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A wise philosopher has said with truth that “knowledge is power”. Koheleth was equally realistic, however, when he said, ” In much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow’ (Ecclesiastes 1:18).
In this “present evil age”, (Galatians 1:4), knowledge not only opens the eyes, it fills them with tears; for the more discerningly we perceive, so the more painful mystery we find underlying human life. Yet the old adage is wrong which naively avers that “where ignorance is bliss ’tis folly to be wise”. Such bliss of ignorance is the “fool’s paradise”, which never lasts long, and “great is the fall thereof”.
There is a knowledge which opens the eyes to that which transcends all mere human discovery, and which at the same time comforts the heart with divine reassurance concerning the present mystery of things. Christ has come- Son of God and Savior of men. In Him is the answer to our human sin problem. In Him is the answer to our race’s heart cry after God and the basic truth of things. In Him is the answer to the groping and sighing of the soul after peace and joy and certainty and ultimate self fulfillment.
To know Christ as the Calvary Sin-Bearer, and as the risen Savior who personally indwells the heart, is of all knowledge the most blessed. Already He is the clear answer to many of life’s most poignant problems, and He is the implicit pledge of ultimate divine answer to them all. Compared with knowing Him, all other knowledge is insignificant, incomplete, and eventually unsatisfying, as every philosopher who ever lived has realized before he died.
Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Him. To know Jesus as a living reality in the heart is life eternal and heaven begun below.
Jay Sidlow Baxter, from his book “Going Deeper”, 1959.
God calls His people to different tasks, and He gives them different gifts by which they may serve Him, but gifting is only one side of this equation. God gives the calling and the gifting, but we must grow into these callings, and we must develop the gifts He has given us. We must also grow in the grace of God.
Let me offer a hypothetical example. A young man is called to be a leader in his church. He senses that calling even as a young teen. The sense of it is strong, and he is sure of it. But with that calling, the young man must grow spiritually. He must respond appropriately. There must be self discipline. There must be growth. Most importantly, he must learn to live in the grace of God for himself. He must be OK with who he is as a person. His victories must be tempered with the knowledge that God’s grace has enabled him. His failures must be met with a sureness that God’s grace pardons him because of Jesus. He must be sure to pay attention to God’s timing.
Let me offer an illustration. A young boy wants to be a soldier. He is intelligent, and a committed patriot. He studies weaponry and battle tactics. Because the army (church) is short on soldiers (servants), he is enlisted and outfitted. He is committed, but he hasn’t grown enough (matured enough) to be effective. He stumbles with boots that are four sizes too large. The gun is too heavy to carry. He fatigues in the battlefield because he doesn’t have the strength to carry the over-sized backpack. Instead of being an asset, he now becomes a liability. Not only can he not do his job, but he endangers his fellow soldiers who have to constantly rescue him. His comrades cannot depend on him. They may even begin to resent him; not because they don’t like him, but because instead of helping, he actually makes warfare (ministry) more dangerous (difficult).
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The world is full of negativity and sadness. That is a huge understatement. Even the Church has plenty of sad challenges within its four walls; God’s people are not immune to tragedy and setbacks. I have pastored since 1989…I have seen much within the church that can break one’s heart. Many times, my heart has been broken over the effects of sin within the church.
It seems that in the minds of some church leaders, the solution to sadness and negativity is to never talk about it. I think that the motivation to encourage people is a good intention. People need to be encouraged, and church is a great place for that to happen.
All that being so, I am concerned about what I believe is an unhealthy trend in many churches. There is a deliberate avoidance in talking about sin or judgment. The Body of Christ isn’t warned against straying from God, but instead is taught about how Jesus can improve your life. The unbeliever isn’t warned about fleeing the wrath to come, but is told that Jesus will fill the emptiness of their heart.
I DO believe that Jesus improves the life of His followers, and that he DOES fill a believer’s heart, but that is NOT the full preaching of the Gospel, nor is it the full counsel of the Word of God.
I think that some pastors are failing.
