Don’t Dismiss God’s Warnings!

God’s Not Trying To Kill Your Fun!

God’s warnings are never designed to kill your fun! But, rather, to offer you greater blessings & more fun! Pure fun without the shame and guilt that the “pleasures of sin for a season” may offer us! Don’t forget this truth:  “It is because God is love that He punishes us to bring us to brokenness so He can redeem us.” He warns us because He has compassion on us! Because He loves us! And, how does God respond to His people when they confess their sin & return to Him? He restores them, doesn’t He? That’s what He did with Adam & Eve; with, Abraham & the patriarchs; and, with Israel on multiple occasions!  He would bring revival to their souls & their lives were blessed!

-God’s Patience Can Be Exhausted!

But, when individuals & nations continue in their rebellion, there comes a time— and, only God knows that time; so, don’t sin presumptuously, calculating how far you can go in your sin before God has had enough— there comes a time when God’s patience is exhausted; that, in order to accomplish His purpose, in your life, that He punishes! This is place where Israel’s sin had brought them in 2 Chronicles, chapter 36, “But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy” (v.16).  Those are haunting words— there was no remedy! All that was left was God’s wrath! Only punishment!

-God’s Strange Work!

It was the only thing left that God could do to turn Israel around! There’s an incredibly revealing verse of Scripture in Isaiah that’s often overlooked; but, I think the message is powerful! Isaiah— one of the very messengers that 2 Chronicles 36 referred to— says, “For the LORD will rise up as He did at Mount Perazim. He will rise in wrath, as at the Valley of Gibeon, to do His work, His strange work, and to perform His task, His disturbing task” Isaiah 28:21. Inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, Isaiah says that God’s judgment is His strange work! His disturbing task! God, Himself, finds His judgment & punishment of sinners to be disturbing because it’s not His will that any would perish!

-Why Continue In Your Sin?

When you sin against God & His Word & you ignore His warnings, He will punish you because He is Holy & Just! But, know, that it disturbs Him to punish you for the great love & compassion that He has for you! So, why would you continue to turn against Him & go your own way? Why do you spurn His love for you & choose all the cheap substitutes that sin offers you? None of those things will satisfy! None will bring you joy & fulfillment!

-Forgiveness For The Prodigal!

Why endure punishment when God willingly offers all prodigal sons forgiveness! When prodigal Israel repents of her sin & returns to the Lord, to accomplish God’s purposes, He redeems them! Let me tell you what it means that God redeems them! There are at least 3 words, in the original languages of Scripture, that are translated “redeem.” in the Bible! One means “to buy or purchase”; and, it’s used in the context of a slave who is bought to be owned as property! At the time that God redeemed Israel, they were enslaved to Egypt. Here’s the point— we are all enslaved to somebody! We are either enslaved to sin, which is a cruel & destructive task master! Or, we are enslaved to a God who loves us with great compassion & willingly meets every need we have according to His will! But, once you’ve been redeemed by God, He will begin a work in you that’s redemptive! He reforms you to make you willing to obey Him & love Him!

The Redeeming Value Of Punishment!

-Free Speech!

I read recently about an interesting ruling, by a judge in Missouri, regarding the practice of flashing your headlights to warn oncoming traffic that there was a speed trap ahead; something, that’s considered illegal in many states! But, a federal court, in Missouri, has ruled that penalizing drivers for the headlight flash violates their 1st Amendment right to Free Speech! In his ruling, the Missouri Judge said that the flashing of headlights was essentially a good thing, “…sending a message to bring one’s driving in conformity with the law—whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.” I share that with you, for it’s illustrative value, as I considered a Bible text, from 2 Chronicles, that I read last week!

-A Bleak Time In History!

