Friday, March 28, 2014

I Wish You, Dead! (part 2)


I Wish You, Dead! (part 2)

Luke 15:13-24
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.  And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,  And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:   And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

As we continue the story in Luke 15, let’s remember: the sinner has no kinship to God whatsoever, doesn't love God, care about God, or want anything to do with God. He wants no relationship with God at all and in fact, he has none. God, in the agony of rejected love, lets the sinner go. Romans 1:24 says, He gave them up, and let them go in the lusts of their own hearts. This is a picture of the youngest son in Luke 15.

The young man squandered his life and money by living a undisciplined and reckless life-style. When all of his inheritance was wasted, spent, there came a famine in the land. They didn’t have help from the government, or other organizations to assist them and without jobs or means of making a living, they suffered severely and some even died. Here is a description of a famine  occurring in the 1800’s from a writer telling of children being sold into slavery to keep them from starving. He speaks of men being found dead every morning on the streets and when the numbers increased, the ruler of the city declared every man responsible for throwing the dead bodies in front of his house into the river. Inhabitants of the city would drag the dead in front of other people's houses and every morning quarrels would ring out across the city as men fought over where the dead bodies really died. 

Small merchants had to keep hippopotamus hide whips nearby to drive off the maddened beggars who would attack them bodily and ravish the little they had in their shops. Small merchants with their wares on the street would throw themselves across their wares as the miserable wretches came by to steal something to eat. Men venturing out at night unarmed were attacked and eaten. Straying animals were killed and eaten raw. Shoe leather, rotten flesh and garbage were all devoured. Families in the village seeing death all around, bricked up the doors of their houses and awaited death in a room to keep their own bodies from being devoured by hyenas. Entire villages were wiped out in this manner. This is a famine.

Something like that would be pictured in the minds of the Pharisees as Jesus told the parable of  the prodigal son. This level of human desperation goes beyond anything that we can conceive––––this is life at its lowest. With all resources gone, destitute, hungry and alone, the youngest son literally hits bottom. He can’t supply what he needs and begins to search desperately for a job–––this is a turning point in his life. God has opened his eyes and he views himself differently than before. This young man, a sinner, with eyes opened, repents, leaves the bondage of Satan behind, and returns home.

The son, the sinner, ready to face the shame he deserves, desires restoration, and a new start. He needs his father and his hope lies in the father’s goodness, kindness and forgiving heart. He's truly repentant and ashamed of what he has done. The father sees him afar off and runs to him bearing unexpected gifts of love and forgiveness. The humbled sinner is received by a loving father and  his best robe is placed upon him. A beautiful picture of the Redeemer’s righteousness, His best, placed upon us, at salvation. 

Thought: The story doesn't contain everything that needs to be said about salvation, but it does lead us to the cross which is yet to happen in the life of Christ. This is the story of every sinner running from God. A story of the outwardly lustful, immoral, self-indulgent, ones who come to the end of themselves, and realize they have lost everything. Nothing has meaning, nothing satisfies, they are just fighting to survive. God wants to reconcile the sinner to Himself, and finds joy in rescuing the utterly hopeless from their sin. This is a wonderful picture of the Gospel, the gift of grace that is provided no matter how horrible our lives have been. May we continuously rejoice in His gift of grace and undeserved mercy lavished upon us day after day.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I Wish You, Dead!


I Wish You, Dead!

Luke 15:11-20
And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,  And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  And he arose, and came to his father.

Background: Christ is on His way to Jerusalem during the last few months of His life. He now has been ministering nearly three years and is intending to offer Himself as God’s perfect sacrifice for sin. But, before He does, He takes some time teaching a few parables to the scribes and Pharisees, His relentless enemies. The resentment of the Pharisees and the scribes is due to the fact that Jesus directly confronted them on their hypocrisy. He identified them as self-righteous and not truly righteous. Jesus told them that they were excluded from the Kingdom because they were inwardly corrupt and headed for God’s divine judgement. 

The first two stories in chapter 15 are about the lost sheep and the lost coin, which emphasize God as the seeker, the one who finds and the one who rejoices. The third story looks at the human side of sin, repentance, recovery and rejection. This is a dramatic and moving story. All of it is deeply interesting and impacts one’s thinking on the truth of God’s amazing grace.

