Saturday, May 29, 2010

Examine Your Faith, Part Two

Last week I introduced you to Mary, a woman who came to realize that her faith was based on a meaningless “profession of faith” made as a child. Unfortunately, her story is not uncommon and is a perfect example of why the Apostle Paul issued such a clear directive for us to examine our faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). This week I will continue with the first of several reasons why we must examine our faith.

But first a disclaimer: Nowhere in the Scriptures are we ever told to doubt our faith. There is a difference between doubt and self-examination. Doubt is a tool of Satan. He wants us to doubt our faith in Christ so that we will walk away from it. But true faith is something from which we cannot walk away. That is why Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to determine for themselves whether or not they were truly in the faith to begin with, so that they would not be deceived into to thinking they were on their way to heaven when, in fact, many of them were not. They were living lives inconsistent with true faith and Paul was trying to make them see that. The same applies to us today. You may say you “believe” in Christ, but if your heart and life are not consistent with the faith He offers, then you are not a Christian, no matter what you say you believe (1 John 1:6-7). When the Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians to examine their faith, he used an imperative statement. In other words, he gave them a command. They were expected to do it. He did not say, “If you have a few minutes next week, consider spending a few moments in introspective thought about what you believe.” He said, “Examine yourselves!” So here we go…

First of all, you must examine your faith to determine if it goes beyond mere knowledge. Knowledge of God, even the recognition that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, will not get you into heaven. In fact, “the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). Having knowledge without faith is like marrying someone without ever consummating the marriage. You may know your spouse, but something fundamental to the relationship is vitally missing (Genesis 2:24).

Consider the Old Testament story of Samuel. He was consecrated to God and entrusted to the care of the Prophet Eli immediately after being weaned. Samuel grew in the knowledge of the Lord as he ministered under Eli (1 Samuel 3:1). Then a few verses later the Bible says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the Word of the Lord yet been revealed to him (v. 7).” Samuel faithfully served and grew in the knowledge of the Lord from the time he was able to leave his mother’s side, yet he did not know the Lord.

Are you like Samuel? Do you know God without having a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ? Or perhaps you are even “serving” God without having trusted Him with the eternal care of your soul. Do not approach heaven's gate with your fingers crossed! Examine your faith!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Examine Your Faith, Part One

Mary was a woman in her early fifties, the mother of three, and the wife of a deacon in the town’s largest church. By all outward appearances she was a solid Christian woman. However, she lacked confidence concerning her faith. Her anxiety increased over time so she asked the pastor how to determine if she was truly saved. Unfortunately, his reply was all too common. He said not to fret; the very fact that she was concerned about the issue affirmed the reality of her salvation. Unsatisfied with such a pat answer she sought the counsel of others, but was given similar advice. In the end Mary came to the conclusion that the “profession of faith” she made as a young child was spurious at best. She repented, sought the Lord’s forgiveness, and was baptized.

The woman I described is an actual person I once knew. She was well liked by those who knew her and, by all outward appearances, lived a moral life. She was in church every Sunday and sat under the teaching of the Scriptures. Now, if she could be deceived into thinking she was on her way to heaven when, in reality, she had no personal relationship with Christ, how much easier is it for Satan to convince the average person who spends little time in God’s Word or in prayer that they have salvation when they actually do not? Too many folks truly believe they are going to heaven based on a spoken prayer they said as a child or some church tradition they follow(ed). But it is by God’s grace alone that we are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). That is the only way to have peace for today and the confidence of heaven in the future.

Last week’s Musing talked about that eager expectation we should all have while we wait for heaven and Christ’s sure return. If you do not have that, perhaps it is time to examine your faith. Have you done that lately? Do you have complete confidence in knowing where you will spend eternity? Is the reality of your faith based on a spoken prayer, good works, emotional experience, or church membership and/or tradition? I hope that you have confidence in your salvation. But whether you have nagging doubts or total assurance, God’s Word instructs you to examine your faith. Over the next weeks I will present five biblical reasons why you should do just that, as well as some practical advice on how to do it. In the meantime, muse on the reality of your faith and ask yourself if “Jesus Christ is in you.”

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Daddy's Home!

