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Sinful Compromise

Sinful Compromise

The account of Solomon’s downfall affords abundant lessons for any Christian missionary. Let us briefly note several of them. First, the word of God is both relevant and applicable and must be obeyed by every generation. God had never revoked His command not to intermarry with the nations around about, but Solomon paid little attention. He disobeyed, and it ultimately lead to his undoing. Even today, the man or woman of God must not marry those outside the faith. One must honor the Word of god despite one’s emotions, which can often lead one astray.

Second, God’s servants must keep in mind that they have feet of clay. They are not above temptation. They can fall into sin as quickly as anyone else. Sin is defection from any of God’s standards. It is a lack of conformity to the moral law of God, either in act, disposition, or state.  It is anything in man that does not express, or which is contrary to the holy character of God. Once God’s servant has fallen, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to regain the respect of those to whom he would minister. Due diligence of the soul must be a top priority. It is necessary for any effective ministry.

Third, God’s servant should not be overly confident of his spirituality. Just because he is called of God and is in the place of God’s appointment does not mean he is impervious to the wiles of the devil. Solomon at one point writes: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). It would seem he either disregarded his own advice or came to such knowledge the hard way.

Fourth, the missionary often goes to people groups in which idolatry is rampant and he must watch that he does not compromise with the idolatry in order to gain acceptance. In wanting to show oneself friendly one can sometimes take part in something that either is not edifying or involves outright compromise. It takes great discernment and wisdom to know how far to enter into the customs and culture of those to whom one goes. It is often best to take things slowly and always prayerfully.

Fifth, as the missionary sees converts to the gospel and seeks to establish a Christian church, he must guard against syncretism. Unless those converted to Christ have no background in idolatry or false religion, they will often bring with them certain practices from their former worship. The missionary must be watchful so that unchristian practices and ideas do not gain a foothold in the church of God. Once allowed, they soon become tradition; and tradition is often difficult to up-root. Finally, the missionary must keep in mind that he stands to be disciplined and judged by the Lord Himself. He is not above God’s law. As Scripture says, “Judgment must begin at the house of god” (I Pet. 4:17).

No person is indispensable in the Lord’s work. Some have achieved many great things for God. Some may have pastured large churches, seen many come to the Lord, written helpful books, spoken to large crowds, or been a mentor to many; yet, if need be, God will chasten them with appropriate judgment. The servant of God must always watch his own soul and his walk before the Lord and before men. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that fear thee” (I Tim. 4:16).

That Sure Tastes Good!

That Sure Tastes Good!

Who satisfies your mouth with good things… Psalm 103:5a

Psalm 37: 3 declares: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” There, the promise is that if you trust in the Lord and do good, you shall be fed. Here, in Psalm 103: 5a, you are not only promised that you will be fed, you are promised that what you are fed will be satisfying to your mouth.

You do know that there is a difference right? Just ask a child. Brussel sprouts, okra, and broccoli may feed you and even nourish you, but that doesn’t mean they are satisfying to your mouth. Yet, the Lord adds to your benefits package that He will satisfy your mouth with good things. What good things? Good things going through your mouth. This is the nourishing food which is made possible by His provision. The fact that He will satisfy your mouth with good things can be true although you may have to swallow some good things which may not taste so good going down. But, thank God, that every now and then, we can look forward to some sumptuously sweet things, some perfectly seasoned things and delightfully delicious things.

Good things in your mouth. The mouth is the waiting room of your words. They sit there (sometimes too long and sometimes not long enough) before they break the barrier of the lips. Just like good wine which is not to be gulped and swallowed immediately, some things are satisfying just by being in your mouth. David also knew this and expressed it when he wrote in Psalm 34: 1: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Good things coming out of your mouth. Good things can go down through your mouth. Good things can be in your mouth. Then, good things can come out of your mouth. Words of encouragement, words of comfort, words of forgiveness, words of peace, words of restoration, words of wisdom, words of knowledge are all instances of things which satisfy the speaker’s mouth and the hearer’s ears. When all is said and done, God makes the mouth both a place of pleasure and an instrument of love.

From Redemption to Royalty

From Redemption to Royalty

In the first half of Psalm 103:4, God redeems us. Then, with only the separation of the pause of a comma, in the second half of the same verse, He crowns us. In other words, He takes us from redemption to royalty in virtually once motion. None of us would blame the Lord if He required us to serve some probationary period before rising to the level of royalty. Who would fault the Lord if He forced us to start from scratch and work our way up to His favor? Of course, He would have every right to do so.

Nevertheless, His characteristic lovingkindness would not allow it. Like the prodigal son who went from the pig pen in a foreign land to a party at his father’s house and the thief next to Jesus who went from the pain of the cross to paradise in one day, the Lord wastes no time in redeeming us and then crowning us. If the fact that we are crowned is not enough, God crowns us “with lovingkindness.” He does not do it with an attitude. He does not do it reluctantly. He does not do it against His better judgement. It is as if He just can’t wait and He does it with lovingkindness.

The Hebrew word which is translated as “lovingkindness” is hesed. David Arzouni of Hesed.com defines the word this way: the consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, furious love of our Father God. This is what God crowns us with and how He crowns us. Such love is beyond what we imagine that we deserve and so are the tender mercies which accompany them. This double benefit of lovingkindness and tender mercies proves that the heights to which we have risen are much more because of Him than because of us.

