Archive for March, 2018

Integrity in the Faith

March 21st, 2018

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house… (Psalm 101:1-2 ESV)

David’s psalm describes the source of his integrity and the manner in which it impacted his personal life and his relationships with others.

  • The source of his standard was God’s steadfast love and justice
  • God’s character impacted his personal life in his thoughts and private life
  • He then, as king, acted justly in dealing with others

These three are the basic steps we all need to take if we will be people of integrity.

God’s standard

First, the standard we use must not be our own capricious, flawed thoughts. It should be God’s standard, not our own personal preferences, or what others have told us, or what we may “feel” is the right thing to do at the moment. Some people’s thoughts of what is the right thing to do come from very shallow sources – their own anger and desire for revenge, the impure thoughts of our friends who are influenced by their own hurts and wounds, or the latest movie we might have seen or romance novel we might have read.

God’s standard is pure and holy. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19) “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Psalm 145:17). David longed not only for the knowledge of the Word of God, but also the presence of God’s Spirit to guide him to understand it.

David’s private thoughts

The second essential element of living in integrity is to honor God’s standard, once we know it, in our own private life. He “pondered” on the truth of God, which meant his basic approach was positive – not merely to avoid the impure but to take into his heart and his mind the pure truth and pure ways of God. Within his own house he would walk with integrity before the Lord. The original Hebrew word was tome and it meant wholeness or integrity. When a ship does not leak or a building is solid and securely built we say they have integrity. To lose their integrity means that the ship leaks and will sink, and that the building is structurally unsound and might fall. Integrity is that quality in our life that keeps us solid, sound, and secure.

David went on to say in his psalm: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” (101:3). He protected his own thoughts. This seems like a description of a life that was free from enslavement to pornography, and it certainly included such a thought – that David did not have a wandering eye that lusted after women. (We remember the time that lust did enter his heart with Bathsheba and the tragedy that followed – 2 Samuel 12.)

But from the context we see that his protection of his heart did not end there. He also avoided gossipers, proud and arrogant men, liars and evildoers. Pornography is an evil addition of many people – one that God can cure us of if we will let Him – but it is not the only evil in the world. David realized he was subject to temptation, to be drawn away from God’s will, so he kept his heart with all diligence.

David’s dealing with others

As king he held a judicial role, a divinely given obligation to winnow out evil from his presence. From Moses onward, the leaders of Israel had an obligation to bring justice to the people (Exodus 18:13). Though this psalm focused on removing from his presence and even destroying evil men, this was merely a prelude to the greater goal, and that is to establish justice in the land.

Jesus summed this matter up by saying:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:3-5 ESV)

If we want to help others we must (1) know what God’s standard of right and wrong is, (2) we must adopt this in our own lives, confessing our faults, surrendering to God our ways, blocking from our lives all evil and impure influences, and (3) do and help others to do the right thing.

The biggest error we usually make in this process is to ignore the second step of personally adopting the principles and righteousness of God. We falsely think that all that matter is that we know what is right and tell others to do it. But unless we also embrace it personally, we are mere puppets and not true disciples or true followers of Christ.



Evening Devotionals, Uncategorized

Grace: Called and Chosen

March 20th, 2018

So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matthew 20:16 KJV)

Grace means that the sinner in need of salvation – you and me and all who have ever come to Christ in repentance and faith, in other words – comes not in his own strength but with the calling and enablement of God.

A topic long-debated among theologians is whether or not someone must have some level of personal morality in order to come to Christ – some personal spiritual attainment outside of the conviction and conversion of the Spirit, in order to believe. The question is: Is there a minimal level of moral character that one must measure up to before he is worthy to be saved? The answer from scripture is a clear and resounding no. Those who were converted in scripture did not personally attain some level of spirituality before God called them. God works in mysterious ways to prepare us for our salvation, but, from our perspective, the calling of God through the gospel was the first step of their salvation.

And those who have come to Christ over the Christian centuries likewise made no personal preparation before the gospel came. All of their preparation to believe was achieved and orchestrated by God, so that we can say the Lord saved them. There is always, of course, the matter of the individual’s response to God, of faith and repentance from sin. Preachers and theologians will continue to debate the role of the individual in believing – whether he believes on his own or he is made to believe by God. But it is certainly clear that no one can believe until the gospel comes to him and until the Spirit convicts him. “How can they believe on him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14, see also John 16:8-11)

The last shall be first

Grace means, as the preceding parable shows us, that those who were first – first in hearing the gospel, first in gaining attention, first in having been given responsibilities in the church, first in respect received, first in the sense of having come from a good Christian family – often become last through neglect and spiritual laziness and the lack of personal faith. And the last – those who are the last people we would ever expect to become believers, the last to hear the gospel, the last in terms of our trust in them, the last in terms of godly character – often grow beyond those who seem more likely to be saved, who had many more opportunities to grow and respond to God’s love.

And this also applies to service and position in the church – as the context explains. The parable about the workers in the vineyard was about service, that those who came late in the day received the same payment as those who worked all day. This is also seen in our midst, that some who ought to be teachers have neglected their spiritual life and are not able to serve in that capacity. The author of Hebrews speaks to this reality when he chides the recipients of his letter: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).

Called but not chosen

The second part of the Matthew 20:16, the text above, however is more difficult to understand. What did Christ mean when He said, “Many are called but few are chosen.” In the context of the verse, it would appear that it means something very close to the first part. All are called to salvation, but not all are chosen for special service. All who are called to salvation are also called to service (1 Cor. 12:7), but not all are chosen as an apostle, an evangelist, a prophet, or as a pastor-teacher (Eph. 4:7-11) – this is God’s choice. While every one who serves in any capacity in the church should have some level of maturity – “not a novice” or not a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6) – anyone who is chosen by God for service can, within a few years of study and training, be able to serve effectively.

A minor but important point is to remember the realities of translations. Jesus taught in Aramaic – the common language of the people of Israel in His day. The New Testament, however, including the gospels, was written in Koine Greek. Jesus used the word “chosen” but Paul used the word “gave” (Eph, 4:11) to describe the same thing – a special setting apart for ministry. And the prophets, writing in Hebrew, used the phrase “the word of the Lord came to me,” but in the apostles’ experiences, with the inspired authors writing in Greek, it is said that Christ “called” the disciples (Mark 1:20). We Bible-believing Christians have for centuries chosen to talk about the “calling of God” into special service, or into the gospel ministry, and that is based on the way the New Testament treats the matter.

Albert Barnes wrote that the words of Jesus should be taken as this:

Many are called into my kingdom; they come and labor as I command them; many of them are comparatively unknown and obscure; yet they are real Christians, and shall all receive the proper reward. A few I have chosen for higher stations in the church. I have endowed them with apostolic gifts or with superior talents, and suited them for wider usefulness. They may not be as long in the vineyard as others; their race may be sooner run; but I have chosen to honor them in this manner, and I have a right to do it.

And a general principle is laid down also, I believe, one dealing with salvation as well as service. Grace means that God will, when it best suits His purposes, save and call the ones who to us seem the least likely to believe and to serve Him. There is a strong element of mystery here, and I believe Christ intended the mystery to remain. The important response on our hearts is to be with Christ, to draw near to Him in prayer, in study, in devotion, and in daily thought. Christ chose surprising people to serve Him and the church should expect this to continue to happen through the Church Age. God can use all, but He chooses to use people you and I would not expect in surprisingly powerful ways. It was said of the early apostles:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 ESV)

Daily Devotions