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Archive for September, 2015

God Is Enough

September 30th, 2015

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:7-9

It is remarkable to consider how much dissatisfaction is in the world, even in our own hearts. If we have a nice house, we want a nicer one. If we have a fine car, we want a finer one. If we have a good salary, we want a larger one. There is nothing wrong with the ambition to do our best, if it is surrendered to God, if we set our hearts first on pleasing Him and being satisfied in Him, if we simply seek to become better in our field of expertise, if we seek to provide for our loved ones, to use our resources to bless others and do the work of God.

But if ambition is born of selfishness and greed, if it comes from jealousy of what others have, if it rises from lust or pride, and if it is based in a lack of faith toward God, then it opens up our hearts to numerous evils. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10). “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).

The inspired text from Proverbs 30 expresses two things to avoid in life. First is poverty. Many people in the world live in abject poverty, and to be subjected to a life in which you are not sure where your next meal would come from, where your basic needs are not met, would tempt someone to anger and cursing of God. Poverty in the world is a shameful problem that we should work to eradicate. Christ said that we will always have the poor with us, so this problem will not be completely resolved until Christ returns. Psalm 72:7-14 describes a future reign of the Messiah in which there is abundant prosperity on earth – I believe it is a reference to the Millennial Reign of Christ – but until Christ does return believers should be concerned with helping the poor.”Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

The second, however, is great riches, and this surprises us for all people would love to be fabulously wealthy. Yet there is a danger inherent in wealth and power, that we might think of ourselves as superior over our fellow humans, or even forget our God altogether. It is better to be wise than foolish, but there is a danger with wisdom also. “But knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). It is better to have money than to have none, but there also comes a danger along with it. Pride is a grievous moral offense to God and He “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Solomon asked, “What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3) He continues to lament the things he had searched after in his life – wisdom, pleasure, accomplishments, wealth – and he sees them all as meaningless. His conclusion is: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Eccl. 12:13).

So you and I are very likely living the best kind of life right now in terms of material possessions and life on this earth. If we had enough to eat yesterday, if we went to bed sated, if we have our health and our friends, if we have the opportunities to advance, if we can fulfill our obligations, if we have the respect of our peers and the love of our family, especially if we have the grace of God in Christ Jesus, then we have enough. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).

Banish envy of others from your heart and thank God for His provisions!

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God’s Patience at an End

September 29th, 2015

Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

Proverbs 29:1

The inspired author has laid down a principle in this passage: rebukes, patience, chastisements, disciplines, punishments, and the like all have a goal – the change of someone’s heart. Whoever stubbornly ignores the rebukes he receives will eventually find that the people dealing with him are out of patience. It comes to him “suddenly” – or so it seems – although the matter has been going on for some time.

This factor in human society exists because it also exists in the mind and heart of God. God’s patience is long – longer than the patience of any human – but it is not without its end. There comes a time in God’s dealing with us that we can sin away our day of grace. It is possible that we can so stubbornly resist the Word of God, the urgings of the Spirit, the pleadings of our Christian friends, and even the discipline that comes through circumstances, even to the point that God closes the doors that He has opened for us.

I would not say that someone may lose their salvation – our salvation is resolved eternally in Christ once we receive Christ – but there does come judgments of physical deaths that God places against His own people. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-31, we read:

For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.

The phrase “fallen asleep” refers to the death of a Christian, so we have here a judgment that God placed against believers who have disregarded the message of God and disgraced the Lord’s Supper. We presume that there were many rebukes given them which they stubbornly rejected, so God acted to remove them from earth – not to send them to hell but to take them to heaven before their natural time.

But we may apply this principle to many things – that God urges us first by His Word and His Spirit, then if we ignore them, He sends unpleasant circumstances, or key individuals who bear a stronger witness, surprising circumstances to bring the matter repeatedly to our attention. And He does this so that we will repent, humble ourselves and turn from the sin that has captivated our hearts and return to Him and to Him only. There are many lesser doors God closes to opportunities of service before God closes the door to earthly life. These things may feel to suddenly come upon us, but God has been working on us for a long time, only we have ignored Him.

What is to be our response to these rebukes? We should remain humble and seek to let the Lord lead us to confess our sin and forsake it. We should return to Him and cling to Him in intimacy and in faith and devotion. The Christian with the richest faith judges no one but himself, remains teachable, tender, soft toward God, always ready to be taught, always ready to be led, always ready to learn and to grow.

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