I don’t say that because I feel superior to anyone. I say that because some pastors are not teaching their congregations all of God’s Word, but only selected portions. In doing so, they are not making mature disciples, but only meeting the felt needs of the people. They are teaching from the Bible, but they are not teaching the Bible. There is a huge difference between those two practices.
Chicken Legged Disciples and the search for deeper teaching…
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I am a follower of Jesus.
Like you, I am faced with choices, desires, options, and possibilities. Some options are obviously contrary to the heart of God, and so I know not to consider them as viable. But what about those other options? What about my desires, dreams, and hopes? Everyone has them, or had them at one time.
As a follower of Jesus, there are many paths that are considered acceptable by my church culture. If I want to pursue something, and it has a “Jesus element” to it, then I usually get approval by most people that I know. There are other activities that are considered good and acceptable by my popular culture, and are not obviously “wrong”, and so once again I receive a nod of approval.
Following Jesus is completely contrary to the two scenarios that I have just described. Neither public approval nor my church culture approval is enough to validate a trajectory for my life. My own desires, predispositions, and tendencies are not to be the compass for my existence. Someone has said that, “the enemy of the best is the good”. It is incredibly easy to be a few degrees off regarding what one ought to be doing with their life. A few degrees off doesn’t seem like much when a pilot first takes off, but obviously, the further he flies, the more off course he gets. Such can be the outcome of a person’s life. We can be well intentioned, but way off course. We can “land” in a place that is distant from where we should have landed.
To some I may sound idealistic. To others, legalistic and confined. I have considered those possibilities as well. I have wondered if I ought not allow myself to be more free, to follow the impulses and passions of my heart.
As I understand it, following Jesus is neither a matter of pragmatism, or logic. Pragmatism dictates that we ought to do the things that “works”. Logic is the thing that seems obvious.
A Christian man might be a very talented athlete, with a great possibility of a professional career. Pragmatism and logic would dictate that that is the course he ought to pursue, but it may not necessarily be the path that God has chosen for him. Just because a man can follow a path and be successful at it doesn’t mean that he should. Two examples of this come to mind: Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell. Both men were incredibly gifted athletes, but both set aside their athletic pursuits to pursue a greater prize.
People undoubtedly called Elliot and Liddell foolish for choosing Christian service over athletic careers, but both men stayed their courses as they felt led by God, and their lives and deaths have become models of faith for the Christian Church. Pragmatism and logic would have dictated different paths for Elliot and Liddell. Their personal passion for sports, coupled with their athletic talents would have seemed to be evidence of an athletic career, but the Spirit of God had a greater plan.
Let me conclude with some scripture that points to what I am suggesting.
Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
Both Paul and Jesus could have been incredibly successful in the eyes of the world if they had chosen different paths. Paul would have been a shaper of culture, a great author, and a philosopher. Jesus could have changed the temporary course of history for Israel by driving out the Romans, and He would have been an amazing king.
Aren’t we glad that neither of them chose the good instead of the best? Aren’t we glad that they did not allow pragmatism and logic to dictate their actions?
Dear reader, if you are a Christ follower, don’t miss the best because you choose the good. Don’t allow pragmatism or logic to dictate you life path. Just because you can do something well, and because you have a passion for it doesn’t mean that those pursuits should be the focus of your life. God may allow you to pursue some things as part time hobbies, but keep the main thing the main thing.
On Sept. 11, the U.S. embassy in Libya was attacked by terrorists. Our government said that Muslims were outraged by a video which mocked the Prophet Mohammed. (I saw the video. It was very disrespectful and wrong to make). In the view of our government (at least in their words) they claimed that the religious mocking of a highly esteemed person of Islam actually provoked the murder of innocent civilians.
What might our government say about this very similar mocking of Jesus Christ by Jamie Foxx? Jamie Foxx’s words were very clearly the language of the Bible regarding Jesus. The Christian faith considers Jesus Christ as God, not just a prophet.
I would bet my lunch money that though Christians will object to this verbally, no embassies will be burned, and no one will be murdered. Something to think about.
I will be looking online to see if Jamie has an explanation for his statement.
