Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I Am The Way

35,000 Americans were interviewed on whether they believe in God, how often they attend church, whether religion is very important in their lives, etc. The different news media handled the story in different ways. One focused on the huge majority who believe in God. Another pointed to the political affiliations of the people surveyed. But more than a few focused on the belief that many religions can lead to eternal life.

That really caught my interest. About 70 percent of all the people in the survey agreed with that idea. But strangely, 57 percent of those in evangelical Christian churches also said their belief system was not the exclusive route to salvation. This is a huge issue! Christians have long been accused of narrow-minded theology, but remember this: In the Garden, Jesus Himself asked if there was another way. He said, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me" (Matthew 26: 39). The fact is, there is no other way but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I have sometimes said from the pulpit that you can believe differently than me if you like--but you'll be wrong. It's a joke, of course. But there is One that you have to agree with in order to be right. And that One is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). That's pretty cut-and-dried. Jesus said he was "the way" to the Father. He didn't say He was one of many ways.

Now, you may say, "That's pretty narrow!" Well, yes, it is. Listen again to what Jesus said: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). When Jesus said he was "the" way, He knew He was making a narrow statement. And He meant to do just that.

Now, you can disagree with me all you like, and we can still be friends (really!). But you can't disagree with Jesus and expect to receive eternal life. You can't receive it by doing good things, or praying enough, or giving enough, or anything else. There is only one sacrifice that God accepts for our sins, and that is the one He provided--His only Son.

Romans 6:23 calls eternal life "the gift of God." You won't find it in any other place than in Jesus Christ--the way, the truth and the life.

Love God – Love People

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Best Advertisement

The late missionary E. Stanley Jones said, "When I met Christ, I felt that I had swallowed sunshine." Isn't that a great statement? That's the way it should be for us as believers in Jesus Christ. We should appear as though we had "swallowed sunshine." We should "shine" to everyone around us, because joy is the best advertisement for the Christian life.

In Philippians 4:4, Paul writes, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" Not everyone does that. Every church has its share of pessimists. They're hard to be around; it's like going to a funeral continually. They need this exhortation, perhaps more than anyone else, because they're a poor advertisement. You've heard the saying, more flies are caught with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.

But "Rejoice in the Lord" is an exhortation for all of us. Now before you say, "Easy for you to say, Paul!" remember, he's writing from jail. "Rejoice" is the command. "In the Lord" is the condition. And the occasion is "always."

Rejoicing doesn't mean that you live on this high, ecstatic plain of "Oh, praise the Lord!" all day long. That's not only unrealistic, that's dangerous! Your body can't handle continual adrenaline rushes without damage. The idea of rejoicing is something much more profound, much deeper. This deep sense of peace, of committed contentment that comes from spiritual realities that you really believe in, brings an inward joy that others don't have.

Paul spoke of himself as being "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10). Don't think, "That's just apostolic talk." Paul lived this way. When he first visited Philippi, he was arrested and thrown in jail. And you know the story, how at midnight, in chains and shackles, Paul and Silas sang praises to God. I love that! At midnight, after being beaten, they're singing love songs to the Lord.

And here's the result of that display of joy. The Philippian jailer came to Paul and Silas and said, "What must I do to be saved?" Do you think he would have said that if at midnight they had grumbled and complained and yelled? He would have said, "What must I do to never be like you?"

So, the joy of the Lord is a great advertisement for Jesus Christ. Proverbs 15:15 tells us, "He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast." Ask yourself this: Does that describe you? Does joy permeate your heart? Does laughter ring out in your home? Having joy is a decision. I hope your joy will be evident to all.

Love God – Love People

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Record Keeping

How far back do your records go? Try this one. A library in New York City was checking its records and found that President George Washington had checked out a book from them in 1789 and never returned it. Now, almost 230 years is a long time to hold onto a library book. If George were around to pay the overdue fine, he'd have to cough up about $300,000! The staff of Washington's estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia, came up with a great idea. They bought another copy of the same edition of the book and presented it to the library in a ceremony.

I once counseled a woman who actually kept a running list of all the wrongs her husband had committed! If my wife wanted to do that, it would be volumes, like the Encyclopedia Britannica, with yearly additions. But the Bible says "Love keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV).

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a parable about a king who settles accounts with his servants. The king forgives one servant a debt of 10,000 talents. Today, this would equal millions of dollars. You can picture Peter's jaw dropping at hearing this story, but that was the point Jesus was making with such a huge amount. God forgave us of an enormous debt, one we could never pay, and we should forgive others of their smaller offenses toward us.

This parable is about both vertical and horizontal forgiveness, or God to us, and us to each other. It should bring an end to fault-finding or sin sniffing.

Corrie ten Boom said that when we come to Jesus Christ, God takes our sins and throws them into the sea of forgetfulness, and then He posts a sign: "No fishing allowed." Sometimes we remember what we have done, and we don't allow ourselves to experience God's forgiveness. Or more often, we point the finger at other people who have sinned against us, thinking that we're somehow holier than they are, and we go fishing all the time.

Since that New York library kept the record, the estate of George Washington felt it had to do something to make it right. God had the record against us, but He destroyed it because He Himself "made it right." As the old hymn says, "Jesus paid it all."

Are you keeping a record of wrongs? God destroys the record of the sins He has forgiven. So should you. Notice what happened to the unforgiving servant in the parable. Experience God's forgiveness, and extend forgiveness to your brothers and sisters.

Love God – Love People