Archive for May, 2023

Return and Renew

Christian ethics are Christ-centered. Our ethical outlook begins with Jesus and His view of life, and controls our ethical outlook. 

It is not based on the fact we are commanded to love, but on a love that commands.  When we hold Christ as our first love, that love commands, that is controls, our world view. The Ephesus syndrome results gradually and subtly.

“Remember” is an appeal to give your head over to Christ.

“Repent” is an appeal to give your heart over to Him.

The word “repent” used here in the Greek is in the aorist tense meaning to have a complete change of mental attitude and has no emotional reference at all.  

The biblical appeal to repent is as often applied to saints out of fellowship as to sinners out of grace. 

The Greek word translated “first” is “protos.” It is a word that suggests they still love, but with a quality and intensity unlike that of their initial love. Is that you? Then now is the expedient time to repent and return to your first love. These imperatives are all part of a single command based on an appeal to remember their first love and how much their enthusiasm for Christ has waned; how much their devotion has diminished.

Might your spiritual life be pictured as ashes on a rusty altar? Such indicates there once was warmth, light, and flame, but which reveals it has been a long time since there was an act of devotion performed there.

When the Holy Spirit is allowed to grip us with a true spirit of repentance we are willing to admit having let other lords besides Him have command over us. We will admit to having left our first love and appeal to Christ to recover us.

In 1632, the favorite wife of Shah Jahan of India died. Her title was Mumtaz-i-mahal, which means “Pride of the Palace.” He loved her so much he set 20,000 workmen to work building a tomb for her in the northern City of Agra. They labored for 21 years on the palace tomb.

As work was begun on the Taj Mahal, the coffin containing the body of his beloved was placed on the spot where the temple tomb was to be constructed. Time after time it had to be moved to allow construction. Soon it got shoved aside and ignored. Shortly thereafter, building materials were scattered around it. Lost in the clutter and pushed aside, it was at some time removed with other items considered trash. When the temple tomb was completed, the body of the one in whose name it was constructed could not be found. 

Spiritually, the same thing happens in the lives of some Christians. Gradually Christ gets moved aside until at last he is lost. Then we who are the temple of the Spirit are as devoid of Him as the Taj Mahal was of the Pride of the Palace. When it happens we must repent and return to our first love, Jesus.

Occasionally this happens collectively in a church. Christ gets pushed aside and is lost in the life of the fellowship. 

The first step away is the great sin of which to repent. However cold or carnal you might have become, it could never have happened without the first small step leading away from your first love. It may have been a small beginning which you can’t even recall that has led to a great departure. That departure may be so great you aren’t even sensitive to it. That makes it all the greater. That departure may even be hard for others to detect because you still wear the uniform, you still have the external performance, the right vocabulary with the right people, but inside you know and you know Jesus knows. 

Therefore, begin at the beginning again.

Go back to the fountainhead of your love — Jesus.

Go back to the fountain of thought about your Savior’s love for you. Return.

Love the Giver More Than the Gift

Have you ever had occasion to marvel at the depth of devotion adherents to some of the religions of the world have to their god? Some physically blow themselves up as an act of devotion. Some dwell in hostile deserts under extreme conditions in following what the consider the will of their god. There is no limit to their commitment.

Conversely many devotees to Jesus can hardly be recognized as His follower. Many Christians whine and complain, “It’s not easy being a Christian.” Many who claim He has saved them rarely enter a house of worship. Mention giving and others recoil as though imposed upon.

Why is it that so many living in comfort in a land blessed by God show so little devotion to the giver of all blessings?

Could it be that those living in depriving conditions have no things to attract their commitment? Therefore, they serve their God and find fulfillment in him rather than things. In contrast we who have such an abundance of material goods give our devotion to things rather than to the God who has blessed us with those things. We are inclined to lay up treasure in places where moth and rust corrupt and thieves break through and steal. That is, we invest in an unpredictable stock market, vehicles that depreciate rapidly, hours requiring constant repairs and renovations, and expensive trips that rarely live up to expectations. These things are for but a season.

Those things are good and are intended for our good, but they are poor gods. They give little solace when things fall apart or disease and/or death come our way. The earthly treasures we lay up and devote ourselves to as they are our god don’t serve us well in times of crisis.

Again it deserves to be reiterated that things are to serve us, not that we should serve them as though they are gods lauding over us. Enjoy them with gratitude to God for them.

Tearing down old “barns” and building new larger ones is OK, but they must not become ends within themselves. Praise God for them and resolve to use them in a manner pleasing to Him. Keeping in mind it is in heaven we are to lay up treasures, not on earth.

Jesus’ narrative regarding it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven relates to a rich man who is depending on his material goods to get in. A camel can’t go through the eye of a needle. and neither can a person enter heaven depending on material things to get in.

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

Trinity: How Could There Be Three in One?

This is offered to enable my esteemed Jewish friends to understand why Christians believe in the Trinity. Often when asked to name the members of the Holy Trinity the answer is: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Wrong. The three are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three constitute one God comprising the Tri-Unity, three in one. Some persons refer to them as the Godhead.

The Bible speaks of the Father as God (Phil. 1:2), Jesus as God (Titus 2:13), and the Holy Spirit as God (Acts 5:3-4). 

The concept of three in one is found throughout nature.

H20 as a liquid is water, as ice a solid, as a vapor steam.

One egg has three different parts – the shell, the white, the yoke. Similarly, one apple has three different parts – the skin, the flesh, and the seed.

In math 1+1+1 = 3.  However, 1x1x1 = 1. Each is multiplied by self to make one. The latter represents the Tri-Unity.

