Archive for June, 2023

Remember Your First Love

Revelation 2: 1 – 5 

Perhaps Satan’s most insidious tool is masked behind the façade of success. When he cannot deceive us, divide us, or daunt us, what he will often do is divert us. He allows us to be successful when we get our eyes off Jesus and on other items or objects. He gets us away from our first love, the love we had first, and foremost. He uses good things to get our eyes off the one truly good thing, Jesus.

Jesus loves you. Do you love Him more today than at any time in your life?

If you have never trusted Him as your Savior, today is a matchless time to turn in trust and thrust yourself dependently upon Him with reliance for His grace in time and for eternity.

If you are a Christian and you cannot honestly say you are closer to Him than ever in your life, you have backslidden. Today is a marvelous time to return and renew your devotion.

Do you remember when the very citizenship of your soul changed kingdoms?  Remember the pure, almost sacred, feelings you had when you came to Jesus?  The paradise of first love is a germ that needs to be cultured and allowed to grow. The emotion may fade, but the relationship can and must grow in intimacy. Our emotions, that is our feelings change, as they must, but the confident relationship must grow.

As we grow spiritually, feelings may change, but facts don’t.

Sentiment must be stabilized by study.

Ecstasy must be embraced by experience.

Passion must be predicated on principles.

Persons don’t take giant steps away from Jesus. Their devotion most often deteriorates imperceptibly.  A flower dies so slowly that from moment to moment the decaying process is not noticeable. However, after a few days the difference is distinct.

Forgetfulness of our first love usually begins with a few slight indulgences that you formerly would not have tolerated. A casual brief venture into enemy territory may result in alienation from your first love. This often happens because of attraction by good things that absorbs our devotion more than our involvement in Him. Sometimes it is an evil thing. Often it is a good thing given gradual devotion. It might even be a thing as good as Bible study. It may be form rather than faith in worship.

If your zeal has waned or even if you are in fellowship sing to yourself:

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me. See on the portals He’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me. Come home, come home, yea who are weary come home, come home. Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, calling oh sinner come home.”

Give Virtue a Voice

We need the same holy boldness Peter and John of which it was said, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

The disciples had gotten in bad trouble and then prayed. They did not pray for protection or revenge. They prayed for the thing that got them in trouble, boldness. Their boldness caused them great grief. But it changed their culture and transformed lives. If asked was it worth it their response based on their bravado would be a resound “Yes.”

Our culture is seeing a flood tide of immorality and cultural deterioration. Most of the phases of American life have a voice or voices that paid the price resulting from challenging the harbingers of debilitating moral change.

The reason for such boldness was a rock solid faith in the Lord and a selfless commitment to Him.

As you quibble and waiver in renewing your allegiance to our Lord, may you become as resolute in expressing your devotion as Samuel Rutherford, the Scotch Covenanter who was imprisoned in Aberdeen for his faithfulness to his Lord. He expressed his devotion in this manner: “O my Lord, if there were a broad hell betwixt me and Thee, if I could not get at Thee except by wading through it, I would not think twice, but I would plunge through it all, if I might embrace Thee and call Thee mine.”  That is love such as our Lord deserves.

Few, perhaps none reading this, are likely to be a social media voice appealing for moral issues. However, all will daily engage in conversation when the voice can be raised. In doing so on occasion you might be body slammed and you not carry the day. However, a voice will have cried out in the wilderness and a seed thought planted.

When multiple small voices are simultaneously raised, the chorus is sure to be heard. What if all the lambs roared at once rather than seeking the shelter of silence. Instead, ““Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Do Babies Go to Heaven?

Do babies who die before they have the capacity to make rational decisions go to heaven? 

Every person is born with two natures: the old sin nature, one is often called the Adamic nature, or the fallen nature. As they grow and reach what is called the age of accountability they are responsible for their personal sins. This is the point at which they have the ability of discernment, the capacity to reason and make logical choices. Some religious groups set the age at 10 and others 12. However, that age varies from person to person depending on their pattern of growth.  At the point of reasoning they are accountable for their personal sins.

Scripture records that people are judged on the basis of sins committed voluntary and consciously in the body (see 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 6:9–10; Rev. 20:11–12). In other words, eternal judgment is always based on conscious rejection of divine revelation and willful disobedience. Infants are not capable of either. There is no explicit account in Scripture of any other judgment based on any other grounds. Infants do not come under these conditions and hence are unaccountable.

Before an infant reaches the age of accountability they don’t know good or evil and hence lack the capacity to make morally informed—and thus responsible—choices. According to Deuteronomy 1:39 they are said to “have no knowledge of good or evil.”

This same principle relates to those who live beyond infancy but, because of mental disability or some other handicap, are incapable of moral discernment, deliberation, or volition.

