Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Willingness and Joy

Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly. 1 Chron. 29:9 (ESV)


There is a close association between willingness and joy. Those things we choose to do, we enjoy doing. Those things we feel forced to do, we do not enjoy. That may be part of why other people tell us how helpful and hard working our children are, while we may not find them to be so at home. At home, they feel compelled and resist. When with others they may be serving willingly and actually end up enjoying themselves.

In the text cited above, the people have just given a large sum of money toward the building of the Temple. And they are happy to have done so. Contrast that in your mind to the attitude most of us take toward paying our taxes. When we are able to give of our own free will toward helping the needy it is a cause of joy. But when we are forced to give toward programs that supposedly help the needy, we feel that we have been cheated. That given willingly leads to joy. That which we are compelled to give leads to resentment.

The church forces no one to give. There is no external compulsion used to raise your contribution of time or of money. We want to you know the joy of willingness. The only compulsion you should feel is the inner compulsion felt by those who know what the Lord has done for them, and who wish to honor his gift by giving.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Cor. 8:9 (ESV)

Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7 (ESV)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Getting Something Out Of It

I have heard it dozens of times - the claim that divorce statistics are just as bad for Christians as for the world. Does that claim smell a little fishy? It turns out that it is all in how you define "Christian".


If you define "Christian" as anyone who claims to be a part of a church, it may well be that the divorce rate is even higher than it is in the world. Nominal members (those who attend sporadically and are not active in the work of the church) are actually 20% more likely to divorce than the national average. But if you narrow the definition, including only those who attend worship regularly and are active in a conservative church, it turns out that "Christians" are 35% less likely to divorce than the national average.

What it seems to boil down to is this. Claiming to be a Christian while not living like one does not help and may even make matters worse. Walking the walk seems to make things better. It seems that we have to put some effort into the faith if we expect to get anything out of it.

What a novel idea!

You can check out the full story on the divorce rate among Christians at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs. Or maybe you would prefer checking out these thoughts:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21, ESV

"For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them." 2 Peter 2:21, ESV

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." Luke 9:23-24, ESV

"So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." Rev. 3:16, ESV

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Intent

Until fairly recently a reading knowledge of German and French was required to receive a Ph.D.. It did not matter what one's area of study might be, most universities required these two languages. The intent of the requirement was long forgotten. Many students complained that it was nothing more than an extra hurdle set up by those who already held doctorates to keep others from obtaining them. Perhaps they were correct.


Sadly, many people look at the things the Lord requires in the same way. They do not consider that the Lord must have some good purpose in what he commands us. The general assumption seems to be that his requirements are just extra hurdles to keep heaven from becoming overcrowded.

The Pharisees assumed this with regard to the Sabbath law. They looked upon this law as a legalistic requirement that one must meet. They ignored the explanation of the intent of this law (Dt. 5:12-15). They thought that God delighted in putting burdens on us. They did not see him as a God who loves us, seeks our good and is trying to keep us from overburdening ourselves (Mark 2:23-3:6).

I am concerned that we have not advanced that much over the Pharisees. It seems that many today still think of the Lord in the same terms that the Pharisees saw him. Many seem to believe that God's commands are designed to take the fun out of life.

The commands of God should be a joy, a delight to his people (cf. Neh 1:11; Psalm 1:2; 37:4; 43:4; 112:1; 119:16,24,35,47,70,143; Isa 58:13). They only become burdensome when we forget his gracious intent.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In Jesus' Name

In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. John 16:26-27 (ESV)


To ask in the name of Jesus is not to use the name of Jesus as a magic word; it is not an attempt to manipulate God by verbally bringing Jesus into a prayer that is not really molded to the mind of Jesus. When we address our prayers to God "in Jesus' name" we should be doing two things.

First, we should be acknowledging the fact that we have, within ourselves, no basis on which to approach God. We are sinners. Our heavenly Father is holy. Sinners have no claim upon his goodness. We pray "in Jesus name" because, apart from the intervention of Jesus, we have no means of approaching God.

Praying in Jesus name should also be an indication that we are truly making an effort to bring our lives in line with the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus tells the disciples to ask in his name (John 16:26), he goes on to indicate that the Father will receive their requests "because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God". The person who uses the words "in Jesus name" but who does not truly believe in Jesus or love him is making a mockery of prayer. If we are not seeking to be one in heart and mind with Jesus, then we have no right to pray in his name. The proof of our claim to believe in him and love him is in our actions. As Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). The willfully disobedient have no right to pray in Jesus' name.

While the exact phraseology is not critical, every prayer should be addressed to the Father on the basis of Jesus mediation, not on the basis of our own goodness. And, while acknowledging that we are sinful and in need of that mediation, we should also be striving to bring our will and our lives into conformity to his will. Otherwise, that phrase "in Jesus name" becomes sacrilege instead of true worship.