I thought about the name I have on this blog which I have been writing for over twenty years – “Life’s Meaning Ministry”. That perhaps sounds a bit arrogant as if I was the only one who knew the meaning of our earthly years. That is not my intention at all. Rather, I was thinking of the sign my wife has at here desk. “We were created by God and for God. Until we understand this, life will never make sense.” Scripture repeatedly underlines this truth. Paul writing to the Corinthian church said, “for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”(IC.8:6) We are taught that we are not our own we have been bought with a price….that we have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works….repeated again and again in different ways. Seeing this helps us understand that our gracious Lord loves each of us individually, has redeemed us by the blood of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, and seeks to work in us by His Spirit and through our circumstances to call us and bring us closer to Himself. My desire is simply to help a few understand this a bit better.
There was a body of Christian believers in the city of Corinth. Now Corinth was a cosmopolitan city and an important trading center in the Roman world. It was known throughout the empire as an immoral city. The new Christians had a difficult time giving up some of their old habits and practices. At the end of chapter four of Paul’s first letter to these believers he had to ask, “What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?”(vs.21) Obviously they wanted the love and gentleness, but for some they also wanted to continue their old practices as well. Sound very contemporary to me. However, Paul went on to say that they couldn’t have it both ways. He had to rebuke them harshly for a number of their practices. There is a verse repeated twice in the book of Proverbs that tells us “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” God came to give us life, but as Paul was trying to show the Corinthians, that life is found in a way that brings honor to our God. God has given us forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ. This is a grace gift beyond measure. Paul calls us to rejoice in the new that has been so graciously given.
[categoryt Good Morning]
There has been a focus on the moon in these last few weeks since this is the 50th anniversary month of the first astronauts walking on the surface of the moon. It was striking to me last evening that there was a bright full moon illuminating the sky. The thought was also raised about the moon in our men’s Bible study last evening. How are we like the moon? Think about it. As bright as the moon was last night we realize that it has no natural light of its own. It only reflects the light it receives from the sun. OK, now how are we like the moon? We have no natural light of our own – we really don’t. All that is good is only a reflection of the Son. By the grace of God the life of Christ works in us by the presence of His Spirit. His nature of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, meekness, gentleness, faith, and self-control, the fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), grows in our lives as we seek to be a part of Him. It is that we are reflecting to others when any good comes forth from us. So with all the moon talk this month keep in mind that you and I are called to be like the moon illuminating our world with what we receive from our Lord Jesus.
The Apostle Paul wrote about the abundance of visions and revelations he had received from the Lord. Yesterday I wrote about the glimpses of God’s glory we sometimes receive through music. Paul wrote to the Roman church that what can be known of God is clearly seen in the things He has made.(Romans1:19-20) Maybe it is though the marvel of the cosmos, or the astounding complexity of the human body, or the wonder of why God created mankind, we are allowed these small windows into the very Kingdom of God. They are marvelous experience, but as I said yesterday we can’t live there all the time. We have our daily tasks and challenges in this fallen world. But those glimpses, those windows, do affect all that we do now. By having even a small look into God’s Kingdom it deepens our love for God and our love for our neighbor – the two great commandments. Writing to the Corinthians Paul said that we “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…”(2Co 3:18) This is not a point for our own pride, but a deepened desire to draw all others into that same glory.
Probably the hardest instruction Jesus ever gave His followers was to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”.(Luke 6:27) Paul repeats this same instruction in writing to the Roman church “never pay back evil for evil to anyone…never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath God, for it is written ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’…do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”(12:17-21) Forgiving someone who has hurt us is so hard. It strikes us as unfair. We hurt and they get off easy. But the issue before God is not so much what the other person did. He will deal with that in His own way. The issue is what unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness does in our own hearts. It festers and puts a block between ourselves and our Lord. To forgive someone who has hurt us doesn’t say that what they did was right. It simply gives up the power to judge, and puts it in God’s hands. Even without the other person asking our forgiveness we refuse to let anything take root in our hearts that separates us from our Lord. Hard, yes, but the right thing to do, and the way to our own peace with God.
