“Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:22-23)
Do you “know” Jesus? As He personally exclaimed in Matthew 7:22-23, many who claim to know him in fact do not. There is a lot of “church work” being done by folks who are very busy for Jesus, but who have never met Him. Knowing someone demands intimacy… and knowing Jesus is no different. The thought of otherwise good people begrudgingly attending sermons or sitting in church meetings year after year without actually knowing the King hurts my very soul. I’m positive it grieves the heart of Jesus even more. Oh, how He wants to know us! If only we’d stop trying to earn our way into his presence and simply look up and accept His outstretched hand. Then, and only then, will one speck of our efforts ever earn us anything from our Savior. And then, and only then will we finally understand and run toward Him with all we are!
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44
Some people just seem harder than others. There are surely countless factors leading to a hardened heart, but certainly a life lived for selfish gain is one of the quickest ways to get one! The Scriptures tell us God can return a “heart of stone” to a “heart of flesh,” but first the owner of that heart has to recognize his or her condition and cry out to God for His help. Maybe you know someone who’s become so hardened by life that even the concept of God escapes him. The best hope I can give you is that prayer does change things. Pray for them… and while you’re at it, pray that God continues to soften your heart as well. A heart grows hard slowly enough that the owner rarely ever notices the change until it’s too late.
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” Romans 2:5-8
Sometimes I get super aggravated with what I feel are people who “do the church thing” but seem to be anywhere but walking with the Lord. Of course, whenever we start looking down at others, the Lord is often quick to help us see our own blemishes! My job is not to change anybody, but to point the way by setting the example personally. The truth be told, none of us are what we should be, or we wouldn’t need a Lord and Savior in the first place! I’m also reminded that Jesus poured Himself into Judas’ life for three years, knowing all the while Judas would betray Him. Jesus healed many who didn’t even stop to say, “thank you,” and even prayed for those who whipped, mocked and crucified Him. To us (His Church), He acknowledges there will be “goats among the sheep” and “tares among the wheat,” meaning He’s well aware that many in the “church crowd” are only faking it for their own gain. The only person we can change is ourselves, and only then by drawing close to our Lord personally. That’s what all of us are commanded to do. To the others, we’re to show unconditional love, as to the Lord Himself. The Judge will sort out the details in His own time.
“These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves.” Jude 12a
“‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!,” said a young friend of mine as he heard how God sent His Son to die on a Roman cross. “Really! I thought you might say that… let me show you what God said you would say.”
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-21
It may sound like a silly question, but I often struggle with exactly what it means to be “Christlike.” Sure, it sounds simple enough–to “be like Christ.” But, how could a mere human ever come close to achieving such an ideal? I’ve heard people described as “Christlike,” and many times I’ve heard acts of kindness described similarly. Still, such a phrase seems so far beyond my reach that I honestly cannot conceive it. Frankly, I’m often more concerned with “self” than I am with other people. How I look and how I’m thought of by other people matters to me way more than it should to someone who confesses Christ as Lord. I often wonder how a man who gets upset when a traffic light suddenly turns red could ever be used by the God who made everything that ever was. Christlike? Hardly! And just then, just when I realize I’m a pathetic sinner, sometimes the brokeness God has brought upon me actually does make me useful. Finally, my eyes are less on me and more on Him. Finally, I can see the hurt around me. Finally, if only for a moment, I become a man even God could use!
