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OCTOBER 2011

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I know Whom I have Believed!

 

(2 Timothy 1:12) For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

Paul does not say that he knows WHAT he has believed or trusted. He says He knows WHOM he has trusted. He had turned his back on his professional career and had committed Himself to serving the Lord whom he had persecuted before meeting Him on the Damascus road. In Galatians 2:20, he likens the change to a crucifixion. He says that he has been crucified with Christ. Now as he comes to the end of the road knowing that the time of his departure is at hand (2 Timothy 4:6), he still has complete confidence in the Lord. What has he committed to Him and what day is he anticipating?

He had committed his life, his ministry, and his well-being to the Lord. He had written inspired letters to Christians that he loved and wanted to see encouraged and preserved, and those letters had been committed to the Lord. However, here I think he might be thinking about his well-being. He knows that he is about to be executed and does not shrink back from that. But I think he wants a quick merciful execution, not only for himself but for Onesiphorus for whom he pleads for mercy in "that day". Some think "that day" in this book refers to the judgment seat of Christ and it might. But if you were about to be executed, what day would be on your mind? I think it would be the day of your execution. I believe Paul was not only thinking about his own execution but about the execution of Onesiphorus who had sought Paul out in prison and was likely now himself about to be martyred for his faith. We don't need mercy at the judgment seat of Christ, particularly for the selfless act of befriending one who is about to be martyred for his faith since that means you yourself may be martyred. But we all want a merciful quick triumphal entry into the presence of the Lord. Beyond death it is "far better," but death itself is the last great enemy. Paul had been shown mercy, he had been delivered from the lion. But he was still going to be "depart" and I suspect Onesiphorus was paying with his life for befriending Paul.

What I really like about this statement is that he knew Whom and not what he had believed. People often wonder if they have really believed in the Lord and some wonder how to really believe in Hm. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). When we believe what a person says, we are believing the person who says it. So to be saved, we must be convinced that the Bible is the Word of God and that God has the right and the authority to make promises to us that He, because of His character, will keep. As we become convinced that the Bible is actually the Word of God, when we understand that God through His Word promises us that Christ died for us, then our faith in Christ results because we have believed His Word. We who have believed in the Lord have believed what He says. However, sometimes we get sidetracked after we are saved. We get so taken up with "knowing the Word" that we become proud about WHAT we know and forget that we really need to be occupied with WHOM we know. When we are occupied with Him, we are not occupied with ourselves. We do not become proud of what we know.

Most of us probably wouldn’t really know the Lord if life were always a calm sea with with a breeze behind us and a blue sky with a few fluffy clouds above us. But life isn't like that, and it is in the storms of life that the sufferings of Christ become real to us; and it is then that we really seem to understand something of the sufferings of the Lord. As we enter into His suffering, we begin to appreciate what it cost the Lord to love us and give Himself for us.

When we study the Bible, it really isn't to get to know our Bibles better, but it is to get to know the Lord better so that when the storms come, we can say like Paul, "I know Whom I have believed!"

Meditation for the week of October 1, 2011

Living Miracles of God's Grace!

 

He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. (John 4:3-4)

 

Why did the Lord have to go through Samaria on His way to Galilee? Normally, a Jew avoided going through Samaria because while the Samaritans were people with some Jewish blood, they were really a mixed breed of people. They worshiped much like the Jews but in Samaria which was the wrong place to worship according to the old testament. So why did the Lord go where Jews didn't go to talk to a woman when a Jewish man didn't normally do that?

The Lord purposely made this trip so He could meet this woman who was seeking the truth. Oh yes, she was a sinner as far as her own people were concerned, and she was born on the wrong side of the tracks as far as the Jews were concerned. However, the Lord knew that she wanted to know what was right. Perhaps her sinful life had caused her to think about her eternal destiny. But whatever the case, the Lord had his eye on her from a far. He knew she was open to the Gospel and wanted "living water." She had heard that the Messiah was coming and no doubt wanted to meet Him. She was seeking the truth so the Lord sought her. She got her "living water" that day and she went into the city and became an immediate effective evangelist. She told the people in the city, "Come see a man!"

I don't think we understand how special to the Lord people are who want to know the truth. I don't think we realize how far He will go to reach them and make them "true worshipers." He sent Philip from a fruitful work in Samaria to a man from "darkest" Africa who was out in a desert in Acts chapter 8. He personally appeared to Paul who was called Saul on the Damascus road. Stephen had been martyred which caused Paul to think about what he had been doing. Later, the Lord wouldn't allow Paul to minister in Asia in Acts 16 because he wanted him to end up in prison so he could minister to the jailor in Phillipi. Are these isolated incidents and special cases? I don't think so. I believe that where there is a person who is seeking there is a loving God who is going out of His way to make sure that person hears the Gospel.

Coming to faith in the Lord is not a casual experience. It is a crisis experience. Those of us who are trusting in the Lord for salvation can go back over our lives and see how we were preserved from harm so we could be saved. Many of us had the privilege of hearing the Gospel that others did not have. But did the others want to know the God of creation, the God who has stirred the conscience of every person born into this world? I believe that some people say, "I want to know God and His salvation." Those people are treated differently than those who do not care about their relationship with God.

