Daniel: God’s Mercy Has A Limit!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Do Not Test God!

So, how long will God extend mercy, toward the habitual sinner, before He finally breaks out in judgment against him! No one, but God, actually knows! But, Scripture is clear that it’s incredibly dangerous—and stupid—to test God! He does have a limit; and, the Babylonian King Belshazzar discovered it according to the prophet Daniel’s account in chapter 5 of the book named after him! As the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar should have known better! By his grandfather’s own testimony, he knew that God had judged him to live like an insane animal for 7 years until he acknowledged that God was Sovereign over all the affairs of man; and, that all of life’s “stuff” is a GIFT from Him. But, Belshazzar continually turned his back on God until God, in judgment, turned His back on Belshazzar. And, that would be the tragic ending to Belshazzar’s life.

-He Died A Fool!

His was a wasted life! He became a “byword”; or, a moral proverb! He should have known better! But, the words of judgment, “…you…have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this…” haunted him at the end (v.22).  He died a fool! What about you? You need to know that pride invites God’s judgment! You need to know that human wisdom is inadequate! You need to know that God’s patience can run thin! It can be exhausted! You need to know that God’s Word is certain; and, that there’s no escaping God’s judgment!

-You Need An Advocate!

God’s Word says, for certain, that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one of us may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  You don’t want to stand, before Him, alone because the deeds you’ve done will never earn you salvation! You need an advocate! You need Jesus to stand beside you! You want His atoning work, on the cross, for your sin to be applied to your account! Only by accepting His Son, Jesus, will God “…vanquish our iniquities; and…cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) He’ll “…remember them no more…” (Isaiah 43:25); and, “…remove them as far as the east is from the west…” (Psalm 103:12)

-You Are No Longer Ignorant!

I urge you to turn to Jesus! Don’t come to the end of life; and, say, like King Belshazzar, “I should have known better.” It matters not what you’ve done with your life up until now! If you humble yourself before God, He will extend to you His love, mercy and grace! Dedicate the rest of your life to serving God by the power of His Holy Spirit! You’re flesh isn’t enough! You’re physical strength isn’t enough! You need Jesus! You can’t “UNDO” what you’ve “DONE”; but, you can change the course of your life moving forward! We serve the God who makes beauty from ashes! He loves to set the sinner FREE! He redeems and makes all things new; including, your life if you’ll just give it back to Him!

 

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God’s Law Of Sowing & Reaping

-My Parents Had Eyes In Back Of Their Head!

I grew up convinced that my parents had eyes in the back of their head! You too? Or, they had a spy reporting back to them every time I disobeyed; because, I never got away with anything! The Apostle Paul sets the record straight:  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” Galatians 6:7-8.  So, it wasn’t my parents! It’s an all-knowing, omnipresent God who knows everything about me.

-Why Do We Think We Can Fool God?

And Paul says that God will NOT be mocked!  That word “mocked” literally means “to turn up one’s nose.” We can’t turn up our noses at God and live a life contrary to His Word without facing the consequences. We won’t get away with it! There’s always a time lapse between the time of sowing & the time of reaping—in the spring, the farmer is out sowing seed in the fields; but, harvest can be 6 months away! Don’t be deceived! You may have sown a seed. You may have acted sinfully. You may think you got away with it; but, the harvest is still coming in!

-Sow An Act, Reap A Consequence!

Or, perhaps you’re a follower of Jesus who is troubled by the godless individuals around you who seem to get away with their sin—remember the time lapse between planting & harvest! In time, God will right all wrongs:  “…vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord” Romans 12:19.  The “Law of Sowing & Reaping” assures a harvest of corruption for the one who sows everything to the flesh—the one who’s consumed with this present life; and, has little to no regard for the eternal! They’re placing time deposits in all the stuff that will one day pass away. They have no treasure being stored up in heaven because everything they’ve sowed will only produce a harvest here in this life—corruption, Paul says!

-Reaping A Harvest Of Eternal Life!

The “Law of Sowing & Reaping”, however, produces a harvest of everlasting life for the one who sows to the Spirit. We sow to the Spirit as we plant a new affection for God. It’s an intentional pursuit of Him! It’s overriding the desires of our flesh with the desires of a new heart He gives us at salvation! It’s fleeing those lusts, of the flesh, as the Holy Spirit directs & empowers us!

