Wedding Day Plus One
is a natural excitement in the word "honeymoon." My wife and I certainly
felt it. It was Sunday, the day after the wedding. We attended our usual
church services (where we had been as college students) before boarding the
flight to Hawaii.
end of the service the minister, a particular friend to all the college
students, announced that we "have a very special couple with us here
today." My wife and I must have beamed—and then heard him announce the
presence of some political poobah and his wife. Our faces must have shown
the disappointment; when he turned in our direction he quickly announced us
too, adding as a comment, "If you were married yesterday, we'll introduce
children we learned to accept praise and honor as a reward for good
behavior. It is ingrained in human beings: we love to be praised. This
is not necessarily evil; which of us does not long to hear, "Well done,
good and faithful servant?"
also know that God opposes the proud but exalts the humble. So evidently we
must learn to retain the humility required for God's good works while still
anticipating (and on occasion receiving) the "well done." In this passage,
Christ teaches us how that is to be done.
statements are rather those of hyperbole, but the principle
you a father to your children? Remember then that you have authority over
your household—and all authority from God comes with responsibility.
Beware; your heavenly father is watching you. You are not to be puffed up
as a father. Rather, remember your responsibilities.
you a teacher? Remember that teachers are more strictly judged. This is
necessary because the best teaching is given by example. Your words should
match your walk.
you called on to lead God's people? Remember that your authority is clothed
in humility, so that God's correction might be more easily received.
need only to open the Scriptures to see the supreme example, Christ
himself. He was God; he humbled himself and became one of us. You will
never reach that level of humility.
Lord, keep your teachers and fathers from sin; give them a clear vision of
their obligations as well as rewards.
Sawdust and Planks
passed into the English language as a common saying: "The blind leading the
blind." It conjures up an image of one busy, industrious leader bustling
toward the pit, with his staff in tow. You have probably used the phrase
it in context brings up a different image. Christ makes it clear: he's
talking to those who think it necessary to correct others. Some of us,
either by office or by the requirements of church discipline, will be
required to do this. All of us should be prepared to do it. If we are to
condemn the sin, and reconcile the sinner, then our own lives must be kept
this in practical terms: of all Sunday meals, roast preacher is probably
the most common. It seems almost a necessity to some that they criticize
the preacher—in his absence, of course.
Suppose, however, that in your particular instance the criticism was not how
long or short his sermon, or his annoying misuse of the English language, or
something equally trivial. Suppose it is indeed a moral failing. Then
Christ's precept: if you are going to be of any use whatever in such a
matter, you must correct the failing in yourself first. You need to be
right with God. This has a very beneficial side effect. It convinces you
that you too are a sinner; it makes you much more compassionate. Such
matters as this are generally (in the case of preachers) left to the
eldership—for this is not a place for beginners and amateurs.
you humble yourself before God before such correction, your approach
changes. You plead and exhort—privately, without a grandstand.
Judgmental? Certainly. Pass judgment on the sin; pray for reconciliation
for the sinner. The sinner is God's child; God's arms are still open for
detect a certain amount of passion in this, you detect well. It has been
many years ago now, but the memory does not fade. The pastor at our church
spoke once too often; telling me "in confidence" that one of the elders had
an incestual relationship with his daughters. I was not supposed to know;
whatever help I could have offered was barred. But I could not but see the
man without condemning him in my mind. By this God taught me: condemn the
sin, redeem the sinner. Clean hands, clean hearts—God's way.
Lord, keep us mindful that we are sinners. Give us wisdom to see the path
of reconciliation, and the humility to walk in it together.
Kind of Man?
easy to skip over the Psalms when studying the Bible. The language seems
structured in ways we might not understand. In this Psalm, there are
prophetic references as well, and these were not fully understood until the
time of Christ. But please, look at this Psalm joyfully, for it tells us
what God will do for the child he loves:
will deliver him. When things look tight and your foes see victory just
around the corner, trust him for deliverance.
will protect him. How many of us have seen the "near miss" that tells us
his angels watch over us?
will preserve his life. Not only in the world to come, but in this life;
the child of God cannot die until God has prepared his welcome home.
will sustain him in sickness. How discouraging it is to be idled in a sick
bed! But our Lord knows this and will sustain those who love him.
Indeed, He will heal him. So many of us know this healing, when the doctors
say nothing can be done.
will prevent the child's enemies from triumphing over him. Despite how
close it looks, trust him for this.
God will do all this even when things look blackest; when a good friend
betrays you and you see no one to aid you. Trust him in this, and see his
course, God does not do this automatically, nor for everyone who says, "I am
a Christian." The child of God shown here can be identified by his doings
regard for the weak. The word particularly includes the sick. It is turn
about; if you console the sick, God will come to your comfort too.
repentant. There is no pretense of perfection, just the ordinary walk of
the Christian—which requires repentance.
a man of integrity. His word is solid; he is faithful to his friends and
Finally, he is a man of praise. Seeing all the good things he obtains from
God, praise is always on his lips.
Lord, be our protection and guide. May we always come to you as repentant,
and, being forgiven, never lacking a song of praise.
you ever wondered why God doesn't strike more people dead? It might just be
that he does it only when his children will learn from it. Here is the
not obvious with the chapter division, but at the end of chapter 4 it is
recorded that Barnabas sold some land and brought the money to the
Apostles. No doubt he was doing what he thought right. It is possible,
however, that his gift and the praise that went with it may have been the
unintended temptation for Ananias and Sapphira.
understand God's work in this, we must remember that Ananias and Sapphira
were under no obligation to give anything. They could have given a portion
of the money; they could have held on to it and given it in smaller amounts
over time as the needs arose. But they didn't. Instead, they made the
commitment for the whole purchase price, and delivered only part of it. To
understand why this is so evil, we need to look at two concepts: holiness,
and the testing of God.
root idea behind the concept of holiness is that of separation.
Something is holy if it has been set aside for the kingdom of God. This
story tells us two things about holiness:
tells us that we can make things holy by our commitment.
also tells us that when we do, God considers it holy. What we call holy on
earth, he will call holy from heaven.
once this couple dedicated the land to God, keeping back part of the price
was, in effect, robbing God. Worse, it was the sacrilege of misusing that
which has been made holy.
think, it's only money. What's God going to do about it? That attitude—the
presumption that God will wink at our little fraud and ignore the
sacrilege—is a way of testing God. It says, I know how God will react, and
I will presume upon that. The Scripture tells us not to test the Lord. Now
you know why.
couple came to this end because they had allowed Satan to fill their hearts
with the desire to be thought righteous and the desire to keep the money.
They lied to God, thinking he would pay no notice. He noticed.
Remember this well. What you commit to God—money, action, thought—deliver.
It is holy; do not test the Lord your God.
Father, we so often see you as the loving God. Do not let us forget that
you are God the Righteous as well.
