Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rescue from this present evil age

It doesn’t take much more than reading the local headlines to be reminded that we live in a present evil age. Sometimes it doesn’t take anything more than looking at our own lives to realize it.

Jesus testified to the evil in His days on earth by saying, “For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, lewdness, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23).

You don’t have to live in the inner city to know that we’re living in a present evil age. Whether it’s the world around you or your own personal circumstances engulfing you, the presence of evil in this age cannot be denied.

Furthermore, every person born into this world bears the stain of sinfulness. King David recognized this of himself as he confessed, “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). The Bible declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). I’m in that category, and so are you. If you say that you have no sin, then you’re not only deceiving yourself, but you’re making God a liar, and the truth is not in you; His word is not in you (1 John 1:8, 10).

And it gets worse. Not only are we born sinful people into an evil age, but there’s a price to pay for our sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), writes the apostle Paul under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit. That death is an eternal separation from God in hell. The prophet Isaiah declared, “Your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen” (Isaiah 59:2). The apostle John was given a revelation of the glories of heaven, and he wrote, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful” (Rev. 21:27).

And not only are we born sinful people into an evil age with an eternal punishment as our just penalty, there is absolutely nothing any one of us can do on our own to save ourselves. Even our best deeds to try to gain salvation are but “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) in the Lord’s sight. If we think we can achieve righteousness by our good works then we are terribly deceived. Many people have this idea that on that day when they stand before the Lord’s seat of judgment that He’ll place all their “good deeds” on one scale and their “bad deeds” on the other. If the good outweighs the bad, they’re in. And, of course, nearly everyone with this view believes they will come out on the good side.

The apostle Paul knew better, however, and he pleaded with the church at Galatia for their understanding. He wrote, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse…Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law” (Gal. 3:10, 11). He goes on later to describe the works of the flesh as being obvious: “Sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).

Now, I hope you’re still with me here, because I sure don’t want to leave it like this. If that’s all there is to look forward to, then no wonder there’s such hopelessness and despair in our world today. But, friend, all of this bad news must be rightly understood before we can fully understand and appreciate the wonder of the good news of the message of the Bible. That news is our Lord Jesus Christ, “who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever” (Gal. 1:4).

This news should make the front page of every newspaper every day! You can be delivered from your sin, rescued from this present evil age and saved from everlasting death in hell because Jesus has suffered the wrath of God for sin for you. He died to rescue you! Will you repent of your sins and receive Christ Jesus today as your Savior, or will you keep hoping your “filthy rags” will save you? Will you follow Him gladly as the Lord of your life, or will you keep following your own path of destruction and death? Will you tell someone who’s lost and dying that Jesus is their only rescue, or will you keep silent as they plunge into the eternal fire of hell?

Monday, March 10, 2008


Have you ever wished you could retrieve something you've said? Who hasn't? We've all spoken carelessly, rashly or harshly, and no matter how quickly we realize the damage our words have caused, or the extent of their stupidity, there's no way to unsay them once they've left our lips.

Sadly, often our most hurtful words are directed toward those we love the most. Our very own families usually receive the worst of our speech. Sometimes we say things we don't really mean - but are such words actually revealing what's really in our hearts?

I believe our speech problems aren't really speech problems at all. They're heart problems. What we say reflects what's hidden in our hearts - whether good or bad.

"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34b)

I'll encourage you to read the full context of this passage in your Bible, as Jesus denounces the Pharisees for saying that the healings He performed were the result of being in partnership with the devil. Their blasphemous accusation against Him was merely the overflow of evil hearts hostile to the presence of God among them. They couldn't help but speak such evil, because their very hearts were full of wickedness.

Conversely, those whose hearts are filled with a treasure of good will naturally speak with goodness as the heart overflows to the lips.

For now, for the sake of your family, your friends, your co-workers or your online buddies, I want to offer eight ways to fill the treasure chest of your heart with good, so that the o-v-e-r-f-l-o-w of your heart will be good stuff pouring from your lips.

O - Open your heart to the Lord. This is the first and fundamental step toward filling the storehouse of your heart with good. Sin leaves a nasty stain on each man's heart, a terrible blemish that darkens us spiritually, separates us from a holy God, and eventually kills us with an eternal death in hell. The only way to cleanse the heart and make it worth anything good at all is to receive the complete forgiveness and cleansing of sin that Jesus Christ alone can offer. Open your heart by believing that Jesus died on the cross for your sin, repenting of your ways and giving Him control of your life. He will enter into your heart in the power and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and fill you up with all the good He offers. When you open your heart to the Lord, the overflow on your lips will be such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

V - Vacate your own agenda. Lay down your self-centered ways, your selfish ambitions and self-sufficiency. Get rid of all the junk that clutters your heart with worry, doubt, fear, pride, lust, envy, anger and bitterness. Allow the Lord God to search your heart and convict of sin and unrighteousness. The apostle Paul said it this way: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I life by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20). When you've vacated your own agenda, then when you open your mouth the overflow from your heart will be free of any anxious, worrisome words, free of unwholesome talk, free of crude and coarse joking, free of gossip and hurtful comments, free of arrogance and prideful boasting, and free of bitterness and rage.

E - Enjoy Christ! Enjoy the life you have in Him. Delight yourself in the Lord. Let your heart sing with thankfulness and gladness to the One who has rescued you from darkness and brought you into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins! Rejoice in the Lord always - when things are good and when times are bad. He is your Rock, your Refuge, your Shelter in the time of storm. Look at all He's done for you. Count your blessings. Meditate on His incredible love and mercy poured out for you. Cherish Christ as the priceless treasure above all treasures that He is. Abide in Him fully. Let His word abide in you. Remain in His love by obeying His commands, and listen to what He promises: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11). When a true enjoyment of Christ Jesus fills your heart, then that joy will overflow when you open your mouth to speak.

