What a culture! Things that we would have never dreamed would be accepted, now are not only accepted, but in many ways encouraged. In reality, Christianity has begun and grown in a hostile environment. We must speak the truth in love, but we must speak the truth. It is only through the power of God’s Spirit that we can make a significant impact on our culture. May we be found faithful.
Some days have special meaning to us. Our birthday is one of those days. We may think they come around too fast, but they are very meaningful to our lives. Other days, such as the day we met our mate, or the day we were married. There is the day our children and grandchildren were born.
Our spiritual birthday is at the top of the list of important days. That day changes everything for both time and eternity. Think about your spiritual birthday. You may not remember the calendar date, or a lot of other minor details, but if you’ve had a spiritual birthday, you will remember the event of being convicted of your sin, knowing you were lost, and knowing that you needed and wanted to be saved. You will remember when you got it settled with God.
There is one other day that is of the utmost importance, and that is this day. Today! The Bible warns us about making future plans without taking the will of God into consideration. Today is all that we really have, and we may not even have all of it. The Bible tells about a farmer, in Luke 12, whose crops produced a great yield, and who had been quite successful by the world’s standard of success. He told himself that he would tear down his old barns, build new and bigger barns to store his goods, and that he would just take it easy from then on, because he had well provided for himself. It was the equivalent of someone today telling himself to put all his money into annuities, ride off into the sunset in the motorhome, and just wait for the checks to hit the bank account by direct deposit. Really, the only thing wrong with the plan was that he didn’t bring God into it, and he didn’t give God credit for his well-being. Today is all we have, but it is really all we need. Today is sufficient to surrender to God and to have peace with Him. In the book of Ephesians, the Bible tells us to “redeem the time,” which means to take full advantage of it. This is a very important day.
Why did Jesus die on the cross, and not by some other method? Why not some more humane method? The ultimate answer is that the cross was the manner in which God chose for Jesus to die. In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, God instructed some guidelines concerning hanging the bodies of executed people on a tree. It was a practice to show that the person was a vile offender, and considered to be cursed of God. In Numbers 21:8-9, after poisonous snakes had bitten the people, as they were wandering in the wilderness, Moses was told to make a brazen serpent, put it on a pole, and all who had been bitten, but would look at the serpent on the pole would not die, but would be healed. Fifteen hundred years later, Jesus told Nicodemus, in John 3, that he must be born again. Nicodemus didn’t understand this, so Jesus gave him an analogy that he could grasp. In John 3:14, Jesus told him that just as Moses had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up. In that conversation, Jesus clarified what that event was all about, back there in the wilderness wanderings. It was pointing to a time when Jesus would be made a curse for us, and would be hung on a cross. So, the cross shows God’s commitment to the fulfillment of His word. Secondly, the cross shows God’s hatred for sin. There could be no easy death, as Jesus, who had no sin in Him, took the sins of the world upon Him. The world can look at the cross, if they wish to know just what God thinks of sin. Thirdly, the cross shows God’s love for sinners. John 3:16, the most familiar verse in the Bible, sums it up. If anyone wishes to know how much God loves sinners, they only have to look at the cross.
Is it really possible to live without worry? It is not only possible, but it is God’s will that His children do so. Worry is a form of fear, and the Bible tells us again and again not to fear. Philippians 4:6 tells us not to worry about anything, but to pray about everything. The context of the book of 1 Peter is that the Christians were being persecuted, which of course, would be a fertile field for worry over what might come next. In chapter 5, they were told to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, and to cast all their care upon Him.
Pride often hinders us from being able to cease from worrying. We like to think we can handle everything ourselves, but in reality, we can’t. The first step in getting help in any area of life is to admit we have a problem. Until we can do that, there really isn’t any help for us.
Then, the passage goes on to talk about our adversary, the devil. He is against us, because God created us to have much of what he wanted, but was not created to have. He is described as a roaring lion, who seeks whom he may devour. He is not devouring everybody, he is only devouring those whom he may. There are really only two ways that he could wreak havoc in the life of a Christian: one, if God gave him permission, which isn’t likely; two, if we give him an invitation, which happens all too often. When we are worried, we are effectively doubting God’s promises, and that gives the devil a lot to work with.
In 1 Peter 5:8, we are told to be sober and vigilant. To be sober is to be aware of our situation and on guard against attack from the enemy. It is to realize that worry opens the door for the devil’s attack in our life. We are told to be vigilant, which means to constantly make the decision that we refuse to worry, but that we are committed to stand on the word of God.
There are only two kinds of problems in the world: the kind you can do something about, and the kind you can do nothing about it. If it’s the first kind, do something about it and stop worrying. If it’s the second kind, cast it on God and stop worrying. Don’t worry, be happy!
I find it interesting how certain many people seem to be that their position is the rock-solid, biblically correct position, and that other people would have to be blind and ignorant to biblical truth not to see it the same way they do. The fact is, there are godly people who take strong stands on both the Calvinistic and Arminian view of God’s dealing with man. Put very simply, the Calvinistic view says that God is in complete control, and that salvation is His doing from start to finish. The Arminian view is that God has made salvation possible for all people, but it is left up to them to accept it or reject it. The most important thing for us to have strong conviction about, is that people are saved only through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Many people have a Bible verse ready for their position, and sometimes several verses. That’s fine, but we really need to understand that there are Bible verses that seem to support both positions. Does that mean that the Bible is contradictary, and that one cannot draw a conclusion from the Bible? No, but it does mean that both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are taught in the Bible. The real question is at what point does man really realize his responsibility? Is it as soon as he hears the gospel, or is it when God, in His own timing, sends the Holy Spirit to him to open his heart so that he can believe? In Acts 16:14, what did God do for Lydia? Can the natural man receive the things of the Spirit of God? Not according to 1 Corinthians 2:14.
We are taught that God made man in His own image, but man seems to be forever attempting to recreate God in his own image, according to his liking. God is not shaped by who we would like Him to be, He is exactly who He reveals Himself to be in the Bible. We would do well to make sure, before we start speaking too authoritatively, that our view of God’s dealing with man is indeed biblical. God chose one nation, the nation Israel, to bless them like no other nation on the face of the earth. Was that fair to the other nations? God chose Jacob over Essau to inherit the blessing of Abraham, and He chose him before he or his brother, Essau, was ever born. Was that fair to Essau? We would do well to not impose our standard of fairness on God, because God is completely just, whether it fits with our understanding of justness, or not.
The bottom line, in my understanding, is that God is on the throne of heaven, and He is completely successful in all that He does, He cannot fail, He must prevail. The Lord is the author and finisher of our salvation, but in the Lord’s convicting, convincing, and converting of sinners, we make a decision that is consistent with our will. But when you get right down to it, God is the changer of man’s will. It is our responsibility, as Christians, to spread the gospel to every person, to urge them to turn to Christ, and it is God’s business as to exactly which ones He saves. We have our orders in the Great Commission. We are mail carriers for God, but we, of ourselves, are not able to save anyone. Isn’t it wonderful that God can, and God does?