Friday, February 24, 2012

What Matters

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

What if we lived in a world that had no opposition? For that to happen we would have to live without rules, without a moral standard of what is right and what is wrong. It would be a world of mind over matter; “I don’t mind and it don’t matter.” And the sadness of this situation is that there would be a group of people that would want it that way. And with certainty we can assume that this is what our adversary, the devil, would want. Satan, who the Bible says is the god of this world, loves it when we decide not to stand for something, especially for something that is morally right. He loves it when we live like there is no truth, but everything is circumstantial.

Fortunately for the Christian, this is a made up scenario and not the way we live. Jesus came to give us a foundation in which we who are morally structured can stand: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Jesus came to reveal the mind of our Creator so that we can know for sure that truth does matter and that we can take a stand for that which is right: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). We have been set apart from the indifferent world to defend God’s truth. So, it is easy to conclude that there is a war going on outside the boundaries of Iraq and Afghanistan, a spiritual war, not one of flesh. It is a war with higher stakes than physical life. It is for the destiny of our souls. It is a war with which our souls are either won or lost by our decision to stand for truth or let the adversary’s mindset lead us to the “it don’t matter” mindset of indifference.

Any student of the Bible knows that it does matter to God. It matters to Him where we place our faith. The Hebrew writer shows us that “it is impossible to please” God without putting our faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6). We must deny our flesh’s desire to look for what pleases us in matters of truth and seek to please God, knowing He rewards those who accomplish this task. Even though you will have trouble finding many who will go with you in this decision, the fact remains that there is only “one faith.” That faith denies the mindset of man and is obedient to the will of God at all costs. And we know the toils of this walk are never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The truth of the Bible also proves that the church matters to God. The church matters to God in the sense that He only established one: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). Man has built many denominations, but God only established one church, which He vividly outlined in the Scriptures. The church He built assembles faithfully on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7). His church is made up of people that put their faith in His doctrine and will not allow the opinions of man to dictate their steps. His church is made up of people that have made the decision to dedicate their lives to truth even if it costs them their own family (Matthew 8:22). His church realizes how important truth is to God and have made their stand in faith in the battle for His glory. They put Christ first in all aspects of life and never look back (Luke 9:63).

There are things in life that matter, and your soul matters to God. So much that His love reached down from heaven to set you free from Satan’s deceit of indifference. Be someone who knows what to stand for. Stand for God and His truth and you will never fall (Isaiah 40:31).

In HIs Grace,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Don’t Panic

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

There are times in our lives when it feels like the whole world is about to collapse around us. In times of trials and troubles our hearts seem to beat faster, we begin to feel a surge of heat going through our bodies and ultimately we go into a great panic. This is a natural reaction of flesh in horrifying moments such as these. But we are different people because we have died to the flesh and now have been given the opportunity of a renewed mind (Romans 12:2) that has adjusted the way it receives logic. It is no longer held captive by the limits of flesh but is now led by faith. When the church in Corinth was challenged in their faith in the resurrection, Paul reminded them that through faith they have been freed from the limits of fleshly logic: “[F]or we walk by faith, not by sight”(2 Corinthians 5:7). Our faith in the Almighty God will expand our capabilities.

Samuel reminded the Israelites the power of trusting God, even when fleshly desires led them away from His grace, a mistake that Israel fell into quite often. And although we have their example to remind us how tragic this is to our relationship with God, we still make the same mistake. So, what can we do when this happens? Should we go into panic mode looking like an Ostrich ducking his head into the sand? May it never be. We must remember how great our God truly is and how powerful His promises are. He has promised to never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and to remember our sins “no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Just as we can learn from the mistakes of our forefathers, we can also learn how to stay strong in our faith when we stumble.

Instead of panicking we can make the decision to “serve the Lord with all your hearts” (1 Samuel 12:20). We do this by not turning aside to chase futile things (v.21). Turning away from God to pursue fleshly desires it will leave us in chaos. The same Hebrew word used for “futile” here is the same word used to describe the earth as “formless” (Genesis 1:2). Life is “formless” when lived outside the eternal purpose of our Father. But God sent His Son to this earth to give form to our once formless lives. So, instead of panicking, we can choose to serve Him eternally.

Another alternative to panic is obedience. Samuel said he would instruct them in the good and right way (v.23). But Israel had to make the decision to obey his instructions. This seems like it would be easy because he showed that he would pray for God’s guidance in the instructions he was going to give them. But just because flesh has instructions in the way that pleases God does not mean it will make the choice to follow. Paul was an inspired man yet he had a battle going on within himself (Romans 7:15-20). Paul had to make the decision to follow the Lord’s instruction just as we do today: “…but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). It takes a disciplined mind to achieve greatness in anything we choose to pursue. If we are going to be great in the kingdom of our Lord then we must discipline our minds to obey His reasoning.

Many in this world say they love God, but their lives are lived outside His eternal purpose. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). True love for God is shown in faith. When we trust God enough to deny our fleshly desires and pursue the things that bring glory to His name, then we can honestly say we love Him. We will do well to learn how to love so we can learn how to accept His love that will prevent us from panicking.

In His Grace,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Treasure Worth the Effort

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Being born height-challenged helped me become a person that does things with great diligence. I was taught to never be satisfied with anything less than the best of what you are striving to achieve. This strengthened me in menial things such as crossword puzzles and mowing grass. It also enabled me to break the barriers of my physical limitations to attain the things that were out of reach for me, such as the cookie jar on the highest shelf in the cupboard or the soda pop that was placed on the top shelf in the refrigerator. Giving up without victory was never an option.

Jesus explained to His disciples the importance of diligence when it came to understanding Him and the cause of His presence in their lives. He wanted them to know that the light He came to deliver deserved their deepest interest and demanded their diligence to understand. If they were half-hearted seekers they would be left ignorant to the depth of His teaching. When He taught in parables the lessons He offered could only be grasped with a diligent desire to know: “Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted’” (Matthew 13:11). Some people do not have the desire to know.

Our application is the same now as it was then. If we want to know the depth of Jesus and the truth He delivered to the world we must be willing to be diligent in our effort to understand His teachings. Any other effort will leave us with only a partial understanding of His truth and will leave us vulnerable to the deceit of the Deceiver. And we live in a world that has been easily led astray because they lack diligence in their effort to know Jesus. Although God did not come to confuse the world, there are many things He teaches that just a little effort to learn will leave us empty. Peter, when speaking of Paul’s letters, said, “…as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:11). Peter’s point was that the world is full of false teachers that do not understand the Scriptures because they are too full of themselves to be filled with God’s truth and they mislead others also.

In an effort to use as little diligence as possible, some will let the “untaught and unstable” teach them what God’s word says about salvation. Unfortunately, like Peter said, it will only lead them “to their own destruction.” They live by the false pretense that ignorance is bliss. In other words, there are many that believe the less they know, the less they will be held accountable for. But Paul reminds us how far off this logic truly is: "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). Further in that same passage, Paul shows that God has appointed His Son to come again to judge the world for their lack of diligence in efforts to know Him and His truth that can set them free.

We have been given the opportunity to be “more noble minded” like the Bereans and “search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things” are so (Acts 17:11). In Jesus prayer for unity, He reminds us what truth is: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Stay diligent in your effort to know the truth about Jesus and the life He offers to keep yourselves protected from the destruction of false teachers. A diligent search for God’s truth is worth every ounce of effort we can muster, and will set us free from the demise of the ignorance of the world.

In His Grace,