Saturday, October 27, 2007

“We shall be like him, because we shall see him…”

Are you looking forward to seeing Jesus? I think that, perhaps, one of the sweetest truths surrounding Jesus’ second coming is that one which was expressed by the apostle John when he wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Think of that: “We shall be like him”. No more sin. No more sinning. No more temptations. No more struggles with the flesh. No more trying and failing. No more cries of, “Wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24). When Jesus comes again, “we shall be like him”: “without spot or wrinkle…holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

And, the reason we shall be like Jesus is because “we shall see him as he is.” There is something about seeing Christ in all his glory that shall transform us. Although this is true to some extent now (see 2 Corinthians 3:16-18), our transformation will be total when we see Jesus face to face.

It “has not yet appeared”, wrote John, “what we will be”. What we see now, when we look at other believers—and what they see when they look at us—is not what will be in that day. Brothers and sisters, we haven’t yet arrived. We’re not perfect. We still struggle with sin—do those things we ought not do and leave undone the things we ought to do. We’re not what we should be. Oh, but when Jesus comes again, “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Listen to some old-fashioned “whooping”, as Rev. C.A.W. Clark of Dallas, Texas wraps up this message reminding us that one day “we shall see him as he is…” (1 John 3:2).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are you saved?

Christians should be deeply concerned for the lost—those who are outside of Christ, who have no saving knowledge of him. Often, when we think about the lost, we think of those outside the visible church, those who do not confess Jesus as Lord, those who may be agnostics or atheists, or those who may embrace another religion. When we think of the lost, we think of those who have immersed themselves in a sinful lifestyle: drug addicts, drunkards, prostitutes, gang members, serial rapists and pedophiles.

True enough, the category of “the lost” encompasses all those groups, but do we ever think of “good” people as being lost? Do we ever consider that some who are in the visible church, who have made public profession of the Christian faith, who believe in God and in Jesus Christ, could also possibly be lost?

The fact of the matter is, one can be in a church and active in that church, and still be as lost as can be. You can lead a “clean” life—don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t cuss, don’t engage in sex outside of marriage, etc.—and still be eternally lost. A person can believe in God, believe that Jesus is the Son of God, believe that he died on the cross and arose from the dead, and still die in his sins and spend eternity in hell.

How do I know? Because I was just that sort of person.

I was raised in the church. I never knew what it was like to stay home on Sunday morning. Unless I was really sick (you know—couldn’t move, confined-to-bed sick), I was in church on Sunday morning. That was how I was raised.

I not only went to church, I believed everything I was told I should believe. I’ve never struggled with believing the Bible, never had any doubts about it being the word of God. That’s what I was taught. More than that, my great-grandmother—“Grandma”—said the Bible was true, and if Grandma said it was true, that was good enough for me. When it came to accepting Christian doctrine, I’ve never been an unbeliever.

When it came to lifestyle, I grew up in a home where there was no drinking, and so I never picked up a taste for alcohol. To this day, I don’t drink. I never did drugs, I wasn’t sexually promiscuous, I’ve never smoked, I didn’t hang out with the “wild” crowd; I was just a good “church boy.”

But, I wasn’t saved.

Good church boy, but not saved. Didn’t drink, smoke, dip nor chew, but I wasn’t saved, either. I was in church every Sunday—never missed a week—but didn’t know the Savior. I believed the Bible, knew about the Bible and knew about God, but didn’t know God.

And that’s exactly the situation with untold multitudes today.

Some folks may be good people, relatively speaking—that is to say, compared to other people (compared to God no one—absolutely no one—is good, but compared to some others, these people are good)—but they don’t know God. Some folks give to charitable causes, are upstanding citizens in their communities, members of churches, civic leaders and in positions of trust and responsibility, but they are lost. They are lost because they don’t know God through Jesus Christ. They are lost because they are estranged from the household of faith, without Christ and, therefore, without hope. They are lost because they’ve never faced up to the fact of their utter sinfulness and their total helplessness and hopelessness outside of Christ. They’ve never come to realize that “all [their] righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6) in the sight of holy God, that no matter how much charitable work they do, no matter how many hours they give to community service, no matter how many Sundays a year they are in church, they are lost, under an everlasting sentence of condemnation and in desperate need of salvation. Salvation from what? Salvation from the wrath of God that is to come upon this world because of human sin.

I am so grateful—eternally grateful—for God’s sovereign work in bringing sinners to himself. You see, I grew up in a traditional church where the gospel wasn’t preached clearly or consistently. No one in church ever inquired about my soul. No one in church shared the gospel with me. I knew Bible stories and certain facts about the Bible, but had no personal knowledge of the gospel. No one at church ever explained the gospel to me. No one showed me that my soul was in peril. Why? First of all, I’m convinced, because very few people in my church knew the gospel. That’s the great travesty within “mainline” Christianity. But another reason no one showed concern for my soul was because I was a good “church boy.” I wasn’t guilty of any of any so-called “big” sins. I went to church. I stayed out of trouble. At the age of eight, I even joined the church, making a public profession of Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and was baptized. But, if you ask me now, I’ll tell you I wasn’t saved. No change had occurred in my soul. I had no love for Jesus Christ, and no love for God and his word.