The story or parable begins with the younger son asking his father for his inheritance. He wanted  his right to the estate and he demanded it, now! The word, "prodigal" means, "spend thrift," someone who is wasteful and self-indulgent. The youngest son is the classic illustration of wasting your life, of extravagant self-indulgence, that is why he is called, “The prodigal son.”

In the Eastern culture, the inheritance was only given when the father died. Since the father was still living, this was, in essence, saying to the father, “I wish you were dead.” The command to “Honor thy father and mother,” was not obeyed by this son.  This was a serious breach of honor and an outrageous request from the young man directed to his healthy father. The young son was saying, “I don't want a relationship with you, I don't want responsibility, or accountability. I don't want to care for anyone. I just want my stuff and go my own way.” 

Here’s a surprise in the story, the father divided his wealth. The oldest son would receive a double portion of the estate–––giving the youngest son one-third of the total inheritance. The father is giving to this son his requested inheritance with personal agony and the pain of rejected love. In Israel, a father would be forbidden to do such a thing, but this father was not doing this because he thought this was best. He was giving his son, the sinner, his freedom. The son is demonstrating the absence of a connection with his father and that is the whole point of the story.

This young son represents open sinners, the rebels, the dissolute, the immoral, those who make no pretense of faith in God, or love for God. These are the tax gatherers and the sinners, the outcasts, the irreligious. They run as far as they can from God because they have no love for Him and no relationship with Him. They're not interested in exposing themselves to any responsibility or accountability. 

The sinner has no relationship to God whatsoever. He doesn't love God, care about God, or want anything to do with God. The sinner desires no accountability to God, doesn't want to answer to God, and doesn't want to submit to God. He doesn't want any kind of kinship at all and in fact, he has none. God, in the agony of rejected love, lets the sinner go. Romans 1:24 says, He gave them up, and let them go in the lusts of their own hearts.

Thoughts: What is the lesson here? We must know, sin is rebellion against God the Father. Sin is shunning all responsibility, all accountability and denying God of His rightful place. It is to hate God and wish Him dead. It is to take all the gifts that He's surrounded us with in life and then squander them as if they were nothing. It is to waste our lives in selfish indulgence and unrestrained lust. The foolish sinner exhausts every plan known to man and says, “I'll fix my own life, I'll go to psychology, I'll take drugs, I'll drink alcohol, I'll go to some self-help group, I'll move to a new neighborhood, I'll marry a new person.” When all that stuff is exhausted, the sinner wakes up at the bottom. This is where the prodigal son is living, in the pit of rebellion and shame.

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story and next week, we will see that our God is in the business of recovering destitute, depleted, desperate sinners. Remember, sin will take us farther than we want to go and keep us longer than we want to stay. May we understand what sin does and realize how horrible it truly is. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

In All Circumstances, Give Thanks



In All Circumstances, Give Thanks

I Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  

When my husband, Glen, died, almost 12 years ago, one verse became instrumental in shaping my spiritual attitude about life and about death. The key word was small but had a significant meaning. It was the word, “In.” To give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, had a tremendous effect on how I viewed every situation God allowed in my life. 

Some dictionaries have given this definition for the little word in: expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by. In the midst of death, surrounded by despair, in hopelessness, anguish, distress, and desperation, I am to give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for me. If this is the will of God, then I would have to say, it is a command from God for all believers to be giving thanks.

The scriptural principle that covers all of our lives is found in the verse, Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” No matter what happens it will be by God working together for our good. It may in itself not look good but God will take a bad thing and turn it to a good purpose for our good and our eternal glory. If we live believing that God is at work in our lives and sovereignly controls every aspect of life, then we can handle anything life brings and be thankful knowing it fits in to His ultimate plan.

What about when bad times come? "Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). You've got some problems that could create anxiety for you, don't be anxious about it, just start praying, start supplicating (begging, pleading with, implore, petitioning), God but be thankful in the process. In the midst of that thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 

Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we are yielded and controlled by the Spirit of God, we can know and experience the power of God in our lives. But, if we are not filled with His Spirit, we cannot observe the power of God, move in the will of God, or know the fulfillment and the blessing of God. A Spirit-filled person is going to be  one who says, “Thank you” to God because thankfulness crucifies self and becomes the single greatest act of personal worship towards God. Spirit-filled people, Spirit-controlled people, are marked as thankful people.

