O Brother, Where Art Thou?

 

In 2000 a movie entitled, O Brother, Where Art Thou? hit theaters nationwide.  It was purportedly based loosely on Homer’s Odyssey, but it came off as nothing more than a farcical account of three lovable rogues who escaped from a chain gang in Depression-era Mississippi.  If there was some sort of message behind the movie, it was likely lost on most moviegoers.

The title, however, raises a significant spiritual issue that is worth considering.  In Eph. 4:11-16, Paul spoke to the church in Ephesus about how God had ordered His church.  He said that God had placed workers of various sorts within it to do the many things necessary to grow and sustain it.  The goal, Paul said, was for the body to be built up by the combined talents and efforts of every part of the body.  Christ is the source by which the body grows, but as Paul said in v. 16, “the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”  This exhortation to a first century church with whom Paul was intimately acquainted shows us the danger that can overcome even the best church.

The key to the tremendous growth of the first century church was not because there were apostles in it.  It was not because there were eloquent preachers in it, like Apollos.  It occurred because ordinary Christian men and women “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). The powerful miracles and preaching of the apostles were complemented by the daily testimony of the godly lives of Christians all over the Roman Empire.  Indeed, it is likely that many more disciples were made, and more congregations established, by ordinary Christians taking their faith with them as they moved about, than by the work of the apostles.

We may wonder why the church does not grow as it did in the first century, or why it does not grow as it did in the early 20th century.  The answer to these questions may itself be the question, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  Somehow through the years many in the church have concluded that the work of the church is actually the work of the preacher, and perhaps the elders.  This very statement reveals the subtle change in attitude that has taken place.  The work of the church is “their” work, as though the individual members of the church are not in any way responsible for it.  The church is “them”, so individual members may or may not get involved.

Many years ago, when schools still taught typing classes, one of the exercises students practiced in order to learn touch typing (i.e., typing without looking at the keys) was to type this statement: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.”  This exercise helped students learn the positions of the key letters used in most words as it increased their typing speed and accuracy.

As we consider the needs of the church today, it is time to revive and revise this statement to: “Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their church.”  The church, after all, is not “them”, but “us”.  If the church is going to grow, it will do so only when each of us does what he or she is capable of doing in the Lord’s service.  Too many, it seems, are content to sit on the sidelines, either unwilling to change their lifestyle to be qualified to serve in an official capacity, or just unwilling to serve at all.  Then these spectators complain about the lack of growth in the church.  This is not what the Lord intended, and it simply will not do.  So then, the question remains, “O Brother, O Sister, Where Art Thou?”

Where Do We Go From Here?

 

Someone once said that there are three kinds of people in the world.  There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.  The truth of this assessment is irrefutable.  Some people are proactive in life, while most of us simply react to it.  The rest seem to wake up in a new world each day, blissfully unaware of what is going on around them.

As true as this is, even the most proactive among us sometimes face a situation and wonder where they will go from that point.  This happens because life rarely goes as we have planned it.  Sometimes, in spite of our plans and preparations, and in spite of our best efforts, life throws us a curveball.  When this occurs, we can let the unforeseen or unexpected derail us, or we can take whatever actions are necessary to resume control of our own destiny.  We can wallow in self-pity and bemoan our sad circumstances, or we can take the lemons of life and turn them into lemonade.  It’s our choice.

This is certainly true in the temporal affairs of life, but is even more true in spiritual matters.  None of the heroes of faith became so by having a “woe-is-me” attitude.  Instead, they rose from where life struck them down and got back to the business of serving the Lord.  Two examples show us the alternatives before us.

In Mt. 26:14-16 Judas made his bargain with the chief priests to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  When the Lord had been condemned by the rulers of the Jews, Judas regretted his actions.  At that moment he had to have wondered, “Where do I go from here?”  In Mt. 27:1-4 we learn the answer.  Judas returned the money and in the depths of remorse went out and hanged himself.  He came to a place he did not expect to find himself in, and he reacted poorly.

Concurrent with Judas’ actions, the second example occurred.  In Mt. 26:69-75 the scripture says that Peter denied the Lord three times as he stood among the crowd watching the Lord’s trial before the leaders of the Jews.  In v. 74 Matthew says Peter even cursed and swore to make his denials all the more emphatic.  When Peter heard the rooster crowing, he remembered what the Lord had said.  V. 75 tells us that he then went out and wept bitterly.  He, like Judas, must have wondered where he would go from there.  The answer is, he went back to the other apostles and resumed his place among them.

