Night is Coming by Henry T. Blackaby
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We live in a world of artificial light in so many ways. If we go to a ballgame and nighttime is approaching, we watch as the stadium lights come on in the transition, and we are led to believe that daytime still exists. In essence, we are deceived about the night because of the “artificial light.”
We may function well with artificial light in the physical world but this certainly is not true in the Kingdom of God. Jesus said to His disciples, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5).
We, in our day, tend to believe that we can ignore the real “night that is coming” by turning on our artificial lights to make us think and act as if nothing is wrong. We can spend time in the “artificial light” of Hollywood with its make-believe world of reality. And, of course, the world of sports offers a constant stream of escapism to the real world as well. We literally have hundreds of media channels in which to get lost. And in so doing, we can live carelessly in our unreal world and ignore the real world. This also can apply to the relationships we have in our marriages and families. We can fail to see “the night is coming on,” and it may become too late to work on these precious relationships.
Too many of us today see the darkness approaching in our nation and in our world but convince ourselves it’s not as bad as it truly is. We simply throw on the switch of artificial light so we will not be overtaken by the darkness. And as we do we go on in reckless and fatal abandon.
Jesus gave us a clear warning of this moment. We must face the real time in which we live just as He did and work the works of Him who sent us. Are there “good works” which He ordained that we should work and not postpone (Ephesians 2:10)?
Be encouraged: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:36a). Look carefully around you:
-- for what you see “while it is day.”
-- for the approaching “night.”
-- for the deception of the world’s artificial light.
-- for opportunities to let Christ’s light shine in you and through you.
Friday, November 21, 2008
This week I had the opportunity to discuss evangelism with a handful of pastors and a missionary back home for a break. We were discussing the "why?" of evangelism from a believer's perspective. We are all evangelicals and believe Romans 10:14-15 and the blessing and necessity of sharing the Gospel with the world.
What we were discussing is the motivation to share. We concluded that there are several reasons why people share. Not all of them are actually God-honoring or sustainable, but we fully recognize that the only person to ever share the Gospel rightly - with the right truth and heart - was Jesus. Everyone else does the best they can and in God's grace and for His glory the Lord chooses to work through jars of clay.
The three obvious motivations we all saw were guilt, pride, and love. We concluded that the first one was not sustainable. We believe that the last one is sustainable and appropriate. We acknowledged that the second one would only be as sustainable as it was gratifying to the person's ego.
Guilt is not a healthy or sustainable motivation for sharing the Gospel Sharing because you simply feel sorry for people and want them to have it as good as you, is not enough. The fact of the matter is there are times when we don't feel that we have it all that good and in those moments we won't share. Sharing because we owe it to Jesus and we feel guilty, if we don't, denies the very Gospel that is to be shared. We can never pay Jesus back for what He has given us. The eternal gift that cost the Lord His life is a gift that we will never never never be able to provide proper thanks or pay back. Sharing out of a sense of payback dishonors the gift of grace and the gift giver.
There are a lot of people that share out of pride. They share because they have a quota to meet and it makes them feel great because they shared with a certain number of people. When someone does respond, it puts another notch in their belt. There are a lot of dangers in sharing out of a sense of pride. One is it is easy to turn people off who feel like they are getting a sales job. People know when someone is interested in them and when they are trying to be won to another person's side. Another danger is that it can create an elitist attitude. I have heard many say for the wrong reason, "I don't know why more people don't share." What can make a statement like that inappropriate is if in their heart they are thinking, "I wish more people were more spiritual like me and were as active in sharing their faith." One more danger I would mention is that it minimizes the power and impact of the Gospel. When the Gospel is shared in pride, it becomes a means to the end of stoking a person's ego. The Gospel should produce humility and awe of God. It should never produce pride and awe of self.
The one motivation that is healthy and sustainable is love. When we share the Gospel because we genuinely love God and want to honor Him for what He has done and because we possess an authentic love for people that we want to see saved from a life separated from the rule and love of Christ and an eternity separated from God in hell. When we share from this motivation our plea is passionate. Our joy is in what it does for others and God's glory. Our peace is in giving hope and finding assurance of our own faith, as we define it and at times defend it. It remains faithful to the Gospel itself, which was given out of love to produce a life of generosity and compassion.
In the end God can use all three motivations to spread His Kingdom. As Paul told the Philippians what is important is that Christ is preached. Philippians 1:15-18 "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,"
Share your faith today, but share it with love. Don't share it out of a sense of guilt or to build your pride. Share because you love God and want others to know how great He is. Share because you love people and want them to know the gracious life giving God you know.
Friday, November 14, 2008
“And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.”
— Genesis 29:26
"We do not excuse Laban for his dishonesty, but we scruple not to learn from the custom which he quoted as his excuse. There are some things which must be taken in order, and if we would win the second we must secure the first. The second may be the more lovely in our eyes, but the rule of the heavenly country must stand, and the elder must be married first. For instance, many men desire the beautiful and well-favoured Rachel of joy and peace in believing, but they must first be wedded to the tender-eyed Leah of repentance. Every one falls in love with happiness, and many would cheerfully serve twice seven years to enjoy it, but according to the rule of the Lord’s kingdom, the Leah of real holiness must be beloved of our soul before the Rachel of true happiness can be attained. Heaven stands not first but second, and only by persevering to the end can we win a portion in it. The cross must be carried before the crown can be worn. We must follow our Lord in his humiliation, or we shall never rest with him in glory." C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings November 14 PM.