Sigmund Freud, by no means a friend of theology, nevertheless theorized that human personalities are made up of three parts: Id, Ego, Super-ego. As people, we are balanced out by the impulsive Id, the logical Ego, and the moralizing Super-ego. Likewise, God is balanced out to us in a way we can understand by the all-seeing Father, the teacher Jesus, and the guiding Holy Spirit. They are the different natures of God, who is one being.

John 1: 1, 2 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

The word, Word is a reference to Jesus Christ who was with God and He was God. Logically, the question is often asked how could He be God and be with God.

His very essence, His intrinsic nature or indispensable quality that determined His character was God. His essence was God as much as the Father and Holy Spirit are God. Summarily He was God the Son.

Physically He was with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

During an era when nations worshipped multiple gods the Hebrew Shema was penned: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6: 4). Historically Jews have repeated it together in the synagogues. The Hebrew word “echad” translated “one” refers to a compound unit. It reveals a plurality, more than one. It is used instead of another Hebrew word, “yacheed” which speaks of a single unit. 

Echad, meaning one compound unit, is used rather than “yacheed,” A compound unit, (echad) for example, might speak of one compound unit of gum (stick) in one yacheed pack. One pack having five units, five in one. 

The first name for God in the Bible is the one use here, “Elohim.” Though grammatically plural it is used as though singular. This is the case in Genesis 1: 26 also, “Then God (Elohim) said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to our likeness….:’” Elohim, translated here “us” and “Our” is plural. This reveals the Tri-Unity, God as one.

I Am a Possibility

In l975, a delightful little book came out entitled, “The Christian Looks at Himself.”  The author, Anthony Hoekema, tells of a young man, who in his fight against inferiority, put a banner on his wall reading: “I’m me and I’m good, ‘cause God don’t make no junk.”

Jesus loved everybody.  His love cut across races and ages. He loved the sick, the prostitute, the thief, the religious bigot, the leper, the poor, the hungry, the rich and society’s outcasts.  He accepted those the world rejected.  He accepts you also.  As a child you may have been rejected by a parent, you may have been an outcast in your social order, or you may have been spurned by your peers, 

B-U-T Jesus loves you. That should do something for your self-image.

He came to serve and to save (Mark 10:45).

Your worth should be based on what you are worth to God, and that is a remarkably great deal because Jesus died for you.

Christian psychologist, Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr., describes our need in this manner: “The basic personal need of each person is to regard himself as a worthwhile human being.”

Knowing that not all of us will win an Olympic gold medal or have our name entered in the “Guinness Book of World Records,” how can we be enabled to feel fulfilled?

Sculpture these three concepts on a granite wall in the corridors of your memory:

One, it is not important that you be the best at anything, but that you be your best at everything.

Two, avoid comparisons. You can always find someone you are better than and get an ego buzz. You will always find someone better than you and that leads to depression.

Three, God does not call on us to be successful, only faithful.

If our happiness hinges on “doing,” we will inevitably be miserable. Biblically, it is contingent on “being.” It is found in being all that God wants you to be. These are internal traits.

The only standard against which you should be measured is the “you” God made you to be.

Christ said He came that we might have abundant life (John l0:l0). The secret to that abundant life is not your ability, but your response to God’s ability.

Resolve: “God, I want to be all you want me to be. I want to become all you saved me to become.”

Your self-worth is closely tied to your awareness of your worth to God.

If God will accept us,  if in His sight we are of infinite worth, surely, we can accept ourselves. God made you and God don’t make no junk.

God rejoices when we accept His acceptance. Then we can accept ourselves.

A Worthy Example

A call to follow Jesus need not evoke fear of the loss of possessions. Even they are a gift of God and have a proper use. The thrill and blessing of being an obedient follower of Jesus is more gratifying and fulfilling than any amount of things. Surely, there are challenges and complexities along the way, but there are even great and more gratifying rewards in being His example of a changed life.

Sir Francis Drake and his daring crew were the first to sail through waters that now bear his name, the Drake Pass. In later years Drake’s sailors would sit on the rocks off the coast of England and tell stories of their sea adventures to young boys. The sailors didn’t talk of the pleasures of the sea, but of the perils and dangers. They talked about raging winds, stout waves and the gallant ships riding out the storms. Many of the boys were so challenged and inspired by their accounts they even ran away from home to be seamen.

Jesus’ call to discipleship isn’t simply a summons to a life of comfort and ease, but to a lifestyle of risk and challenge.

A call to discipleship is a call to adventure that is rewarding, gratifying, fulfilling, and productive. To follow Jesus as a disciple is to ride the high seas in high adventure. Jesus never hides the scars. They challenge others.

Be willing to take up your new identity as a follower of Christ. Others need your example.

Mahatma Gandhi had a strong interest in Jesus. A friend asked him, “If you are so intrigued with Jesus Christ, why don’t you become a Christian?”

He replied, “When I meet a Christian who is a true follower of Christ, I might consider it.”

If Gandhi had met you would he have become a follower of Christ?  Take up your identity as a follower of Christ.

A youth from China came to America desiring an education and in search of greater exposure to Christianity. He had been motivated by missionaries in his home country. After observing Christian students his curiosity turned to disillusionment, and his heart and mind turned from Christianity to Marxism. He became  known as Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Communist ruler of China.

He was looking for persons who had taken up their identity as followers of Jesus. If he had encountered you would he have become a follower of Christ to lead China into Christianity instead of Communism? Persons are attracted to Jesus by His followers to whom He is the central focus in their lives.

For the early disciples who heard the primal call of Jesus to “follow me,” the issue was clear: He would be the central focus of their lives?

When for us as for them, Jesus becomes the central focus of life, He alone becomes the defining influence in life.

“What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16: 26)