Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Let's Hang Together

When the Continental Congress was gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Benjamin Franklin told the delegates, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." What was he talking about? He was talking about unity. They had to be unified in attaining their goal--cutting their political ties to England--or they would be destroyed. They were men from 13 different colonies, with different lives, different financial interests, etc., but they banded together for a common purpose.

As the Church, we also have a common purpose, and that is to glorify Jesus Christ. But we're not all alike as people. We're very different, and we have all been given different gifts and talents by God. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all."

God loves variety and we ought to as well. God has put variety throughout His creation. So it is in the body of Christ. There are a variety of different people with different backgrounds and with different gifts.

In verse 11, we are told who is controlling the variety. "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." This tells me that the Church is all about what He wills and what He wants. It's His Church. Church is about us participating in getting His will accomplished. He is the one who controls the variety.

And look at verse 12. "The body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body." We are to recognize the beautiful, diverse variety in the body of Christ. At the same time, we are to emphasize unity and here's why. If we just emphasize the first part and not the second part, the body will be out of whack and it's going to malfunction. We all have to be going in the same direction, or potentially every member could be out there doing its own thing, creating division rather than unity.

If you have unity without variety, you have uniformity and that's boring. If you have variety without unity, you have anarchy. The answer is found throughout the chapter: "the same Spirit," "the same Lord," "the same God." Christ is the head. He's giving the orders. And following His Lordship is the only way we can "hang together" as the Church.

Love God – Love People

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