Friday, April 27, 2018

April 27: Judges 7:2; Psalm 98:1; Luke 23:42-43; Jesus Saves – Not Us

The Lord said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.’”
(Judges 7:2)

The Lord said it in the Old Testament and demonstrated in a graphic way when he had Gideon defeat Midian’s vast army with only 300 men. The principle he taught is that the Lord saves and he is the only one who does. When we start thinking we are able to save ourselves in any way, then we would be able to boast to God about it. We don’t even have the ability to choose God unless he first causes us to be alive instead of dead in our transgressions (Eph 2:5).

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
(Psalm 98:1)

God repeats the fact that he alone saves when he tells us to praise him in song because of what he has done. We don’t praise the Lord for what we have done when we are saved. He reminds us that it is his holy arm that works salvation for us. “Jesus paid it all, all to him we owe”[1] are the words to the song we sing about our salvation.

And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Luke 23:42-43

If there is any doubt about being able to do anything to merit our salvation, the thief on the cross should dispel that evil conviction. He was guilty as he himself admitted. Does asking Jesus to save us constitute doing anything worthy of salvation? No, because he could not have even done that unless God enabled him. We must remember there was another man crucified with him and Jesus. The other thief didn’t ask for forgiveness or salvation but his circumstances were the same. The difference is that God saves. The repentant thief could only do so because God gave him faith. He didn’t even have time to be baptized, yet Jesus assured him of his salvation. Nope, there is nothing we can boast about when we are saved, not even our decision to follow Jesus.

[1] Elvina M. Hall, “Jesus Paid It All, 1865.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April 8: Luke 12:41-48; Will Jesus Beat His Servants?

             Today’s reading can cause a lot of heartache if it were the only passage we had about Jesus’ return. For those of us who firmly believe that once we are saved, it can also cause some upset stomachs as we try to work through it. For those that believe that we can lose our salvation, it causes some jubilation, not that they want anyone to lose his salvation, but it seems to prove that one can lose his salvation. That’s why so many people have heartache over these verses. They toil trying to make sure they don’t fail to meet God’s expectations and never know for sure that they are accepted by God.
            To properly address this, we have to understand who Jesus was addressing. It was Peter, however, the way Jesus started, it is clear that the servants can be anyone whom God has appointed to take care of others, even a seemingly wise and faithful manager. Jesus is either talking about believers or those who appear to be believers. I could argue that just because the servant is wise and faithful, it doesn’t mean he really believes. There are enough examples of scoundrels in the church and even wolves in sheep’s clothes throughout history. Yet, we see the master set this first servant over all his household. If I wanted to get real weird, I could say this person really represents the Pope because Catholics believe that the Pope is head over all the church regardless of what Protestants think. However, if that were true then this passage is only applicable to one person in the world and Scripture doesn’t leave us that option. This could apply to the pastor of any church, or even the leader of a small Bible study. It applies to anyone who is responsible for teaching and training others in the way of the Lord. I’m assuming that is what Jesus means when he says the servant is supposed to be giving the other servants their portion of food at the proper time. This is not necessarily a requirement to be a believer. Even ungodly government officials could be wise and trustworthy. God uses them as he sees fit.
            This chief steward begins to abuse those under him because he thinks his master isn’t coming back soon. That simply reveals that his man’s heart doesn’t belong to the Lord. To understand that Jesus never knew this person, just look at what he says to others who claim to belong to him. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus tells those who were even doing some good things in Jesus’ name that he didn’t know them because they didn’t do the Father’s will. When Jesus comes back there will be many who think they have been doing God’s will but have failed and will be thrown into hell (Matt 25:41-43).
            This steward knew what was required of him. He knew that his behavior had to line up with a heart that has been cleansed by Jesus’ blood, but he simply could not have had a pure heart if he abused his fellow servants, the people that Jesus bought with his blood. So his part is with the unfaithful, just like those in Matthew 25:41-43.
            What about those other servants? The ones that knew the master’s will and get a severe beating. Or those who were ignorant and only got a small beating? Are they saved? I don’t think so. They are just like many people in the world who have heard about Jesus and rejected him. Or they may be like those who have never heard but still lived sinful lives. After all, we all have sinned (Rom 3:23) and we all deserve eternal death (Rom 6:23). Their different punishments appear to line up with what Jesus told about the towns that rejected him. It would be more tolerable in the judgment for Sodom than those who saw his miracle and rejected him (Matt 10:15, 11:21-24).
            I can’t see that these servants who are beaten are true believers. The final reason is simply because we have the promise that we will not suffer God’s wrath. “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thess 5:9-10).

Thursday, April 5, 2018

April 5: Psalm 77:7-15; What to Do When You Doubt God

            What causes you to doubt God? Is it the circumstances of the country, your family, your work? Maybe it is just your feelings of depression, doom, and gloom. What do you do when you doubt God? Do you panic and think about how bad of person you are for doubting him? Do you lose faith and decide to abandon him altogether? Do you redouble your efforts to please him hoping that somehow, he will then love you more? You aren’t alone, and the Psalms have the answers for most of these questions. Asaph was asking some of the same questions.
Ps 77:7-9
Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
 Has he in anger shut up his compassion?
            His way to resolve these doubts about God is revealed when he explained, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old” (Ps 77:11). When we have doubts about God or question about his goodness, we need to turn back to the Bible and see what he has done in the past. We need to read about what he has said about himself. For Asaph, the issue was to remember how God had rescued Israel from Egypt and led them through the water of the Red Sea. For us, we look to the cross and see the way Jesus came to us in the flesh and died for our sins while we were still sinners and his enemies (Rom 5:8). We need to remember that he loved us while we had not done anything to make him love us (John 3:16). His continued love is a guarantee to us regardless of our feeling. He has said he will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5). Since he poured out his love into us by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), we can’t make him love us anymore. He is perfect and his love is perfect.
            We know that God has done all of this for us and if recalling that isn’t enough then we also need to look at when we first came to know Christ. I often think of the things that convinced me that the Bible is true and that Jesus is who he said he is, the eternal Son of God, God in the flesh, my Savior and my Lord. I also remember discovering that what I thought was my finding God was really God fulfilling what he promised long before I was ever born – that he would adopt me as his child (Eph 1:5).
            Taking some time in the Bible and in meditation about what God has done will do wonders for alleviating doubt about him.