We Are Accountable!

-Spiritual Watchmen To Unbelievers!

In the last couple of posts, we’ve talked about Israel’s “watchmen” as described by the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel. We talked about how the “spiritual overtones” of the watchmen remind us of our responsibility to be spiritual watchmen to the unbelieving world! We’re called to warn the world that their sin has separated them from God; and, they’re in grave danger unless they repent & turn to Jesus! The parallels between being a watchman; and, being a disciple-maker, are unmistakable! God gave Old Testament Israel’s watchmen a precise message; and, as Jesus’ disciple-makers, we’ve also been given a precise message.

-A Precise Message!

To the watchmen, God said: “When you hear a word from My mouth, give them a warning from Me. If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have saved your life. Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel: You have said this, ‘Our transgressions and our sins are heavy on us, and we are wasting away because of them! How then can we survive?’ Tell them: As I live”—the declaration of the Lord God—“I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:7-11.

-The Good News!

What’s the watchman’s message? It’s “grace,” isn’t it? It’s the message of the Gospel; the Good News that God, “…takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked…”  If only Israel would “…repent of their evil ways…” God asks them, “Why will you die, house of Israel?” We’ve been given the same message to deliver everywhere we go, church! “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.  “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. That’s our message!

-God’s Ambassadors!

Paul wrote the Church of Corinth, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God’” 2 Corinthians 5:20. We’re God’s ambassadors, church! We’re His watchmen to the world! We’re commanded to plead with the world to come to Christ! To share the message that God loves them & welcomes them to repent and be saved! What a great message we have to share with loved ones, neighbors; and, co-workers! He is a good God! “He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses” Psalm 103:10 .

-A Notice Of Accountability!

Let me make one final point! In the same way that God made Israel’s watchmen accountable, He has made us accountable! In v.17 of Ezekiel’s 33rd chapter, God confronts Israel over their claim that God wasn’t “fair”! In v.20 He says, “You say, ‘The Lord’s way isn’t fair.’ I will judge each of you according to his ways, house of Israel.”  I cringe inside every time I hear someone judging God for the way He does things! What arrogance that a puny little man— one of 7 billion on this planet— would dare to call out God for anything! We don’t even know what we don’t know! “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and gracious in all His acts” Psalm 145:17. God is even willing to extend grace to us when we make rash claims against Him— “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” God says, “Why will you die?”  If you’re a follower of Christ then you have been served notice! You are accountable for making disciples! Are you doing it?

Hope In Suffering!

-We’re Permitted To Grieve!

We opened our Bible to the O.T. book of Lamentations, in our last post; and, discovered that the Prophet Jeremiah & the nation of Israel were in a world of hurt! Jeremiah feels it personally; and, for his people! And, God’s word tells us that there is a place for that. The N.T. book of Romans tells us to, “weep with those who weep.” We’re permitted to grieve! But, we’re also told not to grieve in the same way that unbelievers do; like, those with no hope! Lamenting is appropriate in times of pain & struggle. But, we’re also instructed that the pain & struggle should give way to repentance & hope!

-God’s Faithful Love Offers Hope!

Because of God’s faithful love, there is hope in suffering! “I call this to mind,” Jeremiah writes, “and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:21-24). And, let me remind you that “hope” in Scripture is completely different than the cross-your-fingers kind of “hope” that the word means in today’s culture. The “hope” in God’s Word is a “confident expectation.”

-A Confident Expectation!

Jeremiah— inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to write this— has “hope”; or, a confident expectation despite his suffering and pain; because, of God’s faithful love. He chooses to focus on God’s character rather than the circumstances of his pain & suffering. “I call this to mind,” he says; that, “God’s love is faithful.” He refuses to live under the circumstances! To neither dwell on the past or the current suffering; but, to be forward in his thinking; that, God’s love is faithful! Whatever our current state of life, God’s love is not negated! The ESV translation says, “…the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases…” The MESSAGE paraphrases it, “God’s loyal love.” God is loyal to us!

