Our Rightful Place Before God
Do you ever get spiritually low or weak? Do you sometimes feel that you need something to buoy your faith? Sometimes as a believer in the one and true living God, especially when I am feeling spiritually low or weak, I try to remind myself of His awesome power. If we will often remind ourselves of our rightful place before God our cares can be lifted and we can find a peace in His omnipresence. In Psalm 104:1-9 David reminds us of God’s might. “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty.” (ESV, vs. 1) “the waters stood above the mountains. 7At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. 8The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them.” (ESV, vs. 6-8)
As David mentions, mountains are the perfect place for personal, powerful encounters with God’s power. Not long ago my wife and I were able to visit Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN and I will never forget the feeling we both shared as we looked down upon God’s beautiful creation below. The feeling is hard to describe, but you just sense the greatness of the One who created the mountain you stand on and you sense an appreciation for all that He has done for you. As you experience a view from a mountain you are reminded how small we are and how great and all powerful our Creator and Father is. As I reflect on that feeling I am reminded of the words of the prophet Habakkuk 3:6 that says, “He stood and measured the earth; He looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low.” Yes, God is all powerful and can shake the earth, move mountains, and reform the earth at His command. This should remind us that God is great and we are beneath Him, which is our rightful place before God.
From the beginning of time man has attempted to equalize himself with God. It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve followed the deception from Satan and ate of the fruit that would make them “be like God, knowing good and evil.” (ESV, Gen. 3:5) It continued in Gen. 11, man again set out on a foolish plan to “make a name for ourselves” (vs. 4) by building a tower “with its top in the heavens.” (vs. 4) In the New Testament we continue to see examples of worshipping false idols and false gods instead of God in another attempt of man to narrow the divide between God and ourselves.
Instead of trying to equalize ourselves with God we need to have a proper view of Him and that will help reverse our sinful nature to balance ourselves with Him. When we see God as being above us, beyond us, highly exalted, over us, and totally separate from us, we will place ourselves in an acceptable place to God – under His awesome hand. When we embrace God for who He is, then we will properly understand who we are. When we know God’s place, we can know our place. When we see God as He really is – holy, sovereign, separate and above us it will place everything and every one of us in our rightful place before God. So whether your view of the creation is from a mountain, a plane, or your front yard remember God is completely in charge and He is the one “who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!” (ESV, Psalm 104:32)
Look Out! Here He Comes!
By Dee Bowman
We live in a world of denial. Most folks have some small amount of what they call “spirituality,” but they have little or no Bible knowledge. They will affirm a belief in God, but when it comes to the devil, his ploys and his temptations, they seem to think he’s mostly just a sort of representative of what is wrong and not a real person. Much of this disregard for the devil and his ploys is based on little or no Bible knowledge. Surely anyone who has carefully read the Scriptures and considered their affirmations will admit that the devil is real, that he is active, and that he is totally committed to the incarceration and eventual destruction of mankind. As a matter of fact, the causing of people to deny both his existence and his devices is one of the most effective ploys of the devil . As long as he can keep people in the dark about his existence it will be easy for him to take them where he wants them to go. The fact is, everyone of us is engaged in a mortal battle with the devil and his forces of evil. The sooner we face that fact, the sooner we will be constrained to oppose his methods and deny him any control in our lives. You can never relax when you’re engaged in combat with the devil. Did you know that the devil spends most of his time amongst the members of the Lord’s church? About 99%, I’d say. The other 1% of his time is spent just keeping what he’s already got in tow. For this reason it’s most important that we get to know something about the devil’s devices and how he uses them to seduce Christians back into the world and how he uses them to keep those who’ve never obeyed the gospel where they are–lost. First, face the fact! There is actually such a person as the devil, and he knows your name. The fact that some people have the notion that the devil is only a myth or an imagination in no way changes the fact of his reality. Let me assure you that the devil is real! God’s word tells us that he exists, that he’s not just a force of evil, but an active personality, one bent on the work of beguiling and subduing persons toward evil. In Ephesians 6:10, Paul exhorts that we make sure of the armor we wear, “...that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Paul implies emphatically that the devil is a personality, that he is activity plotting against righteousness and piety. In 1 Peter 5:8, Peters warns us to exercise diligence and soberness, because the devil “...walketh around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He’s always around somewhere. And he is a formidable foe! We should never take him lightly or dismiss him frivolously. He’s always lurking on the periphery of all that we do. Let us be impressed with another fact: the devil is intimately acquainted with man. He knows man to the extent that he can predict what appeals to him and how he can be tempted. For instance, he knows that man is capable of being deceived. Not only that, he know what bait to use to insure the deception. He is aware, too, of the almost universal desire to obtain riches, and he uses that constant longing for more of what this world has to offer to deceive mankind. He knows that he can often subdue the human soul by flattering the ego or elevating personal pride. He is a promoter of indifference, and he likes nothing better that to cause a person to feel sufficient and satisfied with where he is–so much so that the no longer sees the need for participation in the Lord’s work. Make no mistake about it–the devil knows your name! And the devil never quits. He never declared a moratorium, nor does he work only 40 hours a week. He is always there, always working on some new plan designed to cause, some new plot he has cleverly devised. And when you repulse him and cause him to flee, he only retreats long enough to re-group make a new and sometimes even fiercer attack. He is constantly chipping away at your strengths, too, trying to use even your strengths to bring you down by causing self-righteousness or inordinate feelings of selfesteem. What to do? First, realize that you can’t beat him by yourself. You begin by doing what Jesus did when tempted in the wilderness–you use the word of God (Matthew 4). It is your defense, your protection, your answer to all his advances, just it was His. We can know his wiles and devices by studying the word of God (2 Corinthians 2:11) and we can know his methods and predict his modes of attack –you can “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Look out, here he comes!