Working the Night Shift
truth is somewhat surprising to those who live their entire lives in a city:
darkness, real darkness, exists. If you've ever been out in the desert at
night, or in the middle of the ocean, you will have experienced what Job and
his companions took for granted: the dangers of the night:
with small children know that the night light is sometimes a necessity. In
the night the child feels alone, and being alone fear rises. We don't know
what's out there, and we naturally fear the unknown.
the time of sleep for normal human beings. We feel that we are vulnerable
then. That's why we lock up at night.
really want to know the extent of our reaction to true darkness, think how
much you pay to drive it away—lights and electricity.
Spiritually, the dark of night is the opportune time
for evil. Those who came to arrest Christ in the garden came by night;
Jesus tells them that this is their hour. For the thief, night is cover.
For the adulterer, night hides the sin. When the light goes on, we see the
sin exposed and danger flee.
image is a vivid one. It's one Christ used himself, as he called himself
(and us) the "light of the world." It often surprises Christians,
therefore, at how poor a reception is given to that light. Some people are
completely blasé about it. "I'm glad that works for you." Those who are
Christians see the light clearly; it is difficult to understand those who
you love the darkness, and all its covering depth, then the Light is a
terrible thing. The Light of the World exposes all the evil in the world.
then, do so many run from the light? In one word, shame. They do not want
righteousness; they love darkness (literally and spiritually) because it
covers the and keeps them from shame.
Therein lies the test of a man's character. What happens when a man is
exposed to the light? If he goes to the Light, all is well; the Lord will
welcome him. But if he runs from the light, he signals his shame and
convicts himself. At least, for a while. Given long enough, some will sear
their consciences so thoroughly that even shame disappears.
Lord, you are the light of the world. When we uphold you, may all who see,
know that we are the lights that reflect you.
seldom noted, and all the more surprising: Jesus Christ, in the records we
have of him, never once prayed that he might be raised from the dead. He
prophesied it frequently; his enemies understood the prophecy as such. But
he never prayed for it.
Because it was solidly in God's will. There is no need to convince God of
his own purposes.
did pray for—and very fervently—release from the pain and humiliation of
death on the Cross. We often use that prayer as a model for "not my will"
prayer. But there are other things we can learn from it, for much of
Christ's work on earth was to give us an example.
seek and knock" are clearly demonstrated.
by suffering that Christ was "perfected." The word in the original means
something that is fabricated for a specific purpose; in this case, to be
Interestingly, he learned obedience. Which tells us that obedience is not
implanted but taught and learned, for even Christ had to learn this.
will argue about that last. After all, as Son of God, was he not heard in
prayer because of his relationship? But we too are called the children of
God; are all your prayers heard and answered? The Scripture tells us the
answer in Christ: He was heard not for his Son-ship, but for his "reverent
will look at other translations, you will see this phrase really means "fear
of the Lord."
doing, he teaches us that those who fear the Lord are heard in their
means, of course, that we can do this too. It is a matter of
obedience—which can be learned.
know, of course, the purpose to which Christ was perfected by suffering. It
was to be the source of salvation. Note the phrasing: just as Christ
learned obedience, we too must learn obedience to Christ—for salvation is
guaranteed to all who obey him, and to no one else. Try it. Let your faith
give rise to the works of obedience, and see if this does not change how God
answers your prayers.
Lord, we know that disobedience puts a barrier between us and you; teach us,
then, the obedience which bears
Prayer of Gratitude and Praise
not necessary to understand everything. It is probably impossible. But
when you see God doing what cannot be understood, remember: praise and
thanks are still pillars in prayer.
consider this passage as such. How the ancient Israelites were to
understand this passage was only clear when the Messiah came. Looking back
now, we can see a call to thanksgiving and praise.
Thanksgiving for the suffering that saved us.
difficult for us to comprehend the physical suffering of Christ. But it is
more difficult to understand the suffering of his soul. Here is the one who
is Eternal, facing death like one of us. For us, it may be easy to be
lighthearted in the face of death, as this is the common end of all of us.
He did not need to experience death. But so that he might become the
atonement, he did. Can you imagine how low that must be for him? Praise
and thank him for such condescension.
is more. In his death he was "numbered with the transgressors." He died;
but worse he died in disgrace, the death of a common criminal. So when we
are brought to judgment, his wounds are there to plead for us, the
transgressors. Praise and thank him for this. Indeed, even now he makes
intercession for us—based upon his sacrifice on the Cross. We have a friend
in the highest place; give thanks for his intercession.
greatness of Christ
portrays here his "portion among the great." Above his name there is no
other name. My advocate is Christ; how can I not be forgiven? Praise his
glory of his resurrection
need more? If you praise his atoning death, then surely you should praise
his resurrection. It is the evidence of the faith—and the picture of what
will happen to us when he returns. Give him the glory due; none of us even
says that he will see his offspring. That day will come when Christ returns
to judge the living and the dead. Pray that he will come, and soon.
often sing our praises and thanksgiving, followed by prayer for our wants.
Praise and thank him in prayer too.
Lord, the more we know of you, the greater the praise due to your name from
our lips. Teach us to praise and thank you.
Knowing You're Saved
there really three kinds of people?
genuinely evil, who are responsible for most of the mess we're in (whatever
that mess might be).
genuinely good, who are those favored by God to become real saints, worth of
rest of us, who are rather in the middle.
hope in this viewpoint is that God will chase down and destroy the genuinely
evil, leaving the small number of saints to act as high cover for the rest
of us, in the middle.
tells us we're wrong. We're judging things on position—where people are
right now. Much more important than position is direction—which way are you
going? The narrow way, or the broad one? Direction is all important—when
you have all of eternity to make the trip.
headed in God's direction look for signs along the way; signs that they're
headed in the right direction. Here are two:
who are genuinely headed God's way will be hated by the world. You think
not? The world despises those who are pro-life. The world praises the
Chinese system of mandatory abortions to limit population.
second test: how do you treat your brother in need? Do you feed and
clothe, or hide and despise?
see, feelings are a poor guide in this matter. Feelings come from the
heart; facts come from God's reality – and God is the stronger. So if we
doubt our salvation, there are practical tests:
your prayer life successful? Do you see God granting your requests? Does
he listen to anyone going the wrong way?
your life overflow with love for your fellow Christians? Do you feed the
feel the effects of God's discipline upon you, especially in the body? He
disciplines those he loves.
the facts; they are from God. God is stronger than your heart. In his
hands, not yours, your salvation rests.
Lord, give us good courage as our feelings ebb and flow. The work of
salvation is done; the work of love is what we now must do. Keep us ever
mindful of those in need.
