Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Right and Wrong and How to Know the Difference

I would like to start by looking at two sentences in the Bible that are not very well known. They were written about 1500 years apart.

“If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible.” Leviticus 5:17

“My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” 1 Corinthians 4:4

Not knowing about a sin does not keep a person from being guilty, and having a clean conscience does not make the person innocent.

There is a reason for this. My knowledge and my conscience does not necessarily reflect the absolute (perfect) value system of God. To bring my conscience and absolute “right and wrong” together, there are a few basic truths to follow:

1) I must be a Christian.
At the time of my conversion to Christ, my conscience is made clean and sensitive to God’s moral law.

2) I must know the Scriptures well.
There is no excuse not to know God’s requirements. God has given us the Holy Bible containing His absolute standards. The Apostle Paul in writing to Timothy said, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuilding, correcting and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16

3) I must choose to obey God’s requirements.
“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrew 5:12-14

Knowing the teaching does not train us. Knowing and doing is what trains us to distinguish good from evil.

“But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25

4) I must walk in the light.
“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

As I continually ask Jesus to cleanse me from my sins, my conscience keeps clean. As a result, my conscience works as God intended and I walk in the light. As I continue walking in the light with a clean conscience, I am learning the difference between right and wrong and I become aware of the Holy Spirit’s approval and guidance.

The Apostle Paul’s understanding of these truths is seen in these statements: “I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 9:1

“…We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:2

God is the source of all truth and of our knowledge of right and wrong. As we study the Scriptures, obey God’s requirements and continue to walk in the light, we can say with the Apostle Paul:

“…We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4

“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.” 1 Thessalonians 2:10

*Adapted and used with permission.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Advertising and Repetition

The secret of effective advertising is repetition. All kinds of effective teaching include repetition.

Almost fifty years ago we were driving across the United States on, I think, US 40. The Interstate Highway system had not yet been invented. We left the East Coast headed west. As we approached the Appalachan mountains I remember seeing a barn. The whole side of the barn was painted. It was a very big billboard. Most of the barn was black. The lettering said this:

Chew Mail Pouch
Treat yourself to the best.

My reaction was that, a reaction. How awful! How could anyone think of chewing tobacco like that and advertise it. Then I saw another black barn with the same words. I was amazed and appalled. Then another and another. A hundred barns later (I didn’t count them) I was ready to buy a plug. It did not seem awful any more. I didn’t but I was brainwashed with repetition.

Recently, I have been inundated with another expression. It is enough to make me want to throw a monkey wrench through the picture tube. “Ask your doctor to see if this is right for you.” I have no objection to people asking their doctors. Obviously, every medicine is not right for everyone and doctors should know. It is this little expression “right for you”, “you are different; you are unique; you are not part of the crowd; you are special.” By believing this repetitious pitch we unknowingly become part of the crowd, the un-unique. It must work. If it doesn’t then Pharmaceutical companies are wasting big money.

I have a few phrases that I would like repeated across the land. It is right for every one without asking their doctors.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6, 8

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sound Judgment

An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment. A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:1, 2 NIV)

When I am estranged or separated from the Lord in fellowship, the last thing I want to hear is sound judgment. I will barricade myself against it. But since I cannot barricade against sound judgment with sound judgment, I must do it with pretexts: shallow, surface, weak things which deceive only me. It is my attempt to stay estranged. If the searchlight of sound judgment breaks into my hideout, I find myself confessing, forsaking and no longer estranged but restored to the Lord.

During my estrangement I take no pleasure in understanding but I am very eager to express my opinion. After I am back in fellowship I am amazed how stupid I was with my opinions. How I regret my big mouth. Truly it is foolish.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Loving the Unlovely

Many years ago a young pastor came to me. He was impressed with the commands of Jesus to Love God, neighbor, wife, brothers, and enemies. He wanted me to tell him how he could love an African in Africa when there were millions of Africans, all of them, to him, faceless and nameless. “How can I love someone I do not know?” People think that they have to know that “someone” before they can love him. That is not true, but what they want to find out is if the “someone” is “lovable” so they can make a decision to love him.

Knowing the person, good or bad, has nothing to do with whether you love that person.

Back to the young pastor, I told him to confess that he did not love Africans in Africa, then choose to have a heart to love all Africans in Africa. Love the whole. When you meet an African, anywhere, anytime you do not have to decide to love him. You already made that decision a long time ago. You instantly love the person in front of you and he knows it. He knows that you are not prejudiced, bigoted, antagonistic or even polite and cordial. He knows that you love him because you do love him.