What can hinder a thankful heart? When we doubt God and His magnificent wisdom, His love, His changelessness or His power, we are hindering a grateful heart. We're not thankful because we don't believe God can overrule the problems that we have brought to Him. Wherever there is ingratitude in our lives, or failure to thank God for His purpose unfolding in the situation,  there is a serious sin taking place because to doubt God is, in a sense, to say that you can't trust what He says about Himself. 

Thought: There are other things that can hinder having a thankful heart. When people are caught up in the pleasures and places of this world, or they have a critical spirit along with a negative attitude, it strips away their heart of gratitude. Impatience will rob people of thankfulness because God has not checked in with their Daytimer. They want everything on their schedule and fixed in their time frame.

We know all of these things are true and what truly sparks a thankful heart is trust in God, not doubt, anxiety or a condemnatory spirit. God's will is all that matters and being consumed with Him. Displaying a loving attitude, a forgiving spirit in kindness and tender heartedness, exhibits a life that is influenced and led by the Spirit of God. When we thank God consistently and faithfully in every situation, we're manifesting a Spirit-controlled life. God is glorified and we are blessed. There is nothing more wonderful than to maintain a joyful, thankful heart so that the world around us can see, God has truly transformed our lives.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Moral Reform?


Moral Reform?

Luke 11:24-26
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

Our Lord told a story that illustrates one of the most important principles in breaking bad habits. A man that was inhabited by a “demon” was glad when the evil spirit was expelled and the wicked spirit went out seeking rest. When it found none, the spirit decided to return to it’s original dwelling place and to the spirit’s satisfaction, found the house unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then the spirit found “seven other spirits more wicked than himself” and they went in and lived there, and the last state of the man became worse than the first. What happened? Why did this man fail? 

Being morally reformed without regeneration is never effective. Sinful man will always revert back to the same wicked behavior as before. None of us can overcome sinful habits by simply rejecting them, nor can immoral practices be broken without replacing them with righteous ones. To simply resist evil will only make it grow stronger. To determine not to think lustful thoughts only reinforces them in our minds. Freedom comes when we fill our mind with God’s thoughts and diffuse the power of sin by replacing wrong thoughts with God’s Word. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue (excellence), and if there be any praise (worthy of praise), think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). “You aren’t what you think you are; but what you think, you are!”  Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” We have the spiritual artillery needed to destroy the fortresses of our mind. We have the spiritual equipment to bring down every thought and make it captive to the obedience of Christ. Vain reasonings, powerful imaginations, and perverted attitudes can be “put off.” (Colossians 3:8,9)

Be honest with yourself and identify the thoughts and habits you want to replace. Don’t be general with the attitudes or imaginations you want to rid yourself of, but, be specific in naming your sin. Spend time consciously committing your mind, opportunities, and life to Christ. Remind yourself of God’s promises, they will give you the proper perspective on life and strengthen you to be able to discern what God can do in you, “I can do all things through Christ” (Philippians 4:13).

Prepare yourself for spiritual warfare. The world, the flesh, and the devil do not surrender their hold on you without a battle. Getting ready and declaring war on your thought life means, beginning an offensive plan of attack. Memorize the Word of God. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Find verses of Scripture that speak directly to you about your troublesome thought patterns or sins. If your problem is drinking or drugs, decide that your urge to use or drink will be a reminder to divert your attention to God’s Word. Praying, singing spiritual songs, and quoting Scripture, will lift you up. In following a specific strategy that God gives to resist temptation, you will eventually be free from its grip. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:  ( For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (human ingenuity), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  Casting down imaginations (reasonings, ideals), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Thought: Don’t become disheartened by the frequency of the same temptation. If you have lived along time with these sinful habits, the strongholds will not be easily overthrown. You must realize that you are not merely confronting yourself, but satanic forces as well. Remember, Satan’s most used weapon is discouragement. Meditate on the Word of God and in doing so, you will see new areas of your life that need to be changed. Loving Christ and living in obedience to Him, shows a life that has been transformed by the power of God, not reformed morality or religiously. To attempt to clean your life up without Christ coming to dwell there, is to be exposed to an even greater danger. You don’t want your house moral and empty but indwelt by the Spirit of God.

Note: Sometimes when dealing with women in addiction, I hear them say, “I just want to get better, be well, get my kids back and move on with my life.” These are good things but they are looking to reform their lives morally and fail to see their need for Christ and His regenerating power to save and transform them. Please pray with me that these dear women, in their addition, will be saved and then changed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2).