God, knowing our hearts before we are ever born, laid out plans for us in an eternity past. But we still had to personally want to be saved. Thank God, the offer of salvation is universal even though not everyone is interested like this woman was. We are not chosen to be saved but the saved are chosen to be God's people and to serve Him In special ways. Before we were saved, the Lord intervened in our lives. In a sense, for each of us, the Lord had to go through Samaria. It is encouraging to look back over our lives and recount how far the Lord went for us. Because if we are saved, the Holy Spirit arranged events so that we would be able to hear and believe the Gospel.

Everyone of us who are saved are living miracles of God's grace. We certainly didn't do anything to deserve this salvation and yet the Lord put great effort into making sure we are saved. He not only sent His Son to the cross, He sent the Holy Spirit out into the highways and hedges (the other side of the tracks) to find us and reach us with the Gospel.

Surely, we can be thankful that the Lord had his eye on those of us who hungered and thirsted after righteousness.

 

Meditation for the week of October 9, 2011

Who is Faithful and Dependable Today?

 

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)

Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, But who can find a faithful man? (Proverbs 20:6)

 

A righteous person keeps his promises to the extent that he can. In Psalm 15, the one that God commends is the one who speaks the truth in his heart. He makes promises and keeps them even when keeping the promises turns out to be costly.

There was a day when a man's word was binding. A handshake would seal a contract. Today, not so much. People break promises without realizing that their own character is at stake. Some of us have different Scriptural views on divorce and remarriage, but most of us who are married made a promise to stay married and to love our spouses for life. When people get divorced, at least one of the partners breaks that promise, and that is a reflection on their character. However, the marriage vows are taken very casually today and breaking them seems to be almost as common as keeping them.

When people are hired for a job, normally there is an implied assumption that unless that person cannot do the job for which they were hired or unless the company falls on financial hardship, that the job is something the worker can depend upon to feed his family. However, today some companies hire people, move them across the country, and let them go before they have even taken advantage of their skills. This may not be the norm, but I know it does happen. Workers often cannot depend on the promises of businesses. Businesses often complain that they cannot depend upon the industry and promises of workers. We who are elderly cannot depend on the promises that our own government made to us with regard to our social security and medical benefits that we have paid for over the years. Some would argue that the promises should never have been made. However, they were made and because of that we should be able to depend on those promises. Our soldiers who have faithfully defended our country often cannot get the medical benefits that they deserve and were promised. By and large today we live in a culture where promises are made to be broken or at least modified. We see this in personal relationships, in business relationships and in our government.

My father used to say that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and twenty minutes to destroy it. I think he was wrong about how long it takes to destroy it. I think our reputations are destroyed the moment we break a promise that it was in our power to perform. Everyone knows that as humans we make promises that we fully intend to keep and then, for one reason or another, it is not in our power to keep the promise. This can be particularly true in our volatile business environment. But when we don't keep a promise that we could keep because it is going to cost us money, that destroys trust. Trust is the basis of any relationship. Trust that is destroyed can never be fully regained.

Paul, the apostle, had a problem in that sometimes people wrote letters and attributed them to him. That is why in 1 Timothy 1:15, he says that this is a faithful or dependable saying that all should accept. He not only wrote the message, but the message has a promise in that he did not make but which he knew to be dependable. The Lord promised salvation in the old testament. Even though that salvation was costly, the Lord did not shrink back from fulfilling the old testament promises. God not only makes promises, He always has the power to perform them. And he always does perform them. We don't always know when He will fulfill His promise, but we do know that He will fulfill them. It has been over 2000 years since he left us with the promise that he would come again and some think He never will fulfill that promise. But He will. And He will fulfill the promise that whoever believes or trusts Him will be saved.

We can't always depend on human beings even when they are well-meaning. And we certainly cannot depend on people who are evil and not well-meaning with a desire to "get ahead" at any cost. But we can depend upon God and the promises He has made.

Meditation for the week of October 16, 2011

Should've had a V8!

 

"For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns--broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13)

 

Some time back V8, a tomato based drink, had an ad where the punch line was, "I should've had a V8." The person saying that had drunk something much less healthy and satisfying. So by drinking the drink that appeared better, they missed out on the health benefits and the satisfying taste of the drink that would have been good for them. I have kidded my wife after an expensive meal in a good restaurant with a similar thought. I tell her I could have had a McDonalds. I would have enjoyed it more and it would have cost a great deal less.

Israel as a nation had made similar choices. They saw the worship of the gods of the land as being more "fun" and "liberating" than the worship of Jehovah. Even though they had been greatly blessed by the only true and living God, they still found the "grass on the other side of the street" to be greener and more attractive. As a result they entered into the pagan worship of gods who are not gods at all, and in doing that they offended the One who loved them and had the power to bless them. They could have had a rich satisfying life with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but instead they opted for a lifestyle that ultimately was self-destructive. Pagan lifestyles are sensual and attractive to the flesh; but people involved in them can be cruel if Jezebel, king Ahab's wife, is any indication. Jezebel cruelly murdered a man so Ahab could have his vineyard. She massacred the prophets of the Lord in order to promote her Baal worship. The Lord called her an immoral woman.