Peter chose wisely and was restored to his place among the Lord’s chosen men and was among the first to learn that the Lord had been raised three days later.  On the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection, he was there as the gospel was proclaimed for the first time (Acts 2:14-36).  Peter’s remorse over his situation led him to renewed vigor in serving the Lord.  For this reason he is called a pillar of the church (Gal. 2:9).

The lesson for each of us is that life will not always go the way we expect it to.  Judas likely did not expect to see Jesus condemned.  Peter certainly did not expect to deny the Lord.  Yet both found themselves in an unwanted position.  Their choices made the difference in their respective destinies.  So it is for us, as individuals or as a congregation of God’s people.  When the unforeseen or unexpected happens, we can overcome it by not giving up.  If we continue to trust in the Lord, and if we are willing to do whatever is necessary to glorify Him, then no obstacle is unsurmountable.  If we fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2), and if we each do our part for the good of the church (Eph. 4:16), then we will make the right choices, and we will always know where we are going.

Godly Fathers

Too often on Father’s Day the focus is on all the ways in which fathers need to improve in order to be what God expects them to be.  Lost in such an exercise is that a man need not be perfect to be a godly father.  The scriptures are full of men who are worthy of our praise and respect.  Yet none of these men was perfect.  However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work on improving ourselves.  On the contrary, we must strive to become godlier every day.  The point is that godly fathers do not get as much credit as they should for the good influence they exert.

One of the most revered men in all of scripture, David, was not the best example as a father.  Not only did he have problems with his son Absalom, but he also had issues with his son Adonijah, who appointed himself king when David was old.  The difficulties with both of these sons no doubt stemmed from what is said about David’s attitude toward Adonijah.  In 1 Kgs. 1:6 the scripture says, “His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, ‘Why have you done so?'”  In other words, David did not properly discharge his duties as a father in this regard.

Even so, all the kings who ruled Israel and Judah thereafter were judged on how they measured up to David.  The evil kings were said to have walked in the footsteps of their “father” Jeroboam, son of Nebat.  The good kings were said to have reigned as their “father” David had done (2 Kgs. 18:3).  So David became the standard of what a good king should be and he was a “father” to all the good kings who followed him.

This is where and how we should praise our own fathers.  None of them is perfect.  Neither are we.  Still, a man may be a godly father if he seeks the Lord with all his heart, like David.  When he does so, his imperfections and failures will be overcome by the Lord, so he may instill the attitudes in his children which will help them become what they ought to be before God.

Godly fathers take seriously the charge of Paul in Eph. 6:4, where he said, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  This is the only way their children will have the opportunity to know the Lord and to be saved.  They will not do so perfectly, but if their heart is in the right place, the Lord will reward them with success.

Godly fathers will also model their faith in word and in deed, so their children have an example worthy of imitation.  Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1) . Godly fathers may say the same thing if they follow the Lord.  It doesn’t take perfection.  It just takes dedication and humility.

Most fathers generally do a far better job than we give them credit for, and we need to praise them for the good that they do.  Therefore, fathers, for all that you do, and for all you have done, to lead your children to the Lord, we say, “Thank You” and “God bless you.”

Persevere

The Legendary Runner of the Battle of Marathon

To persevere is defined as, “to continue doing something in spite of difficulty, opposition, etc.”  In the christian faith some have distorted this term to stand for the man-made doctrine of “once saved, always saved”.  John Calvin, the father of this idea, called this the perseverance of the saints.  The scriptures neither teach nor imply such an idea, but rather warn that a Christian may sin in such a way as to forfeit eternal life (Heb. 10:26-31; Gal. 5:4).

In its correct meaning, however, perseverance is an essential part of our faith.  In Heb. 12:1 the writer said, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance, the race that is set before us.”  The image of the Christian life as a race coveys the idea of perseverance, especially since the inspired writer said we must run “with endurance”.  This term suggests to us that our race is a marathon, not a sprint, and the difference is significant.