-Sowing To The Spirit

We sow to the Spirit when we say “YES”, on purpose, to everything that will strengthen Holy Spirit inspired desires in us! We repent of sin quickly as the Spirit points it out to us! Sowing to the Spirit means turning our back on the lies about God—changing our mind by intentionally filling them with the truth about God! Sowing to the Spirit means we submit to those things that God uses to strengthen His Work, of Grace, in our hearts! God uses the Scriptures to prepare the soil, of our hearts, to sow to the Spirit! God uses prayer to prepare our hearts for sowing seed to His Spirit! He also uses worship to convince us God is better than anything our flesh offers & He uses the local church to keep us accountable to spiritual decisions we’ve made. When all is said and done, God gets the glory for the changes, in our life, because it was by His Spirit that it happened!

 

 

God Is Great! God Is Good!

-God Is Also Very Personal!

I still remember our prayer, before meals, growing up—“God is great! God is good! Let us thank Him for our food! Amen!” Nothing wrong with those words! They acknowledge God! But, they’re repetitious words that just aren’t very “personal.” And, God is personal! The Psalmist wrote these words:  “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:  that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done” Psalm 62:11-12.

-God Reveals Himself Through Scripture!

God uses the Scriptures to reveal Himself to us; and, Jesus—God’s “Word” incarnate—revealed, to us, what God looked like in the flesh. He loves us! He’s actively involved in our justification, our sanctification; and, ultimately, our glorification! We are “His workmanship”—He continues to image us into the likeness of His Son. So, what is the biggest hindrance to His work in us? We are! We get in the way of our own spiritual growth.

-Get Out Of The Way & Let God!

But, God is great; and, God is good! He is strong enough to change us when we quit being controlling! The Psalmist said He is “strong”—in fact, He is “omnipotent”; or, ALL POWERFUL! You can’t manipulate Him! So, why do you try? Why would you want to? He is a benevolent God! All of His intentions, toward us, are kind & good! He is also strong enough to change us when we quit fearing man! One major reason, for our sinful behavior, is our craving for man’s approval! We fear the rejection of some person; but, “The fear of man lays a snare. Whoever trusts in the LORD, however, is safe” Prov 29:25.  When you live for the approval & acceptance of others you succumb to a form of “idolatry.” You’ve placed created beings on the throne of your life instead of your Creator! God is great; and, God is good! And, He loves us enough to change us when we quit looking for love in all the wrong places! It’s the goodness of God, Scripture says, that leads us to repentance. He calls us to find, in Him, the only thing that truly satisfies! Whatever the stuff of this world offers you, God offers you more! He isn’t just better than that stuff; He’s the BEST!

-Quit Trying To Prove Yourself!

That’s the heart of the Gospel message—because God is love, He will change us when we quit trying to prove we can do it ourselves! Salvation is not about what we do for God; rather, it’s about what God has already done for us! Like the Father, in the story of the Prodigal Son, God always welcomes us! He will rescue us from ourselves when we confess we’ve messed it all up! If you’ve had the tendency, like I have, to think God’s going to rub your nose in your sin for a little while before He forgives you, you’re mistaken! That’s not God! The Psalmist said: “…you, O LORD, are LOVING…” He comes running when we confess to Him! He embraces us & changes us when we stop trying to prove, to Him, our worthiness!

 

God’s Plan For World Evangelism

-We’re Insulated From The Real World!

There’s something about living in America that insulates us from the real world. When we see pictures of some of the horrors that choke the rest of the world, they seem so far away that they’re almost surreal! Well, Church, we need to awaken from our slumber; and, we need to see the world through the lens of Scripture. We need to face some realities—at best, 1/3rd of the world knows Christ if you count everyone who claims to be a Christian! Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt, that still means that 4.5 billion people are, by their own admission, non-followers of Christ. They remain eternally separated from the God of creation at this moment!

-We’ve Failed The Rest Of The World!

