“The bible is full of contradictions, so I don’t believe it .” I’ve heard this statement a lot over the years. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine one day and he said the same thing. So I responded to him, “Do you care to show me one of them you know about?” He told me that he couldn’t show me because he hadn’t ever really read the bible. I was taken aback. So I asked him, “How do you know there are contradictions in it then?” He responded that’s what someone had told him. I wasn’t really surprised because that’s how we do things in our information age now: we just take what people say at face value, put it into our worldview, and never really challenge these statements to see whether or not they are true. I explained to him that I thought he was a contradiction because he was pretending to care about truth by parroting a statement against the veracity of the bible without he himself ever investigating whether the claims were indeed true. He responded, “That’s deep. I guess you’re right.” And that was pretty much the end of the conversation. It was a good seed to plant in his mind.
But I was thinking about that conversation lately and I started to come under conviction. Here’s why: If I’m honest, just like my friend, my life is also full of contradictions. I say I believe, but am I living out those beliefs in power? Paul, the Apostle said he wasn’t ashamed of the gospel, but my lack of sharing it with those I know who need it implies I am indeed ashamed of it. Paul instructs us to set our minds on things above where Christ is, but so often I catch myself thinking on and desiring the things of this world. That’s a contradiction. See the world may not be able to lay a claim against the bible, but a lot of times our lives are the only bibles those who don’t believe will read. And more often than not, they see lives full of contradiction. These things ought not be so friends. Look at what the Apostle John said:
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3 – 5
I don’t know about you, but this seems to be pretty clear. John says that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. What are the commandments of Jesus? Jesus said this:
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22: 36 – 39
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 – 35
The question becomes do we truly love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, and minds? Or are our hearts divided? Are our desires portioned? Are our minds not made up? Do we truly love our neighbors as ourselves or are we more concerned with our own well-being that we pretty much dismiss everyone else? You know that you’ve come to know Him when your love for God and his people become your overwhelming aim. When pleasing Him in all that we do is all that matters, then we know that we truly know Him. Otherwise, we’re living contradictory lives.
If we are lifting up holy hands on Sundays, but drinking the cup of sin Sunday following church until the next Sunday we meet again, we don’t know Jesus. And if we say that we do, we’re liars and the truth isn’t in us. If we don’t ever want to spend time around the saints of God, the love of God hasn’t been perfected in us. If we live in order only to accomplish what we want to, then we’re not walking as Jesus walked. Because Jesus said, “not my will, but your will be done.”
The bottom line? We will live out what we truly believe. See a lot of non-Christians have valid claims: the so-called Christians themselves don’t even believe what the bible says because they’re not living it out. So how on earth can we tell others to believe it? We show what we believe by the way we live. This doesn’t mean that we’ll be perfect, but we know that if we do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father: Jesus. And God is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He’s just meaning that He doesn’t dismiss or excuse our sin like it’s not that big of a deal, but that He washes us in the blood that was shed to pay for those sins! Man, that’s awesome.
I’ll leave you with this: When you’ve wronged someone you love, you are desperate to make it right with them because you know you can’t live without them. However, so many of us can go days without number sinning against God and not even caring about Him. And when our sin is revealed, are we desperate to make things right with him? David, who loved God so much begged: 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:11 – 12). He was desperate to make things right with God. If that’s not the posture of our hearts, then that begs the question: is this contradiction of life one that teaches people we don’t really know Him? Are our professions the antithesis to our lives or do we truly love the Lord God with all our heart, minds and souls?
Relationship Over Religion
I was recently ministering to a couple of buddies who have been greatly damaged by the church. I can completely relate to their pain. We were all damaged by a church that somehow ended up in religious fervor, legalism, and fundamentalism while in our fervor we missed the real Jesus. It was tragic.
As bad as things had gotten, I am thankful that through it all, Jesus restored me and showed me Himself in a deeper way; a way that I never thought I’d experience Him. Man, I just love Jesus. He’s so awesome! I can’t say enough about Him. The fact that the Living God would have the audacity to die for my sin and even speak to me His plans and purposes is beyond me. BEYOND ME! God: You’re so very good!
