No Hypocrisy Here!

But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2.5-6

I have been asked many times over in my 50+ years of ministry a question something like this: “Why do I need to read the Bible? I pretty much know what it says.” Reading the Bible through (something most have never done even once) is not the same as meditating on or studying the Bible. Both of those require a commitment of time.

We find ourselves being challenged on almost every page to DO something that reflects the image of God within. For example: “whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected:” We cannot keep His Word if we have never read it. An occasional glance at God’s Word, or the pastor’s sermon on Sunday taken from God’s Word is not the same as “keeping His Word.

If it requires us to keep God’s Word in order for the love of God to be perfected (made complete) in us, then failure to do so sets us up to fail big time when we DO NOT read God’s Word. This next short phrase just reinforces the first: “ … hereby know we that we are in him.” HOW do we know that we are in Him? By “keeping His Word.

Now v. 6 is a challenge to authenticity: “He that SAITH (emphasis mine) he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” So if I grasp the meaning here, I am supposed to walk like Jesus walked as much as that is possible. In order to KNOW how Jesus walked, I must spend time in God’s Word actually studying the life of Jesus. I cannot walk like He walked if I do not KNOW how He walked. I think we need to stop playing at being a Christ-follower and take these verses to heart. Just my thoughts …

It Is Not a Magic Formula – It Is Faith

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6.38

So many of God’s children misunderstand what giving is all about. One of the things I hear most is, “All the preacher talks about is money.” We need to come to grips with the truth that giving is a measure of one’s faith. The words above were spoken by Jesus. He challenges us to exercise our faith by giving first and then the blessings will come. If we cannot trust God with our money, what else can we not trust God with?

Look at the emphasis stated in this first phrase: “Give, and it shall be given unto you … ” These are not empty words spoken to fill part of a page in Luke’s gospel. This is a declaration by the son of God that says, “When you obey, the blessings will come.” To expand on this issue, Jesus says: “ … good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” What is going to happen when we give? More than we can ever imagine. I am fearful that some will read this and simply conclude, “I will give so I can get more.” In reality we do not give in order to get. We give in order to get so we can give again. The blessings keep coming when we keep giving.

Now let’s look at this last phrase: “For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Here is God’s promise to His children. The measure of blessing that will come back to you will be in proportion to that which you have given. I don’t really think we misunderstand this truth. I think some simply do not think it is true. Remember this – you cannot out give God. Just my thoughts …

 

Me? a Light? You Must Be Kidding!

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Matthew 5.14

Yesterday I wrote about letting our light shine and the reason why – that God may be glorified. In this verse Jesus is not SUGGESTING that we BECOME the light of the world. His declaration is “Ye ARE the light of the world.” I have made this statement so many times before, but I believe it bears repeating.” Jesus only needs to say something one time for it to be truth.” A light only has one purpose, and that purpose is to dispel darkness. If this world had NO darkness in it, there would be no need for a light. But since Genesis 3, the world has been plagued with darkness – a darkness that has systematically rejected God and gravitated toward Satan and his demons.

Some may protest by saying, “But I don’t want to be a light. I just want to live my life the way I want.” Recently basketball great Charles Barkley made a statement similar to this: “I don’t want to be a role model for anyone.” Guess what – too late – little boys growing up have already set their eyes on this super star and said, “I want to be like him.” Guess what – the world is watching whether we want them to or not. They may watch us in order to criticize us or they may watch us wishing they had what we have. But they ARE watching us.

This last statement of Jesus is again very powerful: “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Try as we might, we CANNOT stop being a light. Only one thing keeps a light from shining brightly – some kind of contamination that keeps it from penetrating the darkness and bringing it light. Is there some kind of contamination in your life that keeps your light from shining brightly? You don’t have to ask anyone else. You already know the answer. If there IS something that is contaminating your light, take the necessary steps to remove it and do what Jesus said: “Ye are the light of the world.” Just my thoughts …

Where Is Your Life Focus?

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5.16

There is a significant difference between doing good works so you will go to heaven and working for God because you are on your way to heaven. Jesus clearly states our level of responsibility to the world in these words here in Matthew 5.16. The first truth is that we are to be lights in this sin-darkened world: “Let your light so shine before men … ” A light is useless if it does not shine when it is needed, so Jesus’ words here indicate that my life and your life are to shine – to be noticeable and to fill the void of darkness found in this world.

Why is our light supposed to be shining? “that they may see your good works … ” Once again let me be clear. We are NOT working in order to earn our way to heaven. That is what the cross is all about. But we ARE working so OTHERS who are not Christ-followers will be able to “see (our) good works … ” There is a specific reason for these unbelievers to be able to see how we live. And it is: to “glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Let’s take a step back and look at WHY Jesus is speaking these words. Jesus came to this earth so that HE might glorify His Father in heaven. After a short span of about 33 years, He was taken back to heaven and we are left here to continue His work of glorifying our Father who is in heaven. Look at the kinds of attitudes that must be overcome in order for our lives to glorify our Heavenly Father: (1) narcissism (life is all about ME), (2) selfishness (I want to do what I want to do), (3) laziness (I don’t feel like living that way), and (4) procrastination (I will do that [glorify God] some other time. I just want to live my life right now).

