Do we really understand the magnitude of God’s holiness? Holiness is absolute purity, perfection, the epitome of all that is good and right. Do we really understand the depth of our own sinful nature? Sin is our rebellion from God, our putting our desires, our will above that of our Creator. Do we really understand the fulness of God’s love? Love that is not a feeling, but a total willingness to give, even to self-sacrifice for the good of another. Do we really understand the magnitude of God’s grace? Grace is a free gift, something we receive which we do not deserve, did not earn, and have done absolutely nothing to merit. I’m not sure we really understand the depth of any of these. I know I don’t. We hear these words frequently in our churches – holiness, sin, love, grace. As we meditate on the meaning of each of these, and far more than I’ve expressed here, we begin to see something of who God is, who we are, and what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We owe our life, now and and eternally, to the One who has loved us so much that He freely gave the life of His only begotten Son to redeem us from sin and death, to bring us into His holiness. As we think about the magnitude of God’s act we are brought to before Him in humble worship.
How easy it is to be manipulated by emotions. Political candidates use catch words like children, or the elderly. Higher taxes, and the rich are also good for a vote or two. TV commercials guarantee to make us thinner or more beautiful, declaring that “we’re worth it”. Emotions are fine. God gave them to us, and they have their place, but they are not to direct the course of life. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”(2:3-4) Emotional responses are concerned with what is good for me, and for my group. It narrows our focus to what we think is good, but denies the possibility of making hard choices that may require suffering, but in the long run bring real good for all. Read the rest of the Philippian passage, vss.5-8, and consider where we would be if Jesus had acted on emotion rather than the truth of God’s purpose for mankind. “Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”(I Peter 4:7)
A song came out many years ago called That Lucky Old Sun. The singer related all his trials and woes, and than said, “like that lucky old sun, give me nothing to do but roll around heaven all day.” Sometimes we feel like that, especially when the schedule get busy, and there are too many things to do in too short a time. I have my “to do” list on my desk. It looks like a busy week. There are a couple of deadlines that must be met. There is no easy answer about how to get it all done. It is helpful though to ask a couple of questions. What are the priorities? What are the things that will really matter a month from now, a year from now? What things really serve others and honor the Lord? We can’t do everything, but we can do what is important. All the rest we leave in the Lord’s hands. Panic and worry never helped anyone. That is why the Lord is always calling us to peace and trust in Him. Do the first thing at hand. Do it the best that you can. Then move on.The rest will get done soon enough.
First Corinthians 12 gives a list of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gift of speaking in tongues is the most debated and controversial, but I believe the one most necessary for Christians today is the gift of distinguishing between spirits, simply called discernment.(vs.10) We live in a time marked by confusion and compromise. We receive messages that are Godly, absolutely ungodly, or often, a mixture of the two. We need to discern the difference. Whether it is a TV program, a political speech, a sermon in church, or for that matter, these daily messages, we need to understand what is of God and what is not. As Christians, our first commitment is to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We desire to honor Hm with all that we do, say, and think. For us, the issue is not whether something is acceptable or unacceptable, or even whether it is moral or immoral. Our question in all things is, does this honor our Lord? For this we need to be regularly reading God’s revealed word, the Bible, and to pray for the gift of discernment. God, by the presence of His Spirit, will guide us in paths that bring honor to Him.
Too many people own a loose-leaf Bible! By that I mean they are quick to snap open the binder and throw out pages they don’t like. Or for that matter, they take the Old Testament binder, throw it out completely, and only keep a few pages from the New Testament binder that speak of Jesus teaching about love, forgiveness, and holding children on His lap. That is not the way God gave us the Scripture. There is only one binder, and the Lord has welded the rings closed. Scripture is one book from Genesis through Revelation. It is the Book that tells us who God is, who man is, and how the two can come together. Of course, there are those parts we don’t understand. After all, this is the Word of Almighty God we are talking about. We approach the Bible as one whole book. We study the parts in the context of the whole. Even those parts that rub us the wrong way have their place. If we are willing to stick with it, we find a marvelous account of our God of grace, who has done everything necessary to bring the people He created to Himself.
“Where can I go from you Spirit? Where can I flee from you presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10) Each of us is a creation of God. He gives us life and breath. As the Psalmist says, He follows us wherever we are. He has been called the Hound of Heaven. It is the awesome mystery of His love that causes Him to continue to seek us, and want to work in our life. Whether we know it or not, His right hand is upon us today.
The Apostle John was in exile on the island of Patmos because of his faith and his witnessing to Jesus Christ. He writes a letter to the churches that we now call the Book of Revelation. He begins by writing, “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus…”(1:9) He, as Paul and many others then and now, was suffering because of his faith in Christ. Suffering is a common lot in this broken and sin-filled world, but look at what he is saying. “I, John, your brother…” We endure many pains in this life, but we do not do it alone. We are part of a body. We are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Then he states two other pillars to this truth. We also share the Kingdom. That is, the truth of the love, care, and presence of the Living Lord with us now and always. In this we have patient endurance because our hope is set firmly in Jesus. We have no answers to the many “why” question of life, but we have a support, a strength, and a hope that goes far beyond all of our questions.