The Lord has given me this mantra: It’s all about love; not legalism, relationship; not religion, freedom; not fundamentalism, grace; not good deeds, truth; not tradition, passion, prayer, and praise; not Pharisaical nonsense, and Jesus; not being judgmental. Jesus is concerned with us having a relationship with Him.
Check this out:
37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:37 – 40
There’s a lot in these couple of verses. And I’m not going to unpack everything, lest this be a six-page essay. Let me just give a little context, application, and be on my way. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees because they were upset with Him for having healed a man on the Sabbath Day. They accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath Day Law. But was He really breaking the Sabbath?
The accusation was based on their own law that they had added to the word of God. Without boring you with all of the technicalities, there was a law of traditions they had added to the word of God, called the “Halakah”. It was like a “protection or a hedge” to ensure that no one could break the Law of God. In other words, they created and added these legalistic practices of do’s and don’ts and other requirements so that people wouldn’t have an opportunity to break the Law of God. So when Jesus came on the scene not adhering to man’s made up law, they were upset. They wanted a set of rules and traditions; not the Lord God (legalism). They wanted to be judges; not God (Pharisaical, judgmental). Their doctrine had become more important than the word of God itself (fundamentalism). This is why Jesus said you search the scriptures because you think your knowledge of scripture gives you eternal life. But they missed the point. As much as they knew, as much as they did, and as much as they studied the word of God, they still didn’t know God even though God was standing right in front of them talking to them! Isn’t that nuts?
Let me put it in a modern context: you can spend hours reading the bible, know the scripture front to back, quote it on the drop of a dime, preach, teach, feel moved in worship, and not miss a Sunday in church and still don’t know Jesus. Religiousness isn’t good enough because it ignores grace. It puts the onus on us and what we can do. It’s not good enough because the more you accomplish the deeper in debt you become; it’s a losing battle (basically Paul’s overall theme to the Galatians. Read chapters 1 -5 and you’ll see it).
The scary part? That was me! I did all of what I described, but through all of my piety and dedication, I had missed Jesus. Church had become an idol to me. I learned in a very real way that you can know the word, preach the word, give your time, money, and be in leadership, but still not have the word abiding in you. I mean hours were dedicated to the word and I still missed it. And what’s the reason? There wasn’t faith/belief behind it. I forgot that Jesus came that we might have life – abundant life – life eternal. What is that kind of life? It’s Him! Come on now. Life is to know and have a relationship with Jesus. Want to know how I know?
40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:40
33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life John 6:33, 35
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, John 11:25
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3
Then Paul says this:
4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:4
See, it’s clear. Life is Jesus. He clearly states that eternal life is knowing Him; not simply living forever. We’ve sold ourselves short when we think of life eternal so shallow. Life eternal is to know Jesus. He IS our life. The prize is hearing His voice; not just reading His scripture. And yes, reading scripture is vitally important because He only speaks through His word. But if we elevate our experiences above His word and think that the things we do keeps us in right standing, we’ve completely missed the point.
The scriptures are to lead us to Him. Then you’ll know that you’re alive, truly alive. I realize that my religion was dead. The rules that were put on me: you can’t wear earrings, you can’t move where you want to, you can’t do this and you can’t do that…all of those things don’t speak to the heart. Those things don’t give life. Instead, they cause us to miss the point. See, Christianity is the only religion that offers a relationship with a Person; not with just rules and regulations. And it is out of that relationship with the Person, Jesus Christ, that the rules are automatically filled. When we understand grace, we want to go to church and offer our worship to Him and that worship becomes passionate! We understand the privilege of preaching or teaching His word. We see our need for the Savior and we’re constantly grateful to Him. We can’t wait to give to His cause. Why? Because when you’re truly alive, you’re soooooooooooooo thankful that you’ve been rescued from death! And that my friends is where the rubber meets the road. This is what it’s all about! You’re free to love, passionately because you’ve been given this grace to know Jesus and this relationship has given you life! If you know Jesus you’re truly alive my friend, and isn’t that something to shout about?
Thank you Lord!
Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
This morning, shortly after I woke up, I overheard an argument from some neighbors. A girl was apparently very upset at her boyfriend and she let him know about it very explicitly. Initially, I thought “Wow, he must’ve really messed up if she’s yelling at him at 5:55 in the morning!” Then upon thinking about the things she was saying to him (which are far too foul for me to repeat here), I became troubled in my spirit. I started to think, “Man, I’d sure like to introduce her to Jesus. If she would ever meet the Lord of life, she would understand that her worth is far greater than what she’s settling for in that man.”We never can understand our true worth until we find it in Jesus. People will disappoint us, our jobs will disappoint us, money will disappoint, and our relationships will disappoint us. However, perfect love is found in Jesus. And the fulfillment we seek can only be found in Him.
As I was driving to work, the Spirit of God began to convict me. I remember when I was a new Christian; I had such a commitment to introducing people to Jesus. I was somewhat a “nutty” (Paul said if we’re beside ourselves, it is for Christ) baby Christian. One thing the Lord has never withheld from me is passion. As soon as I was saved, I read the Bible front to back in a month. I was hungry for the word! Then, I made sure that all of my friends and the people I worked with knew about this Jesus I had met – this Jesus who had set me free from my sins. I even remember a friend of mine and me preaching on the side of the road to whoever would listen on a main strip in Tempe (Mill Street). On a Friday night while people were bar hopping and partying, here we were on the side of the road preaching Christ. Shortly after, a small crowd gathered round as I expounded how they needed to repent and bow their knees to Jesus or go to hell. I remember I had come to the book of Acts and read what Peter had done and I wanted to follow his example. We led two people in prayer and repentance that night as a result of that. It was awesome. Others mocked, but we were pumped because we felt we were being persecuted for Christ. I’d go on Saturday morning evangelistic missions in the church’s neighborhood, knocking on doors to tell them about Christ (most people mistaking us for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Haha). I was an intense, fiery young man of God, full of passion! Then over time, I bought into the lie I learned through church and religion that I needed to “settle down”. I developed a complex about being fired up and passionate for God. Eventually, my hunger to see souls saved became quenched and I became too sophisticated and refined to share my faith? God help me!
The Lord started dealing with me out of this scripture. I just want a highlight a few things and let you be on your way:
41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41 – 44
This was the last week of Jesus’ life. He was approaching Jerusalem and Jesus began to wail over the city. There’s something about a strong man crying that is really striking. Jesus wasn’t just a strong man; He was also God in flesh. So think about it: He was so broken for the city that He began to weep over it! What was he weeping about? First of all, He knew that His time on the earth was drawing to a close and the entire time that He was there, the people of Jerusalem rejected Him. In fact, they had been conspiring to kill Him. All the Lord wanted them to do was repent and turn to Him. He wanted them to turn from their wicked ways and they would not. He knew how it’d turn out for them, yet they remained stubborn.
This is the same as in our day: people refuse to come to Jesus. They look for peace in everything other than the Prince of Peace. They have a better way. Jesus had done miracles in Jerusalem, yet people refused to believe in Him. Jesus had shown them love, but the people hated Him. Jesus was showing that He was willing to accept them, but they still rejected Him. Jesus came to give them life, yet they murdered Him. And isn’t that what people of our day do? Wicked men and women still are pushing Jesus away. The miracle of radically changed lives in others isn’t enough for them. They instead say, “Well that’s good for you; I’m glad you found something that works for you…” countless of friends I’ve come to explaining, “Repent and turn to Christ or else you’re going to hell.” They respond with postmodernist reasoning and relativism. I go away shaking my head, deeply troubled with sorrow for my friends. Could it be that they didn’t know the time of their visitation?
Here’s the point of the message today: When was the last time you were broken over your city? We see how compassionate Jesus is for sinners. He’s weeping for those He knows is about to kill Him. He’s weeping for murderers because that’s how much He loves them. Take a moment and think about that kind of love. God loves people so much, that despite their wickedness, He still wanted them to turn to Him. He still went through with the plan of dying on the cross. That’s amazing love folks. In addition, Jesus understood their future judgment. It wouldn’t be long before the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed in AD 70 by the Roman Empire. This judgment came on them because they refused to believe in Christ and that troubled Him to tears. For the past few days, the Lord has been breaking my heart for San Diego. There are so many lost people here who need to meet Christ. Again I ask, when was the last time your heart was broken for your city and you actually prayed for it?
