In Matthew 20, Jesus used a parable to say that someone who was saved at the end of his life would get the same ultimate pay, eternal life, as the one who was saved toward the beginning of his life. I want to consider another related idea, which is that it is never too late to change or make some changes that you need to make. As saved people, we will and must conform to the image of His Son. We will keep conforming, because we’ve been justified — God has predetermined that (Rom 8:29). These changes, albeit later, are still what will happen. I’m still changing and I know it is never too late to change. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. An older Christian will by nature, since He has a new nature, be willing to change, because He has denied himself. Change requires humility. We must not be set in an old way that is a wrong, old way. Even though there are quotes like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” that doesn’t make them true. They aren’t Bible. It is possible that might characterize someone who can’t change, because he has rejected Christ for the last time. However, you older person, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change. Be prepared to meet the Lord. End your life the very best of your Christian life. Keep on growing. Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
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In my viewpoint, America is done as a nation. What does that mean to us? It really doesn’t change anything, because first we are citizens of heaven. This world is not our home. Perhaps we can stop thinking so much about this world and not the next. The only opportunity the country has is to repent and turn to God, and I’m talking about the nation, not just the churches. We should desire, in the midst of judgment, pockets of God’s mercy. It’s a better situation than Sodom, because there are far more than ten righteous. However, we’re on our way there for many reasons. As well, we can slow it down, slow down the ultimate demise, and we should want that for our children and grandchildren. The grandparents and parents should consider that. This is not just about you, whether you’re going to enjoy the end of your life, but what will leave behind for your children. Whether we have good churches, whether those churches are obedient, does matter. You can hasten destruction. You can make it much more difficult for the future on this earth for your children and grandchildren by what you do. You want to be an influence of righteousness if not being a basis for God withholding judgment yourself. He deserves to be honored even in the midst of wickedness, like an Elijah and Elisha of old. Let’s do what we can do.
I was reading something this week about the coach of the Golden State Warriors, who claims to be a born-again Christian, as do others on the Warrior team. I’m not endorsing the playing of professional basketball on Sunday as a practice, but the article said that Mark Jackson, the coach, was in part at odds with the ownership because of the outspoken nature of his Christianity. The article also said that Jackson’s lifestyle is not in fitting with or popular with most of the people of the San Francisco Bay Area. This was not mystery or surprise. A link in the article went to a post in The Atlantic on the religious nature of the inhabitants of various areas of the United States. The Atlantic indicated that the San Francisco Bay Area was the least religious of all the metro areas in the United States at 24 percent religious. The most religious was Salt Lake City, UT (of course, Mormon) at 79 percent and then several cities in the Southern United States. The idea presented was that people would not be that upset to lose Jackson, even if he were winning, because they were turned off by his religious fervor. I write this to encourage you in your Christianity in the least Christian metro area of the United States. Let’s be vigilant for the Lord, believing the only and most believable content or information in the world, the Truth, the Bible.
We are you willing to put up with? If you ask for cold water, and you get lukewarm, do you tolerate that? If you go to a restaurant and it charges more than what’s in the menu, is that OK? Is it fine if you get different food than what you ordered? If you buy something and it doesn’t work all the time, will you keep it? Do you expect a contractor to finish your work like you asked and what you paid for it? Is it tolerable for you when someone disrespects you or your wife? I ask these questions because I want you to consider what you are willing to put up with for yourself. I wanted you to think about the high standard you kept for yourself. Now that you’ve done that, let’s think together about what we’re willing to allow God to “put up with.” I’m not saying that he really puts up with it. He’s merciful and forgiving, but He is forbearing. He doesn’t pour down His wrath immediately upon what we would never put up with. With all the good that God is done for you, how powerful He is, and that you have given your life to Him, why would there be a lesser standard for Him than there is for you? Even if I could guarantee you from scripture that God would not do something about your compromise in or resistance to what He’s said, shouldn’t we just want to give Him what He wants?
He’s been so good to us.
The Bible has a lot of uniqueness in comparison to all other literature, but I want to focus on one. The Bible is perspicuous, that is, it is plain, clear, understandable to even a child (2 Tim 3:15). On the other hand, scripture is impossible to understand, because its truth is not understood by the natural mind (1 Cor 2). Wisdom is found, according to Proverbs (1-3) like searching for hid treasure, like a very difficult mining process. A good biblical comparison, I believe, is to that of manna. God supplied the children of Israel manna in their trek through the wilderness. It was on the ground like frost in the morning and then burned away. They had to get up early enough to get it and bend over and pick it up. And they had to go get it every day. It was easy and yet it wasn’t easy. How could it be both? Manna is a similar item or situation. As a result, with the Bible we get the complaint that it is too hard. We reject that for the plainness. I don’t think the basic message of the Bible is hard. It’s said and reinforced again and again and again. On the other hand, you have to want it. If you don’t want it, you won’t get it. Those who say it’s too hard don’t want it. I think there are even people who “want it,” but they don’t want to obey it. They want to validate from it what they want to do. They can’t understand it, because they are looking for what they want.
