September 18, 2018

DRINKING DEEPLY OF GOD'S WORD, THE BIBLE...



       REMOVE THE FIVE GUMBALLS SO YOU CAN DRINK THE MILK


     If a mouth is full of food (like five gumballs at once) it would be most difficult to attempt drinking a glass of milk at the same time. In this passage of Scripture five evils must be set aside in order to imbibe the milk of the Word.

     "Therefore, laying aside all (1.) malice, (2.) all deceit, (3.) hypocrisy, (4.) envy, and 5.) all evil speaking,  as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious..." (1 Peter 2:1-3, NKJV, numbers and parentheses, mine).

     The Amplified NASB Bible renders the text like this:

     "SO BE done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy, jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.
   Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation,
   Since you have [already] tasted the goodness and kindness of the Lord"  (1 Peter 2:1-3, NASB - AMP).

A. THE FIVE SINFUL GUMBALLS TO BE REMOVED...

     1. Malice (baseness)
     2. Deceit (guile)
     3. Hypocrisy (hypocrisies)
     4. Envy (envies)
     5. Evil speaking (defamations)

B. THE DRINKING OF THE MILK OF THE WORD...

      1. Related Passages: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:12-14)

     2. Context: Cf. 1:3, 23 (This pertains to the doctrine of regeneration set forth by Jesus to      Nicodemus, John 3.)

     3.Literal translation: "as new born babes" = "as just-now-born babies"

     4. Phrase: "desire the pure milk of the word" (Cf. "pure" = reasonable as found in Romans 12:1 (the only other reference in N.T. where the word is used which means reasonable, sincere and "it makes all the sense in the world." All of which adds up to the practicality and usefulness of the  Word.)

     5. Cross reference: "My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times" (Psalm 119: 20). Catch this: the Psalmist LONGED for this Word.

     6. Peter writes and uses the decisive aorist imperative exactly as he did in 1:13,17,23. These aorists (verb tenses) are used because they are stronger than present imperatives would be. The implication is: long for this milk and for none other. Even Christians often hanger after the fleshpots of Egypt and grow tired of the simple, wholesome, saving Word, which is manna for the soul. Such a condition is the most serious sign of spiritual decline.

- dick christen                    


August 30, 2018

THE LAST NAME OF ISRAEL'S KING SAUL......



          My Sherrill likes to follow Britain's royal family. It is like family to her. The other day she asked what their last name was. I said royalty goes by dynasties.....the Stuart, etc. 
     Well how about this? The other day I discovered the last name of King Saul in the Old Testament. Never knew he had one. His full name was Saul Matri. Really! Read 1 Samuel 10:21: "When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found." Mmmmm! KING SAUL MATRI.
     Now, isn't that fascinating? Um, I wonder what St. Paul's last name was? And, Peter? And...? 
     Jesus once asked his disciples who men were saying he is. They answered, oh, they think you are Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist or one of the prophets. He said, and who do you say that I am? Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And that is exactly what Jesus wanted to hear. He is the promised Messiah, the very Son of God and the King of kings who will reign over this earth forever and ever. 
     "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).

- dick christen

OLD AGE BRINGS US NEARER TO HEAVEN...



     It's been said that when you're seventy your vital juices are prune. For Dagwood, all the meat and cheese have been replaced with a pile of pills. 
     An E. H. Chapin remarked, &An aged Christian with the snow of time on his head may remind us that those points of earth are whitest that are nearest heaven.&
     In the meantime be sure to be saved by God's grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-27).
     Though I die, I live? Yes, for the Christian to die is gain and to be present with the Lord. No wise Christian ever wished to be younger. 

- dick christen

August 29, 2018

ON THE USE OF SCRIPTURE.....


     A frenzied driver tucked a note under her windshield wiper and dashed off:
     It read: "I've circled the block for 20 minutes. I'm late for an appointment, and if I don't park here I'll lose my job. Forgive us our trespasses."
     Returning, she came back only to find a parking ticket and this note:
     "I've circled the block for 20 years, and if I don't give you a ticket, I'll lose my job... Lead us not into temptation."
     It has been said that Scripture can be used to justify just about anything. Some have even used it to okay suicide. You know: Judas hung himself. And then another Bible phrase: God thou and do likewise. Nonsense. Let us study the laws of humeneutics, or the science of proper interpretation. Very important.

- Dick Christen

GLORY! GLORY! GLORY!


Christians frequently use the word GLORY. What does that word mean? A much loved hymn of the church begins with the words, "TO GOD BE THE GLORY!" GLORY literally relates to the reputation (an idea in the Greek word) or the sum total of the excellencies of any thing or any person. Add up all the excellencies of our God Jehovah (if that is even possible by any mere human attempt) and you have the glory of God or His Kingdom. Add up His omniscience, omipresence, mercy, love, grace and any other of His told or untold attributes and their sum would be His GLORY. What a mind boggling thought, even if scarcely comprehended. The Bible, as much as it underscores man's sinfulness, does likewise teach that man was made in God's image and when he or she learns God's wisdom possesses a glory of his own (Proverbs 3:35, etc.).

Often we refer to heaven calling it GLORY. In the last book of the Bible we are informed of many of the splendors of that place Jesus has gone to prepare for us (Revelation 21). Add up the details set forth and we understand it will be a glorious abode. In the meantime we wait for the GLORIOUS appearing, that of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the very first chapters of John, Colossians, and Hebrews we learn of the magnificent splendors of Jesus. He is very God, the Creator of heaven and earth and the sustainer thereof. 

And then, rather humorously, but feebly, we dare place a yellow halo ring around His head trying to bring out this truth. It falls far short! But, with magnificent words, David does much more justice in his doxology of prayer. "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, AND THE GLORY, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head ABOVE all" (1 Chron. 29:11). And, of course, many other passages of Holy Writ do likewise. The doxologies of Scripture are worth reading again and again. We can increase our worship skills by incorporating the in our own prayers and expressions of worship. 

And to think, forever, we believers will bask in His glory and that of all the works of His hands and will witness only glory in our fellow creatures. Glory! 

-dick christen

August 26, 2018

SELFLESSNESS......ON BEING 'OTHERS' ORIENTED.....


