Thursday, September 25, 2008

Leaving our waterpots behind.

John 4:28 The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith unto the men, come, see a man that which told me all the things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?
These two verses come from a very familiar story in scripture concerning a Samaritan woman at a well, and her conversation with Jesus. In this story we find that Jesus not only lays her sins bare and shows here her need of a savior, but he also tells her that he is capable of giving her the living water that will cause her to never thirst again. When Jesus finally announces that he is the Christ, the woman that has already professed her belief in the Messiah, leaves her waterpot behind to go tell others of this radical transformation that has just taken over her life. There is a beautiful picture presented here in the woman leaving her waterpot behind at the well when she left to tell the city of Jesus.
The first thing I want you to see is that she was leaving behind the very thing that had sustained her up to this point. In it rested her every hope of staying alive, in the time and place that she lived, if you did not have a waterpot and someone else did not draw water for you, you would die! This woman left it behind because she now had a greater sustaining force in her life than water, even as Jesus said, "my meat is to do the will of Him that sent me". Do you want to know why we have such weak, anemic and empty christians in this country? It is because we still rely completely on the physical things for our sustenance and know nothing of the meat and drink that this woman was partaking of, which was to do the will of her Father.
Secondly, I want you to see that the waterpot that she left behind epitomized her entire old way of living and it was left behind when Christ changed her. When a person is converted there will be some changes that immediately begin to take place, the things that once brought you pleasure will turn to gravel in your stomach. Everything about her old life had become so unimportant and even despicable in her eyes that she left it behind. If you have a regenerated soul your old ways of living ought to no longer pleasurable to you, and you ought to leave them behind to take on a new life.
This waterpot was also her mission up to this point, she came to the well with one purpose in mind, to get water. When Christ saved her, all her goals and missions had changed, she left that well and all her earthly ambitions about drawing water had been forsaken. How many of us have goals, plans and missions for our life that are exactly the same as before we claim we were converted? This woman had the same goal as every other woman in that village, to get water; she became unique when she dropped that bucket. So often I am like that woman, in that my goals for my life look just like everyone else's, to get money, to get fame, to get a step up in the world. When the truly unique thing to do would be to drop those ambitions for the sake of Christ. If I have put off the old man and put on the new, if my stony heart has been replaced with one of flesh, why wouldn't my goals and plans change, why wouldn't I leave my waterpot at the well? Her plans didn't just change for the sake of changing though, she replaced them with Christ's plans and goals, to tell other of Him.
If Christ has converted you, then I would ask have you left your waterpot at the well in every sense of the phrase? Have you left behind your sustenance, your sins, your dreams and goals in your haste to obey Christ? If not I would beseech you to make this the day that your waterpot is dropped, and you trust completely in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Choosing our friends wisely

I Cor. 15:33 Be not deceived evil communications corrupt good manners.
This verse of scripture is used often in our culture, but because of the way our language has evolved in the last few centuries it doesn't quite mean what it sounds like in our modern English. In order to understand this verse properly, we need to define a couple of words. The word "communications" here, is not referring directly to methods used to impart opinions to others through speech or words, as we often use it today. Instead it means the type of people we associate with, or who we make our companions. The second word that is a little confusing is the word manners, today when we say manners we are talking about customs or traditions that are considered polite in our culture. When the KJV was first translated in 1611 the word was most commonly used to speak of a way of life, which is the way Paul wrote it in the Greek. So then this verse's connotation is something along the lines of, Don't be deceived evil companions corrupt your life.
Proverbs tells us that he that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools will be destroyed, Paul is reiterating this passage. We live in a culture in which we are forced to deal with people every day from every sort of background, and I think that is a good thing. As Christians we are not called to come out of the world, but that we would walk differently in the world, and one of the key components of our life is who we choose to hang around with. I know many people who claim to be Christians and yet spend the majority of their free time around "The wrong crowd". I don't know about you but I have heard so many testimonies of someone that was "a good person" but got involved with the wrong crowd. Paul warns the Christians in I Corinthians that if they played with fire they were going to be burned, and even prefaces it with "be not deceived". I think one of the main reasons he said that is because it is so common for us to either trick ourselves or be tricked into thinking that we can hang out with people who are constantly in trouble and yet somehow avoid the trouble ourselves. The truth is whether it's simply guilt by association, or actually becoming tangled up in the trouble (which is more common), you will become part of that "wrong crowd". People don't get in the wrong crowd, they become the wrong crowd.
Let me encourage you to be very careful who you decide to hang out with, if they are the ones that are always pushing the legal limits or always hanging out at the clubs or simply always wasting their time, don't become part of that group. Look for friends that will encourage you to righteousness and wisdom; because if your friends are wise you will be too, but if your friends are fools not only will you become a fool, they will only lead you to destruction.

