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SEPTEMBER 2016

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Masters of the Guilt Trip

 

2Ti 2:12-13  If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

Mat 26:34  Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times."

 

The Guilt Trip

From time to time, I get posts on my social media news feed having to do with some Scriptural admonition.  At the bottom the post often says that I should pass the post on unless I am ashamed of the Lord.   A  verse like Luke 12:9 usually accompanies the guilt trip to encourage me to pass on the post.  Luke 12:9 says, "But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God."  Whenever, that guilt trip accompanies the post, I do not pass it on because I am not convinced that our relationship with the Lord after we come to faith should be based on guilt.  

 

Salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus.  But somehow after we are saved, we tend to make our relationship with the Lord one of works rather than one of grace.  Now I understand that James says that some will try to show their faith without their works but he would show his faith by his works.  But his faith was not a guilt ridden faith.  It was a heart felt desire to please the Lord who has made such a sacrifice for us.  Works can be religious and born out of duty, or they can be devotional based on love.  Sometimes I feel that Chrisitans preach the Gospel of grace and when someone comes to faith, then we say, "Now we got you."  Now you HAVE to do this and that and the next thing in order to prove that you are really a Christian.  In othe words Christians can be masters of the guilt trip.  Guilt is good before we are saved since it leads us to an understanding of how lost we really are.   Romans 3 says that the law was given that every mouth might be stopped and all the world become guilty before God.  But now through faith the Christian has been justified.  He has been declared right with God.  He no longer needs to wallow in guilt. 

 

The Conference

I went to a conference recently.  When I go I always hope that the Lord will speak to me in some way.  Most people go to hear the speakers.  I go to hear the Lord.  I don't go to get entertained, I go to learn something.  That is necessary for me because while I like to read, I have learned most of what I know today through lectures, speeches and preaching.  Even in college, I didn't like to take time to read the book so I always went to class and took copious notes.  The conference that I went to recently was no exception.

 

While I won't be "guilted" into passing those notes on social media along, I have never been able to fully explain what the Lord meant when he said that if we denied Him on earth, He would deny us in heaven.  It can't have to do with salvation or salvation would not be a free gift.  But what does it mean? 

 

One of our speakers pointed out that Peter denied the Lord three times and we really don't expect the Lord to deny him in any way in heaven.  He was used after that denial to preach to both non-jews and jews.  He had a shepherd's heart for the Christians of his day.  Yes, he denied the Lord emphatically three times.  Later on he wouldn't eat with non-jews because of his fear of the jews.  But in every case he saw his error and confessed it.  Those experiences made him a better shepherd of the Lord's people than he likely would have been without the failures.  And that was God's message for me at the conference.

 

The Lesson

We need to remember that words have to be understood in their context.  It does not always mean the same thing every time it is used.  It is clear to me that there are denials of the Lord that are the result of the weakness of our flesh.  There are denials of the Lord that represent a total rejection of Him.  In Luke 12:9, the Lord goes on to explain blasphemy.  In the context of Luke 12:9, denial represents not yielding to the Holy Spirit as He tries to draw us to faith in the Lord.  There were two thieves on the cross beside the Lord.  Both started out blaspheming the Lord or denying him.  One came to his senses and looked to the Lord for salvation.  The other continued in his blasphemy of the Holy Spirit by rejecting the Lord and he was lost.  These are two different kinds of denial.  The lost thief blasphemed the Holy Spirit and denied the Lord.  His sin could not be forgiven.

 

Likely, a Christian who denies the Lord through some weakness, will lose reward in the coming Kingdom.  If we aren't faithful in serving the Lord now, we aren't likely to be given full responsibility in the coming kingdom.  But regardless of how the rewards work in the coming kingdom, a Christian's salvation is secure.  "If we are faithless (that is untrustworthy), He remains faithful.  He cannot deny Himself."  Praise the Lord!  And from the point of salvation on, hopefully, we will ask the Lord what can I do to serve you and please you and not what must I do!. 

