Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Humble yourself before the Lord

Then he said to them, “Why do you sleep” (Luke 22:46a)

Not that he didn't understand - we know he knew from Matt. 26:41, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
So then, why did Christ say to them, Why do you sleep?

One reason is to remind them of the need to be disciplined.  Weak flesh requires a strong disciplined mind to rule it.
But there is another reason - Prayer is hard work.

1.     The mechanics of quietness, physical stillness, and yet having and yet keeping the mind engaged with the invisible Living God is tricky business.

Our fleshly minds see it as a waste of effort.  Our fleshly bodies cry out - if we are not doing any work, why must we be at the ready?!

2.      The spiritual aspect of prayer is also quite challenging.  This is truly the point of greatest difficulty.  We must honestly reveal our soul - the challenges, the griefs, the sin, all the contradiction of who we really are - to the Lord.
        To say that - I must give an explanation.  While it isn't anything hard to agree with God mentally about our condition - to state it in prayer - we have to hear our own mouth reveal things to our ears - shameful things, hard things, things which sometimes challenge what we say we believe about the God we say we love...this is what we struggle against.

So we must wrestle, as a mental exercise.  What is our greatest ally in the fight?
Humility.

Humility lets us reveal to an all-knowing God what he already knows but which we've been hiding from even our own selves.  Humility helps us to give over the desire to ‘make sense’ of  the challenges of who we are, and what we believe about our God. 

Humility helps us to bear the burdens of our wickedness, because we see everything in the right perspective.  We no longer see ourselves in the pride of our puny strength - deluding ourselves.  Instead we are, because of Christ in Calvary, able to see a love for us greater than our own love for ourselves - and thereby rest.

Tears have been my food. (Psa. 42:3) And humility is the best ally in times of temptation - we are not as strong as we think we are, as Rich Mullins once said.  Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. (James 4:7-10) 

So when Christ admonishes the disciples to watch and pray that you enter not into temptation (Luke 22:40) it is an admonishment to humbly present yourself to the Lord (and to your ownself) and trust the omniscient Loving Lord of the universe.  He knows our frame that we are nothing but dust (Psa. 103:14)

But I am out of time - I have a battle to fight.  I need to prevail and make humility my friend.
Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Strengthen your brethren


And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Why did Satan asked to sift Peter? Why not Nathaniel or Thomas or any of the other 12?
In asking this several facts come to mind.

- When Job was placed in trial - it was to glorify God, as He was boasting to Satan of him.  Job was an exceptionally pious man and God loved him.

Among the 12 Peter was part of the special group of 3 (Peter James and John).  In fact, many consider him to be the leader among them all.  Yet he is the first to confess his sinfulness before Christ (Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man - Luke 5:8).  In this confession, he reveals not only his sinfulness, but an understanding of the holiness of God - this is exceptional.  He may have been a lowly fisherman, but he was an exceptionally pious fisherman, whom Satan desired to discredit, just as he tried to with Job.
God boasts in his people, and this sometimes incites Satan against them.

Therefore Christ tells Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren.”
Let us remember the Lords strong arm is with his people - not all trials are judgments upon us.

Strengthen your brethren.
This is what the Lord tells Peter to do when he is brought out from his trial.  Peters place as a prominent one among the 12 is not the reason he is to strengthen his brethren.  It's his pious attitude which made him subject to Satan's attack - this same tenderheartedness is used by the Lord to help him strengthen his brethren. His pious attitude has the expectation of becoming changed by his trial - so that he is more Christ-like in his piety.
But the trial hadn't occurred yet.

Verse 33 tells us what Peter is thinking - even planning to go to prison or death if need be for his Lord, but he was not ready for either.  In fact Peter cuts off Malchus' ear (John 18:10).  He did not yet grasp the greatness of Christ's mission - and that the Cross played a significant role in it.  How could he?

Strengthen your brethren.
We are reminded that upon Christs' resurrection, John records Christs' restoration of Peter.  And 3 times Peter is told to strengthen his brethren, Feed my lambs. Tend my lambs. Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

Strengthen your brethren.
We may have plans to serve our Lord – and it can appear that trials get in the way.  Perhaps we should consider this God's theological seminary, so that we can better fulfill his plans for us.

