Thursday, February 28, 2013
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
If the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ inhabits believers, we would expect great and good things to be revealed in and through them, as happened in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.
“By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10).
We correctly anticipate the abundance of Christ to be manifested in Christians, which raises the question, do we expect such lavish bestowal of grace in our own lives? Many believers ruefully bow their heads upon such an inquiry, believing themselves to have too often failed the Lord, and to perceive themselves as simply not dedicated or disciplined enough to live a powerfully effectual life of godliness. Thus, they expect little, and become sad and self-fulfilling prophecies.
Misdirected expectation accompanies all failure to experience the abundance of the Lord Jesus. That is, we look at ourselves and our human foibles rather than “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We forget, or either do not know that the Christian life is, by definition, the life of Christ revealed in us. He is the motivator, the enabler, and the executor of all godliness. We are the trusting vessel that looks with the expectancy of faith that God’s grace far surpasses our human weaknesses.
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned by death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21).
Even in the natural realm, low expectation leads to low performance. This is especially true in our relationship with God. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament demands that we view ourselves as supercharged vehicles of the presence and power of God. Paul taught that “the power that worketh in us” is “exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Do we base our expectation on such truth? Or do we languish in hopelessness, or even a false and perverse humility that actually serves as an excuse for failure to consistently honor our Lord in how we live our lives? “I’m just too weak, and too prone to wander to live a godly life!” Yes, we are, we all are. But the Lord Jesus is not! Moreover, He lives in us to provide both the power and the hope of consistent faith and obedience. Thus, the Bible calls us to join the Psalmist in his affirmation, “My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him” (Psalm 62:5).
We are not merely ourselves if we have trusted the Lord Jesus. We are ourselves as inhabited and energized by His Spirit –“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Our Heavenly Father sees us accordingly, as confirmed throughout the Book inspired by His Spirit. We must join Him in the view of His Son united to many sons and daughters, including ourselves. We will indeed glimmer in glory as we trust our perfectly faithful God to reveal the Lord Jesus not only as our Savior, but as our life…
“To live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21)
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Monday, February 25, 2013
“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
A careful reading of the Apostle Paul’s well known declaration confirms our premise of the Spirit of Christ and the spirit of the born again believer united in a bond wherein both parties vitally live and function.
First, Paul writes of his apparent demise – “I am crucified with Christ.” He returns, however – “nevertheless I live.” He departs again – “yet not I but Christ liveth in me.” Finally, the Apostle returns to stay, declaring himself to live, but to do so by the auspices and enabling of the Lord Jesus – “I live by the faith of the Son of God.”
In this enigmatic description of life in Christ, Paul speaks to our premise that human beings exist to serve as “the habitation of God through the Spirit.” The Spirit of the Lord Jesus lives in us so that we may live through Him.
Thorough consideration of the New Testament epistles affirms this truth of a life whereby the Son of God dwells in trusting sons and daughters of God without eliminating or annihilating our singular humanity. He lives, revealing in us His character, nature and way as the motivating and enabling power of all godliness. We live, our human personalities, characteristics, histories and gifts serving as unique vehicles through which Christ shines forth to His Father in Heaven, and to the people with whom we live our earthly lives.
The discovery of this truth establishes the foundation of understanding whereby God prepares us to walk in a genuinely Biblical faith, along with the expectation and submission that accompany trust in God. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). We recognize our complete dependence on the Lord Jesus – “Without Me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Upon this basis of trust, we then realize and rejoice in our privileged calling to exercise our God-given faculties and gifts with great enthusiasm and application – “I can do all things through Christ” (Philippians 4:13). We live with a restful heart, but also with an active mind, will and body for the glory and pleasure of our Heavenly Father as His beloved Son shines forth to Him in beloved sons and daughters.
We also recognize our calling to present Christ to our sphere of influence in ways not possible through anyone other than ourselves. Indeed, concerning both God and people, we possess heritage, traits, experiences, histories and capacities Divinely designed for our Father’s joy, and for the particular human relationships encountered along the pathways of our journey through life. As the Lord Jesus illuminates these facets of our being and our way, we glimmer forth in a radiance of Him, and of ourselves as enlightened by Him. Again, He lives in us and we live through Him, resulting in our blessing both God and people as Christ is revealed in and by us.