I believe I could have comfortably remained in this state for the rest of my life: looking and acting on the outside like a Christian, but inwardly lost, unsaved and devoid of a true knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. The late E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) described this state as being “horizontally converted, but not vertically…outwardly in, but not inwardly in…a cancelled-out person, neither here nor there” (E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents: A Spiritual Autobiography [Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1968], p. 27). But, blessed be God, when I was sixteen years old, God sent his word to me in the form of a gospel booklet. I read it and, for the first time in my life, understood that Jesus Christ, on the cross, took my place, bore my sin, endured the Father’s wrath that I justly deserved so that, through faith in him, I could receive forgiveness of sins and bear his righteousness. “For our sake [the Father] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

What about you, dear reader? Are you saved? Do you know it?

Are you trusting in the finished work of Christ alone for your salvation, or do you think that, somehow, you’re good enough to earn your way to heaven? My friend, you’re not good enough. Not only are immoral sinners in hell, moral sinners are there, too. Not only are low-life sinners in hell, but respectable sinners are there, too. Not only are atheistic sinners in hell, but so are religious sinners. It doesn’t matter: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That includes me; that even includes you. Because we’ve sinned, we are guilty and under the sentence of eternal death, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).

There is only one remedy: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Listen to the voice of God—“he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Obey God’s command: “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ…” (1 John 3:23).

When it comes to your eternal soul, don’t rest complacent. Forget about the approval of men and women. What does God think of you? What about your sin? How does your soul stand with God? Don’t ignore the question, because God won’t ignore your sin. Are you saved? Are you, truly, saved? God says, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).

Thankfully, God has made saving provision through his Son—the Lord Jesus Christ—available to all who will believe. Will you trust Christ?

Dear reader, the Lord Jesus is everything to me. That’s why I commend my precious Savior to you.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

100 observations about the Christian life

Dan Edelen posts “100 Truths in 30 Years with Christ”—observations about the Christian life that he has learned along the way. I think Dan brings up some excellent points that are well worth considering, praying about and putting into practice.

Psalm 27

I’d like to ask for prayer for myself and my family. I cannot be any more specific than to say the words of this psalm have been much on my mind:
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
So, if the Lord lays it on your mind, will you please pray for us? Thank you.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Preaching “as a dying man to dying men”

Dr. Albert Mohler posts an article about the contemporary need to recover “a bold vision for biblical preaching”. Read this article and pass it on to your pastor and others who are charged with preaching the life-giving word of God.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

“Consider him”

Have you ever experienced what it means to have enemies? Do you know what it is like to be slandered or lied on, to have your words taken completely out-of-context and used against you? Do you know what it is like to be actively opposed and undermined?

If so, then you know what it is like to have an enemy. Now, before I go any further, let me explain that I’m not talking about someone you hate. There is no place in the Christian life for ungodly hatred. What I’m talking about is when other people, perhaps, hate you, when others set themselves against you. When this situation develops, what should you do?

First of all, I’m reminded that Jesus had enemies. People lied on Jesus. They snatched the Lord’s words out-of-context and used them against him. People spoke slander against Jesus and tried to malign his character…and Jesus was perfect!

By contrast, none of us are perfect. All of us are sinners. I know I deserve far worse than anything that others could say or do against me. I deserve God’s wrath and condemnation. I deserve death. I deserve hell. So do you. We’re all sinners before a holy God. Thought of in this light, the actions of others against us are not so bad after all. I believe it was George Whitefield who said, “What I know about myself is far worse than what anyone says about me.”

I’m also reminded of what the writer of Hebrews wrote to believers who were feeling discouraged because of persecution (Hebrews 12:3):

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

That’s the answer, isn’t it? “Consider him…” Consider Jesus. He had no sin, yet he suffered far, far worse than the personal attacks we may sometimes endure. How can we overcome the discouragement we may feel during these times? “Consider him…” Know that our Savior understands; he’s “been there”. Remember also that when we are suffering because of others, we’re being given an opportunity to follow in our Lord’s footsteps (1 Peter 2:19, 21-23):

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Maybe you are enduring some kind of suffering at the hand of an enemy right now. I encourage you to consider Jesus. I know we sometimes want to fight back rather than suffer ill-treatment or unkind words from others. That’s why we must pray that God will teach us how to follow in Christ’s steps and entrust ourselves to the Father, “who judges justly”.

Consider him.