Let’s get down where the rubber meets the road. The quicker we learn God’s purpose for us while we are living down here, the more victorious our lives will become. The sooner we grasp the concept of letting our light shine so what God will be glorified, the sooner we are able to fill a part in the kingdom work God left us here to do. Just my thoughts …

Are We Leading or Following?

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Mark 8.34-35

Jesus is speaking to His followers powerful truth here. (1) Whosoever will come after me … is He talking to you? If so, prepare your heart for what He is about to say next: (2) let him deny himself … wow! That’s a call to experience life in a totally different way than we are accustomed to doing. But what’s next: (3) take up his cross and follow me … when someone is carrying a cross, everyone who sees him or her knows it. It is a distinct picture that one cannot avoid. What is distinct about your life that identifies you with Jesus? You are not carrying a literal, physical cross, but your life must have something distinct in it that cries, “Look at Him. Look at Jesus. He changed my life. He can change yours!”

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it … ” When we say to God, “this is my life. I’ll do with it what I want”, we have chosen to save our life for our own selfish purposes, but we will ultimately lose it. I didn’t say that. Jesus did. To complete the words that Jesus said, let’s look: “whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” What does that mean? Could it mean that if we are willing to go “all in” for the Lord, that we have lost our life for Christ’s sake and the sake of the gospel, we have finally discovered what life is all about? Jesus was pretty clear: “the same shall save it.” What is the wiser choice, to save your life for yourself and lose it, or to lose your life for Jesus and His gospel and save it? We already know the answer. Let’s “just do it” (thanks Nike). Just my thoughts …

His Way or My Way?

Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way: but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.” Proverbs 13.6

How many times have we heard a parent say to one of their children, “Now you be a good boy”? What we mean by that is we want them to act right. Our modern culture has a mindset that is somewhat contrary to what God is saying here. We hear phrases like, “Look out for old number one.” Or “Do what you want. It’s your life.” But there is some virtue in living the right kind of life.

Solomon says to us: “Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way … ” Righteousness speaks to how we choose to live our lives. When God looks down on your life or mine, does He see righteous living? Please understand that this is not a call to perfection, but rather a call to living above reproach. Peter records these words in 1 Peter 2.11-12: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation (manner of living) honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” I hear Peter saying, “If they are going to speak bad about you, they are going to have to make it up.”

In contrast to how we are to live, Solomon gives a commentary on those who are lost: “but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.” Here is what we know. God expects His children’s lives to be significantly different from the lives of those who do not know Christ. He is not calling us here to a life of weird behavior, or dress, or attitude, but rather He is calling us to a life that is marked by obedience to God and His Word. If this is how we are living, those in the world WILL know there is a difference.

As a person of wisdom, Solomon is calling us to a life that gives God free access to our body, our spirit, and our mind. Such a life will bring God the glory He deserves through our lives. Just my thoughts …

Not Just a Suggestion!

But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1.8

These are the last words of Jesus to His disciples. In the very next verse they watch as He ascends to heaven. So, since these are His LAST words to them, they must be significant – both to them AND to us.

Jesus is not stuttering here when He say, “Ye shall receive power … “ The work of God can never be done in the power of the flesh. All the flesh wants to do is make itself look good. But Jesus tells us: “ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you … ” When you and I received Christ as our personal Savior, we IMMEDIATELY received a part of God Himself. He gave us His Holy Spirit to be our guide and our teacher. Holy Spirit power is ours … all we need to do is release our lives to God and claim the power the Holy Spirit is offering us.

What is this Holy Spirit power for anyway? Jesus answers that question for us: “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” I learned in English class when in school that when the word “shall” is used in the second or third person (ye/you), it has the effect of being a command. Jesus is not SUGGESTING here that we be witnesses. He is giving us a command AND these are the last words that He spoke while here on earth.

As members of a local congregation, we owe it to our church and our community to be witnesses where we live and work. But there is another dimension here. When we help plant churches in other communities, we are helping to reach our Judea. When we enable missionaries to go to a foreign field and carry the gospel, we are helping to reach “the uttermost part of the earth.

How about this week, we ask God to open a door for us to share our life in Christ with someone, and how about if we make it possible through our giving to help plant churches in areas where there are no gospel preaching churches. And how about responding to God’s call if He wants us to go “to the uttermost part”? Finally, let’s participate in giving to missions to enable those whom God has already called to be able to go where God has called them. Just my thoughts …