What God Wants You To Do Today

So many stumble through life with no sense of purpose. I sometimes look back on my day, week, or month and wonder exactly what have I been doing. What worthwhile thing have I accomplished? Have I made a difference to my family, to my friends, or to my community?

Thinking about purpose, consider the following info-graphic on suicide statistics in the state of Louisiana:

 

According to the same website, in the United States an average of 121 people commit suicide each day. That’s 44,165 per year!

Why so many suicides? Individuals take their own lives when they feel their physical or emotional pain is overwhelming and they cannot see past it. They don’t have a reason to live. Life no longer holds purpose or meaning.

I wonder what the rates of DEPRESSION in the United States might be. We distinguish between clinical depression and emotional depression, because the two are not synonymous. But how many are depressed because of their life situation, because their life holds no significant meaning in their own estimation?

Many of us, failing to understand God’s ordained purpose for our lives, fall into unhealthy and destructive cycles of selfishness in which we cease to care about others and focus almost entirely on our own needs, desires, and comforts. Have you fallen into such a cycle? Think about the following verses which show God’s plan for your life, and compare your actual life with God’s vision:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6.8)

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1.16-17)

But if a man is just
And does what is lawful and right;
If he has not eaten on the mountains,
Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,
Nor defiled his neighbor’s wife,
Nor approached a woman during her impurity;
If he has not oppressed anyone,
But has restored to the debtor his pledge;
Has robbed no one by violence,
But has given his bread to the hungry
And covered the naked with clothing;
If he has not exacted usury
Nor taken any increase,
But has withdrawn his hand from iniquity
And executed true judgment between man and man;
If he has walked in My statutes—
And kept My judgments faithfully—
He is just;
He shall surely live!”
Says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 18.5-9)

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2.3-4)

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25.34-40)

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1.27)

We could add so many verses, but these suffice to show God’s intent for His people. He wants us taking care of others, treating others as more important than ourselves. The work He gives us to do is so simple! Amazingly, when we submit to God’s vision for our lives and give ourselves for others, we find great purpose. Only a truly wicked and selfish person feels miserable after helping his neighbor! As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

So what is my purpose for today? I should be helping someone, doing for someone, pouring myself out for someone. If I go day after day only serving myself (what do I want to eat; what do I want to do; when can I get back to my hobby?), life will fade into meaninglessness. But the more I submit myself to others’ needs, desires, and comforts, the less I think of myself, and the greater my own sense of blessedness, joy, and overall enjoyment of life becomes!

If you feel miserable and depressed, listless and aimless, try doing something for another. It’s exactly what God would have you do today. May God bless you as you labor in His kingdom.

The Way of Man

What are you doing today? Going to work? To school? Taking a vacation? Having some fun? Getting some jobs done around the house? Helping your neighbor? Taking some food to a widow in need? Visiting someone in prison?

Why do you get up in the morning? Why did you choose your vocation, hobbies, way of life? What’s your life’s purpose?

From a biblical standpoint, God has an answer for you. From a worldly standpoint, you come up with your own answer. And, frankly, most of the world comes up with its own answer.

Jeremiah wrote many years ago:

I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. (Jer. 10.23)

Do you know the main difference between Buddhist meditation and Christian meditation? The Buddhist attempts to find her center, to probe deep within herself, to discover hidden secrets locked inside her. The Buddhist believes that enlightenment is within man. The Christian, on the other hand, meditates on Scripture (Psalm 119.15, 23, 48, 78). The Christian looks outside himself to discover how he should live, because he knows he will not find the right path in himself.

The Buddhist and the Christian differ in their fundamental understanding of the nature of man. What is your nature, according to the Scriptures?

  • After the flood, God recognized, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 9.21)
  • Solomon included in his temple-dedication prayer, “there is no one who does not sin” (2 Chr. 6.36)
  • Paul wrote, “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3.10)
  • He also said “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2.1-3)
  • “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8.7-8)
  • “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2.14)

You are either a natural man or a spiritual man, according to Scripture. The natural man cannot understand God’s word and does not possess the ability to please God. The spiritual man can understand God’s word and can please God. How does a person transition from the natural to the spiritual? God performs the work of regeneration (Eph. 2.4-9; Titus 3.4-7; John 3.1-8), and we believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Lord of all (John 5.24; 3.16-17; Rom. 10.8-13). It’s by grace through faith.