Do we wait to love our enemy only after we meet him? What about terrorists? What about angry Muslims? We do not dare to wait until we meet them. We must love them before we meet them. That means we love all of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, etc. Get out a world atlas and start praying for the nations and their rulers. If you wish to be informed get a copy of Operation World by Patrick Johnstone. It is a day to day guide to praying for the world.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.” 1 Timothy 2:1-7

How do we express this new found love? Praying is a good beginning. After that God will lead you into loving action.

If you do not or will not pray, you are not participating in the will of God which is clearly expressed in the text.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Assurance of Salvation--Part 1

How to know that you are saved. In the Gospel there is a minimum of truth without which a person cannot be saved.

Here it is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5:

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.”

Read it twice.

1. Christ. Who Jesus is.
2. Christ died for our sins according to the scripture.
3. That He was buried.
-His burial confirmed His death.
-He was dead and buried
-His burial confirmed His resurrection.
4. That He was raised on the third day according to the scripture.

This is the truth that saves. Believing any less than this will not result in salvation.

Go through the books of Acts and read the stories where people become believers. Read the paragraph before the conversions and notice what is preached. It is this minimum of truth that defines the gospel.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

His People

My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. (Jeremiah 24:6-7 NIV)

This was written of the exiles of Judah in Babylonia, so it does not apply directly to us today; however, it tells something about GodHe does not change.

1. He watches over them for their good.
2. He will build them up.
3. He will not tear them down.
4. He will plant them.
5. He will not uproot them.
6. He will give them a heart to know Him.
7. He will have them for His people.
8. He will be their God because they will return to Him with all their heart.

We are His people too. God is good.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Guerilla Warfare

In the last fifty years there have been many civil wars, most of them conducted by communist guerrilla armies (I lost a good friend in the Philippines in a Huk ambush). In our antagonism toward communist guerilla armies and now our antagonism to terrorists, we might not see the difference between guerrilla warfare and terrorism.

Recently, Fidel Castro and his brother, General Raul Castro, said that they were against terrorism. General Castro said that if any of the El Qaeda prisoners escaped into Cuba, they would be captured and returned to the Americans.

Che Guevara, the Argentinean guerilla leader who helped Castro take Cuba, knew the difference between guerilla warfare and terrorism. Here is his distinction in his book Guerrilla Warfare:

“It is necessary to distinguish clearly between sabotage, a revolutionary and highly effective method of warfare, and terrorism, a measure that is generally ineffective and indiscriminate in its results, since it often makes victims of innocent people and destroys a large number of lives that would be valuable to the revolution. Terrorism should be considered a valuable tactic when it is used to put to death some noted leader of the oppressing forces well known for his cruelty, his efficiency in repression, or other quality that makes his elimination useful. But the killing of persons of small importance is never advisable, since it brings on an increase of reprisals, including deaths” (Guerrilla Warfare, pp.61-62).

Both of these groups were/are enemies of the United States. People get killed in both cases.

Guerilla warfare is not indiscriminant killing as in terrorist killing. Guerilla warfare, as in traditional, historic warfare is after an objective and to win the war. Acts of terror is to cause terror, to immobilize the populaces.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Becoming All Things

In 1 Corinthians 9 and 10, Paul makes a few amazing statements about himself and then says that we are to follow his example:

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV)

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 NIV)

Let me repeat a line out of each of the above paragraphs. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” and “even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many so that they may be saved.”

We here want to follow Paul’s example. It is a big order: all things, all men, all means, everybody, every way—all for their salvation.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fix Your Eyes

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (2 Thessalonians 3:5 NIV)

We have all known of God’s love and that our hearts should be directed into it. But we may not have known or thought of the “steadfastness” (RSV) or “perseverance” (NIV) of Christ. What is it? And how was it shown, and how should our hearts be directed into it? Hebrews 12:1-4 answers all three questions:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:1-4 NIV)

He “endured” the cross by keeping His eyes fixed on the joy beyond the cross. We consider Him who “endured.” We lay aside everything that hinders and entangles, and we persevere, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Revival

“Revival,” like many words, has a recent history with several different cultural definitions:

1. The East African Revival of the 30s, 40s, and 50s of the last century. See Roy Hession’s The Calvary Road, Norman Grubb’s Continuous Revival, and Festo Kivengere’s Revolutionary Love.

2. The Welsh Revival very early in the last century where tens of thousands were converted in a few weeks. See Jessie Penn-Lewis’s, The Awakening in Wales.

3. The Korean Revival and North China Revivals were also early in the 20th century. See When the Spirit’s Fire Swept Korea, by Jonathan Goforth.

4. The Great Awakening in the middle of the 18th century and the Second Great Awakening in the middle of the 19th century. These two hit England, Scotland, Wales, the Colonies, and the United States.

