Friday, April 30, 2010

Burning Coals on the Head?


What in the sam-hill does that text mean?

Remember, we are looking at a passage that advises us to return evil not with evil, but with good. You must take this into consideration when reading this verse because this verse teaches that same principle.

What does your enemy expect you to do? Get even, get revenge. But, this isn't the mindset of a child of God. When someone hurts you you do what they would not expect--you treat them with goodness and love, doing respectable things to them that makes them go, "huh?"

Then when you have done good to their evil, they will feel bad about what they have done to you. Now, this may not happen always. You may never see their shame or hear their heartfelt apology. But, you can be sure that by turning on the love, as opposed to their hate, they will see you for a "good, honest, and sane" person.

Do not let your motivation though, be one of I'll get even with them, I'll do good to them and then I know they will feel shame. No. You do the right thing, which can be the hardest thing. Your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you. Your satisfaction should never come from another person's pain. Remember the context, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

So get out there beloved and act like Christ to a lost and hostile world. To use an old cliche, "You may be the only Jesus someone ever sees."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Overcome Evil: Pay it forward not back!

Romans 12:17 says, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men."

The Bible is so clear here. How do we so often miss it? Someone snaps at us, we snap back. He cuts you off in traffic, you flash your lights at him, swerve up and around him. As if we could really get back at him for doing such a thing to us.

Our nature will always want to stick it to the other guy. This is clearly not the way of Christ, nor His brothers and sisters. The Father will not allow His children to be mean or nasty with another.

The meaning of "respect" is a meaty word. It means that we are to make plans at doing what is right. There is an intentional flavor to this verse. Not only are we NOT to payback evil, but we are to payforward good to those who hurt us.

We are to do to our enemy what no one would imagine. We are to do something for them, to them, before them that is respectable to any one watching. "All men" here includes believers and unbelievers alike. When the opportunity arises to do some mean and nasty thing, which is what the watching world expects, it is then we are to plan to do something that will blow their minds!

You respond in such a way that everyone around becomes amazed. The crowds around Jesus were amazed by His teaching. They had never heard someone like Him teach. In the same way our treatment of our enemies should literally amaze those standing by.

This must be a planned approach though. None of us are ever ready to say the perfect thing at the moment we need it. Usually, five hours later we think to ourselves, "oh, I should have said this." We know those individuals who say things that hurt or sting. It may be your spouse, or kids, or best friend at church. Anticiapte the things they say regularly that kind of smart and have a response that will bless them and not curse them.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. - Jesus

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Five Solas

Through my studies of the Puritan's (Thomas Watson, John Flavel, J.R. Miller, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon) I have come to learn of the five solas. The five key doctrines of salvation. If you are unfamiliar with these I simply want to give a brief introduction of them to you. If these intrigue you you should seek some fine books, which I will post at the end.

The first of the five is sola fide, or "through faith alone." These five points of doctrine all came from the Reformation period of our early church history. This first sola comes from the corrupt teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) that there were several graces you must accomplish to acquire saving faith. Some of the more notable RCC graces are infant baptism, confirmation, marriage, mass, and last rights. These and a few more had to be done to fully satisfy God's favor and the bestowing of His grace. Martin Luther came along and said, "No!" His study revealed what had always been in the Scriptures, but had been buried by the obscure and false teaching of the RCC. Scripture teachs that believers are justified by faith. The Epistle to the Romans speak of Abraham believing God for the promise and then God crediting His righteousness to Abraham. God required nothing of Abraham except simple faith in His divine promises. There is no man-made work or ritual that can appease God for His grace.

This takes us to the second, sola gratia, or "by grace alone." This teaches us that our salvation is non-meritorious. There is no merit that man can achieve that will appease God. Grace alone is what God displays in His mercy. Unregenerate man has no standing before God except wrath. All we like sheep have gone astray, there is none righteous, no one seeks after God is what the Word describes. As objects of holy God's wrath we can receive only one thing from God and that is His damnation. We do not deserve His grace, but wrath, we are sinful beings who have disobeyed His laws. But, thanks be to Christ Jesus, we are offered His mercy. His mercy places our sinfulness on Christ and Christ's righteousness on us. This is GRACE! Not that we could love Him, but that He loved us first!