Must Be Shared
tale as it was told to me by my father: It was a hot day; my dad and my
mother noticed a man coming out with a cardboard tray full of ice cream
cones. As he went past each window of the station wagon, the kids rolled
down the window and he handed in the ice cream cones as ordered. Last of
all he came to the seat at the rear of the station wagon, which faced
backward. The window came down, and dad saw that there was a huge dog in
the back. The dog opened his mouth and the man stuffed an ice cream cone
right into it. Pure joy just has to be shared.
conveys that sense of joy to us in the opening of his first letter. He had
very essence of God had taken on human form; he had touched, talked and
walked with the man.
Indeed, he walked side by side with eternal life—the one who had defeated
and his fellows, were eyewitnesses to these facts. Such was their joy that
they could not help but testify to the truth: the Lord of Life, the Life
Eternal had come.
is his motive that interests me here. He is not writing out of some
commandment to evangelism. He is like a spring bubbling up from the
ground; the water must go somewhere, it keeps overflowing him. So he longs
to share it with his friends.
shares it so that they will have fellowship with him. Think about it; if
you find something good, do you not tell your friends? Do you not encourage
them to participate?
would do that for a sale at a store. How much more, then, should John share
this, for this is fellowship not only with his fellow Christians but also
fellowship with Christ himself.
you have such good news, you should feel the ache in your heart to share
it. It has lost nothing in the telling, nor will it until he comes again.
Jesus, the essence of God in the person of man, is born and lives and dies
among us—then rises from the grave. He offers the same to you—resurrection
and eternal life, forgiveness of your sins and a deep, eternal fellowship
with God. If we had discovered these things this morning, they would be
news that any journalist would recognize. News? Indeed, the ultimate in
good news. We have forgotten that "gospel" means just that.
Lord, give us ears to hear your good news—and tongues to tell it to all who
Disputes in Court
local newspaper once carried a remarkable story. It seems that a man in the
Long Beach area, a retired Navy man, had taken home a souvenir of the
navy—the business end of an 8" cruiser shell. He had the shell for many
years. One day an old service buddy of his dropped by—and was shocked to
see the shell being used as a doorstop! To the shock of the owner, he
identified it as a live shell—not a target practice dummy.
have a gift for ignoring the obvious. We have many today who are sure there
is no God. They point to the marvels of science and say, "See—we don't need
a God; therefore he does not exist." But may I be permitted a slight
argument? The universe is certainly here, and we know it had a beginning
time. By definition the universe is all matter and energy.
tell me how the universe created itself. How did it will itself into
existence—before it existed? It is no use appealing to physical mechanism.
The universe contains all matter and energy; either it created itself (which
is absurd) or something which is neither matter nor energy created it. That
wait," says the modern man. "Surely it's possible that some part of the
universe created the rest?" That which you would have as partial creator is
matter and energy too. Therefore it too was created by something "outside."
wait" says the modern man, "how can anything be beyond matter and energy?"
If the universe didn't exist, would the Pythagorean theorem still be true?
Mathematics does not depend upon the universe for its existence. Neither
decide to be "agnostic." We don't know. Did you think the living God would
accept that as excuse—something your teenage child could not get away with?
Are you really smarter than God?
then, do so many "know" there is no God? I give you Granoff's Law: "I want
to sleep with my girlfriend—therefore there is no God." In this the sly,
winking cleverness of man is exposed. Did you think God is fooled? If it
were your child, would you be deceived by this?
God of the cosmos is alive and well. We don't want him around because we
have decided that we are the supreme authority. This old fashioned God is
inconvenient. And we can't tell the difference between "inconvenient" and
Lord, so many are perishing for the famine of your word. Grant us diligence
and courage as we speak to those we know.
does not, in truth, look like much of an evangelist. Indeed, if your view
of the evangelist is that of a silver tongued and broadly traveled speaker,
he appears to be most unlikely.
he is confined to a wheelchair. Not the ordinary kind; the electric sort,
for he is not strong enough to handle the propulsion by his arms. His
speech is slurred; if you did not know that he has epilepsy and has had
several strokes, you might think him drunk. There are boils all over his
body; his body is thin and frail. Lately he is recovering (slowly) from
blindness in his right eye. The doctors had to go in from the top of the
skull and from underneath, through the sinus cavities, to get the tumor.
the greatest evangelist I know.
perfects his strength in weakness. Indeed, Paul here boasts of his
weakness, that it might prove to be the strength of God. His desire is not
for his own authority as an Apostle. You can see his reluctance to use that
authority. Rather, his prayer is for the perfection of these Corinthians.
Perfection. In the Scriptures, the word does not mean beautiful or
handsome, strong or smart. It means "perfectly suited to a task." It is
God's habit that he will take the weak and the insignificant and turn them
into the champions of his kingdom.
an example? Remember King David? When Samuel came to anoint the new king,
he told Jesse (David's father) to line up his sons so he could select the
one the Lord had chosen. Jesse had eight kids. He was so sure that David
was not the one that he set him to watch the sheep.
how those of great authority deal with this. Paul knows his purpose, the
building up of this church body. Therefore, whether the exercise of
authority or the pleading of a brother, he is prepared to do whatever he
needs to do—to accomplish the will of God. He is not harsh and autocratic,
but tender and kind. It's amazing what we can do together when God gets the
pass by Curly's wheelchair, often you will hear him cry out, "Jesus, the
Messiah, loves you." For some, this is the only gospel they will hear. God
has chosen the weak to tear down the strongholds of this world.
Lord, how we mistake your power! We see everything in terms of our own
capability. Teach us to see your power and glory.
Multitude of Sins
word used for "wander" in this passage has found its way into the English
language as "planet." In the time in which this was written, a planet was
considered a "wandering star." Much effort was required to plot the courses
of these unusual stars. It was not until the Renaissance that we came to
correctly understand what these are.
fitting picture. All the other stars go around the earth in a fixed
pattern—but there are those wanderers, messing up a perfectly good geometric
universe. The ancients did not know why they wandered. Similarly, we don't
know why some wander from the faith. Have you ever noticed that those who
wander away from the faith do so very quietly?
ever-pragmatic James sheds no light on the controversy of "once in grace,
always in grace." His point is the practical one. The sinner has wandered
away from the church. Something must be done. Somebody must do it. The
theology can catch up later.
Someone must go to bring the sinner back to the church. As with Isaiah
before the throne of God, there is no indication of divine appointment in
this; rather, we might imagine God asking, "Who will go and bring back my
lost sheep?" He's waiting for an Isaiah to say, "Here am I, Lord—send me."
shall this worker take with him?
must first carry the burden of diligence. Accurate records of attendance,
knowledge of who's missing this week, the system of those who care—these
things identify the stray.
is not a quick taxi ride back. He must do this with patience as well. The
first time is likely to be rebuffed with an attitude that says, "I don't
want to talk about it." Patience returns to the question diligently.
must go in kindness. The message of Jesus is not, "Sinner, burn in hell"
but "Sinner, come home." The workers must do likewise. Above all else, he
must go in love.
result is joyous indeed. The one who is successful in bringing back the
lost sheep covers over a multitude of sin. How? By bringing the sinner
back through repentance God forgives—and the church with Him. The wanderer
sees the forgiveness of the church—and sweet fellowship is renewed.
