Sunday, August 20, 2017

John 14:23


My wife and I will have been married 6 years in October.  In that time we’ve had two houses, one dog, a little girl, and countless adventures.

Like any couple, we’ve had our own challenges that we’ve faced together.  But if I could do it all over again, I would gladly say those vows once more!

When I first presented this lesson Brandie and I had just gotten married.  I wrote in the introduction to that original draft that the responsibilities of the big commitment hadn’t fully sunk in yet, but that I was praying I would be able to do my best to uphold the weight of those vows I swore to uphold to both Brandie and our God.

Of course, to many people marriage is a commitment that is just too big to take on and they’ll actively flee it or – if they even got married to begin with – they may dismiss their spouse at the first sign of trouble…  As students of the Bible we of course know that marriage is meant to be a life-long commitment.

Mark 10:6-9 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” 

However, unfortunately, people don’t seem to care much about commitment in today’s world.  Whether it’s in business deals, marriages or simply promises made to friends, “commitment” is a word that’s sadly become empty and devoid of its meaning.

Earthly Commitments and Spiritual Commitments

But whether we take them seriously or not, we make commitments on almost a daily basis.  We pledge to repay loans, make payments with credit cards, and make promises without even thinking about it at times.

However, Jesus urges us to not make promises or pledges to others.

Matthew 5:33-37  Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

If we make a promise that we can’t keep, we have made ourselves into liars!  As Jesus said, we should let our “Yes” be “Yes” and our “No” be “No.”  But if we do make pledges, oaths, or other Earthly commitments we are obligated to uphold them!  Likewise, if we make a spiritual commitment, we are obliged to uphold it!

Christian Commitments

Becoming a Christian is a spiritual commitment.  When we became Christians, we committed our lives to Christ! In doing so, we committed ourselves to a life in service to God.  Surely, this is a commitment we can't afford to take lightly!

Ephesians 4:1-3 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…

Like most commitments, there are a lot of duties that go accompany the original pledge.  I would like to discuss just a few of the obligations that accompany a Christian’s commitment to Christ.

Obligations to the Church and Fellow Christians

As Christians we should be encouraging and uplifting to our brothers and sisters in the faith.

Colossians 3:15-16 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

One of the most discouraging things to a Christian is for them to see other Christians not coming to church on a regular basis.  Therefore regular church attendance is not only for worshipping God, but also for edification of our fellow saints.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  

Obligations to the Poor

We have an obligation to be charitable, in particular to needy saints, but also to any we may encounter who need help.

1 Timothy 6:18-19  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Obligations to Unbelievers

We should be a good example and share the Gospel with others.

Matthew 5:13-16 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Obligations to Family

The Bible teaches that everyone in the family unit has special role to fulfill.

Colossians 3:18-20 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.  Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 

Mutual love and respect are the foundation of a family’s commitment to each other.

Ephesians 5:25-29 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 

Above All: Obligations to God!!!

Of course, above all, Christians have the biggest obligation to God.  The great thing about our commitment to Christ is that all of those other obligations just seem to fall in place if we have an enduring love for God and a fervent desire to obey His will.

Romans 12:1-2  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Just as Paul pointed out in Romans, as followers of Christ we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices.

Think about what that means.  We should be dead to the world and living for God, giving Him our all.

However, when we commit, we give everything!  Christians are committed to God Himself and He, above all other, above everything else, deserves all that we have!  We need to remember that and keep our priorities straight in this life if we want to be true servants of God.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Are we Lukewarm?

In the book of Revelation we can read of seven different churches, representing nearly every type of congregation one could expect to encounter. One church in particular we would not want to emulate…

Revelation 3:15-16 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 

Are we serving Christ with all of our effort?  Or are we only partially committed.  A true Christian should be “on fire” for Christ.

Convenient is not an adjective one would use to describe commitment.  Of course, keeping any kind of earthly commitment is no easy task.  Spirtual commitments are no different.   Think of all the faithful followers of God in the Bible.  Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus Himself!  Their commitment to God led them down some rocky paths!