I like Tim Keller's quote today: "If you met a truly humble person, you wouldn’t think him/her humble, but happy and incredibly interested in you." 
      Being a pastor and wife for over a half century we have been privileged to entertain scores of folks in our home. Curiously we noticed something: the vast majority spontaneously told us all about themselves without even being asked. They could easily occupy two hours at the table reciting story after story, incident after incident..... all about themselves. Much was interesting and we thrilled with them but afterwards had a sense of lopsidedness. In hindsight, rare has been the person who made inquiry about our lives, children, ministries, perspectives, opinions or background. And that's alright. We're pretty ordinary people. Not too many humdingers to pass on. But I think we could come up with an interesting tale or two. 
     A well known Christian leader once visited us by surprise. His name was known throughout the Christian world. What impressed us most was his interest in 'little old us.' Really we were very young but he was so inquisitive about our limited experiences in life. He hardly, if at all, referenced himself, his enormous knowledge or his widely traveled life. 
     Someone once noted: In the 1940's and the 1950's we had the all-encompassing Life magazine. Then we cropped our vision down to People in the '70's. Things tightened  up even more with Us. Next came Self. Somewhere there's got to be a magazine just for me: THE DICK CHRISTEN MONTHLY. 
     Oh, that's right, I'm a Christian. Jesus showed me how to wash the other guy's feet. I'd best remember that because when self is not negated it is necessarily worshiped. 

-Dick Christen


FOLLOW YOUR HEART? IS THAT GOOD?



FOLLOW YOUR HEART? This is a popular mantra nowadays. But no, to do so is foolishness! Rather, pursue wisdom (Prov. 2) which is God's plan for your life. The path of wisdom leads directly to God Himself, His Word and His will. Obeying His Word aligns our hearts and lives with Him, and that is always the best! The Bible says so! And Holy Scripture has a principle or directive for every activity of one's life. 
     "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered" (Prov. 28:26).
     The reading and study of the Word of God for the purpose of discovering the will of God is the greatest of holy disciplines. Yes, and as vital as prayer is, imbibing the Bible is more vital. The Bible is God talking to us. Prayer is us talking to God. Which is more important?And so, loving the Bible, the will of God is revealed. The will of God obeyed produces Christ-likeness and God-honoring character. The old self would rather have its own way. It ever resists what God decrees. We may well become miserable until we turn God's will from a sigh to a song. 
     All heaven is waiting to help those who will discover the will of God and do it.  The sincere Christian is obsessed with finding and doing God's will. Study Proverbs 2. Notice the search for wisdom - the intense search, the discovery of God, God speaks, we listen and obey, we thereby walk in the light and are thereby on the path of wisdom or God's very best for us. THINK BIBLE!

- dick christen

August 24, 2018

MY DAILY BIBLE READING PROGRAM...



     Let me share my long time approach to daily Bible reading and meditation. I find it greases my ‘get-along’ in order to slip easily into an actual engagement with God in His holy Word.
     This is what I do: I keep six bookmakers in six different places in my NASB Bible and try to read from each passage about ten or fifteen minutes daily. 
     ONE is at a chapter in Proverbs. There being 31 chapters in this Book of wisdom, it must be profitable to read one each day of the month. So, each first day of a month my marker is at chapter one. 
     A SECOND marker is somewhere in the four Gospels, reading them over and over:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and again, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, etc.  I delight seeing and hearing Jesus during His earthly sojourn. What does He say, how does He handle situations, how does He respond, what teachings come forth? How do holiness and love blend in His life? Gazing on Jesus is seeing God. My understanding of who God is increases chapter by chapter. 
     Then, a THIRD marker finds me reading consecutively from Acts through Revelation. The history of Acts, the doctrine and instructions in the church epistles, the same in the pastoral epistles and the insightful book of prophecy are, of course, all-important. 
     The FOURTH one is somewhere in the O. T., wherever I want to go. I’m either In the Pentateuch, the history books, the prophecies or the books of wisdom. I delight making the choice each time I decide upon a new book to read. I usually sense a particular need and make my choice under the Spirit's guidance.
      The FIFTH reading is a round robin in three favorite prophetic passages, Isaiah 58-66, Daniel 9-12 and Zech. 12-14, giving me such fascinating details of things to come. When I'm done with Zechariah, it's back to Isaiah 58:1. 
      And finally, the SIXTH marker guides me each night to reading one or two of the one-hundred-fifty Psalms. These give me big thoughts for worship and about my glorying in my God. They teach me about faith in tough times. These are indeed precious concepts with which I lay my weary head on my pillow.
     This works in an endearing way for me. It is God teaching me every day. I treasure and look forward to these daily times with God. And, really, can daily life be boring with such appointments with my dear Heavenly Father in such ongoing communion? The Scriptures are so pregnant with meaning. There are always new truths to learn whereby my faith is informed and built up, my mind fortified against the wiles of the devil. Each verse is rich well of unfathomable depth. 
     I brag not, I’m just sharing what blesses me. Many days I fall short and find myself hastily reading at least a little from each place. I'm bothered when this happens. That's when I bark at Sherrill (just kidding, er, well maybe sometimes).
     A program like this has to be top-priority, day by day. And I must remember what's happening when I so engage. It is God talking to me, teaching me, ever comforting me, correcting me, chiding and enlightening my poor dark soul. His Word is without error and the different styles of literature fascinating. The uniqueness of the Bible as literature, let alone its Divine inspiration (2 Corinthians 3:16,17), is incentive enough to keep coming back for more. 
     Arthur W. Pink brings this into perfect focus: "To realize that the Holy Scripture are a revelation from the Most High, communicating to us His mind and defining for us His will, is the first step toward practical godliness. To recognize that the Bible is God's Word, and that its precepts are the precepts of the Almighty, will lead us to see what an awful thing it is to despise and ignore them."
     The bookmarks allow me to go right where I need to go with no hesitation at all. With any delay at all my attention could easily be diverted. But, what could ever be more vital than hearing from one's Maker, Savior, Lord and Hope?
     Haldor Lillenas puts it exquisitely in his hymn: "The Bible stands like a rock undaunted 'mid the raging storms of time. Its pages burn with the truth eternal and they glow with a light sublime." Thank God that He spoke to us poor lost souls, clearly told us the way back to Himself through His Son Jesus, the Christ, and then instructed that His message be written down and preserved through the ages for our salvation and knowledge of the truth. What a God He is to come to us so marvelously.
     And, if 10 or 15 minutes at each of the six places is just too much, five minutes would be only 30 minutes a day to bask in the euphoria of reading God's love letter to you.