Lord, we sit and wonder about those who are gone. Move us in your service
to seek and save the wanderers, too.
kitchen sink you will find two faucets. One produces the mixture of hot and
cold used for most normal purposes. It is capable of producing a fairly
large flow. The other produces a flow much less than that. This faucet is
for filtered water. Underneath the sink is the filter, which we installed
because we wanted to have water free from the taste of the ordinary water.
The filter removes something from the water; the result is purified water.
is like that. Just as my little faucet removes impurities from the water,
there is also a filter in the Christian's life that removes impurities from
the soul. It is called obedience; specifically, obedience to the truth.
It is very much like my water filter:
my filter, the pure life of the Christian has many things removed from
it—things that are impure. Have you ever looked at a fellow Christian and
said, "If only he could get rid of that one thing.."? Have your fellow
Christians looked at you like that?
my filter, action is required. If I know how to construct such a filter,
the knowledge does me no good until I actually use it. Similarly, our
knowledge of the faith is not effective until we obey.
result of this purification is sincere love. Have you ever noticed that, as
the Scripture says, "to the pure, all things are pure?" As you purify
yourself in obedience, you see more clearly how often you are at fault—and
therefore remove judgment from others. With your obedience comes purity,
which produces this love. You purify your mind; the suspicious nature is
filtered out. No longer do you think, "Well, I know what I'd do ." and
therefore expect evil from your brothers. No, you now think, "This is what
Christ would have me do." and therefore you expect your Christian brothers
to do the same. It is easy to love the spiritual pure; do you see how it
all fits together?
then, Peter tells us, since this is so, we need to love each other deeply,
from the heart. Having found such a good thing, why would not want more of
it? Why would we not want others to have more of it? But that is the
nature of love; when it is sincere, it spreads rapidly—among those who are
obedient to the truth, and therefore purified.
Lord, teach us to purify ourselves in obedience to you, so that we may be
like you, the Lover of our souls.
play has been around for a while; it's a staple of high school drama
departments. It's an old wheeze, but a fun one.
play is titled The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch. The plot is
relatively simple. The town drunk, one Sneaky Fitch, manages in a comedy of
errors to convince all the town that he is dead. Laid out in a coffin, he
comes to—and discovers that all the people are afraid of him. After all,
he's already died. You can't kill a dead man. Even the local gunslinger is
rest I leave to your imagination. Paul makes a similar argument here. If
you have already died—in Christ—then death has no real hold on you. Your
wounds, which for most people are a source of worry and fear, become the
marks of honor. You have suffered for Christ's sake; the physical marks
you bear are for the Christian what medals are for the soldier.
death, too, we carry the death of Christ within us. We are buried with him
in baptism. We share his death; we shall share his life eternal. It's the
great paradox of the New Testament. If you want to save your life, lose
it. If you
save it, you lose it.
given a gift as Christians: the gift of death. We are dead with Christ;
the things of this world no longer have a hold on us. Part and parcel of
that gift is our resurrection. We shall be like him; we shall behold him
face to face.
the time this life will be revealed. Indeed, that's the point. In this
world, our wounds for Christ testify to what we know to be true in Christ
Jesus. If we suffer with him, we reign with him. We are joint heirs (with
Jesus) of the kingdom of God. As he rose, so shall we rise.
meanwhile, we must keep on keeping on. Christianity does not allow room for
the one whose talent is daydreaming when there is work to be done. Our
wounds for Christ—physical or otherwise—are the evidence of his life within
story is told of a missionary, sentenced to a prison term for preaching the
Gospel. In prison he was cruelly beaten; his back became a mass of scars.
As he was released, the local ruler asked if he had learned his lesson. In
reply, he asked permission to go back and start preaching again. The ruler
denied him this, saying, "My people are not foolish enough to listen to your
words, but they will believe your scars."
Lord, as hard as it may sound, grant that those around us will believe our
scars. May we be witnesses to you.
Usefulness of Money
nice to the little people on the way up—and they'll be nice to you on the
way down." It's a proverb of the motion picture industry which points out
the danger of wealth: arrogance. It comes of putting your hope in your
wealth. It simply doesn't work. Wealth looks at "now." Hope looks to
there is the uncertainty of wealth. It looks so stable, yet can change in
carries with it the power of corruption—both of your self, and of others
with whom you deal.
Indeed, the arrogance of wealth comes from ignoring just who is the Author
of wealth. He is the one who gives all good things—including the removal of
wealth from those being harmed by it. It surprises people: there is a
"right amount" of wealth for you. Too little, and your pride will cause you
to steal. Too much, and you forget how you came to this state.
argues Paul, here's what you should do with your wealth—if you want to
remain secure in your hope:
do good. Do it personally, not with a checkbook. Put your heart into it;
the checkbook will follow quite meekly.
be rich in virtuous deeds—the things that you plan to do. Let God lead you
to a need, and then deal with it.
this with style—or as some translations put it, "liberality." Don't skimp;
do the job right.
these, do in the context of Christian fellowship. Be the one who builds up
the church, both as a whole and individually.
then tells us the reward for doing this.
you lay up treasures in heaven. If you're the rich guy, this is good to
since you are imitating your Lord, you will be building on the firm
foundation of the church—Jesus Christ.
you will grasp life that is really life—both now and forever.
count yourself rich? Is money a worry to you not for its lack but for its
care? Learn well how to grow eternal riches.
Lord God, how poor we plead when how rich we are! Teach us to examine our
checkbooks for evidence of eternal life.
Testing the Spirits
years ago a motion picture was made from the stage play, Jesus Christ,
Superstar. The little town in which we lived carried a taped debate by
a panel of "experts" on the subject of Jesus Christ. One was a film
critic; another a Unitarian minister; the third a Quaker minister; the
last, a Baptist preacher. The "debate" was supposed to fill half an hour,
and it did. Half an hour of almost nothing but nonsense, such as the
Unitarian's learned speculation that Mary Magdalene was Christ's lover.
There was worse, but I'll spare you.
Baptist preacher got in one remark. There was a lull in the debate, and the
host—no doubt just to fill time—asked the Baptist preacher what he thought
of the film. "What's the point?" he replied, "There is no resurrection."
