Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Abijah, Son of Jeroboam

1 Kings 14:13 And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.

In worldly terms, Abijah is to be pitied. He died young. But in the Lord's judgment, he was the only person in his father's house who was pleasing. Others in the house of Jeroboam lived to adulthood. They fought battles. They ruled the country. They did things that would have been considered noteworthy. But only Abijah, the one who died young, pleased the Lord.

What is our standard of success? What goals are most important to us? What accomplishments please us in our relatives? In ourselves? Do we seek long life, material wealth, human notoriety, or do we seek to please the Lord?

To consider more recent examples, Idi Amin lived thirty years longer than Abraham Lincoln, almost exactly twice as long as Martin Luther King Jr. Which was the more successful life?

The true measure of a life is not a matter of days and years but of commitment to God's will.

Abijah died young, but was pleasing to the Lord. Whether we live long or die young, may it be said of us that "the Lord found something pleasing" in us.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No Insignificant Sins

Arrows do not fly as far or as true as bullets. But, strange as it seems, a broadhead arrow will kill more quickly than a bullet (assuming that both hit the mark). Arsenic will kill more quickly than tobacco, Malaria more quickly than Kwashiorkor. But all are deadly. None is to be trifled with.

There are weightier matters of the law (Matt 23:23), so it stands to reason that failure with regard to the weightier matters is more serious. But we must never think that any disobedience is a light matter. All sin is serious, very serious (James 2:10). We will give answer for every deed, including our idle conversation (Matt 12:36).

Some sins destroy the soul more quickly, but all are soul destroying. We should trifle with none of them.

All willful sin is, essentially, a claim on our part that we know better than God. The person who says, "I know that God said that we must not x, but I choose to do it" is being arrogant. He is claiming to be wiser than God. It matters not what the x may be. Any disobedience of God is a claim that we are wiser than God. Thus all sin is rebellion, all sin is a form of blasphemy.

The more clear the command, the more clear and soul destroying the blasphemy, but none of it is trivial. Some sins destroy more quickly, but all destroy. Even mild rebellion is rebellion; and when directed against an infinite being, rebellion is infinitely sinful.

That is why Jesus warns us, "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). There are no insignificant sins.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

One Thing You Lack

Rodney Rockwell worked for Lubrizol Monday through Friday. On Sundays he preached at my home congregation. One of his favorite lines was, "Some people have just enough religion to make them miserable."

Through the years I have met many who have enough Christian commitment to know that they ought to do something, but not enough to do it. They are miserable.

Jesus met one such person as well. Jesus loved the rich young ruler and because he loved him Jesus issued the challenge, "sell all that you have and give to the poor, then come follow me" (Mk 10:21). Jesus did not say this because he wanted to discourage the young man, but because he wanted to save him. Jesus wanted to save him from his miserable lukewarmness. It did not work for that young man, he went away sorrowfully (Mk 10:22). It did not work, but it was the only hope.

There is no cure for miserable religion other than wholeheartedness.

"But we never can prove the delights of his love until ALL on the altar we lay; for the favor he shows and the love he bestows are for those who will trust and obey."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Membership Agreement

I received an e-mail this week with a sample "membership agreement." It seems that many people want to call themselves Christians, and claim membership in a church, but they do not want to live as Christians and they absolutely refuse to allow the church to discipline them. In a number of cases, law suits have been brought against church leaders who have attempted to fulfill their duty to discipline the flock.

The solution that is suggested is to get every member to sign a kind of legal contract. In this membership agreement each member promises to live by the standards of Christian morality, and acknowledges that if they fail to do so they may be disciplined by the church.

We have no plans to introduce written membership agreements. If you are a member of this congregation, you made your commitment by actions rather than words. The Christian life begins with baptism, an act in which we publicly commit ourselves to end our old life, symbolically bury that old life, and rise to live a new life (Romans 6:1-14).

If that is not contract enough, why would a two-page membership agreement change anything? If people who have publicly stated their commitment to Christ's church in baptism are willing to walk away, why would signing a paper sober them? People who go on living in sin after baptism, or who just let their commitment to his church die of neglect, are publicly despising the Son of God (according to Hebrews 10:26-31). People who would do that are not going to change their behavior just because they signed a membership agreement.

The terms of Christian membership are clear -- death to the old life, unbroken commitment to the life of Christ. No legal contract could spell it out more clearly than it was spelled out in your baptism. Live up to that commitment, or bear the stigma of one who has reneged on life's most sacred commitment.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Go To The Ant"

Researchers at Georgia Tech have discovered how fire ants survive. It seems that a single fire ant is rather easily drowned, so it was kind of a wonder to understand how these ants, native to rain forests, swamps and coastal regions prone to be hit by hurricanes, have managed to survive.

They survive by sticking together. When the rain begins, the whole colony will link arms, forming a huge, living life raft. A single ant will keep its head above water for only a short time. But a raft of linked ants can float for days.

When Proverbs tells us to "go to the ant" (Pr 6:6), it is speaking primarily of considering the work ethic of the ants. But perhaps we should consider their social ethic as well. They stick together to survive. So should we.

Genesis 2:18 It is not good that the man should be alone...

Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.

Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.