- dick christen

AT ONCE THE CHRISTIAN IS SANCTIFIED IN JESUS BUT BEING SANCTIFIED BY JESUS....



     AMEN! As a Christian POSITIONALLY I am fully holy in Christ, by His unconditional grace. I am fully set apart in the righteousness of Jesus and therefore perfect before the Father. But, PRACTICALLY, I am being made holy day by day by Christ and His conditional grace. (Yes, there is such a thing as conditional grace - Psalm 18:24-26; Matt. 5:3-11). When I walk by faith I progressively am being set apart unto the Lord in Christ-likeness. And that is God's aim in our lives (Romans 8:29).

     When I was saved, believing in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, all His perfection and righteousness was reckoned or charged to my heavenly account. From henceforth God always sees me IN His Son. He sees me through Jesus and all that Jesus is He sees as me. Though certainly not perfect in myself, I am in Jesus. This is the basis of God's justification of me, sinner that I am. He declares me righteous IN Jesus. "Therefore, having been justified by faith,  we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Romans 5:1). This is an absolute, a constant. It can never change. It is invariable. "There is, therefore, no condemnation in Christ Jesus." 

     1 Corinthians 1:30 spells it out so very clearly...."But by His (the Father's) doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord'." I utterly have this the moment I am born again.

     And now, the Christian life begins. And, although IN Christ I am fully sanctified, in another sense I AM BEING SANCTIFIED. While growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, I am sanctified BY Him. This is incremental. Being sanctified IN Christ Jesus is instantaneous. The Apostle Paul expresses this when he declares, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

     So, the Christian should say with confidence: I AM SANCTIFIED IN CHRIST JESUS. Contrasting believers with unbelievers the Apostle says, "And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, YOU WERE SANCTIFIED, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). Regardless of my falterings, in the mind of the Father I am fully accepted. This is not an excuse to live sinfully, but is a tremendous comfort and brings wonderful peace to the human heart wrestling with the lusts within and evils all around. 

     And, day by day, it is right for the believer in Jesus to say, again and again, I AM BEING SANCTIFIED BY CHRIST JESUS. Jesus Himself prayed for all of us that we might be sanctified in this manner, and He revealed the means whereby this happens. In John 17:17 we hear His words: "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."

     Lay hold of this teaching and when reading scripture whenever seeing the word "sanctify" ask, now is this referring POSITIONAL SANCTIFICATION which I have IN Christ, or to PRACTICAL SANCTIFICATION which I am experiencing BY Christ Jesus, my Savior and Lord.

     So, at any one time, I am resting in the full salvation I have IN Jesus and applying myself diligently ("work out your salvation with fear and trembling") to be more and more like Jesus (BY His enabling grace.)

- dick christen

August 23, 2018

WATCH OUT FOR FLYING ARROWS.....

     On my walk I noticed a peculiar sign. It read: WATCH FOR FLYING PROJECTILES. I was next to a golf course. But, I mused, all projectiles fly. That's what the word denotes. If the projectile is grounded you wouldn't have to watch for it. So, I'll go back tonight and paint over the word "flying." It'll simply read WATCH FOR PROJECTILES or GOLF BALLS IN THE AIR. I'm just kidding. 
     But then I thought of this verse in the passage outlining the Christian's armor. Ephesians 6:16 "...in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish ALL THE FLAMING ARROWS of the evil one." 
     These demonically empowered projectiles constantly whiz toward us. To ward them off we must take up (our responsibility) the shield of faith. Like Enoch of old, we must walk with our God, looking to Him, reading His Word, depending on Him, pleasing Him, praying, etc., etc.
     In short, it's the walk of faith. Such is our daily protection and must be our moment by moment alertness........The Apostle put it this way: "We walk by faith, not by sight." 

- dick christen


STRAIGHT AHEAD.....


Do you know why a car's WINDSHIELD is so large & the rear view mirror is so small? Because our PAST is not as important as our FUTURE. 

So, look ahead and move on.

"Let your eyes look directly ahead And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil" (Prov. 4:24-27).

The man without a forward purpose is like a ship without a rudder. What makes life complicated is multiplicity of motives. What makes like victorious is singleness of motive. And as Spurgeon remarked, "Spiritual life depends on the purposes we cherish." 

Has any Christian been more focused than the Apostle Paul. He declared, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

- Dick Christen

THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN'S COMPASS...



  The guru instructs, "Compasses! Get your compasses." The poor souls are looking for divine direction for life. Christians have that! They prize the Bible as the very Word of God and read and ponder it for direction in every aspect of life. It's a lamp to their feet and a light to their pathway. It shows the way for every aspect of life. In Bible times they strapped small lamps to their legs allowing a lighted pathway in the dark.

     Joshua declared, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (Joshua 1:8).

     In other words: Christians, loving the Book, possess a compass for life. We call it a truth-compass, a moral-compass, a make-sense-of-life compass and a know-how-to-live compass. Besides it has 'the message of all messages' for the saving of our souls from sin, hell, and death. 

     No wonder that Abraham Lincoln said, "In regard to this great book I have but to say it is the best gift God has given to men. All that the good Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book."

     When people have tooth decay they go to a dentist. When Christians have TRUTH decay they need at once to 'brush up on their Bibles,' have the decay brought to the light and then proceed to root it out through the forgiveness and change that God gives. If they don't it is like heavy clouds making a compass meaningless and unable to give the necessary direction sought. As my dad often said, "Sin will keep us from the Book; but the Book keeps us from sin."

     John Wesley remarked, "I want to know one thing, the way to heaven.......God Himself has condescended to teach us the way.......He hath written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book!At any price give me the book of God."


- dick christen

August 21, 2018

LOTS OF BLATHER.......


In American journalism have you noticed that a foolish person dominates a headline only because a publisher foolishly plays up what was said, splashes it in bold print and thereby promotes the nonsense. And on and on it goes, day after day. 

