Thursday, April 24, 2014
I always make use of good exegetical and expositional commentaries for further understanding and to confirm my own findings. I typically stay away from devotional commentaries that give lightweight answers and skim the text. However, having said this I never seek other texts before Scripture. I want to stay committed to allowing God's Word to speak for itself. It is absolutely essential to seek God's Word first allowing the Spirit of Truth to illuminate my mind and not another man's thoughts or experiences. I believe it is important to read books of the Bible from start to finish in order to fully grasp the context, flow, and details of the text--reading multiple times like a good love letter from your sweetheart.
While teaching on the doctrine of heaven I was amazed at the liberty that many authors took on the subject. Subjective feelings ran high and steered some authors in their writings. God has told us all that He wants us to know on every subject within His complete Word. I'm finding that some Christians, having read recent books and having watched recent movies, are giving more credence to personal testimonies of visits to heaven and hell than what the Word of God has to say about it and this greatly troubles me. Emotionalism kicks in and trumps Truth. Hebrews 9:27 states, " And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,". God's glorious plan for His redeemed people, after death, is to dwell with Him forever and He never even suggests in His word that a preliminary visit would be an option. Scripture is too clear, "No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man" (John 3:13). Only Jesus Christ has been given that privilege and it was for the purpose of our salvation, sanctification, and future glorification with the Father.
My heart breaks for Christians who measure the Truth of God's Word by subjective experience. I believe this is what breeds Biblically illiterate Christians and proves contrary to Scripture. Christ states that His true worshippers must worship Him in spirit and Truth (John 4:24). I believe that the thrust of this statement means that we are to worship Christ with our entire being and that we are to measure our worship by the fully trusted, objective Truth of God's Word--not the next fictional book or movie that proves inconsistent with God's Word.
Am I to lovingly discount a child or adult's testimony of their journey to heaven or hell--especially when they believe they can bring back proof? Absolutely. My love for Scripture and God's promises will always remain first and foremost against any good thought or experience. Do I believe it actually happened? I do not according to Scripture and I would make no apologies for holding this position.
God and His Word are sufficient for every believer and He has provided a great future for those who know Him. Walking by faith in His character alone is the "best" life as we know it pleases Him (" And without faith it is impossible to please God,..." Hebrews 11:6).
Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:13-16, "I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Feeling like we are boxed in or existing in a self-made prison will eventually kill one's spirit. How is it that Christians can have so many different perspectives on a similar situation? Why is so difficult for some people to move forward when difficulties come their way? Have you ever witnessed someone having an excuse for every hardship they find themselves in--of course it is never their fault. And then there are those who step forward with a positive, confident, and hopeful spirit--I love these people and they are great to be around. I've come to believe that it is all about "Biblical" perspective.
The psalmist, David, had more ups and downs than most anyone that I'm aware of and yet he always came back to a Biblical understanding of who God was and what He was capable of doing for him in those difficult circumstances. I'm reminded of Psalm 142:7 where David prays, "Bring my soul out of prison so that I may give thanks to Your name." Any time a believer in Christ fails to remember that God is infinite, sovereign, and that His Spirit dwells within them will become a prisoner of life's circumstances and others. Many people live in this bondage day after day in self-made prisons refusing to leave, even when the prison door is left open. Some even live a majority of their lives in this prison trying to please others and never seeking the approval of God alone. Christ has come to set men free from the bondage of sin and the world; He has made a provision for believers to live in victory each day through Him. His grace is sufficient for the darkest hour.
With God's help, I refuse to believe the lies of the evil one and will reject the very things the world encourages me to embrace that only bring bondage. BIBLICAL thinking is paramount and I must understand HIS WORD.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Do we expect too much from our church and too little from Jesus? I suspect that in the United States, we expect too much from the local church and too little from Jesus. Let me explain.
Church hopping is endemic today. American evangelicals are consumers of the local church and often deeply dissatisfied with what they have. Often for good reason. We want the best preaching, the best music, the best programming for our kids and the best of everything else. And we hope that our experience will change our life with Jesus - making us happy, fulfilled, and be there for us always.
I understand the frustration. Healthy churches are hard to find and even then they don't always fill the hole in our hearts. But perhaps we are looking in the wrong place for the fulfillment we seek. Not that the local church is unimportant, it is the Bride of Jesus and we are to be connected to the Bride. We need the people of God and the community of Jesus. They are our encouragement, our help and our ministry partners.
But - if the church becomes our substitute for our personal relationship with Jesus, if we expect that the church will fill the hole in our heart that only God can fill, perhaps our dissatisfaction comes from substituting the church for what should be a close personal walk with Jesus. The fact is, no church and no person can bring the joy that Jesus does. It can help us walk the pilgrimage of faith and we are called to walk that walk with others. The church is the bride of Jesus but it is not a substitute for Jesus in our personal lives.
We will never find the perfect church because we are in it. We can find the perfect Christ because that is who he is. We cannot abandon the church which is the community of God but nor can we substitute the church for a deep personal relationship with Jesus. He is the source of life and satisfaction. The people of God are a necessary bonus and the church is the constant reminder of the God we worship. The church contributes to the walk we have with God but it never becomes the substitute for a relationship with the Lord of the Church, Jesus.
John 15:4-5 "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."