It’s easy to recognize that true commitment requires sacrifice.  Christ, of course, is the ultimate example of this truth.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Vows Made in Storms

While Brandie and I were on our honeymoon, I remember reading a sign at one of the restaurants we visited which read:

  “Vows made in storms are forgotten in calm waters.”

Let’s examine the truth in this saying for a while.

We’ve all heard stories of unbelievers who encountered some kind of hardship in life.  Whether it be a serious illness or financial ruin, the desperate unbeliever may pray to God, “God, if you’ll just get me through this, I swear that I will change my life and live for you.”

Sometimes it works out that they end out coming out of the dire situation just fine and maybe, for a while, it seems the unbeliever really did turn their life around for God.  But eventually, once the tribulation is forgotten, they go right back to the life they were living before.  The vow they made in the storm was forgotten in the calm waters.

I think the opposite can be true also: Vows made in calm waters can be forgotten in storms.

It’s really easy to be a Christian when everything is right with the world.  But the moment that things get hard whether it be poor health or persecution of some form or whatever, when things get hard, people will unfortunately forfeit their commitment to God.

Let’s strive to remember God always, whether it is in calm or stormy waters.

After all, God is committed to us; shouldn’t we be committed to Him?

Hebrews 10:23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 

Matthew 24:35

When Darkness Veils

Joel 2:31 The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

Tomorrow the United States will experience its first total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years.

During this rare astronomical event, the Moon will be positioned between the Earth and Sun.  A total solar eclipse is only visible within a limited area, one has to be at the right location at the right time to view the phenomenon.  On Monday, the 10,000 mile long, 100 mile wide shadow of the Moon will travel over a narrow path stretching across the continent, all the way from Oregon to South Carolina.

As the Moon passes in front of the Sun spectators can expect a 360 degree “sunrise”, a nearly  10 degree drop in temperature, and the arousal of nocturnal creatures such as crickets confused by the occurrence, responding to what they perceive as night.

In ancient cultures, the eclipse was viewed as an omen of terrible things to come and the period of darkness was met with a sense of dread.  Indeed, even today there are some proclaiming that the upcoming eclipse is some kind of sign of impending doom for our nation.

However, as eerie and ominous as the spectacle of the eclipse promises to be, we can rest assured that at the end of it all the Sun’s light will inevitably make its return, shining just as bright and glorious as ever.

Likewise, we would do well to remember that our almighty God cannot be conquered!

The Darkness of Golgotha

Luke 23:44-45  It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed…

Literally and metaphorically, one of the darkest days in the history of the world took place during Christ’s crucifixion.  The darkness that lasted three hours on that terrible day has no natural explanation.

The sky went black at what should have been the brightest time of day (the “sixth hour” being noon).  Examining the historical information, we know that this could not have been a solar eclipse.  Recall that, according to Hebrew tradition, the Feast of Passover occurred at the time of the full moon.  Meanwhile, Science teaches us that solar eclipses only occur during the new moon phase, when the Moon is positioned completely on the other side of the planet.

Certainly this was some kind of supernatural occurrence, as if creation itself mourned the injustice of Jesus’ anguish on the cross.

Whatever the explanation, we read that it was black as midnight at midday when the Son of God died a torturous, humiliating death; rejected by the very people he had come to save.

Surely the Devil must have delighted in the gloom, thinking this to be his crowning achievement… Of course, in just three days’ time the "prince of darkness" would be sorely disappointed to find that what he assumed was his moment of definitive victory would turn out to be his resounding defeat.

Job 5:12-14 He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.  He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.  They meet with darkness in the daytime and grope at noonday as in the night.

Is it coincidental that this verse in Job describes the exact atmospheric conditions on the day of Christ’s death?  Perhaps not…

One of the most poignant themes of the Bible is that we’re reminded time and again that God has the ability to turn even the worst situations to His will.  That darkest of days on Golgotha was going to reveal the glory of God in a way never before witnessed.

Under God’s control, this ultimate act of evil would accomplish His ultimate outpouring of love.  As wicked as man’s hearts and as devious as Satan’s plans were, the glory of Christ could not be extinguished.  The darkness would be overcome with light.