     My take on this is, in the first place, if the fool hadn't said something nonsensical and then, secondly, if the publisher wasn't so eager to blare it forth, probably, like rotten fruit, it would have died on the vine and not misled and annoyed the listeners or readers. But, instead, such caution not being exercised, two unthinking asses control what millions then asininely think. The jawbone of an ass was a killer in Samson's time. It still is. And society sinks lower and lower.

     "Blessed are those who have nothing to say and who cannot be persuaded to say it."

     If fools won't stop gabbing (and they won't because that's part of their foolery) then is it too much to expect professional publishers not to put it in the headlines? But the need for sensational headlines exists for the sake of the almighty dollar. Sensationalism sells.

     Oppositely, just imagine this: Some unthinking mouth says something nutty, a major news outlet ponders it and declares it for what it is, just more unverified hype or sheer and unsubstantiated nonsense, and at once tosses it in file thirteen. If this procedure was practiced daily, newspapers would be reduced to once-a-week editions (they're struggling to stay in business anyhow), the crazy proliferation of TV news shows (often endlessly repeating the same thing) would would give way beneficially to edifying productions and fascinating experiences of every day life, and the never-ending-talkativiness of the over paid and too numerous pundits (did you ever realize there are so many experts on any subject introduced?) would finally be silenced by other than the 'mute' button and, lastly, the entire demeanor of humanity would be uplifted in meaningful and dignified ways. Greater calm would pervade society and stress pills would be dumped in the trash can by the millions.  

     Sadly, in our day, some leaders too often exhibit their own low level of decency when they harshly and  nonsensically spew forth remarks geared toward grabbing those 'all-important' headlines. And so, as Spurgeon said, some men's tongues bite more than their teeth.

     Is there Scripture that addresses this issue? Oh, yes, many pertinent verses. For instance:

     "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise" (Proverbs 10:19).

     Again, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes" (Proverbs 26:4,5). Politically, 'tit for tat' is a common exercise that pugilistically riles up society and spreads venom throughout. You hit me and I'll hit you back, harder. And then, it all snowballs, worsens and, again, society sinks to lower levels of harshness, hatred and crime. Is this an issue worthy of addressing? 

     It is true that whatever moves the heart wags the tongue. But, wisdom says, between hearing it and responding, THINK! Is it necessary to respond, is it worthy of an answer, and will a retort merely spread nonsense? Good questions for any thinking person to ask himself.

     In other words when a fool speaks (and many such persons love to do that), is it even necessary to respond?  And, if I must, I should refuse to get down on the level of the fool. I should not leave higher ground for lower slime pits. 

     On the other hand, God's Word instructs that if I don't answer the fool he will think he's wise and that can't be allowed. So, I should answer him as his folly deserves in order to stop him from thinking he's more intelligent than an entire college faculty. A careful and firm confrontation will make him feel that he has just run into a wall and he'll be stopped dead in his haughty self-deception.  

     If it be true that "we know metals by their tinkling and men by their talking" there are assuredly many moving mouths emitting only hot air serving to merely heat up the environment and degradingly inflaming the feelings of mankind. And so, we all suffer in a highly-charged world with little respect and dignity of life. 

     Just today (at this writing) a headline has one ex-high ranking government leader calling a higher one, a "mob boss." The response is to castigate the one making the allegation, "a slime-ball." What dignity! It degrades all of life and must be disdained. And so, the nation seethes in disrespect, hate, name-calling and a distressing existence.

     And the Church of Christ is affected. It seems to me that too many in high places are forever grabbing for headlines. We traffic in clever sentences and a bumper sticker mentality, all designed to catch the eyes of onlookers. If such activity is for the sake of truth and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, all the more power to such efforts. But, if just to be known and try to change the world, it would be good to remember that Jesus will someday ultimately and adequately take care of that! And, only HE can do that!

     Again, Proverbs declares: "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances" (v.11). Is this a picture of a 'just right' painting on the wall? Or, does it reference a fine piece of jewelry? Either way, it highlights "a word spoken in right circumstances." Mere jabbering usually proves to be an odious "halitosis" of the brain. And, that's just not pleasant. Spurgeon quipped: "Believe not half you hear; repeat not half you believe; when you hear an evil report, halve it, then quarter it, and say nothing about the rest of it." 

     And, now that I've rambled on far too long and you've had enough of my blather, you may go ahead and apply Spurgeon's formula to all I've just written. 

- dick d. christen

OUR SPEECH SAYS MUCH ABOUT US.....




Thomas Brooks declared, "We know metals by their tinkling and men by their talking." We all stuggle to say things "just right." Actually, we need God to give us wisdom in our discourse. 

And surely God knows this, So, IF I PRAY THIS......

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).

I MAY BE ABLE TO TESTIFY LIKE THIS.....

"All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; There is nothing crooked or perverted in them" (Proverbs 8:8).


Is it really possible for any mere human to even utter such a statement? Jesus is really the only one who could utter such an all-encompassing thing. But we must pray, pray, pray and try, try, try and at the very least keep getting it better. James says no man can tame the tongue. He sure got that right. But, again, we can cry out for Divine help! "It is not enough to harvest knowledge by study; the wind of talk must winnow it and blow away the chaff." So help us, God!

Let me nail this down with a humorous story. Someone smilingly reminisced, "Born and raised in Milwaukee, I sometimes have trouble understanding Boston accents. On business in Boston with a female associate, I met several other women who would be working with us on a research project. The conversation turned tojewelry, and one of the Bostonians asked my colleague, "Do you have P.S.D.S.?" She looked puzzled and the woman repeated her question, "Do you have P.S.D.S.?" May associate turned to me for help. I had no idea what "P.S.D.S." was, and I shrugged. The Bostonian realized we didn't understand her question, touched her pierced hear lobes and said, "You know, P.S.D.S.!"


Again, this points out again that we must keep praying and working at understandable and Christ-honoring communication.

- dick christen



August 03, 2018

FLUFFING THE PILLOW OF MY FAITH.....


FLUFF THAT PILLOW, FRESHEN THE LETTUCE, BRING UP THE NAP OF THE CARPET, STIR UP THE DWINDLING CAMP FIRE..... 

