Remember, Watch, Hope

As Christians, we are called to live and minister in a fallen world while not becoming a part of it.  That anyone succeeds at this is a miracle.  The world around us is so “real,” our needs so strong, and the promise for which we labor so ill-defined, that to walk the narrow path that leads to salvation is impossible.  Thankfully we are reminded that what is impossible with men is possible with God.  To succeed in this journey, He gives us three imperatives:  Remember.  Watch.  Hope. Make no mistake, each of these is a command by itself, but they do not stand alone.  The life well lived in Christ requires all three, because each of them speaks to a different part of our life.  They are three legs of a stool supporting the sanctified life by directing us how to live and relate to the past, the present, and the future. The command to remember speaks to the past as in Ephesians 2:11-12, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles in the flesh and called uncircumcised by the so-called circumcision ….. remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” We remember so that we never go back.  Once you set your shoulder to the plow, there can be no retreat, and remembering where you came from is the key to knowing where you are going. We are commanded to watch in the present.  Watch not just for his coming (Mark 13:35), but also...

“Waiting”

“But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” – Romans 8:25 Hope is the unseen benefit we long for.  It drives us. We walk by faith because of it.  Hope is powerful—it defines our realities. They may be unrealistic, indescribable and unobtainable. But nevertheless, our actions in faith are a function of our hope.  Most of us likely eat, work, exercise, spend our money, worship, love and rest because of it.  You define a man’s hope, you can predict his actions.  And conversely, you can see a man’s hope by his behaviors. The thing we hope for is a noun, as in the Blessed Hope.  But it is also a verb as in our verse:  “We hope for what we do not see.” What we hope in determines what we hope for.  I.e. we hope in God of the scriptures because of the goodness and integrity of His character and the promises He holds for us.  He then defines in our lives what we hope for.  We hope for the return of Christ, a new body, salvation, heaven. These things were defined in us as our hope in Him was developed, i.e., as our minds are renewed toward a deeper understanding of God, so our eternal hope is developed. For what do we wait? We wait for that which we hope.  We wait because we hope.  And the object or power of our wait determines the validity of our waiting. Waiting can be a challenge.  It requires patience and trust in the things we don’t see or control.  But it...

Life in Neutral

One of the great spiritual deceptions is that there is a neutral position or state in which the disciple of Christ can idle.  When back-sliding Israel became idolatrous, they swung from worshiping God to bowing to idols.  Many in the Church today, think this example no longer applies; apostates do not erect a statue to Baal or Molech, yet think that ‘time away from the Lord’ is not an evil; however, Jesus’ teaching is crystal and warns that a person cannot serve two masters: ‘Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money…’ (Matthew 6:24) The word translated ‘money’ is a Greek transliteration from the Aramaic, μαμωνᾶς mamonas, and it means any ‘treasure’ in which we place trust; therefore, the nature of the idol is not the issue; idolatry is turning away from God.  We either serve God or we oppose Him; rebellion knows no middle way – as described in another of Jesus’ teaching: ‘Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.’ (ibid 7:13-14) Again, this is starkly binary.  Thus, the disciple is either ignorant of Scripture or self-deluded if he believes that he may please himself with impunity.  There is no activity or lack thereof, that is spiritually neutral.  We cannot think that there is ‘down-time’ in God’s economy.  We either...

Why?

Psalms 77:19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. One of the first questions a young child learns to ask is “Why?”  They ask it repeatedly and relentlessly, eager to learn about the world around them.  Even as adults, it is the question we all want to know.  About everything.  Always.  Why did this happen?  Why did you say that?  Why am I being taxed like this? And on and on and on until we die.  But even then, we ask it – why am I dying now?  And we reserve special questions for when we’re actually dead.  “When I get to see God, I’m going to ask him why….” While meditating on the nature of curiosity the other day I was struck with how dangerous a question it is.  As a young child, we ask it primarily to explore and learn about the world around us.  As we grow older however, the motivation for the question changes.  We begin to ask it to understand and manipulate the motivations of others “…but mom, why can’t I have a cookie?”.  Eventually we no longer ask it seeking understanding of God’s universe at all, but rather control.  Understanding something is the first step to controlling it, and the question “why? is the key to understanding.  How is this dangerous?  Chiefly for two reasons:  it assumes we are equal with God in understanding His infinite ways and demonstrates a subtle attempt to control His providence. Job spends chapter after chapter establishing his innocence but also seeking to understand why tribulation...

Seeking Praise and Glory

Glory:  “Doxa” means honor, praise; an opinion, estimation, representation, ie “due acknowledgement of the exhibition of His attributes, character and ways to and through His believers.” Also, a “genuine and accurate confession of sins, bringing glory to His name” (found in Joshua 7:19). John 5:44  “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” Romans 2:7  “…to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life…” Observation: This is not a condemnation of desiring glory, affirmation, approval and credit—this is natural–all men do it.   The bible actually affirms seeking glory—but only from God, not from men.  The scripture teaches the hope of receiving glory from God, on His terms, is a legitimate biblical motive. 1Corinthians 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Receiving glory is fraudulently accepting credit for what is not mine to accept. How can one take credit away from God, when we add nothing? Glory from men is not reliable, misleading and ultimately destructive to me and the testimony of Him. We simply cannot receive or believe it. Romans 4:20  “Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Giving glory is the opposite of receiving glory. It is giving credit where it is due. 1Peter 4:11  “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is...

The Tongue-Tied Evangelist

In his first pastoral letter to the church he established in Corinth, Paul moves to tackle divisions that have occurred over who baptised whom, and says this: For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17) Devoid of wisdom and eloquence, does this sound like Paul? However, we must believe the self-assessment of his own oratory for he makes this statement: When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.  (ibid 2:1-5) Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, arguably the greatest evangelist of the early church, was diminished by God to proclaim in weakness; moreover, the man who could dismiss as ‘light and momentary troubles’ (2 Corinthians 4:17) eight severe beatings, a stoning and being thrice ship-wrecked, shook with fear and trembling.  Such is God’s will on the matter; foremost He will be glorified; the comfort of the evangelist is subordinate. Also, we should note, the message was simple, ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’.  Paul did not bring the complex doctrine – and there is good reason for this, as Peter comments: … our dear...