The true way to salvation is not within man! We must look outside and beyond ourselves for the answers to life. How did we decide what to do today? Either we are following our own path or we are following a path God laid out for us. By that, I mean we walk in our own wisdom or God’s wisdom. Which is it for you?

How Dead Were You?

Walking Dead

How dead were you?

When “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2.1), just how dead was that? Dear Christian, do you recall being dead? Oh, you functioned well enough, as you “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2.2). Remember when we “formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2.3)? We were just like the rest of the world, which walks in the darkness even until now. Just how dead were we?

We were dead to God, dead in spirit. We were not sensitive to spiritual matters and couldn’t tell right from wrong. We may have understood there was a right and a wrong, but we couldn’t explain what it was, and we surely weren’t walking in truth. We directed our own path, guided our own steps, called our own shots–totally and completely divorced from the one relationship which matters most.

TombsDead people are incapable of living. That may strike you as funny, but isn’t it true? Paul used this language of spiritual death on purpose because he wanted us to realize the absolute powerlessness and tragedy of stumbling around dead in our sins–spiritual zombies. We couldn’t make ourselves alive. Dead people can’t reverse the process.

We didn’t even know we were dead–that is, not until God told us through the gospel. I can preach the gospel to my dead neighbors, but it might not wake them up. Many (most?) simply laugh because it seems so ludicrous to them. “You think I’m dead? But look at the life I’ve made for myself!” But God can wake the dead, and He does! Every Christian can attest to this fact–God does, indeed raise the dead. Praise God!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2.4-6)

In some mysterious, deep, and supernatural way, God breathed into our immortal souls and granted us…LIFE! It’s a life alongside Christ Jesus our Lord, as we sit with Him in the heavenly realms.

How dead were we? We were totally, completely, irreversibly dead, without hope in this world. But for the grace of God, we’d still be dead.

SERMON: One Life to Live

Thinking about life on a deeper-than-normal level should be a regular exercise in your life. Where are you now? Where are you going? What is your aim and purpose in life? What is your life all about? Who is most important in your life?

Moses ponders the life of man in the context of the everlasting, eternal, all-powerful God, and the answers he finds are humbling. His response enlightens the readers. Ponder Psalm 90 with us.

You only have One Life to Live.

Galatians: How Is the Promise Fulfilled?

PonderingTo Review…

Thesis: We are not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 2.15-16)

Proof #1: You received the Holy Spirit not by works of the law but by hearing with faith (Gal. 3.1-9)

Proof #2: All who rely on works of the law are under a curse (Gal. 3.10-14)

To Continue…

Proof #3: The Promise was not fulfilled through the law (Gal. 3.15-20)

God promised that He would bless all nations through Abraham’s seed. Despite what the Jews were thinking, the special covenant Moses ratified between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai did not fulfill that promise God made to Abraham.

CancelledDid the covenant with Israel cancel out the promise? Paul says absolutely not! The law given through Moses did not change a bit of what God had promised.

Paul makes a great deal out of the phrase “to his offspring,” showing how offspring is singular and means one man, namely Christ. The promises God gave Abraham were to be ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ–not through Moses and the Law. Abraham lived 430 years before the Law was ever written, so God was faithfully working out His promises long before the Law came, and the Law did not change the direction of that work. When you read the Old Testament, it’s often good to think of the BIG STORY in which God works out the Seed of Abraham in such a way as to bring Jesus onto the earth “when the fullness of time had come” (Gal. 4.4).

Therefore the Law must have served some other purpose(s), since it did not accomplish the fulfillment of God’s promise. This is why Paul begs the question, “Why then the law?” (Gal. 3.19)

  1. It was added because of transgression (3.19)
  2. It was a bi-lateral covenant between God and Israel (3.19-20)
  3. It imprisoned everyone under sin (3.22) / held people captive (3.23)
  4. It served as a guardian / tutor / schoolmaster (3.24)

How long did God intend for the Law given through Moses to endure?