As there are seasons in nature, there is an order to life. Just as summer comes before fall so faithfulness comes before fulfillment. So many times we want to get the blessing of God without first being faithful. In order to live in Christ we must die to self. There is a divine order to all things. We must surrender before we can be saved. We must seek first the Kingdom of God and then all the other things will be added.
Is your life in order? How and from what have you excused yourself from obedience? What wrong expectations have you placed on God?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Today is the day we honor our veterans. One of my great regrets I have in life is that I did not serve my country in the military. I come from a family of men who did and I am extremely proud of them and their service.
I am proud of my country and I am thankful for the men and women who currently serve and have served in years past to protect this great nation and defend our liberties. It seems in the media and even in some Christian circles that the US military is viewed as a great evil. I do not see it that way. I by no means believe that it is without its faults, but so is the church and every Christian I know.
What makes me so thankful is their willingness to sacrifice their lives for me and for the nation I get to live in. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Many of our veterans paid the ultimate sacrifice to provide the freedoms we enjoy. There are many who are putting themselves in a position to pay that price today. These are men and women who love us and our great nation and so I say thank you and honor you today.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
So many times I and other Christians assume that what is happening in our lives and in our world is about us. We are like my baby boy Asher who believes the world revolves around him and should be structured to his benefit and liking. We Christians think that way a lot. You can hear it in our prayers, our attitudes toward difficulties, and in the way we complain. We take Romans 8:28 to always mean that God is going to make something bad good for us. Why? Because we think it's all about us.
The first line of Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life" he writes, "It's not about you." Oswald Chambers explains, "If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all; they are meant to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what transpires in other souls so that you will never be surprised at what you come across" (My Utmost for His Highest: November 5).
God is the potter; we are the clay. Jeremiah 18:6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
The question is, what kind of clay are we? Are we dry and uneasily transformed? Are we hard and break easy under stress? Are we too soft and fall apart easily? Or are we weak enough to be changed and strong enough to take form?
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
On Sunday I had more message than minutes. Here is something I left out of Sunday's message, when I made the point that LIVING BY FAITH DEMANDS THAT WE BELIEVE GOD EXISTS. Hebrews 11:6b "because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists".
If you believe that God exists that belief will impact your world-view. Everything you do and think is based on your world-view and everybody has a world-view. A world-view can be defined as the lens someone sees the world through that defines reality.
As Christians, we have a distinct world-view that is based on that fact that we believe God exists, is knowable by grace through faith in Christ, and is at work in our lives and our world. But as soon as I say that I must admit that the church of Jesus is facing a crisis right now that is hurting not only the church, but the world the church is called to serve. The problem with the church is that many within the church know what the Bible teaches, but many do not actually believe what the Bible teaches nor do they see the world through a Biblical Christ-centered world-view. There seems to be a gap between the stated beliefs and the actual behaviors of Christians these days.
The people of the church says they believe certain things based on their membership in a local church, but many do not live what they say they believe. This is not true of every Christian or church. We are blessed at Living Hope to have a majority of people that genuinely believe the God exists and are living out of a Biblical Christ-centered world-view. But in general the church in North America isn’t and there are serious consequences to this gap between what is believed and what is lived.
One consequence of this gap is an unhealthy church that is not growing. According to Ed Stetzer, Director of Lifeway Research and all around great guy, "North America is the only continent in the world where the church is not growing. In North America, the church is in decline. Some even claim it is dying." That is startling, when you think about the number of people and the amount of resources that are at the disposal of the church in North America. The church is not dying, but it is struggling as a result of this gap between what the Bible teaches and how God’s people are living.
Another consequence is an unhealthy world that believes the church is irrelevant and hypocritical. According to David Kinnaman, the president of The Barna Group "(studies show)that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade, many of the Barna measures of the Christian image have shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a "good impression" of Christianity. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%)."
When 87% of these young people surveyed think of Christianity, they do not think about grace. They think about “judgment” and not of God's judgment, but of His people. I recently saw a bumper Sticker that said, “Jesus save me from your followers!” They see the church as a group of scary people.
When 85% of these young people surveyed think of Christianity, they do not think about authenticity. They think hypocrite.
The people of the world are looking at the church and not wondering if what we say is true, but they are questioning if we truly believe what we say is true. The world is questioning Christians because they claim to believe in a gracious loving God, but do not seem to be gracious and loving themselves.
All people live out what they believe is true based on their world-view. People who believe that God exists will live like it. The text tells us that to live by faith and please God, we must first believe that God exists and live like it. To live the Christian life we must embrace a Biblical Christ-centered world-view and then live it.
That’s what living by faith is. It’s believing God exists and then living like it.