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Archive for April, 2009

Overcoming Neglect

April 30th, 2009

…How will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Hebrews 2:3

 

Overcoming neglect is urgently needed in today’s world. In a grace-based and Spirit-empowered faith we easily slip into a subtle heresy, into a way of thinking that leaves out human responsibility of choice and action. “We are saved by grace,” we believe, “Not by works!” Amen. This is true. “We are sustained by the Spirit,” we say, “Not by our own determination!”  Amen, as well. True, as well. Yet if we take these positions to mean that we have no obligation to choose to believe, to surrender to the call, to follow Christ, to receive the gift of eternal life, and to trust and obey, we have entered into the realm of falsehood and lies. The biblical doctrines of grace and the Spirit’s work give us reasons to believe and urge us to trust and follow.

 

Neglect is seen in all areas of life. A student neglects his studies only to later regret when he sees his applications for higher learning rejected. A businessman neglects important details will likely see the competition surpass him in sales. A man who has neglected his health in his youth regrets in later years his physical condition when he sees his life span shortened and his aches and pains increased. But all of these pale in comparison to neglect in the realm of truth and faith, to the higher realms of life and existence: the person who neglects to take seriously the call of God to believe in Christ and to follow Him.

 

Jesus asked the disciples, when the crowds were forsaking Him, if they also would leave. Great and troubled Peter responded from his heart, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). For all of Peter’s weaknesses, in spite of his oft-troubled-spirit, Peter was a man of decisive action and leaves for us the example of one who rejected the spirit of neglect and acted in faith and in obedience to Christ. If sometimes he spoke unwisely, such as on the mount of transfiguration, he did speak, he did move, he did choose, and he left a legacy of faithful obedience.

 

The secret to overcoming neglect is to decide and to act, to do today what is urgent and right. Neglect says, Don’t answer the door right away when Christ calls. Sit a while longer, it will be okay. To put off and try to ignore the urgings fo God is the broad way that leads to destruction, the convenient path of life that leads to death. The Christian, however, who lives in neglect of spiritual matters will likewise migrate outwardly toward the broad way that leads to destruction; though his own life be saved he will have the stench of death about him. Often people wait for the perfect opportunity to come, but in an imperfect world perfect opportunities do not exist. Neglect has become a Satanic stronghold in many lives that needs to be renounced and torn down. Grace calls us to believe and to follow. The Spirit’s work urges us to open up our hearts for His work within and to choose and follow Christ.

 

The great pastor and evangelist George W. Truett, told a story from his own youth, that just weeks after deciding for Christ himself, he asked a friend named Jim in a church meeting if he would go forward during the invitation and accept Christ. Jim said to him, “Let me off tonight, George. If I feel like this tomorrow night I will go, but not tonight.”  No urging could dissuade him, but the next night Jim was not there. Several days passed and the young Truett went to Jim’s house only to find he had become stricken with pneumonia and lay dying. The evening the young Jim died, Truett sat with the family and doctor tending him, hoping for another chance to encourage him to not neglect the truth. As Jim stirred restlessly moments before his death he opened his eyes in semi-delirium and said again the same words, “Let me off tonight, George. If I feel like this tomorrow night I will go, but not tonight.”

 

The time for receiving Christ is now. The time for following and obeying Christ is likewise now. Overcoming neglect means that we realize this truth and that we avoid every excuse for inaction and delays. Today realize the miracle of God’s shining His light into your heart and choose to follow Him. Put off neglect dirty clothes of neglect with their stench of death. Put on the new clothes of life in the Spirit with their fragrance of life.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, stress upon our hearts the urgency of spiritual matters. Let us see that life on this earth is quickly passing and opportunities for growth and to be a blessing to others are also passing us by. Destroy the stronghold of neglect of spiritual things. Lead us to faith and action, toshare the gospel with our neighbor and colleague, to pick up our Bible and study, to write the letter of apology, to get on our knees and pray, to join the fellowship of the church, to follow Your leadership in Christian service, or whatever other ways You are leading us to follow You. Amen

 

 

Evening Devotionals

Overcoming Fear

April 29th, 2009

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment.

1 John 4:18

 

Overcoming fear is not accomplished merely by determining not to be afraid. If that is all we do then fear will, like an unstoppable force of water, eventually find its way around the dam of our determination. Little leaks will inevitably begin to form and we may erupt in anger, or show irritation, impatience, and anxiety, all because we have not dealt with fear God’s way.

 

God’s remedy is love, meaning that we realize His love for us and we love Him in return. Loving God means to be confident in His good intentions toward us, to be sure that if God is for us the opposition really does not matter. To the degree that this love within us and that flows through us back to God is perfected or developed, we will be fearless. Many of us had earthly fathers who evoked some fear, a sort of dread worry that he would turn on us, even when we did not know what we had done, and we can even imagine that the fatherhood of God is like that. But God is the good father who gives good gifts to His children.

 

Real faith believes that about God, that for the one who has turned from himself to faith in Christ, who has God as His Father and Christ as His Savior, there is no reason to fear. No situation on earth can arise that God is not capable of handling or unable to guide us through. His resources are limitless and His heart is turned entirely toward us in sympathy. He knows our weaknesses and is prepared to strengthen us. He knows our sins and is prepared to forgive us. He knows our hearts and is prepared to love us. All it takes is that little bit of faith from us, as small as a mustard seed, but by God’s grace large enough to open the door of God’s love and strength.

 

When fear comes calling, as it inevitably will, then trust in Christ’s love and seek to love Christ in return. Certainly painful events will come to all of us; in a world that rejected our Lord we can expect nothing less. The enemy’s attack will be centered upon our hearts to cause us to doubt God’s love. Shakespeare wrote, “The coward dies a thousand deaths,” and that will be the experience of all who are not deepened in the love of God. A man I once knew was consumed with fear of cancer, and it was as though he lived through the pain of having cancer every day, though so far as I knew he was never physically sick. He had lost the battle for the mind through letting this fear consume him and avoided surrendering to the love of God, in spite of the fact that he was in church often. It could have been so easy for him to let go of these things, and simply cling onto the love of God, but instead he fought it every day in his own strength and lost every day.

 

Loving God is the simple response of the heart to Christ’s love. Christ loves the world but not in a vague general way, rather in a specific and personal manner. He loves you. And you can love Him in return. Love is merely the acceptance of His love for you and responding in gratitude to Him. Avoid getting hung up by the examples of faithless earthly father figures. Instead think of the best fathers you have known, and multiply their character by infinity and there you have the Heavenly Father. Trust in Him and let His compassion thaw your heart frozen with fear and melt whatever threatens you.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, let us love You more than fear the challenges of life. Amen.

 

 

Evening Devotionals