Anything you can do….
Let us never forget key lessons we should have already learnt: to vacate solid granite of Scripture for shifting sands of feelings, impressions, hunches, emotions, sense, reason, circumstances, providences and signs, always results in a knot that is only untangled by grace.
We are called to walk by faith, through which we are also justified. Far too often, believers including mature saints, even in top ecclesiastical posts, seek to further God’s work by resorting to the flesh.
DIY salvation (adversely reviewed) is one of the main points of Genesis 16 – here the holy family, with Abram included and implicated, without jeopardizing his saved status, faithlessly and pragmatically, tosses a carnal spanner in God’s Work.
A catastrophic lapse led to a failed attempt to give the LORD a helping hand in hurrying His world-blessing plan along: with no heir in sight, and beyond all human hope, Sarai’s servant-surrogate Hagar, whom providence put within reach, offered an open door to sire, and adopt, an illicit to-be-son.
Certainly, we can sense the frustration of his wife whose womb Yahweh had shut, with perhaps a hint of blame? It was 10 years down the line from the night God launched His plan in Ur – impatience, sense, reason and sight gave the patriarch a nudge &, with echoes of Eden, Abram listened to his wife.
But, it really does matter how the plan of God moves forward – the Angel of the LORD, with his first appearance on-stage, indicates clearly that the One who sees all & knows the fact-file of our lives, is as interested both in the way of what we do as the what of Jehovah’s work.
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The Hard Sayings of JesusBy Bill Muehlenberg — 5 months ago
Sure, Jesus said many warm, inviting, comforting and loving things as well. But the sad truth is, most folks today only want to hear those sorts of words, while ignoring the rest. But that cannot be done. It is not up to us to pick and choose what we like about the teachings of Jesus. We either accept the whole package or we get none of it at all.
How often do we hear Christians say the following sorts of things? ‘Let’s make things as easy as we can for the non-believer. Let’s just tell them that God loves them just as they are and they need not do anything to be a buddy with Jesus. Let’s forget about rules and regulations and theology and just tell people that God is crazy about them.’
But it is not just a desire to make things easier for their non-Christian friends to be open to the gospel. Plenty of believers want to make things easier for themselves! They do not like the hard and demanding things found in the Bible. They do not like the things that challenge them and make them feel uncomfortable with their selfish and sinful lifestyle.
They just want to hear the good things, the happy things, the nice things, the pleasant things. Nothing too demanding. Nothing too onerous. Nothing to make them change their way of living. Nothing to make them feel ashamed of what they are doing.
Just an affirming celestial grandfather or butler who always pats them on the back, always smiles at them, always gives them nice things, and is always there to serve them when they have needs. That is the sort of God most folks want.
Well, they can crave such a deity, but they dare not then pretend they are serving the God of the Bible. They dare not claim to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was nothing at all like these sentimental and sickly sweet pictures of some buddy God who would never make things hard on you or ask anything too onerous of you.
But don’t take my word for it. Simply start reading the Bible. I mean really reading it, from cover to cover, and not just flicking through a few psalms once or twice a month. No one who actually reads the Bible carefully can ever come away with these false images of God.
Indeed, simply read through the four gospels and see the sort of Jesus being presented there. Anyone honestly and earnestly reading through the gospels will in fact likely be shocked at what is there. They will not find the tree-hugging peace-nik Jesus there. They will not find the heavenly Jeeves there. They will not find the pandering granddad figure there.
They will find the genuine Jesus who made hard demands and who said some very hard things. And that is exactly why so many people rejected him and hated him. If Jesus HAD been this Mr Nice Guy who simply caters to your every need, the masses would have loved him.
Let me share just some of the quite hard and harsh things Jesus said, especially to those who toyed with the idea of following him. But because the gospels have so much material on this, I am forced to just pick one of them. Here are some of the hard sayings of Jesus as found in the gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 6:19-24 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 8:19-22 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
We Are Not Home YetBy Nick Batzig — 1 year ago
As believers, we are called by God to train our minds and hearts to firmly latch onto the biblical teaching that we are passing through this world as pilgrims and strangers. We can never allow ourselves to become comfortable here. We are merely sojourners passing through this world on our way to glory. From the first promise of redemption in the garden (Gen. 3:15) to the glorious heavenly vision of the City of God (Rev. 22), the totality of the Bible focuses on the pilgrimage for which God has redeemed His people.
