Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hebrews 5:12

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food"

Are you equipped to teach the principles of God's Word to others?  The writer of Hebrews clarifies that teaching is the responsibility of all believers.  Regrettably, like the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews, most Christians are not only unable to teach others, they barely understand the basic principles of the Faith themselves.  Prior to His departure Jesus issued the "Great Commission" to the apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations....(Matthew 28:19).  The word "disciple" means student and the command applies not just to the apostles but to all Christians. Paul warned Timothy of believers who desire to have their ears tickled rather than endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3).  The believer would do well to ensure that he is not of that mindset which Paul was speaking about for apart from an insatiable desire to understand the Word of God the Christian will perpetually need to be taught that which he should be able to teach others. Like a cracked vessel needs to stay under the running tap in order to maintain its water level so does the Christian need daily exposure to the Word of God to avoid forgetting that which he has already learned. 

Consider Phillip who was moved by God to encounter the Ethiopian eunuch as he read the words of Isaiah concerning the Messiah.  The Ethiopian man had come to Jerusalem to worship and he desired to understand that of which the prophet was speaking (Isaiah 53:7-8).  When asked by Philip whether he understood what he was reading he responded: "how can I, unless someone guides me (Acts 8:31)".  Philip removed this man's confusion by "opening his mouth and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him (8:35)."  The eunuch ended up accepting Christ as his savior (8:37) after Philip informed him that all he had to do was believe. Had Philip been ignorant of this passage he would not have been equipped to teach this man and remove his confusion which was all that was preventing him from accepting Christ.  The Christian who cannot rightly handle the Word of God is tantamount to the surgeon without a scalpel as neither can do that which they otherwise should to help another.

Exposure to the Word of God should be the last of that which is set aside to accommodate a busy schedule. Assume the priorities of the warrior as he prepares for battle and consider the charge of the apostle: "put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:11).  No army has been outmatched as the believer is by Satan apart from the armor which God has provided. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17) by ensuring that you set aside time each day to learn the Word of God.  Let the Word of Christ dwell richly within that you be not just a hearer of the Word but a doer as well (James 1:22).  Set aside the desire for worldly entertainment in favor of being edified by the word of the Creator.  Value above all else your readiness to proclaim the truth of God's Word to those ready to receive it.  Be ready to provide a defense to those who question the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).  Your desire and preparedness for the equipping of others will enable you to draw nearer to God. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

2 Corinthians 10:17-18

'But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord.For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends."

Are you a self-promoter? Is the praise of men a priority to you? Do others know of your works more than they should? The self promoting Christian proclaims to the world that there is something in which to boast other than Christ.  Effective self promotion will often accomplish that for which it was intended which is the world's affection, attention, and praise.  However, the boastful Christian would do well to compare temporal glory with eternal reward prior to seeking the former as he forfeits the latter.  Jesus spoke of this as recorded in Matthew: ""Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." (6:1-2)  In the same way Esau sold his birth right for a swallow of stew in a moment of hunger so does the boastful Christian exchange eternal glory for worldly commendation. 

Consider king Belshazzar's worldly praise and Daniel's response when called to interpret the handwriting on the wall.  Belshazzar rightfully recognized Daniel's unique ability to solve problems and interpret that which none of the diviners or magicians could understand, however the king displayed his ignorance regarding the source of Daniel's special abilities (5:16). Had Daniel sought worldly status it was his for the taking.  He had the opportunity to accept the king's praises and receive the king's promotion to the third highest position in the most powerful empire in the world.  Daniel could have boasted in his own superior abilities in order to further enhance his stature.  However Daniel's boast was not in his abilities nor did he desire worldly fame for his boast was in the Lord and his desire was God's glory: "Then Daniel answered and said before the king, "Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else (5:17)...."O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father (5:18).....but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; ..... But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified (5:23).  How focused Daniel was on the glory of God that he would be so bold as to inform the king where his sovereignty came from and scold him for not recognizing it.  Daniel was pre-occupied with the glory of God to the exclusion of worldly praise and fame. 

