HOW SIGNIFICANT IS YOUR WORLDVIEW? part 3

We have been examining the matter of a Christian worldview. Let me remind you that our worldview shapes all of our thinking on moral, social, economic, and psychological issues. That is why it is so critical to get the right world view. I remind you again that the Apostle Paul stated his concern clearly on this matter in Col. 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” We are considering how to form a Biblical world view and live by it. We considered the  first two steps:

Step one: We must decide who will be the ultimate authority in life for us.

Step two: We must commit ourselves to see all of life in relation to Christ.

Now let’s consider the last two steps.

Step three: We must accept an unchanging foundation to rest our worldview on-namely the Scripture. Matthew 24:35 states clearly that “…heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Hebrews 6:13-15, 17-18 affirms the following: For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,  saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.”  And thus Abraham,having patiently waited, obtained the promise. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,  so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”

The foundation upon which we rest our belief system is only as good as its ability to endure and prove reliable. We need to stand on something to sustain and hold us up through life (“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). One of the old hymns  speaks of “Standing on the Promises of God.” The second verse states, “standing on the promises that cannot fail.” The fourth verse reads, “standing on the promises I cannot fall.” These verses declare a simple truth: when standing on the promises of God, we cannot fall because the promises of God cannot fail.

Psalm 119:89 gives additional assurance about the unchanging foundation of the Word of God. “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” There is something satisfying, and settling about having your belief system resting on something that will not change–ever. There is another old hymn that expresses the unchangeable nature of God and His word.The second verse of Abide with Me, goes like this:

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Our worldview may grow and develop in maturity, but when it is anchored on the unchanging foundation of scripture we are safe, firmly rooted for whatever storms assault our lives.  We do not have the time or the wisdom to experiment with worldview options. Go for the gold from the start. Let the scripture dictate  what you believe about science, sociology, psychology, government, marriage, vocational ethics, etc. It will never steer you wrong. It is rock-solid!! You will find it more than sufficient to govern rightly your belief system. Read Psalm 119 and listen to why the Psalmist based his worldview on the Scriptures!

Step four: We must believe that sin and evil are offensive to God. R. C. Sproul used to say “If we understand who God is, and catch a glimpse of His majesty, purity, and holiness, then we are instantly aware of the extent of our own corruption….That is the dilemma that Scripture sets before us: we have a holy God whose image we bear and whose image it is our fundamental responsibility as human beings to mirror—yet we are not holy.”

This is a day of extreme toleration.  Sin and evil are  called good. When man sins, excuses are given on a wide-range of possibilities. We tolerate it in ourselves because we see it in others. We feel smugly righteous if we discount the evil and sin we see in others and conclude we are loving and kind by not mentioning or condemning such actions and behaviors. R. C. Sproul’s take on this very idea is compelling:

When we sin, we want to describe our sinful activity in terms of a mistake, as if that softens or mitigates the guilt involved. We don’t think it’s wrong for a child to add two and two and come up with five. We know the answer’s wrong, but we don’t spank the child and say, “You’re bad, because you made five out of two and two instead of four.” We think of mistakes as being part of the human condition. But as I said to that pastor, if one of us is wrong, it would be because he came to the Scriptures while wanting it to agree with him, rather than wanting to agree with the Scriptures. We tend to come biased, and we distort the very Word of God to escape the judgment that comes from it.

Listen to Psalm 16:2 “I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” The psalmist’s worldview was that God was Holy and he was not.  There was a divide between himself and God that he could not bridge. Isaiah’s testimony confirms this biblical reality. “And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!'” (Isaiah 6:5)

The importance of this step in forming a biblical world view is that it draws the rightful conclusion that man needs a Savior. He does not need rehabilitated, he needs redeemed. He does not need reformed, he needs transformed entirely from the inside out. He does not need refurbished, he needs rescued.  He does not need a makeover, He needs a totally new creation.  Our worldview as believers embraces the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only hope man has.  It is the Gospel that confesses to the Holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. The coming of Christ to die on the cross, to be buried, and to rise again the third day, substituting Himself for sinners admits to the truth that the people of this world need saving from their sins!

