SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 7

Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” … And turning toward the woman, (Jesus) said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.  For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  (Luke 7:36-39, 44-48, 50)

There are two kinds of sinners present around Simon’s dining room table this afternoon.  But only one of them had taken a good, long look in the mirror that morning.  Only one of them had seen the awful truth staring back.  The other had not.  In his mirror he had seen only what he wanted to see.

The awful truth confronting this prostitute and this preacher was that both of them were moral failures who deserved to die.  Both were terminally ill, sick with a spiritual cancer that plagues all of Adam’s sons and daughters.  Both needed to be healed by the Physician reclining at the table.  But only the street-walker accepted that reality. The Pharisee would not allow himself to believe it.

Perhaps you see yourself at this table in Simon’s dining room.  If so, there is something you should know.  Immorality will never satisfy an empty soul; and religion will never deliver one from eternal death.  Not in a million years.  But the One reclining at this table, the One Who bore our sins on the Cross, can.  His rescue from sin’s grip of misery and its curse of death is offered to all … no exceptions:  to the reprobate who live in a street’s filth … to the religious who sit in a church’s pew … and everyone in between.  The mercy of God is greater than all our sins combined … past, present and future.  All of them.  Not one of your sins is too great to exclude you from this invitation:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden … and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)

On that day both the preacher and the prostitute needed to be forgiven.  But apparently only the uninvited guest – poor in spirit – was repentant.  The host – rich only in the outward righteousness of the Mosaic Law – remained in his state of denial, rejecting his own need to be pardoned by his Judge reclining right in front of him.  The forgiveness Jesus offered meant nothing to Simon for his soul was satisfied by the self-righteousness of his religion.

Not so with this “woman who was a sinner.”  Unlike Simon, this woman of the street knew quite well what a worn out soul felt like.  She had experienced firsthand the tyranny of sin’s lordship.  She was acquainted with its misery … and its emptiness … and its shame.  But she also had some level of understanding as to Who Jesus was and what He was offering her.  And when she left that afternoon, her soul was filled with the relief of His forgiveness and the refreshment of His peace.

Do you know anyone like that, one who knew he deserved to die because of his sins but has, instead, accepted Christ’s death in place of his own?  One whose empty soul has been flooded with the forgiveness and peace of Christ?  If you know someone like this, the next time you are with him in a worship service, stand as close to him as you can.  And then watch him as he sings to his Redeemer.

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SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 6

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.  And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles ….  (Luke 6:12-13)

If you are a member of a local church, what did you have to do to become one? Some churches do not even have a membership.  But most do; and those that do usually expect the person to know the answers to some questions … then (perhaps) to be baptized or participate in a certain ceremony … and then, to be officially recognized by the leadership as a member of the church.

I have found that having my name added to a church roll has never been all that difficult.  Of course, to be an active member requires a certain investment of time and effort and money.  But not once has church leadership ever placed upon me their expectation to

“know the power of (Christ’s) resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings …”

In fact, I don’t think I have ever been challenged by a youth leader or an elder or a deacon to

“… (be) conformed to (Jesus’) death in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  (Philippians 3:10-11)

But Christ has.  He has issued that challenge.  When the Master says “Follow Me,“ He is not merely inviting us to sing in the choir or serve on the Finance Committee or place 10% of our income in an offering plate.  There is more to this summons than “Be active in your local church.”  He is calling us to crucify, to kill, to put to death – daily – our own self-centered ambitions that we might submit our lives to the will of the Father.  To be a Christ-follower means a lot more than being willing to die for Him.  It means dying to self, allowing ourselves to be pierced through … every day … with the nails of His will for our life.