-Don’t Doubt God’s Loyalty!

Don’t let the undesirable events in your life give you any cause to doubt God’s loyalty! If you’ve believed in Jesus you’ve been adopted into God’s family. And, while the enemy hopes to crush you under the struggles of life, God is acting like a loving Father & He’s acting on the junk in your life, intending to grow your faith & give you “HOPE”—a “confident expectation” that He will continue to come through for you! The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Rome that “hope” is produced through our suffering:  “…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit…” Romans 5:2-5.

-Rejoice In Afflictions!

God is showing us His faithful love toward us by choreographing the painful struggles into our lives, Paul says; because they are for our good! He uses them to help us grow spiritually; so, rejoice in the “affliction” because it produces “endurance” which produces “character” which produces “hope”—that “confident expectation” in God’s ability to use the struggles to strengthen our faith! So, don’t fight Him! Enduring the struggles will always eventually produce hope if we’re submitted to God’s Spirit because that’s what the Spirit produces in us; and, He uses the painful stuff in life to generate it. But, then, Jeremiah says that there is hope; or, a confident expectation, even in suffering, because God’s mercy never ends (v.22). Some translations say, “…through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not…” This is what Jeremiah called to mind! We need God’s help to call these same truths to mind.

What A Fool Says About God!

-The “Angry Theist”!

Do you know what a fool says about God? A fool says that God doesn’t exist! That’s the claim of the Old Testament book of Proverbs:  “The fool says in his heart, ‘God does not exist” (Proverbs 14:1). He’s a fool because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know! And, most often, in my experience, I’ve found that the person who claims to be an atheist is just an “angry theist.” In his heart he knows there’s a God; but, he’s mad at Him over something that happened in his life; and, he blames God for it. So, he refuses to yield to God’s Sovereignty.

-Authentic Wisdom!

Authentic wisdom grows as we learn to fear God! So, the fool, who doesn’t believe God exists, can never become a truly wise person! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but, fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). Let’s talk about the fear of the Lord; because, unfortunately, I’ve found that it confuses some people. Keep in mind our word “fear” is translated from the original Hebrew language that the Old Testament was written in. And, sometimes, in translation work, there just isn’t an adequate word in one language to properly express the meaning in another. That’s the case, here, with the word “fear.” This is not the kind of fear we might have of a snake; or, going to the dentist or doctor; or, of some extreme danger. This “fear” is more of awe or reverence of great respect!

The Fear Of God!

If you play a little basketball, to “fear” LeBron James is to have such awe or respect for who he is & for his incredible abilities that you couldn’t bring yourself to stand beside him on a basketball court.  To “fear” God means you’re awed that He has such power that He could speak the world into existence! To “fear” Him is to honor Him with such respect that you want to know Him! You want to know what He’s said in His word so you can be in proper standing & relationship with Him! When you truly come to understand what it means to fear Him, you’ll no longer fear anything or anyone else! He’s that awesome! The more you humble yourself before Him, the more you’ll desire to learn from Him!  And, in that way, you’ll grow in wisdom according to the book of Proverbs! The authentic wisdom, of God, will expose you, however, if you’re a fool! If you’re an unbeliever! If you deny His existence! Because, remember, that, “…FOOLS despise the wisdom & discipline…” of the Lord, Solomon says (1:7).

2 Kinds Of Wisdom!

There are only 2 kinds of wisdom! There is God’s wisdom; as recorded in the words of Scripture! And, there is the “wisdom” of sinful man which is always contrary to God’s wisdom. If God’s wisdom says, “don’t cheat, steal, lie or sleep with someone you’re not married to”; the world’s “wisdom” says, “Go ahead and cheat, steal & lie… just don’t get caught.” Oh, and, “sleep with anyone you want to! It’s okay as long as you love them.” The absence of God in the so-called “wisdom” of the world is ultimately its fatal flaw! The world’s “wisdom” is always a moving target! It changes with the times & societal more’s. But, the wisdom of God is immutable; like, He is! It never changes because He never changes! He will always be what He’s always been! Wisdom is not just a “way of life”; it’s the way “to life”— to life everlasting with God! In His wisdom; and, His love for us, He speaks His gospel of peace to us:  “Quit your rebellion,” He says, “confess your sin to Me! Quit fighting & waging war against Me! I offer you peace through the blood of Jesus & His work on the cross for you! Don’t be a FOOL any longer! Come to Me! I give you love, mercy & grace!