Do you have a biblical world view? Are you willing to take the steps it requires to form a biblical world view and then live by it?  Think it thru!!!

 

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS YOUR WORLDVIEW? part 2

A survey conducted by the Barna Research Groups determined that only four percent of Americans have a biblical worldview. Even more alarming, only nine percent of born-again believers in America have a Christian worldview. This should not surprise us when we observe the fractures in our psyche, our social networks, family life trends, our denigrating of authority, and our moral confusion.
Our worldview shapes all of our thinking on moral, social, economic, and psychological issues. That is why it is so critical to get the right world view.
The Apostle Paul stated his concern clearly on this matter in Col. 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Any world view that excludes Christ and the Biblical perspective God gives us in His Word on life and death will lead us to ruin both now and for all eternity. That is a very serious matter!
So how do we form a biblical worldview and live by it?


Step one: We must decide who will be the ultimate authority in life for us.
This is the critical first step. Until this matter is decided, then a right and biblical worldview is impossible to embrace. The prophet Isaiah in 45:5 of his book quotes God: “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me.” The God of the Bible, not a god I invent in my mind, is the only safe authority to submit to. He is the true and right “equipping one” that gives us in life what is needed to live rightly and wisely.
The consequences of this decision are clearly spelled out in Rom. 1:20-25
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”
Did you catch all the worldview mistakes that are made when we do not honor God as God, as the ultimate authority in our lives? We become futile in our thinking, we have darkness that clouds our being, and we give “away the store” by thinking we are ok and do not realize that we have become fools, trading away the one thing we had going for us (the glory of God) resulting in abandonment by God Himself. Choose carefully what authority will dictate your thinking and decision making. Your worldview determines your outcome.


Step two: We must commit ourselves to see all of life in relation to Christ. This step is also critical because it helps us hold the right perspective on all we see, feel, and experience. Col. 3:3-4 “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Did you catch those words? “…your life is hidden with Christ in God” and “When Christ who is your life….” Our heavenly identity may not seem like much in the eyes of the world, but it is real nonetheless. We have not been physically transported to heaven nor do we look any different from those around us who still belong to this world. One day, when Christ comes, we will change. In the meantime our true status is hidden, and though we don’t look much different, we certainly need to live differently. We are to see all of life in relation to Christ Himself. What He has done (saved us), what is He doing (interceding for us), and what He will do (come again for us).  We must perceive life here and live life here with the reality that Christ is making the difference both today and tomorrow. Paul says Christ IS our life. In Philippians 1:21 Paul’s testimony was simply this: “For to me to live is Christ…” J. A. Medders tells the story of having a shirt when he was in high school that said: “Basketball is Life. The Rest Is Just Details.” Later on in life, he commented: “What a dumb and sad shirt!” We hear people say “my kids are my life, or my job is my life. But our worldview is simply that those things cannot define us. My success in life is not my life. Christ is my life. My mistakes and failures are not my life, Christ is. My job is not my life, Christ is. My life is not even my life (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Christ is my life. His victory is my victory. His reward is my reward. His righteousness is my righteousness. His home is my home. His Father is my father. We see all of life in relation to Christ. We make a commitment to see and evaluate all of life in relation to Christ! That is the second step to embracing a biblical world view. Remember something or someone will define your life and its trajectory. We dare not get this wrong! If it is not Christ, then our worldview is faulty and will lead us into the proverbial “ditch.”

We will continue in our next blog with the final steps needed to embracing a biblical worldview.  Think it Thru!

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS YOUR WORLDVIEW? part 1

What is a worldview anyway? Oregon State University (Ken Funk – March 1, 2001)) defines a worldview as:
“A set of beliefs about fundamental aspects of Reality that ground and influence all one’s perceiving, thinking, knowing, and doing. One’s worldview is also referred to as one’s philosophy, philosophy of life, mindset, outlook on life, formula for life, ideology, faith, or even religion.”

