Saturday, February 13, 2016

In Light of Eternity

1 Timothy 6:6-8

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

     No possession of mine will ever leave this world. When I die, only my spirit will be taken away from this earth. Everything else will be left behind. In the moment that I die, my life will be measured by one very important question: What I did I do to impact eternity? Even my impact on other people only matters if godliness was gained. Only what is eternal has significance.
     In light of such a profound but easily forgotten truth, a great importance is placed on what I do with my life in the time that God has given me. In short, only those things which profit godliness are worth pursuing.
     I have often pursued activities and possessions in my life which are completely vain and profit nothing good. Everything I do must be done in light of eternity. For example, I ask myself if watching TV is beneficial in light of eternity. Right now, the Super Bowl is on TV and millions of people are gathered to watch two teams run a ball down a field, trying to outscore one another. Many Americans live with great anticipation, waiting for the next Super Bowl.
     I wonder what kind of value God places on such an event.
     Does it profit godliness?
     Does it matter in light of eternity?
     The time is so short! Man’s life is but a vapor. Imagine if I reached the end of my life and realized that all for which I ever lived was only temporary! Riches are fading. Beauty is fading. Popularity is fading. Finally, life will end. And what shall we say to God when He asks each of us to give an account? What have we done with what God has given? Have we wasted His talents on vain and worldly pursuits? Or have we invested everything in eternity?
     How then shall we live? What is the principal thing in which we should invest? Thankfully, the Bible provides an answer. Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” Wisdom guides and directs. Wisdom ensures that a person’s life is lived to the glory of God, and such a life will profit much in light of eternity.   

     I will apply these verses to my life today by memorizing Proverbs 4:7-9.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Seek the Lord for Strength

Colossians 1:11

"...strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy..."

     Paul's prayer for the Corinthian church is that she be strengthened by God to endure every manner of trial which comes her way.

     "all might" means that every ounce of strength has been given.

     "glorious power" means that his power is perfect, good, and true.

     "all patience" means that there is not a single scheme of man nor hell which cannot be endured. Not only endured, but endured "with joy." The beauty of God's work is that it is a mighty and powerful work. His work is also complete and leaves no room for improvement, for it is already perfect. Notice that Paul prayed for this kind of patience to be given. Such joyous living is not something man is born with, nor is it something which just happens to fall upon some people. Rather, it must be sought in the secret place of prayer with diligence.

     God does not desire that, as Christians, we live our lives without joy and without power. We must strive to seek the Lord and He will pour out the infinite riches of His grace toward us. I only dare speak the word "grace" because the work of Jesus Christ allows me to speak it. I deserve nothing of the sort. All I deserve is condemnation before a God who is "holy, holy, holy." My wickedness of heart is a damnable abomination to a God who is infinitely good. But Jesus Christ bore my sin, and God the Father damned His own Son on my behalf, that the price I could not pay is now paid in full.

     I will apply this verse to my life today by praying for someone tonight regarding the message of this verse: that he be strengthened by the Lord.

Self or Christ?

Psalm 16:8

“I have set the Lord always before me;

Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. “

     How often, dear Christians, are we moved with fear? How often are we moved with worry? How often are we moved by all manner of things! The truth is, we are moved because we have failed to give God the rightful place in our lives. For if He was at our right hand, we would not be moved.
     We love to play the victim. We love to act as though we have a right to act or feel a certain way based on our events and circumstances. Too often we are waiting on God to answer, when all the while, God is waiting on us to surrender!
     Hidden inside each one of our hearts is a throne. Now let me ask you a question, and I only ask it because I ask myself the same. Who sits on the throne in your heart? Is it Self, or is it God? If any amount of introspection reveals that, in fact, Self sits on the throne in your heart, then let me ask you another question. Are you content to live your life in such a way? My dear friend, would it not be better to allow an infinitely powerful and loving God to have the rightful place in your heart? Think of it this way, before He created the heavens and the earth, His heart has been set on you. Before He made any created thing, he had set Himself to love you and lavish Himself upon you throughout all of eternity. If that wasn’t enough, He actually came to this earth, became one of you, and then died for you! God the Father spared nothing for you, not even the life of His only begotten son whom He loved. How then, shall you spare from giving Him your complete trust and affection? In fact, your soul was made by God, for God. Listen to one author, John Flavel, as he speaks of Jesus Christ:

     “All other loveliness cannot satisfy the soul of man. There is not scope enough in any one created thing, or in all the natural universe of created things for the soul of man to reach out and expand; but the soul still feels itself confined and narrowed within those limits. This comes to pass from the inadequacy and unsuitableness of the creature to the nobler and more excellent soul of man. The soul is like a ship in a narrow river which does not have room to turn. It is always running aground and foundering in the shallows. But Jesus Christ is in every way sufficient to the vast desires of the soul; in him it has sea-room enough. In him the soul may spread all its sails with no fear of touching bottom.”

