Witness with a warning!

When we were traveling in Alaska, we came to the train crossing outside  Girdwood, Alaska.  The side of the building had a very conspicuous warning, pictured here.

Railroad train crossing warning

 It tells the reader to always expect a train at this crossing and to stay off the tracks, stay away from the tracks, and stay alive!  It certainly cannot be more pointed. 

But, likely, even though it was placed there with those explicit terms, people still failed to heed the warning given.  The temptation to try to outrun the train, or to cut in front of an oncoming locomotive is just too strong to resist.  Hence the warning’s final phrase, “Stay Alive!”. 

As Christians, we are told that we should warn others of their sin and of their need for a Savior.  In Proverbs 11:30 (ESV) we read:

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.”

The New International Version of this verse reads:

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.”

Proverbs 11:30 NIV

In considering the second part of this verse and the winning of souls for our Lord, Matthew Henry says that the wise are more than merely righteous.  Rather, they are trees of knowledge which is not forbidden but by which the wise man communicates wisdom to others.  The purpose of this witness is to win souls for the Lord.  In Daniel 12:3 we read that the wise turn many to righteousness, and this is the same thing that is referred to in Proverbs 11:30.  Matthew Henry concludes the thoughts about this verse with these words:

“Those that would win souls have need of wisdom to know how to deal with them; and those that do win souls show that they are wise.”

But we should be aware that winning souls comes with a warning.  God spoke to Ezekiel advising that he should tell the house of Israel the words that he receives from the Lord.  In directing this, He includes a warning for failure to do that which He directs:

“And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.  If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.  Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand.  But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.””

 Ezekiel 3:16-21

John Calvin discusses these verses in his commentary and makes this statement:

Nothing is more precious to God than souls which he has created after his own image, and of which he is both the Redeemer and Father. Since, therefore, our souls and their salvation are so dear to God, hence we infer, how anxiously Prophets and all pastors ought to discharge their duties; for it is just as if God were to commit souls to their care, under this condition of rendering an account of each. Nor is it sufficient to admonish one and another, for unless they had endeavored to recall all from destruction to life and salvation, we hear what God here pronounces. Hence, also, Paul uses this expression, woe is me if I preach not the gospel, for a necessity is laid upon me.(1 Corinthians 9:16. – “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!)

We have been called by our Lord to “make disciples”.  This involves teaching and telling them of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We cannot “save” anyone, we can only point to our Lord Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will impress upon them the need for their salvation.  We “merely” have the assignment to tell the good news and then live it out as a day to day witness of the Lord’s grace, mercy and love.

So, let us take our duties as Christians seriously.  Let us not flippantly allow others to do our witnessing for us – we should be, like Paul, compelled to tell others the good news.

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

1 Peter 3:15 ESV

When we speak to others, we each do it in our own winsome way, but we must always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask us of our Savior.  We must warn others of the danger to which they are exposed, but we must do so with gentleness, respect and an awareness that we are following our Lord’s directive, not our own agenda. Continue reading

HOW MAJESTIC IS YOUR NAME

At this time of the year, the full moon seems larger than life.  There is a school with its large parking lot, running track and baseball fields ½ mile from our house.  When we come home from Bible study in the evening, the moon is visible over this expanse of space, without the interjection of trees hampering the vision.  It has been wonderful to stare at the moon, marveling at its orange-tinted hue when it is first visible and appears huge.  Then, as it rises high in the sky, it seems to spread a glow of white light that blankets the land. 

I realize that there is a scientific way of explaining the light, the coloration, the change in apparent size of the moon, etc. and I appreciate that we have gone such a long way in understanding our world.  But, science is quite irrelevant when I see the full moon advancing overhead: I know it does this because God ordained it to do so, and it is awe-inspiring to me.

Moon and lake (C)
Full moon rising over still Mississippi lake.

 Scripture says:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Psalm 8:3-4 ESV

These verses from David come front and center when we look at the moon and at the beauty of God’s creation.  What is man, indeed?  How is the Creator God mindful of mankind?  He is the One who spoke all of our universe into existence by the power of His Word!  More incredible to think of, this same Almighty God who existed before the universe was created and who is infinite, not only knows of human-kind, He knows ME, individually and personally.  

Psalm 139 provides a listing of all the intimate details that God knows about each person on this planet. He knows: 

  • When you sit down and when you stand up. – 139:2 
  • The path you will take, when you lay down, all your ways. –  139:3
  • What I say even before I speak it out loud. – 139:4
  • His hand is on you and he hems you in. – 139:5
  • You can go nowhere outside of God’s sight or knowledge. – 139:7-12
  • Even in the lowest part of earth, far from heaven, God sees you. – 139:8
  • God is in the heavens and in the sea. – 139:9
  • No matter where you are, God’s right hand will hold you. – 139:10
  • Even darkness cannot hide you from God. – 139:11-12
  • God created you and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. – 139:13-15
  • God knew the number of our days even before we were born – 139:16

John Calvin said the following about Psalm 139:17-18 in his Commentary:

The truth is one which we would do well to consider more than we do, for while we may cast a glance at our hands and our feet, and occasionally survey the elegance of our shape with complacency, there is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker. Or if any recognize their life as coming from God, there is none at least who rises to the great truth that He who formed the ear, and the eye, and the understanding heart, Himself hears, and sees, and knows everything.