James Anderson from Ligonier Ministries commented on a defined world view like this:
As the word itself suggests, a worldview is an overall view of the world. It’s not a physical view of the world, but rather a philosophical view, an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us. A person’s worldview represents his most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe he inhabits. It reflects how he would answer all the “big questions” of human existence: fundamental questions about who and what we are, where we came from, why we’re here, where (if anywhere) we’re headed, the meaning and purpose of life, the nature of the afterlife, and what counts as a good life here and now.”

Believers in Christ hold what we call a Biblical worldview. This is a framework of ideas and beliefs through which a Christian individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it based on the teachings of the Bible.

How significant then is the worldview that you hold? You might say to me: Why should I be concerned about my own worldview? And just maybe you are thinking, that you don’t even know if you have one. 

Let me give you three points to ponder right upfront. Here they are:

  • One, everyone forms a worldview. You have one whether you know it or not. Your worldview is what informs all of your life. It determines what you do with your life and all the choices you make in your life.
  • Two, your worldview will take you either in the right direction or the wrong direction in this life. Your view of the world will determine how you think, how you respond to all the scenarios life presents to you, and how you make decisions about all of that.  And your worldview is the deciding factor as to whether you are moving in the right direction or wrong direction.
  • Three, your worldview will decide where you will spend eternity after this life is over. What you believe about God, death, morality, and authority has eternal consequences for you.

Think about this: If your worldview is erroneous, then your behavior will be misguided, even wrong. Even worse, if you are not conscious of your worldview and fail to appeal to it as a basis for your thoughts and actions, you will find yourself at the mercy of your emotions, your impulses, and your reactions. This means that you will be inclined to “follow the crowd” and conform to social and cultural norms and patterns of thought and behavior regardless of their truth, value, or merit. And where you end up exposes your worldview choices which will prove either delightful or disastrous!

Let me give you an example. Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, in a recent daily briefing broadcast hit the nail on the head when he said the upcoming election is not about politics or personalities, nor about whether one is a republican or democrat, but simply and basically about worldview. What you believe about God, the world, and your own life purpose is really what is driving all the issues, and will ultimately determine how you vote. In other words, we better listen carefully to the candidates’ worldviews for that will guide their platform on the issues. Let me say this again. The worldview one holds is highly significant for it dictates all the decisions one makes and all the subsequent actions one takes.

Here’s another example of worldview impact. Alex Trebek, the host of the game show Jeopardy, back in 2019 was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He made this statement sometime after his diagnosis: “Because I understand that death is part of life. And I’ve lived a long life…When death happens, it happens. Why should I be afraid of it?”  His worldview is reflected in his confession where he says he does not believe in a specific god nor ”a particular version of the afterlife.”

Glenn Schultz in his public blog dated October 21, 2018, states that the foundation stone of every worldview is formed by how one answers this one question. Who or what is my ultimate authority?
I believe his statement has merit because how you answer this question, determines what you believe about God. And what you believe about God, in turn, shapes what you believe about every other component of your worldview. A biblical worldview is based on who God is. If one doesn’t know God, he/she will never have a truly biblical worldview that can direct all of life wisely and in the flow of true reality.

Solomon wrote in Prov. 1:7 that
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Later he followed up in Prov. 9:10 with the truth that
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

Tim Keller wrote the following piece of advice based on what Solomon taught us:
“The beginning of all wisdom is the “fear of the Lord.” But how do we know if we are relating to the real God? The answer is there is no real knowing of God unless we know him through his Word. Otherwise we are creating a God out of our imagination.” And I might add, you cannot really know the Word of God unless you know the Living Word who is Jesus Christ Himself! Jesus said that no one could really get to know God apart from Himself (John 14:6-9).

In part two of How Significant is your Worldview, we will talk about why a biblical world view is vital to life and death. Then we will talk about the steps involved in forming a right world view from the Word of God. Think it Thru

HOW SHOULD WE DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY?