The Fear Of God!

Are You Thinking Rightly About God?

So, how do we think rightly about God? Where does our thought life, about God, need to begin? Well, the wisest man who ever lived, said that it begins with the fear of God— “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline “ Proverbs 1:7. This is the introduction to the book, of the Bible, which is known for its wisdom! The writer sets up the theme of Proverbs for the entire book with those opening words. And, if you read the book from the 1st page to the last, you’ll uncover that theme of the “fear of the Lord” on multiple occasions; along, with the keywords associated with that theme—wisdom, knowledge, guidance, instruction!

-You’ll Be Wise!

And, the end results of adhering to God’s words of wisdom? You’ll be wise! For rejecting the wisdom of these Scriptures? You’ll be a fool! In my time of ministry, I’ve had the occasion, several times, to encourage individuals, that I was discipling, to read through the book of Proverbs once a month. There are 31 chapters; so, read a chapter a day! You might need to double up a couple of chapters at the end of certain months! But, you’ll be amazed at how God’s wisdom will change you in your person; in your marriage; in the training up of your children; in your work; and, in the entirety of the rest of your life!

Wisdom Has It’s Origin In God!

So, let’s draw some points from this key verse of Scripture, Proverbs 1:7. Notice that the author, King Solomon, begins with a presupposition, that, authentic wisdom has its origin with God! Theologically, we mean that God is omniscient; or, He is all-wise! So, all wisdom comes from Him! All knowledge comes from Him! Think about that! Anything that’s knowable, He knows! There is nothing He does not know! He knows the end from the beginning, Scripture says because He IS the END & the BEGINNING! He is the ALPHA & the OMEGA! God knows all things (1 John 3:20).

God Knows Everything That’s Knowable!

He knows every detail happening in all the world right now! Even when a sparrow falls out of a tree; or, a hair falls from your head, He knows (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows your every thought before you speak it (Psalm 139:4). He saw you when you were in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:1-3). He knows everything that’s on your heart (1 Kings 8:39). Even things you share with no one else, He knows! If you look at Proverbs, chapter 8, beginning with v.22, wisdom is personified & informs us of its origin:  “I, wisdom, was with the Lord when He began His creation, before His works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began” (8:22-23). In Proverbs 3:19, he adds: “The Lord founded the earth by wisdom and established the heavens by understanding.”

-Looking For Wisdom?

So, if you’re looking for wisdom, look no further! Seek God! He created wisdom! Do you want knowledge & understanding? See God in His word! He has it! All of it! So, there’s a 2nd point that builds on the 1st. Authentic wisdom begins with a belief that God exists! If “…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & knowledge…”; then, unbelief, in God’s existence, would result in no fear of God & conclude with an absence of wisdom & understanding! Were you tracking with me? In other words, if we view Solomon’s words here as a hypothesis or a proposition, he’s drawing the conclusion that an unbeliever (especially an atheist) is incapable of true wisdom; because true wisdom comes ONLY from the very God he fails to believe exists! He can be a really smart guy! He can be book smart! But, the ultimate wisdom necessary to successfully navigate this world & eternity is only available in God! We’ll pick it up there next week!

Thinking Right About God!

-The Most Important Thing About You?

