Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Evidence of Salvation

At least three times in the New Testament, the evidence of one’s salvation is shown by one’s love of fellow Believers.  In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love to one another.”   1 John 3:14 puts it this way, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love our brothers.  He who does not love his brother is still dead.”  And again in 1 John 4:20, “If a man says, ‘I love God,’ and still hates his brother, he is a liar.  How can a man not love his brother, who he can see, and still love God who he cannot see.”

I can honestly say that I hate no man.  God has given me a new heart which grows more like Him each day, and no matter how strongly I might disagree with another, I can find no hatred in my heart.   My greatest concern for those who believe they and their loved ones are Believers is that they examine their actions in light of love for fellow Believers.

How is love played out in the life of a Believer?  1 Corinthians chapter 13 is very instructive in this matter: First, love is longsuffering.  Now longsuffering means to patiently endure.  One might endure hardships, trials, emotional trauma, disdain, or failure.  But to continue on demonstrating kindness toward those responsible is a first sign of being changed from an unbeliever to a Believer.  In other words, a Believer does not seek revenge.

Secondly, love is not envious.  The Believer does not resent those who have achieved more and earned recognition for those accomplishments, rather the Genuine Believer loves the success of his brothers, and is able to truly rejoice in them, rather than secretly wish it were him receiving the accolades.

Thirdly, love is humble and does not seek denigrate others by parading its accomplishments.  Humility in the Believer is recognizing that he has not achieved what he has except by the grace of Almighty God.  He does not deflect praise with platitudes, but with a sincere understanding the God has somehow chosen to use him where ever he is being used.  Such humility recognizes the full worth of others, and never considers his position or achievement as more essential than those of others when they are obeying and following Christ.

Fourthly, love does not behave rudely.  The Genuine Believer should be known as one who demonstrates grace and mercy in his actions indicating he believes that others worth is as great as his own. 

Fifthly, love is not provoked.  Contemporary Believers have a lot of difficulty in this area, and it relates closely to the first characteristic of longsuffering.  The provocations of the evil one are designed to get a reaction from the Believer which will destroy his witness of God’s grace.  But self-control can be exercised in such circumstances by the Genuine Believer.

Sixthly, love does not harbor evil thoughts about another.  The Genuine Believer confesses his evil thoughts to God and claims God’s forgiveness lest those evil thoughts give the enemy a beachhead in his life, thereby allowing him to build up a stronghold which can only be broken down by a cleansing work of God’s Holy Spirit.

Seventhly, love does not get pleasure from sin.   The Genuine Believer is grieved by sin, and realizes that lasting joy comes from understanding of, and adherence to, God’s Divine Truth.

Finally, love never fails.  The Believer will fail, but the love of God which constrains the Genuine Believer will prompt him to confess his failure and claim 1 John 1:9 while being reconciled to his brother. 

None of us have the guarantee of a tomorrow on this earth, if one’s life does not reflect the love of Christ in his relationships and activities, it is entirely possible that it is a sign he is not genuinely converted.  Today is the day of salvation.   Today is the day of repentance.  Recognize your true condition, and turn to Christ today.

From "A Word For Living" by Mike Rasberry

©                    Mike Rasberry                      2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Real Christianity Equals Real Change

Genuine Christianity drastically affects the everyday activities and attitudes of those who come to God by faith in Jesus Christ.  Many folk who profess Christianity seem little affected by their faith.
Matthew Chapter ten, verse 4 includes the name “Simon the Zealot” as one of Jesus’ apostles.   The Zealots were a sect of Judaism which advocated the violent overthrow of the Roman imperialist rule.  They were known to conceal long daggers in the folds of their clothing in order to dispatch any Roman soldier who was careless enough to become isolated from his unit.  Their hatred of all things Roman was well known.  But when he became a follower of Jesus Christ, his life was dramatically changed.  Jesus not only gave him eternal life, but he also received the ability to forgive and love his enemies.

We are only fooling ourselves if we believe that hatred, anger, and an unforgiving spirit can be harbored in the life of a genuine Believer.  The exhibition of those traits demonstrates that one has not truly been changed.  Such a person will not only eventually have his attitude revealed, but will negatively impact his loved ones for generations. 

God never intended for men to live their lives with such burdens upon them.  He sent His Son that we might receive a new heart and thereby a new purpose and outlook on life.  Should Simon continued his angry and vindictive ways toward the Roman interlopers, it would have revealed his great need of genuine conversion.  

Dr. Adrian Rogers was fond of saying, “If you want to know what a man is really like, shake him up a little and see what spills out.”   What spills out of you when circumstances hit you over the head, step on your toe, or rattle your preconceptions?  Do you rant and rave while cursing and threatening when unpleasant situations present themselves?  Such is certainly a warning that one is not where he should be in his relationship to Holy God, and might indicate that genuine salvation has never occurred. 

