Beware of not acting upon what you see in your moments on the mountaintop with God. If you do not obey the light, it will turn into darkness. “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). The moment you forsake the matter of sanctification or neglect anything else on which God has given you His light, your spiritual life begins to disintegrate within you. Continually bring the truth out into your real life, working it out into every area, or else even the light that you possess will itself prove to be a curse.
The most difficult person to deal with is the one who has the prideful self-satisfaction of a past experience, but is not working that experience out in his everyday life. If you say you are sanctified, show it. The experience must be so genuine that it shows in your life. Beware of any belief that makes you self-indulgent or self-gratifying; that belief came from the pit of hell itself, regardless of how beautiful it may sound.
Your theology must work itself out, exhibiting itself in your most common everyday relationships. Our Lord said, “. . . unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). In other words, you must be more moral than the most moral person you know. You may know all about the doctrine of sanctification, but are you working it out in the everyday issues of your life? Every detail of your life, whether physical, moral, or spiritual, is to be judged and measured by the standard of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.
|AUGUST 27, 2014
How to Live an Invitation
“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:34 (NIV)
Walking into the building, I kept my head down and peered around the room from under my lashes. The butterflies in my stomach took flight as I assessed the unfamiliar surroundings. The room was filled with strangers and mysterious equipment, making my hands slick and my heart pound.
I was a foreigner in a new land: the gym.
You might laugh, but have you ever had similar feelings in a new situation? Even though I’m seasoned in many settings, the first time I visited my gym, I remembered the feelings of being the outsider. The newbie who doesn’t know the culture, secrets to fitting in or how things work.
Being a “foreigner” is uncomfortable, but when we pass that stage and become a “native,” it’s easy to forget those feelings and become oblivious to the needs and feelings of a newcomer.
Even though I’m fully integrated into my church family, that first foray into the gym brought flashbacks of visiting churches after our move. I remembered the discomfort of walking into rooms full of people I didn’t know, wondering if anyone would speak to me. It was difficult to navigate unfamiliar surroundings, trying to pick up on the unique vibe and vocabulary of each place.
Those were the days when my “house” hadn’t achieved the status of “home.” I walked my neighborhood and wondered about the people behind the doors. Would I be accepted here? Maybe even loved? In those early months, every place and every interaction held the starchy, scratchy newness of jeans just off the shelf. How I ached for the warm softness of the worn and familiar.
On the day my new neighbor Nikki visited and brought a pie, things began to shift. Her children were the same age as mine, and as they ran off to play, Nikki’s kindness and happy smile opened a door into a new place of belonging. Even before I earned “native” status, she treated me as a friend. Nikki lived the powerful truth in our key verse: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born” (Leviticus 19:34a).
God created us for expanding community, and He calls us to live a life of welcome.
When we remember our days as a newcomer, our time as “foreigners in Egypt,” we can live life with one hand joined and the other open. One hand holds the hand of the precious community God gives us — neighbors, family, friends, and brothers and sisters in faith — while keeping the other hand free to draw newcomers into the circle.
The hand joined to our community keeps us close and connected. It’s where we commit to live our truest self, working through the messiness that inevitably arises with close living. It’s the people we eat with, pray with, play with and love. When we have the blessing of a tight-knit group, sometimes it’s easiest to close the circle, joining both hands with those we know well. But God asks us to keep one hand free, always looking for one more new friend to draw into the loop.
My awkward first visit to the gym lifted my eyes from my everyday busyness and engagement with my well-established loved ones. Now I’m trying to be a walking invitation to the “foreigners” around me. “Come join us!” my heart cries.
Let’s go with a heart of invitation to work, school, church, the neighborhood party … and maybe, even the gym.
God, help me shake the complacency of being a “native.” Lift my eyes to see people around me who are new and in need of my kindness. Show me how to reach out to others in love to draw them into my circle, living a life of invitation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Streams in the Desert
And he took him aside from the multitude (Mark 7:33).
Paul not only stood the tests in Christian activity, but in the solitude of captivity. You may stand the strain of the most intense labor, coupled with severe suffering, and yet break down utterly when laid aside from all religious activities; when forced into close confinement in some prison house.
That noble bird, soaring the highest above the clouds and enduring the longest flights, sinks into despair when in a cage where it is forced to beat its helpless wings against its prison bars. You have seen the great eagle languish in its narrow cell with bowed head and drooping wings. What a picture of the sorrow of inactivity.