COVID19 has introduced a new level of uncertainty into the everyday “norm” of life, so much so that the questions raised about this pandemic have revealed our startling lack of sure and certain knowledge. With all our academic brains and advanced technology, here we sit “churning in the ditch” trying to get traction. This uncertainty has divided friends, family, churches, businesses, schools, local, state, and of course our federal government. We have struggled with the uncertainties for so long that we have lost sight of the great certainties. The world has always presented us with uncertainty. It is just in these “abnormal” times that the uncertainties are highlighted and brought to the front more forcefully.


For a moment let’s turn away from the uncertainty and go back to what we know to be certain. It seems when we rely on the great certainties proclaimed in God’s Word that the uncertainties of this life hold less of a worrisome grip on us.
Let me list some of life’s great certainties:

# 1 – There is a God and He knows and ordains the course of life on this planet! Of that, we are certain! Divine comfort and assurance from a Sovereign God who is “driving the bus” gives us a settled peace and a sure message for an uncertain time! Listen to God’s Word: “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7) “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29). “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). A steady and wise hand on the wheel—that is the certainty we have in this always good and ever-faithful God!

# 2 – The Word of God is absolute truth and will never fail! Of that, we can be certain. This life manual will never need revision. How sad that some men who claim to hold the faith struggle with the whole matter of certainty. It is either all truth or none of it can be trusted. There is no middle ground. John 17:17 declares “Your Word is Truth.” Ps. 119:89 says that “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” I Kings 8:56 states categorically the following certainty: “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel according to all that He promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises He made through His servant Moses.” Matt. 24:35 says that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” We have an absolutely reliable voice in the Word of God! Its unchanging declarations hold us  fast in uncertain times.

# 3 – There will never be a change in Christ or His atoning sacrifice! Of these truths, we can be certain! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). “Behold, I have come to do your will. He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:9-12). To know that Christ remains steadfastly the same person and character that He has always been and that his death on the cross stands forever as the only and ultimate sacrifice for our sins imparts strong confidence as we walk into the future with all its uncertainties. That is the message of our unchanging and certain Gospel…the good news! No wonder Paul could testify to Timothy with such assurance when he said: “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Tim. 1:12). No wonder the Bible calls our Savior God  “my rock,” and “the rock of my salvation” (2 Sam. 22:47; Ps. 18:2; 62:2; 1 Cor. 10:4).

# 4 – Jesus will never leave His own! Of that, we can be certain. Jesus said in Heb. 13:5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God affirms this certainty to his people in Deut. 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  One of the most heart-wrenching byproducts of the virus is the prohibition for loved ones to be with those who are critically ill and dying. As hard as that is, for the believer to know that our Savior is always in attendance with us and with those who know Him brings comfort and peace to our souls. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). What great certainty! Even more, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18).

# 5 – Death will end in life for the believer in Christ! Of this, we can be certain. Paul said for the believer that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1, 8). We have a “new house” waiting for us and Jesus assured us if this were not true, He would have told us (John 14:2-3). We have the word of Christ as our certain hope and assurance. Eternal life is not a pipe dream for the one who knows Christ. It is an assured reality! Thank God there is not a black uncertain hole awaiting those who know Christ. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

There are many other certainties in God’s Word but these five should ground us to deal with the uncertainties we are now continuing to face. Praise God behind the uncertainties of this time, there arises God’s solid ground of certainty for those who know and follow Christ. Think it thru





DO YOU HAVE A HIDING PLACE?

“Shelter in Place” has now become a common expression. A few weeks ago we would have asked “What is that?” Now we know!! This idea prompts a very critical question. Do you have a sheltering place, a hiding place for your soul, your heart, your mind? The old hymn entitled “A Shelter in the time of storm” seems very appropriate today.

“The Lord’s our Rock in Him we hide, A shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide, a shelter in the time of storm.
A shade by day, defense by night, A shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes affright, A shelter in the time of storm.

The refrain continues:

“Oh, Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a weary land, a weary land.
Oh, Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm.”

