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SEPTEMBER 2004

 

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Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 

This is labor day weekend when those who labor in United States get a days vacation in honor of their labors. I wonder how many will actually get some rest on Labor Day. Resting on Labor Day seems like a contradiction of terms, doesn’t it?

Work is good and is commended by the Lord (2 Thessalonians 3:10). That is, it is a good thing unless that is the way one tries to earn his way to heaven. Sometimes the burdens of work become overwhelming and this causes anxiety which is not good. But it isn’t the labor of a working man or his burdens that is the issue in these verses. It is the burden of sin and the anxieties sin produces for which the Lord has made provision. My paraphrase would go something like this, “Come unto me all ye that are wearied and stressed by the burden of sin and I will give you relief.” How can the Lord provide relief? By offering us forgiveness. What right does He have to release us from the burden of sin by offering forgiveness? He has the right because He bore the punishment that we deserve for our sin when He died on the cross.

Most of us get this invitation wrong. When people become burdened about their sin, when they begin to see that they aren’t good enough to go to heaven, when they realize that their sins have separated between them and God (Isaiah 59:2), they often ask others how to get relief or rest or salvation. The answer that is often given is to invite the Lord into their hearts. I find that answer interesting when the Lord is inviting us to come to Him. I know that many quote Revelation 3:20 to justify teaching sinners to invite the Lord into their hearts. Revelation 3:20 has to do with fellowship in a church, not with salvation of the sinner. However, some say that the principle applies to salvation even if the interpretation applies to a church that keeps the Lord outside the door. Thus, it seems to me that we have set up a conflicting situation. The Lord has invited us to come to Him but we say, “Oh no, you come to me.” We don’t have to invite the Lord into our hearts because the moment we come to Him by faith, that is, the moment we trust Him, the Holy Spirit “seals” us (Ephesians 1:13) and our bodies become the dwelling place (temple) of God (1 Corinthians 6:19).

True rest comes when we quit depending on our “way” and accept the Lord’s “way”. True peace comes when we quit our doing and rest on what Christ has already done. The Lord came to us without an invitation when He was born of a virgin at Bethlehem. When He came to us, we put Him on a cross and yet He has extended an invitation to us to come to Him, the crucified and rejected Lord. If we respond by faith, we can have true rest from the anxieties and burdens of sin on Labor Day.

 

Week of September 5, 2004

Psalm 10:13 Wherefore doth the wicked contemn (despise) God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.

 

What kind of person does God consider to be wicked? A list is given to us in this Psalm:

1. The wicked person persecutes and takes advantage of the poor.

2. He thinks it is a mark of honor to be covetous.

3. He is a bully (puffs or sneers at his enemies).

3. He thinks that He is master of his own destiny, so God is not a part of his plans and he thinks he will never have to worry about disastrous circumstances that bring misery and sorrow.

4. His character is marked by cursing, deceit and fraud.

5. He does what he does secretly, knowing that He is taking advantage of people.

This person is wicked because he is convinced that He will never have to give account to God. Whether he assumes God is weak, or whether he assumes God is too loving to judge him, or whether he assumes he is stronger than God or whether he assumes God does not really exist, doesn‘t really matter. Regardless of his faulty reasoning, according to this Psalm, his character is the direct result of his assumption that God will never hold him accountable for what he is doing.

A person can never be saved eternally without finding out that he or she is accountable to God and that God does judge sin. This is called “conviction of sin” and when that conviction comes, a person is “troubled” because they know they are not right with God (Romans 3:23). When we realize that our sins were laid on Christ and that we are justified by the blood (death) of the Lord Jesus, we find joy, peace and assurance of salvation in Christ.

Thus, the mind set of a wicked man who has rejected the claims of Christ and of God is the direct result of his belief that he will never be held accountable for his actions. One of the evidences of the new birth is a conscience about sin and an understanding that God does see (verse 14). The difficulty in preaching the Gospel today is that the sins of the wicked in this Psalm have become the standard operating procedures for “getting ahead” in our capitalistic society. Instead of being seen as wicked, people who do these things are seen as successful. These are the acceptable and respectable sins of our society. In some cases, the standard operating procedures of the wicked have become the accepted sins of the saved. Thus those who are seeking after God see no difference between those who profess to be new creatures in Christ and those who are unsaved and who make no pretense of being Christians.