“The Lord taketh pleasure in His people.” (Psalm 149:4) “Ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)
Part 3: Recognizing, accepting, and affirming our privileged calling with God, and with people.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
The timeless, spaceless God thinks and perceives in far different terms than His creatures, the best and brightest of which know nearly nothing of that which can be known. “His understanding is infinite… If any man think he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (Psalm 147:5; I Corinthians 8:2). How an all-knowing God relates to little knowing creatures such as ourselves boggles the mind. Why He defers to do so humbles the heart. More importantly, it reveals the humility of His heart. We seemingly have nothing to offer Him of either intellectual or emotional content. Our relationship with the Lord meets no need in His all-sufficient being. Our prayers cannot inform One who possesses infinite understanding. We can do nothing for Him in the normal sense of reciprocal relationship. Why then does He find interest in us?
I can think of only one answer that, to my mind, begins to offer insight into the enigma.
“God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father” (Galatians 4:6).
God created human beings to serve as the dwelling place of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we believe and His Spirit indwells us, our own spirits leap to life – “to live is Christ” – and the process of actualizing our humanity for its originally intended purpose begins – we “live through Him” (Philippians 1:21; I John 4:9). Thus, God the Father experiences His Son as revealed through many sons and daughters, each with their own peculiar and particular facets through which the light of Christ shines forth. “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord… But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (Proverbs 20:27; John 1:12).
The Lord Jesus forever occupies His unique place with God the Father as God the Son, and as “the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Our role as beautifully distinct rays of Christ’s light nevertheless offers to the Father ways of lovingly relating to His Son that never existed until He enacted His creative and redemptive processes in Christ and in humanity. I find this a sublime consideration, that in you and in me something of the Lord Jesus formed in us by the Holy Spirit presents itself to God in a way that is both Him and ourselves. He is the Light and we are the lamp, the personally and individually formed (by God) vessels that present His Son’s illumination in glories heretofore unseen because they are Christ as revealed in and through us.
Such wondrous truth changes everything in our lives. All things become the holy means by which Christ lives in us, we live by Him, and God the Father is blessed by the union of His Son with His sons and daughters. Indeed, every believer bears the potential of absorbing and radiating our Savior’s light in glimmerings of glory unlike any other facet of the jewel that is the body of Christ. Knowing this truth motivates us to grow in our relationship with the Savior in order to discover the countless ways He seeks to shine forth from us unto the Father, and to our particular sphere of influence. Our reason for being is thus vital beyond all imagining, promising that this and every day can be filled by Light within, and fulfilled by Light shining forth from us radiating the beauty of Christ.
“Jesus spake again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) “Ye are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
Monday, Part 2: “Not I, But Christ” – Galatians 2:20
Friday, February 22, 2013
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee” (John 17:1).
Shortly after His request for glory, the Lord Jesus Christ would suffer unjust accusation and hang upon a cross of shame, rejection, sorrow, agony and death.
Human understanding might conclude that God did not answer the prayer, particularly if the observer knew that Christ experienced not only human wrath on the cross, but also Divine smiting and forsakenness. “We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). If the prayer was in fact answered, we must accept the fact that the Lord’s definition of “glory” must be quite different than our own.
It is. While the glory of God often manifests itself in great displays of power, illumination, majesty and honor, it may also be revealed in ways that seem strange and counter-intuitive. Sometimes mangers, obscurity, crosses and tombs serve as perplexing temples of glory. We must remember this truth as we pray. Our Heavenly Father’s “glorious” answers may require challenging and difficult means whereby faith will be necessary if we are to know that He has responded to our request. The Apostle Paul’s request for the removal of a thorn was answered by the supply of grace sufficient to survive and thrive in the midst of enduring pain (II Corinthians 12:9). We will doubtless experience the same at times, receiving supplies of glory that come to us clothed in seemingly unlikely garb. “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:5).