We certainly live now in a weary land in need of a rock shelter. The man who wrote that, Vernon J. Charlesworth, was the man who headed up Charles Spurgeon’s orphanage. He knew first hand what storms can do to your heart and he had a hiding place. Christ was a more than sufficient hiding place for him and He is that for us too. Come to Christ for your salvation.  He is the only sure rock in the shifting sand of this world’s troubles (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:4)!

There is another song that comes to mind written by Annie Johnson Flint entitled: “He Giveth More Grace.” She wrote this in the midst of great pain with sores all over her body needing eight pillows just to bear her body up. (You will recall she was also blind and subject to many other illnesses).

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done;
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Refrain:
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

The Grace of God is an incredible hiding place (2 Corinthians 12:9). The generosity of this God in giving his grace to sinners is overwhelming! But it is true!! Trust the grace of God to be sufficient for your battles!

Are you still a bit shaky? Then consider the following texts of Scripture. Think about what the psalmist had discovered about God being his hiding place and what that means:

Psalm 17:8
Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.

Psalm 27:5
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.

Psalm 31:20
You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.

Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Psalm 61:3
For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy.

Psalm 64:2
Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, From the tumult of those who do iniquity,

Psalm 68:20
God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.

Psalm 119:114
You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.

Psalm 143:9
Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.

Oh what a hiding place the Word of God is for us who know Christ! The psalmist testifies that when his heart is “melting away” with sorrow, the Word of God strengthens his soul (Psalm 119:28). He confesses that the Word of God is well tried (Psalm 119:140) and  that it is life-giving, reminding us of God’s great mercy (Psalm 119:156). He also tells us that God’s Word brings great peace to those who love it, and they will be guarded from stumbling (Psalm 119:165)

The Son of God, the Grace of God, and the Word of God…what astounding “hiding places” for the soul. Have you gone there yet? Flee, go there quickly, rest there!! Come to Christ for your salvation. Trust the Grace of God to be sufficient. Go to the Word of God for your strength and hope.

Nothing prepares us for the outside battles like having a safe inside retreat. Think it thru




SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT CONFESSING OUR SINS?

 

I read an article recently by Kevin DeYoung in which he addressed the subject of the confession of our sins as believers (TGC, May 10, 2014). This is what he said:

“God loves us fully in Christ, but this does not mean we are incapable of doing things that are displeasing to God. We can get out of step with the Spirit. We can grieve him too. Even after we have been redeemed, our sin continues to be offensive to God. And this has an effect.

Think of adoption. You complete the paper work, pay the money and the child is yours. You are not sending him back. Never, ever, ever….You will always love him deeply, more than he can possibly realize. But you can still get upset, still be offended, still be very pleased or very displeased. In the same way, God still notices our sin and it disrupts our fellowship with him.”

It seems that sin is a big deal to God even for the believer who has been saved from his sins. Here are some reasons why confession of sin is so necessary & vital for our well-being:

First, our sin is a disruption of fellowship. DeYoung was right. Even though we are “in fellowship” with God in our relationship, sin disrupts the enjoyment of that fellowship. We no longer enjoy the intimacy of “sonship” or appreciate the blessings of our redemption. For example, sin blinds us to gratitude. Remember Israel’s sin of complaining in the wilderness where they detested God’s provision of manna and pined for the leaks and garlics of Egypt? (Hey, I cannot imagine pining for leaks & garlics -pizza maybe). Their complaint was sin and that disrupted the enjoyment of their fellowship with God. God could not do anything right in their eyes. The leaders God gave them were fools. The provisions God gave them were tasteless. The path God led them on was meaningless. The promises God gave were discounted. The victories God won were long forgotten. The presence of God among them was ignored. Disruption…Disruption…Disruption!

Second, our sin is a precursor to disaster. The disrupted fellowship in the family of Israel brought discipline to them…and yet… they remained the people of God. Ps. 99: 8 shows us the balance of grace and truth resident in our God in terms of our sin: “O LORD our God, you answered them. You were a forgiving God, but you punished them when they went wrong.” James reminds us of the progressive path that sin pursues when we surrender to it in our lives when he says,  “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it it fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Why do I call sin a precursor to disaster? Because sin is partnered with death. They walk hand in hand. They are “buddies,” “inseparable pals,” connected by a  deep passion for each other. If you partner with sin, then look out because connected to sin is his old partner “death.’ Israel got their wish for flesh to eat (quail) but oh, how sick they became on that meal. Later, they were bitten by poisonous snakes and many of them died. What a precursor  to disaster our sin becomes. They discovered the partnership between sin and death to be crushing and destructive.