What comes to your mind if I ask you:  “What is the #1 most important thing about you?” Ponder that a moment! What is the #1 most important thing about you? Here it is:  “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the #1 most important thing about you.” The heaviest question, in front of us, is always about God Himself! And, our current pluralistic, relativistic, narcissistic, politically correct “culture” shows little to no regard for the accuracy & truth of the God impressions we have floating around in our little self-absorbed minds! “You’re OK & I’m OK” as long as you don’t tell me that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to God! “Whatever you believe about God is OK as long as you VALIDATE what I believe about Him.”  “You have your truth & I have mine.” Those are ultimately idolatrous statements, aren’t they? Any belief about God that is twisted or inaccurate is “idolatry”—they’ve made up their own god in their own image!

-God Has Left The Building!

I love what A.W. Tozer said many years ago before the world was even close to being as religiously inclusivist as it is today:  “The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.”  And, listen church, the trickle-down from the cultural idolatry & false thinking, about God, is so pervasive in our civilization that it’s made inroads into the church! In most of our mainline denominations, God has “left the building”; because, “the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” A.W. Tozer said that too! That’s the post-modern world that we live in, isn’t it? There are no “absolutes” in the world of 2021; and, it’s sad the depths, of foolishness, an unregenerate & hopelessly lost world will go to silence that inner voice of God’s Holy Spirit.

-God Is Not Silent!

Listen, God is not silent! He has not created this place; and, then went off to some corner of the universe to hide out & see what happens! God is alive & well; and, the rumors of His death have been greatly exaggerated! God’s Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to pen these words, in his letter to the Church of Rome. He says the unbelieving world will suppress the truth, “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them (It’s INNATE), for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…” Romans 1:19-21.  Scripture insists that everyone knows there’s a God! There is an “internal witness” or evidence! It’s innate! Everyone, in their heart, knows there is a God! They simply suppress the truth! And, there’s also the “external witness”; or, the evidence of creation, Paul says, in this passage from Romans.

Truth Suppressers!

The unbeliever, who refuses to humble himself & admit he can’t know everything there is to know about an eternal God, rejects Him & suppresses the truth about Him! He comes up with all sorts of theories that masquerade as science; but, they’re all lies. So, the answer to the #1 most important thing about you? It’s what comes into your mind when you think about God! And, the consequences, about your thoughts of God, will impact both the quality of your life here & for eternity! Your life will prove to be successful as you pursue the wisdom of God; and, reject the seductive distractions of the world. That requires a leap of faith—not a BLIND leap of faith; because, God has buried evidence of Himself, inside you! The “internal” evidence! And, He’s also left His fingerprints all over the created world & universe! The “external” evidence! So, how do we think rightly about God? Where do we start? We’ll get into that next post!

You Can Be Honest With God!

-Throwing Rocks!

In the movie, Forrest Gump, there is an especially agonizing scene where Forrest’s lifelong friend, Jenny, visits the old house she grew up in & it brings back a flood of bitter childhood memories of her abusive, neglectful father; and, Forrest watches as she throws rock after rock, in a fit of rage, at the house that held so many painful memories for her. When she finally quits & collapses into tears, Forrest tries to comfort her.  “Sometimes,” he says, “there just aren’t enough rocks.” But, the truth is that no amount of rock-throwing can ever repair the damage that’s been done!

-Why The Anger At God?

And, if we think that it’s God’s job to protect us and shield us from pain, we’ll ultimately lash out in anger at Him! But,  that’s just now how life works, is it? If your anger is directed at God, it’s misguided! Life, on planet Earth, was forever altered in the Garden of Eden by the sin all of us— in Adam— committed against God! So, it’s because of our transgressions and our depravity that the world is such a difficult place to live! But, God, in His love & benevolence toward us, extends grace & mercy to everyone who admits their sin & their brokenness and comes to Him for forgiveness!

-Pain With A Purpose!

And, that’s God’s purpose for all the pain & suffering that we endure in this life! He intends to show the unbelieving world His grace & His forgiveness despite the curse we all deserve! It’s NOT His purpose to protect us & shield us from all the unfortunate things that happen to us! But, if we can understand that this life is all about displaying grace, we can begin to grasp the importance of our being exposed to pain! It’s amid life’s hurts that we can join God in displaying His love & forgiveness when we get hurt!