Approach each passing moment with the following motivation: "how can God be glorified by my circumstances"?  Place a higher priority on having God rather than yourself on the minds of others. Seek to serve others that you may have opportunities to be a witness for the Gospel rather than that you may receive praise or advancement. Ensure that your idle thoughts veer toward prayer rather than scheme.  Practice righteousness not for the purpose of being noticed by man but that God be glorified.  Love others not superficially for the purpose of gain but genuinely that they may better understand God's love for them.  Utilize opportunities for boasting that you may boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31).  Refrain from selfishness and regard the needs and wants of others as more important than your own (Phil 2:3).  Such emphasis on the priorities of God will enable you to draw nearer to Him.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Colossians 3:1-2

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

How real to you is that which is to come? God thought it necessary to reveal future things to us not for the purpose of satisfying our curiosity but that we might live in light of them.  No event is more inevitable than our own physical demise yet we often live as though the day will never come when we will be face to face with our Savior. The reality of our future with Jesus Christ is to permeate every aspect of our thinking as we approach each task that God places before us throughout our day.  The fruit bearing Christian has nothing to fear and much to anticipate when God transitions him from the temporal to the eternal.  The Christian in whom the Word of Christ richly dwells will share in the glory of Christ when He returns and for eternity (Col. 3:4). This was on the mind of the apostle Paul when he proclaimed: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).  As the student studies in light of the future exam so must the Christian live in light of his eternal future.

Consider God's great servant Daniel's response to the misguided law that no man was to make petition to anyone but king Darius.  After the law had been made official, Daniel "entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously (6:10).  Daniel's reality was not the death sentence that surely awaited him but his eternal future with God.  Had Daniel lacked an eternal perspective he would have surely given thought to his possession of the king's favor and his likely appointment over the entire kingdom (6:3). Had Daniel prayed discretely so as not to be seen, his position as second most powerful man in the most powerful kingdom in the world would have been secured. However, Daniel recognized that the glory of God was the issue and not his own earthly riches and fame. As Daniel emerged from the lion's den unscathed to the amazement of all he made it clear that it was God who had provided for his safety (6:22). How great was Daniel's testimony on earth and his reward in heaven as a result of his eternal perspective on his circumstances.

Priorities reflect perspective.  A perspective that is based on earthly things will result in earthly priorities whereas an eternal perspective will result in our seeking the things which are above.  Surely, there is nothing wrong with earthly success for Daniel would enjoy great success in Darius' kingdom (6:28).  However, such success must be gained in such a way that God be glorified not man.  Ensure that you are starting and ending your day with the study of God's Word.  Make certain that you are in constant communication with God through continuous prayer.  See to it that you approach every task with the goal to glorify God not yourself.  Consider every person who crosses your path as an opportunity to love as Christ loves you and remember that love is not the absence of hate but the desire and action in the best interest of another person.  Remove yourself from your thoughts as much as possible and instead set your thinking on that which is above that your perspective be eternal.  It is this eternal perspective that will enable you to draw nearer to God.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Col. 1:16

"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him."

Have you ever sat in church on a Sunday morning and realized that it had been days since you had thought about God?  Have you ever paused in the middle of a workday and realized that you had not thought it prudent at anytime to pray to your Creator?  Have you ever made a decision about something in your life and failed to consider involving God in your deliberation by means of prayer?  Do you go days at a time without opening the revealed Word of the Creator? Apart from continuous prayer and observation of the Word of God it is impossible for us to fulfill the purpose of our lives which is to glorify God and draw nearer to Him with each passing moment. Consider the words of David as He pondered the sovereignty and omnipotence of the Creator: "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4).  David recognized how amazing and counter-intuitive God's relationship with man truly is - that the Sovereign Creator is mindful and desiring of fellowship with fallen man is truly worthy of wonder and should cause us to desire nothing more than moment by moment fellowship with Him.

We should set our minds on the gem of truth revealed in Colossians 1:16: that all things were created by Him and for Him.  Never should we ask: "what is the purpose of my life" because we are told here - the purpose of our life is to glorify God because He is the Creator.  Consider how gracious God was to reveal Himself to us in written form and give us the capacity to understand that which He has revealed by means of God the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-3:4). The theologican L.S. Chafer said the following: "Having made man in His own image and having endowed man with the capacity to commune with Himself, it is reasonable to expect that this competency in man would be exercised". David asked: who is man that God be mindful of Him? We should ask ourselves: who is man that he reject the hand of fellowship from God. 

The continuous moment by moment pursuit to exhaust the truths revealed in Scripture would leave one infinitely short of his objective.  This should cause us to be ever drawn to it.  The Bible is the revelation of God, what He has done, and what He expects from us.  It is in Scripture and Scripture alone that we find the meaning for our lives and the means by which we are to achieve it.  In his letter to the Colossian church Paul commands the believer to "let the Word of Christ dwell richly within you" (Col. 3:16).  We are to read, study, and ponder the Word of God on a continuous basis.  The Word of God is to be our authority for every thought, motive, decision, and action in our life.  We are to be so excited about it that we can't wait to tell others about it.  Such passion for the Word of God will no doubt result in an active prayer life whereby we take advantage of the eternal forum that we are given to offer praise to and ask of our Sovereign Creator that which is on our mind at any given moment.  This is the life of felloswhip that we are commanded to have in response to the hand of fellowship offered to us by our Creator.