Third, our sin is a drag on the wonderful life God has given to us.  DeYoung likens our sin to barnacles on our ship of life which keeps us from moving forward in our growth: “The cleansing, mind you, is not like the expunging of a guilty record before the judge. That’s already been accomplished. This cleansing is more like the scraping of barnacles off the hull of a ship so it can move freely again. I  John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (barnacles).

Confession of sin is a big deal. It is so because God declares it to be so. And it is so because of the tragic and terrible consequences that come from a lack of confession of sin.

DeYoung’s conclusion is worth noting:

“Some of us become Christians and just go on our merry way, never thinking of sin, while others fixate on our failings and suffer from despair. One person feels no conviction of sin; the other person feels no relief from sin. Neither of these habits should mark the Christian. The Christian should often feel conviction, confess, and be cleansed.”        THINK IT THRU

ARE WE UNCOMFORTABLE SPEAKING ABOUT HELL?

It has been my practice to read at least one sermon from a great preacher of the past each week. I find my soul stirred by the many personalities and styles God uses in proclaiming the unchanging word of God. I just finished reading Charles Spurgeon’s sermon entitled “Heaven and Hell.” His text was Matt. 8:11-12 “And I say to you, that many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
I was gripped with the candid directness of  Spurgeon’s  words and his unshakable conviction that the word of God must stand without adaptation. I like the way he approached his audience. He said simply “Weigh right and wrong this night; see whether what I say be the truth of God. If it be not, reject it utterly, and cast it away; but if it is, at your peril disregard it; for, as you shall answer before God, the great Judge of heaven and earth, it will go ill with you if the words of his servant and of his Scripture be despised.”
There was no political correctness in his wording but there was no lack of grace in his tone either. I loved the way he revealed the tension in his soul as he preached this very heavy subject. This is how he put it: “My text has two parts. The first is very agreeable to my mind and gives me pleasure; the second is terrible in the extreme; but, since they are both the truth, they must be preached.” The insight of his confession reflects what should be the thought of every preacher as he stands before his audience with the open word of God in his hand.
The first part of the sermon is extremely comforting. He jolted me when he observed that there will be more people in heaven than in hell. Before you throw the “narrow and wide gate” text at Spurgeon I encourage you to read how he came to this conclusion. You may not agree with him, but he does have a point. Then he moves to the last part of the text. You can sense his heaviness of heart as he preaches about the outer darkness and the weeping and gnashing of teeth. I don’t think I can ever speak on hell again without Spurgeon’s words ringing in my ears. Listen: “But, in hell, there is no hope. They have not even the hope of dying. They are forever-forever-forever lost! On every chain in hell, there is written ‘forever.’ In the fires, there blaze out the words ‘forever.’ Up above their heads, they read ‘forever.’ Their eyes are galled, and their hearts are pained with the thought that it is forever. Oh! If I could tell you tonight that hell would one day be burned out, and that those who were lost might be saved, there would be a jubilee in hell at the very thought of it. But it cannot be–it is ‘forever’ they are ‘cast into utter darkness.”
So why are we so reluctant to speak so clearly of hell? Do I really believe my neighbors in their nice houses will end up there? Am I that callous and preoccupied with life that I cannot bring myself to think long on the subject? Do I fear if I spoke or preached so candidly that such  messages would be unappreciated, unwelcomed? Are the words of Scripture to be taken at face value? Are the stakes that high? Think it thru

WHY DO SOME PEOPLE STRUGGLE TO BELIEVE?