We know that Jesus’ death on the cross was not the end.  He arose.  Christ was resurrected.  Putting an end to the final enemy –  death itself – Jesus denied Satan his triumph.

Hebrews 2:14  Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…

1 Corinthians 15:55-57  “O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through the giving of His precious blood in this ultimate sacrifice, we no longer have to fear death.  Christ provided a means of redemption and forgiveness for all who seek it.  No longer would mankind be doomed to eternal separation from God, for in Christ humanity would have glorious hope of being reunited with their Creator in Heaven!

Colossians 2:13-15  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

God’s Power and Promises

Indeed, the cross stands as the ultimate example of these timeless truths:  Attempting to overthrow God is futile and God keeps His Word.

No enemy can stand against God.  No threat can defeat Him.  As the Creator of all, there is no power beyond Him.

Job 26:5-14  The dead tremble under the waters and their inhabitants.  Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering.   He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.  He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them.  He covers the face of the full moon and spreads over it his cloud.  He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.  The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke. By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.  Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!  But the thunder of his power who can understand?

Throughout history, God’s power is demonstrated time and again.  Think back to the many military victories of the ancient Israelites against overwhelming odds.  Consider the endurance of the Bible and the resilience of the church through the ages, despite the world’s attempt to snuff out Christianity even to this day.

Likewise, we know that the almighty God keeps His promises.  Though it may be on His timeline and not our own, our longsuffering God makes good on His word.

2 Peter 3:8-9  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…

We read that many of the disciples fled when Jesus was arrested.  Only but a few lingered during His crucifixion.  An even smaller number would visit His tomb expecting Him to return as He said He would.  During the darkness that covered the land at the time of Christ’s death, His followers must have felt a deep sense of despair.  Perhaps they worried that with Jesus dead, His promises died with Him.  And yet we see throughout the Bible that sometimes God would take entire generations to fulfill His promises.

The promise of Jesus’s coming extends back as far as Genesis 12 when God made His three covenants with Abraham.  God told Abraham that through him “all the families of the Earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3).  While Abraham would not see God’s final promise fulfilled within his lifetime.  Indeed it would be nearly 2000 years from the time God made the initial promise to Abraham until Jesus was finally born.  Christ’s disciples only had to wait three days for Jesus to return to life!

Deuteronomy 7:9  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…

Therefore, we must always remember that even when circumstances are at their most dire and the world is at its darkest, there is always hope if we have God.

The Light of Living Hope

Peter reminds us that no matter what darkness we face, we need not lose hope in God.

1 Peter 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…

He called the hope in Christ a “living hope”.   Consider that this phrase is different from our normal use of the word.  We typically think of hope as being a desire for something in the future, something we are uncertain that we will attain.

However, we know the power of our God.  We know that He keeps His promises.  Therefore, the kind of hope we read of in the New Testament is a far deeper, more confident hope.

Hebrews 6:11  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end…

Certainly, this hope is put to the test at dark times.  It’s always disturbing to consider that we as Christians will face persecution for doing what is right.  But God promises that our suffering is temporary and that He will be with us through it all.

Romans 8:28, 31-39  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yes, the Bible tells us that ultimate victory will belong to God and those who trust in Him.

Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

"Let Your Light So Shine"

As we have seen, God’s light cannot be eclipsed.  In fact, recall that very first act of creation was God bringing forth light…

Genesis 1:3  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God’s been at the business of defeating darkness pretty much the whole time!

He loves us so much that He was willing to come in the flesh and be sacrificed in our place.  The darkness witnessed on the day that Jesus was crucified was only temporary.  God was able to transform something truly awful into the most awesome blessing we could hope to receive:  redemption.

We read of His power and longsuffering promises.  Trusting God and having hope in Him, we need not fear even the darkest of days.  As long as we have the light of the Lord in our hearts, He will be with us.

But let’s not be selfish with that light.

Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

One need only watch the nightly news to recognize that our world is engulfed in darkness.  Humanity desperately needs the light that only hope in Christ can bring, so let’s be sure to share it with the world around us!  Don’t let your light be eclipsed!