Israel as a nation gave up that which would have been a blessing for something that was not satisfying, did not prepare them for an eternity with their God, and which ultimately cost them their place in the land God had given them. I wonder when they were in captivity in Assyria and then in Bablyon if they realized that they "shoul've had a V8". That is, they should have drunk at the fountain of living waters like the woman of Samaria did in John 4, rather than drinking from broken cisterns.

We often do the same thing. Young people and older ones as well look down the path of righteousness which they think is required of Christians who trust in the Lord and find themselves wondering if they really want that lifestyle. Of course, some of those lifestyles are still self-centered self-willed lifestyles where the Christians are not modeling true Christian character at all. However, even when Christians are acting like Christians should, the young people often feel that they just don't want anyone telling them what to do. They don't want to be bored with life and they want to "get ahead" and "have fun." What they don't realize is that most of us who are trying to please the Lord are "getting ahead" and we are "having fun." Our treasure is not down here, but rather it is in heaven. So we don't spend money like some can, and we don't have fun that gives us a headache when we wake up the next morning; but we do have rich satisfying lives. Even those who were and are being martyred for their faith in Christ, seem to be more than satisfied with the path the Lord has laid out for them. The reason we find our lives satisfying is because we no longer live for the pleasures of sin that last for season, but we live for the pleasure of displaying the glory of the Lord's grace thoughout the endless ages of eternity.

What I am saying may not make sense to those who believe that this life is all there is. Nor will it make sense to those who think that they can turn this earth into a heavenly kingdom during our present age. Of course that will not happen until the Lord sets up his actual physical kingdom on earth. But it makes sense for those of us who have found that life is short and that eternity is long. Those of us who have tasted the living water that satisfies forever would never trade that for a life of partying and fun down here. Nor would we trade it for the self-centered religious worship of people who have a legal religion where they tell others how to live rather than telling others Whom to love. These know nothing of a liberating relationship with the Lord that makes us want to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Those who miss out on the blessings that the Lord offers and who wake up in eternity in torment because they made a bad trade in this life will surely wish that in a figurative sense they had drunk a V8.

 

Meditation for the week of October 23, 2011

Regeneration or Reformation?

 

Titus 3:4-5 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing (or renovation) of the Holy Spirit.

 

The world is looked at in two ways in our Bibles. It is seen as an age that is evil (Galatians 1:4). Christ gave Himself to deliver us from this evil age. The world is also seen as a society that is organized by Satan. This society is the political, economic, social and religious system that Satan has organized through people who do not believe in Him. Ephesians 2 describes the world in both ways. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course (age) of this world (society) , according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others."

A Christian lives and serves in this society but is not of this society according to the Lord in John 17:15-18. Christians need to be kept from the evil one. They do not love this ungodly society and its enticements. Since the world is an enemy of the Christian, they are to flee from its enticements and separate from its evil. I personally do not believe we are here to reform society. We are here to preach the Gospel so that individuals can be regenerated and renovated by the Holy Spirit. Society itself will not be regenerated until the Lord comes and sets up His physical kingdom on earth.

Today, some view the Gospel as a social Gospel. They teach that Christians are those who are Christ-like and who help take care of their fellow man without emphasizing the need for a true Christian to be regenerated through the new birth. Others view the Gospel as a means of confronting and changing society. Again, they are trying to reform people when in fact people need a new life in Christ. This new life starts with repenting and believing that Christ died for sinners. It then results in showing our love to the Lord by showing our love to our neighbors both by meeting their physical needs and by meeting their spiritual need to have their sins forgiven.

I can clean up and repaint a dead car battery. I can make it look like new, but it is still a dead battery that will not start the car. However, if I put a charger on the battery and give it new life by "regenerating" it, then it will be useful in starting my car. Today we are taking the society of our age which is figuratively a dead battery and we are trying to clean it up and make it look good. However, that society is still the same dead society when we get it reformed. However, if we preach the Gospel to people in that society and they come to understand that Christ died for their sins, then the power of the Gospel is such that they will be renovated. We all like to see a house that is run down renovated to look like new. The Gospel can do that for individuals. We cannot reform society, but we can see individuals regenerated by the preaching of the Gospel who will then be renovated by the Holy Spirit. They will be a part of a changed society in their corner of the world as they live in the world even though they are not of the world.

Reformation of the world, even if it could be accomplished, would still leave the world lost and separated from God. The new birth saves, regenerates and restores (or renovates lives). Has God asked us who are His disciples to reform the world or to regenerate individuals through the preaching of the Gospel? The answer is obvious. Our commission as Christians is not to change and reform society. Our commission is to preach the Gospel. It is still the power or dynamite of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

 

Meditation for the week of October 30, 2011