Thursday, February 18, 2016

Finding the Right Way

My brother-in-law recently moved. I had not been to his new apartment, but had been told that it was near Samaritan's in Albert Lea. I happened to be in that town, so I was going to stop in to see him. I drove to Samaritan's and called my wife for directions from there. I followed her instructions but told her that there was nothing but an open field where she said his apartment should be. After a bit of confusion she told me that he lived near St. John's, not Samaritan's.

I then drove to St. John's and found the street that I was told that he lived on, but I still could not find his apartment. I did find another apartment. I called my wife to see if this was the right building. As I described it to her, we realized I was again in the wrong place. After more confusion, we discovered that I had also been given the wrong street. No wonder I could not find my destination.

Fortunately, I was very close by this time. In fact I was only about a block and a half away, but I needed to turn down another street from the street that I had been told to go on. Once I found the correct street, I quickly found the apartment.

What if you were searching for eternal life with God, rather than your brother-in-law? What if you missed out because you had been given the wrong directions? This issue is so serious that the Apostle Paul wrote, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9 NASB)

The word “gospel” means good news. In the Bible, it refers to the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ. So how does a person apply the gospel to their lives in order to have eternal life? John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

A jailer asked the Apostle Paul and his fellow minister Silas how to be saved. The answer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved.” (Acts 16:30-31). That same offer was extended not just to the jailer, but to his whole household.

Notice that belief must be in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Acts 4:12 says, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." (NASB)

I am often asked about those who have never heard about Jesus. For them to try to find eternal life would be like me trying to find the apartment with the wrong directions. Let us not forget that the same God who is powerful enough to create heaven and earth knows the very thoughts of men's minds. He can know who would and would not believe if they heard. That means He is able to get the right directions to those who are truly seeking Him. In Acts chapter 10, Cornelius prayed and God sent Peter to tell him about Jesus. As hearts are moved and the truth is shared, people all over the world are able to hear the gospel and realize that the only directions to an eternity with God are by believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior who died for your sins and rose again.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Faith Like a Mustard Seed

My little boys are still at the age where they think that their daddy can do almost anything he sets his mind to. Part of me enjoys that they have such confidence in me, but I also want them to understand reality- even if I become less of a hero to them. I would rather they understand the truth now than to have them face a major letdown later.
As Christians, we need to be cautious how we teach on faith, otherwise both children and adults can end up facing a similar letdown. Are there dangers in teaching that if we have enough faith, then we can do whatever we set our minds to do? Does the Bible support such teaching? What about Luke 17:6 which says, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.” (NASB)?
In order to understand Christ's statement in Luke 17, we must look at the context of what He was talking about. He had just finished teaching about how Christians should not be a stumbling block to others and how we should forgive a brother even if they repent 7 times in one day. It is difficult- seemingly impossible- to consistently obey these expectations, thus in Luke 17:5 the disciples ask the Lord to “increase our faith.” The reason they are requesting faith is so that they can obey what Christ has commanded them to do. Upon hearing that request, Jesus gives the mustard seed illustration.
James shows in 4:3, that prayer requests are not granted because they are asked for out of selfish motives. In other words, they are man's requests rather than God's will. The point is that if we pray according to God's will rather than our own, then all it takes is faith like a mustard seed for what we prayed about to happen.
The challenge is to know God's will. In Luke 17, Jesus had just shown the will of God when He taught on forgiveness and not being a stumbling block. In other words, the context shows us that all it takes to obey God is faith like a mustard seed. This is supported further as we continue to read the next verses. In Luke 17:7-8, Jesus talks about a servant who worked hard all day, but then still had to work more to prepare a meal for his master at the end of the day instead of expecting his master to make the meal for him. The point is that in a servant master relationship, the servant does not get to order the master around even if the servant has been working hard.
Christians must remember that our Lord is our master and even if we have been working hard, we do not have the right to order Him around. We do not have the right to make demands of God in our prayers. Instead we should focus on obeying Him.
To suggest that an increase in faith gives us a right to make demands of God totally contradicts the teaching of Luke 17:1-10. The faith of a mustard seed is the power to obey God, not the power to order God around. Realizing that God is all powerful, loving, merciful, and must judge sin, we should be thankful that He restrains us from doing whatever we decide while showing us that it only takes faith like a mustard seed to obey Him.

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