Oftentimes, it is hard for us be moved like this for others because we’re so caught up in our own lives. Our messages in church generally are self-help messages focused on how to make us better people. As a result, we lose the heart of God because we can’t see past our own lives. People all around us are dying and going to hell and it doesn’t move us in the least bit. We’re trying to figure out how we can receive a greater blessing or go deeper in Him. You know evidence that you’re going deeper in God? Evidence we’re going deeper is when we start introducing people to the Christ. You want to know if you’re fired up and filled with the Holy Spirit? You’ll know when you’re out there testifying of Christ; introducing the lost to Jesus. That’s what all of the Apostles did. That’s what Jesus said we’d do when the Holy Spirit lives in us. See, when we start to see things the way that God sees them, our hearts will be moved by compassion for sinners and we won’t sit on this great gift of life we’ve been given. Instead, we’ll tell all that we can to come to repentance. Because we understand this is the will of God and we understand that people’s destinies can’t be achieved apart from Jesus the Christ. He restores us to our original purpose. Outside of that, we’re wicked, lost, hopeless, and despicable.
Do you know one of the biggest temptations for us while we read the word of God? We have a tendency to set ourselves up as judges against the people it is written about. For instance, I know I’ve done this so often: “How are the children of Israel so stupid always forsaking the Lord when they know all that the Lord has done?” Or, “Lot, how could you be so corrupt, setting your tent so close to Sodom? Come on man, Abraham is your uncle. You know better than that!” What about, “Elijah, come on now. You had this great victory at Mount Carmel and then you run from one woman, Jezebel?” I’ve thought, “Man those Pharisees. They’re so wicked. How can they ignore the miracles of Jesus to the point they murder Him?”
The sad thing about all of those thoughts is they are ALL indictments against my own heart. I too forsake the Lord all too often despite all that He’s done. I too set my tent close to the things of the world and sometimes find myself entangled therein. I too find myself discouraged like Elijah often after mighty victories and run from the enemy in fear forgetting that the Lord is strong and mighty in battle. I too have been religious like those “wicked Pharisees”. And it was MY SIN that murdered Jesus! And when I think about the reality of that, it breaks me. I then, as Paul say, “O wretched man that I am, who is it that can save me from this body of sin and death?” The answer? Jesus! (See Romans 7)
All of the things the Lord records in the bible are the realities of the reflections of our human hearts. God/Jesus is the ONLY hero in the Bible. Jesus is the only man who is truly heroic. All others are nothing more than flawed men and women who the Lord has bestowed grace on to do great things: some have done great good and others have done great evil. But there is no one innocent in the bible save Christ and Christ alone. See, we often can look at these stories and judge the people and their sinful acts and it removes the conviction the Lord is trying to bring on our own hearts. Since our sin is not manifesting the specifically in the same way as with some of the people in the word, we subtly think we are somehow better than them. And that’s how we can read the word so often and never allow it to change us. (Lord help us).
I said all of that to bring this scripture up:
31 And you, O generation, behold the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of thick darkness? Why then do my people say, ‘We are free, we will come no more to you’? 32 Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. Jeremiah 2:31 – 32
Chapter 2 of Jeremiah is a lengthy indictment against the nation of Israel. It is God recounting how Israel constantly forsakes Him. Their number one sin is idolatry. They have this tendency towards blended worship. They remember God when He’s delivering or has just delivered them, but shortly after they do that, they go and give their devotion to useless idols. Their idol of choice was Baal. Now I won’t go into detail here the devastating and offensive nature of Baal worship, but let’s just sum it up with that it was very sexually corrupt and it even had gotten so bad that there were times they sacrificed their own children. What God would do is judge the people by letting them come into captivity to other, stronger nations, He’d withhold rain (cause droughts) so that they would not be able to farm (which was their livelihood and income), and none of this cured their hearts that wandered. No matter what He did for them, they always sought everything but Him. What a tragedy right?
