Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Sacred Nature of Life

“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

(Ezekiel 18:23 ESV)

January is a month that has been recognized as Sanctity of Life Month. The 21st of January will be Sanctity of Life Sunday.  It’s a time to remember that, because it was created by God, all human life is sacred.

Our focus, during this time of year, is typically on abortion. And it’s needless to say that this practice is a terrible evil. However, the scope of this remembrance goes much further. It speaks to issues such as euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, in vitro fertilization, living wills, contraception, and more.

One of the primary things we must remember, when it comes to life issues, is that God is the giver of life. Life flows from him. And life has value because of him.

We remember from the creation account that God formed man and breathed into him the breath of life. We’re told also, in John 1, that life is in the Word, that it’s in Jesus. And we find in Scripture that not only did God provide for us life in this world. He’s also provided for us eternal life. Through Jesus he’s enabled us to live not only for eighty, ninety, or even one hundred years. He’s enabled us to live forever.

Even though he is just, even though he issued the punishment of death upon man in response to our sin, and even though he’s decreed the punishment of hell for those who do not receive salvation, he doesn’t take pleasure in this. He is not a sadistic God who celebrates as the wicked receive their due. As we see in the above passage, it’s his desire that the wicked should turn from his way and live.

It’s God’s desire that all should live.  It’s his desire that all should live forever.  And, for this reason, he’s made eternal life available for everyone.  Jesus’ death served as the atoning sacrifice for the lives of not only a few, but for all.

This great blessing is available to all people through faith in him.  By trusting in Jesus, by trusting in his sacrifice, we’re enabled to receive salvation.  And we are called to take this message to the world around us.

Seeing that God desires life for all, we should share this desire. We should desire that people would gratefully receive the blessing of life in this world, and that it would not be denied them.  And we should also desire that all people will receive the blessing of eternal life. It should be our desire that, through faith in Jesus, they will receive salvation from sin and death.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Proper Use of Freedom

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.”

(1 Peter 2:16-17)

As Christians, we tend to err in one of two ways. Some of us fall into legalism. We depend upon the law to attain for us salvation and the blessing of God. And, on the other side of the spectrum, some of us fall into antinomianism. We believe that, because we’re saved by grace, it doesn’t matter what we do. We feel that we can do as we please because God freely forgives us.

Both of these mindsets are a misunderstanding of the gospel. Scripture tells us that the Law does not save us. In fact, it cannot do so. And it also tells us that the Christian life is one of repentance. It’s a life of turning from sin and living for the Lord.

In the above verses, Peter tells us to live as people who are free. And we should do just that.  We should do so because, again, we are not saved by our obedience to the law, but by the grace of God. We have also been freed from the requirements of the ceremonial law.

This truth takes a great weight off of our shoulders. No longer must we be consumed by efforts to earn our salvation. And no longer are we burdened by unrealistic requirements that have nothing to do with our redemption.

However, that being said, we are not to use this freedom as an excuse for our sin. We cannot live as we please, doing as we choose, believing that our sinful actions will be overlooked by God. We must not live in unrepentance, believing that it doesn’t matter.

We must bear in mind that, since we’re now free from this bondage, we are servants of God.  We must not forget that our life belongs to him. And we must not forget that we’ve been called to willingly and gladly honor him in all that we do.

In this spirit, we’re to honor everyone. We’re to love the brotherhood, meaning the people of the church. We’re to fear God. And we’re also to honor those who rule over us.  In all of these ways, we act as servants of God.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Above Reproach

“Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

 (1 Peter 2:13-15 ESV)

As we live in this world, Christians are often accused. Some of these accusations are made in an effort to discredit us, while others are made in an effort to shame us. This is done with the goal of silencing us and discrediting our ministry.

These accusations often have the intended effect. We cringe when, as believers in Jesus, we’re referred to as a “goody-two-shoes” or as a “do-gooder.” These comments are intended as insults, and this is the way that we take them.  And, for this reason, we seem determined to prove that we can sin with the best of them.

We are, of course, sinners. It’s not my intention to imply otherwise.  However, our desire to fit in with the world around us opens us to sins we otherwise might not commit.

We seem to think that we can only reach out to the world if we identify with them.  And, by identify with them, I mean taking part with them in their sin. We think that we must talk like them and behave like them if they’re to listen to us.

We’re also, at times, dismissive of “small” sins that we commit. Even though we do our best to keep from falling into the "big" sins, we pay little attention to others. We intentionally drive above the speed limit. We cheat on our taxes. We park illegally. We refuse to submit to the authorities in these ways because, in our mind, it’s no big deal.

However, as we see in the above passage, our actions serve as a testimony to the world around us. It reveals to them, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we are different. It reveals to them that we have, indeed, been set apart from the world around us. It reveals to them that we have been transformed by the gospel.

As they accuse us, as they seek to find fault with us, our life silences them. When they see the good that we do, they can only conclude that we are, in fact, living out our faith. And, in this way, all of their efforts to discredit us come to nothing.

This is God’s will for us, according to Peter. It’s his desire that we will live life in such a way that our accusers have nothing left to say.  It’s his will that we live our life in such a way that their ignorance is made clear. It’s his will that, as people look at our lives, there is no question that these accusations are baseless.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Because of His Great Mercy

“For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.”

(Dan 9:18 ESV)

Prayer is something in which we regularly engage. As we go through our day to day life, and as we encounter various trials and struggles, we end up with a laundry list of requests for the Lord. We then go to the Lord, asking him to help us with these trials and to remove from us our struggles.

We’re also confronted with our sin on a daily basis. And, as we recognize our wrongdoing, we again go to the Lord in prayer. We go to him asking that he might forgive us.

Typically, when we bring our requests to the Lord, we approach him arguing that we are deserving of the blessing we seek. We make our request, reminding him of our faithfulness. We make our request, reminding him of our love for him. We make our request, reminding him of our goodness and of our obedience to him.

We’ll also, at times, make our request promising something in return. We tell God that, if he grants to us the blessing we seek, we’ll do something for him. We’ll perform some duty that, up to this point, we’ve been hesitant to perform. We’ll surrender an area of our life that, up to this point, we’ve held back.

We fail to realize, as we pray in this way, that we are not depending on the grace of God for his blessing. We are, instead, engaging in works righteousness. We’re trying to earn God’s blessings by our efforts. We are seeking his blessing because of our imagined sense of inherent righteousness.

We fail to realize that we’re a sinful people and that, because of our sin, we deserve nothing from God. In fact, the only thing we deserve from him is judgment. We cannot rightly approach him for any blessing based upon our own merit.

We must, instead, follow the example of Daniel, in the above passage. As he asked for God’s mercy for himself and his people, and as he requested God’s blessing, he didn’t base it upon their goodness. He did not approach God believing that they were deserving of this blessing. He approached God, asking for his grace.

He tells God that he approaches him, not because of the righteousness of his people. He approaches God because of his mercy. He approaches God not because of their character, but because of his.

As we approach God, we must do the same. We must do so recognizing our unworthiness. We must do so recognizing that only by of his grace can we receive his blessing. We must approach him based not upon who we are, but upon who he is.