428:  The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

428: The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer’s ancient adage proves true:  Familiarity Breeds Contempt.  It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love.  It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter.

What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best?  What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, “we’ve lost that lovin’ feelin'”?  What happens then?

How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering?  We find the answer in the Lord’s letter to His church in Ephesus.


Familiarity Breeds Contempt

The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord.  They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” – Revelation 2:2-3.

In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.

“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character).  And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work).”

I get tired just reading all that they did.  But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus.  The relationship!

“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)” – Revelation 2:4.

Sobering words.  The Lord said He is “against” them… even after all the good they had done.  How could that be?  And what can they do to right their sinking ship?

It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.

“Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent” – Revelation 2:5.


Do You Remember?

It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.  Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:

What does it mean to remember?
Take a moment and remember your first few weeks as a new creation in Christ.
What were you like?
Back then, how would you feel about yourself now?
Did you make any promises to the Lord that you would not even think of making today?
Did you keep whatever promises you made to Him?
Has your relationship with Him cooled over time?
If so, did it happen gradually, like a slow leak?
Or did it happen all at once?
What do you remember about that time?

There is so much more to remember.  To find out about the forgotten discipline of remembering, keep listening.

The following is a study on Revelation 2:2-3.

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403:  God Never Waste an Experience, Good or Bad

403: God Never Waste an Experience, Good or Bad

God never wastes an experience in our life, good or bad.  When we sin, for example, God uses our failure as a ministry to help others struggling with the same sin.  He allows us to share the times we fell flat on our face to encourage others who are doing the same.  It seems that’s what Jesus was teaching Peter.

In the upper room, during the last supper, Jesus told Peter He was praying for him.  But His prayer was not to remove the temptation and inevitable fall from Peter.  No, His prayer was that when Peter fell and suffered the consequences of that fall, that once he repented and returned to Jesus, he was to strengthen his brothers by that experience.  Consider the following:

Luke 22:31-32 – And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Jesus didn’t tell Peter he would deliver him from the temptation, the sifting.  He promised Peter that after he fell and recovered and returned to his faith, Jesus would use that experience to encourage and strengthen others who were struggling in the same way.  That’s why, in John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter by saying, “Feed My lambs” (John 21:15).  Even after Peter’s epic denial of Jesus, his ministry was not finished.  In fact, it was just beginning.  And so it is with us.

Does this thought encourage you?  It does me.  If you want to learn more about your usefulness after your failure, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:15-23.

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402:  Are You a Murderer?  Probably So

402: Are You a Murderer? Probably So

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus equates anger with murder (Matt. 5:21-22), in much the same way He equates lust with adultery (Matt. 5:27-28).  Later, John adds the following:

1 John 3:11-15 – For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love (agapaō) one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his (Cain) works were evil and his brother’s (Able) righteous.  Do not marvel (wonder, be surprised, astonished), my brethren (fellow believers), if the world (kósmos) hates (to detest, an active ill will in words and conduct, a persecution spirit) you. We know (eidō) that we have passed from death to life, (how) because we love (agapaō) the brethren.  He who does not love (agapaō) his (personal) brother (fellow believers) abides (rest, make their home) in death.  Whoever hates (to detest, an active ill will in words and conduct, a persecution spirit) his (personal) brother (fellow believer) is a murderer, and you know (eidō) that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.


Anger + Hatred = Murder

John also equates anger and hatred with murder.  And he states that “no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  This is a profoundly important point.  Which raises a couple of questions:

Have you been angry with a fellow Christian?
What was the cause of your anger?  Was it the holiness of God?  Or some personal preference about which you felt slighted?
Are you still angry with that person?  And if so, why?
Did you know that, according to the Scriptures, you are guilty of murder?  Why?  Because the one you hate and murmur about was created in the image of God.  And to hate someone created by God, who is also made in the image of your God, is to hate God.  You cannot love the Creator and hate His creation.

The Scriptures call this murder.  Are you confused?  Do you think hatred and murder are two different things with two different penalties?  Do you want to know what the Scriptures say about anger and murder?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Matthew 5:21-22.

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401:  How Life Changes in a 100 Yard Swim

401: How Life Changes in a 100 Yard Swim

In John 21, we have the account of Jesus revealing Himself to a few of His disciples while they were fishing.  As soon as it was revealed to John that it was Jesus on the shore, he said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 17:7).  And in perfect Peter style, he overreacted and jumped into the water to swim to Jesus.

