The unbelieving religious leaders of Jesus’ day asked Him what was the greatest commandment in the law, and He said, love the Lord thy God, first, and, second, love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus wasn’t saying that no other commands or teachings mattered. There were prohibitions punishable by death in God’s law. Those were serious. When Nadab and Abhi offered strange fire unto the Lord, they were both killed. You can’t get all of the commandments, words, and sayings obeyed, if you won’t start with at least minimum objectives. I hesitate anymore to talk about minimum objectives, because someone might think it is permissible to do only the minimum. I’m saying the minimum is a benchmark. My wife and I know that we have certain benchmarks in our marriage. If I didn’t do those things, I would assess myself as failing at loving my wife. For awhile, I’ve listed minimum objectives as Bible study, prayer, evangelism, and faithful church attendance. Do those every week.
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:19-20, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” If you are breathing, you have noticed an extreme uptick in the United States in severe, radical, crude, loud, threatening, violent, and dangerous behavior as protest and opposition. Why? These are discontent people, who can’t be happy, without a standard or means of civility. If they don’t get their way, they feel justified to throw a fit like they are. You see this portrayed in 2 Peter 2, a lot of the description there a perfect explanation of what we see in our culture. They must have their way and without condemnation or opposition. They don’t want opposition even spoken, warning of punishment for that. This is the trend we see today, growing like it hasn’t in decades. “Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled,” 1 Peter 3:14.
Is God doing great things today? Should we expect more from God than what Christians expect from Him? I’m not sure what was the context of his quote, but the famous British Baptist missionary to India, William Carey, said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” I don’t know what Carey meant by “great things,” but people often quote Carey in this instance like his quote was some type of equivalent to scripture. The idea or thought here seems to be, if you aren’t expecting “great things” and you aren’t attempting “great things” then you are disobedient to God. If great things are just obedience to scripture, then those applications of the Word of God are great enough. God is doing great enough things. He never stops doing them. People very often so much want to report that they saw something of a supernatural nature that they start seeking these types of events. God wants you to enjoy and thank Him for the great things that He already does on an every day basis.
Perhaps you’ve said the words, “It’s not worth my time,” demeaning whatever toward which someone points those words. Maybe we can turn the question around and ask then, “What is worth your time?” The question speaks to what is valuable. We look to God for those priorities, because God tells us what is the most value. On the top of that list is God Himself, because God Himself is most valuable. If you don’t put your time into God, then your values are out of whack. If you don’t value what is most valuable, you can’t look at anything in the right way. You won’t use your time properly because you will be spending it on something of lesser value. Your time becomes of less value. By its nature, what is most valuable is most worth your time. Having God of the greatest value to you and your life doesn’t mean that you won’t do any other kind of work. You’ll think about your work, however, as it relates to God. You do it for God. God is pleased by this.
Romans 5:2b-5a say, “[We] rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed.” Life has tribulations in it, which proceed from the sin curse on the world. Those having peace with God and a standing in God’s grace through justification by faith also have a hope of glory that takes them through tribulations. With hope of the glory of God, tribulations take on a purpose. They strengthen us in the sanctification process that brings patience or endurance. The more believers endure through tribulations with the hope of glory, they gain experience, and all of this brings more hope. More hope brings greater strength in tribulations to endure and then even greater experience, which results in even greater hope. It is a cycle that guarantees that we will conform to the image of Jesus Christ by the power of His grace, fulfilling God’s promise.
Whatever goal we might see for the earth, it will be limited by certain realities. In the beginning, God said to subdue His creation and have dominion over it, expanded upon by his instruction to Adam, to dress it and keep it. We’re still doing those things, but with the new reality of sin, that curses this earth. We can’t succeed at God’s mandate without the gospel, first for ourselves and then for others. We can’t do what God directed without others and others can’t fulfill their part without the gospel either. Hence, we must evangelize. Evangelism then becomes part of the work. Man can’t obey God as a lifestyle without conversion. The other reality is that this planet isn’t going to survive as it is. Every man who will complete God’s plan will do it in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. No one enters that kingdom without salvation. Except a man be born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God. It’s our goal then to build the kingdom to accomplish God’s plan.
In Romans 6:3, Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” He was writing about sanctification. When someone has been justified by faith, God saves Him from the power of sin. Verse 1 says he is “dead indeed unto sin.” He cannot live any longer therein. His lifestyle changes. In 2 Corinthians Paul said he is a “new creature,” “old things passed away, all things become new” (5:17). This death to sin is pictured in baptism. When someone is baptized, he is baptized “into” Jesus’ death. “Into,” the Greek preposition eis, shows identification. Later in Colossians 2:12, Paul writes, “Buried with him in baptism.” Water baptism pictures the old man, the former person being buried, so that all can see. When we receive Jesus Christ, we receive His sacrifice for our sins. By receiving Him, we die to ourselves. It is not longer our righteousness, but His. Like He raised from the dead, we are too raised unto new life.
After Jesus was born, His parents brought Him to God’s house. It is obvious when you read the text of scripture that they kept bringing Him to God’s house every year as prescribed by the Old Testament. Before Jesus was born, He dwelt in the heavenly house of God with His Father. The house on earth was a shadow of the reality of the heavenly house. When Jesus was twelve years of age, on another occasion of His parents bringing Him to the house of His Father in Jerusalem, they left Him behind there. When they came back to find Him there, He said He was going about to do His Father’s business, which was in His Father’s house. When Jesus began His ministry, He cleansed His Father’s house, indignant that it had been made into a den of thieves. In 1 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul calls the church, the house of the living God. We begin 2017 in the house of God, where Jesus still abides (Mt 18:18, Rev 1:19-2:1). When Jesus returns, He will welcome His own into His own house, where they will be with Him forever.
Romans 8:28-30 read, “28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” All things, both bad and good things, work together for good to believers, who are those who love God. Why? As you read through those three verses, you see that the ones whom God foreknew before the foundation of the world—because He is omniscient and timeless—He called, justified, and will glorify. It says they were glorified, as they are as good as already glorified to God. However, those very people, He predestinated to conform to the image of His Son. God only predestinates those who He calls and justifies. Believers, therefore, will conform to Jesus Christ. How will they conform? By God working all things together for their good. Their “good” is conforming to the image of the Son, and since that is God’s goal, He will do what it takes to do that. That is a guarantee. Whatever He uses to do that, for that we can be thankful. When the bad things come, we know He is using them for our good.
Christmas time presents a lot of activity in this world and in the United States. You have certain family and work obligations and travel. It isn’t the same routine. As these different occupations fly at you, your eyes observing and mind appropriating, remember to live by faith and not by sight. The plan of the kingdom of Jesus Christ still marches on. Eternal souls still hang in the balance. God’s Word is still God’s Word and His will is still His will. A nice prayer is the one in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” When there is a lot to see, we can tend to live by sight and not by faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Living by faith is living according to God’s Word – just believing Him, so loving Him and doing what He says. That still is God’s plan despite the flurry around you. It never stops being that, and these days at the end of the year are part of that life of faith. They can provide a unique opportunity of living by faith because you are out of your normal routine. You have some different people and different situations to apply the Word of God. This is being faithful to God. He will be faithful to you. He will sustain you and He will continue saving and sanctifying you. Set Him apart in your heart and be ready for Him.