Retrospect for Life

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Our Deepest, Primary Problem

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave
Edward T. Welch

It is one thing to acknowledge that we occasionally do wrong; it is something else to acknowledge that what we did was sin – it was against God…

Even among Christians, sin is not always seen as our deepest or primary problem.  For example, if I were to reflect on the problems of my day, they might include my finances, children, wife, health, weight, reputation, lack of lasting contributions, car, leaky faucet, or environment-endangering lawn mower.  Even when I am an obvious wrongdoer, I still can think that sin is not my primary problem.  It is one of those problems that come up occasionally; it is not, I feel, a core feature of my very being.

Yet the fact that I do not feel like sin is my primary problem does not prove anything.  Sin by its very nature is more often quiet and secretive than loud and public.  For every overt episode of rage, there are dozens of jealousies, manipulations, white lies, and malicious thoughts, none of which immediately register on the conscience.  And, according to Scripture, the greatest sin of all is even more covert: I do not love the Lord my God with my whole mind and heart.  If our failure to consistently worship the true God is the key feature of sin, we are sinners all.

Notice what happens when we lose sight of these biblical teachings.  If sin is not our core problem, the gospel itself – the thing of first importance – is marginalized.  The good news that Jesus proclaimed and offered is that there is forgiveness of sins, not through our own attempts to please God, but by placing our confidence in Jesus himself, in his death and resurrection.  If sin is not our primary problem, then the gospel of Jesus is no longer the most important event in all of human history.

To Believe Him or Not

John 10:17-21

[19] There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. [20] Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” [21] Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Whenever anyone makes a statement, we have two choices.  Either we believe them or we do not.  Whether it’s me telling you I can fly or Jesus saying He is the Good Shepherd, our options are that simple.

The Jews in John 10 are sharply divided.  After Jesus claims to be the Good Shepherd some do not believe Him.  His claims are so incredible they call Him demon-possessed and crazy.  Others are not so sure.

We may be tempted to scoff at their unbelief but are we so different?  God consistently declares things that are difficult to understand, hard to believe, or outright outrageous.

Is Matthew 6:33 “reasonable” advice in the midst of financial crisis?

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Is Luke 9:24 true when we face physical, not only metaphorical danger?

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Is the life Jesus offers us in John 10:10 actually possible or just a pipe dream?

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Is Romans 8:28 true all the time?

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Jesus’s opponents were proud, selfish, and greedy, but they understood that Jesus meant what He said.  At times, we find ourselves rationalizing or spiritualizing to make it seem like Jesus did not mean what He said.  Fear, doubt, and selfishness can drive us to this.  Of course there are extenuating circumstances and gray areas, but often we are given two simple options – to believe Him or not.

May He give us the grace of faith that we might believe Him, the grace of forgiveness when we do not, and the grace of perseverance to continue to fight despite our stumbling.

Prayer Changes Things

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

  • By prayer, Esau’s heart was changed toward Jacob, so that they met in a friendly, rather than hostile, manner (Gen. 32).
  • By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Ex. 7-11).
  • By prayer, Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh. 10).
  • By prayer, when Samson was ready to perish with thirst, God brought water out of a hollow place for his sustenance (Judg. 15).
  • By prayer, the strength of Samson was restored. He pulled down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines, so that those whom he killed as he died were more than all he had killed in his life (Judg. 16).
  • By prayer, Elijah held back the rains for three and a half years. Then by prayer, he caused it to rain again (1 Kings 17-18).
  • By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and killed in one night 185,000 men in Sennacherib’s army (2 Kings 19).
  • By the prayer of Asa, God confounded the army of Zerah (2 Chron. 14).

The Good Shepherd

John 10:10-15

[10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. [11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. [13] He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. [14] I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

In fairy tales like Red Riding Hood, no one is confused as to who is the “good guy” and who is the “bad guy.” The wolf wants to eat everyone and the huntsman wants to save everyone so things become clear fairly quickly.  Unfortunately, things in real life do not always appear to be so simple.

As Jesus’s ministry becomes more prominent, opposition from the religious and political leaders of Israel grows as well.  The growing divide between them is clear and the average Israelite is confused as to who is the “good guy” and who is the “bad guy.”  Should he follow this new teacher, Jesus, or the established leaders of his nation and religion?  In the midst of this turmoil, Jesus seeks to make the situation clear by explaining that He alone is the Good Shepherd.