The Testing of Faith Produces Patience

Luke 21:19

"By your patience possess your souls."

     Jesus is speaking here of the end times. In the previous verses, He promises hardship and persecution. False teachers will arise. Wars will begin. Parents will turn on their children. Christians will be put to death. These troubles, however, can be endured if one has a mind focused on the end goal. With a clear picture of eternity in mind, such trials appear as nothing. Listen to Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:

     "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

     As Christians, we endure trials patiently knowing that in the end, the reward is great. We endure trials joyfully because we know that the testing of our faith produces patience (James 1:2-3).

     Patience of this caliber demonstrates a trust toward God. We endure with patience because we trust the God who is directing our every step (Proverbs 16:9). His ways are perfect, not ours. His ways are just, not ours. If we will fully trust Him and surrender ourselves to His plan, we will walk in a manner of life far superior to that in which we previously walked.

     Through patience, our peace is kept and our minds set at ease.

     I will apply this verse to my life today by thanking God for specific trials I have endured which gave me greater patience.

Wisdom Preserves Life

Psalm 90:12

"So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom."

     In order for a man to know how to live his life, he must first understand that his time on the earth is short. Knowing that man's life is only a vapor (Psalm 39), he will be motivated by the grace of God to live his life in a manner that pleases the Lord. The Psalmist asks God to "teach us," implying that a heart of wisdom comes from the Lord and is not inherent in man. It must be pursued and regarded as more valuable than gold and silver (Proverbs 3:15).

     Often, Christians believe they know what is best for their own lives. It can be easy to neglect the calling of the Lord in favor of selfiesh, fleshly desires which seem wise, but in the end lead to death (Proverbs 14:12 ; 16:25). Instead, the Christian must renounce his own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) and ask that the Lord teach him and give him a heart of wisdom. In doing so, he will preserve his life, for anyone who loses his life for the sake of Christ will actually gain it (Matthew 10:39).

Zeal and Knowledge

Colossians 1:9

 "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding"

     Before this verse can be expounded, it is important to know "this reason" which Paul gives for why he does not cease to pray for the church of Colosse. Paul gives his reason in verse four, which is that he heard of their faith in Christ and their love for the saints. Such news prompts Paul to pray that the church will be filled with knowledge and wisdom. Zeal without knowledge is dangerous, and according to Hosea 4:6,

     "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

     The knowledge being spoken of is a knowledge of God.

     Therefore, it is important that the Colossian church channel her zeal through the knowledge and wisdom which God has revealed to her. Otherwise, she will be as

     "those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away (Luke 8:13)."

     Every Christian will do well to pay attention to these words which are spoken by Jesus, because "believing" the gospel is an easy thing to do until one is buffeted, outwardly and inwardly, by every manner of trial which the world, the flesh, and Satan can muster. In such trying times, those who have no root will wither, while those who truly believe will be preserved through their knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ which come by the grace of God.

Boast in Christ

2 Corinthians 1:12

"For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you."

     On the subject of boasting, Jeremiah 9:23-24 gives us a clear picture of what it means to boast in the Lord. The text says:

     "Thus says the LORD: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.'" (ESV)

     Paul is an example of what it means to boast in the Lord. He did not boast in his knowledge of the scriptures. He did not boast in the number of churches he founded. He did not boast in the number of men who were saved under his ministry. Rather, he boasted in the grace which God had given him, and he was able to have a clear conscience knowing that he acted in a manner which pleased God.

     As we know from 1 Corinthians chapter four, Paul was made as the "filth of the world" for the sake of Christ. Yet, being utterly despised and scorned, he did not lament the loss of his reputation, nor shy away from following Christ. He continued to press forward, because his boasting was in the Lord. The anchor to his soul was the grace which God had given him in Christ, and no amount of hardship or persecution could rob Paul of such a gift.

     As Christians, we often place too much concern upon that which matters not. The trite, vain things of this world are not to be esteemed, even lightly. They are to be counted as nothing so as to gain Christ. Many of us live for reputation, position, and prominence. We want to be something to please another man or live for our talents and abilities. Even good things, like ministry, can become idols. Can any of us truly say we are living for CHRIST ALONE?

Perservere in Prayer

James 1:5

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him."

