Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The King Selects His Chosen From Among All Of The Volunteers

A certain King advertised, and sent out invitations, for volunteers to go on a special mission into foreign lands to represent his Royal interests. No salary was offered. Most of his subjects were too busy with their own interests and income to volunteer. They didn't trust their King to treat them fairly and reward them for their service. He would deal with their distrust later.

Among the volunteers were a few who were so sick of themselves, and so loved the King that they were more concerned with his interests than their own, but knew that if they looked after his interests he would look after theirs. Their main concern was to please their King and do his Royal will. They trusted in him.

Also among the volunteers were some who didn't want the job but were afraid not to volunteer lest the King seek vengeance upon them. Others were so bored with their present life, husband or wife that they volunteered on the chance they might be happier somewhere else or find a new, more desirable mate. Then, there were those volunteers who wanted a free vacation with new acquaintances in a different environment.  Some thought volunteering might strengthen their resume or that they might meet new prospective customers for their own business if they joined the King's service. A few even thought that if they volunteered, the King might drop all criminal charges against them so they could avoid His judgement and remain free to do their own thing.

What none of them knew was that the King had a divine, super computer program containing all of the knowledge in all of the libraries and public records and in all of the universe about everything and everybody ... including them. He knew each of them better than they knew themselves.

So, on a day appointed, all the volunteers, sincere and insincere, came before the King as a volunteer. As he passed before each of them, he "selected" one here and one there according to his "foreknowledge" of each and every one of the volunteers. He set those he chose, selected and elected aside for training in the King's service. They were first sent to the Royal Bath, cleaned up, groomed and properly attired. They were then sent to their studies of the Royal Manuscripts and thoroughly prepared to represent the King all over the world.

The English word "select" is from the Latin word "selectus" and means to elect or "select aside" or "set aside" for special reasons... or to "separate the chosen from all those not chosen". "Sanctification" is the same thing.

It has not been determined which came first, Latin or Greek, but each has formed with root words in the other. English has absorbed many words from both.

Jesus used the word "sanctified" in His prayer concerning those he selected, elected  and chose: Bear in mind the Greek word "hagiazo" translated "sanctify" in the New Testament, means "to set apart".  Jesus prayed for his disciples in Bible days and also for His "set apart", chosen ones of today, in John 17:15-20.

"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word."

"Wherefore (YOU) come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord ...." 2Cor.6:17.

You may not yet be among those chosen, selected, elected or sanctified but if you are sincere and desire to serve the King, you must first be among the volunteers. He will not force you into His service, but said, "Come unto Me." John 7:37.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Measurment Of True Greatness From The Lips Of Jesus

From the beginning of time, men have labored, sacrificed, and cheated, lied and killed in a never ending struggle to surpass. succeed, exceed, and increase in power, possessions, position, wealth and fame. Cain killed Abel, in a fit of jealousy, because he thought himself less than his brother. Kings, warriors, politicians and sociopaths have sought power, wealth and fame in order to have more, be more, and know more than everyone else. Some even seek power, wealth and fame in a kind of reverse approach to fulfill their burning ambition by publicly defending the poor, and attacking the wealthy, as educators, politicians, or millionaire movie stars.... and even as Preachers. Strange antics indeed in the feverish climb up the ladder of recognition and greatness in the eyes of other men an women...but what of God's approval? How does He reckon greatness?

Even the Apostles were absorbed with "greatness" in spiritual matters. "Greatness" in Christ's Church and in the Kingdom Of God as well....
"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Matt.18:1.

Jesus answered the question by taking a little child up into his lap and said ....
"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matt.18:4. So, learning from the lips of Jesus, himself, "humility" reflects greatness. Something few rich, famous and powerful people in men's estimation, have much of.... ordinarily. I truly believe that there is no great spirituality where there is no great humility. In fact, "Jesus humility" is not caused by poverty, starvation, inferiority or weakness, but something more divine. Jesus, as God in the flesh, owns all the of the universe. He owns all of the food, all of the power, all of the strength, all of the fame ... and yet, He was humble and saw true humility in that little child. Also notice that his words, "humble himself" indicate that we are personally responsible for our humility or the lack of it.

Jesus is our example of humility. Paul says , in Phil.2:8. "...He humbled himself...." by taking on a human body and becoming a man so he could sacrifice that body on the cross. Jesus said of himself, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly ...." Matt.11:29.  Some would say He violated humility when, at Passover, He angrily drove the greedy Money Changers and sellers out of God's holy Temple with a whip, in John 2:13-16, or
when he called the Pharisees whitewashed graves full of rotting dead men's bones. But being humble does not negate boldness, holy anger or the necessity of speaking the truth.

Another key to true greatness is revealed by Jesus in Matt.23:11-12. "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." 
So true greatness is wrapped up in humble service to God and to those "Created in the image and likeness of God". That is the mind of God.

Whether God keeps a list of "lesser/superior greatness" or not, He knows precisely where each of us is in relation to His own judgement of our faithfulness, callings, obedience and sincerity. He sees and knows the extent and level of each of our humility and service. Though all Christians are equally saved, by grace, we are not all equal in our service to God and awards at the Judgement Seat Of Christ. But each of millions of Christians has a unique place on God's faithfulness scale which only He can know.... thankfully.
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." Matt.16:27.

The measure of true greatness, among men, is neither determined by themselves nor by other men. Who would have said of John the Baptist, when he was in prison, questioning his own faith, disgraced in the eyes of man and then beheaded, that he was the greatest man ever born prior to that time? And yet, that is exactly what Jesus said of him."Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist...." Matt.11:11. (Relates to the O.T.)

