord was working a miracle, or defeat when the Lord was bringing about a victory or discouragement when the Lord was leading in a direction that you didn’t like, then you, like me, did not have the peace that comes with having your mind fixed on Him.

Because we walk by faith and not by sight when often we would rather walk by sight and not by faith, we tend to get ourselves into spiritual difficulties. We want to read the last chapter of the book of our lives before committing ourselves wholly by faith to the Lord’s plan for our life now that we are saved. We know that He loved us so much that He died to save us and that His plan of salvation is the only one that makes sense. Only His plan can save the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the religious and the immoral. Only His plan can save in the eleventh hour when people are about to die unsaved. Why do we have so much trouble with His plan for our lives when we have experienced His wisdom with the plan of salvation? We have friends who tell us that if we do things “God’s way” it “won’t work”. They say that things are different today and God does not work in the way He did in the Bible. We have Satan telling us that if we do things “God’s way” we won’t be happy or successful and that we will miss out on what this life has to offer. We also have our own sinful natures that we would rather depend on instead of depending on God. After all, God helps those who help themselves, right?

Perfect peace would be such a treat in a world that knows only war and unrest. If we had that kind of peace it would speak volumes to our unsaved friends. But if we lose that peace by getting our eye off the Lord like Peter did, a short prayer might be the solution. When Peter prayed, “Lord save me!” he got His focus back and was delivered from danger.

If we are paralyzed by the difficulties of life, we need to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” like the children of Israel did at the Red Sea. When we are asking, “What shall we do?“, sometimes the best answer is to do nothing. We may find out that the Lord is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

If we are discouraged like the children of Israel in Numbers 21, a fresh look at the cross might be just the encouragement we need. The same Gospel that saves is the Gospel that restores our fellowship to the Lord when it has been broken by complaining about the Lord’s provision and wisdom.

Perfect peace is available. May the Lord help us to quit looking at the difficulties of life and to start looking “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” May we all stay focused on Him so we can enjoy perfect peace.

Week of October 10, 2004

Matthew 16:13-16

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

 

The Lord starts out asking a general question and then moves to a very personal question, “Who do you say that I am?” Many people can tell you what others think about the Lord Jesus. Some can even tell you what the major religious groups in the world say about the Lord Jesus. However, the important question is, “What do each of us individually think about Him?”

The Jews thought He was an imposter. They said that He made Himself something that He was not and, therefore, He deserved to die. (See John 19:7, The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.) As the Son of God, He had all of the authority of God, all of the characteristics of God, all of the wealth of God and He also would have been the Jewish Messiah that was foretold in the Old Testament.

The Gentile soldiers thought he was weak and they mocked His claim that He was a King. Judas thought He was someone to be used and sold Him for 30 pieces of silver, expecting that no harm would come because He would deliver Himself out of the hands of His persecutors. Many undoubtedly didn’t know Who He was and didn’t care. But whom say ye that I am?

Peter had the right answer. He knew that the Lord was the Christ or anointed one of God. He wasn’t a Christ as many claim today, but He was the one and only Christ. Peter knew He was the Son of the Living God and as such He was not only the message of God and the messenger from God (John 1:1), He was very God. The Son would be like the Father. Peter didn’t fully understand the suffering of Christ that would occur before His resurrection at this point but He knew the One He trusted.

It is on this bedrock Truth, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that Christ is building His church today. The church is composed of the believers. He considers them His elect or chosen people in the New Testament. He calls them saints or holy ones. They have been bought with a price and separated from the world to be a special people for the Lord. They are His bride and His body. They are precious to Him, because they have believed in the truth that He is The Christ, The Son of the Living God. These are the ones He came to save from the penalty that they deserve because of their sins. These are the ones to whom He gives a new life now. These are the saved.

Whom do you say that He is? Our eternal destinies and our eternal blessing depends on our personal response to this question.

Week of October 17, 2004

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

 

The other day, when I was jogging at the gym, I found myself wondering why I was using up the limited number of heartbeats that I have left by raising my heart rate unnecessarily. If the Lord knows how many heart beats we have during our lifetime, and I assume He does since He knows the number of hairs on my head and He knows every sparrow that exists, why should I use my heartbeats up faster than is necessary in order to maintain good health? This is a question for which I have no answer, but I think I will keep on jogging.