"And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." Rev 22:7 (NASB)

One of my most poignant memories related to being a father is of a day years ago when my oldest son was just a toddler. I remember returning home from work one evening, driving onto our driveway, and seeing his tiny face peering out the front window of our house. His little head barely cleared the windowsill as he eagerly waited for me to arrive home. I recall with joy how, at his first glimpse of my car, he excitedly jumped up and down. When I pulled into the garage and turned off the motor I could hear him inside the house, to my own great delight, running from room to room shouting, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”

As a father, I have been blessed with the privilege of reliving many similar scenes. Even now, my heart is warmed and my spirit is lifted almost daily when I arrive home and see the beautiful smile on my baby son’s face as soon as he hears my voice or sees me approach him. Even at four months of age, he knows when it is time for Daddy to come home, and he waits for me with anticipation.

Jesus is coming back! That is for sure and certain. Are you ready for it? Are you waiting in eager anticipation of His coming? As Christians we have an innate knowledge that the Lord’s return is eminent, but we often become so distracted by the business of life that we simply forget to take notice that the time is at hand. We allow the sins of this world to divert our attention away from the task of preparing for it or, even worse, we permit our own apathy to keep us from sharing the truth of Christ with a lost world. Let us ready ourselves and warn others. Let us prepare our hearts in such a way that we spend our time peeping over the windowsill of our souls, so overcome with joy at the prospect of His arrival that we run throughout the world shouting, “Jesus is coming!” “Jesus is coming!” “Jesus is coming!”
"And that's the way it is." (Walter Cronkite)

“Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Romans 13:11-14

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Mother's Love/God's Love

A number of years ago as the pastor of a local church, I visited the children’s Sunday school classes in preparation for Mother’s Day and asked the kids to express why their mother should be honored as Mother of the Year. I received many responses ranging from a simple “My mother should be Mother of the Year because she makes the best chocolate chip cookies” to essays several paragraphs in length. However, there was one single sentence in one of the essays that grabbed my attention. One young girl wrote of her mother, “She loves us with every beam of her heart and every atom of her being.” Wow! What a picture of a mother’s love.

I think one reason I continue to muse over that description of love is because it also speaks to the way God loves us. He spoke through the Prophet Isaiah, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). God uses the symbol of a mother’s love to describe the love and comfort he offers us if we are one of his own. “God is love” (1 John 4:16), and he expresses that great love daily. He gives comfort and peace in times of despair, wisdom when we are confused, guidance when we are lost, chastisement when we have disobeyed his Word, and so much more. But most importantly, he demonstrates his love for us in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” He truly does love us with “every beam of his heart and every atom of his being,” and then some.

So muse over that little girl’s statement about her mother this week, and apply it to God’s incomprehensible love for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).” Are you a recipient of that love?

“Amazing love how can it be that thou my God would die for me.”
Charles Wesley

To my own mother, you have always been Mother of the Year to me. 

And to my beautiful wife… Thank you for giving me my baby son and being the greatest mommy in the world.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dead Skunks and Right Choices

Long, long ago (back when the dimmer switch was on the floorboard where it still ought to be) when I was only 15 years old and had just obtained my learner’s permit, one of my uncles let me drive the car on an old country road that had two ditches, no shoulders, and barely two lanes. I was trucking right along as happy as could be when we approached a little kid riding his bicycle along the right side of the roadway. I eased the car to the left and, just at the last minute, saw a dead skunk in the road. I knew I had a quick decision to make, so I weighed the consequences and ultimately decided to hit the skunk and not the kid. The smell permeated the car almost instantly. My uncle looked at me and asked without any hesitation,  “Why did you do that?!” I replied, “It was either hit the skunk or the kid!” His reply was very simple and to the point, “Next time hit the kid.” Not another word was ever spoken regarding the incident, and to this day I’m not completely convinced that he was only kidding.

Unfortunately, we now live in an era when doing the right thing has fallen victim to doing what is the most expedient, profitable, or self-serving. But that is certainly not the Biblical model. The Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to… “Fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:18-19) Fighting the good fight is not something that comes naturally. It takes preparation (1 Timothy 4:7), the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), and a whole life commitment to the Word of God (2 Timothy 1:8).

It’s not always easy doing the right thing. In fact, as the above story illustrates, it can be down right stinky. But the stink wears off eventually, and you can at least live with a clear conscience. So as you face difficult choices this week, weigh the consequences and do the right thing, no matter the cost.

Have a blessed week! Soli Deo Gloria!