If you are subject to such outbursts and demonstrations of anger, God has the perfect solution.  He doesn’t want you to spend your life in frustrated anger.  Turn to Christ and surrender your will to His and allow Him to become the Lord, or Boss, or your life.  If you are already a Believer, confess your propensity to sin in this way and claim His cleansing and forgiveness according to 1 John 1:9.

Don’t wait for God to send you a personal message.  This missive is His message to you.  You must choose, but He will empower you to follow through on that choice, should you choose for His way.

From "A Word For Living" by Mike Rasberry

©                          Mike Rasberry               2013

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Where Is God?

Is anything too hard for God?  In Genesis 18:14, when Abraham was too old to have children, God told him, he was going to have a son.  When Abraham seemed to doubt it, God asked the question, “Is anything too hard for God?” 

If God is omnipotent and omniscient why doesn’t He act to quell the evil in the world?  Is He too busy?  Is He disinterested? 

Far too many Believers are caught up in questioning God, because man looks at the events of life from an entirely different perspective than does God.   Man is limited in time and space, and therefore he can’t see what God can see.  God is not limited.  He sees the beginning, the end, and the present all at once.  His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.   He might be dealing with the problem on an entirely different level than we’re capable of understanding.

We look at life from our puny perspective and cry out, “Where are You, God?”   We can’t see Him because we look for Him with our limited understanding.   “It occurs to me” never occurs to God.  We look at the events don’t see Him working the way we “think” He ought to be working.  I’m reminded of the young man who, while questioning God, said, “God if you’re all knowing why did you place the giant watermelon on that flimsy vine running across the ground and the tiny acorn on the huge oak tree?”  Then an acorn conked him on the head when it fell, and he said, “Thank God it wasn’t a watermelon.”   You see, God’s ways are far above our ways.

You and I may not understand why God is not acting the way we think He ought, but we can take comfort from Romans 8:28 which tells us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Listen, Dear Friend, the God who gave His only Son that you and I might have eternal life is infinitely more interested in us than we can begin to imagine.  If there were ever at time when God would have been tempted to let man go his own way, it would have been at calvary.  At Calvary where the innocent blood of His only begotten Son was shed.  At Calvary where the perfectly sinless Christ became the very essence of sin for us.   Yet Scripture reminds us, “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 delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

Where is God in the midst of your trials, the world’s troubles, & your family’s fears?  He’s right there.  We see Him through the eyes of faith.  We trust Him and believe His Word.  The poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson speaks of God’s carrying us through the troubled times.  Pity the one who doesn’t recognize God’s grace and mercy in his life.  Everything you are and ever hope to be is owed to His abundant grace and mercy. 

Where is God, Revelation 3:20 tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  If you are a Believer and cannot sense His presence, it is because you have closed the door on His Lordship in your life.   Don’t spend another day in doubt and fear.  Open the door of your heart, and give Him free reign.  He cannot fail.  He must prevail!

From "A Word For Living"  by Mike Rasberry

©                          Mike Rasberry        2013

Cherished and Stored Up Anger

The older I become, the more I wish I could undo many things in my past, and I’m certain that others feel as I do.  However one can never undo what has been done.  He can only confess, repent, and attempt to make restitution where possible.  But those acts often create in the lives of those affected opportunities to store up anger.

I’ve seen people become unhappy and bitter because they have stored up anger over perceived or actual harm.  These people are unwilling to forgive, and that stored up anger begins to eat at their health while destroying relationships and opportunities.   They often profess to not being angry, but their stomach is keeping score, and the tenseness they feel when the object of that anger is brought to mind can actually make them physically ill.

Scripture teaches that one should not allow the sun to go down upon his wrath, thereby giving place to the devil.   You see, it becomes stored up anger, and each time it resurfaces it becomes more and more cherished, in so much that he finds it progressively more difficult to forgive the offender.  When you don’t deal with your sinful anger forthrightly, you allow Satan the opportunity to destroy you, your relationships, and your testimony. 

There is righteous anger that one ought have, but righteous anger is not directed toward an individual, rather it is directed toward the sin.  Every preacher ought be angry over the sin which deceives and deludes his congregation, and each sermon ought have an element of anger toward that which is robbing Believers of the joy and victory in Christ which is rightly their because of His finished work on the cross.  

Believers ought be angry about the sin which enslaves their loved ones and acquaintances.  But, dear friends, don’t direct your anger toward the individual.   Our churches would be filled with convicted, confessing, and repentant folk continually if we would only learn how to put aside that anger which we so easily justify toward others.

So how does one conquer anger?  First, confess to God that you have this stored up anger and claim His loving forgiveness.  Second, forgive the offender.  If you will not forgive, you cannot be forgiven.  Third, attempt to be reconciled to the one with whom you are angry.  Reconciliation must not depend upon you.  

Living anger free enables one to enjoy the life God has given.  Jesus came that we might have abundant and fruitful life.  Don’t allow stored up anger to rob you of the full benefits of this life.  Don’t allow anger to rob you of an effective testimony for Christ.

From "A Word For Living" by Mike Rasberry

©                       Mike Rasberry                     2013