The Apostle Paul said to his protege Timothy..."I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you..." 2 Timothy 1:6.

The embers of God's life (let alone any special giftedness) lie within every truly born again believer. They can never be fully extinguished but can dim almost to invisibility. This happens when we neglect the Lord and walk in the flesh. Sin starves the embers of the heavenly oxygen needed to burn brightly. When we leave off our sinning and stop quenching the Holy Spirit, the very wind of heaven once again will blow through the soul and stir up what God put within at regeneration. 

John Bonar remarked, "Revival is the exchange of the form of godliness for its living power." Another preacher said, "Revival is not going down the street with a big drum; it is going back to Calvary with a big sob." And, Billy Graham said, "Every revival that ever came in the history of the world, or in the history of the church, laid great emphasis on the holiness of God." And I would add, this is true in the history of any one believer's experience. And so, Stephen Olford remarked, "Waiting for general revival is no excuse for not enjoying personal revival." 

The linguist Mounce defines "to kindle afresh" as "to kindle up a dormant fire; met. to revive, excite; to stir up, quicken one's powers.") 

ALL THIS REQUIRES A CHRISTIAN'S HOLY AND DAILY ATTENTION. 

-dick christen

July 09, 2018

THE SIN OF JEALOUSY.......


It's been said that "jealousy is the raw material of murder." If looks could kill that little girl on the right is about to prove the statement. 


I like this definition of jealousy: "Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses feelings ranging from fear of abandonment to rage and humiliation. Jealousy strikes both men and women and is most typically aroused when a person perceives a threat to a valued relationship from a third party. The threat may be real or perceived. It is not limited to romantic relationships but also can arise among siblings competing for parental attention or in friendships. Jealousy is distinguished from envy in that jealousy always involves a third party seen as a rival for affection. Envy occurs between two people and is best summed up as 'I want what you have.'"

I've seen a small start-up church almost ruined because of this sin. A talented man who however didn't get his way, sulked and then worked stealthily to lead a group of people away from the growing church. It hurt many lives and was designed to ruin the church. But, God prevailed and today the church has matured, been blessed of God and holds forth the Word of Truth. 

The love chapter declares "love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous" (1 Corinthians 13:4). It's an ugly emotion but, interestingly, God uses it for good too. Joseph's brothers were jealous of him but through their nefarious actions, Joseph ended up being a ruler in Egypt which then led to Israel's miraculous escape and eventual settlement in the promised land. 

Praise God, He rules but also over-rules and His will is wrought. What a God!

dick christen

WHEN GOD SPANKS US......




   I rarely, if ever, recall hearing a fellow-believer admit to the chastening hand of the Lord. His experience(s) may be tough but it invariably is because of bad circumstances or just plain tough luck. After all, life is rough, tough and tumble.     

   But God instructs us otherwise. As a loving and concerned Father He sometimes deals with us with what we call "tough love." It is that but behind it is God's sanctifying love for His beloved children. He will make us like His Son, Jesus Christ. "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son..." (Romans 8:29). His determined design can involve a  process that can be pretty rough. 

   The writer of Hebrews chided his readers with these words: "...and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'MY son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves HE disciplines, and HE scourges EVERY son whom HE receives" (12:5,6). His readers may well have been chalking up their difficult experiences with statements like: "Well, these are tough times" or "Into every life a little rain must fall" or "My luck must have run out" or, most disconcerting, "Where's God when you need Him?"

   The text declares that EVERY child of God at one time or another is subject to His reproof and chastening hand. Sometimes it gets really harsh. But, as Thomas Brooks said, "God would not rub so hard, were it not to fetch out the dirt and spots that be in His people." 

   Remember this, God usually warns before He wounds. When He speaks to us we need to immediately align ourselves with His truth. The cycle of conviction, repentence and recomitment is ever ongoing in this life. 

   What God does for us emanates from His perfect love. (And remember, "perfect love casts out fear." We need not fear He will make a mistake.) But, He is more interested in our holiness than in our happiness. His wounds cure; sin's kisses kill. 

   The saintly Robert Murray M'Cheyne even prayed for God's wise chastening. He worded his prayer like this: "If nothing else will do to sever me from my (daily) sins, Lord, send me such sore and trying calamities as shall awake me from earthly slumbers." Could I pray that prayer for myself? Could I pray it for those dearest to me but who are living carnally and worldly? These pointed questions lead to serious consideration and whether or not we truly believe in God's intent for our lives: namely and again, HE IS MORE INTERESTED IN MY HOLINESS THAN IN MY HAPPINESS.

My stroke of four years ago was God's loving chastening in my life. I had no bad physical numbers, no warnings and no pain when the stroke hit me. I was an enigma to the medical experts. But, what they did not understand, God did it and I have learned so many precious lessons from the hard experience. My bum foot reminds me of the lessons every day. Thank you, Lord!

-dick christen 


June 08, 2018

PREACHING/TEACHING...A DOUBLE PRONGED RESPONSIBILITY


THE BELT OF TRUTH is double pronged and preachers and teachers of the Bible must make a faithful use of both. They are to set forth both the negatives and positives seen everywhere in Scripture. 

     Centuries ago the prophet Isaiah did. And Jesus, reading the same passage years later, applied it to Himself. Here is what they believed when it came to responsibly setting forth truth. They believed it their duty "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor]and the day of vengeance of our God" (Isaiah 61:2). They were to preach both positively and negatively - both "the acceptable year" and "the day of vengeance of our God."

     Much later, the Apostle Paul maintained a similar stance. He viewed the preaching of his day as "a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2: 15,16) - notice "an aroma from death to death" and "an aroma from life to life."

     A working battery has both positive and negative poles. It just won't work to block off the negative. The negative is essential. And when God speaks negatively (do count not only the "thou shalt nots' in Holy Scripture but also the "do nots" in such passages as Proverbs 23), I say, when God speaks negatively IT IS FOR THE SAKE OF A POSITIVE OUTCOME. 

     When a mother saw a thunderstorm forming in mid-afternoon, she worried about her seven-year-old daughter who would be walking the three blocks from school to home. Deciding to meet her, the mother saw her walking nonchalantly along, stopping to smile whenever the lightning flashed. Seeing her mother, the little girl ran to her, explaining happily, "all the way home, God's been taking my picture!