Peter was (so he thought) ready to go to prison or death for the Lord.  Yet it was not the time for that, nor was he ready to do so.  He indeed did go to prison and die for his Lord - many years later, after he had strengthened his brethren.

Writing not 1, but 2 apostolic letters to the church - Peter could hardly know before the denial how much he would help his brethren.  We are the blessed ones who have received the strengthening of his words.  In the opening words of I Peter we read,

For a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:6b-7)

Peter tells us to walk in holiness, that we are a chosen people, that we ought to live in submissiveness to the government and have right relationships to one-another.  We are reminded to be prepared to suffer for God's glory.  He gives instruction to the elders how they are to shepherd the Church of God.  We all ought to be a humble people...  And this is all in his 1st letter!

Strengthen your brethren.
It is not only to the disciples then living Peter was to strengthen.  It was not even only to the pilgrims of the dispersion at various places in AD 60 when he wrote his 1st letter (I Pet. 1:1-2).

It was to the apostles, disciples, pilgrims, and all believers down through the centuries - including you who believe in Christ and read this post.

Peter was and is able to strengthen his brethren - but only after his trials.  His example is ever before us, he was not perfect (indeed - his denial was not the last grievous matter he suffered through - see Galatians 2:11-13).  If he indeed could be an encouragement to us, shouldn't we seek to encourage and edify one another also?!
May the grace of our providential God strengthen us by the words of Peter, and also of Paul, Luke, John, James, Matthew, Moses, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel and all those He used to communicate his eternal Word to us! 

Aren't you glad you have a Bible to read?!  Then go - strengthen your brethren.

Amen.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Delight in the Lord


Delight thyself also in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Psalm 37:4

Hebrew poetry is interesting in that it uses restatement not rhyme or rhythm to make emphasis. Applying that to verse 4 we learn that the second portion of this verse, “and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” is a kind of restatement of the former portion.

How does this work? As we delight in our God He gives us what we delight in - more of Himself!

So the second portion is not saying that if we love God we will get what we like.  But rather that as we love him he becomes more and more precious to us and we are blessed by more of that very precious Lord Himself!

Such is the mysterious ways of our Lord! May we delight in him first that our every hope lies within Him and our trust is entirely in His hands. 

Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Continue in my trials

“But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30)
 
This caused me to think of John 6:66 – 69:

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

They indeed did come to believe the truth but their understanding alone did not save them. Yet it did help them continue with him – for as Peter stated, ‘To whom shall we go’ They did not have a plan B. It was either Christ or bust. In fact, after the resurrection, but before the ascension, Peter, who had denied his Lord, thought hopelessly, ‘I am going fishing’

Why?!

Hadn't he the promise that he will be among those who will eat and drink at the table?

Wasn’t he to be one of the Twelve regents – seated upon thrones and judging the twelve tribes?

Did he cease from believing this, or no longer believe in Christ as the son of the Living God?

Of course the answer lies in his denial. He felt that he had not ‘continued with him in his trials’ abandoning Christ at the crucial time with his literal ‘trials’ before Caiaphas and the Romans. He felt it was a bust.

Yet Christ pursued him! God had a plan for this simple former fisherman.

“Peter, do you love me more than these?” “Lord you know that I love you” “Feed, tend, and care for my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Peter, and all of us need to remember it is not we who keep ourselves, but Christ.  “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psa. 100:3)  Read the whole Psalm!  It's a beautiful reminder of our place in His world!

May we always remember this – Keep On Keeping On!

Amen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Defining Sabbath

(This message was preached at Heritage Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 2-1-17: http://tinysa.com/sermon/211722135110 )
THESIS: To define the Sabbath biblically and how it impacts us as believers today. To know the Lord is the intent of the Sabbath.

This evening we’ll be considering Mark 2:23-28:

23And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. (Mark 2:23-28)

What is the Christian’s responsibility toward the Sabbath?  What does keeping the Sabbath look like today?  How do we know?  These are the questions I seek to answer today.  First off – we are defining the Sabbath because it is clear that Christ’s idea of the Sabbath is different from that of the Pharisees.  And Christ is the authoritative One, but the Pharisees aren’t to be completely ignored.  They do have a zeal about the Sabbath which makes their case compelling.  Sabbath keeping was to them a serious business!  But secondly, please recognize that to preach a single sermon on defining the Sabbath is kind of like studying an atlas of America, and presuming that you know all about driving!  The sheer amount a material, let alone the depth of the various facets are too great!  And don’t worry! We’ll be touching the subject again, as the very next pericope deals with Christ healing on the Sabbath!