The United States did not have anything startling in the 20th century that could remotely be called revival. We did have two World Wars and the ascendancy of liberalism in the Church. Europe, however, took the most damage in the Wars and in liberalism.

The nations that did have revivals had something else by the middle of the century: genocide, no freedom, and Communism in China and North Korea. There were wars and genocide in Rwanda by the end of the century and a very dead secular community in Wales.

Each century has four or five generations in it and each one of us knows, in part, two generations before us and two generations after us.

But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:14-18 NIV)

This is talking about next-generation evangelism.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:8 NIV)

This is talking about loving and obeying God. This is good for a thousand generations.

Loving God, obeying God, and proclaiming His righteousness and only His are the primary means of a continuous revival. Confession of sin by believers is the secondary means of continuous revival.

The enemy has always counter-attacked after any successful evangelism. In the book of Acts we can see this physical, violent reaction in Jerusalem (Acts 7-8), Damascus (Acts 9), Jerusalem again (Acts 9), Antioch (Acts 13), Iconium (Acts 14), Lystra (Acts 14), Philippi (Acts 16), and Thessalonica (Acts 17).

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Proclaiming and Praying

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1, 2, 4, 5 NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyonefor kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV)

These two texts bring us back to first priorities: preaching the cross and praying for kings. Both of these texts have to do with the salvation of men. God, in His wisdom, decided that proclaiming and praying was our partnership in the Gospel. It is easy to get side-tracked to things like constitutional amendments on abortion, a balanced budget and a Christian government. Paul did not have that luxury; neither does most of the world today. Let’s get our focus back on the real solution: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us change the nation by proclaiming and praying.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Will of God

Here are two questions received by email. “What is the meaning of God’s will? What have I to do in order to do God’s will?” Here is a related question: “How can I know God’s will?”

There are two expressions of God’s will that are ultimate in the Scriptures. The first is our salvation.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4 NIV)

The second is part of the first.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified. (1 Thessalonians 4:3a NIV)

Both of these were accomplished by Jesus Christ.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV)

We now know that the will of God for us is our salvation, which includes our justification (conversion), holiness, and the redemption of our bodies at the Second Coming. Again, all paid for in advance.

Since we have already experienced our justification and we wait patiently for the Second Coming, then our participation now is in our holiness (sanctification). Remember, it is already paid and provided for.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24 NIV)

Knowing the details of God’s will (Whom should I marry? Where should I work? Should I be a missionary?) is not difficult if I am walking in the light, walking in the Spirit.

If I am not walking in the light, the detailed will of God could be written on the blackboard and I would not be able to read it.

Again, being in the will of God includes obedience to clear imperatives in the Scriptures.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

As God Sees Things

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. (Acts 17:16 NIV)

The Apostle was not in awe with the beauty of the Parthenon; he was distressed with the people’s idolatry.

Some of us have been to parts of the world where there are beautiful minarets, Shinto gates and shrines, and beautifully carved statues housed in ornate temples. Do we think like the Apostle? If not, is it because he saw things as God sees them and we see them like the rest of mankind? May God help us to be distressed with the worship of false gods.

“In vain with lavish kindness
the gifts of God are strown
The heathen in his blindness
bows down to wood and stone.”
---Reginald Heber, 1783-1826

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Spiritually Discerned

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

This truth is one of the clearest means of identifying someone who is not a Christian. We hesitate (largely for politically correct reasons or for not wanting to be put into the “judge not!” category) to make that identification. Even if we never state it we should recognize at least to ourselves that this man is not a Christian.

In his preface to Androcles and the Lion, George Bernard Shaw admitted that he could not make any sense out of the New Testament unless he had a very select means of interpretation. He did not understand the things of the Spirit of God. Why not? He did not have the Spirit of God. He was brilliant but blind.

The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Not Yet a Christian

What you will say when you are saved.

In that day you will say:
"I will praise you, O LORD.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation."
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation. –Isaiah 12:1-3

You, who are not yet a Christian, the above is speaking to you. Although it was written 2700 years ago, it is telling you what you will say when you are saved by His grace. You will wonder why you delayed so long before you called on His name.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Conscience

“My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” 1 Corinthians 4:4

Paul knew that his conscience was not an accurate measure of right and wrong. God was going to judge him by an absolute standard.

I have known people whose consciences did not hurt them when they violated clear moral commands of God.

Ignorance of the command may have been their reason, but it is not good enough.

"If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible.” Leviticus 5:17

Their consciences may have been seared.

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. ” 1 Timothy 4:1-2

Their consciences may have been weak, when they feel guilty they are guilty.

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” 1 Corinthians 8:9-12

“As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.” Romans 14:14