Saturday, November 28, 2009

Love Makes Me Sick

I love chocolate cake. A nice, wide piece, melts in your mouth, just oozing with thick, yummy icing. And, of course, that's just the gravy after I get to lick the bowl before the cake ever goes into the oven. Yes, I love chocolate cake.

But I don't want it for breakfast, lunch, and supper--every meal, every day. Eventually, it would make me sick.

We have a wonderful, loving God. His grace and mercy are boundless, and we, as sinners, would be utterly hopeless without them. Love is the greatest motivating factor in existence, and it moved God to attempt to save mankind through the offering of His Son. The denominations don't really understand what John 3:16 means, but that doesn't keep it from being a marvelous verse of Scripture: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." It's a message the world needs to hear, frequently.

But not every sermon and Bible class.

There is more in the Bible than love. Once the love of God is preached, repentance--man's repsonsibilities and duties--must be emphasized every bit as much as God's love, if not more. The love of Jehovah won't save a single soul that doesn't respond to it in humble obedience.

At some congregations, it seems the only message is "love, love, love." Yes, we need love. But, like chocolate cake, too much love can be sickening.

"From that time, Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 4:17). Notice what the first word of Jesus' message was when He "began to preach." It wasn't "love."

In fact, gentle reader, did you know that the New Testament never records Jesus using the word "grace"?

Yes, Jesus believed in the love and grace of God; of course, He did, that's why He came to the earth. But there was a whole lot more to His doctrine than that, and there needs to be a whole lot more to our message as well.

Preach love, preacher, but don't preach it every sermon. Otherwise, you won't be truly helping mankind and you'll make a lot of godly people sick.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

11/21 Ezra’s Example

Ezra was a priest and scribe of Israel after the return from Babylonian captivity. He is indeed one of the great and godly men in the Bible. His prayer in chapter 9 of his book is one of the most magnificent in Scripture and worthy of deep study.

But it is Ezra 7:10 that I wish to briefly analyze in this post for it tells us why he was such an example for us: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Let me break this down.

“Ezra had prepared..”. Spiritual growth does not happen automatically. One doesn’t just jump into it and start maturing. Understanding what is involved, and what is not, is essential to godly living. Meditating on the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2) will go a long way in preparing us for service to God.

“Ezra had prepared his heart...” In Scripture, the heart, as often as not, refers not to that organ that pumps blood, but to the will and intellect. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Ezra made up his mind he was going to serve the Lord. He made a conscious decision to set aside sin and live a godly, righteous life. Again, it was no accident. He didn’t “stumble” into salvation. The intellect and the will are involved, every bit as much as the emotions.

“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek…” Effort is involved. Anything of value is worth time and dedication. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). It isn’t surprising that finding the Lord is after a search with all our heart. And it isn’t surprising that “heart” and “seek” are both in Ezra 7:10.

“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord…” A lot of people search for a lot of things, most of them worldly and valueless. Ezra knew the treasures found in God’s word and that’s what he wanted. What are YOU searching for?

“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord and to do it…” It doesn’t do much good to know wisdom if one is not going to act upon it. Ezra wanted an intimate acquaintance with the law of God so that he could live by it. Study is necessary (II Timothy 2:15), and without it, we can never learn what God wishes of us. But unless we are willing to apply what we learn, all the study in the world will avail us nothing.

“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Don’t hog what you know. Understanding God’s word and doing it are wonderful things. Helping others to know and do simply fulfills our relationship and duty to the Almighty.

It’s pretty obvious, from this verse, why God chose Ezra to author at least one book in His divine message to man.

Monday, November 16, 2009

11/17 Bible Briefs: Justifying the Wicked

Proverbs 17:15--He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD. There is way too much of this going on. The Lord expects us to condemn evil and support righteousness. Praising false teachers and berating teachers of truth is a common occurrence even in the Lord's church. And our country is full of people who exalt wickedness and condemn godliness. It's not a new phenomenon, though. Note the following.

II Chronicles 19:2--And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. In other words, "Jehoshaphat, what in the world are you doing helping Ahab, the most ungodly king Israel ever had?" Look closely at what Jehu said of Jehoshaphat: He "help[ed] the ungodly and
love[d] them that hate the LORD?" How can a child of God love those who hate Him? Yes, in a general sense, we are to love all men; but that doesn't mean we are to let them think we condone their wickedness. Jehoshaphat fully supported his godless counterpart, Ahab, and this was repulsive to Jehovah. Yet it's only fair to Jehoshaphat to say that, in general, he was a godly man (v. 3). But even those--especially those--who have prepared their hearts to seek the Lord must watch their actions.

It gets worse.

II Chronicles 21:6--And he [Jehoram] walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD. Jehoshaphat had some good qualities; the choice of his companions wasn't always wise, and he did pretty lousy job raising his kid. After his death, Jehoshaphat's son, Jehoram, came to the throne, and immediately "killed all his brothers with the sword, and also others of the princes of Israel" (II Chron. 21:4). Verse 6, quoted above, is a sufficient explanation as to why Jehoram was such a murderous scumbag--look whom he married. How many men--and women--have been drawn to the dark side of sin and iniquity by their spouse? You can start with the first man who ever walked the face of the earth (Genesis 3).

But there's more to this than just avoiding giving sanction and credibility to the wicked. We must not only actively oppose evil, but even neutrality is unacceptable to God:

Judges 5:23--Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty. When God's cause is under attack, standing on the sidelines and whistling into the wind is insufficient. In fact, God equates it with supporting the enemy. In regards to Edom when Israel was under seige, Obadiah wrote "For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them" (Obadiah 10-11). The Lord's cause is the greatest on earth. You are either with Him--supporting the righteous--or against Him--justifying the wicked. There is no third option.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

11/5 Bible Briefs

II Chronicles 17:9-10--"...they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people [the law of the Lord]. And the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah..." There is a direct corollary between the two actions described in the verses above--teaching the Word of God and the fear of the Lord coming upon those who hear it. We don't see a lot of "fear of the Lord" in our churches or country today. Is it perhaps because we have ceased teaching "the law of the Lord"?

Acts 5:42-6:1--"And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Now in those days, when the number of disciples was multiplying..." Didn't I, in effect, just say that in the II Chronicles 17 brief above?

Acts 18:8--"And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." I'm getting repetitive. The Word of the Lord is still the most powerful thing on earth. But it's not very effective in the cowardly hands of worldly church members.

Acts 4:29--""Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word." Maybe that's why they succeeded, and we haven't done so well.