Of course, the cross led to resurrection and the obvious glory in which our risen Lord forever resides. The same will be true in our lives – or perhaps after our present life. We will one day discover that glory revealed on crosses and grace supplied for enduring thorns was glory and grace indeed. God displays the goodness of His heart rather than the power of His hand in such times for those with eyes to behold Light in the darkness. It is not an easy way. But it is often God’s way, and as His trusting children, it is often our way.
“Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10)
The Jackson Chronicles Part 9
(Another in the ongoing series of our grandson Jackson’s capacity to do and say things that seem far beyond his six years on the planet.)
Last week, as Jackson prepared Valentine cards for his classmates, he asked if he could make an extra special one for a little girl named Lillie. As my son recounted the story, I immediately thought that Jackson must have experienced his first taste of romance. This was not the case, however. Instead, it turns out that Lillie has been frightened by drawings of animals on the walls of the girls’ restroom at their school. “I want to make her feel better” said Jackson. Moreover, it turns out that Lillie faces a particular challenge that likely most touched our grandson’s heart. She has Down’s Syndrome.
It certainly touches my heart that Jackson is, at such a young age, sensitive to the feelings and needs of others. He cares about Lillie’s sense of insecurity, and obviously realizes that her challenge may cause an especially difficult response to the troubling images. Most importantly, Jackson wanted to do something about it. He desired with the special Valentine to show Lillie that what she feels matters to somebody, and that somebody genuinely cares.
We all want somebody to make for us an extra special Valentine, don’t we? Even more, we want somebody to feel the feelings of our own challenges, and to in some way make them their own. Thankfully, Somebody does.
“He careth for you” (I Peter 5:7).
We could spend a lifetime considering, assimilating, believing and rejoicing in the Apostle’s simple statement. We will spend an eternity doing so. Yes, our Savior, our empathizing and sympathizing High Priest, experiences our joys and sorrows as if they were His own. In truth, they are His own because the Lord Jesus Christ dwells within our hearts by His Spirit. He draws so near when we trust Him that He cannot but know and feel the emotional content of our hearts. Moreover, He so loves us that He naturally enters into the ebb and flow of our emotions. “We have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). In this moment, we can be sure that what we care about He cares about, what we feel, He feels, and that our joys and sorrows are His joys and sorrows.
Jackson’s response to Lillie thrills me because it evidences response to God’s working in his heart to reveal the Lord Jesus to him. Indeed, such caring is not human in origin. It rather begins in the Divine heart of the God in whom all genuine concern for others originates. May our Heavenly Father continue His working in Jackson and in all our hearts to reveal how much we matter to Him, and how much others can matter to us. Doubtless, in this day someone in our sphere of influence would be blessed by “an extra special Valentine,” in whatever form. Jackson’s example inspires me to care, and even more, to do something about it. I’m sure you join me in this offering of ourselves to the Lord so that His caring for us might become our caring for others.
“Bear ye one another’s’ burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
A visit to a fine jewelry store may involve direct contact with but one of the establishment’s employees. The salesperson that greets and serves the customer certainly plays a vital role in the success of the business. However, he or she occupies a single link in a chain of people responsible for making gold, silver, platinum, and precious gemstones available for purchase.
The first link of the chain is the miner, that person easily forgotten when standing in a beautifully adorned showroom. Without the efforts of those who risk their lives in dangerous caverns and abysses, jewelry stores would not and could not exist. The unheralded miner, laboring in the bowels of the earth and perhaps stressed more than any other link in the chain, does his job in order that specimens of beauty might be available to the jewelry store patron.
I shared this illustration with a friend yesterday as we discussed the work of the church. I proposed that while pastors and preachers serve an important role in communicating the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the bulk of God’s redeeming work happens far away from pulpits. Believers living lives that exemplify and testify of Christ along the everyday paths of life bear far more weight and influence than any other agency of the Holy Spirit. By this, I do not mean to minimize the importance of preachers (especially since I am one). I do, however, intend to suggest that positive response to sermons often (perhaps always) requires the preparatory work of Christ’s character revealed by Christians in the recipient’s accustomed environment.