Unfortunately, it is easy for the “accountable” to live as the “unaccountable”. But we who are saved need to remember that God does see. And so do those that we should be trying to reach with the message of deliverance from the penalty and power of sin.

Week of September 12, 2004

Psalm 34:18 The LORD [is] nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite (bruised or crushed) spirit.

Psalm 145:18 The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid [his] face from you, that he will not hear.

 

Most of us would like to have the Lord near, that is, unless we are ashamed to be in His presence because of sin. Sin separates!

Sometime ago I was in a shopping center where two ladies came running out of a store yelling, “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me!” Right behind them were two security people who were trying to stop them because they had items on them that they had not purchased. Of course, they didn’t want the security people to touch them. I watched until the police came and they were searched and taken away. Obviously, the two ladies didn’t want to see the authorities because of the sins that they had committed. However, if they had purchased the items that they had stolen, they likely would have welcomed the help of either the security people or of the police in getting to their cars in the parking lot safely. Sin separates!

When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God and not the other way around (Genesis 3:8). Men and women who haven’t faced the sin issue are not likely to call upon God in truth. God isn’t hiding from them but they are hiding from or perhaps running from God. Our God doesn’t like this separation that sin has caused and because of that He sent His Son to die on the cross that our sin might be put away, forgiven, and forgotten. When we accept the sacrifice that has satisfied God, we can be sure that God is nigh or near and not at a distance. We will have faced the sin question and will be humble because of it. We will have admitted and confessed our sin and thus we can call upon or pray to Him in truth. Love unites!

Today, some of us preach about sin as though it has affected everyone but us. In, the political arena and the religious arena alike, we can get great attention by preaching against certain sins that others are committing. We need to be honest and call sin what it is, but we need to remember that when we are trying to correct others, we likely need correcting ourselves. Perhaps our sins are the acceptable sins of society, but sin is sin, whether it is complaining about authority and rebelling against it in the church and in society, whether it be gossip or the desire to “keep up with the Jones’s in our lifestyles or, or whether it be the things we are all against like drugs or fornication or abortion.

God will not be near unless we call upon Him in truth or in sincerity. That will require us to face the fact that all sin separates and that all of us have sinned. Realizing the hold that sin has on each of us should lead to the contrite or bruised or crushed spirit that God can bless. There is no place for pride when we want the presence of God in our lives and the power of God in our prayers. We are just sinners who have been saved by grace. Sin separates but love unites!

Sinners who are grieved by their own sin are more likely to experience the nearness of God when they call upon Him than the self-righteous who think they have sin conquered.

Week of September 19, 2004

2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.

 

I read an article recently that took the position that we cannot give to God because it is all His anyway. This is an interesting point of view, but I daresay His name is not on our bank accounts, or on the title to our homes or on the titles to our cars. While it is true that He has provided everything that we have, He has given us ownership of many things that we can give back to Him.

The process of growing up is the process of changing from a “givee” to a “giver”. That is, when we are newly born, everything must be done for us. We are “givees” or recipients. As we grow older we should be able to give back to our families. We can do chores and perhaps earn a little money for our school expenses and in doing so we are giving back to those who have given to us. The day may come when the children become the givers and the parents because of age have to be the recipients.

Giving is also the language of love. Some people give to get, and we call that kind of giving bribery. But true giving is done out of devotion to express love with no expectation of getting anything but love and appreciation in return. This is the kind of gift God offers us. He gave his Son (John 3:16) and He gives us eternal life (Romans 6:23) when we accept His free gift by faith. When we accept His gift of love, then we also should have the desire to return that love. John reminds us that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Some translators think this should read, “We love because He first loved us.” This kind of response must be what Paul had in mind when he says that God loves a cheerful giver. A cheerful giver is not giving to get, He is giving out of devotion and he is giving voluntarily. This is the kind of giving that God blesses.

Why should we give to the Lord? Because He gave Himself for us (Titus 2:14). Surely, He is worthy of our trust and we should give that to Him. In material things, we can only give back what He has given to us. King David gave for the building of a sanctuary where God could dwell with His people. The Israelites gave tithes of their crops and herds as well as sacrifices and voluntary or free will offerings. Only the Lord should be given glory and honor and worship but there are other things that we can give to those in need, and when we give to them, we are giving to Him. Yes, we can and we should give to the Lord. Giving is the proof of our love.

 

Week of September 26, 2004