Jesus was born of the virgin, thus He had no old sin nature. He lived a sinless life and was free of personal sin. When He died on Calvary He saved us from all sins, those of our old sin nature and the repentant of all personal sins.

Thus, He died for the infants old sin nature. At that stage the infant has no personal sin. Not being accountable for either the old sin nature and having no personal sin for which they are accountable, the child is free of sin and goes to heaven.

Critics who question Jesus’ virgin birth and say it is irrelevant overlook this vital factor. On the basis of the virgin birth rests the eternal destiny of the baby. It is worth noting that includes those aborted also.

An aside question relates to how old will babies be in heaven, and not only they, but all people. Eternity is a timeless sphere and hence all heavenly bodies will be ageless. Our new body will indeed be new chronologically and in composition. That is just one of the many miracles we are unequipped to fully answer.

Self-Control: Do You Have It? Part Four

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2: 5 – 8

The striking definitive nature of Jesus is summed up as: He “… emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Understanding the nature of Jesus is difficult. He was as much God as though He was not a man, and He was as much man as though He were not God. He was the God/man, the man/God.

Scripture relating to Him “emptying Himself “means He never used His divine nature for His personal welfare, but He did use it for others. So, when Jesus was confronted by the devil in the wilderness of temptation He did not call on His divine nature to respond, but His human nature. Thus, He became a peerless example of self-control. He was tempted even as we are. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4: 15) Consider the three temptations.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’”

This was a temptation regarding provisions. We don’t like deprivation. Our inclination regarding things challenges our self-control.

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘Throw yourself down.’”

This was a temptation regarding protection.

‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.’” This was a temptation regarding possessions.

(These three tests are based on Matthew 10: 1 – 11).

Each test has a strong appeal on all persons. Each represents a good thing which the devil tempted Jesus to use in an improper way at an inappropriate time.

Some of the devil’s most clever tactics are not the use of a bad thing, but the use of a good thing in a bad way. Under those conditions self-control is most genuinely threatened. 

Jesus put each temptation in the proper context by the proper use of Scripture. In each instance He interpreted the appeal in light of the teaching of Scripture.

This necessitated Him being prepared for the allurement by knowing the Scripture and how to apply it.

The Lord offers three gifts as an antitoxin to the wrong response to good things: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (II Timothy 1:7)

Bronze them and put them on the mantle of your mind: power, love, and a sound mind.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Self-Control: Do You Have It? Part Three

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22

You can’t read the gospels without knowing Jesus lived with a spirit of joy and humor and warmth in whose presence other people genuinely enjoyed. Humor of the day, satire, and irony overflowed the cusp of the teaching of Jesus. His vision of God’s kingdom effervesces with joy. Spirit guided self-control enables the faithful to enjoy these attributes. Jesus wasn’t a kill-joy and neither are His teachings.

In His teaching there is enough wholesome fun to go around without stepping over the line into the border of impropriety. That is when joy goes out of the balloon of life. Only one personal attribute guards the border wall, and that is self-control. It is enabled when the Holy Spirit is allowed to pick its succulent fruit. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, an enabling grace who stands on guard in the life of the faithful.

Abuse of the good gifts that God provides leads to diminished self-control, but life in the Spirit frees the Christian to enjoy genuine joy, peace, contentment, and freedom.

We can overcome temptation if we avoid the road of compromise and choose the road of integrity. No one is perfect. We resolve to “try harder,” yet our self-effort always falls short.

How can self-control become our “new normal”? As we depend on God’s grace, we are enabled to live within the boundaries He has established, motivated not by rules, but by our love for Him.

Take this test of self-control, do you have it?

Can I be alone with an appealing member of the opposite sex and not want to be inordinately expressive sexually?
Can I control my indulgent inclinations?
Can I control my passion?
Can I control my strengths and my weaknesses? 
Can I control my propensity toward improper self-gratification?
Can I control my lethargy?
Can I control my appetite at a sumptuous meal?
Can I control my sweet tooth, my soft spot, and my big eyes?
Can I control the embellishment of my deeds?

Self-control can become your new normal regardless of your efforts to try harder have failed to exercise self-control.

Only by depending on God’s grace, we are enabled to live within the boundaries He has established. It is love for the Lord resulting in obedient dependence on Him that enables us to exercise self control, not by a bunch of does and don’ts. We are not motivated by rules, but by our love for our Ruler. It is divine inspiration that results in self-control, not our impulses, or instincts. These last two are often the battering ram to tear down our resistance leading to the loss of self-control.

Always pick the fruit of the Spirit and enjoy its companions: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness. After all, Jesus embodied  those traits and you can enjoy them.