But by the time he swam the 100 yards to where Jesus was, something happened.  You can see it in Peter’s demeanor.  You can almost feel his reluctance to approach Jesus.  Why?  Maybe Peter was afraid Jesus was angry with him for his denial in the courtyard.  Or maybe Peter was ashamed he had drawn the others away and gone fishing, back to their old life, like nothing important had happened these last three and a half years.

Or maybe Peter hadn’t forgiven himself for his denial of Jesus.  Maybe he was ashamed.  Who knows?


Change is Not Always for the Better

But something changed.  Not just with Peter, but with all the disciples.  They had excitement and passion that can only come from belief while on the boat.  But once ashore, it seems more like calm reservation.  In fact, John goes out of his way to tell us what the disciples weren’t thinking.  It was his way of trying to explain the strange way they approached Jesus.

John 21:12 – Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.”  Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.

There are life lessons to be learned in these fourteen verses.  Profound lessons.  Are you interested?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:1-14.

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The If / Then in Repentance

The If / Then in Repentance

We have previously talked about the importance of understanding our responsibility regarding the if / then passages in Scripture.  In these, the promise of God (then) is contingent upon some completed action on our part (if).  One always precedes the other.  One is always contingent upon the other.  When the if is satisfied, the promised then is realized.  But the opposite is also true.  If there is no if, there will be no then.  If no condition is met, there will be no fulfillment of the promise.  It’s Contract Law, 101.

For example, when Peter preached his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost that ushered in the birth of the church, he closed his message with an if / then promise.  Let’s look at this in context.  First, Peter concludes his message with a statement about Jesus and their guilt in rejecting and crucifying Him.

Acts 2:36 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified (now it’s personal), both Lord and Christ.”

Then, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the people cry out for an answer.  They long and seek for salvation, some deliverance from the guilt of their sin.

Acts 2:37 – Now when they heard this (the words Peter just spoke), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Peter answers their question with an if / then promise regarding repentance and salvation.  They must do something (if) to receive salvation and the forgiveness of their sins (then).  If they fail to do what is required of them (if – repentance), then salvation does not follow (then). Watch how this plays out.

Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said to them, “Repent (if – the condition they must meet), and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (as an outward sign of their repentance and submission to Christ); and (then – the promise of salvation, the result of meeting the condition of repentance) you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Remember, the Holy Spirit is our proof of salvation.  Ephesians 1 says we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” in Him (Eph. 1:13-14).  Again, no Holy Spirit, no regeneration, no changed nature— no salvation.  But you already know this.


Turn at My Rebuke

Yet even after salvation, we find the same if / then conditions and promises still apply in our lives today.  This is especially true regarding the sins we commit as a believer and our refusal to repent of them and give them up in exchange for a deeper relationship with the Lord.  Look at your own life.  You and I have areas right now that we struggle with and refuse to submit to Him.  But you also already know this.  The end result of this inaction on our part is a grieving of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and a noticeable break in our fellowship with the Lord.  Can you relate?  Ever been there?

We even see this scenario played out for us in the first chapter of Proverbs.  In this chapter, the young man (representing you and me) is warned by his father and mother not to forsake what he has been taught and to not consent when sinners entice him to sin (Prov. 1:10).  The Lord then spends the next nine verses detailing the types of pressure each of us will face when we are tempted to sin.  There’s peer pressure, greed, anger, violence, acceptance, excitement— it’s all there.  Read it for yourself.

By the time we get to Proverbs 1:20, things change a bit in the text.  Now we have wisdom, the personified wisdom of God, calling out to this young man with the message of repentance.  In fact, we see wisdom calling out to anyone who will listen.  Wisdom calls out in the “open squares,” in the “chief concourses” and “at the opening of the gates in the city” (Prov. 1:20-21).  Wisdom is calling to everyone.  To those who are lost, it’s a message of repentance unto salvation.  To those, like the young man and you and me, it’s a message of repentance unto fellowship and a restoration of our intimate relationship with our Lord.

Wisdom’s message begins with a rebuke.  It’s like incredulously asking, “Just how stupid are you?”

Proverbs 1:22 – “How long, you simple ones (foolish ones, naive ones, stupid ones, moronic ones), will you love simplicity (what is foolish, stupid, moronic)?  For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.”