-Why Lord?

The book of Psalms, in the Old Testament, were often put to music & sang in Israel’s worship. Music is emotional; and, the book of Psalms is no exception! The Psalms are just filled with the ups & downs of life. You’ll find great songs of praise that we often include as readings during our worship services! But, you’ll also find songs that are filled with anxiety & depression when the author asks God aloud what He’s up to! “Why LORD?” they ask! I’ve personally found the Psalms to be a salve; like a triple antibiotic, when I’ve been cut and wounded in life! We make a great mistake when we limit the Scriptures to the cognitive and see only something to be learned like doctrine & theology! God included a book, like the Psalms, to reach us at the emotional level.

-Skewed Emotions!

Does that surprise you that God would be concerned with your emotions? It shouldn’t! He is a God with emotions; and, He’s created us in His image! He is neither surprised nor put off by our emotions! But, like every other part of our life that’s been negatively affected by our sin, our emotions can be skewed as well! So, God will use the Psalms in our lives to reel us in! To center us back into His reality! God created us with emotions; and, He invites us to pour out our hearts to Him knowing He will respond! Find reassurance in that— God will never leave you nor forsake you! He provides grace to help us; whether, our pain has been caused by someone else or it’s self-inflicted. You really can be honest with God about everything! Even the deepest, darkest secrets that you’re reluctant to share with someone else you can share with God! He already knows how you feel; so, just be honest with Him! Be transparent with Him! He will hear you!

Your Greatest Happiness!

-Right Relationship With God!

Your greatest happiness will come only when you are in the right relationship with God, your Creator! You were created for Him! And, only in Him will you find your ultimate fulfillment! If you’ve cracked the Bible, you may have noticed that the book of the Psalms takes up quite a chunk of space in the Bible. The word for “Psalms” in the original Hebrew language means “praise”; and, most of the Psalms were poetic “Songs Of Praise” to Yahweh; although, one-third of the Psalms are prayers! So, it contains both songs & prayers that Israel used in their worship! Also, most students of Scripture believe there’s significance to the order in which they were placed.

-Psalm 1: The Stage Setter!

So, Psalm 1 is meant to be understood as an introduction to the rest of the Psalms. It’s like the “stage setter” because it vividly points out the radical difference between the “believer” and the “unbeliever.” According to the writer of the Psalm, your life will be blessed or happy if you live it sincerely for God; and, it will prove to be miserable & unhappy if you rebel against God! Those are your only 2 options! It’s funny how the world sees the life, that follows Jesus, as boring & blasé! I think even many believers suffer from some big-time misconceptions about the Christian life.

-Earthly Hedonists!

It’s been my observation that many believers just endure the Christian life! Secretly, they still pine for the pleasures & fleeting happiness that they think the world enjoys. In their heart, they’re earthly hedonists! They’re like the children of Israel, during the Exodus, still looking back with longing for the old life they left behind in Egypt. Somehow, we’ve come to the erroneous conclusion that life’s just not going to be fun or happy as a Christian; but, we put up with it because, well, we get heaven in the end! But, the 1st Psalm debunks the notion that the life that follows Christ & adheres to the Scriptures is boring! What this Psalm says is quite the opposite.

-Setting The Record Straight!

The writer sets the record straight— we don’t just endure the Christian life, putting in our time here until we get to heaven & hang out with Jesus forever & ever! No! This Psalm tells us that it’s the life that submits to God & His word that provides us with the greatest fulfillment & the most happiness possible in this life! Happiness & prosperity in this life & eternity follows only the God-centered life; not, the life that is centered & focused on the stuff of this world! Does it surprise you that God is concerned with your happiness? Some believers even debate between “joy” & “happiness.” Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, they say; and, that’s what we should concern ourselves with!

-Is Happiness Fleeting?

