I was preaching from Colossians chapter three recently. You can listen to the sermon at this link.
While my focus was on the peace of Christ that rules the believer’s life (3:15), I noted the presence of gratitude in the passage, times three.
“And be thankful,” in verse 15.
“With thankfulness in your hearts to God,” in verse 16.
“Giving thanks to God the Father,” in verse 17.
Gratitude is just this important. And it is more than two words (thank you). It is an attitude of heart cultivated from our active and positive relationship with God. It is always to God, as well as to others. It takes us away from bitterness. It is one of the ingredients of “God’s spiritual vitamins.”
I’m thankful for them.
“Run The Race”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God,” – Heb. 12:1,2.
I want listeners to imagine, I’ve entered one of those marathon races. I show up at the starting line, get that ID number runners wear.
But, I’m wearing combat boots, two layers of clothes covered by one of those big yellow raincoats and on my head – a fireman’s helmet. Besides attracting attention, I’m not ready to run a race. This says, “lay aside every weight.”
Christians are running the race God has set before us. To do that well, we must avoid the weights, the encumbrances that hold us back. Sin hold us back. And, we must look to Jesus.
It might be tempting to look at the other runners or look at the audience. The best visual mark is the founder and perfecter of our faith.
One more thing. Those witnesses are the people of faith whose stories are told back in chapter eleven. It is not that they are watching us. Rather, they witness to us or testify to us about faith, by their examples.
So, listen again:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Isaiah Insights #8
“Woes” Isa. 5
This is Isa. 5:20.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
In the Bible, and therefore in reality and eternity, there is good and evil. We often talk about this as an absolute moral standard. It is defined and revealed by the Creator.
If man ignores it, edits it or renames it – there is trouble. Trouble here on earth and eternal consequence.
I want to point out, what you call something doesn’t change its nature. A label is a human assignment. It doesn’t change what God has said about an attitude, practice or lifestyle.
For example, you can call a lie – white or black. You can call a lie an innocent prevarication. It is what it is in the sight of God, no matter how man may rename it.
Such label editing and attempted reversals of reality do nothing but deceive, both the ones making the “changes” and those who listen to them.
Good and evil is fixed in the mind of God. Being made in His image, our obligation is to call things what they are according to His revealed standard.
The world we live in is turning defintions and labels upside down, yet the nature of the thing renamed isn’t changed.
Sexual immorality can be called “gay, affair, romance, fling,” or any other term or phrase. It doesn’t change God’s view of it.
Marriage will always be, in the eyes of God, a covenant between a man and a woman. Killing unborn babies may be called something else in the future. The nature of the act doesn’t change.
What is bitter can be called sweet, but it taste the same.
Calling evil good and good evil doesn’t change God’s mind about it. It doesn’t reduce the consequence of it, and only serves to promote a defiant absence of discernment and discipline.
When the standard of the Creator is rejected, there is no good outcome. Especially when considered in the light of this: “The end of the matter; all has been heard, Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil,” (Eccl. 12:13,14).
God will not – on that final day – ask what we called it, how we viewed it or what name we applied. His standard will be the basis of judgment.
“Hey Preacher, Settle This Dispute …”
of course in my favor!
Every preacher has had this experience. You are approached by someone who essentially says, “Hey preacher, I need you to fix this problem for me. Settle this dispute in my favor.”
Wise preachers refuse such requests. We deliver the gospel message. We are not to function as mediators of financial or estate disputes. Jesus didn’t touch it!
Listen now to Luke 12:13-21.
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
In the first place, Jesus was clear about his role; He did not come to earth to serve as “a judge or arbitrator” in such matters. But Jesus knew what the underlying problem was: Covetousness. He said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Then Jesus told a story about a man who thought his life consisted in the abundance of his possessions. The man wound up being a barn builder instead of a life builder. The point for us? Lay up the kind of treasure that will make you “rich toward God.”
Truth Connection: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry,” (Col. 3:5).
