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Archive for April 2020

Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out (part 2)

God told the Jews that their sin would always find them out (Numbers 32:23). Because of Achan’s secret sin, the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel (Joshua 7:1). They began to lose battles. Joshua was confused and began to whine and complain. God’s response was quick and decisive. He said to Joshua: “Get up! Why are you lying on your face? Israel has sinned. For they have even taken some of the accursed things and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff” (Joshua 7:10–11).

One can just hear the rationalization today: But God, is that so horrible a sin? No sin is ever small to a holy God. His righteousness must always be in perfect balance with His justice – always! “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face” (Psalm 89:14).

Achan confessed that he had stolen property (Joshua 7:18–20). Achan was guilty, and he confessed, but sin always has its consequences (Romans 6:23). Achan and his entire family were killed. This seems to be severe punishment for such a seemingly small crime. God’s judgment always fits the crime. This message is now penned in the Bible for a thousand generations to read and heed.

As a young man, David had a heart for God. So much so that God selected this simple shepherd boy to be the king of all Israel. His family produced the line from which the Messiah would come. His throne is the throne upon which our Lord will one day reign. Yet David became a tremendous example of how believers can and do sin and how God disciplines those whom He loves.

There came a time in Israel’s history when all the soldiers went off to war, but David, the warrior king, stayed home. This was not good. One morning he got up early, walked out on his roof, looked across the way, and saw a woman bathing. She was very beautiful. David was overcome with lust. He found out that her name was Bathsheba and that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite – one of his best soldiers.  

David had the woman brought to him. She bowed before his wishes because he was the king. When she informed him later that she was pregnant with his child, David sent to the battlefield for Uriah. David hoped that her husband would go in to his wife so that Uriah would think that the child was his. Uriah refused, saying that he would not enjoy his home life while his men were fighting.

David was frantic. At his command, Uriah was shipped to the front line of battle where he was killed. Like Achan, David tried everything to cover his sin, but he could not (2 Samuel 11:27).

God sent Nathan the prophet to give David a house call. Nathan gave David this illustration. He said that there was this very wealthy man who had thousands of sheep, but this neighbor had one little lamb that had grown up with his children. A guest came to eat with the rich man, and the rich man stole the little lamb from the poor man to feed his guest. David was furious and lashed out. How dare that man do that! “He shall repay fourfold for the lamb, because he had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:6).

There was probably a long, deafening silence. Nathan said simply and probably quietly, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). David’s sin had found him out. It always does. David’s confession was simple and sincere. “Against You (God) and You alone have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4a).  Did he not sin against Bathsheba? Yes! Did he not sin against Uriah? Yes! Did he not sin against the entire nation of Israel as their king? Yes! David realized, however, that his sin was against God. He had rebelled against Him, and that led to the domino effect that touched all the other lives. David asked God to purge him from the guilt of his sin, to wash him and make him as white as snow. David cast himself entirely upon God’s grace. There was no arrogance and no prideful attitude. He did not blame others. He took full responsibility. He brought out all the details. He cried out to God for forgiveness (Psalm 51:1-12). David’s greatest desire was for God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. David had not lost his relationship with God, but He had lost his personal fellowship. After his confession, he was forgiven. Forgiven! That is one of the sweetest words in any language. David’s joy returned (Psalm 32:1–6). Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out (part 1)

We must catch a small glimpse of two areas of the Christian’s personal accountability before God: personal sin and personal stewardship. Christians are not sinless people! The Bible does not hide this fact. Noah was a sinner. Abraham was a sinner. Isaac was a sinner. It appeared that Jacob’s life was filled with deceit. David was a sinner. Paul said that in his flesh dwelt no good thing (Romans 7:15–20). Peter actually denied His Lord three times (Matthew 26:69–75).

When Jesus came to earth, He went to where sinners were. He hung out with the likes of despised tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, lepers, and the common people. He stayed away from the religious crowd.

The Bible never sugarcoats the lives of God’s people. God paints us with warts and all! Our nature to sin is tied to our physical body (Romans 7:18). It doesn’t take a theologian to understand that as long as we remain connected to this body, we will retain both the temptation and capacity to sin. As the songwriter so eloquently said, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.”

Our flesh continuously wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. This provides a constant source of inner conflict (Galatians 5:17). Until death or the snatching away of the body of Christ, this conflict will go on. The mature believer is consciously aware that the potential to sin is ever present. Along with that knowledge is the awareness that sin always has its consequences. Personal sin results in the discipline of God.

Even though we are saved forever by God’s amazing grace, God is a holy God, and He must remain holy. He must always adjust that which is not right to His absolute righteous standard. His righteousness demands it. God never turns a blind eye to sin. God told Israel to go in and take the Promised Land. The people were ready to comply. They knew that it would mean they would have to fight for it, but they were ready. They told Moses what they planned to do once the land was theirs. They would build sheepfolds for their livestock and cities for their children. They had been slaves for 400 years. This was a very exciting time for them.  With this in mind, they were ready to arm themselves and march out. They said they would not return until every one of them had received the inheritance that was theirs.