R - Read the Bible. What a marvelous gift God has given to us by giving us His Word! Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Pray through it. Memorize it. Rely on it. The Bible is the infallible, inerrant, eternal Word of the living God revealing the Almighty to mankind. It is Truth, and Truth is the authority that must govern our lives. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, training and correcting in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). When your heart is filled with the word of God, then the overflow as you speak will be wisdom, praise, gratitude, encouragement, admonishment, and so much more - it will be the word of God and the message of Christ Jesus.

F - Fellowship with God in prayer. If you want to fill your heart with good, then spend much time in prayer-fellowship with the Father. We forfeit so much peace and joy and contentment in our lives by shallow or neglected prayer-fellowship with our Lord, who promises so very much, yet we ask so very little. Look at the strength Jesus Himself in the flesh drew from His Father in heaven in prayer. If Jesus needed such prayer-fellowship with God, how much more do we! Sincere, meaningful prayer with the Lord acknowledges our dependence upon His power in our weakness, His provision in our need, His protection in our trouble, and His presence in our lives. When our hearts are filled with the strength and comfort and peace God provides to us in prayer, then the overflow on our lips will reflect the sweet fellowship we enjoy with our Savior.

L - Love, love, love. Because He first loved us. Take some time and truly meditate on the ultimate demonstration of God's love for you at Calvary. See the compassionate eyes of Jesus fix upon yours as He hangs from the cross. Hear His tender, merciful words, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34), uttered on your behalf even as He gasps for each breath. Feel the weight of sin He bore in His body on the tree - your sin, your punishment, your place. Why did Jesus endure such agony and pain for you? Why did He suffer and bleed and die such a horrible death as crucifixion? It was because of His amazing love - a love we do not deserve, a love we could never earn. When you meditate on the overwhelming love of God for you, then your heart will be filled with love, and the words of your mouth will overflow from the heart with love and goodness toward others.

O - Oversee your heart. Protect it with all diligence. Guard it well. Tighten the borders and let nothing impure enter in. As soon as you let down your guard or leave the gate open, the adversary will sneak in begin destroying you. He'll come in through the door of rationalizing thoughts, as you reason with yourself, "This movie isn't that bad...this website isn't too off-color...this novel isn't that graphic." He'll come in through open gate of compromise. Jesus told His followers to "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). Wherever you let your guard down, that's where the enemy will advance. And he comes like a thief with a mission to kill, to steal and to destroy. You must oversee your heart! Guard who and what comes in. Guard every gate and set a watch on every wall. When you oversee your heart with all steadfastness and faith, the treasure of your heart will be kept safe and the overflow remain pure.

W - Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only. Worship is so much more than the songs we sing in church Sunday morning. It's more than raising our hands or bending our knees. It's more than dropping a few bucks in the offering plate or donating land to a charitable organization. It's more than a random act of kindness that makes you feel good about yourself. Worship is the daily, living sacrifice we present to the Lord as we yield ourselves completely to His will. Worship can be beautifully expressed in the external, but it's truly a matter of what's inside the heart. This is what God sees. When our hearts are filled with the wonder and awe and reverence and adoration of our incomparable Savior, our Prince of Peace, the King of kings and Lord of lords, then our lips will be quick to speak of the grace and glory of our God as praises overflow from hearts that are captivated by the name of Jesus.

May your heart be filled with the goodness of Christ Jesus and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, so that as your heart overflows the glory of Christ may be forever on your lips.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Draw Me, Dear Jesus

There's a great hymn that's probably too often neglected in the music of the church today. Actually, there are probably many of them we don't sing anymore that would teach, encourage and inspire us in the Lord richly. But I'll have to reserve that line of thought for a different day.

The hymn "Be Thou My Vision" is one I find echoing my own prayer before God. Here's the first line:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art:
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

That's what I want - the presence and the vision of the Lord to be my guide, to be my light. Nothing else, but Christ and Christ alone.

The third stanza:

Riches I heed not nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.

Is that not the desire of all who seek Him? That Christ Himself be our greatest treasure? I'm not looking for men's applause or the temporary trappings of popularity or riches in this world. I want to lay up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves can never break in and steal.

There are some rich truths found in this hymn that lead me to lift up my hands in praise of the One in whom I know will answer - and has answered - this prayer.

Dr. Butler's Hymnology class in seminary provided an assignment where we were asked to write a hymn. What follows is my humble classwork attempt to express my own prayer using the same tune as in "Be Thou My Vision," the tune SLANE, a traditional Irish melody. It is a prayer of faith, hope, endurance and love, based much off of Psalm 63 and Hebrews 10.

"Draw Me, Dear Jesus"

Draw me, dear Jesus, to Thy wounded side
Knowing that safely in Thee I abide
Sheltered in shadows of rest in Thy wings
Grant me firm faith as my soul to Thee clings

Holding unswervingly, Lord, unto Thee
For every promise of Thine comes to be
Surely Thy blood on the cross paid my price
Grant that this hope be my anchor in Christ

Spurring each other toward love and good deeds
Led by Thy Spirit we gather, agreed
Turning, encouraging hearts to Thy way
Grant us endurance to live for the Day

Better than life is the love of our King
Purer than all of the praises we sing
Higher than all of the heavens above
Grant us a cup of Thy unfailing love