The third sola, solus christus, "in Christ alone," teaches us that there is no other name under heaven by which man might be saved. Our salvation is a narrow minded one. Only those who enter through the narrow gate and follow the narrow way will enter heaven. There is no grace for those of the Muslim faith, Hindu faith, or any other faith. Any faith, even supposed Christian faiths, that water down Christ and His death on the cross are not faiths at all. Beloved, this is why it is imperative that you scrutinize over the Words of Scripture and over those who teach you. Are they teaching Christ alone, or do they mix him with any sort of man-made ritual or any other requirement that ultimately takes away from Christ's atoning death on the cross? There are many churches out there that teach Christ, but do they teach Christ from the Bible.

This leads us to our fourth sola, sola Scriptura, "according to Scripture alone." This sola teaches that all that is needed to know about our salvation comes from the Word of God. There are no new revelations from God, no new thoughts about our salvation, no new revelations from angels. We have a closed canon (Bible)! This means that preachers should be preaching God's Word, not the latest poll survey from Barna or whatever drivel comes out of the evangelical fads of today. The biggest church and most popular preacher does not guarantee solid biblical teaching. I encouage you to read my posts entitled, "True Preaching," where I delve into these issues more. There is alot of truth out there, but not all of it is biblical truth. Not all of it goes to the heart of the matter--our position with or without Christ. Millions of self-help books line our shelves, but none of them have the authority of God in them. Only the inspired, God-breathed pages of holy writ are authoritative. Go to them and them alone. Read the Proverbs, there is more self-help in those 31 chapter than all the books of the world!

The last sola, soli deo gloria, "to the glory of God alone," speaks to the core of what it is all about. Life, family, church, jobs, the world, all of it is for His glory. Go into the Psalms and see how often God's fame and glory is desired by the Psalmist. The first name we get from God is Jealous. He is a jealous God who is jealous of His own glory. This is why the New Testament speaks to our humility. We are nothing without Him and thus all glory goes to Him. When the church gathers it isn't for the sake of the unbeliever, despite what many pastors and churches try to sell, it is for His glory. The saints, or called out one's, come together to magnify His name by preaching, reading, singing, praying, and meditating upon His Word. Whether you eat or drink, in whatever you do, do it all for His glory.

I hope this gives you a little understanding of these foundational truths that have helped align the modern church with God. There is a resurgence of these teachings out there. You don't have to look to hard to see new books and new authors exposing these great truths. A few good books to get you on your way:

"What Makes a Church Evangelical?" James Montgomery Boice
"By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me" Sinclair Ferguson
"Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?" James Montgomery Boice

A good article to read is this:

God bless you in your journey,

Friday, April 9, 2010

Overcoming Evil - Get in the War!

Romans 12:15 tells Christians that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. This implies that we as believers know each other pretty well.

These words have been thrown out there a million times. But do you have a church or a group of folks in your church that these words are completely true? Satan is at war with God and he will do whatever he can to run Christ's name through the mud. Satan knows that he has limited time and ability, but he will do all that he can to destroy our Savior's image if we let him.

One way for us to combat his hatred is for your church and my church to come together and really be ONE.

When we weep do we really weep? If someone goes into the hospital are we doing all we can to help them keep the home fires burning? If you are the one weeping are you allowing your church family to weep with you? We all say that we don't want to be a burden to someone, but this is what being a Christian means. We can burden one another and we should be willing to go out of our way to help one another, and we should be willing to allow other believers to come into our lives and help us.

Do we really rejoice with one another? If someone got a better job or a new car, do we sincerely rejoice with them or do we fake it? Do we fake it because of jealousy or envy? If a brother or sister receives something that will help them make a greater impact for the Kingdom of God then we should rejoice. We need to stick it to Satan and realize we are on the same side and by truly loving each other deeply!

Evil will be more easily overcome if we know we have a whole army of fellow believers standing right behind us. I think of those Verizon commercials where the guy has a whole army of Verizon employees standing behind him (helicopters flying over, people taking notes, people doing all sorts of work). THAT SHOULD BE US! Do you have every fellow believers back in your church? Go down the list of people at church? Will you weep with them and rejoice with them.