Moses said that what they had in mind was commendable. If they would do this, God would drive out their enemies. They would then return blameless before the Lord. But what would happen if they did not follow through?  “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Please let this small warning resonate in your mind.  It is never possible to hide our sin from God – never.

God was moving Israel into the land that He had promised them. Under the leadership of Joshua, Israel began to destroy the Canaanites. When the Jews came to Jericho, God miraculously gave Jericho into their hands. Rahab’s life and the lives of her family were spared because she had hidden Israel’s spies. God told the Jews that all the gold and silver and bronze and iron were to be placed into the tabernacle (Joshua 6:24). But note these words: “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel” (Joshua 7:1).

This was one of those quiet secret sins that seemingly no one knew about or certainly wouldn’t much care. It was just a small thing according to our standards today but not according to God. His character was in the balance. He must always judge sin – always. His integrity can never be compromised.  God had said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” And the God who cannot lie meant what He said.  Though no one in Israel was aware of Achan’s sin, God knew.  Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

What is “the Christian life”?

I am assuming that the reader has believed the gospel and given testimony to that fact through baptism. My short definition of “the Christian life” is “a close, personal, private, intimate, relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, that begins with knowledge and ends with obedience.” It is a close relationship. Those who know Christ become His children and members of His body.  “For you are all the sons of God though faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:26). “Now you are the body of Christ and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

It is a personal relationship because we are to fellowship with Him daily. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

It is a private relationship. When Christ says that He stands at the door knocking and if invited in, He will dine with us and us with Him (Revelation 3:20). This is an invitation to an intimate family meeting and is not speaking of gaining salvation (Revelation 3:20).

Speaking of intimacy, we are to cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ. This is based on the words that we have become dead to the law through the body of Christ – that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead (Romans 7:4). Married to Christ! This marriage is to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Christian life is not a religion, it is a personal relationship with the living God. This relationship is based on love and trust, not law and judgment. That sums up the freedom that grace affords us. Since we did absolutely nothing to earn this relationship, we can do nothing to lose it (Romans 8:35-39). (See the Glimpses Facebook post from April 20.) Our salvation was once and forever bought and paid for in full at the cross of Calvary.

Since the Christian life is a personal relationship with our living Christ, our fellowship can and will be broken at times. No relationship runs smooth all the time. It is broken by sin. Yes, Christians still sin after salvation. The Bible does not hide this fact. But God has made provision.  He writes this little note to His children: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). The word “advocate” is a mediator, or one who speaks in our defense. Our Advocate (Jesus Christ) has been where we are and knows well the temptations that we face. He was tempted as we are – yet without sin. He always provides us a way out, but we do not always take it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

When we sin (not “if” but “when”), we lose fellowship with Christ in time, but never are we removed from His family. What are we to do? We are to confess our sin personally and privately to God – not to a man.  We are given special permission to come boldly before God’s throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace when we need it (Hebrews 4:16). 

“And if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 9). To “confess” means to say the same or to agree. The very instant the Holy Spirit convicts us of a wrong thought, a wrong word, or a wrong action, we are to immediately agree with Him. God, you are right; I am wrong. How long does it take to mentally agree? We can and should do so instantly. If we ever entertain the thought that we do not sin, we deceive ourselves. Self-deception is the worst kind. That is because we lie to ourselves (1 John 1:8). As one man said, “We are to confess them as we commit them. We are not to bunch ‘em up and then confess them.” We are to maintain fellowship. God has His way of encouraging fellowship with Him. We do sin, but we can never get away with it! The reason? “For whom the Lord loves, He chastens (this means he takes us to His heavenly woodshed) and scourges every child that He receives” (REF).

Not only does our Father love us, but His discipline affirms that we belong to Him. Why? Fathers discipline their own children. And discipline never appears cheerful but is painful. But, in fact, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It firms the relationship (Hebrews 12:5-11). And did I mention that we should grow to love Him in return? Our goal in this life should be to spend longer and longer times in fellowship with our living Lord. The more we do, the more we love Him. Are there other strong reasons to walk in fellowship with Jesus Christ? Yes! Remember that our relationship with Christ begins with knowledge. Stay safe and stay tuned.    

 

 

Good Stewards of the Manifold Grace of God

Pondering yesterday’s post! Peter had said, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11).  Translation! We are to know our job and do it faithfully within the body of Christ.

The local church is a community of people who serve our Lord together. Each of us has a role to play – other than just “doing church.” Right now, under this unprecedented quarantine, this seems impossible. We are to still use our time wisely.

Let’s take a moment to put it all in perspective. Regardless of our age, God has already given us X amount of time to live (Psalm 139:16). This brings me comfort during these very uncertain days. Our time is but a small blip on God’s eternal radar screen (James 4:14). The time we have left is His secret.  

We are commissioned by God to be good stewards of His manifold grace with the time that we have (1 Peter 4:11). In this context, a “stewardship” is a personal responsibility to work within a local assembly of believers. The word “manifold” means that there are various kinds of work to be done.

