Israel was about to go into the Promised Land with all of its good things in abundance. Moses said to the people, “then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”(Deuteronomy 6:12) Moses knew how quickly people’s hearts can turn from the Lord when they get satisfied with the abundance of material things. Remember your slavery in Egypt. Remember all the Lord did for you to bring you out. Don’t forget! Don’t forget! That was more than 3000 years ago, but the lesson doesn’t change. The Lord has given us many blessings in our country. We have an abundance never seen before in history. Yet we are forgetting where we have come from, and the foundations of God’s truth upon which our country was built. People want more of the good things of life without thinking of the One who is the Giver. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”(James 1:17) Israel’s forgetfulness finally led to their destruction as a nation. Shall we follow their path?
We are about to celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. As a people we hold freedom up as a high value, nationally and personally. But it is well to ask what the nature of freedom really is? If you ask a youngster about freedom they would probably say it is the ability to do whatever you want, which is a very self centered understanding. I ran across a far better definition from William Young in his book The Shack. “Freedom involves trust and obedience inside a relationship of love.” True freedom is not self centered. It is yielding in trust to another who has one’s best interest at heart. In our fallen world this must be done with wisdom and caution, but with our Lord it finds its full meaning. We find our greatest freedom in a relationship of trust in and obedience to Jesus who love us with an everlasting love. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Paul writes to the Galatians, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”(6:14) We know what the cross did to Jesus. We know that His atoning sacrifice on the cross means forgiveness and new life for us. But here Paul applies the cross in an even wider sense. “Through which the world has been crucified to me…” he wrote. That is, because Jesus has given us new life, all of the glories, vanities, and enticements that the world has to offer are really pale and meaningless compared to the goodness Jesus offers us in His life and Kingdom. Further, “I have been crucified to the world,” he continued. That is, when temptation attack us we can offer them up to the cross, and leave them there. The cross becomes our way of life, and we can declare with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”(2:20)
Following is an important task for a Christian. But it is important to carefully determine who we follow. Around Washington one is supposed to follow the politically correct path, and maintain the image of power. In academic circles one must write and teach according to the accepted social and scientific standards. Even in grade school children want to follow the current fashions and trends. Society dislikes one who is different since it is perceived as saying society is wrong. But it was Jesus who said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Jesus continually lived in a way different from the society around Him. In the deepest love He sought to show that God had a better way of life for all people. He invites us to follow Him, knowing that if we do we, too, will face opposition. Following what the world dictates may lead to some worldly success and honors, but following Jesus leads to life.
God doesn’t hate anyone, and Christians are not supposed to hate anyone. When we speak against certain behaviors or current values, people will often respond that God is a God of love, meaning that He doesn’t condemn people as we seem to be doing. Yes, God is absolutely a God of love, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t condemn. This is why people don’t like the Old Testament with all its plagues and judgments. The nature of true love is that it wants the very best for the beloved. It also knows that certain behaviors and values are destructive for the beloved. We certainly know this from raising kids. We love the person but hate what they are doing to themselves. However, this is a concept the modern world denies. The modern definition of tolerance is to accept the person and agree that all their values are acceptable. This is certainly not God’s love for the people He created. The values God hates, and Christians speak against, are those things that keep His people from the good life He intended, and the full relationship He desires with them. God, and I would hope most Christians, want the very best for all people, and clearly speak out against actions that harm that best. That is what love does.
From the beginning of creation God created mankind to be in a relationship with Himself. But that relationship was to be on His terms as creator, not on terms as we choose. He created man and woman different, and not interchangeable. They were to complement each other with their individual gifts, abilities, and makeup. God joined them together and called them “one flesh”. Thus creating a visible symbol in human marriage of unity in diversity which is the nature of our Triune God. God has given us a number of symbols of His grace in visible things, including the Old Testament perfect lamb that we slain as a symbol of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we insist on changing the images that God has given for us to know and understand Him, as our Supreme Court did with this week’s decision, it is absolutely detrimental to our relationship with our Lord. It makes no difference that it was done in the guise of constitutional right, love, tolerance or any other reason. It is wrong and against the good purpose God has for mankind. This is not just something that is detrimental to our society, which it is. It is also an affront in the face of our gracious God who created us.
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