Another question I have is why should we pray when God knows our needs before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8)? Does prayer really change what God was going to do anyway and does the prayers of a group of people affect the heart of God more than the heartfelt prayers of a single person?

I may not understand how prayer works but we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) and God does ask us to pray both individually and together. He asks us to pray for His will to be done (Matthew 6:10) when we know that we cannot frustrate the will of God. He asks us to continue praying even when it seems that He is not willing to listen (Luke 11:8). He Himself prayed to the Father with Whom He had complete unity (John 10:30). He tells us that prayers of worship and praise are a sacrifice that pleases Him (Hebrews 13:15).

We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I assume that means that if the Lord lays a burden on our hearts we are to keep praying about that situation even when the answer does not seem to forthcoming, much like the prayer of “importunity” or perseverance in Luke 11. My earthly father could get quite impatient and would often say, “I said no so don‘t ask me again!.” But the Lord says, “Keep asking and if you are asking for something for which you ought to be asking, at the proper time I will answer.” That keeps hope alive.

So Paul asks for the Thessalonians to pray for Him that He might be effective in the Gospel. He does this in a number of places (for example see Ephesians 6:19 as well as 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Obviously, prayer is communication with God and no relationship can survive without communication. So let us pray for kings and all that are in authority, let us pray for one another, let us pray for the furtherance of the Gospel. Let us offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Let us not wait until “all else fails” to pray but let us pray so that all else does not fail.

Prayer is not what makes a Christian (Acts 10:2), faith in the atoning work of Christ does that. But prayer is the automatic response of a Christian’s faith (Acts 9:11), and prayer develops a close intimate relationship with the Lord. So let us pray. I would say like Paul, “Pray for us.”

Week of October 24, 2004

1 Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

 

Are we living for “short-run” enjoyment or do we make our decisions based on what is best in the “long-run?” The short run is the life that now is. The long run is the life that is to come.

Paul was absolutely convinced that man’s existence did not end at the grave. He talked about how he would like to depart or die so he could be with the Lord even though he knew he was still needed here in the life that now is (Philippians 1:23). In 2 Timothy 4 Paul knew that his execution date was coming (the time of my departure is at hand, v 6) and yet he knew that when this life was over there was a crown of righteousness waiting for him. As a matter of fact, he knew that his execution would “deliver him from every evil work (2 Timothy 4:18).” Paul knew what was important and he put his money on the life that is to come.

Paul knew that we need to be wise in this life. That is why he actually encourages bodily exercise since it profits a little or for a little time. Bodily exercise helps us during the life that now is. But there is an exercise that will benefit us for eternity and Paul calls it godliness. This godliness comes from turning away from the false things of this world and turning to the living God by trusting in the salvation provided through His Son (1 Timothy 4:7-10 and 1 Timothy 1:15). The unsaved need to reminded that for them the life that is to come is an existence without light or love. It will be spent in the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 1:13) and yet it will be in a place of everlasting burnings and torment (Isaiah 33:14 and Revelation 14:11). Experiencing both fire and darkness at the same time seems impossible but I believe God who says that the unbeliever will experience both. I understand that the center of our earth is extremely hot and extremely dark so these conditions can co-exist. It would certainly be foolish to enjoy ourselves in the life that now is and suffer for it in the life that is to come because we did not believe God.

Those of us who are saved may not have our priorities right either. We may be so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. We may have forgotten that time is short and eternity is long and we may be living for that which is temporary rather than for that which is permanent or forever.

Any good businessman will tell you that decisions that maximize profits in the short-run do not necessarily maximize profits in the long-run. A businessman might sell a defective item to an unsuspecting person at an extremely high price and might maximize short-run profits by doing so. But in the long-run, he may lose his business if people realize that he is “ripping them off”. We may feel that we are maximizing the benefits of this life when we violate the principles of righteousness as found in the Bible but in the long run we will be losers. The unsaved will lose their well-being in the life that is to come and the believer will lose the reward that comes with faithfulness now. The present time is our testing time. If we as believers are faithful now when following the Lord is not popular, the Lord will reward us for that in the life that is to come (1 Corinthians 3:14).

Sometimes we need to sit back and think about the life that now is verses the life that is to come. This will help us get our thinking and our priorities right (Matthew 6:33, Romans 12:1-2, John 5:24).

Week of October 31, 2004