justification and sanctification

Titus 2:13-15 Looking for that blessed hope and, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
In this passage of scripture, Paul is writing to a fellow minister in the faith, counseling him on how the church is to be run, and reminding and teaching him some fundamental doctrines. We must keep in mind that at this point, the church as we know it was in it's infancy and Satan was doing all in his power to corrupt the truth before it got spread too far. Paul starts out these verses telling Titus to be looking forward to that day when Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior, will appear. I'm thankful that he also took this opportunity to remind Titus of just why Jesus came to die the first time.
The first reason Paul gives is that Jesus came to redeem us from (that is pay for) our iniquities. We know that the scriptures plainly teach that sin pays out wages and those wages are death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. God cannot simply ignore our sins though, the only reason God can offer that free gift is because our debt has already been paid by a sinless one, Jesus Christ. We call this "Justification", basically it means that God as a judge looks at our record and sees that although we once owed a debt, it has been paid, and we are therefore free to enter heaven. Although we continue to sin on occasion as long as we are in this world, all of it has already been paid for if you have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul then gives Titus a second reason that Jesus came to die and that is to purify us and make us zealous to good works. This is called "Progressive Sanctification" and it is the doctrine that over a period of a lifetime God's children live holier and holier lives through the strength of the Holy Spirit. The reason Paul mentions this as a reason Christ died, is because before we are redeemed, we can do nothing but sin, we have no choice. When Christ saves us we now have freedom; not to live however we want to, but to choose the right. As we grow in grace and God teaches us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the scriptures, we begin to make the right choices with greater frequency. Satan hates this doctrine and has tried ever since Paul's time to eradicate it, but in God's word we have preserved for eternity that Christ came to die to purify us and make us zealous of good works. The one who denies this is saying the same thing that those who teach works salvation are saying, that Christ's blood can't really do all the scriptures say it can do. One crowd says it is not powerful enough in itself to justify you, the other says it is not strong enough in itself to sanctify you. Paul says it is strong enough to do both, and inevitably does both. You did not choose to be justified and you cannot choose whether you want to be sanctified or not, that's God's business!
Lastly in these verses, Paul tells Titus to speak these things with authority, and to let no man discourage him through despite. We cannot stop people from despising the truth, but we can go on, holding fast to the doctrines of Christ, speaking the truth in love. If you stand on God's word than you can be sure you are on the side of the truth, because God will be true and every man (that disagrees with Him) a liar. You may suffer for speaking the truth, but fight the good fight, keep the faith, that you may finish your course with joy. If you are one that has been redeemed, let me encourage you to be pure and zealous of good works, as a faithful servant of Christ.

Thou shalt not covet

Exo 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Out of all the ten commandments, this last one is probably the least thought of and most shrugged off. While we commonly agree that it is a heinous sin against God and man to commit idolatry, adultery, theft, murder and most of the other ten commandments, the idea of covetousness is not thought of as one of the "worst" sins a man could commit. On the contrary, we live in a culture that heavily promotes the idea of covetousness, one that floods all our senses with the idea that we don't have as much as we deserve. TV, billboards, radio, magazines and everywhere else an advertisement is found, a sense of ingratitude is being cultured, nine times out of ten. I don't mean to say all advertisements are bad, but I do mean to say that the way they are presented often are. This problem persists outside of advertising though, in the business world you are often told things like, "it's do-eat-dog world out there", "look out for number one first" and "trample on whoever necessary to get to the top", such sayings promote the idea that material possessions are more important that people.
While this is the only commandment that deals only with your thought life and not directly with an outward action, does not cheapen it's importance in God's eyes. Take a look at Eph. 5:5 "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God". This passage is very clear that those who are living in a constant, unrepentant state of covetousness are showing out what's inside, or rather the lack of it, the spirit of God obviously is not dwelling in them and they have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ or of God. Notice he doesn't say they have a lesser or smaller inheritance, but that they have no inheritance. Covetousness does not make you lose your salvation, but is you are living with it and refusing to repent, you are proving that you never were saved to begin with. If God were to deal with you as a child he would help you defeat that spirit of covetousness (which the bible says is idolatry) whatever correction it took. If he is leaving you in slavery to your sin, than he is dealing with you as a bastard and not as a son. (Heb. 12:8)
Obviously than this sin of covetousness is a very abominable one before God, it is one that is easy to fall into in our culture, yet it must be avoided at all costs. Our souls are at stake here, steer clear of placing things as more important than God or even other people. A man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. (Luke 12:15)

The necessaries of life

Job 23:12 Neither have I gone back at the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
Job is in the middle of some of the greatest trials ever endured by a mortal, he has lost his vast fortune, he has lost his position of authority, he has lost all of his children, he has lost the support of his wife, and he is in the middle of enduring rebuke and false accusations from his friends. To top it all off this had all come in the space of about two weeks from the best we can tell. Now Job opens his mouth and defends himself, telling his friends that he has not gone back on God's commands, in fact he said that he had made God's word the highest priority in his life. Chapter one tells us of his faithfulness in praying and offering sacrifice for his children on a continual basis.
We should learn a lesson from the example that he left for us in how important the word of God should be for us. In a day and age when we are so busy running to work, running to school, running errands, going to our social activities, we have laid aside the truly important things of life. How often do you get so busy that you let an entire twenty-four hours go by without eating? On the contrary when was the last time you let a day go by without reading a passage from the word of God? I know how easy it is to allow a day to slip away without going to God's word to either start it off or finish it out, but simply because it is common place or easy to do is not an excuse. It is not just the place of the preacher to be studying, it is the place of every christian. How many of us could honestly say that we have not gone back from the commandments of God? I know I'm still a work in progress. How many of us could say we miss meals more often than we miss our time alone with God? If you can, I commend you and encourage you to stay the course, but all too often we allow ourselves to be convinced that there are more important things than our walk with God.
Deut. 8:3 tells us " that He might make thee to know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." (Jesus quotes this passage in Matt. 4:4) Yet there is little to no practical application or even recognition of this among those of us that call ourselves christians. Bible reading and prayer time is one of the luxuries we allow ourselves if we have time, instead of being the most important thing in our life that causes us to change our schedule to accommodate. I would challenge you to take God's words and commandments more seriously, to make a habit of making sure you have fed your soul before you ever feed your body. We find a way to squeeze food into our busy schedules, if it were really important we could find a way to read the bible. Prioritize your life, if you honestly cannot read you bible daily because of you schedule then quit something. I am not over-simplifying, I am not preaching anything I don't practice, there have been many occasions where I have quit a job or social club membership because it was cutting into my time with God. It is not an impossibility, it just takes some determination and dedication. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.