What is God’s will for these? “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.  It’s not God’s will that any of these would perish? So, why are many of them dying without ever hearing the Gospel? It’s because we—Christ’s Church—have failed them! And, we are without excuse! It is God who empowers us to be His witnesses to the whole world! We can’t ratchet up enough strength to follow through on the Great Commission. Jesus told His disciples, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you…” Acts 1:8. His Spirit has come; and, He indwells each of us! God commands us to embrace the lostness of the whole world—”…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

-Jesus Didn’t Just Die For “US”; Or, The “U.S.”!

We need to face a humbling truth that Jesus didn’t just die for US! We may not say it; but, we live like we think God is an American! But, John 3:16 doesn’t say that “God loves ME so much He sent Jesus to die for ME.” The message of Biblical Christianity is that God loves me so that I might make HIM known among ALL the NATIONS! It’s about the LOSTNESS of the whole world before God; and, reconciliation by the work of Christ! The total depravity of the world requires our faithful witness to the Gospel’s work on behalf of sinners!

-The Gospel Is Intended For All Ethnic Groups!

He says, “…YOU will be MY witnesses…” We are witnesses of the Gospel work He has done in us! In Christ’s commission— “Go and make disciples of all NATIONS…”—that word, “nations”, is “ethnos” in the original Greek. It’s the word we get “ethnic” from in English. So, it’s “ethnic” groups or “people groups.” And, in Matthew 24:14, Jesus says, “…this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the NATIONS, and then the end will come.” Same word! So, it seems that God intends for all people groups to hear the Gospel before the end comes! Let’s be faithful to our calling

 

You Can’t Do Anything Without Jesus!

-Strength And Courage Won’t Do!

The beauty of Christ’s Commission, to us, is in it’s simplicity—“Go…make disciples of all the nations.” It’s hard to imagine how that could be misunderstood. As a teenage convert, to Jesus, the hard part was not the understanding; but, the doing! I understood the command perfectly well; but, carrying it out terrified me! I’d nearly go into a cold sweat every time I thought about sharing my faith with my high school friends. How could I ratchet up the strength and courage to do it? How would I know the right things to say?

-Arm Wrestling Doesn’t Work!

It wasn’t until many years later when someone finally shared with me, from Scripture, that I didn’t have to depend on my ingenuity to convince people they needed Jesus! I couldn’t arm-wrestle anyone into the Kingdom if I tried! In John 15, Jesus tells us that plan will never work! No one has ever come to Christ because of a big beautiful church building; or, a “professional” Worship Band; or, a multi-media experience!

-Regeneration Is God’s Work!

The work, of regeneration, is God’s work ALONE! It’s impossible for us to do the work of God in our own strength—“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” John 15:5.  This is at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry; and, He’s preparing His disciples for His departure. “I will build My Church,” He told them, “And, I’m going to use YOU.” But, they had to get one thing straight—“You can’t do it without ME! I am the Vine, you’re just the branches,” He taught them.  All the LIFE & all the POWER & all the RESOURCES to fulfill His Great Commission came from Him!

-Being A Fruitful Branch

And, the key to being a branch that produces fruit,  Jesus said, was to be connected to Him, the Vine! If we’re not abiding in Him we’ll shrivel up and die, Jesus says in v.6. We can’t make disciples in our own strength—by reading books about making disciples; or, witnessing to 5 people a week; or, memorizing Scripture; or, making ourselves accountable to someone else. That’s NOT where we find the POWER to do Jesus’ work! He alone is the source! This is one of the most devastating mistakes any Church ministry can make—doing God’s work “in the flesh.” Man’s effort won’t get it done!

-God Is Glorified When We Ask Him To Do It!

The work of God gets done; and, He is glorified, when we ASK Him to do it! Back to John 15, vs. 7-8 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified,” Jesus says, “that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Jesus does the work, of God, for us & through us! Making disciples is HIS WORK! Every spiritual work is a supernatural work & only Jesus can do the super-natural! We’re just a branch; but, when we’re tapped into Jesus Christ, the Vine, He does great things through us! God is glorified!

 

 

Do You Believe It Can Happen Again?

-The Church Of Acts Made Disciples

The book of Acts is an exciting book to read if you’re a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the early Church was bold & intentional to obey Jesus’ Great Commission to “make disciples”; and, the results were inspiring— “…that day there were added about three thousand souls” (ch. 2:41);  and,  then we read that “…the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (ch. 2:47).  A couple chapters later we read, “Many who heard the message believed…and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (ch. 4:4). The next chapter uses the term “multitudes” to describe those added to the church, “…all the more believers…multitudes of men and women were added to their number” (ch. 5:14).