Luke chapter 6 gives us a snapshot of this powerful, painful, joyful, costly relationship with Christ Jesus.  Here, the Master describes the character of His disciple as one

  • who is aware of his own spiritual impoverishment. Knowing that he is “poor” in righteousness, he clings to the mercy of God (vs. 20, see Luke 18:13)
  • who craves the righteousness of God, available only through faith in Christ (vs. 21, see Philippians 3:7-9)
  • who grieves over his sins [seeking to turn his back on them] (vs. 21)
  • who is persecuted by the worldly because of his holy relationship with Christ (vs. 22-23)

We are also told that the Master expects the service of His disciple to be sacrificial, treating others as he would want them to treat him (vs. 31)

  • providing what is in the best interest of others, even his enemies (vss. 27-28, 30, 32, 35)
  • forgiving those who have wronged him [leaving justice in the hands of God] (vs. 29-30, 37, see Romans 12:19)
  • meeting the needs of others [who cannot meet their own needs and, therefore, will not be able to repay him] (vss. 30, 33-35, 38)
  • showing kindness and mercy to those who are ungrateful and wicked (vss. 35-36)

Being a dedicated church member is one thing.  (And it is a good thing.)  But being a dead-serious disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is something more.  There is a price to pay; and the price is high.  To follow Jesus, one must execute his own self-centered interests and submit his will to the will of his Master.  When Jesus calls someone to be His disciple, the weight of that summons is nothing less than this:

“Come and die with Me.”

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SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 5

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”  When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him … After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”  And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.  (Luke 5:10-11, 27-28)

When I was in high school, my father was the choir director for my family’s church.  My mother played the organ.  My sister often sang in the choir.  And for a time, my grandmother played the piano.  As for me, I sat on the back row and tried to get some sleep.

I did not like “going to church.”  Being religious was, to me, a confinement … something that had to be endured.  I did not like getting up early on a “no school” day.  I did not like putting on a coat and tie.  I did not like listening – for one solid hour – to a Sunday School lesson.  Nor did I like sitting through a sermon for yet another very long hour.  When we finally pulled into our garage, I leapt from the car like a bird that had just been released from its cage.

I suppose most, if not all, of my friends who knew me back then still – to this day – do not understand how I ended up in the ministry.  This unexpected turn-of-events must have been to them like watching “Leave It to Beaver” and hearing Eddie Haskell tell Wally Cleaver that he plans to be a missionary.  But the fact is, something happened to me many years ago that whirled my life around 180o.

At the age of 19, I encountered the living God through a series of events that, as I replay them from memory, continue to amaze me.  I can still remember the moment I finally understood the Gospel for the first time:  that because of my sins, I deserved to die … that God sent His Son to die that death for me …  in my place … as my Substitute … so that I would not have to die for them myself.  I can still remember that moment when the Spirit of God rushed into my ruined soul.  I felt like a bird that had just been released from its cage.

Now, every time I read Luke chapter 5, I feel what Levi must have felt on the day Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.”  I have an idea this tax collector never looked back at his tax booth.  When this despised man stood up to follow Jesus, the misery and the emptiness of his bankrupt life were forever gone.  No doubt, for this wealthy man to leave his collection box behind (and for Simon and his fishermen-partners to leave their boats behind) was costly.  But more than likely, it did not feel like much of a sacrifice to them.

Over the years I have run across a number of people that gladly follow the Savior because they know, firsthand, what a soul without Christ feels like; and they know what it is like for the resurrected Son of God to fill that emptiness with Himself.  They know that the fool’s gold this world dangles in front of them does not hold a candle to the riches of Christ.

Yes, there are a lot of whirled-around lives out there who are more than happy to abandon everything this dead world has to offer in order to devote every fiber of their being to follow the One Who rescued them from eternal death and ushered them into eternal life.

They are all like birds that fly out of their cages … and never look back … but leave far behind them the misery of their bondage to religion … or their bondage to immorality … or, like me, both … in order to soar – fully and forever – in the freedom of Christ’s gracious release.

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SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 4

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.  And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him: … “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.  HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD” … And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.  But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.  (Luke 4:16-19, 21-22, 25-34)

This response to Jesus, first hot then cold, took place in Jesus’ home village.  These Nazarenes went from “speaking well of Him and … (His) gracious words” to being “filled with rage,” all within about two minutes.  Obviously, Jesus had struck a nerve.

What is so interesting about this change from admiration to anger is that it did not take place when Jesus claimed to fulfill Messianic prophecy.  That apparently went right over their heads.  It was when Jesus pointed out that two of Israel’s most revered prophets ignored certain Jews who were in need of help in order to minister, instead, to Gentiles.  That is when they came unglued.