Put Away Childish Things

Put Away Childish Things

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

What Paul proves here is that maturity is not only a matter of development. It is also a matter of decision. He admits that when he was a child, he spoke as a child, he understood as a child and he thought as a child. But, when he became a man, he put away childish things. These childish things did not fall off of him. They did not mysteriously or miraculously disappear from him. He had to make a conscious decision and take an affirmative action to put them away. You don’t automatically grow out of pettiness and pickiness, tantrums and tirades, selfishness and carelessness. The only way to get away from these is to step away from them.

Paul is quite clear that even though he was a man, his childish things had not completely vanished. They were still there. They were just “put away.” That’s why we have to keep guard all day every day because if we are not careful, given the right trigger, like that Jack in the box, childish things can suddenly pop out!

Begin On the Inside

Begin On the Inside

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…  (Ephesians 3:16)

Paul not only preaches to the Ephesians. He also prays for them. His prayer which is recorded in this passage is that they are strengthened with the might of the Holy Spirit and that this strength be targeted at the inner man.

Notice, he does not ask for abs of steel. He does not request bulging biceps. He does not seek thighs of iron. He prays that God would strengthen their inner man. The inner man is the invisible person underneath the one everyone sees. The inner man is the one who motivates every move. The inner man is the one who holds every belief. The inner man is the one who carries the character. The inner man pulsates with passion. The inner man stores and applies knowledge. The inner man senses and sends forth love. The very natural process of physical growth almost guarantees a certain level of growth in the outer person. Food, age, exercise, time and hormones take care of that. However, the greater and more significant growth in us is the maturity which takes place inside of us. This growth in character, honesty, integrity, fortitude and faith needs more than hormones; it requires the Holy Ghost.

More than Form and Fashion

More than Form and Fashion

A form of godliness, but denying the power thereof… (2 Tim 3:5)

Paul predicts that perilous times will come when “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Even though we could spend all day on any single one of the characterizations in this list, the last one catches our attention. That is, those who have a form of godliness. Unfortunately, it is possible to act like a Christian and not actually be one. You can dress like a Christian. You can go to church like a Christian. You can quote scripture like a Christian. You can master all the outward expected demeanor of a Christian, and yet at the same time, not be truly converted. While it is possible to act like a Christian without being a Christian, it is not possible to be a Christian without acting like one. Hence, maturity in Christ is more than a matter of putting on a false garment of ecclesiastically acceptable behavior. It is a matter of putting on an awesome Christ and then allowing that Christ to grow in you and show through you more and more each day.

Gerber Gospel

Gerber Gospel

I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able. (1 Cor 3:2)

The church in Corinth was Paul’s problem child. His greatest frustration with them was that while they were culturally elite, politically astute and financially well off, they were also spiritually immature. The reports he often got about this church showed them to be divided over insignificant matters and separated over silliness.

He complains to them that he had to feed them with milk (watered down gospel) because they were not able to handle solid food (e.g., the true requirements of discipleship, worship, stewardship and fellowship). In other words, he had to give them Gerber Gospel; talk to them as if they had Enfamil faith; relate to them like they only had Similac salvation; and present them with pabulum preaching! This is a catch twenty-two. If preachers and pastors only offer milk, then their members will never fully mature. However, their members will also fail to fully mature if they balk and choke when the sermons and teachings finally move to more substance.

If spiritual maturity is to be reached, somehow, (whether it is the result of a pastoral decision or a personal decision), there must be a period of weaning off of the milk and onto the meat of the word.

There may be resistance at first and even a little regurgitation, but the testimony of any toddler is: “Once you have tasted real solid food, you will never be satisfied with anything less.”

Want Milk?

Want Milk?

“as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby…” (1 Peter 2: 2)

Spiritual growth after first accepting Christ should be a given. However, the desire for that spiritual growth very often is not. For many people, spiritual growth is like eating vegetables. They do it because they know it is good for them. Yet, they have to force themselves to do it because the vegetables are hard to swallow.

In another way, spiritual growth for some is like doctor ordered therapy. It is supposed to help you, but you hate to go because you always seem to leave therapy in more pain! What the writer of I Peter is getting at here is that spiritual growth takes place best when a person has a desire for it. Not when they are bribed into it or shamed into it or even tricked into it. At the base of it must be a hunger and a thirst after it akin to the desire that a newborn babe has for its mother’s milk. That baby does not have to be forced-fed. That baby has an innate desire for the pure milk and somehow knows that it will grow thereby. So, before we ask for and get spiritual maturity, our prayer should be to desire the milk of the word of God which is the very thing that produces it.

Beyond Born Again

Beyond Born Again

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again [anew], he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

The Christian concept of being born again dates back at least as far as that famous nighttime conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. There, as recorded in John chapter 3, Nicodemus asks Jesus about eternal life and Jesus responds that in order to enter eternal life, a person must be born again. Of course, therefore, being born again in Christ is not only desirable, but essential to being a bone fide follower of Jesus Christ.

However, during the last half of the 20th century, a born again movement began (mostly in fundamental Christian quarters) which focused so heavily on being born again that it almost completely ignored the necessity of a new life after the new birth. As we seek to become and develop mature Christians today, let us never make the mistake of thinking that being born again is the end. Quite the contrary! Being born again is just the beginning. It is true that Jesus said unless a person is born again they cannot see the kingdom of God. It is also true that unless a person goes beyond being born again, they cannot experience and enjoy the kingdom of God.