 

Meditation for the week of September 5, 2016

What we Say and How we Say it is Important

 

Eph 4:29-32   Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

 

The Unruly Tongue

September 11, 2001 will go down in history as a day when all innocence was lost.  Safety became a thing of the past.  Hatred and war prevailed.  Not only were many lives lost in the Twin Towers on that day, many lives have been lost and many lives have been destroyed because of the wars that followed the attack on the United States.   While we remember that tragedy and all the people it destroyed, I wonder if we realize that the unruly tongue has likely destroyed as many people as the weapons of war that are available to us.  The tongue is used to criticize, backbite, rail, lie,  and to flatter.   It can start wars and it can destroy lives.  James tells us that the the tongue cannot be tamed.  He says:  "See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." (James 3:3-10)

 

The New Birth

The purpose of the new birth is to give us a new life, a new eternal destination, a new Father, and a new nature.  We don't have to do anything to be saved except to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  The belief or faith that is needed to be saved is not just a casual assent to the truth.  Saving faith requires us to deal with the issues that keep us from believing the truth.   We won't believe on the Lord Jesus until we quit telling Him how to save us and let Him tell us how to be saved.  He will convict us of our sinnership by using the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  He will convince us that apart from faith in the death of Christ eternal judgment is certain.  Then when we finally rest in the truth that simple faith in Christ satisfies God and justifies us, we should have a desire to more like the Lord Jesus and less like the people of the world who are being deceived by Satan.  One of the evidences of the reality of the new birth in our lives is the desire to identify with the Lord in water baptism.  Another of the evidences is to talk like him and not like the world.  How did the Lord talk?

 

(Luke 4:22)  So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?"

(John 8: 44-45) You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.

(Luke 4:32)  And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.

 

I have to wonder if Christians realize that railing or reviling or backbiting is what people did to the Lord.  It is not what we should do to anyone, particularly to other Christians.  On going behavior of this nature is a sin equal to sexual immorality, covetousness, extortion, drunkenness and idolatry according to 1 Corinthians 5.  When these sins are committed without any conscience the church is to remove these people from the fellowship. Railing or reviling is a serious offense.  Many of us speak unadvisedly at times.  However, the Christian will want to go to the person we have maligned and make it right.  Obviously, we don't want to act like our old Father the Devil.  We should want to be Christ-like in our conversation. 

 

Grieving the Holy Spirit

When corrupt words proceed out of our mouths, we distress the Holy Spirit.  As Christians we lose our joy and lose our power.  We can use our tongues for good or we can use our tongues for evil.  The Lord says in Luke 6:45, " A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."  There are times when criticism is justified, but it must be truthful and it must be carried out in a Scriputural manner where the offense is dealt with privately before it is dealt with publicly. 

 

Question?

Would people see my Christian character by the words that I speak?  Would they see that I try to be gracious, authoritative, truthful and that I try to build up and not tear down.  Would they see me as one who acts like Christ or would they see me as one who is doing the bidding of Satan, the liar and murderer?   Since we all justify our own actions, maybe we need to ask our friends how well the words we say represent the Lord.

 

Meditation for the week of September 11, 2016

God's Curse verses God's Grace

 

Malachi 4:5-6  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.  And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

 

Revelation 22:20-21  He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

 

Confession Time

I have to admit that I like the God of the New Testament better than the God of the Old.  Now I know they are the same God.  We know that the Jehovah of the Old is the Jesus of the New.  (See Isaiah 6:1-10 and John 12:37-41).  While Jehovah is Jesus and reveals God to us throughout the Old and New Testaments, yet the Old Testament deals with an earthly people with earthly promises who look for blessing in an earthly land.  The New Testament deals with a spiritual (heavenly) people with spiritual promises and who look for a spiritual land.  The failures of the earthly people in the Old Testament are legion and so we know about war and bloodshed, and floods and whales, captivity and so on.  All of this is the result of sin and unbelief.  However, when we come to the New Testament, we are introduced to the Lord Jesus who was full of grace and truth.

 

Is there a Difference?

The Old Testament ends with the warning of a coming curse.  Then New Testament ends with the promise of the coming of the Lord and reminds us of His grace or undeserved favor.  Is there a difference in the God who is revealed to us?  NO!  Is there a difference in the way that He manifests Himself? YES!  Did the God of the Old Testament show grace and mercy?  YES!  Does the God of the New Testament warn of coming judgment?  YES!  The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is really a scary conclusion to “the rest of the story.”  The story started at creation, the story led to the cross, and the story ends with the victory of the Lord over his enemies and His coming to establish a righteous kingdom. 

 

Because the God who seems austere and judgmental in the Old Testament is full of grace and truth in the New Testament, I thank the Lord that I was born in New Testament times.  God does not bring the hammer down immediately when we fail Him in this dispensation.  He is patient and long-suffering.  But He will ultimately bring the hammer down on those who reject His love in this dispensation just like He did in the old.  He will bring nations to their knees who proudly try to get along without Him and He will judge unbelieving sinners who reject His salvation as well. 