To say that it was a bleak time, in Israel’s history, would be an understatement! Following the time of King David’s reign & the early part of King Solomon’s reign, the nation had endured a civil war that split Israel into 2 separate kingdoms— the Northern half, known as “Israel”; and the Southern half, known as “Judah.” We’ve already discussed, in some recent posts, how the lengthy list of kings moving forward had been mostly one bad king after another! So, by the time we get to the end of 2 Chronicles, the Northern half, of Israel, had already faced the judgment of God, having been taken captive, into exile, by Assyria! And, the Southern kingdom of Judah, despite a temporary revival under good King Josiah, had returned to their idol worship & their evil kings! They, too, find themselves on the verge of being captured & exiled to Babylon.

-Misunderstanding God’s Judgment!

I find, in my conversations with many people, that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the judgment of God! Often, they accuse Him of being harsh & insensitive; which, interestingly, kind of makes them God’s judge, doesn’t it? And, if they haven’t read the Word of God from cover to cover, they’re actually judging God falsely, without all the evidence. I know that in many conversations with people, who’ve read through the Bible for the first time, they have a new perspective on the way that God works with people! When you begin reading in Genesis you see that God gave Adam & Eve every opportunity to do the right thing & He warned them what would happen if they disobeyed! The soul that sins would die! But, even AFTER they disobeyed & brought God’s curse upon the earth, God still showed love, mercy & grace; and, provided covering for their sin!

-He Is A Good God!

Read a little further, in the Scriptures; and, you see that God heard the cries of the Jewish people as they were beaten, enslaved & terribly mistreated by the Egyptians. He sent them Moses to lead them out of Egypt & He gave them a new land… because He is a GOOD GOD! But, again He warned them that He would judge them by uprooting them & sending them into exile in the same way that He dispossessed the wicked nations, of the land, that lived there before them, if they disobeyed Him.  The continuing message, of Scripture, is that God uses everything in life— even the times when He spanks us— to accomplish His ultimate purpose in our lives! And, His ultimate purpose for everyone is redemption! He purposes to redeem the world He created from sin; and, to transform everyone, who repents, into the likeness of Jesus! It’s because God loves us that He punishes our sin to bring us to brokenness; so, that He can redeem us!

God’s Purpose For His Laws!

-The Most Important Command?

Jesus reveals God’s intent, behind the law, when he answered a Pharisee’s question, “What is the most important command?” Jesus answered, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest & most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40.  What Jesus calls “…the Law and the Prophets…” is the whole of the Old Testament. He’s referring to the “Torah”; or, the 1st 5 books of the Law. And, the “Prophets” was a reference to the rest of the Old Testament.

-Summarized By Two Commands!

So, Jesus was saying that everything, in the Law & the Prophets (or, the Old Testament) could be summarized by these 2 commands— Love GOD & love your NEIGHBOR! The 10 general commandments; and, the 613 specific commands, that follow, can all be encapsulated in Jesus’ answer to the question, “What is the most important command?” His answer? Love GOD & love your NEIGHBOR! Just look up Exodus 20 in your Bibles.  The first 4 commandments all focus on a loyal LOVE for God:  “no other gods”, “no idols”, “no using God’s name in vain” and “no work on God’s Sabbath.” The last 6 commandments all focus on the way we ought to LOVE our neighbor; or, our fellow human beings:  “honor mom & dad”, “don’t murder anyone”,  “don’t commit adultery”, “don’t steal”, “don’t lie about your neighbor” and “don’t covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.” So, here’s the big picture—  God is teaching Israel how to live now that He’s redeemed them from Egypt! That’s the context in which the 10 commandments were given!

-Redemption First! Then Commands!

He’s “redeemed” or “bought out” Israel from their slavery; and, He introduces the commands like this:  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” Exodus 20:2.  So, He redeems them; and, now He’s giving them the Law to direct them in the way they needed to live in a broken, sin-cursed world. Never did God intend to use the keeping of the Law as the means to being redeemed! That’s reversing the order! God redeemed them FIRST! He saved them from slavery; now, here’s how redeemed people live! Get it? This is incredibly important as it relates to salvation! God’s law was given TO a redeemed people; not, TO redeem people! God didn’t give Israel the Law to save redeem them! He’d already done that!

-Here’s How God’s People Live!