His microphone went off the air with an audible click and he was not heard
preacher had it right. The core test of any portrayal of or teaching about
Jesus is simply this: who do you say He is? Here John identifies one of
the wrong answers prevalent in his time. The choice in his day was between
a spectral phantom—one who walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee but left
no footprints—and the Christ who invited his disciples to breakfast. Since
the philosophers saw the body as evil, they felt Christ really could not
have had one. It's a typical viewpoint from the world: the Bible must be
wrong, so we need another explanation. The more clever the explanation, the
more brilliant the scholar, right?
gives his students the quick test: did Jesus Christ come in the flesh? Was
he born like you and I; did he die like we do? Did he rise from the
grave? These questions have not lost their usefulness in determining who's
second test is like it: do these people agree with the children of God? If
they do, the world will not approve. How often I have heard nonsense from
the pulpit as someone tries to show how Jesus Christ fits in with the fad of
the moment. Christ is the original; copy him, for he won't copy you.
third test is this: do they listen to the children of God? Do those who
are proclaiming their view of the truth listen to what God has said? One
very good example of this is the use of the Bible. Is it God's word, or
isn't it? For many out there, that question alone determines heaven or hell
for all eternity.
Lord, teach us to discern your Holy Spirit in all that we see and hear,
knowing true from false, good from evil.
Glory of God
is a consistent theme in the Old Testament which concerns the appearance of
God: no one can look at God face to face and live to tell about it. The
glory of God—meaning, in this instance, a physical manifestation of it—is
fatal to sinful man. The Israelites never lost their fear of it; the first
reaction of the prophet upon seeing God is to proclaim himself a dead man.
This passage is the root of that belief. If the prophet Moses himself could
not stand to see God's glory, then who could?
also know of several instances of "the angel of the Lord" speaking to men.
Most scholars hold this to be the pre-incarnate Christ. So it is possible
to see Him and live, a fact fairly obvious from the reaction of the
Apostles. Only at the Transfiguration did they see anything like what God
did for Moses.
Is it that God is somehow radioactive
or poisonous to us? No; we know that God is spirit. When God shows
himself in human affairs like this, it is not the light levels about which
we need be concerned. We need to be concerned with sin.
whom the philosophers define as the sum of all perfections, cannot be in the
presence of sin. He is utterly holy and righteous. Such a character, when
shown to the physical world, cannot allow the presence of a sinner. So God
hides Moses from His face.
so doing, he makes the declaration that will one day provide salvation to
the world. "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have
compassion on whom I will have compassion" Not one of us earn the grace of
God; all must accept it as his free gift. He has chosen to have mercy and
compassion upon those who will come to him and ask.
it portrayed in pictures here. As Moses went to the rock, so we go to the
Rock of Salvation. We come for shelter; God hides us in a cleft. But how
many of us, sheltered in the Rock of Ages, know that the glory of God is
passing by? For as Moses was hidden by God's hand, so we too are hidden by
the blood of Christ—and thus our Father sees Christ. We, in turn, see
Christ, who is both God and Man.
cleft in the Rock of Ages is not a wormhole. It is set before us so that we
might come near to the glory of God. Someday—Lord, please, soon—we shall be
transformed, and see his glory face to face.
Father, your glory is beyond mortal comprehension—now. But the day is
coming; even so, Lord, come.
is a difference between value and price.
of example: I make balloon animals. If you've ever been to a street fair
you've seen such things. Mine are the simplest type (a legion of wiener
dogs), but I have observed something about them. Their price is trivial;
we buy the balloons by the bag. The price of one of these is very little.
the child who obtains one, it is a very valued item. Many times I have
given one away to a child waiting for the same airline flight. I often have
the pleasure of seeing the child holding tightly to it coming off the
plane. The value he places on it is much greater than the price of the
are two ways to measure value. One is by what you hang on to; the other,
what you let go of. We see that here with Paul and the Law of Moses. He in
no way demeans it; indeed, he spent a great deal of time and effort
attempting to hold on to that Law. Therefore we can see that he placed
extremely great value on the Law. It is not unreasonable to think that he
considered it his most valuable possession.
shows us the value he placed on Jesus Christ. He gave up the one thing
which he valued above all else so that he might become one named by Christ.
To him, the Law of Moses was a string of pearls—which he gave up for the
pearl of great price.
tells us three important things about this righteousness in Christ:
comes from God—not from our own efforts. It is grace.
comes by faith, the actions of trusting in God.
comes with suffering, for if we will share His suffering, we shall share His
great was the price? The life blood of Jesus Christ. How much did Paul
give up to get it? The most important thing is his life, the Law of Moses.
How much did Paul pay for it? Nothing; it is the free gift of God.
brings the point home to us. The price is still so great that we can never
pay it. But do we claim it as the pearl of great price? Its value is
beyond our measure; its price beyond our thought. What have we given up to
obtain this pearl?
Lord, we so much want to play it safe, having only one foot in the kingdom.
Teach us to open wide the door and let you in.
Benediction. A compound word, beginning with "bene" - as in our word
"benefit." It ends with "diction" - as in "dictionary." To speak a word of
blessing; by custom at the end of a worship service or other Christian
benediction is often ignored in the study of the Scriptures. One reason is
that it comes at the end of the letter—after a fairly long list of personal
greetings. Those who read it through often feel like the substance is
complete once these greetings arrive. But not so; Paul will have his last
last word is characteristic of a teacher of the Gospel. He has two
concerns: his students, and his God. In a very real sense, he is simply
introducing his students to God.
Thus it is fitting that his benediction should bless both man and God.
shall begin with the students. God is able to establish you, Paul says.
by "my" Gospel. It is not his in the sense of invention; it is his because
he lived it. A faith which you inherit and do not make your own is no faith
proclamation of Christ.
Indeed, the process is one of revelation. Paul makes that clear enough; it
was a mystery, it is now revealed. This is rather encouraging to those of
us who don't understand John's Revelation; it seems we have good company
until the time that all is revealed. But enough is made known through the
prophecies—written hundreds of years before Christ—so that those who
believed God's word would know when the Christ had arrived.
result, some day, is that all nations will hear the word—and obey. Some say
this will be before his return, others say after. I do not know; but I
know enough to understand that God has pronounced that it will happen.
Happen it will, in his good time.
blessed his students, Paul also blesses God. The blessing of his students
is wrapped inside the blessing of God. His blessing proclaims one thing:
glory to God. Of this glory, we see this:
through Jesus Christ.
wait. God is unchanging, eternal; his word will be fulfilled. The real
question is, who will be with him to the end?
Lord, we are so richly blessed by you; we stand unashamed by your
atonement. Grant that we will be faithful until you come.
Parents (and perhaps grandparents) of infant children are familiar with the
necessity of having a wide variety of baby food in the familiar small jar.
The typical jar holds approximately three times the amount of food that a
baby will eat at one sitting. This is the correct amount for adequate
nutrition, as two thirds of the jar will eventually find its way to the
floor, mother's blouse, the high chair, the bib and a number of less logical
places—the baby's nose, ears and especially hair. This process is evidently
behavior on the part of the child, though one does wonder how strained peas
get inside their shoes.
this early stage of life we provide the infant with what is required for
life. Christ does the same with us. He provides himself as the only meal
fit for all Christians.
nature of Communion.