     The text of James is plain and clear. Simply ask God for wisdom, and He will give it. If, as a Christian, you have asked God for wisdom and not received it, there are at least two possibilities. The next verse in James gives one possibility: a lack of faith. It is just as effective not to ask for wisdom at all than to ask with doubt. Doubt does not merely rob the Christian of an answered prayer, but puts him in danger, for James 1:8 says that such a man is

     "double-minded [and] unstable in all his ways."

     The second possibility for a lack of receiving comes from a lack of persistence in prayer. According to Hebrews 11:6, God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Notice the word "diligently."

     Moses spent 40 days in prayer to receive the ten commandments.

     Jeremiah spent 10 days in prayer to receive an answer for the captains of the remnant of Judah.

     Jesus spent all night in prayer before choosing His 12 disciples.

     Often times, we become angry at God for not answering our prayers, but what right do we have to be angry at God when we do not persist in our prayers? Look at how the men of the Bible prayed! We want the blessings they received without paying the price they payed. He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. Our small praying will never yield big results.

     Jesus is both able and willing to do abundantly more than we ask or think. He has given us a blank check, He is just waiting for us to cash it. But as Jesus tragically states in Luke 18:8,

     "...when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"

As in the Days of Noah

Matthew 11:19

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."

     In this text, Jesus demonstrates the unwillingness of his generation to believe the gospel which he preached. Even with the good fruit which His wisdom produced, the people of his day refused to repent although they stood in the presence of the God-Man. Such hardness of heart is common to all men in all ages of time. Jesus says in Luke 17:26 that

     "as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man"

     And what were the days of Noah like? Genesis 6:5 give us the answer. It is written:

     "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." 

     In Psalm 51:5, David writes,

     "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me."

     Therefore, based on scripture, man is born completely devoid of any goodness within him and, according to Romans 3:11, has no inclination in his heart to seek the Lord. Any attempt by man to work his way to God through self-imposed religion is exposed by scripture as a fraud, for it is written in Isaiah 64:6 that

     "all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags"

     In light of such truths, salvation by grace appears all the more wonderful. For it was not I who sought God, it was Christ who sought me. It was not I who earned salvation, but Christ who earned it for me. If my salvation was not gained by something good I did, neither shall it be lost by something bad I have done. It is written in Romans 5:8,

     "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Fear to Wisdom, Wisdom to Obedience

Psalm 111:10

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever." 


     To state that wisdom begins with "the fear of the LORD" is to imply that all wisdom ultimately comes from a knowledge of God, since a correct view (or knowledge) of God will cause reverential fear in the heart of the one seeking to know God. If all wisdom comes from God, then it necessarily follows that "worldly wisdom" is really no wisdom at all. Thus, the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:19 that

     "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."

     Furthermore, he states in chapter two verses six and seven that the wisdom of this age is coming to an end, whereas the wisdom of God was ordained before time itself.

     According to Psalm 111:10, the fear of the Lord not only leads to a right view of God and the world (a.k.a. "wisdom"), but it also manifests itself in the doing of the commandments of God. In other words, anyone who claims to fear the Lord must also walk in God's commandments for his claim to be valid. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter seven verses 21 through 23:

     "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

     Jesus makes it plain that a mere declaration of faith is no evidence of salvation. To take it one step further, not even an emphatic declaration of Jesus Christ as "Lord, Lord" is sufficient to merit salvation. Instead, salvation is by faith alone in Christ's finished work, and the evidence of true faith is a doing of the will of the Father, contrasted by those who claim true faith yet are "workers of iniquity," whom Jesus will cast out "into outer darkness [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30)."

     To summarize Psalm 111:10, the fear of the Lord leads to wisdom which in turn leads to the doing of the commandments of God as a style of life.

     I will apply this verse to my life today by thanking God in prayer for at least three instances where He has taught me the fear of Himself.

Through Faith

Matthew 8:5-13

A man in authority comes to Jesus, obviously desperate because he is "pleading" with him. Even after Jesus commits to arriving at the centurion's house, he will not allow Jesus to journey with him. Rather, he recognizes his sin ("I am not worthy") and Jesus' power and authority ("only speak a word"). Jesus stands in amazement at the man's faith, and then declares to those following him that many in Israel will not enter the kingdom of heaven while those from the far reaches of the earth will enter because of faith.

Faith is the Substance

Hebrews 11:1

(NKJV) "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

(ESV) "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

(YLT) "And faith is of things hoped for a confidence, of matters not seen a conviction"

The previous verse speaks of those "who believe to the saving of the soul." Ultimately, faith is the medium by which the salvation of Jesus Christ is transferred to man. Faith is not some vague wish, rather it is the substance of things hoped for. Through faith, the Christian can be assured of the salvation which is to come. Faith also creates a confidence in the Lord with regard to his promises. For, "He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)."