In a sprint, the runner sees the goal from the starting blocks.  He knows that he need only exert himself for a short time to finish his race.  He works very hard over that distance, of course, and he uses a tremendous amount of energy as he does so, but he only needs to work over the short term to achieve his goal.  On the other hand, in a marathon the runner cannot see the finish line from the starting point.  In fact, he cannot even see the entire course he will run.  He will not run as fast as the sprinter, but he will expend more energy over the long haul.  This imagery best fits the Christian life.  Our race lasts a lifetime.  There are no rewards for a quick start followed by a rapid burnout.

Paul spoke of this principle in his own life.  In 2 Tim. 4:7-8 he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  Paul’s confidence about his eternal reward was because he knew he had persevered to the goal.  He had indeed “finished the course”.

It is the same for each of us.  Paul promised that we can receive the same reward he expected to receive.  To receive it we each must fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith, just as Paul did.  This means that we must not give up the struggle to live for the Lord until our life ends.  Each day we will face challenges to our faith.  Some will involve temptation to sin.  Some will involve facing ridicule or persecution from unbelievers.  Some will involve conflict with brothers or sisters in Christ.  Whatever the challenges, however, we must persevere in our faith and obedience until we reach the goal.  There is no other way to receive our eternal reward.

In Rev. 2:10 the Lord told the church in Smyrna, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days.  Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” We will not be tested as sorely as the Christians in Smyrna were, but if we persevere in our faith we will receive the same reward that was promised to them.  Nothing in life can compare to this reward.  Therefore, let us persevere to the goal.

Trust

 

A story is told of a man who lost his footing while climbing a mountain trail.  He slid over the side of a steep precipice and would have certainly fallen to his death had he not caught hold of a tree root protruding from the side of the cliff.  Hanging there, he was literally suspended between heaven and earth.  He could not climb up to safety, and there was nothing beneath his feet but open air.  He began calling for help and suddenly a voice spoke to him from above.  The voice said, “I am God and I have heard your cries for help.  Do you trust in Me?”  The man replied, “Yes!”, to which God said, “Then let go of the tree root.”  At this point the man shouted, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Obviously, this story is hyperbole, but it illustrates the truth about trust.  We passionately affirm our trust in God, but our actions frequently belie our affirmation.  We read and quote Mt. 6:33, where the Lord told His disciples not to worry about their daily needs, but to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  Then we forsake the assembly of the saints while working day and night to provide for our family’s needs.  Like the man in the story, we’re not willing to demonstrate our trust in God.

One man who did not have this issue was King David of Israel.  His life is an example of trust in God, even in the times when he sinned against God.  In Psa. 25:1-3 David put his trust into the words of a song.  He said, “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in You I trust, do not let me be ashamed; do not let my enemies exult over me.  Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.”

When David took a census of the people in 2 Sam. 24, God sent the prophet Gad to David to declare His displeasure.  God offered David a choice from three alternatives as punishment for his sin.  These were: seven years of famine, three months of defeat at the hands of his enemies, or three days of pestilence from God (2 Sam. 24:11-13).  David demonstrated his trust in the Lord by choosing to fall into the hands of God.  He said, “I am in great distress.  Let us now fall into the hands of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”  David’s trust in God was rewarded when God stayed the angel’s hand as he was about to strike the city of Jerusalem (vs. 15-16).

David’s actions, as well as his psalm, demonstrated that he fully trusted in God.  He knew that if he waited for the Lord; that is, if he put God first, then God would bless him.  This is the crux of the matter regarding trust.  It must be shown.  Verbal affirmations mean nothing unless they are backed up by actions that prove their truth.  Anyone whose actions prove his trust will not be ashamed.  Those whose actions belie their affirmations will not be blessed.  This is a timeless message that sometimes gets lost when things are going well.

The real demonstration of our trust in God is our obedience.  Those who truly trust in God will turn to Him first, instead of as a last resort.  Having turned to Him, they will do all He commands of them without hesitation or reservation.  Trust begins with obedience to the gospel and continues with our ongoing obedience to “all that I commanded you” (Mt. 28:20).  It means putting God first in every aspect of our lives, so we need not worry about tomorrow (Mt. 6:34).  And sometimes, it means letting go of the tree root to which we are clinging, even though we cannot see how doing so will help us.  Do you trust God?  Then show it by obeying Him.

