Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 17 October 2018

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV).

Do you think churches who excommunicate members want them to be saved in the same way Jesus wants ALL people to be saved?  Call me skeptical but I’m betting most congregations practicing excommunication do so with an emotional mix of sadness and anger.  In the middle of that mix it is difficult to remember that the purpose of dis-engaging someone from Christian fellowship is to do something to help heal a breach in their faith.   Congregations don’t enter into this practice lightly, but I’m pretty sure there is un-righteous anger involved in most cases.

And what is Jesus wanting us to be saved from?   If you believe that we are sinners, the answer “sin” comes easily.   Yet there are so many people who posit that, once saved by Christ, we aren’t able to sin again.   Last night, during a Bible study, this subject came up.   We are saved once for all and walk forever in a state of grace no matter what we do, even when we sin.   We are foolish to think that once-saved believers also can’t harden their hearts or disavow the faith they embrace.  Or to choose sin instead of that grace.  Thank the Lord for His Way back.

What good is the knowledge of the truth?  Pontius Pilate is famously quoted as saying “veritas?” to Jesus when Jesus tells him that He is the truth.   It isn’t just the foundation of honesty to which Jesus is referring:   it is Himself.   Paul re-iterates this when he says that our Savior wants all people to have a knowledge of the truth.   In other words, Jesus wants all people to know Him.

Finally, does pleasing God (by praying, or doing other things) earn us points with Him?   To be frank, I can’t answer that; neither can you.   When something pleases God it’s up to Him what He does with it.   We don’t earn salvation; it is freely given by Christ to us because of who He is and not anything we’ve done.   We don’t have to pray for our leaders, but we should as a way to support them and to exercise our faith.   We don’t have to do good works, but we should because this pleases God and demonstrates our faith.   We don’t have to go to church but we should to worship, to build up others, and to be fueled ourselves.   I don’t know if this earns points with God, but I do believe living our fruits of His Spirit pleases Him and spreads His Gospel.   It means we choose Him, choose life.

Choose life; choose Jesus.   That’s the answer.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 5:4, Luke 1:47, Ezekiel 18:23, Titus 2:11, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:5

Lord, there are so many questions that I have.   Help me through them and thank You for my life of grace.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 28 September 2017.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  Hebrews 12, verse 14.

Here’s another tall order:   live in peace and be holy.  How does that fit in with America’s NFL controversy this week?   Or our political discourse in general since the start of this century?   How well are we living in peace with our enemies and even our allies?   Is there peace in Detroit or St. Louis?   Is there peace at your table on Thanksgiving?   And are you and your spouse at peace (if you’re married)?

Let’s get this out there:   peace is NOT the absence of conflict.   Don’t think that just because we don’t have conflict that we’re at peace.   Yes, I mean that.  Sure, not shooting each other in war is indeed “peaceful” yet there’s all too often no real peace in that.   It’s a good thing to not have someone shooting you, attacking you, berating you, and that condition is indeed conducive to overall peace.  But it isn’t real peace.   There isn’t peace along the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula:   there is only a cessation of hostilities that has lasted since 1953.  There isn’t peace in Sudan.   There isn’t peace in Ukraine.   There isn’t peace in Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, or most of America’s inner cities.

You can only have peace if the Holy Spirit is working within you.   The bumper sticker meme “no Jesus no peace.   Know Jesus know peace” is spot on true.   The only real peace you can know in this world is when you open up your heart and let Jesus crowd out all the rest of the noise.  Sure, there are some true believing folks in all the areas listed above (even in North Korea) but without God’s Holy Spirit in control, the peace we will know is uneasy, tenuous.

That isn’t easy to do.   I have a schedule to keep.   There are Facebook posts that require my brilliance.   My wife and kids aren’t doing what I want them to do.  That guy who passed me on the right was a real jerk!  DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE TIME FOR PEACE?  Actually, Dave, if the truth is told, you don’t have time to NOT have peace.   Without the peace of Jesus, you got nuthin.

You’ve got nothing without Jesus because, without Jesus, the second half of verse 14 is also impossible.   I’m not holy; you aren’t holy.   Neither Franklin Graham nor Pope Francis (nor even Pope Emeritus Benedict) are holy.   We’re all dirty sinners on our own.  Without Jesus, we still own our sins; owning our sins, we are unholy.   Without Jesus we still own the consequences of our sins.  What’s more, without Jesus you won’t see the Lord.   You won’t see heaven.   You won’t be there.

Don’t get mad at me for pointing that out:   it’s what verse 14 says.  Without knowing Jesus we can’t be holy and if we’re unholy we won’t be going to heaven.   The ONLY cure for that is to put your faith in Christ.  And the way to do that is to say “I believe” and then start walking the walk.  Read your Bible.  Pray constantly.   Be with other believers and be built up by your fellowship with Jesus and each other.   Tithe from a giving heart.   And, most of all, practice what you preach by starting to live your life in ways the Lord has told us to.  Once again, that’s a tall order.   It means giving up the porn, holding your tongue, confessing your dark secrets to the unseen God, and changing the way you act with other people.   Pick your pet sin:  you and I GET TO give up these things and follow Jesus closer so that His holiness can be imputed to us and we may stand with Him in paradise.   These are simply the practices of a follower of Jesus.  If my tone seems preachy, I apologize.

I have no illusion that everyone turning to Jesus would immediately solve the world’s problems.  Perhaps we would still have conflicts, arguments, and hurt.   Or, perhaps we wouldn’t.   Si Robertson once said “it ain’t gun control we need.   It’s sin control.”   Right on brother.  If we all embraced Jesus more and did what He asked, perhaps we’d have more control over those temptations that lure us in.   If we all did better and walking the walk and talking the talk, perhaps the world’s problems would indeed be solved.   Sin control looks a lot like Jesus.

For further reading:  Romans 14:19, Romans 6:22, Matthew 5:8.

Lord, thank You for giving us Your righteousness, for making us holy.   Help us to believe in You more, to practice our faith.