 Remember the disciple Thomas? He was dug in. I will not believe. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I WILL NEVER BELIEVE!” (John 20:24-25). This guy rubbed elbows with Jesus, had conversations with him, traveled with him, listened to him, ate with him, and saw all the miraculous stuff Jesus did, yet after Jesus died, he categorically refused to believe that anything like the resurrection could really occur. Why the unbelief? Oh, I know the heart is deceitful and desperately incurable, our friend Jeremiah tells us (Jer. 17:9). That explains part of the unbelief struggle. Don’t trust your heart. It is wicked. God alone really knows the heart! But I think there is more that goes on in the unbelief struggle.

Think about this. When you are not sure about someone, then you are reluctant to believe what they say, promise, state, or do. You will recall that Philip asked Jesus to show he and the other disciples the Father and he/they would be at rest…satisfied (John 14:8-11). Jesus answers with an astounding question: ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? In other words, he is saying ‘you still cannot wrap your head around who I am? You cannot see God in me?’ Then He says forthrightly: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is is me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” The struggle to believe is wrapped in the package of being sure of Jesus. If you cannot get Jesus right you have no basis to believe. We must keep that in mind as we share the Gospel with our fellow men. Jesus must always be the starting point on the path of faith. Of course that means going to the record with confidence…ie the Bible… so that we can know about who Jesus is and what He has done.

Perhaps there is another reason for the struggle to believe. Is good news reliable and believable in our skeptical and jaded world of constant turmoil, trouble and wickedness? Every day we are bombarded with bombings, shootings, devastating storms, riots, hunger, cheaters, liars, murderers, etc. and on the list goes. So when we bring up the matter of there being “good news” you can see the disbelief on the faces of those to whom we speak. True good news is rare, seldom seen or experienced, so no wonder there is a struggle to believe in such a “fairy tale.” Yet the transforming power of the Gospel in real life is testimony that there is good news and it is real. Our own stories of redemption from our sins through Christ needs to be shared not as a pipe dream but as an experienced reality. Jesus did save us from our sins. The Gospel does work. We must be ready to show the results of the Gospel in our own lives as we face the daily challenges of life in this fallen world. Paul was right. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation” (II Cor. 5:17).
Just because there is a struggle to believe does not mean that many will not come to faith in Christ. That is why Paul went on to say: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (II Cor. 5:20).

Finally, let’s not forget our enemy who sows constant seeds of doubt when it comes to believing the word and promises of God. He has had a lot of experience in this practice (starting in Genesis 3 with our first parents). That is why the man in the Gospels cried out to Jesus with great honesty about the battle raging in his soul (no doubt sowed by the enemy of souls): “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). The struggle for belief is not a rare or unusual thing in our world. But victory is possible.  Paul says that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Face unbelief with the Bible and its claims about Christ. Unbelief cannot stand before an honest reception of God’s Word.

The end of the story for Thomas is recorded in John 20:26-29. Thomas was invited in the presence of the risen Christ to indeed put his fingers into the wounds. But strangely he did not. Unbelief vanished when he got Jesus right. He just said: “My Lord and my God!” The struggle to believe is over. Christ is Lord! Think it thru

SO WHAT’S NEW ABOUT THE NEW YEAR?

There is something exciting about getting something new. Maybe for Christmas you got that new book or tool or kitchen gadget or clothing item. You have already tried it out. Hopefully it did not tear, break or get soiled…but it will because new stuff gets old. That is just the way of life.

So what’s new about the new year?  Resolutions? How many really last? Fresh start with a new calendar? The days roll by and the check list grows, and it begins to feel like old hat, right?

Let’s think about this question about what’s new in the new year.

ANSWER: NOTHING.  Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”  Well, that is a depressing note.  It sounds like we are doomed to go over the same ground…again this year as last year. Does history repeat itself?  Is there no hope of change? Is that what Solomon means? That there is nothing new under the sun does not mean that man does not invent, that he does not genuinely reflect his Creator by building and making wonderful new things. But think about this. Man does what he’s done since the dawn of time. He invents, works, builds, barters, eats, drinks, walks, sleeps, and dies. What leverage do these activities give mankind? One generation comes and another goes. Do we remember the greatest rage in entertainment in the early 1800’s in America? Can we recall the greatest athlete in the 1600’s? Does your young grandson even know the meaning of the phrase “like a broken record?” Can he even recall what a dial-tone is? Eventually everything is forgotten. That cycle keeps repeating. Solomon’s whole point in Ecclesiastes is this: Without God life is purposeless, vain, empty, doomed to many points of failure. The endless cycle.

