Too much consumer debt on a family is a great problem. We are told that as the economy improves consumer debt goes up. It is not uncommon for a family to owe thousands of dollars on credit cards. But suppose you were one of those families. The debt was so high you couldn’t even make the minimum payments. Then some benevolent person comes along and says, “I will pay all of that debt for you. You no longer owe anything.” The feeling of relief, gratitude, and elation would be incredible. Obviously, I am using this as a parable of what our Lord has done for each of us. He has canceled our debt of sin. The problem with many is really believing that our sin debt is that great. We would rather think that we are pretty good folks compared to lots of others we could name. But in truth, we are evil in our own nature, and our sin debt is so high we have no hope of being right with God. Only the benevolent act of Jesus Christ on Calvary is sufficient to pay our debt. And it has been paid! That calls for an unending sense of gratitude and worship.
When someone is writing an article or some other longer paper, it usually starts with a draft copy, then it gets edited and refined. Language is clarified, and phrases are sharpened to better express what the writer wants to convey. It is that same refining and clarifying process that our Lord is doing in each of us. We are God’s creation. He made us, and called us to be one with Him through Christ Jesus. Throughout our lives He works to refine us into His image. The difference between us and a manuscript is that we can resist the Refiner’s hand. Yet, in His patience and persistence, He continues to work, and has given us the promise that He will not stop until we are complete. This is an ongoing and daily process. Look with anticipation at how our Lord will work in you today.
There were many time when God was angry with His people and had to discipline them. They were on the wrong path, a path that would only lead to their hurt. They couldn’t see it while they were worshiping their idol or whatever else it was that violated God’s commands. They were having a good time, thinking everything was fine, not realizing the hurt they were causing themselves and others. They were surprised when the discipline came. Solomon wrote in his Proverbs, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”(14:12) This is all true for individuals as well as for nations. God has shown us a way of life that is good. He has given us laws and values for our well being. When we choose to ignore God’s laws we get ourselves into trouble and discipline comes in one form or another. Maybe by an authority over us, maybe by the natural course of our sin. The Hebrews writer wrote, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”(12:11) God has provided a way for us to return by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is always God’s desire that we know the “harvest of righteousness” in life, and a depth of His peace.
What is necessary for life? Certainly air, water, and food are essential to sustain physical life. Along with rest and exercise, these keep the body moving, but life is more than the physical body. We need a reason for being. Animals survive by nature and instinct, but humans ponder the question of purpose. Why am I here? To answer this, we need fellowship with other humans to give us a sense of belonging, and we need faith to show us that there is something beyond our brief span of years. We are not self made, and we are not self sufficient. Our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, invites us to find our meaning in Him. There are many world faiths. This shows the hunger in man for meaning. But true meaning in only found in the One who loved us enough to reveal Himself personally in Jesus Christ. By growing deeper in our life with Jesus we find meaning for life, and we can help others find that meaning, also. And that is really necessary for life.
What does ownership mean? I own my house and the ground it sits on. If I want to drive a nail in the wall to hang a picture, or dig a hole in the back yard to plan a tree, I do it. I don’t need to ask permission – except maybe discuss it with my wife. I just do it. Well, let’s extend this further. What does it mean that God is the owner of everything? Jesus told the parable of the Tenants and the Vineyard, Matthew 21:33f. He clearly pointed to God as the owner who expected responsible care and a return from the tenants. If we think of God as the owner of all things, of all that we are and possess, then this sets a certain attitude in our thinking. This begins with thankfulness. God is gracious and has given us all we have. Then there is an attitude of trust in the One who has all resources, and has promised never to leave or forsake us. Also a desire to use all we have for good, for our good, for the good of others, and to the glory of God. We like to think how strong, capable, and free we are. And we are, but we also have a gracious Lord who has created us and all that is. It is to Him that we give glory and thanks in all things.
It’s interesting to watch one or two year old children with birthday or Christmas presents. Once the package is open they often set the toy aside and are more interested in playing with the paper wrapping or crawling inside the box the gift came in. They don’t realizes the cost of the toy, all that it might allow them to do, or the fun they can have with it. A lot of times people are like those children. Jesus told the parable of a king giving a wedding banquet for his son. It was magnificent. Everything was prepared, and servants were sent to call the invited guests.(Luke 14:15f) One by one the guests began to make excuses. They were too busy, they had important business to attend to, and so on. Jesus extends to all people the greatest invitation possible. In His own life He has done everything necessary to share His joy now and eternally. Yet far too often people are more interested in playing with the boxes and wrapping than the gift itself. Let that not be so among us, and let us show the joy of Jesus’ life to others.
What a world! Church leaders resign over allegations…, courts overturn laws approved by the majority…, a pastor under fire for a conservative values sermon preached…, religious persecution in many places…, Islamic extremists murdering all opponents…, and the news goes on. What are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to do in the midst of such a world? Well, it is really not a lot different from the days our Lord first entered our world. The Lord’s people are called first, to know what they believe and why, and then to be willing to stand on that belief in all of life’s situations. It is easy to become confused, frightened, and overwhelmed by events, but our calling is always the same. A few weeks ago our children’s sermon leader led our kids in the simple song “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” She then got the whole congregation to join in, and yes, along with the hand motions, too! But that is really where we are. That is really where we have always been in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. By God’s grace that light has made us alive, and by God’s grace we let others see that light in whatever life’s situations bring.