The principle is the same in the New Testament. James says “good works” FOLLOW our salvation! They don’t save us! So, I think it’s fair to ask what New Testament believers can learn from the Old Testament law? I would start by saying that the law reveals God’s character. It speaks to who He is. For example, He says He is “…a jealous God…” Exodus 20:5. That word “jealous” is used differently, in reference to God, then when we express “human” jealousy. We use it in the sense of being envious of someone because they have something we want. In context, God says He’s jealous when people make idols & worship them instead because He alone is God. It’s like a husband who has a right to be jealous when another man flirts with his wife because he alone has that right.  We’ll pick it up right there on next week’s post!

The Problem With Loving God!

-What Does It Look Like?

Through the years, I have met many people who claim that they love God; and, I’ve asked them what that looks like! What does it look like to love God? How would you answer that question? In Mark’s gospel, chapter 12, Jesus said:  “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” Mark 12:28-30.  In fact, Jesus says that to love God personally is THE most important command! But, there’s a 2nd point to draw from His words— we’re called “…to love God WITH ALL WE HAVE.”

-Love God With All We Have!

Therein lies the problem with loving God! How can we love God with all we have; and, again, what does that kind of love look like? Four times He uses the word “ALL”; which, literally means “the WHOLE.” In other words, Jesus is saying that genuine love, for God, has to be “ALL IN.” We can’t love Him half-heartedly; or, we’re a liar!  Real love, for God, is comprehensive! It’s all inclusive! There’s no area of our life that can be left out! We love Him with “…our whole heart…” So, our heart is devoted to Him. There’s no pretense! No hypocrisy! We can’t say we love Him & live our life like He doesn’t exist! We don’t ignore those we truly love, do we?

-Get Emotional Over God!

And, then, Jesus says that to love God with ALL we have—or, to be “ALL IN”—is to love Him “…with all your soul…” Our soul is the seat of our emotions! He gave us emotions so we could love Him & worship Him. So, love Him & worship Him deeply! Get emotional over Him! Desire Him! You ought to be concerned if you can get all emotional over an animal; or, a Hallmark Christmas movie; or, a football game; but, you have no emotions for God! Is that kind of love and faith even genuine? Jesus also says that to love God, with all you have, is to love Him “…with all your mind…” So, while we love Him with our emotions, it’s not mindless emotion! We think about Him; and, we submit our thinking to Him! We love Him because we’ve considered Him! We’ve meditated on Him; and, we’ve made a conscious decision to love Him because we really know Him! We know His infinite worth!

-Love God With Your Strength!

Finally, Jesus says to “…love God with all your strength.” That is the BEST we have! We’re to love Him out of our STRENGTH; NOT, our leftovers! This word relates to our physical being. We love Him in our ACTIONS!—with our hands & our feet! If our love for God is genuine we’ll serve Him and others with a passionate energy—with our STRENGTH! As I worked through this passage, I was moved—I believe by His Spirit—to ask myself the question, “Why do I love God?’ And, one Scripture echoed, “We love Him because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19. I am only capable of loving God with ALL I have because He loved me first! I’m a sinful, broken man; and, the only way I can grow to love God “ALL IN” is by His Spirit’s power!

The Most Important Commandment!

-What Would You Ask God?

Several times, in my lifetime, I’ve found myself in a conversation with someone who made a statement that they intended to ask God about something when they saw Him someday! How about you? If you could ask God any question, what would it be? Well, in Mark’s Gospel, the writer says, that:  “One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?” Of all the 613 commands found in the Torah (Jewish Old Testament) which was THE most important? Wow! That’s a big question! Which command’s at the top of the list? Don’t wanna miss that one!

-The Answer To The Big Question!

This is the most important,” Jesus answered: “Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” Mark 12:28-30.  This is really a timely post as it seems the church, in general, is confused about “worship.” But, Jesus really clears things up, doesn’t He? He’s really saying that we have to love God with ALL of our being—ALL of our “heart” & our “soul” & our “mind” & our “strength.”

-Everyone Claims To Love God!