It is interesting when you look at freedom in the Bible. Personal freedom was not a great concern. Of course the Jews didn’t like living under the thumb of Rome. But when Jesus came it was not His intent to change that. Even slavery was not prohibited, though Christian masters were taught not to treat their salves harshly. If a slave could gain his freedom, fine. If not, then serve in best efforts they could give. Certainly the kind of slavery we are familiar with is wrong, but personal liberty was not a central issue in Scripture. True freedom was found in a relationship with the Lord. Each of the Apostles called themselves the slaves of Christ. It was in a deep and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus that they found their true freedom. They were free from fear. They could be content in whatever circumstances they found themselves. They were willing to serve and give of themselves without worry about the future. They knew they were held in a love that would never leave them. They had no fear of death for they knew that they had already died and that their life was hidden with Christ in God.(Colossias 3:3) The same has been true for Christians through all the centuries since, and it is true today. We enjoy our personal freedoms, but our true freedom is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today is Independence Day in U.S. We celebrate the freedoms we enjoy that have been hard won for us over the past two and a quarter centuries. We rejoice in these freedoms and continually work to maintain them. But there is another kind of freedom that that is even more important. Jesus, in a discussion with the Pharisees, said “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”(John 8:31) The Jewish leaders argued with Him saying they had never been slaves to anyone. “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.'” (vs.34) There’s that word again, “sin”. It’s the word we don’t like and do everything possible to get around. Yet it is very real. It is anything that takes us away from the good life that God designed for mankind. But the sin that enslaves us is the very reason God provided the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The cross of Christ is the greatest symbol of our true freedom. We will do all we can to maintain our political freedom, but we live our lives in the truth that “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”(vs.36)
We know what it means to repent for our sins, but how about repenting for the sins of all people? Really? Many would say that doesn’t make sense. We don’t have control over anyone but ourselves and our own actions. Yet many of the great prayers in the Bible made this type of confession. In the small Old Testament book of Nehemiah we hear him pray, “let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.”(1:6) In this prayer there is a refusal to separate one’s self from the rest of the community. It is so easy to point fingers at those sinners over there. We are not as bad as they are, but sin is sin. My “small” sin separates me from God just as much as their “big” sins. I’ve written in the past about my opposition to certain accepted practices in today’s society. But I also realize that I’m as guilty before God as anyone else. A prayer of repentance for all doesn’t accept evil as normal and good, but it implores God to open all of our hearts to receive the love He freely gives and to change us all more into His image.
I am recently retired and have a little more free time. What do I do with it? What is God’s will for me in this time of life? These are valid questions that I’m sure the Good Lord will answer as the days go on. But there is an important answer for all of us to the question “what is God will for me?” Paul writing to the Thessalonian Church said, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”(I T. 5:16-18) Rejoice, pray, give thanks – that is to be the content of our lives. It is from this that all else will flow. God will reveal any specific direction He desires, but this is where we begin. We rejoice because the Lord has redeemed us. No circumstances of life will change that. We come to Him many time a day in prayer. In fact, our life is lived in a continual relationship of conversation with Him. We give thanks in everything because God works in everything for our good, even when it doesn’t look very good. We really don’t need to fret about knowing God’s will. This is a life that witnesses to the abundance of HIs grace.
Are you happy today? Tha’s really a poor question to ask. It is completely subjective, and dependent upon the circumstances of any given time. A better question is, Are you content? When understood from the point of view of our faith in Jesus Christ we can say yes I’m content. With the Apostle Paul we can say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. … in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. … I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13) It is nice to be happy, and by God’s abundant grace we have many happy times in life. But we also know that trials and stresses come. We face some difficult even tragic circumstances. Yet we are never left alone by God. It is He who strengthens us. This is not ignoring the present circumstance, but drawing on Christ’s guidance and strength to move forward. We also know that in Jesus Christ this circumstance is not the final word. In Him there is more and it is good.