Memorial Day

 

The last Monday in the month of May has been designated by Congress as Memorial Day.  It is a day set aside to remember those throughout our nation’s history who paid the ultimate price in its defense.  Including the Revolutionary War and continuing to the present, more than 1.3 million Americans have lost their lives in the wars our nation has fought.  Compared to the losses suffered by other nations these numbers are small, but to the families and loved ones of those who perished, each life lost is a painful reminder of the cost of liberty.

The purpose of Memorial Day is for the living to remember and commemorate the sacrifice the dead made on their behalf.  Sadly, there are many today who apparently have no idea of this purpose.  For them this is just another opportunity for a three-day weekend, or a day off from work or school.  Others mistakenly view this day as a time to honor all who have served in our nation’s armed forces.  (Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, is the holiday for that purpose.)  The root of the misconceptions about Memorial Day is that we have generally failed to instruct each generation of its intended purpose.  Without proper instruction in this regard the observance of this day becomes distorted from its original intent and is thus profaned.

It is this point that has significance with respect to our faith as Christians.  The idea of a memorial is not a recent invention.  It has roots as far back as the call of Moses.  In Ex. 3:15, as God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He told Moses His name.  Then He said, “This is My memorial-name to all generations.”  In other words, this was how the people of Israel were to remember Him and all that He would do for them.  On another occasion God commanded Joshua to have Israel construct an altar of twelve stones taken from the Jordan river.  In Josh. 4:7 God said that this altar would be a memorial to the sons of Israel forever” to remind them that God had brought them safely across the Jordan river and into the promised land.  These memorials were intended to keep Israel from forgetting what God had done for them.

Those who are under the covenant of Christ also have a divinely-commanded memorial.  This memorial is the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord Himself instituted it on the night of His betrayal (Mt. 26:26-30).  The purpose of this memorial is for us to remember that the one and only Son of God sacrificed His life on the cross to pay the debt for our sins.  As we break the bread and drink the cup each Lord’s Day we are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26).  We are remembering that He died to set us free from the bondage of sin.

Unfortunately, some have forgotten, or have chosen to ignore, the simple purpose of this memorial.  The setting in which the Lord instituted this rite was a somber occasion because He would go to the cross within hours of the time He gave it to His apostles.  However, some today seek to turn the Lord’s Supper into a celebration, instead of a memorial service, as it was intended.  Some trivialize it by taking it on different days of the week, or at special occasions, like weddings or funerals.  Others trivialize it by only observing it on special religious holidays, like Easter or Christmas, or by combining it with a common meal.  All these actions profane the purpose of the Lord’s Supper.

Paul’s instructions to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:23-34) remind us that this is a solemn memorial that demands our utmost reverence.  If we mourn soldiers who die in defense of our country, we should also shed a tear for our Lord whose death on the cross set us free from sin.  We should do so even as we rejoice in the freedom we enjoy because of it.

Cafeteria Religion

 

At one time cafeterias were a popular dining option in the United States.  Large chains operated sites in many major cities from coast to coast.  The appeal of these restaurants was in the speed of service, and in the variety of choices afforded the customer.  Patrons passed along a serving counter and selected the components of their meal from multiple options.  Those items they did not prefer could be omitted from their meal.  Each person could construct his or her meal according to personal taste and never have to eat anything he didn’t want to eat.  The formal cafeterias of the 1940s and 1950s have mostly gone the way of the Dodo, primarily because of the fast-food boom of the 1960s.  Their closest descendant is the modern all-you-can-eat buffet, which carries on the time-honored tradition of picking one’s favorites from a large variety of offerings.

Although the cafeteria isn’t as prominent as it once was, the principle behind it continues to live, especially in religion.  Many people look at the scriptures in the same way they might peruse the food line of their favorite eatery.  Grace sounds good, so they take a double helping of it.  Justice, however, isn’t as palatable, so they leave it on the counter.  Faith is appealing, but obedience is too much like spiritual brussels sprouts.  Love, on the other hand, is like the dessert counter.  They heap it up on their spiritual tray because it tastes so sweet.  However, like physical desserts that are loaded with extra calories, they try to ignore the tough things biblical love requires of them.  Perhaps without even thinking about it some treat God’s word like a cafeteria, picking and choosing the things they like, while ignoring the things they don’t like.