So, it’s impossible to love God until we know Him! But, we live in a day when everyone claims to love God! That may be a generalization; but, I’m absolutely stunned by the number of times that totally lost, unregenerate people—who have NO IDEA “Who” God is—still tell me they LOVE Him! I can believe them when they say they “love” pizza, for example, because they’ve tasted it! They’ve handled it! I can believe them when they say they “love” hunting because it’s something they’ve done! They take their dog & a friend! So, they’ve experienced it! But, you cannot possibly love God until you KNOW God! Until you’ve met Him & know Him well enough to explain WHY you love Him! Study Jesus’ words! That’s precisely what He’s saying!

-Love God Personally!

Jesus says we must love God PERSONALLY! Notice, from His response to the Scribes question, how Jesus uses 6 “personal” pronouns; and, every one of them is “possessive”—“The Lord OUR God”; “Love the Lord YOUR God”… ”with all YOUR HEART”… ”with all YOUR SOUL”… “with all YOUR MIND”… “with all YOUR STRENGTH.” THE most important commandment, in all of Scripture, is to have a personal, possessive love for God, Jesus says. And, you cannot love someone you don’t know! My wife & I have been married 35 years! But, I confess to you that there were 20 years during which time I did not love her! Not one bit of love did I have for her; and, the reason was that I didn’t know her! I hadn’t met her yet! Once I did, I grew to love her as I came to know her! That’s no different with God! We have to know Him personally before we can claim to love Him! We come to know His character—and, we know Him through Jesus & the Word!

 

Daniel: Take Time To Love People!

-Looking After The Needs Of Others!

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

When Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to kill all his counselors & wisemen because they were unable to tell the King what he had dreamed, something significant happened that can easily be overlooked. The text says that Daniel came to Arioch, the King’s executioner; and, it implies that he came in a hurry & he tells him: “Don’t kill the wise men of Babylon!” (See Daniel 2:24-26) Why is that significant? Because Daniel—rather than simply fearing for his own life—took time to look out for the needs of others!

-Doctrine Ought To Change Us!

Daniel truly believed that God was Sovereign; so, he didn’t have to fear the future! That’s how “doctrine” changes our life when we truly believe it! We said, in our last post, that the King suffered from “chronophobia”—the FEAR of the future! And, when you’re consumed by the fear of the future, you become pre-occupied with your own life. It was easy for Nebuchadnezzar to just throw away his counselors and discard them once he’d tapped their usefulness. But, because Daniel didn’t live in the fear of the future, he could take the time to love people. I really believe that this act of kindness is a significant part of Daniel’s story that we usually overlook!

-Every Person Is A Soul!

Daniel could have been concerned only with his life & the lives of his 3 friends; but, he showed care and concern for others—even the King’s ungodly counselors, because they were souls who needed saving! He wasn’t so preoccupied with his own needs that he ignored the needs of others. There’s an application here for us—if we live in fear of the future, we’ll probably be so preoccupied with ourselves that we’ll miss all the souls that God is directing across our path! And, King Nebuchadnezzar was one such soul that God had caused to divinely intersect with Daniel. In the next section, it says, “Daniel answered the king: ‘No wise man, medium, diviner-priest, or astrologer is able to make known to the king the mystery he asked about. But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…” (2:27-29). There is a God in heaven; and, Daniel took the time to introduce Nebuchadnezzar to Him! Time—something our culture claims it doesn’t have!

-We Need To Get Over Ourselves!

There’s another application here that our Western church desperately needs to apply—if we’re going to be faithful to Jesus’ “Great Commission”, it’s going to take time! Time to love people! Time to disciple people! The “Narcissim” of the dominant culture has had a “trickle down effect” on the Church—we’ve become self-centered & self-absorbed just like the world! Our obsession for chasing after the selfishness of the “American Dream” has become a NIGHTMARE for finishing the “disciple making” task we’ve been given! If we’re TOO BUSY to make disciples, we’re TOO BUSY! That’s disobedience! If necessary, let’s remove some of the things from our schedule so we have room to add people—we’ve been mandated to disciple souls for Christ; and, He’s left us no wiggle room to get out of it! Let us love on people!