-The Math Of Disciple-Making

From that point, the text says the number of disciples was “multiplied”; and, “…the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region” (ch. 13:49).That’s the math of disciple making—God first “added” to the church; then, “multitudes” were added; and, finally, the number of disciples “multiplied.” Once the Spirit begins to “multiply” the number of disciples, you have an incredible movement of God!

-Just A Nice Story?

What’s in your heart as you reflect on those events? Is it simply “historical” to you—another great BIBLE STORY that doesn’t hold much meaning for today? Or, do you believe that God still works like that when His people are genuinely broken enough to repent of their disobedience to His Commission; and, begin to intentionally love people & disciple them into the kingdom? Do you believe it can happen again? I spent yesterday morning at a Gospel Coalition meeting in Omaha; and, found it incredibly refreshing talking with a number of “20 somethings” passionately taking the Gospel to the city of Omaha. The number of new believers, coming to Jesus, is happening so quickly that they hardly have enough workers to disciple them! By faith they simply believe what Jesus said: “The fields are white, ready to harvest…pray the Lord of the Harvest, that He will send forth laborers!” God, bless us with laborers who just believe Jesus & act!

-Yes! It Can Happen Again!

Steve Smith, who wrote “A Discipleship Re-Revolution”, said this: “A discipleship revolution ignited a firestorm of loving evangelistic zeal and fervent obedience that took the kingdom into the remotest corners of the known world in a period of years & decades, not centuries…This process of winning new believers and training them to witness to others who believed & witnessed to others cascaded out in ripples that touched the farthest reaches of the empire.” Hey Church—let us repent! Let us come back to “ground zero”! We are called to “make disciples”! That’s the way we change America and the world!

 

 

Worship God Or Save Souls?

-What’s The Church’s Highest Purpose?

What is the highest purpose of the Church? Let me break it down for you— “Soteriology” is “the study of the doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ”; and, “Doxology” is “the study of the doctrine of worship and praise.” The debate is over which is the highest purpose of the Church:  The salvation of souls; or, the worship, praise, and glory of God?

-Answering That Question With Another Question

Let me answer that question with another question—the question that Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees, “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” And, Jesus responded:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:36-39. NOTHING is to be placed above our love, loyalty & worship of God! NOTHING! For those, of you, fearful that I’m kicking evangelism and disciple-making to the curb, your fear is unfounded! Here’s why—we cannot worship God with all our heart, soul, and mind without actively discipling the lost because that is the Commission Jesus has given the Church; and, “If you love me,” He said, “You will keep my commandments.”

-Clarifying The Argument

So, the argument is not whether we disciple the lost or not! We have no option—if we love & worship God we will evangelize and disciple the lost! The debate is over “priorities”—if we give higher preference to winning the lost than we do to love, loyalty, and the worship of God, we’re guilty of IDOLATRY! We’ve become “man-centered” rather than “God-centered.” If God placed the salvation of souls above the worship of God, He would be guilty of IDOLATRY! When the worship of God is revived in the hearts of His people, God sends a “revival”—God sends revival when we worship Him with humble, repentant hearts; and, when we stand in awe of HIS beauty & great worth! John, the baptizer, had it right:  “He (Jesus) must increase & I must decrease.” The word “vive” means “to be alive”; so, “revive” means “to make alive again.”  Like the doctor who “revives” a clinically dead patient, God “revives” the believer who has flat-lined spiritually!

-The Holy Spirit Does The Resuscitating

Has your walk with the Lord become dormant or stagnant? Have you been lazy about your faith? Has it trickled down to your attitude toward the lost? When was the last time you gave testimony of your faith; or, been in a disciple-making relationship with someone? Pray for personal revival—when God “revives” you, you’ll be engaged, once again, in worshipping Him; and, loving the lost that Jesus came to save! God is so good to start over with us! Let Him make your heart sensitive and broken once again! Let Him remove the leanness that has overrun your soul! Let Him make you painfully aware of your sin!