As popular as this mentality might be, it is completely foreign to the scriptures.  From beginning to end the scriptures declare that we must conform to everything God has revealed in His word.  On multiple occasions Moses warned Israel to keep all of God’s commandments and not to turn aside from them to the right or to the left (Deut. 5:32; 28:14, et al).  When Paul spoke for the final time to the elders from Ephesus, he reminded them that he had not failed to declare to them “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).  Paul withheld nothing from them because God expects His people to obey all His commands, not just the ones they like.

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he encouraged the young preacher to continue to teach what he called “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6).  The Greek word that is translated “sound” literally means “healthy”.  In other words, for a Christian to be spiritual healthy, he must be fed everything that God has revealed in His word.  Our souls are just like our physical bodies in this respect.  If we only eat the “sweets” we will be unhealthy.  If, however, we feed on all of God’s word, we will grow and mature in the faith, and we will become the servants God expects us to be.

This is exactly what God requires of us.  The writer of Hebrews chastised his readers because they had failed in this regard.  In Heb. 5:13-14 he said, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”  He also said, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).  Therefore, if our goal is to please God, we must abandon cafeteria-style religion.  Instead, we must take delight in all of God’s word and, like the psalmist, meditate upon it day and night (Psa. 1:2).  By eating all of God’s word we will become spiritually healthy, and we will be faithful to Him in all we do.

Thanks Mom!

 

“The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”  Thus goes the well-known proverb.  It is a truth that is so powerful that it has become self-evident.  The influence of mothers is so important it cannot be overstated.  Conversely, the neglect of that influence is so powerful that it cannot go unchallenged.

We live in a world where certain basic values have been eroded by the influence of skeptics whose godless ways have made a mockery of motherhood and all God intended it to be.  Very often today, “the hand that rocks the cradle” is a stranger, the paid hireling at the child-care center.  Many children spend more time with these care givers than they do with their parents.  This ought not to be so.

Children are a gift from the Lord.  They are a sacred trust.  They are precious souls who are entrusted to parents for spiritual as well as physical nurturing.  When we bring a child into the world we begin a life that will exist throughout eternity.  The eternal destiny of that soul is largely the responsibility of the parents.  The wise man said, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).  It is our God-given duty as parents to bring up our children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

No one is better at this than mothers.  This does not excuse fathers from their required participation in this responsibility, but it is the mother who has special power to accomplish God’s purpose in this regard.  The scriptures are full of examples of godly mothers who molded their offspring for God’s use.  From Jochebed, the mother of Moses, to Hannah, the mother of Samuel, to Eunice, the mother of Timothy, we see the positive influence of the hand that rocks the cradle.  We see this influence even in those cases in which the father was not as involved in the process as he should have been.

There are many in the family of God who are there in large measure because of the influence of their mothers.  I am one of them.  My mother made certain that I learned to love the Lord.  She did so even though my father was not a Christian until I was in my teens.  She taught me the importance of being in the assembly on the Lord’s Day.  She taught me that obedience to the Lord was the most important choice I would ever make.  She formed in me the basis attitudes toward God and His word that have led me to this point in my life.  She did this despite her own struggles as a Christian.  She was not perfect, but she was a child of God, and is now gone to her reward.

It is not enough to give life to a child.  Society is overrun with children who have been abandoned by their birth mothers.  It is not enough to physically nurture a child.  All around us are well-fed children who are morally bankrupt, or well on the way to becoming so.  We need mothers who will do whatever it takes to nurture the soul as well as the body.  We need mothers who have more concern for their children’s souls than for material things.  Those who act on this concern in accordance with God’s word will receive a great reward in eternity.

It is a challenge to be a godly mother.  No one denies this fact.  Therefore, to all those mothers who are meeting this challenge, we honor you today, and say, “Thanks Mom!”

A Few Good Men

 

For many years the U.S. Marine Corps used the recruiting slogan, “We’re looking for a few good men.”  Part of the reasoning behind this slogan was that the Marine Corps is the smallest of the four primary military services, and has always been so.  Another reason for this slogan is that not every man is cut out to be a Marine.  Therefore, they are looking for quality instead of quantity.  The idea of a few good men has biblical precedent, although the U.S. Marine Corps is likely unaware of it.