We can sit on our seats of judgment right here and say, “What was wrong with those people? How could they be so ungrateful? How could they have such a short-term memory? Where’s their faith? Why do they forget God so quickly?” The Lord asked them a question. He rhetorically asked, “Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of thick darkness?” Well we know that the Bible says that in Him there is “no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). So the answer is obvious. He was asking all throughout this chapter what evil had the Lord committed that warranted Israel not to want to worship Him? Why wouldn’t they give Him all of them; all of their devotion? It would be like if we had committed a crime that required jail time and restitution. The governor pardoned our crime, paid our debt, and even gave us millions of dollars to live. Instead of us being thankful, we instead kicked the governor, pushed him down, and spit in his face, while keeping his money and freedom to do more and greater crimes. Wouldn’t that be despicable? However, that’s what we do to the Lord all of the time and it doesn’t affect us one bit. This is what Israel was doing to the Lord. The Lord asked: what have I done that I deserve this kind of treatment? This is what we do with our sin, yet it doesn’t break us the way it should, yet we can read passages like Jeremiah 2 and just judge instead of letting it affect our hearts. Oh man, that breaks me down; deeply my friends. So deep.
He asked: is it possible for a bride to forget her attire at her own wedding? This is absurd. I’ve performed several weddings and let me tell you, a bride is not going to forget her wedding dress on her wedding day. She’s not going to forget her tiara. She’s not going to forget any portion of that outfit. Why? That’s the most essential part of the wedding outside of the bride and groom in it. The wedding dress is what identifies her as a bride. The same way that God should identify who we are: His people. So how is it that we’re able forget him days without number? How are other things more important than God?
I’ll close with this: See we can look at the children of Israel and judge them for their lack of faithfulness. However, are we not the same way? We can judge them for their constant predisposition to idolatry. However, we’re idol worshippers too. Yeah, we may not carve out wooden images and bow to them, but we bow down to our idols too. How about our “busy-ness”? That’s an idol right there. We think that being busy is being productive. We think that it’s a virtue that we don’t know how to sit still once and a while and give respect to the Lord – to our families. That’s why the Lord commanded rest. He was so serious about it; He put it in the 10 Commandments. If you can’t rest and get before your God, you’re worshipping your busy life and so many people do it at the expense of God. “Why haven’t you been reading your bible or going to bible study/church?” People answer, “I’ve been too busy.” Idolatry. Others worship people. Others worship their jobs. Some worship music. We oftentimes find any other thing we can to worship rather than worshipping the Lord. And the Lord is asking, “What have I done to deserve this?” Man, my heart is so broken.
I know this word has challenged me to the core, I pray you that it causes you to think and repent. This walk with the Lord isn’t a hobby; it’s a way of life. This is not something we do when we feel like it; it’s something we devote our lives to. But why? Because He’s worthy; worthy of our worship!
I leave you with this from the beginning of chapter 2 and pray that we all continue in the devotion of our youth or return if we’ve departed:
“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. 3 Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 2:2 – 3
What Are You Wearing?
You know what’s funny? Each morning we get ready for work and it’s like second nature. We take off our night clothes, shower (at least I hope we shower ha!), and put on whatever clothes we’re going to wear for the day. We don’t even put any second thought into it; it’s just a part of our days. Well, in a letter to the church at Colosse, Paul uses this familiar activity to describe what we should do with our spiritual lives.
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:1 – 9, 12
Paul exhorts the church to
1. Set their hearts on things above
2. Set their minds on things above; not earthly things (which means the ways, thinking, and attitude of the culture and society)
3. Put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature we were born with (see the underlined portion for exactly what that is)
4. Put to death the ways you used to walk and live in (also underlined above)
5. Put on the new self, which is constantly being renewed in the knowledge of Christ
6. Clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
So think about it. We’re to take off the dirty clothes of the way we used to think, which is contrary to the mind of God. We’re to take off the dirty clothes of the ways we used to behave. But we’re to put on the clothes of righteous living. We’re to clothe ourselves with the new self, which is God’s way of thinking, speaking, living. So take inventory of yourself today: What are you wearing?