When God called Abraham to leave his family and his homeland, he “went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). “By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise” (11:9). Moving from place to place, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob walked by faith in the promises of God. The Lord had promised Abraham that he would inherit the land; yet, the only land he ever possessed during his pilgrimage was a tiny plot that served as a burial place for him and for his wife, his children, and his grandchildren. The act of burial was the last great act of faith. It proved that he was looking for something better—the hope of the resurrection. Abraham never had a permanent home until he died. When he died in faith, he settled in “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
Joseph also lived and died as a pilgrim and stranger on the earth. Abraham’s great-grandson spent the better part of his life as an alien in a foreign land. He was cut off from his earthly family until the end of his father’s life. He was instrumental in the rest of his brethren coming and dwelling in a foreign land. When he died, Joseph “made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones” (Heb. 11:22). By charging his brethren to take his bones up from Egypt and into the promised land (which would not occur until some four hundred years after he died), Joseph was teaching the Israelites that there was a better city—one for which God would raise him up, body and soul.
After Moses fled from Egypt into the wilderness of Midian, he married the daughter of the Midian priest Jethro and fathered a son with her. Moses named his firstborn son Gershom (literally meaning “stranger there”). Scripture teaches us the rich biblical theological meaning of this name in Exodus 2:21–22, where we read: “Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.’”
We discover the secret to spiritual pilgrimage when we read:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Heb. 11:13–16)
The Necessity to Prioritize the Local ChurchBy Josh Buice — 4 months ago
Let us consider the joyful privileges and serious responsibilities of covenant church membership that necessitates us sharing life together, submitting to one another, obeying leaders, worshipping corporately, stimulating one another to good works, and growing in the grace of God through the ordinary means of grace. Church membership is not an option to be considered. It’s a priority that is commanded for the life of the Christian.
Do you place a priority upon the gathering, worship, and fellowship of the local church? If not, it could be an indicator that something is not right spiritually. A lack of commitment to your local church could be indicative of pride, laziness, slothfulness, and a refusal to submit to proper biblical discipleship and accountability. Since Jesus laid down his life for the church, we know what God thinks about the church. Therefore, we should put priority upon the regular gathering and relational community of the local church.
Identifying the Problems
During the rise of the COVID-19 controversy, the regular gathering was compromised due to overreach from the government and fear of church members. To put it bluntly, many Christians have caved to the fear of disease, sickness, and death which has caused them to sacrifice their commitment to the local church in pursuit of safety. In essence, their pursuit of safety has actually led them into great danger spiritually. An obsession with wellness will result in spiritual decline if a person is led to believe that physical wellness necessitates the willful neglect of the local church. This is a serious problem that must be addressed.
In some cases, it’s not the fear of sickness that prevents the proper commitment to the local church, it’s actually pride. Some professing Christians believe they are strong enough, spiritual enough, or live as a special case where the local church is not necessary. They go about life by prioritizing business, family, vacations, recreation, politics, and other life commitments with little focus upon the local church. This is a tragic mistake that will have lasting consequences.
In both cases of fear and pride, the professing Christian develops an elevated opinion of his or her spiritual condition that results in the neglect of the local church and the ordinary means of grace. This will result in a spiritual decline that will not end well.
Rather than honoring God, the person gripped by fear of sickness neglects the clear commands to gather with the local church thereby elevating their commitment to pursuing good physical health above the pursuit of spiritual health. The person deceived by pride lacks self-awareness on a spiritual level resulting in a greater commitment to other areas of life while neglecting the corporate assembly of the local church and the worship of the saints.
Why Should We Prioritize the Local Church?
We are called to prioritize the local church. There is no biblical category for a faithful Christian who neglects or remains disconnected from the local church. In fact, the Scriptures point to the reality that such persons have swerved from the faith and are not to be received as Christians. Consider the words of John the Apostle in 1 John.