The miner who labors in the bowels of the earth receives little notice or consideration by the jewelry store patron who seeks glimmering baubles unearthed by hard and hidden labors. Nor do we always realize that our response to a good sermon or well-prepared lesson actually began when we saw the Lord Jesus exemplified or communicated by Christians who may not stand in pulpits, but who walk along pathways of godliness. God sees the miner, hidden to other eyes. Even more, He sees the believer who quietly, but powerfully, reveals the redeeming truth of the Pearl of great price as we travel everyday paths of righteousness that lead to eternal glories.
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
“How much further do we have to dig to get to China?”
I think my friend Randy was kidding long ago when he, myself, and a number of other neighborhood boys dug a foxhole (complete with tunnel! Well, “tunnel” might be an overstatement…). Our excavation extended about five feet down into the nether regions and recesses of the earth. The project took so long to complete that Randy’s question actually didn’t seem as preposterous at the time as 45 years of hindsight now confirms. We dug and dug, and then dug some more to create our fortress, and while we hit water at some point (hopefully, not a city pipe!), we never reached China.
We had a great time in that foxhole. I identify it as one of those childhood memories that helps define my youth. I also think of it when considering the determination and diligence required to know God, as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.
“He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
This declaration of Scripture states and implies so much Truth that we could ponder it for a lifetime with little more than a cursory discovery of its meaning. When reading the words, I think of grace – “He that cometh to God” – only grace makes possible our approach. I consider faith – we must “believe that He is.” I ponder promise – “He is a rewarder.” And I sigh and bow my head in the realization that “diligently” too often does not describe my search for the living and true God.
We spent time and energy digging that long ago and faraway foxhole because we believed we would find something. Maybe not China (although it must be said that Randy was not, shall we say, the sharpest intellectual spade among our company. Thus, he may well have believed we would ultimately dig our way to another continent). The rest of us rather expected the reward of play and fun. That we received, to the degree that I still smile when thinking about the war games and athletic contests made possible by our dig. However, the memory also makes me wonder about my personal excavation of God to which the Bible calls those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Would my Heavenly Father describe my search as “diligent?” I am altogether certain that far too often, the answer to that question would not be pleasing to Him or to me.
I’d like to go back to that foxhole of the past, but I can’t. It no longer exists, a neighborhood having long ago sprung up and filled in our endeavor (moreover, a grown man playing army in a foxhole? Well…). More importantly, I cannot change the too many days gone by when I’ve failed to dig spiritually. I can acknowledge them in repentance and the faith that God offers to me this day of diligence wherein His Spirit calls me to come, to believe, and to experience the reward of seeking the very Life of my life. I won’t be disappointed, of course, and perhaps you join me in the realization of too many wasted days, but also, of the wonder of this day wherein the excavation of God beckons us to dig. Indeed, we won’t be disappointed…
“Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.”
Monday, February 18, 2013
What if we live anticipated lives, as it were? What if our Heavenly Father knows everything that will transpire during our earthly journeys, and has prepared the Lord Jesus Christ to be everything we will ever need in every moment?
What if God is working all things together for the good of them that love Him? What if the pleasures, the pains, and the mundane will all somehow fit together in conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus?
What if the great fact of every moment, including this one, involves the presence, power, and working of our Lord by His Spirit? What if His presence is often in direct proportion to the appearance of His absence, and that we will one day see that God’s greatest doings transpired when He seemed nowhere to be found?
What if the worst our enemies can foist upon us will ultimately redound to our benefit and the glory of God? What if the worst thing that ever happened, namely, the unjust torture and execution of the Lord Jesus, was actually the hour of God’s best and greatest working on behalf of the race that killed His Son?
What if this moment finds us on the mind and in the heart of God as if we were the only person who exists? What if His interest in us is so loving and so devoted that He literally numbers the hairs on our heads?
What if those things that matter to us matter to the Lord? What if He rejoices in our joys, and sorrows in our sorrows? What if He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities?”
What if our Savior prays for us in this moment, and forevermore? What if He presently offers intercessions for us in precise accordance with our circumstance, condition, and situation?
What if the hands He raises to His Father on our behalf are marred with prints of nails inflicted because our hands were stained with sin? What if His feet bear the same because our feet have too often treaded wayward paths? And what if the wound of a spear still exists upon His heart broken in order to redeem and transform our hearts?