This passage is taken by even the most literal of Christians to be
symbolic. This does not lessen its truth; it expands it. In the simple
emblems of Sunday morning we find the truth: Unless you eat the body and
blood of the Lord, you cannot have eternal life. For his body and blood are
the grace we are given.
necessity of Communion.
There is no sense in the Scripture that Communion is optional. On the
contrary, along with baptism, it is commanded. The ritual of Communion is
necessary—it established our communion with Christ and our communion with
each other. We are one—in Christ Jesus.
reality of Communion.
The author of the universe, the one through whom all things were made, the
one who intrinsically defines existence, tells you: "this is my body." If
he who defines reality by his thought says this, how can we say, "well, not
resurrection life of Communion.
It is not just for this world that we do this. Taking Communion means that
you proclaim yourself to be one of those who are with Christ—whatever the
world might think of it. Is this wise? Consider well—he tells you that
suffering is the normal lot of the Christian. But if you are God's child,
you should not be afraid to proclaim it. As you proclaim it, you make
yourself one with Christ—to be raised by him at the last day.
glass jars to solid food takes time. Here is the solid food of the faith:
take, and eat.
Lord, how awesome is your sacrifice on the Cross! May we never forget the
cost of that simple, Communion meal.
the difficulties the modern reader of the Scripture encounters is a lack of
agricultural experience. The writers of the New Testament, like Jesus
himself, used examples drawn from agriculture, in a time and place where
everyone understood it.
when we read a passage like this, it may seem puzzling. We think of rain as
a nuisance, the cause of traffic accidents. To the ancients, a drought was
a terrible thing. So they would read this passage and be reminded of the
fear of the Lord. He, and he alone, permitted the rain they wanted.
than that: they understood the saying here. No rain, no result—at least,
none that you could eat. Rain, to them, was a blessing—and a common
metaphor for the teaching of Christ. So the question would be: do you
"drink it in?" Or do you produce just so much more runoff? Hard clay soil
would not allow the rain to soak in; a hardened heart will not allow the
word of the Lord to sink in, either.
modern Christian would look at this example with some dismay. It seems to
imply that God provided some people with a receptive disposition, and others
were doomed to be water repellants. Worse, how would you know who is which?
answer to that has not changed, and we still know it: by their fruits. If
the land you planted for wheat gets too little rain, then the thorns will
grow there. (Remember, Palestine is in a desert; rain is very important.
The native vegetation includes some nasty looking thorn bushes.) Good crops
take more water; they will die without it, and be replaced by the thorns.
short, by their fruits you will know them. But this passage is not the
pronouncement of doom; it is a warning passage.
the phrase "in danger of being cursed." There is yet time to turn around.
you don't, "in the end it will be burned."
no longer considered polite to speak of hell. But it's hard to miss the
implication here. It is no favor to you if I say, "don't worry, everything
will be all right" when the truth is that you are headed directly for hell.
How can you know? Look at your life. Do you see the kinds of things God
would praise? A "well done" for your life's effort? Or is he still looking
Lord, do not let us be complacent. Rouse us from the torpor of the times so
that we might be fruitful for you and your kingdom.
is a curious myth which bites into the church and into the Christian. The
myth is this: as time goes by, everything should change. Yesterday's ideas
are of historical interest only; what we need is the new and modern.
an example? Take the doctrine of Christian marriage. In our time, everyone
knows that the wife owes her husband neither submission nor obedience;
merely "respect." It is no wonder at all that our divorce rate exceeds that
of the secular world; nor is it any wonder that our rate of juvenile crime
continues to increase. We have thrown away the core of society. Even those
who preach "family values" do not dare to teach submission.
did this change? Because the world changed, and those who would lead the
church astray are ever with us. But how did we fall for this? We did not
remain in the Spirit; we were lead astray.
translators here use two words, "remain" and "continue" to express what
literally might be translated, "stay put." The concept they are trying to
convey is that the unchanging God, having planted his Spirit within us,
expects us to remain in Him.
is a wonderful effect in this. If we remain in the Spirit, we listen to
what God says. We may wander off after this great speaker or that brilliant
lecturer, but as long as we continue in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will
gently turn us back to the right path. It is the function of the Spirit to
convict the world of sin and of judgment to come. That includes us.
think not, consider this: there are many church denominations which were
very powerful and influential in our land, say, about a hundred years ago.
They are now dying husks, seeking vainly to find some doctrine which will
tickle the ears of people at large, hoping to restore their fortunes. It
will not work. The Spirit has left them—at their request.
They are dead; they have merely the formality of dying left.
you continue in the Spirit—you are indeed a member of the family of God.
You are "born of him." How do we know? By the acts of righteousness, both
interior and exterior, that come naturally to all those who live in Him.
Christian, examine yourself. Do you continue in righteousness, or are you
looking for this week's new truth? The truth hasn't moved; God is
eternal—and his children know it.
Lord, keep us from being those who wander off, not thinking of you. Help us
set our hearts and minds on you.
is, I am told, a serious academic study of motion pictures. As my sole
contribution to this undoubtedly needed discipline, I desire to point out
something so obvious that it may have escaped the attention of the
filmographers (or whoever).
1940's brought us a fine set of swashbuckling movies, full of swordplay.
The careful student will note that the villain in many of these—and in all
the best—was played by Basil Rathbone. There is a reason for this.
Rathbone was an excellent swordsman—and most of his leading men barely knew
which end of the sword to grab. The penultimate example of this is found in
the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood. A fair amount of film footage
is devoted to the climactic battle between Flynn and Rathbone. For the most
part, Rathbone is shown in combat; when Flynn is portrayed as dueling, you
see the elongated shadows of both.
It was Rathbone who made Flynn look so good.
Shadows. From those carefully constructed shadows we conclude so much about
that battle. It is the human mind's ability to fill in the unseen action
told by the shadows that makes us believe.
uses the shadows too. In his portrayal of the coming of the Christ, found
in the Old Testament, he uses three simple techniques that resonate in the
mind of man.
uses direct prophecy. Sometimes that prophecy is rather obvious (for
example, concerning the Holy One of Israel). Sometimes it is obscure, only
illuminated by its fulfillment. As in this passage, it can be quite
uses the shadow of things to come. The animal sacrifices of the Old
Testament—sometimes with thousands of animals being sacrificed—were but the
shadows on the castle wall of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
uses the practice of holiness. The holiness then is but the shadow of the
holiness now—for then we had nothing but animals sacrifices; now we have
the Atonement of the Living Christ. Holiness has power available to any and
Sometimes we forget that God intended the Atonement from the beginning of
time. It is the ultimate expression of God's love. Its shadows go before
it, in the mercy of the God of the Old Testament. Now, we walk in its
Lord, forgive us if we do not see the height and width, depth and breadth of
your love. We are finite; you alone are God.
and Old Commandment
Explaining how the new can be old at the same time poses a bit of a
problem. John the Apostle faces that problem in this passage. He tells his
hearers then in a way that they would understand; we shall attempt to make
the same expression here.