  • “until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made” (3.19)
  • “until the coming faith would be revealed” (3.23)
  • “until Christ came” (3.24)

Rapt AttentionGalatians 3.21 is extremely important for us to hear and understand:

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

The little “if” can change your worldview! Paul plainly teaches NO LAW in existence can give life. Law inherently cannot redeem, save, justify, etc. Just the opposite, law condemns and binds us under judgment and wrath. Law has no mercy. In order for us to receive mercy, forgiveness, and grace, we must receive it from someone who loves us and has the ability to give it to us.

It’s not as if God’s law to Israel was imperfect–it is the most perfect law which has ever been given to mankind! If any law could save, that would be the one.

Neither did God abandon the Law of Moses simply to replace it with a better law, the Law of Christ, by which we are now saved. The Bible never reads like that anywhere. Christ didn’t come to save us via a better law; He came to save us from the condemnation of the law. That’s important, and we must not miss it, because the Galatian brethren missed this point and were cursed because of it.

Why then the law? The law pushes us on to Christ! It displays the absolute holiness of God and exposes our own lack of holiness. But the law doesn’t save; for that we need Christ! “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3.29).

Galatians: Praise Jesus, Our Blessed Redeemer!

John17_LawVsGraceTruth_smPaul began defending his proposition that “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.16) by asking the Galatian brethren when had they received the Holy Spirit–by works of law or by hearing with faith? Of course, they received Him by hearing and believing the gospel, not by hearing and obeying a body of laws. The Jews, as a matter of fact, had lived their entire lives attempting to follow that body of laws yet, despite all their efforts, had not received justification.

Next, Paul demonstrates in Galatians 3.10-12 that those who seek to be under law remain under a curse.

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”

What curse? All Jews familiar with their scriptures know the blessings and curses God built into their covenant. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they quickly came to two mountains–Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. From Gerizim they pronounced the great BLESSINGS God would give them if they remained faithful (Deut. 28.1-14), and from Ebal they intoned the litany of CURSES God would bring upon them when they wandered away into unfaithfulness (Deut. 27.15-26; 28.15-68).

Ten CommandmentsPaul gets pretty legalistic here. You might recall a few moments in Israelite history when Israel seemed to be doing okay and God was blessing them because of their faithfulness. But, in reality, the law actually demands a full, total, and perfect faithfulness to all aspects of the law in order to be considered righteous! And who has done that? Only one.

Even in the Old Testament God justified individuals the same way He does now–by faith. Paul pulls from Habakkuk 2.4, “the just shall live by faith,” to show that God justified even the Israelites by faith and not because of their keeping of the Law (praise God)!

We are not justified by law but by faith. We do not live by keeping law but by faith. These ideas of being justified and living go hand-in-hand, for the one on whom God shows His favor has passed out of death and into life (John 5.24); the one God justifies now lives, as once he had been dead in his sins (Eph. 2.1) and under the curse (wrath of God). Law brings curse and judgment; faith brings life and justification.

How can this be? Continue in Galatians 3.13-14…

13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The CrossGive us the gospel again, Paul! Hammer it into us and make us full and rich, glowing in the light of God’s truth in Jesus Christ! That’s right–Jesus became cursed in our place. God provided a substitute for us who really deserve the curse, the beating, the mocking, the nails. He hung on that tree until dead, until He had erased our eternal pain and the condemnation of the law. He bore our sin and carried our sorrow so all the people of the earth could have access to the blessing of Abraham and receive that Holy Spirit unto salvation.

And God confirmed these promises by raising Jesus from the dead.

I don’t know about you, but I’m in total awe of what God has done. Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer!

Your Life’s Mission…In a Sentence

MissionStatements_JesusMission statements, succinct and pithy sentences which sum up your life focus, give you anchor and direction, helping you keep track of yourself in this chaotic world.