What if “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin?” What if God “delighteth in mercy,” and that the Son of man came “to seek and to save that which is lost” rather than to condemn?
What if the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead? What if He is a living Savior, whose Life beyond life infuses this moment, regardless of its earthly content and condition, with the glory of Heavenly reality and resurrection?
What if our Heavenly Father so loves us that if we have trusted in the Lord Jesus, He inhabits the innermost sanctum of our being by His Holy Spirit. What if we are His home, and He is our home?
What if we are going to live forever in the presence of One so sublimely wonderful that heavenly beings “rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come?” What if He exists in such goodness that we shall journey forever into the heart of God, but never reach the horizon of His love? What if the ocean of Christ’s wonder is without shore, and the starry heaven of His blessedness knows no boundary? What if every new discovery of God’s glory beckons us to venture still onward into the Infinite and the Eternal? Yes, what if? What if…
All these blessed possibilities exist as literal realities for the trusting sons and daughters of God in Christ. Our experience of them may wax and wane, but the reality abides both now and forever. This is written as a simple reminder, and as a prayer for your heart and mind, such as prayed long ago by the Apostle Paul…
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:15-20)
(Psalm 147:5; Acts 15:8; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11; Acts 17:28; Genesis 28:16; Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:23; II Corinthians 5:19; Psalm 40:5; Matthew 10:30; I Peter 5:7; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:25; John 20:27; I John 1:7; Luke 19:10; Micah 7:18; Luke 19:10; Matthew 28:6; Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 2:22; Psalm 90:1; Revelation 4:8)
Sunday, February 17, 2013
(Thanks to my dear friend Fred C. for inspiration on this one.)
A dear friend and I communicated today by email about our first time preaching experiences. He fainted, and I nearly walked out in front of a congregation wearing a new suit on which I had failed to remove the price tags from the sleeve of the coat (caught it just in time!).
We’re both grateful that we’re many years past those first time experiences of standing before people in the attempt to preach the Gospel. Nevertheless, we do well to maintain always the sense of inadequacy and desperate dependence on the Lord that our maiden preaching opportunities fostered.
“And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ… Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (II Corinthians 2:16-17; 3:5).
Foolish is the Christian preacher or teacher who feels confident in his own ability to apply God’s truth to the hearts of people. Certainly, we do well to prepare ourselves with much prayer, reading, study, pondering, and seeking to coordinate the “precept upon precept, line upon line” of God’s Word (Isaiah 28:10). We can and must do all these things. If, however, the Holy Spirit does not personally apply the illumination of Christ to the hearts of hearers, all is for naught. He alone knows the nature of each person’s need, and He alone causes necessary propositional Truth to become just as necessary personal apprehension of the living and true God.
I fully expect to discover when I get to Heaven that some sermons I believed to be have been among my best prepared and delivered will rank very low in actual effect for the glory of God and the benefit of others. Conversely, some messages that seemed stilted and barely comprehensible to my own understanding may have been the most effectual and graced of the Spirit. Indeed, when impressed with ourselves, we do well to recall the inadequacy of our ability to determine our own spiritual condition and performance. No less than the Apostle Paul confessed, “I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord” (I Corinthians 4:3-4). Thus, we do well to maintain our sense of “desperate dependency” on the only One who can lead and enable us to fulfill our calling.
I share this with you because one of the best prayers we can offer for Christian communicators involves their growth in apprehension of God’s faithfulness, and their own weakness. No place exists in Christian ministry for the self-important or the self-confident. Again, no less than Paul informs our prayers and provides the example of the heart fully aware that those called to preach or teach possess no independent or inherent capacity for the task…
“I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (I Corinthians 2:3-5) “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (II Corinthians 4:7)
Friday, February 15, 2013
At the end of the day, the Lord evaluates and determines our faithfulness.
“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord” (I Corinthians 4:2-4).
This truth should both encourage and challenge us. We can be sure of a perfectly assessed appraisal of our reception, assimilation and application of God’s grace and truth. He sees us both within and without, including our attitudes and actions. This cannot be said of people, who may misunderstand the whys and wherefores of our lives, and thus criticize us when we are worthy of affirmation, or perhaps worse, affirm us when we are worthy of criticism. We can be sure of no such misguided judgment by the God of whom Solomon declared, “The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings” (Proverbs 5:21).