ANSWER: SOME THINGS. Paul teaches us in II Cor. 5:17 that when a person is born again he becomes a new creature in Christ. Old things are passing away and all things are becoming new.  Paul also reminds us that God’s goal is to change us and bring us more into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29). This transforming work is constantly going on in us and as we read God’s word and speak to God in prayer, the changes the Holy Spirit makes in our thinking and behavior make us look more like Jesus than the day before…and the year before! That is new stuff for us.

ANSWER: EVERYTHING.  I love Jeremiah’s take on what God is doing in the days to come in all of our lives as believers. Lamentations 3:22-23 says “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. THEY ARE NEW EVERY MORNING; great is your faithfulness.”  Imagine that. Every morning when I wake up and face the day something new from God is going to come down in the form of a mercy. Think of what was going on here. Jerusalem had fallen. A dark hour in history for Israel. Jeremiah the prophet is in pain and full of grief. Then he recalls the steadfast love of the Lord. It never goes away. In fact God’s mercies come to us new every morning, no matter what happened yesterday. That is what keeps us going. Today may be a mess, but tomorrow promises new mercies. It happens every day.

So what’s new about the new year? Nothing…Some Things…Everything. Never forget the words of Jesus in Revelation 21:5 “Behold, I make all things new.”  That is our hope.There is a new future. God is in the business of making us new. Are we living by faith banking on God’s new mercies? Are we resisting or complying to God’s new thing(s)?  Think it thru

WAS CHRISTMAS REALLY A “SILENT NIGHT?”

I really like the Christmas hymn Silent Night.  But I have to wonder…was that night a silent night with  all being calm? Was the infant so tender and mild suggesting a comfortable setting for the babe?

From all I read Jesus was born into a chaotic, lawless and troubled world.The leaders of Israel were leading the people further and further from God. Their nation was in subjection to the Roman Empire and many in Israel were fuming and fighting under that condition. One king had it in mind to kill this child-king if he could get his hands on him. And when he could not, what did he do? He had all the children in and around Bethlehem under 2 years old killed. Silent Night? Holy Night?All is calm?  I really don’t think so. Jeremiah predicted that there would be a lot of crying and sorrow among Israel at that time.  The only thing holy about that night  was the Son of God Himself.

Out on the hillside the Shepherds had their hands full too with a frightening display of angel lights and sounds. It was not so silent a night as far as they were concerned.

Was it a calm night for the new Christmas parents? Joseph and Mary were not in a comfortable hostel but far from home, having to make a hard trip to comply with census laws.  They ended up  in a cave stable where she gave birth to Jesus.  This baby was laid in  a feeding trough for animals. Calm, quiet surroundings you think? With animals, really?

I know…we like our Christmases contemplative and quiet so we can think.  That image of a peaceful and peace-filled celebration appeals to us. But in reality Christ’s birth was never meant to be treated in Silent Mode.  The coming of Christ is something to shout about, talk about, sing about, and testify to.  We ought to be making a lot of noise as a church at Christmas. This is our time. This is our Savior. Mohamed has nothing to do with this. The angel Moroni can’t share in this. Buddha has to bow low to this one. Hinduism has no Savior. Man’s religion has to take a back seat to this Lord of Glory come to earth! They must all stand silent before this King Savior – Jesus the Christ. Those are the real “silent night” people. Jesus says we are people of the day (I Thess. 5:5). We are to carry news of him everywhere and shout it from the mountaintops.

No, my friend. Let’s have no silent nights around Christmas. Christ really did come. Now that is something to talk about! Who will you tell over the next few days?  Silent night?? No way!! Think it thru