Joy sounds more spiritual than happiness, doesn’t it? Happiness seems like it’s dependent on circumstances! It comes & goes! Joy is based on the eternal, the argument goes! But, this 1st Psalm seems to play the contrarian:  “How HAPPY is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction…” (vs. 1-2). It seems like we don’t have to choose between joy & happiness! Instead, life in Christ offers us both— JOY & HAPPINESS! But, there is a caveat. Genuine happiness, in life, is contingent on some things! That’s where we get the idea that happiness is dependent on circumstances. But it’s not so much that happiness comes & goes as much as it is that our walk with God is inconsistent! That’s what we’ll talk about next week!

A Book Worth Reading!

-The Bible Not Worth Reading?

Perhaps you remember when GQ magazine came under fire for saying that the Holy Bible wasn’t worth reading! It was back in their April 2018 issue, which ironically was dubbed the “Style Bible” on the cover. The Bible actually came in #12 on their list in the article titled, “20 Books That Aren’t Worth Reading.” Jesse Ball, who authored the article, wrote:  “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it”—Unfortunately, there’s some truth to that, isn’t there? He goes on,  “Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.” Well, #1 he’s mistaken in giving “man” credit for writing it! The authors don’t claim to have written their material by their own inspiration!

-Inspired By God!

Rather, God miraculously inspired some 40 different authors to write the 66 books, of the Bible, over 1500 years. What Mr. Ball writes is pretty subjective! It’s opinion! It’s conjecture, on his part! He added:  “It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned…” I would address that comment by quoting the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14. He absolutely nails the reason Mr. Ball sees the Bible the way he does:  “But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.” To the unbeliever, the words of Scripture seem foolish because they can not understand them.

-The Unbeliever Can’t Understand!

It’s impossible for anyone to grasp the meaning of Scripture unless God’s Holy Spirit is their Teacher! Unless the Holy Spirit indwells them as a believer! “…he is NOT ABLE to understand it…” Paul says; and, because of his lostness, he “…does NOT WELCOME it…” But, I could get testimonials from believers in our church; and, from other Jesus followers, in every corner of the world, that the moment they placed their faith in God to save them from their sin, their eyes were opened to the Scriptures! Their ears were unplugged! They could hear the truth & it resonated with them! It became their life line! They know that God communicates with them through His Word! So, we do not read it like we read any other book; because, it is unlike any other book. I would always encourage you to pray before reading it! To ask God to transform you supernaturally, by the power of His Holy Spirit, as you read it! To open your eyes to all the eternal truths it contains!

-Ask Questions!

As you read the Scriptures, learn to ask questions:  “God, what does that mean? Please teach me!” That’s how I work through every Bible message or lesson as I prepare it! I don’t assume that I am able to plumb the depths of Scripture with just my human reasoning! For example, why did the Spirit of God inspire the Bible writers to include much of the same material the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles contains in 1 & 2 Kings? A section of Scripture that Mr. Ball, the author of the GQ article, perceives as repetitive; and, therefore boring! But, that’s the way an unbeliever would view it. If you’re a believer you should wonder what motivated God to include similar material twice! Perhaps, it is so important that God wanted it included again! So, what is there here that we don’t want to miss? That we should meditate on it! Revel in the mysteries of God!

Lead Like Jesus!

-Not Like Rockstars!

The more I read the Gospel accounts about Jesus’ interactions, with His disciples, the more convinced I am that the prevailing world view, of His day, was really not much different than that of our own. The disciples all wanted to be “ROCKSTARS.” That’s why they followed Jesus at the start! He was popular! They thought He was going to be king over Israel & deliver their people from the Romans. Who wouldn’t want to latch onto that star, if given a chance, and, ride it as far as it would go? If ever they were going to be His disciples, Jesus would have to retrain & reteach them! His kingdom was not of this world, He told them!

-Jesus’ Kingdom Way!

The way of Jesus’ kingdom was entirely different from the kingdoms of this world. Listen to what Jesus told them, as recorded in Mark’s Gospel:  “Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” Mark 10:42-45.  In essence, Jesus is teaching them to live their lives out in the hidden places of service rather than the public places of being noticed. One of my favorite pastors & authors challenges us to make that our prayer! We’ll have to pray that God changes our heart & makes us a servant; because we’ll never choose the place of obscure service in our flesh.