The Sabbath described.


Let’s consider how the Sabbath is described in the Scripture.  The 1st reference to the Sabbath is found in Genesis 2:2-3.  And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  I want you to notice that it is God who sanctified the Sabbath.  In Exodus 16:14-30 we have the gathering of manna explained – and in particular the explanation centers on the Sabbath.  How much to gather, when to gather and to save it overnight 1 night a week, that Sabbath may be observed.  Both of these accounts reference the Sabbath before the giving of the Law.  So Sabbath actually predates Mosaic Law.  But that does not mean that it supersedes it.  The Law merely codifies the matter.  Sabbath was not created by the Law, but the Law does establish the Sabbath day practice to some extent. 

And let’s look at the law.  The 10 commandments are listed twice for us. The 1st giving of the Law in Exodus 20, the 2nd in Deuteronomy 5.  Consider how the commandment is put, in the positive – to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  But then the command switches to the negative.  You shall not do any work.

What is the benefit of a negative command?  In most cases it is to prevent receiving the consequence of the act itself.  But ‘work’ has a good consequence – in fact we are commanded to work from the time of the garden. Look at some of the other negative commands, you shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not lie. These commands are there simply to prevent us from the catastrophe of participation.  These things are sin, and the wages of them is death.  But the wages of work?  Work is not sin. So immediately we see a uniqueness to Sabbath.   The reason given to keep the Sabbath was that creation reference in Genesis.  God blessed the day – He sanctified it.

Before we get to the 2nd giving of the Law in Deuteronomy, we read in Exodus 31:12-17 some additional clarification on the Sabbath, and I want to focus on verse 13, as this verse gets to a purpose not yet known to us.  It reads as follows:

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.

So here it is made known that the Sabbath is a sign to all between the Lord and the people of Israel throughout your generations.  A sign of what you ask?  Of the relationship God had and has with his people.  Sabbath is an outwardly visible display to everyone of the specialness our Lord has toward his people. And again we read that it is the Lord that sanctifies you. We read a similar reference in Ezekiel:

Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. (Eze. 20:12, 20) 

Deuteronomy 5 restates the Law upon the arrival to the Promised Land.  But the interesting thing is how instead of pointing to creation as a reason that we are to keep it, now Moses tells us to “remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out…therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Duet. 5:15)  We’ll see why I think He does this later.

I’d like to consider what might seem to be a rather obscure event which happened in Numbers 15:32-36,

32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.  33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation…35 And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

Why was this man treated so harshly? Let me show you how it wasn’t harsh at all.  Let’s reason this out for a moment.  This man knew about manna and how it was they were to collect it every day, before the sun was high.  He had seen that God supernaturally provided it, and even gave the double portion on Friday, and further allowed that it stayed fresh for that 1 evening a week.  The whole matter was a supernatural event.  He knew of the commandments in Ex. 20, 23, 31, 34, and 35.  Yet knowing all this – the man would not believe the testimony of God’s mighty loving provision for the people!  He did not know his God!  And let me assert right here – To know the Lord is the intent of the Sabbath.

Later in the whole 1st chapter of Isaiah we read of another negative example of keeping the Sabbath.  Verses 11 – 15 read as follows,

11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. (Isa. 1:11-15)

These people were doing all the right things.  The problem is that they were not doing them in truth.  I’d like to read verse 13 in another translation, “Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.”  Though they were doing the work of offerings and prayers, the Lord rejects such as sin, because their heart was not in it – to Him it was sin to combine empty obedience without love.  They really didn’t love this God to whom they offered sacrifice and prayed. 