Vol.XXVI March 16, 2011 No.6
association without adaptation
The days leading up to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus must have been terribly confusing for His apostles. On the first day of that week, they had walked among the throngs of people who were parading before and after the Lord, paving the road with branches from trees, and openly welcoming Him to Jerusalem as their long-awaited Messiah. The twelve watched as He drove out of the temple those who were engaged in commercial enterprise; stood in wonder as He gave sight to the blind and strength of limb to the lame; listened to the cries of the children echoing the words of their parents - “Hosana to the Son of David!”. They were present as the Pharisees and Sadducees and chief priests and elders confronted Him with questions and challenges and it must have thrilled them and inflamed their own Messianic hopes as He refuted every effort to undermine His teaching and power. They saw the fig tree dried up by its roots only one day after their Master had cursed it. And they must have felt the rising tide of expectation in the city as the multitudes embraced Jesus as their King. But, at the same time, Jesus warned them of great tribulation - the very stones of the Temple would be cast down; they would be pursued as objects of hatred and persecution. He told them, at least twice in these few short days, that He was about to die. Furthermore, He predicted that they would forsake Him, and one of them would betray Him. How could they process all of these conflicting scenes? It’s no wonder that Peter could be so bold in his affirmation of loyalty - “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble!” Even when Jesus specified the details of his denial, Peter resolutely avowed, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” I find it impressive that, in the garden of betrayal, surrounded by an armed crowd, Peter was the one who drew his sword and attacked those who threatened his Master. Clearly, at that moment, he was willing to die in faithfulness to his word.
But Jesus told him to put his sword away. And He allowed Himself to be taken without resistance. And Peter’s world - his expectations and dreams and hopes and illusions - came crashing down. Dejected, he ran. Confused, he turned back and followed. He secreted his way into the courtyard of the high priest to see what would happen to Jesus. He found himself surrounded, not by the hopeful crowds, but by the murderous opposition. In a dim courtyard, illuminated by a small fire, a couple of servant girls caught a glimpse of his face in the flickering light. “Weren’t you with Him?” Panic. “No.” Someone else, “But I saw you with Him. I saw you in the garden!” “I don’t know the man.” Others began to look more closely - “You’re one of His disciples - you’re a Galilean; your speech betrays you.” Cursing, swearing, sweating in the cold, fearing for his life, Peter’s great assurance is gone. “I don’t know what you’re saying!” A rooster crows in the distance. Jesus, across the courtyard, turns and looks as His friend. Peter remembers. But the denial is done.
God’s record is replete with anecdotal warnings about the power of influence. Lot moved toward Sodom where the men were “exceedingly wicked and sinful” (Gen.13; 19). He saw some of his daughters die at Sodom; lost his wife in her disobedience; in his weakness fathered children by the two immoral daughters that survived. Would his life have been different in the absence of Sodom’s influence? A generation of people lost their lives in the wilderness because of the influence of ten men who didn’t trust in God’s power to deliver Canaan into the hands of Israel (Num.13). Solomon dishonored the throne of Israel in allowing his foreign wives to turn his heart away from God (I Kings 11). Herod beheaded John the Baptist due to the influence of a woman he loved, a woman after which he lusted, and the godless influence of a room full of party guests (Mt.14). Pilate condemned the Son of God to crucifixion because he feared the angry cries of a crowd, in spite of the military might which he commanded (Mt.27:24). Peter was strong until surrounded by the enemy in the absence of the Lord.
Influence is a double-edged sword. As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to exercise it (Mt.5:13f; I Pet.2:9f). One of the great difficulties of loyal service is to stand up for God when we are almost always in the minority, and even more so when there are clearly painful consequences to follow. But it is our task, and we must be conscious of that obligation in our homes, at our jobs, in our schools, in our social circumstances. In I Pet.4 we are encouraged to brace ourselves as we “do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation” (v.4) and then “do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you” (v.12f). Stand up, and you will certainly stand out. But the other side of the sword is the danger of allowing those we are trying to influence to hold sway over us. God told the Israelites, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil” (Ex.23:2). Proverbs is full of warnings about the danger of ungodly influences. Paul echoes the sentiment regarding doctrinal dangers - “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits” (I Cor.15:33). Over and over we stand warned about allowing the world to dictate our convictions, our standards, our affections. But we can never be about the business of saving souls unless we are existing in the world and among those given to rebellion. Perhaps we could cloister ourselves from society with its wicked influences and find it easier to remain unmoved. But how would we ever move anyone else? Therein lies the dilemma.
So what’s the solution? Association without adaptation. We can be in the world without being of the world (Jn.17:14f). We can interact with people in our daily course of living without embracing the world’s ungodliness. But we must make sure of our commitment. We must be singularly devoted to Christ. If I am not dedicated, I will be drawn away. I must sacrifice myself (Rom.12:1f; Mt.16:24). No thing nor no one must ever take precedence over that determination. And, I must refrain from intimacy with anyone or anything that would lead me away from God. Contact may be unavoidable. But intimacy is my choice. Why would I give myself in thought, in affection, in priority, in body to someone who is not concerned for my soul? Perhaps that’s the practical key. Influence others because you care for their soul. But don’t be swayed by those who do not care for yours.