Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Christian's Fearful Courage and Strength

 

“Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” -Psalm 2:11

Be strong and courageous. This was the command of God to Joshua at the death of Moses. A great leader the people of God had followed and known for forty years is gone, and Joshua had to take the lead. Where was such strength and courage for Joshua’s leadership to be found?

 “The Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

The rich promises of God’s presence with him always are found in God’s Word which says, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” How are we as followers of Christ to serve Him with fear, and rejoice with trembling? The Lord tells Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Jesus told His disciples at the very end of Matthew, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Christian, in your fear of the Lord, the Lord dismisses all other fears. When the fearful Lord is on your side, who can be against you? With His faithful promises yours in Christ Jesus, be strong and courageous. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, thus a wise strength and courage in which to obey the commands of the Lord in a world which assaults the worship of God.

Honesty and faithfulness at work, home, as servants in the Lord’s church, as citizens of heaven in our citizenship on earth will take the Lord’s strength and courage in you. To have tongues of truth proclaiming God’s Word to the world will be met with the fleshly temptation for cowardly safety, and at the end of our comforts in our following of Christ and His Word we will need His strength and courage.

Do not ask the world if they think it is right. Do not ask the world for safety. Truth and safety are not in the world. Our only safety and truth are in the Lord who says, “be careful to do according to all that is written in (the Law of God).” Truth is in God’s Word and our fear of the Lord sends us to Christ for safety.

Heavenly Father, You are holy and awesome in power. In fear do we approach you with trembling to rejoice in hearing You say, “do not be afraid.” Dismiss our fears and grant to us Your mercies of strength and courage by Your Holy Spirit to obey Your commands. Forgive us, deliver us from temptation, give us all the needed mercies to be faithful. In Jesus’ name we ask it, amen.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Craftsmanship of God

 

“We are His craftsmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” -Ephesians 2:10

Do you produce good works to the praise of God? Look at the world’s applause. From charity to words the world finds profound, applause goes to people, community organizations, and movements. People form non-profit organizations for causes and good works which are championed to fix some wrong in the world and driven by applause.

The church of Jesus Christ is radically different. First, notice Christians are God’s craftsmanship rather than works of our own creation or identity. We were dead in our trespasses against God, producing evil works. God made us alive together in Christ Jesus. God’s hands gathered the church for His eternal purpose as opposed to someone organizing a group for earthly purposes.

The Christian individually and the church as a whole are God’s craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus. The power of our repentance from evil and toward God is found being in Christ Jesus. Paul told the Roman church that Christians are more than conquerors of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword by being in Christ bonded in God’s love for us which nothing can separate us from (Romans 8:31-39). This is God’s grace of salvation in Christ Jesus, a free gift of God received by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

What did God create us in Christ Jesus for? Good works. The world is driven by the applause of the world. The church is driven by the joy of God. “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). By God creating us into new creatures by His craftsmanship, we are in Christ and His complete joy is in us (John15:11). We produce the fruit of the Spirit of joy in the face of sadness and suffering!

Not FROM works, but FOR works. These are the works of God, creating new creations from old, bringing the dead into newness of life in Christ Jesus, in His death, burial, and resurrection. The church performs good works of love, serving our neighbors in our newly transformed minds, hearts, and bodies. Luther famously said, “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

What kind of works? Jesus said at the final judgment when he returns, he will reward people for feeding him when he was hungry, giving him drink when he was thirsty, clothing him when he was naked, visiting him when he was in prison, welcoming him when he was a stranger. The righteous will ask when we saw Jesus in these ways? Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

The world wants to produce these fruits to some extent, but only for applause that you are a good person, or your non-profit organization is a good group of people. The church produces good works in Christ Jesus for the eternal praise of God for we are His craftsmanship.

Do not produce fruit in hopes of applause that you are a good person. Produce the works for you created by God beforehand that you may walk in them. To the praise of God alone whom you serve in your treatment of the church and your neighbor.

