Checking the Obituaries

Checking the Obituaries

We’ve all heard the jokes and comments – maybe even made a few of them ourselves. “The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is to check the obituaries. As long as I’m not listed, I know it’s going to be a good day,” or, “Any day above ground is a good one,” or some other, similar comment which is often heard to emanate from the lips of a Christian. But is such really the case? Do we as Christians truly believe that a day spent within the reach of sin, evil, sickness, death, and the devil, is ultimately better than one spent with and amongst the saints in paradise (Lk. 16:22-25); or even face to face with, and around the throne of the God who promised to wipe away every tear from our eyes in a place where death, sorrow, pain and crying have ceased to exist (Revelation 21:4)? The apostle Paul certainly didn’t think so (Philippians 1:21-23).

Where do you want to spend eternity?

Where do you want to spend eternity?

You see, the fact is that none of us ever know exactly when that final day is going to arrive in which we won’t wake up to experience another. We never know when the doctor is going to deliver the devastating news that, “There’s nothing we can do,” or, when some totally unexpected and instantaneous death stroke may suddenly strike us during some earthly accident we never saw coming. And so, what each new day actually is, is another God-given and grace-laden chance to better prepare for our last day here, and the inescapable meeting with the Lord God almighty which we all – young and old, rich and poor, healthy and sick – will eventually, inevitably, and individually then be forced to face. What each new day is, is a divine gift and loving investment in you and your eternity, by the grace and mercy of the Lord God almighty. It is yet another much-needed (and hopefully enough appreciated) opportunity for each of us who is blessed enough to receive one, to use it wisely by getting to know the Lord and His word better; to draw ever closer to and become ever more like Him; and to serve Him and His cause even more deeply and sacrificially than we did the day before.

Conversely, it is a complete and total waste of God’s incredible investment of providing us with another day to thus prepare for the time when we won’t be given another one here, to spend it totally in pursuit of those worldly things which will mean absolutely nothing to us when our final day does arrive. Someone once said something akin to: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never be. Today is a gift. That’s why they call it ‘the present.’” If and whenever, you may be blessed enough by God, to be given the gift of another day from now on, don’t waste it – ever (Hebrews 3:1-4:16)! It just possibly might be the last one you ever receive…

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The Reason Why the World Does not Know Us

The Reason Why the World Does Not Know Us

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 John 3:1

The ways of God seem foreign to the world.

The ways of God seem foreign to the world.

 

I would like to comment on the second part of this verse first because of something that happened to me last week.  As I’m sure you’re aware, there is much furor in our country over same-sex marriage, its acceptance by some, and whether not accepting it is a form of hateful bigotry.  Businesses owned by Christians who declined to work for same-sex weddings on the fear of condoning an event which they consider to be immoral are being successfully sued and fined, which has led to the debate of whether Christians in the United States of America have the freedom to follow the dictates of their religion and conscience.  Last week I found myself in a conversation with an individual who obviously was not a Christian and was very much a proponent of same-sex marriage and homosexual rights.  When I pointed out that my rights as a Christian to follow the dictates of my religion were in danger of being ignored and that I could even be punished for following my religion, he responded with nothing but disdain.

So I understand when John tells me, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”  Our society is becoming more and more godless.  Less young people now than ever before identify themselves as religious, much less as Christian.  My fellow Americans who are trying hard to be faithful Christians and have been used to living in a society where more people than not identified with Christianity, we must recognize that we are coming closer and closer to living in a culture in which people will not know (understand) us as faithful Christians…and the reason for this is because they do not know (understand) our God.

Yet…we are still God’s children.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…”  We are still children of the Most High God.  Jehovah has still saved us by his love and grace.  We still have the undeserved, highest honor of wearing the name “Christian” (1 Pet. 4:16).  We are still heaven-bound.  We still serve a greater Cause, in fact the greatest Cause.  Whatever persecution comes our way, let us rejoice and be glad for it, because it comes because we are servants of Jesus Christ (Matt. 5:10-12; James 1:2-4).

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Direct Intervention on the Heart

The Gospel’s Two-Part Invitation

I have been told that the Spirit’s direct intervention on the heart of the lost is an integral part of the God’s plea to save them. Often, the idea is drawn from an understanding of Acts 16:14: “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” The phrase “[T]he Lord opened her heart” is attributed to the work of the Spirit upon the heart of Lydia to help her understand and obey the word.

How does the Spirit work on the heart?

How does the Spirit work on the heart?

What I have heard stated is that the Spirit works “in conjunction with,” “beyond the influence of”, or “directly, but in support of,” the word. Regardless of the preferred semantics, the idea that the Spirit works in some way to support directly the preached gospel is integral to the newest variants of teaching regarding the Holy Spirit in the church.

The problem is not just a matter of words. It is a fundamental problem of doctrine. The most significant issue is that the Bible has already established, by direct statement, the Spirit’s method of “convicting the world concerning sin” (John 16:8). That method is neither ambiguous, nor mystical. It is objective, knowable, discernable, and, by present standards, boring.  The Holy Spirit appeals to the lost through the avenue of His word.  The Bible states: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17).  Two actors are present in the preceding verse: 1) The Spirit; and 2) The Bride.  The most common understanding of identifying these actors is that the “Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit and the “bride” refers to the church.  If we take that approach to be the correct one then the gospel’s invitation is sent out from two actors:  The Holy Spirit, and people in the Lord’s church.  However, both actors are using the same approach in providing that offer.  The verse states that both actors are “saying” the invitation of obey the Gospel.  Both are “saying” the gospel to the lost.  Both are using words to appeal to the heart of those needing to find the “new Jerusalem.” The Spirit is doing so through the words He inspired. The Bride is doing so through the proclamation of those same words now inscripturated. There is the manner of the Holy Spirit’s offer of salvation to the lost.

The Holy Spirit appeals to the lost through His word. No other means of approach to the human heart can be sustained from scripture. There is no ambiguity or mysticism in the way the Spirit appeals to humanity.  He does it through the living and active word He inspired and infused with His power.

What must be remembered is that His appeal works, not in conjunction with His word, but together with the appeal of the Bride.  If the church (meaning the individual efforts of the members of His body) fails to offer its part of the invitation, the Spirit’s influence on the lost is muted.  God has chosen the “foolishness of preaching” to save the world.  The Spirit provided a powerful message but relies on each of us to ensure the lost have an opportunity to be saved.  Are you doing your part to connect people to the power of the Holy Spirit?

 

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