Monday, June 3, 2019

The High Calling

As you continue to press on towards the high calling of Christ, don’t forget your great value to the work of the Kingdom. I’m afraid too often Christians float through life content without really understanding the wonderful life they’ve been given. They fail to recognize the glorious gift of reconciliation—that they have been made right with God. They fail to fully appreciate the wonder of their adoption—that God has actually made them a part of His family. And they fail to recognize their high calling in Christ, a call to holiness. When Jesus called His disciples “salt” and “light” He was speaking of the profound effect they have upon the world around them. Is your life really making a difference? 

Is your life a blessing to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Is your life a testimony to them in such a way that they are encouraged. When Paul suffered in prison it encouraged others who were suffering — “that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear" (Phil. 1:14). As your brothers and sisters in Christ observe your life, is it an encouragement or discouragement? Are they seeing your progress in holiness? Do they see your example as one to emulate—consistent in attendance and service at church; faithful in love, graciousness and patience? Do they see you as a person of high character and integrity, or do you compromise your principles easily. Are they encouraged as they see you face trials with patience and faith? 

What do the lost see as they observe your life? Too often, by the time some professing Christians finish making concessions and allowances there isn’t much left that would identify them as a follower of Christ. How wonderful it is when the world looks upon us and sees absolute commitment to Christ. How wonderful it is when they witness people who are loving, kind, gracious, and merciful. These are characteristics not often seen in this world. The person who possesses them will stand out. Such people will have a great effect upon those who do not profess Christ. Peter gives us great encouragement—“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1Pet. 3:1-2). Peter is saying that our Godly lives can have a great effect upon unbelievers. May God help us to live such lives.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Our Only Hope and Strength

Isaiah 10:20 NASB - "Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel."  

Isaiah prophesied of a time when God’s people would look to Him alone as their source of strength and comfort. The prophecy comes in the context of the great threatening storm of invasion upon Israel. Did they look to God for their refuge? No, they looked to the Assyrians, the very ones who would oppress them. King Ahaz renounced his dependence upon God and sought the aid of the Assyrians. "Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, ‘I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram, and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me’” (2 Kings 16:7). It might have seemed like a reasonable course of action. The Assyrians were a powerful force. Perhaps they could deliver Israel from the invasion of the Arameans. In doing so they committed treason against the one true God. They abandoned the only one who could deliver them. When carnal wisdom replaces faith in God the results are always disastrous. God gave them over to their sin and crushed them under the very forces they had trusted. 

Isaiah looked forward to a time when God’s people would turn to Him as their only Deliverer. Isaiah is ultimately looking forward to the New Covenant. As God’s holy remnant, we have forsaken every earthly hope and have declared our dependence upon Jehovah God. We can say with King David, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust” (Psalm 18:2). As we sing in the great hymn, “Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand, Never foe can follow, never foe can stand; Not a surge of worry, Not a shade of care, Not a blast of hurry, touch the Spirit there. Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed; finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.” 

We are the chosen people of God. Nothing shall separate us from His love and care. Why would we look to another for our hope and strength? There is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved. Christ alone is our great Deliverer, our Savior and King, the Holy One of Israel.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Exercising Caution with Social Media

I've recently been given a gift subscription to Ligonier Ministries' "Tabletalk Magazine." I came across a brief article by Matt Smethurst, an elder at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY that provides wisdom as we wander through the fields of social media. The article is titled, "Honoring One Another Online." (Feb. 2019 issue, pages 17-18). Here is an excerpt:

     "Jesus' words in Matthew 7:12--'Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them'--are so familiar that they're easily forgotten. But the Golden Rule is in effect each time we pull out our phones. 
     One of today's most insidious temptations--amplified by social media--is to slander and to shame. Why assume the best? we quietly think. Why not pile on? It's not like they know me. Plus, there are retweets to be had.
    The word slanderer appears thirty-four times in the Bible as a designation for the devil. He is the great accuser. Mirroring his methods in social media is not unfortunate. It's not mistaken. It is Satanic.
    Slander is a form of vandalism, too. It defaces God's most valuable property on earth--human beings, divine works of art who bear His image. No wonder James says reckless words arise from hell (James 3:6). No wonder he anchors the whole discussion in the imago Dei (vv. 8-9).
    Crafted in God's image, every person possesses divinely granted dignity and worth--and should be treated as such. This can be easy to forget when scrolling through a comment section or staring at a blurry head shot. But pixels can never shrink our personhood. Our online interactions must reflect this."

Technology is a wonderful blessing from God. The internet is a tool that can be of great use in advancing the Gospel, but there are many dangers. Social media should be of particular concern. It can foster pride as we desire others to read what we have to say. It encourages gossip as we share information that is best kept private. And social media can quickly become an obsession, where we become glued to our phones, always looking for the next post. People become "friends" with people they hardly know and refuse to de-friend those of whom they should not associate. May God grant great discernment. If we choose to involve ourselves, we must exercise great caution. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Remember the Sabbath

Regarding the Sabbath, our Confession states, “The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and order in their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up the whole time in the public exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and worship” (2nd London Baptist Conf. of 1689).

Our Confession is a Puritan statement of faith. In other words, as subscribers of the 1689 Confession we are openly Puritan in our theology. The Puritans believed that observing of the Sabbath was absolutely essential for the spiritual wellbeing of the church. And for the majority of Protestant churches since the Reformation, the Sabbath has been consistently taught and practiced. Sadly, we have seen a great shift in the commitment of the modern church to the Sabbath.

Robert Godfrey states in his series on the history of the Christian church, “Of all the changes we’ve seen in the last fifty years in Protestant churches, probably the most surprising is the near disappearance of the Sabbath as a theological conviction. Most conservative Protestant churches that fifty years ago would have had both morning and evening worship on the Sabbath Day, now there is only a morning service. Think about the implication of this. It means that most Christians in Protestant America are hearing half the sermons they used to hear. How can people possibly be as well instructed and well-informed if they are going to half as many services a year. The level of Biblical knowledge among lay Protestants in this country in the last fifty years as diminished dramatically.”

Godfrey makes a good point. Our culture knows nothing of Sunday as a holy day. Sadly, the vast majority of Christians today have abandoned the Sabbath, with sad consequences. Even some who claim to hold to the 1689 Confession of Faith deny the words, “but also are taken up the whole time in the public exercise of worship.” The temptation is great for us to conform to the world around us. May the words of the Apostles ring loudly upon our ears, “We must obey God rather than men.” Or may we hear God’s words through Isaiah, “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure, And speaking your own word, Then you will take delight in the LORD, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13).