God help us for not being more authentic!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Overcoming Evil with A Blessing

What kind of words fall from your lips? Harsh words or encouraging and pleasant words? The way you respond with your words to evil is a HUGE determiner whether you are sending out blessings or curses.

Romans 12:14 says we are to bless and not curse. When you are reprimanded, whether righteously or unrighteously, how do you respond? When you "talk"with your spouse, do your words reveal a heart that seeks to bless or curse?

Jesus, our Savior and model for life, said not a word of revilement when He was being beaten and hung on the cross.

You object, "I am not Jesus Christ!" No kidding! But, you are His child, I hope, and if so then His Spirit within you is transforming you. Earlier in Romans 12 Paul tells us to transform our minds by renewing ourselves in Christ. The Lord Jesus will enable you to do as He pleases. His commands should always give us hope, for that which He commands He empowers in us to do. Paul tells the Ephesians that Jesus' power has been granted to us (Ephesians 1:19).

To curse is to speak down, against, and in disbelief. To bless is to encourage, hope, and believe. Beloved, your blessing should be done in the heat of the moment, when you are most apt to lash out, that is the appropriate time to speak words that give life and not damnations! Begin now to think about your words. Meditate upon those passages that bring grace to our words: James 3:1-12; Ephesians 4:29.

Overcome Evil with Good

"I don't get mad, I get even!" How many times have you heard that sentiment? Or, maybe you have said it yourself. Even if you were sort of kidding, there is a part of you that is serious. Beloved, this is not the attitude of a believer. If you read Romans 12:14-21 then you will see that God definitely does not want you seeking your own revenge.
We are to overcome evil with good according to verse 21. This verse is the summary statement of the preceding verses beginning in verse 14. God's prescription for us, His children, is never to seek revenge, but to turn and do the best thing for those involved.
Our attitude should be that of our Lord Jesus. He did the greatest thing by dying on the cross which was not a passive thing. Scripture says He laid His life down of His own choosing. He could have stopped the onslaught at any time, yet He knew in the long run His death was the necessary answer to God's wrath over sinful man. So, you too, need to take the harder road and seek to do good to those whose harm you. Yes, turning the other cheek is actually the right thing to do. You and I are to NEVER do harm to another person. First Corinthians even condemns believers for going to secular courts to resolve their disputes.
You are not a door mat, but you actively seek some way to do good when harm has been done to you. A door mat sits back and takes whatever is dished out to it. Christians, are not to just sit back and take it and then do nothing else. Believers are to get up and work harder to resolve the situation and/or do what is necessary for the honor of God.
Why should we work harder? Because we are brothers and sisters to one another. First Corninthians 6, a chapter dealing with lawsuits, chastises believers for going to the secular court to resolve their issues. WE ARE FAMILY. We have a father in heaven Who loves us and has given us the tools necessary to resolve conflict. Careful study's of Matthew 5 and 18 will help us to see these tools. But, what is important is that you are related to one another as long as you acknowledge God as Your Father. Much of New Testament language is wrapped in these words of family where God is our Father and we are brothers and sisters to one another.
Have you been causing dishonor by your retaliatory motivations? How have you been retaliating? Do you need to evaluate your actions towards those who have harmed you in any way? Continue to read Romans 12:14-21. Let the Word teach, correct, and train.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Overcoming Evil

Revenge. Retaliation. Stick it to 'em. Dog eat dog.

These words are familiar to us, yet do they guide us? How do you handle conflict? Do you seek revenge or retaliation? Do the means justify the end? Do you advise your kids, "You better not start the fight, but you darn near better be the one to finish it?"

Did you know that God has an order for how we are to overcome evil done to us? Did you know that His plan is perfect? Do you know what His plan is?

At the heart of most of our struggles in life is conflict. Conflict with loved ones, bosses, children, even brothers and sisters in the Lord. God's Word gives us guidelines on how we are to respond to evil done to us. My next couple of blogs I hope to discuss this important issue.

For now, I want you to go and read Romans 12:14-21. This is the divine prescription for overcoming conflicts.