Sunday, September 29, 2013

Save By Grace, Saved To Serve

And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' Matthew 25:38-40
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

Salvation is by grace through faith. It is impossible for us to save ourselves. We must be saved by God's grace, not by our own works. Of ourselves, we are spiritually dead and cannot possibly save ourselves (Eph 2:1-9).

But why are we saved? For what purpose are we saved?

We are saved that we might praise God's glorious grace (Eph 1:3-14; Eph 2:10; 1 Peter 4:10-11). We cause God to be praised by means of good deeds (Matt 5:16). We are not saved by our deeds; but if we fail to do such things as Jesus would do, we show that we have not really been born again. If our actions are not in line with those of Jesus, we are failing to show the family resemblance, and one cannot help but question the reality of our conversion.

We may disagree at times about the best way to serve, the best way to evangelize, or the best way to care for widows and orphans. But I hope that we will never question that these things must be done. Such loving actions are fundamental to Christ-like living. Without them we have missed the point of being in Christ; we have missed the purpose for which we were saved.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Personal Salvation or God's Glory

Romans 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

This is a passage that amazes most Christians. As far as most Christians are concerned, THE reason for being a Christian is personal salvation. So how can Paul say that he would be willing to be lost for the sake of saving others?

The goal of personal salvation is nearly always prominent in conversion, and there is nothing wrong with that (Acts 2:37-40). But Paul has reached a point, and every Christian should reach a point, where the glory of God is more important to them than their own salvation. Paul being lost would not cause his nation to be saved, but if it were possible, and if their being saved would honor God more than Paul's personal salvation, then Paul is willing to be lost for the sake of this greater good. Of course, Paul wants to be saved, and expects to be saved, but his personal salvation is not the most important thing to him.

It does not disturb me that a newborn baby is self-focused. For the sake of survival a baby must be. There is nothing a newborn can do to serve others. But when a child of eight or ten is still fully self-focused, I get concerned. When a teenager is still fully self-focused, it is alarming. When an adult is self-focused, it is depressing.

It does not disturb me that a new convert is focused on personal salvation. But it alarms me when I meet Christians who ought to have grown beyond that point who are still totally preoccupied with their own salvation. It alarms me because they ought to have enough confidence in Christ that they would not be doubting their salvation; and because they ought to have grown to the point of being more focused on helping others and glorifying God.

Yes, we want to be saved; that is appropriate. But it is not all about us, it is about the glory of God (Isa 43:21; Phil 1:10-11; 1 Peter 2:9; 4:1-11).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


While repairing the roof we had a major leak. To fix our parking area we have had to remove the old pavement. So often in life we have to suffer a worse situation in order to reach an improved situation.

If we had been unwilling to risk a major leak while repairing the roof, the alternative would have been to suffer on with a lot of small leaks indefinitely. If we were unwilling to tear up the pavement, we would have been forced to tolerate a steadily worsening situation in our parking lot.

Things are not very different in the spiritual realm. To obtain eternal life, we must sacrifice the worldly life. To please God, we risk the displeasing the world.

As anyone who has remodeled a house will tell you, things have to get worse to get better. The result may be well worth it, but remodeling is a messy, at times even a painful, business. Many people need to remodel their lives, but they are not willing to endure the messy and painful part.

There are preachers who will tell you that the Christian life is easy, that God wants you to be comfortable and untroubled. I am not one of those preachers. More importantly, Jesus is not one of those preachers.

Is the Christian life worth the effort? Definitely. Is the Christian life the only life really worth living? Undoubtedly. Is the Christian life often difficulty, messy, painful, challenging? Absolutely.

And he said to all, "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. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:23-26

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Every Deed Makes A Difference

The proverbial rhyme has been around a long time. It is often associated with the defeat of Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field (1485), but it may, in fact, be older than that. The point is still valid whenever the rhyme was written.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a nail.

Another illustration of the same principle comes from World War II. In October of 1942 the miner's union in Britain was threatening a strike. A strike by the miners at that stage would have given Hitler and Tojo control of the world. Winston Churchill met with representatives of the miners and said, regarding the war effort, "We shall not fail, and then some day, when children ask, 'What did you do to win this inheritance for us, and to make our name so respected among men?' one will say: 'I was a fighter pilot'; another will say: 'I was in the Submarine Service'; another: 'I marched with the Eighth Army'; a fourth will say: 'None of you could have lived without the convoys and the Merchant Seamen'; and you in your turn will say, with equal pride and with equal right: 'We cut the coal.'"

The same is true in the work of the church worldwide and locally. Not all jobs are equally noticed, but all jobs are important. Do your part. See your tasks as part of the bigger picture. Seek a role in the work. Be faithful to your task.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Where He Is, His Servants Will Be

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:25-26

Jesus says, "Where I am, there will my servant be also." Then just a few verses later he tells them where he is headed. When he says, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" he is speaking of his death on the cross (John 12:32-33). Jesus is headed to the cross and saying that those who claim to be his servants must follow him and be where he is.

What did we think we were signing up for when we came to Christ? The Christian life has great rewards. The Christian life is the only life really worth having; but no one said that it would be easy.

"Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:12-13).
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10-12)
"They [Paul and Barnabas] returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:21-22)

If the Bible is true, the preachers of health and wealth, the preachers of the prosperity gospel, are liars. The crown is real, the crown is worth it, but the cross is real as well. If we wish to be known as his servants, we must daily bear the cross of duty and of persecution (Lk 9:23).

Thank God, we have the Spirit's help to bear it; but bear it we must. Let us be ready.