Processing Life

May 15th, 2018

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26 ESV)

The Christian life should be one of a continual realization of heavenly realities. As I examine this passage above, here are the truths I see.

The Personal Savior on Earth

The psalmist said to God, “I am continually with you,” meaning you are continually with me. He described his life with God as one where God held his right hand – his favored and strong hand – and guided him with His counsel. He lived constantly in the reality of God, enjoying presence, fellowship, relationship, and guidance with God.

The Christian life is one lived in the reality of the Son of God. Paul said, “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). God reveals Himself to us in the “face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), meaning that beyond the stories of Jesus, beyond the principles of God’s characteristics, beyond such things as holiness, justice, and mercy, is the personal Christ.

Someone may object that the psalm was written before Christ came, but the New Testament tells us that all of the images and experiences of the Old Testament depicted Christ, “For they drank from that spiritual rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Granted the psalmist had never seen Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh, but during the Old Testament times the Holy Spirit conveyed to their imaginations personal images that represented God. He was their Shepherd, their Father, and their King, that conveyed personality.

We walk with Christ in this life. The Christian life is primarily this reality. No matter how far we excel in life, in knowledge, in devotion, in success, or no matter how far we fail in this life, the Lord is our personal God. He is the One who walks with us and talks with us and encourages us. Oh, we need to be grounded in His word, otherwise we might imagine He is saying all kinds of things to us that He has not said. But still the personal reality of God is to be a constant experience of the Christian.

Is Christ your personal Savior and Lord today? Spend time talking with Him and listening to Him speak to you through His Word.

The Personal Savior in Heaven

The psalmist said of God, “And afterward you will receive me into glory.” God is the only one he had in heaven that really mattered, mattered in an eternal sense. “Whom have I in heaven but you?” he asks. No doubt we will be glad to see Christian loved ones and friends there. We will have our homecomings and re-acquaintances, but all of these are of secondary concerns. The main this is that our God is there and we are with Him!

The center of heaven is God the Son. In chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, John is transported to heaven and at first he sees someone on the eternal throne but that figure is personless and “had the appearance of jasper and carnelian” (Rev. 4:3), a deep green and a deep red precious stone, that depict the mercy and holiness of God. Around the throne was an emerald rainbow that symbolized mercy and grace (see Gen. 9:12-16). Since the rainbow completely encircled the throne, it depicted God’s mercy completely encircling His holiness. Chapter four ends with God being praised: “For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

Yet as profound as these thoughts are, the one on the throne has no face – only His attributes of knowledge, will, intention, purpose, holiness and mercy are revealed. Then in chapter 5, suddenly the scene changes as a Lamb appears, looking “as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). There is no question but this is the Lord Jesus glorified in heaven.

And as we come to the end of the book, in the visions of the New Jerusalem, John wrote about heaven: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face…” (Rev. 22:3-4). We shall not see three “gods” but the face of our Savior in the one God. Heaven will be about our personal Savior and Lord – it shall be there as it ought to be here.

How We Should Live Today

And the psalmist comes full circle back to us on earth. What difference should this knowledge of the personal Savior make in our lives today? First, in blessing us with a holy sense of anticipation, this also taints everything that is mere earthly as inferior. It is all temporary and passing. No matter how stylish something may appear, in a short time it will be outmoded and old fashioned.  There is nothing that we ought to desire on earth more than the privilege of knowing God and walking with Him in fellowship. If you are dissatisfied with things on earth, then good. We should be dissatisfied with them.

Second, the psalmist reminds us that the heart and body will eventually fail. Everyone of our lives is fleeting and passing, our hour of death is coming and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. The best we can do is to postpone it a while, but we cannot change the ultimate outcome. But God can, and He gives true spiritual and eternal life. He promises a new body and a new heart and life.

Third, God is our strength today. We live in the constant hope and positive faith that we shall see our Redeemer face to face one day. And we live in the constant strength of God. These truths do not merely put our minds on those things of the future, they are not mere distractions from life here, like some fairy tale that makes us forget our problems for a bit. God is our life today, and He shows Himself strong.

He give us forgiveness, purpose, victory, joy, meaning, peace, acceptance, salvation, and love. He gives us all these things because He gives us Himself.

Heaven, Psalms

Incorrect Thinking

May 10th, 2018

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established. (Proverbs 24:3)

Correct Christian teaching begins in the mind of God, it is transferred to earth through the Bible, it is affirmed by God’s Spirit, and it is believed on and acted on by believers. The best Christian teachings are simple, practical, and are proved by common Christians who have simple faith. The job of the preacher and teacher is to make these things plain and simple – not to complicate them. So the real test of all true theology is not whether some theologian in some university thinks it is right, but whether the average Christian can understand it, believe it, and act upon it.

Yet there are some matters that average Christians get confused about. In many things that are commonly said among Christians there is a significant amount of plain old paganism, and they are not founded upon the word of God. For examples:

  • When a child dies some say things like “God needed him in heaven more than we needed him here.” Where does such a teaching appear in the Scripture? Or, someone says, “The child died because the mother loved him too much.” Nonesense.
  • On Facebook someone will ask people to pray for some need, thinking that if we have thousands of people praying then God will be more likely to grant the request. This smacks of the old pagan belief that God is distant and uncaring, and rather uninformed. We need to wear him down or get him on our side through our petitions. The more petitions the more likely it is that God will answer. Again, where does the Bible teach this? Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:19). And we read in James: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). The Biblical emphasis is upon praying according to the will of God, having a righteous life, and agreement only among a few. If you want an answer to your prayer, it is much better to have two or three faithful and deep Christian friends to pray with, people who can discern the mind of God and who believe Him, than having 10,000 on Facebook who press the “like” button.
  • Someone says, “You don’t need to make requests in prayer. All you need to do is just praise God,” or “All we need to do is to just let go and let God.” This type of mindless or thoughtless Christianity is an attempt to justify plain laziness and irresponsibility. The word “pray” means to make requests, and Christ taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And, sadly, we can go on and on with many more examples. This is why it is important to be responsible and biblical in our faith. It is through wisdom that a house is built, not through guess work or just hoping that something might work out in its construction. And it is through biblical knowledge and biblical teachings that our lives are built, not through irresponsible statements that come from someone’s imagination.

The Bible says we are to examine ideas to prove that they are from God. We are also to examine people to see if they are true disciples:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. (1 Tim. 3:10)

Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. (1 Thes. 5:20-22)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:2)

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. (1 Cor. 11:28)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)

So the Biblical emphasis is on knowing the truth and testing other things we hear, those who wish to serve, and especially our own souls against the standard of God’s Word and His Spirit’s voice.

Remember the teaching of Paul about building upon the foundation of Christ:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. (1 Cor. 3:11-13)

He continued in the next chapter of 1 Corinthians to describe himself as a steward of the mysteries of God, placing his emphasis on the biblical teaching as the standard by which to evaluate his ministry (1 Cor. 4:1).

Wrong Silly Things that Christians Sometimes Say