“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:25
The Scriptures tell us God did not have a beginning, and He does not have an end. For you and I that may be hard to understand (possibly because on this earth we will have both!) Knowing I had a beginning (in my mother’s womb or even before that in the mind of God) serves to humble me greatly. I did not ask for life, and yet I have it! Think about it for a moment… the same God who put the stars in the sky conceived you in His mind before your mother conceived you. Then, the Scriptures tell us He “knit” you in her womb. While we probably will never be able to fully understand how God could always have been, we will one day move from the restraints time and space put on us and into eternity. Once we’re there, I’m betting our perspective on life will change radically. Then the thinking unborn babies are “choices” and human embryos are fodder for “experiments” will be exposed by God Himself. Until then, He relies in great part on you and me to carry the torch of “life!” Believe me; God is pro-choice in the sense He gives us choice in whether or not we follow Him. But the Scriptures are resolute in the fact He is pro-life when it comes to shedding innocent blood. Some 60ish years later we now look back at Adolph Hitler’s “experiments” as cruel, inhuman and even Satanic. Think back to your school lessons. In his mind didn’t Hitler believe he was advancing mankind through “selection” and through the sciences? Death only advances itself.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14
During the days Jesus walked the earth, the Jews had a strict policy on what happened to people who lied, or who served as a false witnesses to something. If they were found out, they were immediately put to death. The punishment would have been even swifter if the offender had the audacity to put the lie in writing. Jesus’ followers were unafraid of writing the accounts of Him being seen after the resurrection because such a large number of people had seen Jesus in the flesh. That He had risen from the dead was commonly known to be a fact. The false witnesses were the ones who claimed it was untrue and made up lies about people stealing His body and such. Of course, they weren’t put to death–the only ones put to death were those who refused to stop spreading the news and renounce their faith in Christ.
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” Acts 2:32
Lust is an interesting sin. It desires what it does not have, and slowly destroys the ability of the host to function as God intended. If our minds are God-given super computers, then lust is a virus that enters looking very innocent, but in the end this Trojan horse is full of destruction that only demons could conceive. This “innocent” sin can actually damn a soul to hell.
Although commonly thought of as a part of maturing, lust is actually a sign of immaturity. At it’s core, it is a sign someone is being controlled by the flesh, and not the Spirit. The Scriptures are full of warnings, including one from Jesus that suggests it would be better to gouge out your eye or cut off your hand than to let something cause you to “sin” and damn you to hell (Matt 5:29/18:9). Why so severe? Because in the end, the presence of lust in one’s heart will make it impossible to see or hear or even conceive the things of God. Like all sin, this sin is poison. And those who wish to walk with the Lord must be very aware of this sin. Virtually every arm of the media dangles this forbidden fruit as bait. Don’t bite! There is a hook!
Lust must be dealt with today, not tomorrow. This is not a secret sin, as the Lord looks at the heart and knows all things. Admit this sin, give it to the Lord, learn to live in the here and now and not in the fantasy world. Lust is not a precursor for “love”… it is the opposite of love and only serves itself-it kills one’s ability to truly love.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24
How grateful would you be if someone bought you a sandwich when you were down on your luck? Would you just say, “thank you,” or would you shake their hand too? What if you were in bad need of a kidney transplant and a total stranger volunteered to donate one for you? Would you cry and hug them like crazy? Maybe you’d send them a card every year or have vacations together, always recognizing you’d be dead without their gift. And what would you do if you realized one day that you were under God’s wrath; born a sinner, and yet offered absolute forgiveness because the very same God sacrificed His Only Son to pay the price for your sins? Would you do like most people and rarely give him a thought-living life in total disregard of Him and His act of love? Would you forget to say “thanks” with every fiber of your being? If you did, you’d either not really understand what you’d been given or you never had it in the first place.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
In these days of political correctness, do you ever notice yourself tip-toeing around people? I know Christians should do their best to live peaceably with the world around them, but sometimes it’s just not going to matter how hard you try. Did Jesus live peaceably with those around Him? What about John the Baptist or the Apostle Paul? I could probably ask the same question about thousands of other saints, and almost every time the answer would be a resounding NO! Remember friends, we’re fellow heirs with Christ. Frankly, most of the world hates Him and what He stands for. And because of that, it hates His followers. Be gentle and loving, but don’t hide your light or deny your Savior for anybody–hard feelings or not!
“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating not drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Hers is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners”‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 11:16-19)