My Way….or the High(er) Way?

Proverbs 14:14 (ESV) The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.

Ezekiel 36:31-32 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations,
It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

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Contemplation of the day. Please exercise discretion if you choose to read my thoughts.

So.
When God rescued Israel from subjection to Egyptian slave masters, the people quickly (and repeatedly) began to find fault with their new circumstances.
Many revealed a heart that would have willingly returned to their former state of servitude as they pined for the perks (appealing meals, a house to return to each day, relative security regarding what hazards to expect, etc…).

They were truly freed from oppression in Egypt, yet had developed a strong internal attraction to the few comforts that sustained their miserable physical existence.

Likewise, we have been given the gift of freedom from bondage to sin, yet also can complain or even openly rebel when faced with the difficulty of relocation to God’s promised place of peace.

In response, God sometimes gives us exactly what we demand. Exodus 16 offers an interesting narrative as God sent both a familiar form of sustenance (quail) and a completely “supernatural” one (manna, which came with specific instructions) to the grumblers.

Personally, I see this as illustrative of the choice we are called to make to be nourished by either earthly “food” (which our sin-nature craves) vs God-blessed spiritual enrichment (through faith in Christ Jesus).

It is important to read Numbers 11 (ESP v 13, 18-21 and 31-34) to get a better idea of what happened specifically with the quail. It was NOT good.
The people gorged themselves and literally got sick from indulging their own unbelief-based desires.

(Oh. The song is obnoxiously loud and repetitive. I included it because I think it helps emphasize the point scripture makes regarding how foolish and damaging it is to stubbornly insist on opposing God. The question echoes loudly: Are you finally “fed up” with the results you’ve gotten for yourself?)

 

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Thoughts on Christian Culture 2: The Lawless Ones

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Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, Paul’s 1 Timothy 1:8 statement about “lawful use of the Law” is rather intriguing in light of current disagreement over what is the proper place of the OT legal code in Christianity.

Of course, when the immediate view is expanded to include v 9-10, it becomes apparent that Paul said the Law was given not for the just, but for the lawless, disobedient, ungodly, sinners, etc… In other words, these rules were intended (at least in part) to bring order to an unregenerate society that would surely destroy itself without them.

Me: The Law highlights the fact that human beings are sinners who tend to do things that are contrary to God’s nature. We need outside help because our natural, internal moral compass doesn’t work so well.


This also brought to mind Jesus’ Matthew 7:21-23 declaration that there would be many who one day would come to Him with both recognition of accountability and lists of things they believe should gain them sure reward and welcome into His presence.

Only…it doesn’t work. And He said He will dismiss them with what I believe is the most terrifying sentence in all of scripture; “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Workers of lawlessness. But good deeds done in His name don’t count?

This gets more interesting when we consider that Jesus’ audience included Jewish religious teachers who adamantly claimed to love GOD, to honor the Mosaic Law, and  had a thing for making even more rules to ensure that they looked extra good.

These people had Guidelines. Structure. Order. Religiously enforced. And they had penalties for breaking prescribed ordinances.

They were Law Keepers….right?

Wrong.

They were the false prophets, wolves and diseased trees that Jesus spoke against in Matthew 7:15-20.

Why?

Because the Mosaic code also told of a Chosen One who would come and fulfill their beloved Law in order to lift the curse attached to our inability to personally attain the perfection that is necessary to safely enter God’s presence.

They rejected their designated Law Keeper who is to be welcomed by faith in God’s goodness toward us (Matthew 5:17; John 4:39-40; Romans 3:20-26). And they led others away from the Truth, as well.

They were then warned by God Himself to repent of this stubbornly destructive, imagined sense of personal goodness. It is a very harsh-sounding reprimand, but I do believe it was actually done out of love for these people.

Me: To “keep” God’s law is not to simply follow a prescribed method of scripturally-founded ethical improvement. Neither does it involve the diligent consultation of a mutually agreed-upon set of church by-laws, for that matter. If a professing Christian is relying heavily on such things, then it is entirely possible there is still a need to attend the business of repenting of a rebellious, self-indulgent, God hating attitude. 

To keep the Law is to gratefully honor the One who embodies the Spirit of the Law, has freed us from the consequences of our sin, and who now teaches us what it means to love God and others from a renewed heart, the way the Law originally outlined.

Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29 ESV)

As this is the result of my own study, I highly recommend that readers check my references and consider my words in light of the overall message of scripture before accepting or rejecting my conclusion. Thank you.

Thoughts on Christian Culture 1: Gospel Saturation or Moral Paganism?

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Image courtesy smarnad @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Gospel message (including the books of Acts, Hebrews and the first several chapters of Romans) is for the entire world (Mark 16:15)
The NT Epistles are written instruction to members of the early Church. From them, we may continue to glean godly insight and wise instruction as we await Christ’s return.

~Everyone, regardless of how long they have claimed the label “Christian”, can benefit from hearing the true Word of salvation. (Revelation 14:6-7)

~It is acceptable to help others see their need through “lawful” use of the OT Law (Romans 7, 1 Timothy 1:8) …maybe will come back to this thought, later

~It is acceptable to (respectfully) share with an unbeliever the reason for your faith (1 Peter 3:15-16). Personal experience can be very convincing evidence. The OT narrative offers a record of our tendency to be wrong. Paul provided an explanation of our desperate spiritual need in the early chapters of his letter to the Romans.

~It is acceptable to work out God’s love at a social level to help counteract the injustices of society (Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:5; Romans 13:7-9)

~It is not remotely helpful for Christians to attempt to direct the behavior of the unconverted through external moralization which is based on Christian principles. In fact, Jesus soundly condemned this practice when He spoke “woes” over those who traveled land and sea to make a single convert…only to sink that person even deeper into a state of spiritual lostness (Matthew 23:15).

Hypocrite

I hold an ugly secret
Deep within my heart
Look closely and you’ll see it
As I smugly act my part

Silent condescension
Wrapped in sugared smile
Kind acts belie my motives
I’m first the entire while

Jealousy, impatience
Arrogance and greed
Self-important attitude
Blind to my true need

I employ an unjust measure
Condemned you where you stood
My sin is not that I act bad
But that I think I’m good

Luke 18:11-13 (ESV) The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; give tithes of all that I get.”
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven _but beat his breast, saying “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Proverbs 11:1 (ESV) A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.

Romans 3:23 (ESV) …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God