Consider, as examples, these two developments in time:
(this is written in 2003 AD) we have seen the return to fashion of Capri
pants. The distinguishing characteristic of these is that they extend down
only to mid-calf length. The autocrats of fashion have now decreed this to
be the ultimate in style. Those of us of sufficient antiquity to remember
them from our youth need to learn to keep quiet, lest the finances of
fashion take a nose dive. There is only so much you can do with fashion.
early days of the American republic, a style of architecture named "Greek
Revival" was in vogue. The result was a series of buildings which look as
they should: a serious, monumental scale building for serious, monumental
scale nation building. To this day they hold their grandeur– no matter what
the length of pants might be decreed.
you see the difference. One is a passing fad; the other a style which
wears its age quite well. That timeless style conveys a sense of majesty
which good government should have.
As C. S. Lewis put it, "All that is not eternal is eternally out of date."
So we see that something old can also be something new. Why does our Lord
put it this way?
command is old, because it comes from God, the unchanging one. His mercy
endures forever. It is old because we learn it from our ancestors; the old
they pass down is strong, very strong.
command is new, because God must repeat it to all generations. It comes
from God, whose mercies are new every morning. It is new because we must
grasp it for ourselves, lest it become simply tradition, and therefore
you see it? Love for one another is the closest thing we have to eternity
in our daily lives. It is close to eternal, because God is love, and God is
eternal. It is made new as we love one another.
Lord, may we never forget your command to love, which bridges the now to the
select few Christians, it seems, God has revealed an aspect of his character
little discussed in the Scripture: timing. Some of us see his exquisite
timing in our daily lives, but all of us should recognize it in history.
The phrase in the original language used here implies a fixed, set time—and
such it was:
fixed and set long before by the prophets, such as in Daniel.
happened during an era in which the Roman Empire was flourishing—with its
good roads and common language.
time selected was known beforehand so that the Gospel would spread rapidly.
is it that God did with such marvelous timing? He sent Christ to die for
the ungodly. There is a sense of divine timing in this as well. Has
someone ever told you that they're just not good enough to become a
Christian? Remind them of God's timing. When they are a sinner, Christ has
already provided the atonement for their sins. Indeed, it is not
unreasonable to think that many of those who jeered at Christ on the Cross
became believers a few months later. Today is always the day, Now is always
the hour for a sinner to come home. God's timing is flawless. When Christ
came, the Jew could try to keep the Law perfectly; the Gentiles were
without hope. By his atonement he changed the "times" - to times in which
all have hope in his Resurrection.
not as if God changed his mind. Indeed, we know that God is love; always
has been, always will be. So the Scripture here does not say that God
decided to love us. That is part of God's character. No, it says he
demonstrates his love for us. His love endures forever; he put it on
display at Calvary—at just the right time for us, the sinners.
is this demonstration of God's love? The Crucifixion. It is the death on
the Cross, despised by the ones He loves, that is the supreme example of
love. It is perfectly timed in history; it is perfectly timed in our lives
reason for God's timing was so that the Gospel would spread quickly. We
should watch for his timing in the lives of those we love, so that his love
might be shown at the perfect time in their lives as well. Perfect timing
belongs to Christians as well.
Lord, help us to see your timing. Give us patience to wait upon you, and
courage to act when your time is right.
Affliction and Comfort
Scholars tell us that St. Peter had some difficulty with the Greek
language. That language was spoken by much of the Roman Empire of the time,
and seems to have been the commercial language, much like English is in our
world today. Peter would likely have had a good familiarity to it, but not
the smoothness of one who lived in a Greek speaking community, as St. John
did after the fall of Jerusalem.
has the difficulty here of describing the formation of the church. We might
appreciate his difficulties more if we cast our minds back to the founding
of our country, and its early history. People from many lands came to our
geography. If you ask the world what language the Americans speak, they
would say, "English." But for many that is the new language; the old
language is still with them. It is no matter; Americans do not come from a
particular race or place. As I learned when I was a young boy, "America is
not a geography. America is an ideal."
how Peter struggles with the same problem:
says we are a "nation." The word is the one from which we get "ethnic".
Once we weren't an ethnic group, now we are? He means something else.
says we are a "people." Our word "genetic" is based upon this Greek word.
We are biologically related—even if we're not. He means something else.
says we are a people belonging to God—the word is the root word of "laity,"
meaning those who are not ordained to the ministry. But he also calls us a
royal priesthood. So which is it?
the church. Our union is stronger than any ethnic group, for we have one
Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Our love is stronger than that of an extended
family, for we are the family of God. While few of us are ordained, all of
us are royal priests, our royalty coming from our brother the King of Kings,
a priesthood after his own.
we weren't—anything. Now we are the church. Let the world see that God's
children glorify him in their daily lives. Let them see the good works,
wonder—and praise the God we love.
Lord, how often we think of ourselves as being so small, so weak. We are
the church; move us to act like it.
Examine the Evidence
Americans no longer recognize the name, Lew Wallace. He was a general in
the Union Army during the civil war. A lawyer by trade, he was given to
every vice. He thought Christians to be fools and was not at all hesitant
to say so.
died for men like that. His mission, to seek and save the lost, he carried
out to the point of death on the Cross. He offers salvation—but we must
it. Some find this too much a burden upon their faculty of belief.
sense, they're right. If you want salvation, you must come to Jesus. He is
the way, and there is no other.
another sense, they're wrong. Jesus of Nazareth here tells them, in
essence, if you don't believe what I say, look at what I do.
Christianity is the only major religion which invites you to look into its
foundations,. It is build upon Christ himself. It is his claim that he is
God in the flesh—the same God who created the universe. Is this so hard?
his enemies admitted that he had power over the demons of his time. With no
more than a command, the demons were driven out. Have you ever seen that?
Psychiatry will give you drugs; he gave relief. Who could do that but the
one who created the mind?
healed the sick—again, with just a word. One of the most amazing things is
this: he healed those with birth defects—like being born blind. It seems
that all the laws of medicine are suspended for this man.
raised the dead. Not the paramedic paddle method; Lazarus was four days
dead. The man has power over life and death.
up. The rules are different for this man. If you will not believe what he
says, then examine what he does. He is quite unscrupulous about this; if
you won't believe his words, he bids you look at his work.
Wallace set out to prove that Christianity was a hoax. He examined the
evidence—not just his own opinions. He expected this to be easy, and it
was: Lew Wallace wrote Ben-Hur.