Service: Our True Calling
I had once gotten really frustrated with church. I felt like I never saw churches doing what God intended us to do. I felt like I never saw God moving in churches. I became so frustrated, that I began to lose heart; I lost faith because I didn’t see faith operating in the earth the way that the Lord intended it to be manifested out. I went from church to church watching how people were “getting fat” off of the word, but never putting that faith into action. Tragically, I got so disillusioned and frustrated that I became embittered and walked away from the faith for far too long a period of time. The church I was attending at the time was more concerned with preaching to ourselves than caring about the world and I just couldn’t take it anymore. While my response was extremely sinful and I’m not at all proud about it, we must realize Jesus commanded us to “go into all of the world” not sit around pontificating and debating with one another. In my mind, there had to be more to this faith than what I was seeing.
Look at what Jesus said about the matter:
35 For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ 40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:35 – 40
This is what I like to call faith in action. Basically, Jesus is saying that when you see a need, you need to go fill it. I’ve been volunteering for years in various types of venues, and one thing that I’ve noticed is the colossal lack of Christian presence out in the community. We’re so busy doing Bible studies with one another or trying to build ourselves up (and while this is great; don’t get me wrong), that we fail to truly make impact the way that Jesus wanted us to do. We think we’re spiritual because we can expound the deepest truths, but are we going out to the neediest of society and showing forth the love of Jesus Christ to them? That’s what Jesus’ ministry was all about: giving water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, healing to the sick, and being a presence to those who were imprisoned. We have people like this all around us. There are so many opportunities for us to be lights. The question we must ask ourselves is what are we doing all that we can to fulfill the kingdom of God on this earth? It’s all about service. That’s our highest calling. John Bunyan once said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Isn’t that the complete heart of our Lord? If we’re being conformed daily to the image of Christ, shouldn’t this be our heart too?
Lovers of Pleasure?
One of my favorite preachers/teachers of the word is Christian philosopher, Dr. Ravi Zacharias. He’s such a solid man of God. He has this radio show I’ve started listening to again called “Let My People Think”. He brings out the word of God in such an insightful way. A message I’ve listened to a few times over the past few days was one he titled: The Problem of Pleasure. In his message, he was describing how elicit pleasures take us away from the heart of God. However, God gives us pleasure in Him to enjoy. It inspired me to think about this and what Paul said about the matter:
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them 2 Timothy 3:1 – 5
Ouch. Did Paul say, “Have nothing to do with them?” Yikes. Why so serious? He understood something. He was specifically talking about false prophets and teachers who were preaching these anti-God messages to the churches of the day. He called his time “terrible times”. Notice the first thing he said about the character of these people who bring forth “terrible times”: “they’d be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud…without self-control…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”. Wow. Was he describing our American society right there? From a young age, we’re taught by false teachers to love ourselves at the expense of others and of God (“you gotta look out for yourself” “do for you; that’s most important” etc). In addition, our society has fallen so in love with money that it’s falling down. We love to boast about our achievements and how awesome we are. We’re proud, and we lack self-control. People love pleasure more than they love God. In other words, people claim to worship God, but when it’s an inconvenience, they do what feels good over doing what is right. You know what Paul said about this message? HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!!
Why? It leads us away from the heart of our God. In fact, when we love anything more than God (including ourselves) we deny God’s power in our lives (super yikes). Truthfully, our pleasure should come in doing his will. That’s an eternal pleasure; one that will last. We have the power to speak life to those who are dead! That’s the gospel message he’s given us. This message brings the hearers closer to the heart of God. We can spend all of our time amassing all the pleasures we possibly can in this world, yet never know him, which is a huge tragedy. Dr. Zacharias said he’s met many celebrities who had it all, yet were the emptiest and most lonely people he’s ever encountered. People who were on the brink of suicide after having it all? It was their pleasure that left them bankrupt. However, when you see the Lord change the life of someone desperately lost, it brings a joy and a pleasure unspeakable – true pleasure! Let’s pursue those pleasures and thereby drawing closer to the heart of this great and wonderful God we serve! Hallelujah!