 

I like knowing that my God is the God of all truth.  I like One whose words were gracious, Who healed the sick and the lepers, Who fed the multitudes, Who quieted the storms, Who raised the dead, Who did not carry a sword, and Who gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).  I like the One who is now in heaven as my great High Priest interceding on my behalf when I foul up.  I like one who understands and sympathizes with the “feelings” of my infirmities.  I just plain like the Lord that I trust.  I am not sure that I could have said that if I had been raised in Old Testament times although men like Joseph and Daniel who were by far better men than I am seemed to have the same relationship with Jehovah that I have with the Lord Jesus.

 

Conclusion

Yes, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  But I have been blessed to know Him in New Testament times when we aren't asked to fight wars for Him (even though many have fought wars unjustly in His name).  We have been called to follow Him and many have followed Him to a martyrs death.  Those who have died for Him have done so because He died for them and they love Him and they love those that are unsaved.  They haven't died for Him in order to get His salvation but because they HAVE it, and they have found out that this life is not nearly as important as the next one. 

 

I confess that I do not know if I could have trusted God as He revealed Himself in the Old Testament.  But I can sure trust the Lord who comes as the Good Samaritan in the New Testament, and who forgives the woman caught in adultery in John 8 and who accepts the Samaritan outcasts in John 4.  Yes, I can trust the Lord Jesus and I hope you can too.

 

Meditation for the week of September 18, 2016

Christ Lives in Me!

 

Galatians 2:20-21  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."

 

Introduction

In this letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul is trying to correct an error that was plaguing the Galatians.  Paul had taught them that salvation was by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  But now Jewish teachers were telling them that to really be “saved”, they had to keep the Old Testament law.  These Judaizers were trying to make Christians a new sect of Judaism which it is not.  They were effectively preaching salvation by works rather than salvation by grace.  Paul emphatically says in Galatians 2:16, “by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified (or declared righteous).”

 

Paul's Experience

Paul had been a leading Pharisee.  He was blameless with regard to keeping both the moral and ceremonial law of the Old Testament.  In Acts 9 he had met the Lord after having his conscience bother him about his persecution of Christians.  When he met the Lord, he turned his back on all of his political aspirations and became a fully-committed preacher of the Gospel.  He preached that Christ died, was buried and that He rose again and it was all according to the Old Testament scriptures which he now realized spoke of a suffering Christ.  But something else had happened, Christ now was living in Him.  What does that mean?

 

Does Christ live in Every Believer?

We know that upon believing, every believer is sealed with Holy Spirit. That is taught in Ephesians 1:13.  We don't have to ask for the Holy Spirit to seal us.  We don't have to pray for the Holy Spirit to seal us.  We get that blessing automatically upon believing.  However, because of that blessing we usually have a joy we didn't have before.  We usually have an understanding of spiritual things that we didn't have before.  We usually have motivation to please the Lord that we didn't have before.  Unfortunately, we can grieve or distress the Holy Spirit who dwells within us by how we speak to others and how we treat others.  That is taught in Ephesians 4:30.  So because the Holy Spirit is God, yes, God or Christ does live within each believer.  That doesn't mean believers are little gods, it just means that they should be motivated by those things that please the Lord.  They should not grieve the Holy Spirit.  Instead they should be filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit as taught in Ephesians 5:18.

 

Question? 

When Paul says that Christ was living in him, was he talking about being sealed with the Spirit or was he talking about being controlled by the Spirit?  I think He was talking about being controlled by the Spirit since he says his life is now lived by faith in the Son of God.  I would assume that means that he didn't direct His own life but that he allowed the Lord to direct his path.  It was through Ananias that he was told that he would be a special evangelist to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16).  But of course he couldn't be controlled by the Holy Spirit if he hadn't been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

 

The Preciousness of Having Christ Live in Us

As we have already stated, since each believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit and should be controlled by the Holy Spirit, each believer has Christ living in him.  To me it is almost beyond comprehension to think that Christ is dwelling in me.  It's a precious truth, but it is also kind of scary.  Paul was confident that he was properly reflecting his faith in the Son of God.  I have to wonder if I am.  Do people really see Christ when they see me?  I have to ask, "Does Christ really act the way I act?"

 

I thank God that Christ does live in me.  But I hope that because of that nobody is ever able to use me as an excuse for rejecting the Lord.  Many people that I talk to do not accept Christianity because of the way Christians treat one another and because of the way Christians treat minorities and the poor.  I realize that the Lord is going to hold people accountable for their own sin regardless of how un-Chistlike professing Christians may act.  But I pray that since Christ is living in me, that people at least get a little glimpse of the real Christ when they see me.

 

Meditation for the week of September 25, 2016