Consider for a moment David’s words in Psalm 40,

5 Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. 6 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”

David extols God’s wonderful works and thoughts toward us.  Can I ask, what is his motivation for saying so?  David loves his God!  He knows Him, and loves Him!  This is an important clue.  Reading on we see in verse 6 that sacrifice you did not desire.  This is not news to us, as we know well 1 Sam. 15:22, that to obey is better that sacrifice.  But David goes a whole lot further than that.  Verse 6 concludes, “Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.  Very clearly something new has been disclosed to us.  The Law of Moses did indeed require sacrifice.  I puzzled for a time on this and came to verse 8, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”  This is amazing!  In David’s words we have the very expression of the New Covenant!  Didn’t David live long before such was prophesied?  Indeed – about 400 years before Jeremiah and Ezekiel mention it.  And what do we know about the New Covenant? A new heart! A new Spirit!  New desires!  What drives this New Covenant?  Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel tell us, Ye shall be my people, and I shall be your God.  Again we see relationship as the key.  Jeremiah explicitly tells us in verse 34a, “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.”  It is the knowledge of the Lord which accomplishes this!

 

To know the Lord is the intent of the Sabbath.  Psalm 46:10 is really the theme of the Sabbath, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”  You might be more familiar with the rendering, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Let me demonstrate from the commandments themselves that the knowledge of the Lord is indeed the goal of keeping Sabbath.

In the creation account we are told that God rested, and that is why we are to rest on the 7th day.  We bear the image of the living God – and if so, we should reflect that image – even to the point of rest.  In the Ex. 20 commandment this is what we are reminded of – God rested and set it apart.  In Ex. 31 we read that it is a ‘sign between me and you’ pointing to a unique and special relationship God had with his people.  Especially note the phrase, “that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.”  Knowledge of the Lord is what sets us apart folks. That’s exactly what we read earlier in Eze. 20 verses 12 and 20.  And we do not sanctify ourselves in sabbath keeping – rather it is the Lord who does so.  In the restatement of the commandments in Deuteronomy 5 the Sabbath command is again stated, but this time pointing to their slavery in Egypt and His deliverance of them.  Why does He point them to this event instead of creation?  I say he does so because as his relationship with his people progressed he wanted to remind them once again of His special covenant love to them, and he did have the right to expect of them obedience!   He loved them!  And those whom He loves receive His benefits. 

In Isa 56:1-8 we see that a blessing is in store for those who keep my Sabbaths.  Even for the foreigner, even for the eunuch!  He gives them ‘a place and a name that shall not be cut off’ in verse 5.  A name and a place to live point very much to relationship.  Just 2 chapters later we read,

13 If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, 14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa 58:13–14)

This portion reminds me of the Psalmist, “Delight thyself also in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

How does this work? As we delight in our God He gives us what we delight in - more of Himself! It is as we love him he becomes more and more precious to us and we are blessed by more of that very precious Lord Himself! Do you delight in being still before the Lord? 

In our passage the disciples were plucking grain as they went through the field and this act is what upset the Pharisees.  What they didn’t get was that Sabbath keeping is not simply the keeping of the letter of the law.  The intent was that instead of having to go out early and pick up the manna – they had a day set aside to consider the God of that manna!  Instead of looking at Him as some evil taskmaster who was waiting to strike them down over the least stick picked up, He wanted them to see that they didn’t need to pick up sticks.  He’d made provision for them in manna and he’d do the same if they needed sticks.  Unbelief is betrayed in the Pharisee’s legalistic accusations.  And Christ answered them easily with an example from the life of David – a man after God’s own heart – who had learned with great joy the God does provide for his own – even if it would be day old shewbread.  Look it up in 1 Sam 21:1-6 to get the detail. 

It’s not that the law didn’t matter.  Think about it – This is the Son of God we’re thinking of when we keep the Sabbath!  Do you know Him?!  If the Sabbath appealed to anyone, most certainly it did to Him!  In the counsel of eternity, when God rested on the seventh day, was Christ absent?!  Of course not!  We know that he was party to creation itself from John 1.  Most assuredly that was a Sabbath day properly kept!  But Christ makes a revelation to us in the statement, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.  Turning this statement on its head, the Pharisees made the Sabbath a burden to man.  But Christ points us to the Joy of Sabbath – which is God himself.

Do we extol our God and enjoy being his people?  This is Sabbath dear people!  This is the real joy of keeping Sabbath.  Not the keeping of every jot and tittle of the law per-se but considering how such a God can and does take care of His people – even when they don’t know where the manna and sticks will come from next.  