Most Jews rejected the idea that God cared about the Gentiles.  They believed He was only concerned about Israel.  As far as they were concerned, Gentiles were nothing but “dogs.”  This had been the attitude of the prophet Jonah toward the population of Nineveh; and this was the attitude within this synagogue.  How could God possibly love them, these pagan nations

  • that had enslaved His chosen people while in Egypt …
  • that had constantly oppressed them in the days of the Judges …
  • that had constantly attacked them in the days of the kings …
  • that had dragged them off, first into Assyrian captivity, then later into Babylonian captivity …
  • and that now occupied their land by the hated Roman military!

Somewhere along the way, Israel lost sight of the heart of Yahweh, a longing He revealed in His covenant with their father Abraham:

In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.  (Genesis 12:3)

Somewhere along the way, they had abandoned the calling God had placed on them, to be a missionary nation:

God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us … that Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us.  God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.  (Psalms 67:1-7)

We might call Psalm 67 Israel’s “Great Commission.”  It is their call to proclaim God’s salvation among “all the nations.”  But Nazareth had no love for “the nations on the earth.”  Few in Israel did.  Sometimes I wonder if the Church is any different.

Have you ever been in a conversation with a church member about Kim Jong-un (Supreme Leader of North Korea)?  If so, what was the general tone of that conversation?  Have we become nothing but a Church of Jonahs, wanting Nineveh (North Korea) to be destroyed; or do we want them to be saved?  Has patriotic zeal clouded the missionary heart of the New Testament Church?

Can you think of anyone you do not want God to save?  What exactly do we want for ISIS … or Al Qaeda … or Islamic terrorists … or Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad … or Russia’s president Vladimir Putin?  Do our churches have too much red, white and blue in them and not enough blood red?  Which kingdom occupies the heart of the Church?

Perhaps now might be a good time to pray that God would have mercy upon the eternal souls of your temporal country’s enemy.

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SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 3

“As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals.”  (John the baptizer, as he prepared national Israel to receive their soon-to-arrive Messiah-King, Luke 3:16)

Over the years I have met a number of men and women of God whose lives and ministries radiated the power of God.  They came from different backgrounds and cultures.  They had different personalities and gifts and passions.  And they were called to different ministries.  But they all shared one thing in common:

not one of them had an air of self-sufficiency

I don’t think I’ve ever met an effective servant of Christ who had not first been broken.  Each one’s confidence in the Lord was strong; but his self-assurance was gone.  He is the kind of person who prays, “Why did You call me to do this?  Who am II am not fit for this ministry!”

Actually, they are in good company:

  • Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”  (Moses, after hearing God’s call to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage, Exodus 3:10-11)
  • “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel?  Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”  (Gideon, after hearing God’s call to deliver Israel from Midian’s oppression, Judges 6:15)
  • “Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.”  (Paul, to the church in Corinth who questioned his calling as an apostle, 2nd Corinthians 12:11)

The Lord has a good reason for bringing His servants to this point of self-doubt:

“My power is perfected in your weakness” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

It is one of the paradoxes of the spiritual life.  When one thinks he is strong, he is actually quite weak.  But when he thinks he is weak, he is in a position to be quite strong … in the Lord.  Contrary to the world’s value system,

the LORD will not use us because we are mighty in ability.

There is just too much of us that will get in His way.

Nor will the LORD use us in spite of our weaknesses.

This sounds good; but that is not completely true.  The LORD does not use us in spite of our weaknesses.

The LORD will use us because of our weaknesses.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.  But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”  (1st Corinthians 1:26-31)

It does not feel very good; but the fact is, our all-wise and sovereign God has every right to break us.  Sometimes He uses sandpaper.  At other times He uses a jackhammer.  Either way, He has every right to do what it takes to empty us of our self-assurance

  • because in doing so, we are made more dependent on Him …
  • and being emptied of ourselves, we can now be filled with His power …
  • and by that power, our lives are better able to represent the Savior to a world that desperately needs to know Him …
  • and by that power, our ministries become more effective, more fruitful, more powerful.

Have you ever felt less-than-“fit” to serve Jesus Christ?  If so, let’s not miss the reason why.  We are not weak because God failed to make us strong.  We are made weak that we might be filled with the power of God … for the strengthening of His people … to the glory of His Name.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2nd Corinthians 12:10)

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SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 2

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel.”  (Luke 2:25-32)

And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four.  She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.  At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.  (Luke 2:36-38)

When Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the Temple “to present Him to the LORD,” there were at least a couple of people there prepared for His arrival.

