Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fragrance or Stench?

~ As an Obedient Christian You Will Give Off Both! ~

Our society uses many phrases which imply two opposites at once. Examples include: black and white, salt and pepper, sweet and sour, give and take, through thick and thin, and others.

The Word of God tells us that Christians who are fulfilling their calling emit both a lovely fragrance and an awful smell. An obedient Christian has a dual odor? We emit both a fragrance to our fellow pilgrims and a stench to some of those who oppose Christ. Putting it differently, there is a divine dissidence in the life of an obedient Christian! We are both inviting and repulsive! There is a built-in tension in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, someone has remarked that a good preacher should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Fragrance ~ As Christians we are to become increasingly like Christ. “And the Lord—Who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we become like Christ in first our thinking and later our consistent actions, we are a pleasing sweet-smelling offering to God Himself. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Stench ~ As Christians we are to live in the world but not be of the world (1 John 2:15-17). Spiritually we are pilgrims passing through—not tourists! The world today is a place of great spiritual warfare where some find salvation in the name of Jesus Christ—the name which is above all other names! Others find the name of Christ and His work on the Cross as offensive—they do not want to accept the reality of their sinful nature. “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Summary ~ “In the Messiah, that is in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory after another. Through us, He brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite scent of Christ. And because of Christ, we give off a sweet fragrance rising to God, which is recognized by our fellow Christians—an aroma teaming with life. But some of those headed for destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. What a great responsibility we have!” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, emphasis added).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Learn from Moses

~ Isaiah 40:31 Points the Way for Seniors ~

Have you ever noticed that the progression of activity in Isaiah 40:31 seems to be backward?

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, emphasis added). The movement is from flying to running to walking! Normally we would think in terms of learning to walk followed by running. Flying comes later yet.

The passage can be thought of as a picture of the senior saints within the body of Christ. When they were younger they were actively “flying” on missions for their Lord. Over time their activities shifted to a run. As their bodies further wear down many are slowed to a walk—but that does not mean they are not useful. In fact much of the flying which is done in early life has little lasting value and many significant eternal accomplishments come with the wisdom of a slower pace later in life.

We often see this pattern around us. The Bible also provides examples of this progression.

Consider the life of Moses.

The Bible paints Moses in very human terms as he spends the first two-thirds of his life wrestling with his calling. Many are aware of the common summary of his life:
Moses spent his first 40 years thinking he was somebody—while the Lord kept him safe.
The next 40 years realizing he was a nobody—while the Lord humbled him.
Finally, he spent his last 40 years being used to benefit everybody—as he had become obedient to the Lord.

God used Moses in his final days as he served in at least three vital roles:
He was Commander-In-Chief of Israel’s army.
He was an Administrator of the nation’s internal affairs.
Finally, he was a Travel Guide as he brought the people to the plains of Moab.
Each of these roles in his later life required the wisdom that comes with experience.

Moses’ greatest accomplishments were late in life. Moses was Israel’s lawgiver. He was the first great prophet (Acts 7:37) and a type (picture) of the Lord Jesus Christ. Moses was Israel’s great deliverer.

Many would say that even today Moses stands out as the foremost man of the pre-Christian world. An anonymous writer put it this way, “Moses was one of the most colossal and majestic characters in the history of the world.”

There is much empirical evidence to conclude that God also considered Moses very highly. For example, consider that his life and work constitute about one-seventh of the whole Bible, or equal to about two-thirds of the New Testament.

CONTEMPLATE: God prepared Moses prior to using him. How has God prepared you? For what purpose?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

7 Word Pictures of the Word

The Bible is unique among all books and it describes itself in a variety of interesting ways.

Mirror ~ Mirrors reflect what is in front of them. They show what is there. They show us as we really are! “If you listen to the Word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” (James 1:23 NLT).

Hammer ~ Hammers are used to pound and sometimes to break. The Word not only shows us who we really are but breaks our self-sufficiency. “Is not My Word … like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)

Fire ~ A fire not only burns but melts. As the Words shows us as we really are, and as we have our self-content crushed, we find our heart melting. “Is not My Word like as a fire? says the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:29). “But who can live when He appears? Who can endure His coming? For He is like a blazing fire refining precious metal, and He can bleach the dirtiest garments! Like a refiner of silver He will sit and closely watch as the dross is burned away. He will purify …” (Malachi 3:2-3).

Sword ~ Swords are sharp and the Word of God is able to pierce our conscience. “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Seed ~ Seeds are inanimate—dead things—which are resurrected into new life. The Word of God brings a new kind of life to the human soul. “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).

Water ~ Water is not only essential for life, but it cleanses and purifies. The Word of God cleanses the individual Christian and the Church of God. “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, in order to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”(Ephesians 5:25-27).

Light ~ Light not only dispels darkness but also exposes things. The Word of God exposes the darkness of sin and shows the path of salvation and source of abundant life. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we all will eventually have to give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Law versus Grace

~ What a contrast! ~

Compare the law with the grace of God.
In summary, we find the law curses, while grace blesses.

The law kills; grace saves.
The law slays the sinner; grace makes him alive.
The law says “the wages of sin is death”; grace says “the gift of God is eternal life.”

The law prohibits; grace invites.
The law condemns; grace redeems.
The law says “do”; grace says “it is done!”

The law condemns the best; grace saves the worst!
The law says “do to live”; grace says “live to do.”
The law shuts every mouth; grace opens the mouth.

The law reveals sin; grace atones for sin.
The law says “the soul that sins shall die”; grace says “believe and live.”
The law proclaims “pay what you owe”; grace states “I freely forgive all.”

The law says “do or die”; grace says “look and live.”
The law provides knowledge of sin; grace provides redemption from sin.
“The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

The law demands obedience; with grace comes the power to obey.
The law was written on tablets of stone; grace is written in the human heart.
The law puts mankind under bondage; grace sets us free in wonderful liberty as children of God.

An example of the effects of the law is found in Exodus 32:28 where we find Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai to deliver the law. He found the people worshipping the golden calf. Scripture records that 3,000 individuals lost their lives at that time.

On the other hand, we find an example of grace in Acts 2:41 when Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost to declare the message of salvation for the first time. At that time 3,000 individuals found new life through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

CONTEMPLATE: You and I live in the period of time labeled by many as the “Day of Grace.”
Grace is “unmerited favor” or getting something positive which is undeserved.
GRACE = “God’s Riches (given to us) At Christ’s Expense”