Tuesday, October 25, 2011

God's Will For Us

What is God’s will for us? He desires that we be saved, of course. That is taught in 1 Timothy 2:3 where we are told that God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." But what does it mean to be saved?

I am sorry to have to say it, but what most Christians think of when they read those words is not what God has in mind. For most Christians, to be saved simply means that we will go to heaven, not to hell. But God’s intention is greater than this. He desires not just that we go to heaven but that we be made fit to go there. His will is not that we be saved just from the consequences of our sins, but that we be saved from our sins. As Paul tells the Thessalonians, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thess 4:3).

To be sanctified is to be made holy; it is to be separated from the world in how we think, speak, and behave. We are not to practice immorality. We are not to satisfy the desires of the flesh, but are to learn to live by, and to love living by, a different standard.

I am sorry to say it, but I cannot imagine the Lord taking the average church member to heaven. It would be too cruel. Little of what they love would be there. They would have nothing to do but worship God continually, and judging by the way they try to avoid worship here on earth, I fear that eternal worship would be a very bitter experience for them.

His will for us is sanctification, for without sanctification there can be no lasting salvation. Heaven would be hell for those whose hearts have not really been transformed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When The Lord Stays Away

So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:6, ESV)

When the Lord seems to stay away, when he does not respond immediately to our pleas, we are apt to conclude that he does not love us. We are specifically told that Jesus loved Lazarus and Lazarus’ sisters (John 11:5). Yet, when they send for him, he does not come right away. Jesus, as much as he loves them, is willing to let them suffer.

The end of this illness appeared to be death, but that was a deceptive appearance. The end of this illness was the glory of God (John 11:4). As much as he loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus, Jesus was willing to let them suffer this loss so that something greater might happen.

The glory of God means more to Jesus than the temporal comfort of his friends. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, like all of us, were created to glorify God. If they accomplish their purpose through suffering, then Jesus is willing that they (and we) suffer.

Jesus set the example. He glorified God though suffering. He gave up more than he asks us to give up; he suffered more than we will be called upon to suffer.

When the Lord seems to stay away, when he seems to not care about our suffering, we must remember that he loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. He loved them, but he knew that they would accomplish their life goal through this suffering. And it may be that we will accomplish our life goal better through failure than through success, better through pain than through comfort.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21, ESV)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One Thing You Lack

Mark 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Whether the score is 35-0 or 35-34, the team that lost still lost. The deficit may have been only one point, but one point is the difference between winning and losing. At the end of the game, lacking one (point or run or wicket) is the same as lacking 100.

Spiritual realities do not exactly parallel these sporting realities. Every one of us is lacking before God. We are not lacking in just one or two ways, but in many ways. Since we are saved by grace, that does not matter; we can still be saved.

But here in Mark 10 we have Jesus telling a young man that his lack of just one thing will keep him from the spiritual peace that he seeks. To correct the one thing he lacks he does not need to acquire something, but to give something up. What he must give up is himself.

Like many of us, he defined himself largely in terms of his possessions. Perhaps he was a man "worth millions." He had to give that up.

Like nearly all of us, he wanted to be in control of his future. He wanted to decide where he would go and what he would do. But Jesus says, "You must give that up as well. You must follow me."

The one thing he lacked was total commitment to the will of God. Lacking that one thing, he could not be saved, not even by grace.

He was a fine young man. He was highly moral, highly religious, highly respected, and wealthy. But all of this could not save him. He trusted in self rather than in the Lord; and he went away sorrowfully.

We must give up on self; we must depend on Christ alone; or we too will go away sorrowfully in the end.