Early in the reign of King Saul Israel was a war with the Philistines.  Saul was camped at Gibeah with his pitifully small army of about 600 men.  The Philistines were encamped at Michmash with three companies of men who raided Israel with impunity.  In 1 Sam. 14:1 Saul’s son Jonathan called his armor-bearer to accompany him to the garrison of the Philistines which stood across a pass from them.  Jonathan had great faith in God and in v. 6 said to his armor-bearer, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.”  Jonathan’s faith in God was rewarded with a great victory over the Philistines that day.  This victory was precipitated by a few good men who trusted in God.

During the reign of King David Israel was again at war with the Philistines.  David and his army were in the cave of Adullam, while the Philistines were encamped in Bethlehem, David’s home town.  In 2 Sam. 23:15 David idly expressed his wish that he could drink from the well that was by the gate in Bethlehem.  V. 16 tells us that three mighty men fought their way into the city, drew water from the well, fought their way out again, and brought the water to David.  These men, Adino the Eznite, Eleazar the son of Dodo, and Shammah the son of Agee, were the greatest of David’s mighty men (cf. 2 Sam. 23:8-12).  David was so moved by their feat that he poured out the water as a drink offering to God.

The principle of God bringing about victory with a few good men is well attested in the Old Testament.  It is also evident in the New Testament.  Early in His ministry the Lord chose twelve ordinary men to be His apostles.  Except for Judas, these few good men became the vehicle by which the gospel was carried throughout the known world in the first century.  Compared to the masses of people at that time, these men were far too few to accomplish so great a mission, yet they were able to do so because they gave themselves in obedience to the Lord and served Him faithfully until death.

Today, the Lord is still not restrained to save by many or by few.  In most places around the world, His church survives and carries on His mission through the work of a few good men.  These men show the trust and confidence in God that Jonathan possessed.  They also show the resolve to do whatever their master requires, no matter the cost, like the three mighty men of David.  They also know their limitations, like the twelve apostles, but they do not allow these to deter their service.  They know that the victory belongs to the Lord.

The search for a few good men never ends, because as one generation of good men passes, another generation must arise to take their place.  Those who stand up for the Lord will always be few, but this fact must not discourage us.  Our Father in heaven has proven that He can save by a few.  Therefore, let us trust Him and choose to be one of the few good men whom He can use to accomplish His purposes.

When All Else Fails

 

One of the common stereotypes of men is that they refuse to read the directions.  More of us than are willing to admit it will immediately begin to assemble some item without giving a second thought to the assembly instructions that accompany it.  Often, after spending much more time than it should have taken, we finally surrender and turn to the directions to see where we went wrong.  Then, having read the instructions, we begin again.

As much as we enjoy making fun of men in this regard, the fact is that we all tend toward this attitude in many areas of life.  This is especially the case in spiritual matters.  Social media is full of memes that declare the wish that life came with an instruction book.  The sad truth is that it does, but most people have tried to live their lives without consulting it.

Our Father in heaven knew before He created mankind that we would be this way.  Therefore, He put many warnings and exhortations in His word calling on us to read His instructions for life.  When Moses reminded Israel of the Law God had given them, he solemnly warned them to diligently adhere to it, so they could live and prosper in the promised land.  In Deut. 6:1-3 Moses said, “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.  O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”

This theme is a constant throughout the Old Testament, and it remains so under the covenant of Christ.  The Lord Himself declared this fundamental principle at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount.  In Mt. 7:21 He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”  The simple truth of this statement is that God has provided us the instructions for life in His revealed word, and only those who follow His instructions will enter heaven at the end of time.

Many through the centuries have contended that these instructions are incomplete, or unknowable, from the scriptures.  However, these contentions are patently false.  In Eph. 5:17 Paul called on us to not be foolish but to understand what the will of the Lord is.  If the Lord’s will is unknowable, we cannot obey this command.  The very fact that Paul commanded it proves that we can understand God’s will.

In 2 Tim. 3:16-17 Paul said that all scripture is inspired by God and equips us for every good work.  In 2 Pet. 1:3 Peter said that God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of the one who called us.  These statements assure us that the scriptures are everything we need in order to live life the way God intended us to.

The grace of God and the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ offer us redemption for the sins we commit by ignoring or violating God’s instructions for life.  This redemption saves our souls, but does not undo the physical consequences of our sins.  How much better our lives would be if we chose to follow God’s instructions from the beginning, instead of only turning to them when all else fails!