In John 10, Jesus explains that the Good Shepherd is completely different from the thief and the hired hand.  The shepherd comes to give life abundant.  The thief “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (v. 10).  “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11).  The hired hand flees when he sees the wolf coming (v. 12).  The shepherd knows his sheep (v. 14).  The hired hand cares nothing for the sheep (v. 13).  The difference between the Good Shepherd and all others is the difference between life and death.

The world, the flesh, and the devil work as hard as they can to confuse us as to who is the “good guy.”  The Word of God makes things clear.  No spouse or child can give us life abundant.  Money and prestige have never laid down their lives for anyone.  Comfort and security will not walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  There is only one Good Shepherd and His name is Jesus.

Isn’t Life Life?

Just How Pro-Life Are You Really?
Michael Horton

Not long ago, a friend and I went through the drive-through window at a fast food spot. The fact that the server had a thick foreign accent, characteristic of fast food franchises in Southern California, and that my friend never shied away from making his racism a matter of public record, made me cringe as I prepared for the inevitable. Sure enough, this friend made some typically racist remark. The sad thing is, he’s a pastor. The odd thing is, he’s a rabid opponent of abortion. But is he consistently pro-life?

Evangelicals raise no qualms when the United States commits millions to Israel or spends millions on a military campaign to free a tiny, but wealthy, oil state with no regard for democracy, but when it comes to talking about the emergency in Somalia, Africa, with hundreds dying every day from starvation, the sentiment seems to be, “We have our own problems here at home.” Evangelicals rightly protest the murder of the unborn and decry the silence of those who refuse to defend those who have no voice to defend themselves. Nevertheless, that same silence hovers secretly over the same impassioned group when children die senselessly after they are born. Shouldn’t there be an outrage of equal proportions? Isn’t life life? Or are we just caught up in the glitz and glamour of political debates? Are we really pro-life?

Link: Complete Article

Asking for Strength to Rebel

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

…if we see iniquity in our lives and harbor it in our hearts when we pray, we are asking God for the strength we need to curse Him. We are petitioning God for more strength to disobey Him further. Just as [someone is] not about to lend his gun to those who would kill him, God is not about to honor our requests made out of sinful hearts.

“What sacrifice does God require?”

All About Heresy
Michael S. Horton

After all, it was Cain who murdered Abel over a point of theology. The question was, “What sacrifice does God require?” God showed what sacrifice pleases him when he rejected the plant covering that Adam and Eve had sewn together. Instead God sacrificed an animal and covered them with its skins. Abel placed his faith in the coming Messiah, who was promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15, by offering an animal sacrifice. But Cain brought plants as his sacrifice. Men and women have always been seeking to appease God themselves. Their consciences tell them that they are sinners and that God must judge sinners. But instead of turning to him for mercy, they set up their own righteousness and worship. Cain murdered Abel over the definition of the gospel; Cain became the father of church persecutions throughout history. This is even clearer in Hebrews 11, where we are told that Abel was accepted because he trusted the promise by grace alone through faith alone.

Link: Complete Article

“I Will Never Leave You”

NEVER!
J.C. Ryle

Hebrews 13:5b

for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Let every believer grasp these words and store them up in his heart. Keep them ready, and have them fresh in your memory; you will want them one day. The Philistines will be upon you, the hand of sickness will lay you low, the king of terrors will draw near, the valley of the shadow of death will open up before your eyes. Then comes the hour when you will find nothing so comforting as a text like this, nothing so cheering as a real sense of God’s companionship.

Stick to that word, “never”. It is worth its weight in gold. Cling to it as a drowning man clings to a rope. Grasp it firmly, as a soldier attacked on all sides grasps his sword. God has said, and He will stand to it, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

NEVER! Though your heart be often faint, and you are sick of self, and your many failures and infirmities overwhelm you – even then the promise will not fall.

NEVER! Though the devil whispers, “I shall have you at last; yet a little time and your faith will fail, and you will be mine.” Even then the Word of God will stand.

NEVER! When the cold chill of death is creeping over you, and friends can do no more, and you are starting on that journey from which there is no return – even then Christ will not forsake you.

NEVER! When the day of judgment comes, and the books are opened, and the dead are rising from their graves, and eternity is beginning – even then the promise will bear all your weight; Christ will not leave His hold on your soul.

Oh believing reader, trust in the Lord for ever, for He says, “I will never leave you.” Lean back all your weight upon Him, do not be afraid. Glory in His promise. Rejoice in the strength of your consolation. You may say boldly, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear.”