No genuine act of faith and obedience as enabled by the Holy Spirit will be overlooked, regardless of how small and seemingly insignificant. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul writes of the judgment seat of Christ, whereupon the works of believers will be evaluated, that “every man shall have praise of God” (I Corinthians 4:5). This does not mean that every Christian will be commended for a life of faithfulness at the judgment seat. “If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Corinthians 3:15). It does mean, however, that our Heavenly Father will find something of His Son to affirm in each of His Christ-redeemed, inhabited and enabled people.
On a more solemn note, no insincerity or lack of genuineness will pass the test of God’s purifying fire. We may fool people. We cannot fool God, either in this life, or at the judgment of our works to come. We thus do well to devote ourselves to honesty with our Lord and with ourselves, seeking His ongoing motivation and enabling to “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (I John 1:7). Only the Holy Spirit can purify both our intentions and our actions, and we can be sure that this comprises a primary aspect of His working in our hearts.
Finally, Paul did not completely discount the opinions of ourselves, as held by fellow Christians. “It is a very small thing that I should be judged of you.” We have a place of discernment in each others’ lives, and God does use us to help one another along the path of righteousness. We should consider it a “very small” place, however, and one exercised with great caution, and even more, great humility.
The lives we lived as believers subsequent to our salvation will be judged by One whose perfect Eyes shine forth from a perfect Heart. Let us rejoice with great joy that we will be evaluated in perfect fairness. And, let us consider with great solemnity that we will be evaluated with that same perfect fairness.
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (I Corinthians 4:5)
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Monday, February 11, 2013
Friday, February 8, 2013
A friend recently shared these lines with me, from the poem, “Time’s Paces,” by Henry Twells.
When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept.
When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked.
When I became a full grown man, time ran.
When older still I daily grew, time flew.
Soon I shall find in travelling on, time gone.
We can construe Twells’ brief but profound stanzas either positively or negatively. The unbeliever must view them in despair, mourning a physical demise that will too soon approach and confront him. If he realized that death does not portend of non-existence, he would despair even more. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this, the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
The clock’s racing hands may also tempt believers with a sense of sadness as our present life seems to increasingly slip away. We should actually rejoice, however, in the blessed truth declared by the Apostle Paul:
“I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
I love the little word “far” in Paul’s affirmation of a departure not into nothingness, but into Christ Himself. Three letters comprise a word that speak of an eternal glory of blessedness for which we have little frame of reference. Of course, our Savior dwells with us in our present life through the indwelling Holy Spirit given to all believers (John 14:17). Our experiential apprehension of God is limited, however, although it can be overwhelmingly wonderful and heart-fulfilling. Nevertheless, that which is to come is far better. We can only imagine what the “better” promises, and then rejoice all the more in the glory of “far!”
We need not mourn at the prospect of “in travelling on, time gone.” We rather rejoice in a life presently lived with our Lord, and in a life to come “far” more lived with Him. The clock indeed races, and seemingly at an ever-increasing pace. What a relief! And what a prospect for born again believers in the Lord Jesus who increasingly realize that “time gone” promises the full realization of the Psalmist’s exultation…
“In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
We all know people worthy of respect, and whose example we rightly seek to follow. "Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:12). Let us thank God for those people in our lives whose attitudes, words, and actions honor the Lord Jesus Christ, and whose footsteps help to illuminate the path Scripture calls us to tread in faith and obedience.
We do well, however, to remember that human beings possess feet of clay that sometimes falter and even crumble along the way. Those whom we honor most highly would quickly disappoint us if we could witness the entirety of their internal and external existence. Human beings, including the most godly among us, dwell in tents of flesh that flap in worldly winds, and that must sometimes be restored and reset after collapsing altogether. "All we, like sheep, have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6).
One has perfectly traversed the path of righteousness, amid the many challenges and temptations that confront all who seek to walk its gilded way. "We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). The Lord Jesus alone will not disappoint us as we look to His example, and even more, as we trust in His fulfillment of the promise to enable us by His indwelling presence. "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16). There is a perfect Example to whom we can and must look with complete confidence. Christ alone provides this abiding paragon of virtue, and this abiding presence of spiritual vitality.