Simeon was one who had been “looking for the consolation of Israel”; that is, he was looking for the Appearing of the Messiah.  That he would see the “Hope of Israel” was a promise he had been given by the Spirit of God.  And on that day, he held this Promise in his arms.

There were also some in the Temple area “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem,” including an elderly woman named Anna.  On that day this prophetess was able to tell the others that their Redeemer had just arrived.

Both these individuals were spiritually prepared to discern His Presence when Joseph and Mary brought Him to the Temple.  More than likely, however, neither Simeon nor Anna was aware that their long-awaited Messiah would arrive on the world scene twice.  As far as they knew, His birth to these two godly peasants was the one – and only – time He would come.

You and I, however, have an advantage over these two saints.  The New Testament has given us a fuller understanding of the Old Testament prophecies.  We can clearly see that the Redeemer would come twice:  the first time to serve as God’s Payment for the sins of man; and the second time (a) to complete the believers’ deliverance from the tyranny of their enemies (both physical and spiritual) and (b) to deliver creation from the tyranny of the curse that lay upon it (Romans 8:19-22).

… so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.  (Hebrews 9:28)

It is not unreasonable to think that the saints of today could represent the last generation of the Church Age.  Indeed, to ignore that possibility would be less than wise.

Be on the alert, for you do not know the day nor the hour (Matthew 25:13) …

So, are we like Simeon and Anna?  Are we “eagerly awaiting” the re-Appearing of Jesus Christ?  Or will His arrival catch us off guard, like “a thief in the night” … sudden … unexpected … costly?  Very costly.  The Word of God gives us a “sure-fire way” of knowing whether we are preparing ourselves for this Event or not:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure(1st John 3:2-3)

Beloved friends, it is a wise thing to do, to ready ourselves for the Return of Christ.  Because the next time He appears upon the world stage, He will not be wearing a crown of thorns.

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Luke

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 1

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”  But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High;

 and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;

 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered and said to her,

 “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;

 and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

 And Mary said, “Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your Word.”  (Luke 1:26-35,38)

Thus began one of the most mind-boggling commitments ever made by an individual.  Have you ever reflected upon the magnitude of God’s calling upon Mary’s life?

Consider the announcement itself.  An angelic being – sent by God – was the messenger.  He informs her that she, a virgin, was about to become pregnant … but there would be no human father.  The developing fetus within her uterus would be, in reality, the Son of the Most High God … Who, being clothed with flesh, was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, the Son of David … and His Kingdom would be eternal.

How could she possibly have comprehended the weight of this announcement!  Mary must have been in a state of stunned wonder as she said “Yes” to the will of God.  In fact, I don’t think she ever got over it, even to the day she breathed her last breath.

Nor do I think she fully grasped the consequences of her submission to the will of God.  Have you ever tried to place yourself in Mary’s sandals?  What effect do you think this calling had upon her life?

  • First of all, noticeably absent from the angel’s announcement was any mention of her betrothed husband Joseph.  What would he think about all of this?  She was given no guarantee that he would complete his marriage contract with her.  As far as she knew, she could very well end up being a single mother.  If so, she would be shunned for the rest of her life.
  • Indeed, under normal circumstances (apart from God’s protection) she would have faced the death penalty (Deuteronomy 22:13-14, 20-21).
  • As word spread throughout her small hometown-village that Mary carried an illegitimate child, her reputation was very likely shredded … and Joseph’s … and her family’s … and, for that matter, her Son’s.  I have an idea that, during her pregnancy, she was called a lot of names in Nazareth.  “The blessed virgin Mary” was probably not one of them.
  • Nine months later, Mary accompanied Joseph on a grueling trip to Bethlehem where she gave birth to the Child in what was possibly a cave-converted-barn, filled with the stench and filth of manure.
  • A few days later when the infant Jesus was taken to the Temple to be “presented to the LORD,” she was warned that her Son would cause division among the Israeli nation, resulting in the excruciating agony of her own soul (Luke 2:25-35).  She would not have long to wait before witnessing the first of several attacks upon her Son’s life.  One or two years after His birth, she and her husband had to flee from an assassination attempt made by Herod the king (Matthew 2:13-16)
  • Then, some 30 years later, she would observe the full force of that prophecy as she stood before her blood-drenched Son impaled to a Roman cross.

“Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your Word.”

Did Mary comprehend the full effect this pregnancy would have on her own life?  Probably not.  Nevertheless, her ready submission to the call of God revealed the commitment of one who truly had the heart of a bond-slave, an attitude she probably had long before she was addressed by the angel.

Can you imagine what it must have been like when this extraordinary woman breathed her last breath and found herself in the presence of God’s promised glory … bowing before the One she had birthed … the Son she and Joseph had so diligently nurtured and protected … the Creator of the universe … her God and Savior … the radiant King of glory?

I wonder what He said to her about her faithfulness to God’s calling upon her life.

It makes me wonder what He will say to me about mine.

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The “Spiritual Grit” of Faithfulness

Running

They tell you in seminary that, after you preach on Sunday, you should wash your car on Monday … or cut the grass … or paint something.  That is, the Bible teacher needs to do something on Monday from which he can see an immediate result. That’s because the Word of God often does not have an immediate (observable) effect on the audience.  In fact, your pastor will never see the full impact his ministry is having in the lives of others … at least on this side of the resurrection.  And so, to encourage himself, he needs to do something with his hands.  Perhaps mowing the yard has prevented a lot of pastors from throwing in the towel.

I don’t think I have ever met an effective servant of God that has not struggled with this issue.  They have given their very best to the ministry to which God has called them.  But as far as they can tell, they are having little impact in the lives of those they serve.

“Am I really doing any good?  I don’t see much fruit.”

One day I said that to a friend of mine; and he hit me square between the eyes with a “question” I needed to hear:

How much fruit do you need to SEE before you can be faithful to your calling?

The answer, of course, is “None.”  That’s because faithfulness has nothing to do with results.  It has to do with one doggedly remaining in (what seems to be) a stagnated situation because he knows that is where his Master wants him to be … and that’s the ONLY reason he stays.

Dear friends, a day is coming when every reborn Christ-follower will bow before the Judgment Seat of God.  And on that day the quality of our stewardship is going to be evaluated.  No doubt, we all want to hear our Master say,

Well done, good and faithful servant!

But if that is what we want to hear, there is something we need to come to grips with. We need to clearly understand what it’s going to take for us to become that kind of servant.

The fact is, some things can only be forged on an anvil.  Faithfulness is one of them. This trait does not come quickly, nor does it come easily.  Indeed, for faithfulness to be dyed into the fabric of one’s soul, he must be put in situations that tempt him to give up … to quit … to stop trying to be and do what Christ has given him to be and do.  It is at this point – and only at this point – that faithfulness can be cultivated: when the servant of God, tempted to throw in the towel, keeps going.  Not because of the fruit he sees but because of the Calling laid upon his life.

This is the spiritual grit of a faithful servant:  the conviction of his Calling

And so, during these “flat” periods of anguish and confusion when we are tempted to give up, let us be fully convinced of what is taking place in our lives:

The Father is cultivating our faithfulness by stretching our endurance.

To be aware of that fact goes a long way in understanding why troubles … and weariness … and circumstances that don’t make any sense are so vital to one’s ministry.  It explains why God (seems to be) so slow and so silent and so aloof at times.  This is the reality of faithful stewardship.

And at his finish line, he will hear his Master say,

Well done good and faithful slave!

And he will savor that praise throughout eternity.

And eternity is a long, long time.

 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.  (1st Corinthians 15:58)

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  (Galatians 6:9)

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An Appeal

Running

It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.  (Hebrews 9:27)

So teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Psalms 90:12)

If you would like to know what a person believes about the future, observe how he lives in the present.  If someone tells you that he believes Krispy Kreme Doughnut stock is going to quadruple in value by this time next week, then take note:  Is he buying as many shares of Kripsy Kreme Doughnut stock as he can afford … or no?

According to the Scriptures, what we believe about the future will have a great influence on how we live in the present.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  (1st John 3:2-3)

As the brevity of life becomes more and more apparent with each passing year, he who is wise will live more fervently, not for a world scheduled to be destroyed but for an eternity that is fast approaching.

LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days.  Let me know how transient I am.  Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight.  Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.”  (Psalm 39:4-5)

Today, you and I are one day closer to appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Whether we are removed from this earth by the Rapture or by death, we are that much closer to bowing before the Son of God.  We are one day closer to giving an account of our stewardship.

It is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed … But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  (Romans 13:11, 14)

To be prepared for our approaching evaluation, we must be able to present a life of faithful character and service when Christ asks to hear our account of what we did with His property:

“What did you do with the time and the resources and the abilities and the strength and the opportunities … I entrusted into your care … to prepare yourself and others for eternity … to the glory of My Name?”

Beloved friends, we do not have the luxury – or the right – to foolishly squander our fleeting lives on the temporal affairs of a dead world.  Most certainly, the race we have been called to run will prevent us from being “in sync” with all the Jones’s out there.  But the reality of our situation is this:  We each have only one heart.  We do not have two.  We can have, therefore, only one devotion … only one all-consuming passion.  We cannot have two.  It is impossible to pursue the glitter of fool’s gold that so enamors this spiritually-dead world and be faithful to Christ at the same time.

Therefore, let us look down the track and set our gaze upon the finish line.  Do you see “the joy set before (you)”?

How immense that joy will be to find ourselves in the smiling Presence of our glorified Master!

How glorious it will be to receive from His hand an imperishable reward!

How satisfying it will be to hear that wonderful greeting,

“Well done, good and faithful servant!  Enter into the joy of your Master!”

Just imagine what it will be like to cross the finish line!  I have an idea that, at that moment, we will fall before our Savior, grab hold of His wound-scarred feet, and weep with gladness.

And so, with this eternal perspective, let us all

… lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

An Eternity of Glory

People walking the heaven.

This is the promise which He Himself made to us:  eternal life.  (1st John 2:25)

Eternal life … a promise made by One Who cannot lie to those who have been bought with the blood of the Lamb.  We, the redeemed of God, will never stop living.  Have you ever tried to grasp the scope of that word?  When we are 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 “years old” (so to speak), our lives in the presence of Christ will have just begun.  The zeros will just keep on accumulating.

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.  (1st John 2:17)

The Apostle Paul describes the eternal state as “the ages to come” (Ephesians 2:7).  Not “the age (singular) to come” but “the ages (plural) to come.”  For this word to be in the plural either means that (1) the one age in front of us is so long it will seem like many ages or that (2) the future will actually witness countless “ages.”  Either way, the redeemed are promised a forever-life!

Are you able to wrap your mind around this Truth?  I’m not.  For me, it is like trying to stretch a two-inch piece of string around the planet Jupiter.  I simply cannot fathom eternity.  But should we expect otherwise?  How can a finite mind comprehend the infinite?  Eternal life is a promise that comes from the one, true God Who, Himself, is too big for any of us to comprehend.

But there is something we must grasp … and with full conviction:  our time on this earth is very short.  Indeed, compared to eternity, our sojourn here is a speck of sand.  So, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,” what are we going to be really glad we did with the time we have on this earth?

  • Surely, we will be glad for every minute invested in fellowship with the Father.
  • We will be glad for every minute we used to worship Him in spirit and in Truth.
  • We will be glad for every opportunity we used to faithfully trust and obey Him.
  • And we will be glad for every opportunity we used to serve Him with our God-given abilities.

To do all of this, we have been wisely instructed:

No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.  (2nd Timothy 2:4)

So, what kind of “soldiers in active service” are we?

  • Are we depending upon the Spirit of God to bring our character in alignment with the will of the Father?
  • Are we using our God-given abilities to the fullest to strengthen His people?
  • Is our purpose in life to exalt His Name … that He would be highly respected and feared and loved and honored?

Do we have this kind of perspective … one that is focused on eternity?  The fact is, the only way to live wisely in this present life is to

LIVE WITH AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

Let us all be faithful to God.  Those who are have been promised to radiate – forever – the blazing glory of God.

And forever is a long, long time.

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(And now to the One) from Whom and through Whom and to Whom are all things. To Him be the glory forever.  Amen.  (Romans 11:36)