Lord, we pray for those who will not listen to your words. Let them see
your mighty works in us.
times in the book of Acts we are told the story of the conversion of Saul of
Tarsus, known to us as the Apostle Paul. You cannot read this without being
struck with the fact that the transition must have been a tremendous strain
on Paul. How does a man with orders in hand and zeal in heart change from a
persecutor of the church to a martyr? And, once he does, how could he
possibly justify such a move?
defense is simple: Jesus of Nazareth is not the end of the Law, nor is he a
defiler of the Law—he is the fruition of the Law. He is the one who
fulfills the Law:
fulfills it in the prophetic sense. Hundreds of verses in the Old Testament
point to Jesus of Nazareth. Some by time, many by actions and signs, the
prophecies are there to testify to Jesus being the Christ, the Messiah, the
Holy One of Israel.
fulfills it also in the legal sense. The Law sets forth an elaborate set of
regulations on sacrifices for sin. These are but shadows on the wall,
picturing the light to come. Jesus died at the moment the Jews were
slaughtering their Passover lambs. He became our Passover lamb, so that the
angel of death will see us marked with the blood of Christ, and pass over us
at the judgment on the Last Day.
such, says Paul, he was not disobedient. He understands from the Law the
necessity of obedience; now he finds the master of that obedience.
received a personal vision of the Lord Jesus. His zeal in persecution
became his zeal in service. Have you ever wanted such a vision? Think of
what you are asking; the greater the vision, the greater the burden. Look
goes from proud leader to the bondslave of Christ.
a witness to Christ—a witness in chains. At a time when most of us would
want out, he seeks
only an audience with whom to share the Gospel.
persecuted, so he would be persecuted—by his own people.
Physical hardship was his companion, always.
greater the vision, the greater the burden.
Lord, we often want a mountain top vision of you. Grant this vision—and the
strength to climb the mountainous burden with it.
the surest indicators of the value of Christianity comes from the number of
those who use it to fill their own wallet. I am not speaking of those who
bear the burden of the ministry of the local church; the laborer is worthy
of his hire. There are those whose entire approach is to extract from their
hearers both praise and money. Paul gives us the antidote here.
anyone who preaches or teaches Christ must know this: it is the gift of
God, by the Spirit through grace. Therefore, we cannot boast about
ourselves. But there is more than that; the honest teacher or preacher
must go further:
must renounce any thought of "the ends justify the means." There should be
no thought of letting them find the real truth later.
must conduct himself in such manner that it is clear that he is telling the
truth—both to believer and non--believer.
must also understand the intent and method of our enemy, Satan. Satan
cannot create anything; he can only twist and distort what God has
created. How does he do this?
veil. The elementary tactic of Satan is simple: don't let them hear and
understand the truth. Twist something else to fit in its place, but keep
them from the truth. Keep them from seeing the glory of God. How does he
putting their attention on their own glory. If you cannot see the light of
the world, then you must seek light where it may be found. For most of us,
it is easy enough for him to use our own pride to veil us from the Light of
has eternal consequences. If you will not see the light, God will give you
over to your own sins. This is done in his mercy, so that you might suffer
from your own pride to the point where you will seek his help. Then, and
only then, can you see.
then, is the Christian (teacher, preacher or not) supposed to do? Simply
this: teach, preach, magnify and praise the glory of God, which is shown in
the face of Christ. We don't preach or teach ourselves; rather, by our
actions we show ourselves to be the servants of the Living God.
Light of the World has come; the darkness can't overcome it; that Light is
the Glory of God, shown to be in the face of Christ.
Lord, grant that we may show your glory to the world on every occasion—and
grant us occasions too.
must begin with a disclaimer. The various theories concerning the
interpretation of Revelation put various meanings to this passage. It is
not our intent to bring controversy, but harmony. To that end we shall look
at this passage without holding to any one theory, knowing that this is the Word of God.
means nothing else, it means this: The forces of righteousness must and
will fight the evil one, Satan—and all of his helpers, whether angels or
flesh. There is no choice; there is no fence to sit upon. Either you are
with Christ or against him. Michael will fight—with the weapons of God.
Jude tells us that Michael's calm courtesy and reverence extend even to
Satan. The weapons of God have no counter in Satan's arsenal. For how does
hatred overcome love? God's ways are stronger.
there be no mistake: Satan will fight. Indeed, if we apply this passage as
being fit for our own times, he will fight all the more vigorously because
he knows his time is short. How do we recognize the forces of the prince of
evil? By the weapons they use:
are the weapons of the flesh—lust and gluttony.
are the weapons of the world—envy and greed.
all, there is the weapon of arrogant pride.
give rise to the fruits of Satan. Is it surprising that we have so many
broken homes, since we live in a culture that glorifies lust, calling it
love? Is it surprising that our world splits into factions, the haves and
the have-nots, when envy and greed are considered virtues? How can we be
astonished at the road rage of our age, when we glorify pride as the chief
duty in this is clear. Being a Christian is not a picnic; it is deadly,
eternally serious. We should expect opposition, well prepared and plenty of
it. For that, we must prepare ourselves with prayer, meditation, study of
the Scriptures and an ample supply of repentance, forgiveness and love. If
we pick up the weapons of God, we find that Satan has no way to oppose
heart, Christian. The battle is the Lord's. Our Lord told us that he saw
Satan falling like lightning; he also said he would be with us to the end.
Stay in the fight, that you may hear your Lord and Master say, "Well done."
Lord, with those of old let us say, "Lead on, O King Eternal—we follow not
The Use of
ago an author named Richard Bach wrote a book entitled Jonathan Livingston
Seagull. It is a dreamy, heroic exposition of the author's humanist
beliefs: any system with moral rules is obviously the product of legalistic
narrow minds. Truth is found only in yourself, by being a free spirit.
I would not have read such tripe. (And I haven't read it since). But the small
group we were in (at a very conservative church) was lead by a chaplain's
assistant who was quite fond of the book, and thought it just the thing for a
Bible study. As the study moved on it became more and more apparent that any
connection between what this book espoused and what is taught in the Scriptures
was purely coincidental. In retrospect, however, two things remain in my mind:
this man whose daily function was to assist a Protestant chaplain in the Army
could have thought this book anything but opposed to the faith.
how the rest of the believers in the room—many of whom were quite older than
this young soldier—utterly failed to see the problem.
confronted him with it; he thought my attitude was amusing. He could not see
anything of importance in it.
Christians! Not knowing what they believe, they will be deceived. Paul
expresses that here. He's in the midst of explaining the priesthood of
Christ—which signally involves the royal priesthood of all believers. This is
believers are meant to carry "heavy stuff." It is intended that we know the
faith and know it well enough to teach it—for most of us will be teaching it to
our children. Would you raise your children to be ignorant, say, of
mathematics? Why then would you leave them in ignorance of the one truth that
It is not
a popular position. "Get along and go along" is the rule for most Christians
today; it's someone else's problem to know the correct doctrine. Doctrine
doesn't count in life.
doesn't? Let's take that "royal priesthood." Do you have the right to convey
God's forgiveness to those in need? Do you have the obligation? Is forgiveness
something that "doesn't count?" It's not popular, doctrine. Just required.
grant that we may have the desire to be adults in the faith, not perpetual