Heavenly Father, all our minds, hearts, and labors are in Your mighty hands. Mold us by Your excellent craftsmanship into good works. Forgive us where we have been like the priest who passed the beaten man and craft us into the Good Samaritan. Produce good works of joy in the face of suffering and selfless service in this perishing, self-serving, boastful world to the praise of Your glorious name. In Jesus we pray for such mercies. Amen.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Sweet, Truthful Speech of the Wise-Hearted

 “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” – Proverbs 16:21

Do you see what is wrong with the world? With others? Do you want to instruct the world with knowledge which they are in ignorance and blind to? Do you desire to persuade others into right thinking and right living?

In our age of social media platforms, we are flooded with information of the lives of others while given the option to comment. News and information swirl faster and more furious than the town gossip listening into party line phone calls in previous generations. This has arisen a generation which craves information for the sole purpose of commenting on everything.

Does God speak any commands of us as His people whom He set apart for His sovereign purposes in this fallen world? I have observed many in Christ’s name take up truth to mock those in error. I have observed many in Christ’s name compromise truth while communicating with those in public sin. Yet, in all our technological advances, our eternal God speaks the ancient words of the proverb above.

If I am to be of any use in the Lord’s service living in a hostile, sinful culture to persuade those in darkness of the truth, I must be “wise of heart.” Such wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (9:10). A heart without a healthy fear of God as righteous Master and Judge with terror to melt mountains is an unhealthy, foolish heart bent toward a pride seeing others as beneath them in intelligence, seeing their self-righteousness and self-justification of errors through the lens of spiritual superiority. Such pride will not only fail to persuade those in error, but it will also lead to destruction (16:18). A wise heart is a heart humble before God having been clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

A wise-hearted Christian is discerning, as well. Though a gentle, kind, patient, humble soul, the Christian is uncompromising of God’s revealed truth in Scripture. What we know of our God is not simple opinions or theory but spoken to us by God’s eternal truth to we who are like fading grass (Isaiah 40:6-8). Our confidence in truth speaking is not simply formed based on our ways of thinking which we think are pure because it just seems right to us, but because God has spoken (Proverbs 3:5, 16:2). Our wise understanding has not come by way of our own thoughts or the thoughts of others, but the instruction of God (16:16).

Yet even here, this proverb does not simply jump into speaking truth. The wise-hearted and discerning Christian devoted to biblical truth has a sweetness of speech. In our modern culture, every call for sweetness of speech is quickly and arrogantly dismissed by calling people “tone police.” Yet, our God is our tone police. In a hostile, arrogant world rich with the mockery of sharp tongues, the tamed tongue of a Christian speaks truth from God sweetly to fall upon worldly ears accustomed to mockery and arrogance. This means the command of God upon your tongue and typing is in a studied way of expressing biblical truth using graceful, uncompromising language with a concern that hearers enjoy the great value of increasing in the biblical knowledge you are communicating. The sweet words of wise counsel in a foolish world are compared to the sweet smell of perfume in a smelly world (Proverbs 27:9).

The wise-hearted, discerning Christian with sweet biblical truth upon the lips now speaks. And that is the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. We make disciples by teaching them to observe all Jesus commanded us (Matthew 28:20). We are not permitted to be silent or to conveniently skip over biblical truth. Yet, our goal is the instruction of others, the increased knowledge of biblical truth by wise instruction with sweet words. For the world truly is foolish. If we desire to persuade others to increased biblical knowledge to change toward right thinking and right living, let us be uncompromising in biblical truth, wise in our affections, graceful in our words, bold in our proclamation.

Heavenly Father, forgive us of any foolishness in our affections and give us hearts wise in Your Scriptures. Forgive us of any lack of understanding Your commands of us and grant to us discernment. Forgive us of any harshness or mockery of our sharp tongues and give us lips to speak sweet words. Forgive us of any silence and give us confidence to proclaim Your truth to a foolish world and baffle them. In Jesus’ name Amen.