-Jesus Is Attractive To Many!

You see, Jesus & His Gospel have been misrepresented by much of the western church! So many self-identified “Christians” live such a selfish, mean-spirited, ugly way of life that our unbelieving neighbors want nothing to do with whatever it is they’re peddling! But, many unbelievers do find Jesus attractive! And, many find the true church— that strives to follow Jesus & His teachings— to be attractive like Him! Just think about it church—Jesus won us over because He served us at our deepest need! He loved us in spite of our sinful brokenness! Our cities & our neighbors will begin to pay attention to the church again when we serve them, in their need, like Jesus served us! When we love them like Jesus loved us!

-Jesus’ Model Of Greatness!

That’s how Jesus discipled His followers, according to Mark’s text. This is what true greatness looks like, in Jesus’ kingdom! Don’t steal the world’s model for greatness because it doesn’t look anything like greatness in God’s realm! True greatness, in God’s kingdom, is counter-intuitive to this world’s standard. The “…rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them…” If you’re going to rule or lead, in the Gentile world— or, among unbelievers— you have to dominate them! You have to show ‘em who’s in charge! Like the former Russian Communist leader, Lenin, once said: “One man with a gun can control 100 without one.” That’s worldly leadership! It’s not Jesus’ way!

When Church Culture Meets Needs!

-Haunted By A Scripture!

I grew up in a church culture that did relatively nothing to meet “physical” needs! It was argued that if you gave people money that they’d just spend it on booze & cigarettes & drugs. So, don’t give them anything, we were told! We had no food pantry to provide for the hungry in our city! We had no benevolent funds to assist with other needs! And, yet we thought we were being faithful to God’s Word.  But, there’s a scripture, in James, that always haunted me as I read it:  “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows” James 1:27.  What do you do with that?

-Playing The Legalist!

How can we just dismiss that? Or, play the “legalist” and limit the spirit of the text to caring for orphans or widows exclusively. At the same time, we cannot just be preoccupied with physical needs and omit the sharing of the Gospel! That’s the problem with many socially-minded churches! If we limit our care, for them, to physical needs & never share the Gospel, with them, all we’ve accomplished is to keep them alive longer, only to prolong their ultimate meeting with God @ the judgment, whereupon their unbelief will be exposed! It’s not “good deeds” or the “Gospel.” It’s not an EITHER-OR! It’s a BOTH-AND decision we must make!

-What Is Pure Religion?

To James, pure religion is not the RESULT of good deeds; but, RESULTS in good deed! We don’t take care of the orphan, the widow & the poor in order to ATTAIN pure religion! Rather, when our religion is the pure Gospel, of Jesus Christ, we become Jesus “in the flesh” when we meet the needs of the orphan, the widow & the poor! “Not by works of righteousness that we have done; but, by His mercy He saves us” Titus 3:5.  Salvation is “…not of works, so no one can boast…” Ephesians 2:9.  But, when we humble ourselves & trust Christ’s atonement work, on the cross, He changes us inside & the Holy Spirit gives us the heart of Jesus! As we are sanctified & grow, in our faith, we’ll want to meet the physical & spiritual needs of the down-trodden, of our world, just like Jesus did! This ought to be a core ministry value for the church!

-A Change That Includes Service!

Look again at that verse in James; but, this time let’s back it up one verse & see how it flows, in context, from one verse to the next:  “If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” James 1:26,27. Notice how James lumps together 3 very practical evidence of pure religion; or, 3 areas of obedience that evidence genuine saving faith— 1) Self-control in your speech; 2) A Ministry of Compassion to the needy; and, 3) Practical holiness. See that? Inspired by the Holy Spirit, James places ministry to the needy & cleaning up a potty mouth on an equal plane as living a holy life! More on that next week!