We look to many for inspirations of a life consistently lived for the glory of God and the blessing of others. We look to only one One, however, for perfection concerning such a life. We will save ourselves much disappointment as we remember this truth, and also take much pressure off those whose example we seek to emulate. Most importantly, we will rightly direct our faith toward the only One worthy of our complete confidence, and thereby honor the only One worthy of our complete respect...
"The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day."
Weekly Memory Verse From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
The Special of the Day... From the Orange Moon Cafe...
"Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, o God, is forever and ever. A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity" (Hebrews 1:8-9).
As the Lord Jesus Christ lived an earthly lifetime in the world He created, we can only imagine how grieved He must have been to experience His handiwork gravely damaged by the effects of sin. "The whole world lieth in wickedness" declared the Apostle John (I John 5:19). Little wonder then that our Savior "hated iniquity," because it so ravages those whom He loves.
He hates sin in your life and mine for the same reason. Unbelief and disobedience results in the believer's inability to experience the grace of life provided through the Lord Jesus. "To be carnally minded is death" (Romans 8:6). As a young man whom I greatly respect once said when he was merely a boy, "Satan makes good things seem bad, and bad things seem good." Or, in terms of our present consideration, he makes sin seem like a doorway into life rather than the gaping maw of the grave it actually opens to our wandering feet. Indeed, we "die" every time we distrust and disobey our Lord in the sense that we embrace the iniquity that prevents our experience of Christ's indwelling life. This is a true death because "to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). Nothing else qualifies as life, as defined by the God who hates sin in direct proportion to how dearly He loves us.
We do well to remember this Divine sensibility as we look upon a world characterized by so much pain, loss, heartache and heartbreak. The view will affect our own sensibilities, and increasingly lead us to share our Lord's attitude toward the subtle, but monstrous cause of so much agony. The Savior lived for more than three decades amid the spiritual, moral, relational and physical carnage. Again, we cannot know how deeply it affected Him, except to remember that the Bible refers to the Lord Jesus as "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Such a place must exist in us also, along with our Lord's hatred for the iniquity that promises life, but ravages with death.
"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Monday, February 4, 2013
We do not have to possess brilliant minds in order to walk with God (something for which I often give thanks!). We do, however, require active minds, as enabled by the Holy Spirit.
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God; bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:4-5).
The Christian life involves ongoing discovery of the truth of God, and growth therein. Thereby are we able to identity notions, perspectives, ideas, and attitudes contrary to our Lord's glory and will. We seek to fill our minds with Scripture in order to think rightly about God, ourselves, others, and our lives. We also read the Bible in order to empty our minds of darkness by replacing it with the Light.
Many years ago, I worked as a bank teller. On my first day of training, I asked about counterfeit bills. "How will I know the genuine from the false?" I expected my trainer to show me a collection of counterfeit money, pointing out characteristics and features for which I must keep a close and wary eye. Instead, she simply responded, "Glen, after you have counted several hundred thousand genuine versions of legal tender, you won't have much trouble in spotting the phony bills!"
My trainer's words proved to be true. Knowledge of the real prepared me to identify and reject the false. The same principle applies in our determination as believers to "walk in truth" (III John 1:4). The more we know the character and nature of Christ, as revealed in the history of the Gospels, and the promises and commands of the epistles, the more we will readily spot thoughts and attitudes that originate with the world, the devil, and the flesh. The process will be lifelong, and will require the active mind based upon a heart devoted to fulfilling the glory and will of God. More importantly, the indwelling Holy Spirit continually works in us to illuminate the path of the real in order that we might avoid detours into darkness. "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13)
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee" (Isaiah 26:3). The life of mental and volitional activity to which God calls us may seem a daunting challenge. If, however, peace is the blessed result of an active mind, no sacrifice is too great. Moreover, to honor our Lord in word, attitude and deed requires first our honoring Him in thought. Again, no sacrifice is too great if it means the fulfillment of this even more blessed result.
"The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."