     Even so, God works through His "do nots" and His numerous "you shalls" to produce the image of Jesus in us. The two together keep the power of God surging in us. Together the belt of truth hinges securely.

- dick christen 
     

April 21, 2018

CHRISTIAN LIVING IS NOT ALL HUGS AND KISSES...



One Bible teacher remarked, "Christianity is the way of the cross...and your blood and sweat may mingle with Christ's before your life is finished." By this statement, Lionel Fletcher did not mean Christ's atoning work on the cross was insufficient to completely save a sinner, but rather that every believer is crucified with Christ both completely and redemptively at the moment of salvation but also progressively (day by day) and sanctifyingly throughout the earthly sojourn. The Apostle Paul stated it this way: "I have been crucified with Christ..." (Gal. 2:20). The perfect tense denotes an action and a continuance thereof.

Therefore, GOD'S WORD pointedly says to every believer in Christ: 


"So kill (deaden,deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God)" (Col. 3:5 AMP.).

This instruction is radically different from a 'lovey-dovey' kind of popular Christianity attracting many in the twenty-first century Church. In fact, multitudes do not want to hear it. 

But, faithful Bible teachers have proclaimed it for centuries. Listen to them: 

"Our old nature is no more extinct than the devil; but God's will is that the dominion of both should be broken" (John R. W. Stott).

"In youth, mid-age, and now after many battles, I find nothing in me but vanity and corruption" (John Knox).

"I more fear what is within me than what comes from without" (Martin Luther).

"There may be persons who can always glide along like a tramcar on rails without a solitary jerk, but I find that I have a vile nature TO CONTEND WITH, and spiritual life is a struggle with me. I have to fight from day to day with inbred corruption, coldness, deadness, barrenness, and if it were not for my Lord Jesus Christ my heart would be as dry as the heart of the damned" (Charles H. Spurgeon).

These men of God are in perfect sync with the Apostle Paul who straightforwardly shared his testimony:  "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.    Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;    but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

- dick christen

April 02, 2018

WORK IT OUT, DEAR CHRISTIAN....


I GOT OUT THIS OLD LEATHER BAG, took some cleaner and shined it up like new! And let me tell you, it really did TAKE WORK! After much rubbing and circular scrubbing it came up like new. Applying this observation to my Christian life, I'm reminded that tending daily to my soul takes much diligence too. Think about how Scripture ardently challenges us to work at living for Jesus by obeying numerous ACTION verbs: The Bible says we are to seek, fight, wrestle, run, beat the body, etc., etc. The Bible tells Christians to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). We don't work FOR it but must work it out. Grace saves us, grace keeps us and grace gives us strength to make this daily effort, but the preciousness and essentiality of grace does not negate my personal responsibility to be confessed up (my daily sins) and filled up (with the Holy Spirit), along with availing myself of the many other means of sanctifying grace. 

We must never let our theology rob us of our responsibility. C.H. Spurgeon once remarked, "My dear friends, you may take it as a rule that the Spirit of God does not usually do for us what we can do for ourselves." I add, which we must do for ourselves for the sake of glorifying God in our lives. 

- d. christen

March 14, 2018

WAITING FOR JESUS........TRUSTINGLY


At times it seems you've fished and fished for Jesus  and caught precious little, if much of anything at all, and, the fog of weariness or the bleary eyes of disbelief prohibit us from seeing Jesus on the shore of our lives for a new directive. So, you keep looking for Him..... trustingly and patiently. He always shows up on time and makes Himself known tenderly and with a new point of instruction. He did with the discouraged fishermen He loved:

"Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus *said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish" (John 21:3-6).

God, not infrequently, tests our faith by making us wait and even launch our seemingly foolishly to make yet another effort. 

-d. christen

March 03, 2018

THE PRECIOUS DETAILS OF MEDITATING ON SCRIPTURE...


   It is one thing to own a Bible, quite another to read it. I feel sorry for professing Christians who often say they indeed hold the Bible in high esteem, but in reality seldom meditate therein. They miss out on beautiful truths such as mentioned below:

   Solomon built his gorgeous Temple under the direction of God Himself. The details of this undertaking are set forth in the opening chapters of 1 Kings. After its construction and the placement of all the furniture therein, the last to be placed was the Ark of the Covenant. It was situated in the Holy of Holies.

   "After the priests placed it and when they left, God Himself dwelt therein. It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord" (1 Kings 8:10).

   This cloud was the Shekinah Glory that led Israel during her forty years in the wilderness. It shone at night. It was in reality the very presence of God Himself! And it was always there regardless the spiritual condition of God's people, even as today He never leaves or forsakes His own. 

   When God's people finally apostasized God withdrew from the Temple and the word Ichabod was written over the door. The glory of the Lord had departed. 

   As an aside. I believe the star of Bethlehem was this same phenomenon, the Shekinah Glory! It pinpointed the location and presence of the Messiah for the searching shepherds. Also, it may well have been the cloud on the Mt. of Transfiguration.

   Dear Christians, is the glory of the Lord radiating from our lives. The Holy Spirit wants to make it a reality. 2 Corinthians 3:18 declares, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." Hence the daily responsibility of not grieving or quenching the Spirit. We must walk with holy sensitivity. 

dc

February 27, 2018

LEGALISM OR OBEDIENCE?

INSISTANCE upon the plain injunctions of Scripture is often confused with legalism, the latter being insistance upon one's personal opinion masked as being Biblical. But, Jesus said, "If you love me keep my commands." Doing so and encouraging such is obedience, not legalism. Be sure to differentiate between the two.
d.christen

February 13, 2018

MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY....SEE HEAVEN APPEAR......


     I recently listened to the beautful tune MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY, by Floyd Cramer. Just those words will make some start humming it all day. 

     It brought to my mind a verse of Scripture. When at the end of time God sets up THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGEMENT SEAT of Christ, the scene is described with these words: "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them"(John 20:11). 

     Often when leaving 'home sweet home' we feel nostalgia and loneliness as the old homestead fades in the rear view mirror. But just imagine all earth and heaven distancing themselves, fading into the far reaches of the eye. All unsaved people will experience this! It will be awful. They can't go back. Their destiny is decided. They stand before the Judge of all judges, Jesus Christ, devoid of His salvation.