Peter finished his point by breaking down the faith-works into two categories. “If anyone speaks (speaking gifts: teaching, encouraging, evangelism, exhorting ) let him speak as the oracles of God (staying within the framework of Scripture). If anyone ministers (silent gifts: helps, serving, administration showing mercy, giving) let him do it as with the ability which God supplies.” We are always to be conscious that it is God who is at work in us both to will (to choose what we do) and to do (to give us the energy to do) of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:1 3). It’s all about him. It pleases God to use us to do His work.

Amazing! Etch the words “it is God who works in you” permanently into your mind. Why? We are to never touch the glory. It is in this way (through your work of faith along with many other workers) that in all things God may be glorified.The word glorify means simply “to shed light upon.” The role that we as believers play shines God’s light into this dark world. And when we work together that light is intensified. When a young Christians walk into a room filled with mature Christians working together in love for one purpose – to glorify God – they know it. 

Think of this! God – One who is eternally self-existent, the One who is all powerful, the One who is always in complete control of everything that He has created – is at this moment carrying out the work of His Son through us. Why would He choose to do that?  It pleases Him! You mean that’s His motive? Yep!

Linda and I went outside last night to view the moon and Venus. It was one of those clear, crisp, cool Ponderosa nights. Beautiful! Stunningly beautiful! I was conscious of the fact that all light in this entire massive universe will one day be shined upon God. All of it! So what? So that in the end God will receive the glory and the dominion (exercised authority) forever and ever. Amen!

Well what about me? As I walked back into my little cabin last night the reoccurring thought hit me that I desire to live each day now the way that I am going to wish I would have lived them when I stand before God. Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

The Ability to Finish Well

When Christians reach spiritual maturity, they will no longer be like children – confused, constantly fussing, and captivated by every false teacher that attracts them with “a new view.”  Instead, they will “speak the truth in love and will grow up in all things into Him who is our head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15). It is from our head, the Lord Jesus Christ, that the whole body fits together! Even though He is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, His life and ministry to this world continues through every joint of His body (Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). He has given to each of us a work of faith. How do we determine this work? As we serve the Lord and observe and receive ministry from others, our own gifts begin to become clear. We see our spiritual strengths and weaknesses in others.

If our gift is Bible teaching, we will observe this gift in others and the Holy Spirit will impress on us the desire to teach.

If our gift is mercy, we will see this gift in others and desire to do the same.

If our gift is helps, we will have the overwhelming desire to help with all the tasks of the church – without being asked. In the process we will teach others what it means to help the body of Christ and we will encourage others with the same gift to become involved.

If our gift is faith, we have the desire to trust God to do what He says He will do. In the process we train others the value of living by faith, and alert others who have this gift. 

If our gift is administration, we become God’s efficiency experts – not in a demanding way but with gentleness and grace. 

If our gift is evangelism, we have the overwhelming desire to share the gospel with the lost and by example teach others to share the message. 

If our work of faith is encouragement, we find joy by encouraging others, and by doing so, we teach others how to encourage. This works equally well with young people. God is the Great Genius, is He not!

As we give and receive these grace works, the church will grow both spiritually and numerically in direct proportion to the quality of the work of each (Ephesians 4:16). This should shout to us God’s prescription for the spiritual growth of the church. Missing is the exclusive role of a pastor to equip the flock alone. Missing are human schemes, gimmicks, or motivational methods of every sort to get the crowd and keep it. Missing is “the show.” Missing are the performers and the audience coming to watch them perform. Every member of the body of Christ will grow based upon the spiritual contribution of every other member in the body. We have all been uniquely gifted to do our part.

The result will be unity of the faith and a strong knowledge of the Son of God. Folks will begin to like each other, and then to love each other. Children of God will grow in knowledge of His Person, His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His return to establish His kingdom. The character of Jesus Christ will pulsate through the body (Ephesians 4:13). We will all come to understand what it means to learn and live by faith within the community of believers (2 Corinthians 5:7). We will all become spiritually mature, strong in Biblical doctrine, and productive.

The body of Christ is alive and well on the earth, but it must be nurtured. Jesus Christ continues His ministry to His body through His body. His body grows—spiritually and numerically—as a direct result of the ministry that every believer performs. When every part does its share, the body matures and grows in love. That is the purpose of every believer’s faith work. This has been God’s prescription for growth in the church since Pentecost. Jesus Christ continues to build His body the same way. There is no other method of church growth taught in the Bible. Peter went one final step showing us the value of knowing and using our giftedness.

Peter’s letter was written at a time when the body of Christ was under great persecution. The church had received word that the Roman authorities had discovered their location. The soldiers were probably on their way. The little flock felt that there was a real possibility that they were going to die. Very similar to anticipating a worldwide pandemic! Peter’s words to them were extremely important, maybe his last.  Notice carefully what he said. He told them first to pray. I get that!  Then to express their love and respect for one another. I get that too!  But finally, he said, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Peter is saying that God had given to each a spiritual work of faith. Finish well (1 Peter 4:7–11). Wow!  Stay safe and stay tuned.


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