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Showing posts from January, 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 requirement

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

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)

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 pre

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 th

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)

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 p

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 pleas

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 s


“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

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 pra

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 experience

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)

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,

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.


“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,