And here is what happens..."Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." When this happens it will be Jesus who makes the world go away. No pleasant tune will sound forth from the glorious angels of heaven. Only the agonies of hell will become louder and louder as the lost near hell. 

     Oh, be saved now! To avoid hearing the words of condemnation at the Great White Throne, right now hear and heed the words of the Gospel: "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36).

Sir Winston Churchill is reported to have said: "All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a simple word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy and hope." At heaven's gate just one word gains admission: JESUS! 

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." And this, not just to escape hell but to know God and enjoy Him forever. 

Believe not just about Jesus but believe on Him. Earth will fade but heaven will be your eternal home. No loneliness there!

-Dick Christen

February 07, 2018

WHAT? JESUS TELLS HIS FOLLOWERS NOT TO BEAR WITNESS?


Just this morning I was asked:

"Question about a couple passages: What have you gathered from verses like Mark 1:44-45 and Mark 7:36 where Jesus urges them not to tell about the great things He has done and the people decide to do it anyway? Is that showing the failure of humans even with the simplest of tasks?"

These passages relate to Jesus' words of warning to His followers after performing a miracle. They were to stay 'mum' about the wonder they had just seen. "And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He *said to him, 'See that you say nothing to anyone'...(Mark 1:33,34). In  this chapter Jesus healed a leper. It was instant, complete and mind-boggling. 

I answered the question this way:

I interpret such incidents in a most mundane manner. The last phrase of v45 says "they were coming to Him from everywhere." The multitudes surrounded Him. Everyone was talking about Him. They were ever so curious. The press of the crowds (the Paparazzi) necessitated extreme measures for His safety and that of the crowds. Crowd control. So, Jesus hushed the listeners to offset the mad rush. In effect, why add fuel to the fire? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I think it was a safety measure to guard God's time table for His redemptive  mission. I don't think we need to read any 'anti witness' allegation into Jesus' word of common-sense caution.
And, they disobeyed out of mere excitement for the great things He was doing. They couldn't contain themselves, they couldn't keep it in. They'd burst from the sheer marvel of it all. I think Jesus understood this and with tenderness resisted any urge to rain down fire on them for their failure to heed His directive 😃.

Certainly the Bible is deep with mystery. When we interpret it we sometimes are so bent on finding deep mysteries that we fail to understand the obvious and surface plain sense that is there also. This is a mistake and leads to unnecessary intrigue. As has been said, when plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense.
dick christen

January 27, 2018

BUT WHY THE SICKNESSES AND TRAGEDIES OF LIFE?


JESUS once took pity on a crippled man by the Pool of Bethesda. It was thought there were healing properties in those waters. But then, THE HEALER came and simply told the man to pick up his pallet and walk. And he did. A miracle happened. He was made whole.  Jesus disappeared but later sought out the man in the Temple and said, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

Jesus' teaching could not be more plain. Sin may well bring sickness and even tragedy of great magnitude. King David experienced this. "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long." But nowadays, it is not commonplace to admit that personal sin may be the cause of MY illness or hardship. It is hardly ever even explored as a possibility, at least not outwardly.  But, Jesus instructs us otherwise. But before learning more about this, let me proceed to say the following:

It is must be made clear that sin is not always the cause of bodily breakdown, life's heartaches, tragedies and grave disappointments. Therefore caution must be exercised not to hastily pin it accordingly. For instance, it just may be that genetics play a causal role when a person suffers. A physical weakness may well be inherited. Most people experience this in one form or another, sometimes painfully so. But even if such be the case, God uses it for His glory and, in a deeper sense, for our good. Mysteriously, our weaknesses and hurts make us stronger if, like Job of old, and with his undoubting faith, we say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." A famous naturalist learned this centuries later, not realizing the Bible taught it long ago. He watched with pity the struggle of a chrysalis breaking out of a cocoon. He took his knife and slit the silken casket to make the process easier. But what emerged was a weak creature with an anemic body and bleached wings, unable to fly. 

Furthermore, diseases of many a sort may well just be 'in the air.' We simply 'catch a bug.' Let us remember we exist under the curse pronounced upon all of life as set forth in Genesis 3. Harmful bacteria and viruses abound and at any moment may invade anyone's body. And so, we suddenly become sick, even violently ill. Troubles and trials abound. But mysteriously and wonderfully God uses even such experiences for many directives and sanctifying reasons in our lives. Hopefully at such a time we can say with the Apostle Paul, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).

Which brings us to God's work in shaping and molding our lives. In a Christians life He is ever seeking to make every one of His children more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul's ministry promoted this. He said, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you... (Galatians 4:19). And so God, in His inimitable way, uses evil to produce great positive good in our lives. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus, let alone in this life. We will understand it better by and by. Insightfully it was once said, "At birth, deny a child the ability to see, hear and speak, and you have a Helen Keller."

BUT, the fact remains, personal sin in 'the here and now' may also well be the cause of any illness, accident or struggle in life. Humbly we must search for and acknowledge such, repent and confess thereof. And so, Jesus said "do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” Rarely is this cause of tragedy, in whatever form, taught or humbly confessed. 

A full orbed theology of sickness is vital so that we can deal more wisely with the pains and sufferings so common in life's journey. We all get ill. We all hurt sooner or later and we all are tempted to even doubt God. Why? Well, understanding a Biblical rationale is critical to handling such agonies better when they occur. And being comforted therein, for whatever the cause, we come to know that God is walking nearby in any 'Bethesda' that happens in 'my'  life. He looks on mercifully ready to help and heal, or just give the grace needed for whatever the trying experience. 

C.H. Spurgeon remarked, "I venture to say that the greatest earthly blessing God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness. Sickness has frequently been of more use to the saints of God than health has." 

A certain exquisitely priceless relationship with one's dear heavenly Father intimately occurs only during the hardships of life. Blessed be His Name! Sickness, when sanctified, teaches us four things: the vanity of this world, the vileness of sin, the helplessness of man and the preciousness of Christ. 

dc

January 20, 2018

JESUS' FIERCE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND THOUGHTFUL MERCY..