Do you have a personal mission statement? It’s not easy to invent one if you’ve never written one before. If you have, would you care to share? If not, however, the apostle Paul’s life focus might help jog your creative genius. He wrote in Philippians 3.7-11:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Perhaps that’s way too long for your life’s mission statement, but can you see the main point? What was most important to Paul? What would he be willing to give up to attain his goal?

MissionStatements_TimothyMy family associates with Classical Conversations, a classical homeschooling group. Their mission statement is this:

To Know God and Make Him Known

Do you think that incorporates the spirit of Paul’s life focus?

CHALLENGE: Start thinking towards your own personal mission statement.

  1. It should be simple.
  2. It should be short.
  3. It should be the product of your life’s Bible study.
  4. It should be flexible; you should be able to adjust it over time as you learn more.

Don’t rush to put something down on paper this very minute, but do begin writing down ideas and thoughts which capture the Christian’s main purpose(s). You may find that you’d like a separate mission statement for your different roles in life (i.e., your mission as a mother or father, as a son or daughter, as a student, as a teacher, as a boss, as an employee, etc.). But FIRST try to write a mission statement which captures your focus as a child of God. Are you fulfilling your purpose? You will only know that if you have a clear concept of your purpose!

I hope you are blessed through thinking deeply about this. God bless you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Trying to Grasp the Wind?

HurryIt seems like life is getting more and more hectic. Not mine, specifically, although I reckon could easily trim out a bit of excess, but this world is rushing madly about, busy with things and stuff.
On the one hand, it’s good to be busy. The devil plays around with our leisure time. But on the other hand, the devil also enjoys watching us waste our time as we hurry and scurry doing nothing particularly constructive or productive.
Praise the super-successful business mogul. Clap for the sports hero. Sigh for the girl singing on the X-Factor.
Shuttle the kids off to school to learn how to write, read, build, discover. Rush them to band practice, football practice, their first job in the hamburger joint. It’s not enough that they get by in life; we want them to thrive, excel, become truly great, leave their mark. So we push.
Do we ever stop to think WHY we push them? Why do we push ourselves? Why do we rush about attempting to achieve great things?
WindSolomon did exactly this. He holds the world record in the “super-successful” category because he had virtually unlimited resources and a drive to discover, build, and thrive. Solomon diligently searched for thrills, meaning, and happiness–but when he paused to reflect, he realized he had just been grasping at the wind. Frantically, he tried everything he could think of, but nothing truly satisfied. “Vanity,” he penned in his journal. “Emptiness. Striving after the wind.”
 
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (Ecclesiastes 1.14)
 
And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind. (1.17)
 
I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. I said of laughter—“Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” (2.1-2)
 
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun. (2.11)
Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (2.17)
City StreetSad man! Because he was wise, he reflected and meditated on his life journey. Many of us don’t pause in the hustle and bustle of our days and weeks–we just spin our wheels and never look back. But Solomon looked back, searching for the reason why he had spent his energies and time the way he had. When all was said and done, after he had philosophized for twelve tough chapters, Solomon found his conclusion. Perhaps some would have committed suicide by the time they had meditated on the realities of life the way Solomon did–but Solomon found an anchor, a reason for living:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil. (12.13-14)
Jerusalem MarketplaceThe answer to life is not in discovering your unique passion, becoming the best at your trade or talent, or hoarding boatloads of cash. No, the secret to life’s meaning lies in something quite outside this world! Man’s duty is to fear God and keep His commandments. If this is our aim, everything we do in life suddenly becomes pregnant with meaning, from the words we use with our families to the business decisions we make at the office. Suddenly every word, thought, and action holds eternal significance because we realize there actually is a judgment day coming in which God will reveal every secret thing! We ought to live in light of eternity, in light of judgment, in light of God! Since He exists and He watches and He commands, we should listen and obey and conform to His way. Imagine that–the creature obeying his Creator. What a concept.
Why rush about? Why achieve things? Why push ourselves? If it’s not for God, there really is no good reason to do any of it. It is vanity, a grasping after the wind, and it will all disappear in the twinkling of an eye. All this earth stuff will grow old, rust, rot, and perish. So will our bodies. But WITH God there is no such thing as vanity or emptiness! All has meaning. Praise Him!