Juxtaposition: an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
Here is Jamie’s statement regarding Obama.
There are a lot of people complaining these days. The lightning rods are the gay lifestyle, politics, the church, etc. Lots of people are mad. I get that. I’m mad about some things too.
That being so…Christians are called to take the high road. To love your enemies…to bless those who hurt you…..to pray for those who have been taken captive by Satan, to do his will.
We are to seek first the Kingdom of God, not a bandwagon to jump on to. We are to season our speech with grace, not mocking and cursings. We are to care more for people’s souls than for the environmental or animal rights.
A lot of Christians are taking cheap shots at people via social networking. I see mocking and humiliating things said. Yeah, I get it. OK, you are clever. Sure, I feel the same way.
But when did it become OK to vent your frustrations via cheap shots, cursings, mocking, and disrespect. If you are a Christian, are you telling me that’s all OK.? Come on…really?
Please don’t tell me about how Jesus got mad, made a whip, and then drove out the money changers. I know that story. He was without sin. How about you? Be angry, but sin not.
Paul got mad and said that some people ought to esmasculate themselves, but that was over the Gospel message, and the salvation of souls. I have a feeling that some among us are more concerned with the economy than with the souls of people. What is your priority?
We are not furthering the cause of Christ when we sling mud. We serve ourselves and the Devil when we accuse, exaggerate, and denigrate. When we do such things, we look nothing like Jesus.
Yeah….I’m mad. I am mad when people mock Jesus and the Bible. I am mad at the economic and moral state of our country. I no longer trust our style of government, or the leaders of our country. (I did vote). I get angry when those who have named the name of Jesus now mock him, but I am also sad.
Brethren…having extreme emotions doesn’t mean we have the right to sin with our words. We are not to be governed by our emotions.
Having the ability to “share” someone’s clever sarcastic picture and quote doesn’t require any depth of character. Having the ability to restrain yourself, to pray, and to speak with intelligence and grace is the sign of a life of integrity.
Call this a rant if you want…but whatever you think….take the high road and glorify Jesus,
On Sunday mornings, I do my best to answer questions from our congregation. Today, I didn’t realize that the questions were sent to my email account, and that I was supposed to retrieve them on my phone. I realized my mistake after our service was over. Here are some of the questions and answers.
Our text this morning was Romans 7:1-6, and the question came forth based on that passage.
So if we are dead to the law, what law(s) do we live by as Christians?
The Christian’s relationship to the law changes in that we don’t try to approach God by our performance in keeping the Law. The Law is holy, just, and good, (Romans 7:12) but it doesn’t empower us to obey it, and then condemns us when we fail. We approach God through Jesus, who died for our sins, took our punishment, and His righteousness is imputed to us.
Our relationship to the Law now exists in this way: The Spirit of God inspires us to keep God’s Law. The Law is God’s Law, his commandments to us are still holy, just and good. The work of the Spirit inspires us and empowers us to both desire to obey God’s Law, and to keep God’s Law. The Law is still good, and so by God’s Spirit, we seek to obey it in a fresh way….by God’s power and as he causes us to want to obey. Read more »
August 19, 2012 sermon on Romans 5:1-5.
Busyness is a huge hindrance to a devotional life. Social media can become a useless addiction. Bible reading and prayer is a discipline that must be cultivated, but which brings huge eternal rewards both for the one doing them, and potentially to everyone they know.
I am enjoying enjoying people. (Not a typo)
I continue to learn that I don’t need to label people, fix people, or something similar.
If I believe the Gospel in all things, I won’t be ashamed of it, because I will be changed by it. We are not ashamed of things that change us for good.
Romans 1:16. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…
Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa has launched a new website. It can be found here.
It features blog articles by Chuck Smith, Brian Broderson, David Guzik, Ken Sutton, and yours truly.
Also on the site are video and audio clips from Brian Broderson, Greg Laurie, and various teachers.
Finally, there are also commentaries on many books of the Bible by very gifted pastor/teachers.
Drop by for a visit, and leave a comment.