Obviously Jesus evaluates men from a totally different perspective than do other men .... even Christians. The difference is that we mortals only know what we see, hear or imagine to be true. We cannot know what is in the mind and heart of another person .... But God does, and only He can judge with complete accuracy.

Nobody has any idea who may be the greatest Christian who ever lived, except God Himself. It will probably be some unknown, humble, loving, faithful mother or a hard working, reliable, witness for Jesus who gave the nearest to 100% of himself  or herself to God, which means ... also to needy people.

True greatness, in God's eyes is not only unknown to fleshly minds but totally incomprehensible to human understanding.  His judgement alone is perfect. If there is a divine ranking from greatest to least great Christians, it is totally in the Omniscient judgement of God alone. I, for one, am content to leave it there, where it is secure for eternity.... even if I am the last Christian on the "humility and service" list.... that will be exactly where I should to be.

 "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." 2 Cor.10:12. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Keep Moving In The Right Direction ... Even If Only In Baby Steps

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Heb.12:1.
That "race" is the Christian life, seeking His will, studying His word, a prayer life, following Him, giving witness to His judgement, love, grace, forgiveness and salvation. That is "the race that is set before" every Christian.

This scripture is not speaking to to the unsaved who are not yet in "the race", which God has set before every Christian. It does no good for non Christians to try to "lay aside every weight and besetting sin". Only those believers who have had all their sins forgiven, past present and future, who also have the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit to deal with those weights and besetting sins can overcome them. One must first have Christ before they can ever successfully do battle with the devil and temptation. Without Christ there is no hope of overcoming sin of any kind.

There must be a million different varieties of sin which hound us down, plague us throughout life even unto death, and undermine our yearnings to be more Christ-like. Sin destroys nations, churches, homes and Christian testimonies. And yet, as believers, we are God's children, and he does not give up on us any more than a good parent gives up on their child. He does allow suffering and difficulty to discipline us and get us back in the race, but He doesn't stop loving us and convincing us of our guilty sins. Though we will never be perfect, we must continually seek forgiveness and a closer walk with Jesus, to be more effective Christians.

I think the most egregious sins are religious ones, perverting the Gospel, Christ's church and His Holy word. There are certain denominational "doctrines" that are off target, out of focus theological positions, which have their appeal in the faulty mind-set of their adherents, that their witness is neutralized. Some are just perverted enough to confuse and mislead, but not so much as to alarm the hearers. A twisted, tangled mind is attracted to a twisted, tangled religion, as a perverted mind is receptive to perverted input. Satan knows all the idiosyncrasies and vulnerabilities of each person's flesh and the besetting sin each of them is inclined to, and he is there to supply it.

I believe God not only knew Adam and Eve would yield to their lust for "the tree of knowledge of good and evil", but also knew the besetting sin of each of their millions of descendants ... yours and mine. The conflicts we all face daily, are nothing more or less than our individual part in this Battle Of The Ages, between good and evil, God and the devil, which every human has faced since Genesis 3. And don't delude yourself; we are all guilty to some degree .... "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 John 1:8.

The whole purpose of Christ's coming into this world and paying our sin debt on that cross was to first forgive our sins and second to give us grace to overcome our besetting sins that we might effectively spread His good news to a sinful, lost world. Don't quit trying, or give up on yourself ... God hasn't. Trust Him to help you through your temptations and trials ... and keep on sharing the His saving grace. Even though you and I aren't  perfect Christians .... and never will be, we must stay in God's word, prayed up and with a repentant heart. The important thing is to keep moving in the right direction ... even if only in baby steps. RB

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Man Who Refused A Pardon

Imagine being convicted of a crime you deeply regretted – intentional or unintentional – and being offered a pardon to absolve you of any penalty. Would you accept it? Let me tell you about a man who did not.
In 1829 two men, George Wilson and James Porter, robbed a United States mail carrier. Both were subsequently captured and tried in a court of law. In May 1830 both men were found guilty of six charges, including robbery of the mail “and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy.” Both Wilson and Porter received their sentences: Execution by hanging, to be carried out on July 2.
Porter was executed on schedule, but Wilson was not. Influential friends pleaded for mercy to the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, on his behalf. President Jackson issued a formal pardon, dropping all charges. Wilson would have to serve only a prison term of 20 years for his other crimes. Incredibly, George Wilson refused the pardon!
An official report stated Wilson chose to “waive and decline any advantage or protection which might be supposed to arise from the pardon….” Wilson also stated he “…had nothing to say, and did not wish in any manner to avail himself in order to avoid sentence….” The U.S. Supreme Court determined, “The court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon, unless he claims the benefit of it…. It is a grant to him: it is his property; and he may accept it or not as he pleases.” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws…. (But) delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and…we have no power in a court to force it on him.”
George Wilson committed a crime, was tried and found guilty. He was sentenced for execution, but a presidential decree granted him a full pardon. When he chose to refuse that pardon, he chose to die. Reading this amazing story, we might wonder, “How could anyone refuse a pardon for the death sentence? The man was a fool!” But what if you also are refusing a pardon, one enabling you to spend eternity in the presence of God rather than eternal separation from Him in a place the Bible calls hell?
The Bible plainly teaches we all are sinners, people who have repeatedly broken God’s laws. For instance, Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Another verse says,“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
What about the penalty of sin – what are the consequences? We are told, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The Old Testament concurs: “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). That does not sound like good news, but God has provided a pardon, one He makes available to us all.
In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise…. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Later, 1 John 1:9 explains we must accept this pardon:“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
If you have not already done so, the question is this: Will you receive or reject the pardon? We each must choose.“Whoever believes in him is not condemned: but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).