Paul in prison. That was another side of life. Do you want to see how he takes it? I see him looking out over the top of his prison wall and over the heads of his enemies. I see him write a document and sign his name–not the prisoner of Festus, nor of Caesar; not the victim of the Sanhedrin; but the–“prisoner of the Lord.” He saw only the hand of God in it all. To him the prison becomes a palace. Its corridors ring with shouts of triumphant praise and joy.
Restrained from the missionary work he loved so well, he now built a new pulpit–a new witness stand–and from that place of bondage come some of the sweetest and most helpful ministries of Christian liberty. What precious messages of light come from those dark shadows of captivity.
Think of the long train of imprisoned saints who have followed in Paul’s wake. For twelve long years Bunyan’s lips were silenced in Bedford jail. It was there that he did the greatest and best work of his life. There he wrote the book that has been read next to the Bible. He says, “I was at home in prison and I sat me down and wrote, and wrote, for joy did make me write.” The wonderful dream of that long night has lighted the pathway of millions of weary pilgrims.
That sweet-spirited French lady, Madam Guyon, lay long between prison walls. Like some caged birds that sing the sweeter for their confinement, the music of her soul has gone out far beyond the dungeon walls and scattered the desolation of many drooping hearts.
Oh, the heavenly consolation that has poured forth from places of solitude!
–S. G. Rees
Taken aside by Jesus,
To feel the touch of His hand;
To rest for a while in the shadow
Of the Rock in a weary land.
Taken aside by Jesus,
In the loneliness dark and drear,
Where no other comfort may reach me,
Than His voice to my heart so dear.
Taken aside by Jesus,
To be quite alone with Him,
To hear His wonderful tones of love
‘Mid the silence and shadows dim.
Taken aside by Jesus,
Shall I shrink from the desert place;
When I hear as I never heard before,
And see Him ‘face to face’?
They Sang to the Lord
From: Through the Bible
Ezra 3:11-13 (NIV) 11With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: “He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
The altar was built first, and then the foundations for the temple were laid. The priests dressed in their priestly robes, with the instruments prescribed for the singing of praise, began to sing the chorus that had been sung 500 years earlier when the first temple was dedicated. I think we’ll be singing the same song when the last temple, New Jerusalem, is completed. It is the song of endless ages, for the goodness of God never changes.
Surely the elderly were crying with mixed emotions, remembering the sins that brought the temple down, the grace that kept them through the conquest and captivity and now restored them to their land. God kept His word, but who could have imagined in the midst of the horror, that it would even be possible to build the temple again. The cry that went up was mixed with the joyous praise of the younger people who had only heard of a temple. They had been taught about the sacrifices and the service of the temple. They had heard descriptions, and now they were the ones who would one day tell their children of seeing the foundations laid.
We have foundations too. The names of the Apostles are on our foundation. When we sing that song in the completed final temple, some will remember when the foundations were laid. They’ll remember hearing the teaching of the life and sayings of Jesus from the Apostles. I imagine there will be a great shout then.
Consider: Stranger and pilgrim in the earth, are you looking for the city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God? You don’t have to wait to sing the song. You can start singing now, “He is good and his love endures forever”.
1 Corinthians 5:4-6 (NIV) 4When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. 6Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?
In the church in Corinth, a man had an illicit relationship with his stepmother. The Corinthian church did nothing about it, in fact, they thought it showed how tolerant they were. The Apostle Paul told them they should be ashamed and immediately expel him from their congregation. The next time they gathered Paul promised to be with them in spirit, and when the power of the Lord was present, they were to hand the offender over to Satan.
When we gather, we have the prayers of those who care for our church. God’s power is present in those willing to do His will. But what does this mean, “hand him over to Satan so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved”? When someone is ejected from the covering of the local fellowship, they are out from under the umbrella of blessing, comfort and encouragement it provides. They have chosen to give in to a sinful desire, and it will enslave them, dragging them to ever increasing wickedness. When a believer goes this route, the discipline that comes as the consequences of sin can be very severe. Not only does the physical suffer, but there is agony of soul and spirit as well. If that will not open their eyes and turn them to repentance, what will?
Verse 11 tells us under what conditions the church should do this. When you have an unrepentant sexually immoral person, or one given to greed, idolatry, slandering, drunkenness, or swindling, for their sake, and that of the body, we must remove them. Paul tells them why. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. Unconfronted sin infects the whole group. A body of worshippers can digress into a body of slanderers. Sin is contagious! By not dealing with these serious forms of rebellion toward God, we send an unspoken message that it is permissible. Not many churches are willing to take this stand, and that is one reason we have so many unhealthy churches.
Remember: Stand for righteousness in love.