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.

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!

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!

Two Months to Live

Showing the BibleI just got off the phone with a man whose brother-in-law has been told has two months to live because he has aggressive, stage four lung cancer.

My friend said, “I want to send him a Bible verse to encourage him in this time…can you give me some ideas of what to send him?”

“Is he a Christian?” I wanted to know.

“Well, he’s Catholic, but he never goes to church anyway,” was the answer.

“I see.” I told him I’d try to text him some verses.

But I knew that someone who is not a faithful believer won’t get much hope from the Bible!

I finally texted my friend:

I’d encourage your brother-in-law to read one of the gospels and get acquainted with Jesus really well. I’m not sure how encouraging Bible verses will be if he’s not in a good relationship with God and Jesus.

Food for LifeThen I sent the following verse suggestions, which might help lead the man where he really needs to go. But before you read them, let me ask you:

What would you say to this man? How would you counsel someone with only a couple of months to live?

John 14.1-6

          1      “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
2      “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
3      “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
4      “And you know the way where I am going.”
5      Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
6      Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

1 Corinthians 15.42-58

          42      So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised can imperishable body;
43      it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
44      it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
45      So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46      However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
47      The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
48      As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
49      Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
50      Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51      Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
52      in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53      For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54      But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
55      “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
56      The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
57      but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58      Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Philippians 1.21-26

          21      For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
22      But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
23      But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
24      yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
25      Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,
26      so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.