Wisdom asks each of us the same question: “How long, you foolish, moronic, stupid ones, will you love your stupidity?  How long, you fools, will you be enamored in your folly?”

Just like those who heard Peter’s charge in Acts 2:36, we also ask the same question:  “What must we do?”   The answer is simple.  But it’s an if / then answer.  It requires something of us in order to receive something from the Lord.

Proverbs 1:23 – “Turn (if – the condition that must be met) at my rebuke; Surely (then – the results of meeting the condition) I will pour out my spirit (Holy Spirit) on you; (then) I will make my words known (yada) to you.”

The promise is that God would pour (to gush forth, to flow) out the Holy Spirit on those who turned (turn back, returned) and repented at the rebuke (correction, reproof, chastisement) of wisdom.  And, as if it couldn’t get any better, He also promised to make His words known (yada) to those who repented and turned back to Him.  The word “known” is yada in the Hebrew and means to know, or be known, in a loving, intimate, experiential way.  The promise offered by the Lord is for Him to pour Himself out on us in the Person of the Holy Spirit and make His words become something we love because we have experienced them ourselves, first-hand, and have an intimate, loving relationship with Him.   Does it get any better than this?  Not for me.

But don’t get too excited.  This wonderful promise is conditional.  It’s the then side of the if / then equation.  There is something that is required in order to receive the promise from God.  Something each of us must do.

We must repent.  We must turn at the rebuke or correction and chastisement of the Lord.

It means to go back to where we were with Him before we jumped ship to blindly go after the trinkets and toys this world offers.  It means to embrace the eternal and reject the temporal, no matter how good the temporal may make us feel in the short run.  It means placing ourselves back under the Lordship of Christ as the Sovereign One.  We must repent of the selfishness of demanding our Christian life being about us, and not about Him.  And we must vow to never view Christ as a genie in a bottle, always at our beck and call, whose sole purpose, according to us, is to make all our dreams come true.

Turn.  Return.  Go back.  Repent.


But What If I Don’t?

I mean, what if I refuse to return to Him?  What if I’m ok where I’m at and don’t want to go through the pain and hard times that come with repentance?  What if I say, no?

I’ll close by letting you read what the Lord says about people who stubbornly refuse His rebuke.  These are sobering words.  Take them to heart.  Because they are a warning from Him.  Another if / then promise.

Proverbs 1:24-27 – “Because (if – the condition we have met) I have called and you refused, (if – the condition) I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because (if) you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, (then – the result of our actions) I also will laugh at your calamity; (then) I will mock when your terror comes, (to what extent) when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.”

But it gets worse.  What happens when we reject the wisdom of the Lord and inevitably begin to experience all the “terror” and “destruction” that “comes like a whirlwind” (Prov. 1:26-27)?  What happens when the Lord gives us what we want and allows us to experience the consequences of our own sin (Rom.1:24-28)?  What happens when we’ve had enough of God’s chastisement, throw up our hands in defeat, and begrudgingly come to Him on His terms?  What happens then?  How will He receive us?

Read this carefully.  These are sobering words.

Proverbs 1:28-30 – “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.  (why) Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke.”

These are some of the most frightening words in all of Scripture.  They indicate there may come a time when our constant rejection of the Lord will dry up His grace.  A time when heaven is quiet and, no matter how hard we try, we can’t find the grace from Him we took for granted for so long.  The time may come, according to this if / then promise, when God allows us to experience the consequence of our sins and may give us exactly what we have asked for, what we have demanded— deliverance from Him.

Pray that day never comes.

And while you still can, turn at His rebuke and allow Him to “pour out my spirit on you” and “make my words known to you” (Prov. 1:23).  Because when He does what He has promised in the verse, you will begin to experience heaven on earth.

Return to Him today.

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376:  Stupid is as Stupid Does

376: Stupid is as Stupid Does

When we look at the warnings from the Lord found in the first chapter of Proverbs, we are naturally drawn to the almost prophetic words of Forrest Gump.

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

To put it in the words of Solomon:

“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?” – Proverbs 1:22.

Or, “How long, you simple (foolish, simpleminded, stupid, naive, moronic) ones, will you love simplicity (what is foolish, simpleminded, stupid, naive, moronic)?”

Great question.  But what is the object of this question?  What exactly are the stupid ones loving stupidly?  What can we learn about the wisdom of God from what is being said here?  If you want to know more, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Proverbs 1:20-33.

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