In early December 2002 I walked into the fellowship hall of Forest Glen Baptist church and there on the whiteboard it read, “Have a Mary Christmas!  What was different was that Pastor Dave, had misspelled Merry.  He put M a r y in place of M e r r y.   Then he had us turn to Luke 10:38-42, “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  39And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.  40But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.  41And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:  42but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

The message was clear – don’t let all the distractions of the holiday season take you away from the precious Lord of that season.  Cease striving, and know that I am God.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson.  And I really believe that Mary was keeping Sabbath right then.

Jesus made another pronouncement against the religious leaders in respect of Sabbath observance in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

This tells us again that God looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).  We read in Col 2, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Col 2:16–17)  The blessing of being a New Testament believer is that we don’t have to wait ‘til the 7th day.

I’ve made a whole lot of ‘keeping the Sabbath’ as a law.  Please don’t leave today thinking that to be a burden.  The law if rightly kept is a joy to his people – but it can also be a burden.  That is pharisaical law keeping.  We aren’t under the law to keep it.  It was the pointer to lead us to Christ.  But if you now have Christ – it becomes actually a means of grace!  O the wonders of our God! 

Let me close with the words of our Lord from Matthew 11, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat. 11:28–30.)

 

Amen.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Two mites


"And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)

As I was studying this passage I read several commentaries and one thing was noted more than once.  God does not measure the gift by its value in reference to what others have given, or even what its value in society is monetarily. But rather, God measures the gift by what was held onto - what remains in the givers possession.  I don't necessarily disagree... but there is a matter overlooked which is of great importance, the faith which the woman had.  She knew her Lord would supply her need (Phil. 4:19) since she was a widow and had had experience with God, He always provides for His own.

...for these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God… (vs. 4a)

How we give is very important.  Are we with open hand or closed fist?  Is our giving generous or do we hold back when we could give?  Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, was an open handed giver.  Yet no matter open or closed our hand - we must be thoughtful in our giving.

I say thoughtful because to fulfill Paul's request that no collection be made when he arrived in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:1-2) required thoughtful and planned giving.  Bob Pierce was not a thoughtful giver, though he was very generous.  He once took a wad of money from his wife, which was for the rent and gave the whole amount in a certain Church service. 

Yet that generosity violated another principle, taught in 1 Tim. 5:8, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Bob Pierce's family suffered much due to his generosity in part.  This is a presuming upon God. (His story is told in Days of Glory, Seasons of Night.)

In our text the widow who put in all that she had couldn't violate this principle, since she was a widow.  She had God alone to provide for her.  James tells us, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (Jam. 1:27)

This woman was better the recipient of offerings than the offeror!

Finally, we ought to be cheerful in our giving.  Paul tells us this in 1 Cor. 9:6-7:
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.


Lord help us, to be cheerful, generous, and thoughtful as we give, that you be seen to be the truly generous and gracious God you are, before all men!

Amen.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Counted Worthy?


But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:35-36)


In verse 35 we read “But those who are counted worthy…”
 
‘counted worthy’ is  translated from the Greek καταξιόω and is a conjunction of two Greek words:

κατά - Preposition that intensifies;

αξιος - worthy.


It means essentially, to deem entirely worthy - not simply to indicate a worthy one.  But one who is exceptionally or especially worthy of that which is discussed.

But who is worthy to attain eternal life? None!  There are none who do good, no not one. 

And this verse seems to indicate not only are there some, but that whomever they are - they are exceptionally worthy!  There is no explanation except in the blood of the blessed One. 

 
Paul explains in Romans 4 about this.  It’s called imputation.  I like the way the ESV translates the verses,

That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Rom. 4:22-25)

 
When Christ was on the cross, one of the two entirely unworthy thieves called to him, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This man was not worthy.  In fact, one could argue he was most UN-worthy!  Yet Christ’s response, “Today you will be with me in paradise” tells us what happened.  The thief placed the whole of his hope upon the One who alone is worthy - even exceptionally worthy to attain eternal life. 

Paul explains this plainly in Philippians 3:7-11.  He tells us it is by knowing the Lord through faith in Christ that we get His righteousness.

That I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:8-11)


Oh! That all my children and loved ones desired Christ like this! - Indeed, would that I loved my Lord all the more!
Amen.

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