Sunday, February 5, 2017

Beautiful, Part Thirteen

What does it mean when we call God our Father?

We try our best to be good parents, but God is THE parent of all of us who belong to Jesus. We try and fail at times, but He always does what is right. He is always teaching, always guiding us. If we “get away” with sin, it should make us wonder whether or not we truly belong to Him. He will deal with His own according to His own methods and schedule. If we are pleased by doing sinful things more than by pleasing our Savior who died for us, what does that say about us? Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.” John 8:42

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:19-20

..."My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Hebrews 12:5-6, 8

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

We all stumble or slip at times, but we get back up, confess it to God and ask for His help to live in a way that pleases Him. If we continually bear in mind what our sin cost Jesus, then it should help us to think before every word or action on how it will reflect on Him, whether it will honor Him or (hopefully not) misrepresent His character to others. We are not responsible for how people treat us, but we are responsible for how we react. God sees when we are tried and tempted, and He rewards faithfulness. He will defend our name and take vengeance if and when it is due, but we’re to be as gentle as lambs like Jesus was. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 I think we can all agree this is easier to say than do, but Jesus is worth the effort.

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! Psalm 43:1 When a person's ways please the LORD, he makes even their enemies to be at peace with them. Proverbs 16:7

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:38-48

"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" Matthew 25:37-40 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." John 13:20

What about all of the evil in the world?

Another reason often heard from people who are angry with God is that there is so much evil in the world. There is a very simple reason for that—sin. But then people ask, why do bad things happen to nice people? The answer is free will. God allows us to rebel against Him. Even the angels have free will, as Satan proved all the way back in the Garden of Eden. The problem with free will is that we like it fine when it means we can do as we please, but not so much when others do as they please (and it affects us). People are selfish and greedy by nature. If you want to see what God says about how we should react to the sin of others, read Psalms 37 & 73. In a nutshell, those passages say that we should never envy or be discouraged by ungodly people seeming to get away with sin because they will receive their full punishment from God in the end, but we will receive our reward for faithfully persevering to the end, for His name’s sake.

For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. Psalm 37:9-11

Aren’t Christians closed-minded bigots?

These days, judging people for any reason is frowned upon, unless it’s for being a Christian—then it’s okay. Name-calling is considered bullying except when calling a Christian a hater or whatever. Tolerance is insisted upon, except for tolerating the unpopular beliefs and views of Christians. In defense of the world, there have been many acts done and words said in the name of Christianity that were anything but Christian. That is an unfortunate fact of life, but true believers are not in control of the behavior of misguided people claiming to be disciples of Jesus.

Without a doubt there has also been a problem with hypocrisy. People claiming to be Christians (only God truly knows) have picked out specific sins that upset them most and made them out to be unforgivable, all the while excusing their own as “not as bad.” This is unbiblical, but we need to keep in mind that God has not changed with the times. He still detests ALL sin. He never said not to judge at all, but to judge rightly. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." John 7:24 We’ll all in the same boat—we’re all sinners in need of salvation. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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." Matthew 7:1-5

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:1-5

People resent anyone acting self-righteous, but bear in mind that there is a difference between righteous and self-righteous. Righteousness means that you want to be made right with God, which can only be done by His power, by accepting Jesus as your Savior, AFTER which we “follow” Jesus by obeying His commands with the help of the Holy Spirit. When someone is self-righteous, they are trying to earn their own way and usually they end up being legalistic (whereas Jesus sets us free from working, but we are happy to live in a way that pleases Him).

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14

The “god” of this fallen world does not like the message of freedom from sin and prefers one of freedom to sin. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 Satan wants us to remain in bondage—He knows that the unsaved are under a death sentence just as he is. He uses all sorts of tricks to persuade them to stay there, like calling good evil and evil good. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 Furthermore, he packages his lies as common “knowledge” and tries to get us to believe that there’s something wrong with us if we don’t buy them. Satan wants Christians to look bad and be silenced, but we’re to speak the truth in love to the deceived. We’re supposed to show God’s mercy to the lost. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:10

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, "In the end time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Jude 1:17-23

This is Part Thirteen of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.