Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Fresh Start

Turning the page on the calendar does not really change a thing. In a few days we will enter a new year, but we will still be the same people. We need more than a new year to give us a fresh start in life. We need new hearts, renewed minds, refreshed spirits. These things are possible, but not on our own. Our own resolutions will not make the difference. What we need is divine intervention. It can happen. The Lord is willing. Are we?

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh
. (Ezekiel 36:26, ESV)

"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. 6"Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon
. (Isaiah 55:1-7, ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV)

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life
. (Romans 6:4, ESV)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dilution of the Gospel

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14, ESV).

We want to be understood so we explain, illustrate, and give examples. If we still are not understood, we offer further explanation, illustration and example. At times we know that in our efforts to make things clear we are oversimplifying, that we may have gained something in clarity but lost something in accuracy. But we want to be understood, so we press on.

There is the danger that our efforts to make the gospel understandable to the worldly may sometimes end in distorting the gospel. The apostle seems to be saying, in 1 Corinthians 2, that in our natural state we find the things of God impossible to understand. He seems to be saying that it is only the person who has begun to be transformed who can understand.

This is a dilemma. People need the gospel, yet their minds are often (if not always) so marred by sin that they cannot even comprehend the message that they need. We cannot help them by changing the gospel. To do any good the gospel must remain pure and undiluted. But if they cannot understand the pure undiluted gospel, what are we to do?

Paul not only taught, he also prayed (Eph 3:14-19). I am sure that he tried to be as clear as possible, but he knew that understanding depended on more than his clarity. Their ability to comprehend the incomprehensible depended more on divine intervention than on communication techniques.

So, let us teach our friends, our neighbors (even our enemies). And let us do our very best when we teach. But let us pray as much as we teach. The message they need is a message they cannot comprehend apart from God's intervention. Apart from God's help our efforts are doomed. With his help all things are possible.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ultimate Purpose

Peter Kreeft has a memorable passage in one of his books where Aristotle is resurrected and asks a modern college student about his ultimate goals. The student says his goal is to graduate with good grades. Aristotle asks why. The student says that he needs a good job. "Why?" So that he can make enough money. "Why?" To be able to send his own children to college so that they will get good jobs. "Why?"

The longer I live the more I am convinced that most people (even most church going people) have missed the importance of critically examining their ultimate purpose. Some have no sense of purpose at all. Even the best of us often seems to forget the question of ultimate purpose.

I am thankful for those who recognize the importance of building a good family life. That is so much better than just chasing purely selfish momentary pleasure. But, ultimately, what is the goal of family? Many, I fear, do not know.

I am thankful for those who recognize the value of the church, who know that we cannot function as well as individual Christians as we will function bound together in a body of Christ. But what, ultimately, is the goal of the church? I fear that many do not know.

This article is not going to answer the question of ultimate purpose. I am afraid that this format is not suited to addressing a question that large. Instead, I will simply leave the question with you.

Are you caught up in an endless "rat race"? Are you training your children to join the "rat race"? Are you living your life a little confused about the purpose of it all? Let me suggest that life works better when we understand its ultimate purpose. I am not going to tell you what that purpose is. But let me suggest a few helpful hints. Look up the following scriptures and ask yourself, "Am I living in keeping with the purpose outlined here?"

Isaiah 43:21; Matthew 5:16; John 17:3; Philippians 1:10-11; 1 Peter 2:9-10; 4:10-11; 1 John 1:1-3