     What is wrong with the cartoon picture? Answer: The doves are loose, flying around, inside the Temple. That did not happen. And the lesson learned is rich with meaning about the nature of God.

     What did take place is that Jesus drove out the profaners of the Temple who were merchandising in the oxen and sheep. When they fled the Temple, if their animals scattered they could chase them down and retrieve their possessions. In this, Jesus' FIERCE RIGHTEOUSNES was on full display.

     But, with respect to the doves who could fly away and be lost forever, He told them to get the birds out of the Temple. They were not released from their cages. In this we see His THOUGHTFUL MERCY.

      Do read the Scripture: "The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.  And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, 'Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business'” (John 2:13-16).

     Jesus is the perfect Son of Man. Everything He did was with exacting proportion and just the right measurement of expression. Like the fine flower of the Old Testament Meal Offering Jesus was smoothly operative in all He did.

      Indeed, the more we think about Jesus, the more we think of Him. "And the Word became flesh, and  dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Surely, He perfectly lived what He perfectly taught. In the arousing story of Jesus cleansing the Temple we see His FIERCE RIGHTEOUSNESS coupled with His THOUGHTFUL MERCY. It has been said, "Jesus Christ is both the most absolute grace and the most perfect law; so that to believe in Him is to embrace at once both law and grace." 

- dc

December 21, 2017

THE 'IFS' OF FORGIVENESS


I count three 'ifs' in the verses below. Ponder them prayerfully, observe them and thereby be on track with Christ's program for FORGIVENESS. God's Holy Word is the final Word of authority on any subject and keeps us from an all too prevalent and promoted 'easy-forgiveness,' so very popular in our day. But this easy, trendy 'flip-off' of wrong-doing is really presumptuous of grace and fails to deal righteously with a wrong at hand. It counters a true understanding of what is being forgiven; sin is marginalized. 

Here are the verses to carefully note. Jesus said:

"Be on your guard! IF your brother sins, rebuke him; and IF he repents, forgive him. And IF he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:3,4).

From these words of Jesus, we can rightly conclude at least these three things:

1. Upon careful consideration, IF my brother is indeed sinning or has sinned, I am to REBUKE him in accordance with Jesus' outline for doing so in Matthew 18. This passage reads: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed." A few verses later this portion of Scripture includes the familiar "where two or three are gathered together" phrase. We commonly use this in a prayer context but it really follows the Savior's admonition about confronting sin. When trying to straighten out matters of sin, with a witness attending, Jesus wants us to know He is present also and can work wonders in hearts in order to bring about resolution. He is present in a special manner because He really wants a wholesome fellowship between His people. The promise that Jesus will be present helps subdue any fears to "go" as Jesus commands (not merely suggests).

2. IF my brother REPENTS I am to forgive. Jesus says, "and if he repents..." But, there must be repentance preceding any forgiveness. Sin is not to be glossed over or easily dismissed with an "I'm sorry." Repentance has to do with a radical change of mind. The sinning person must think differently about the wrong allegedly committed. He must dismiss his rationalizing excuses for his sin and accept Jesus' truthful evaluation thereof. He is to think about his sin even as God thinks about it. God hates it! Do I? If the confronter ascertains holy compliance he is bound to forgive. This process glorifies God, rightly deals with a sin for which Jesus was nailed to the cross and at the same time sensitizes the sinner and those cognizant of the sin against continuance therein. Alexander Pope is the one who said, "To err is human, to forgive divine." But Christian forgiveness is more than mere pardon or accepting a hastily uttered (or muttered) "I'm sorry." True confession rather operates on the ground of satisfying justice. It's 'righting' one's life with God as well as with any who have been offended. Oswald Chambers remarked, "It is shallow nonsense to say God forgives us because He is love. The only ground upon which God can forgive us is the cross." And a believer must forgive on the same basis. 

3. Forgiveness may need to be REPEATED often. Jesus instructs, "And IF he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” This points up just how ingrained sin is in this vile world, including all human hearts and even the hearts of born-again believers. We are indeed sinners saved by grace. And even with all the bestowals of grace, we nevertheless are sinners still. Luther said, "I more fear what is within me than what comes from without." And so even with genuine repentance a believer may well repeat his or her sin. When such occurs, in love I must be willing to repeat and repeat the forgiveness process set forth by our Lord Himself. 

The above pertains to an often time-consuming horizontal (person with person) aspect of dealing with sin. This may well take much time, prayer and patience. The matter of offending sin is not settled privately and quietly merely in the heart of the one offended. There is to be a personal encounter between the one offended and the offender. But it will be a most thrilling moment when two brothers in Christ stand face to face in a kind of reconciliation that pleases God, honors the death of Christ for sin on His cross, and peacefully clears the consciences of two estranged believers in Christ. 

In the meantime a vertical or Godward forgiveness is to be employed at once when a sin is committed. This is the kind of "on the spot" forgiveness employed by Jesus agonizing on His cross. He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." And so, while I am working on the horizontal (human to human) aspect of forgiveness, I look up to God remembering how Christ forgave His enemies and remember also what He wrought for them on His cross. All sin was judged there. And since the concept of 'releasement' is inherent in Divinely ordered forgiveness, I must in communion with God immediately forgive that person in this sense: I know God has already dealt with this sin  and I now must turn over or release to God the sin and sinner at hand. I will not plot or plan revenge of any kind and I do this knowing full well that God, through Jesus, has already dealt with it and now in 'real time' will initiate a process of His own whereby the sinning one will be brought to terms with the error of his ways. God will handle it! Therefore, since He always keeps His Word and will do so, I at once forgive (in this vertical sense) knowing any justice or correction needed will be accomplished by the Lord in His way and time. So, I forgive by turning (releasing) an offending brother over to God for His wise and holy dealings, but must now proceed horizontally, right here on planet earth, to seek a face to face resolution of the issue at hand and what can be a righteous renewal of a happy and holy relationship with my brother.

"You know, Mitch, whenever the wife and I get into an argument , she gets historical." "You mean hysterical, Mel, don't you?" "No, I mean historical - she remembers everything I ever did wrong and the exact date and time that it happened."

In dealing with interpersonal offences God surely wants us to keep short accounts. This can happen when we follow His directions, both in the vertical and horizontal senses.

Dick Christen