A major conversation in the national news in the last several weeks, that relates to us, is about the subject of religious liberty. Former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, is quoted as saying in a speech the week before last: “”When the government begins to say ‘it’s okay if you have faith but you can only have this much of it because, when you have this much of it, it may somehow conflict with something government has passed,’ here’s what I know: It’s time for the government to scale back, not for people of faith to scale back. Religious liberty should be unimpeded in this nation.” Alright, so we want to protect our religious liberty. But let me ask, “For what?” Which loss of religious liberties would harm you? You may want to keep them, but if you lost them, how much of a loss would that be for you? We are free to gather, but if we didn’t gather, would that be a negative for you? If we couldn’t evangelizing freely, would that even stop you? Maybe you don’t want to be forced by the government to participate in something you don’t like, but no one is forcing you to participate in things that are already sinful, that you choose on your own to be a participant. I’m saying that we should make sure that we work on not being hypocrites, or at least think about how we might be, in our desire to have religious freedoms protected.
Ephesians 5:18 commands the believer, “Be filled with the Spirit.” A result of obedience to that command will be Spirit filling, which will then result in singing. The first result of Spirit filling is singing. Singing is that big a deal. When Isaiah went to heaven through a vision, as if he were actually there, he saw himself then as a man of unclean lips. He faulty unworthy, inadequate. What did “lips” have to do with it? Surely he saw himself as small and insignificant compared to God, but that didn’t relate to lips. The heavenly creatures used lips to praise God and that’s where he saw himself as falling short. Singing to God is what the Holy Spirit will prompt you when He’s in control of you. Do you have a spiritual song, a hymn, a psalm in your mind or heart and on your lips? Is there a song there waiting to be sung by you? Men today write and talk about the worship wars in churches, but before we even get there, is there the impulse to sing to God. When you get to church, the corporate worship of congregational singing is a great opportunity or a segment ready to be over? It’s difficult to be singing to God in your heart and from your mouth and to be sinning, selfish, or unthankful. It’s not just that the focus on God will tend toward a right attitude and approach, but that the singing causes a focus on God that will bring a right spirit.
Sixty seconds is sixty seconds. But that’s not the whole story. You can make your sixty seconds worth more. It’s still sixty seconds, but it can inflate, just explode into something immeasurable, something eternal. Seriously. It’s what the Bible says. You are redeeming your time, sort of cashing it in. You are investing it. You are a steward, trading it in for something more valuable than the earthly time itself. That’s because of God. God makes your time of greater value than it actually is. But it is up to you. Will you fritter away your life with the temporal. It is sucked into the ether of this worldly life, disappearing into a veritable black hole. It doesn’t have to be that way. You surely don’t want it to be that way. In a sense, you can’t see it that way as a saved person, and it will gnaw on you if it were that way. I can’t tell you how much your time can be worth, but it can shoot through the proverbial roof. So you know that. Now let’s do something about it. This is where faith is at. You believe this, and believe is more than just intellectual and emotional, but volitional. You’re will is involved. You may not know what to do. You are the church, but the church, the other people, are there to help, because it is a body, and each other part is there to help you in your part. As a matter of fact, our sixty seconds are multiplied by being a help to you.
Sometimes life seems to have contradictions. It doesn’t actually, because there is one God and everything has symmetry with Him. This is what I’m talking about. You tell people what they need to hear. People complain that it was too harsh and you did more damage than good, and actually were the force to turn them off to the truth. So now you are supposedly the one that caused the problem. On the other hand, if they had gone ahead and done it wrong, and you said nothing, then you think, “I should have said something.” When you say nothing, of course, you don’t get to see or hear the alternative. Sometimes you might think you shouldn’t say something because you yourself are not sinlessly perfect. They’ll just say, “You do it too.” That might disqualify everyone on planet earth, so no one can say anything, except Jesus for His limited time. When He was here, He wasn’t popular for saying the truth either, and He was charged with being a trouble maker. What I’ve read is that those who take scripture really seriously, to do everything, turn off people, make them head the other direction. All of these contradict, so what’s the truth in it? You tell people the truth. Sure, pray, make sure you’re settled with God. Make sure things are right with other people, and then go ahead and tell people the truth. It’s always right, even if people don’t like it.
God created the world. It was good. All of it was good. He created man and man was good. It was not good that man was alone, but God created woman and it was good. God said don’t eat of a tree. Man and woman ate of the tree. Sin entered into the world. The world was ruined by sin. Man was lost, separated from God because of sin. The latter was bad. These things were bad. But God had a plan to rescue man. God would be glorified. Everything would be good again. God would provide salvation through a Savior. He would save through a substitute. God’s justice would be satisfied, because sin would be punished. A man, Who was perfect, would pay the penalty for man’s sin. To do this, God the Son would become a man. He would do that by being born of a woman, which fulfilled the prediction God made in Genesis 3. He would not have a human father, but He would be born of a virgin, with God as His Father. He would be conceived of the Holy Spirit in a virgin’s womb. A sinless man, He would live a sinless life. He would die, be buried, rise again from the dead, ascend into heaven, sit in authority at the God the Father’s right hand, and then come again to set up a kingdom on the earth, to rule and reign with those He has saved. This was the plan and it would begin with a birth, and that birth is Christmas.