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…,” (Acts 2:42)
There are churches in this country on the move, active and energized. But they are moving at the speed of the culture. They have let the culture around them guide them away from God and His Word. It may well be (and can be hoped) that the readers of my blog are members of local churches where devotion to the Scripture remains steadfast and the call of the world is resisted.
If you are not certain that is the case for you, what should you do?
- Read and study Scripture objectively to be specific in your concern.
- Speak to the preacher/elders/brethren with your Bible open and your tongue guarded.
- You may need to do this more than once, but always speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
- If you become convinced your association with that group must end, be clear to them and specify where Scripture is being violated or ignored.
- Search for a group where Bible authority is upheld faithfully.
- Make your wishes to become a part of that group known.
- Walk in a manner worthy of God.
1 Thess. 1:9,10
There are passages in the New Testament that vividly describe conversion. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he brought up how those people received the gospel. He calls it (ESV), “the kind of reception we had among you.” They had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Conversion is like what we may call a “180” or U-turn. Because of what Christ did on the cross and where He is now, sinners can turn from sin to God. But observe how specific this is. “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” It is more than just getting away from sin (idols specified here). The responsive sinner turns from sin to God, to serve Him – the true and living God. Turning from sin must wholly embrace the new direction. Serving the true and living God.
With a view toward what? “…to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Conversion isn’t complete without all of this: Turning, Serving and Waiting.
Have you turned? Are you serving? Are you patiently waiting for the good outcome?
The context of Matthew 19 Re Children
On a recent Sunday evening I preached (by request) on Matt. 19:13-15, which documents the warmth and care of our Lord for children. In my preparation for that sermon I noticed something. The text about Jesus and children has bookends.
Before that narrative, His strict teaching about God’s law of marriage. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. Jesus quotes the law of God back before Moses, “from the beginning.”
Then there is the passage about children. What’s after that?
The story of a man who was possessed by his possessions, the rich young ruler. Perhaps I’m inclined to make too much of this. You decide.
Two of the greatest tragedies that damage children are here in Matthew 19. Unlawful divorce and materialism. Read the entire chapter. What do you think?
Having God In Your Life
“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son,” 2 John 9
What does it mean to “have God” in your life? Everything before and after this verse informs what it means. From the whole counsel of God, this is clear.
- It doesn’t mean you never get sick.
- It doesn’t mean financial prosperity.
- It doesn’t mean smooth relationships.
- It doesn’t mean you will never be a victim.
- It doesn’t mean no natural disasters.
It means God is your Father and the highest sense. It means you have been redeemed and are becoming closer to the Father and the Son with each step of growth. It means when you must navigate illness, poverty, conflict and unexpected tragedy, your faith in God upholds you and your reliance on His Word guides you in your reactions. Having God and the Son
in your life means you partake of every blessing the Holy Spirit has revealed in the written Word. And it means you are headed toward a perfect eternal dwelling place with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and all the saints.
What does this require? Abiding in the teaching of Christ. Where can you find the teaching of Christ? In the New Testament.
Having God in your life is much more than a claim, an emotion or a dream. It is the reality enjoyed by those in hear, believe and obey the teaching of Jesus Christ, knowing He gave His life for us to be saved and guided into righteous living.
Jesus said, “everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock,” (Matt. 7:24).
“What More Shall I Say”
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
– Heb. 11:32-40
This is the final section of Hebrews chapter eleven. This might be called the writer’s “wrap-up” introduced by his question, “what more shall I say?” He acknowledges there isn’t sufficient time or space to document all those occasions where people acted on faith: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. The point is not that all these people were sinless or perfect. But there were occasions, events and responses where these people illustrated the good activity of faith.
And, as to activity of the and victory granted by God to the faithful, listen again to this:
“…faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight….” This adds emphasis to the knowledge we’ve already acquired from the chapter, concerning the activity, the obedience faith produces – and God’s response of commending and giving victory to the faithful.
Christians have something even better. Verse 40 affirms that God “has provided something better for us.” We have the full reality of what those people had only in prospect. We have Jesus Christ. We can fix our eyes of Him, as we run the race God has set before us.