So, the next time you look up into the heavens and see the full moon reflecting the sun’s light over the earth, remember Psalm 139.   

A. W. Tozer [1897-1963] said:

“If we miss seeing God in His works we deprive ourselves of the sight of a royal display of wisdom and power so elevating, so ennobling, so awe-inspiring as to make all attempts at description futile.  Such a sight the angels behold day and night forever and ask nothing more to make them perpetually satisfied!”

The God who formed us knows us and loves us, and gave His Son for us.  Perhaps we should say that the moon is reflecting His Son-shine as it witnesses to us of God’s love and provision.  Let us declare that which the Psalmist said: 

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Psalm 8:9 ESV

Father, when I consider Your greatness and Your marvelous creation, Your love and intimate knowledge of me, I can only fall on my knees and confess that You are God.  O Lord, my Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 3 OF TRANSFORMATION

We come to to the end of the introduction to the Fruit of the Spirit and consider here transformation.  That is, our transformation into the likeness of our Lord by the renewing of our minds.  In short, it is our growth in righteousness!

What does Scripture say?

 Paul tells us that the evidence of our being new creatures in Christ is the growth of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:21-22.

He then commands that we not remain glued to this world but that we should change our focus to our Savior.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

We are to allow our minds to be transformed and renewed by the Spirit of our Father.  As the believer matures in the Lord, as she prays for understanding and wisdom, and as she reads the Word and is taught by teachers and preachers who base their lessons on the Word, the Holy Spirit will grow these characteristics in her.  The ultimate purpose of this growth is that we will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

The Holy Spirit renews our mind and heart by giving us a divine attitude. Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we are

 “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteous and holiness.”

Paul is repeating what Jesus said about pursuing righteousness.  In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told his disciples:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Seeking indicates active desire and longing.  Seeking is not passive – it is not considering a suggestion.  Seeking is searching and striving for the object sought.  Seeking something is pursuing it with intent to find it.  This seeking and pursuing righteousness is enabled in our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit.

We cannot be “created after the likeness of God” as Paul noted in Ephesians 4:24 other than through the transformation brought about by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and this transformation is evidenced by love both to God and to man. 

How does this apply to my daily life?

So, what does all this have to do with the topic of our study – the fruit of the Spirit?  Righteousness.  It is what we are called to seek – it is what we are called to nurture – it is what we are called to desire – it is what we are called to do.   He also reminds us of what John Calvin has said:

 “There will be no excuse of the indolence of those who both conceal the gifts of God, and waste their time in idleness.

Now, regarding Calvin’s statement, I was pretty sure I knew what “indolence” meant, but I checked it in the thesaurus just to be sure – I am sorry that I did.  See what you think.  I have listed the various synonyms for indolence, now you insert whichever word you think fits best in that quote – “There will be no excuse of the laziness, idleness, sloth, sluggishness, inactivity, apathy, or lethargy of those who both conceal the gifts of God and waste their time in idleness.”

If we are transformed into the image of Christ Jesus, how does this reveal itself?  As previously noted, the transformation is evidenced by love to God and to man.  That being the case, there are some questions that we have to answer:

  • Do I conceal the gifts of God by refusing to use my gifts, time, talent, and money for the kingdom of God?
    • Do you?
  • Do I waste precious time God has given me in idleness or sluggishness, in apathy or, perhaps, in activities that do not reflect His presence in my life?
    • Do you?
  • How do I express my love to God?
    • What about you?
  • How do I express my love to others?
    • What about you?
  • Am I pursuing righteousness or am I hoping that it will just drop on me in some sort of cloud?
    • What about you?
  • Or, do I even care about righteousness in the first place?
    • What about you?

The fruit of the Spirit becomes evident as the Holy Spirit works in our lives as we pursue righteousness in obedience to our Lord’s command.  We can pursue righteousness because we know that God will supply all that we need to do so through His Holy Spirit.

Dr. R. C. Sproul encourages us by noting that “God has not given His people an unattainable goal; the Spirit enables us to please Him (see Hebrews 13:16).  This is also reflected in Philippians 4:19 where Paul says:

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” [KJV]

 Listen to the words of Philippians 4:19 as sung in My God Shall Supply from Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Songs album entitled “Truth Sings the Word”..

 

Take some time to meditate this week on these questions and on the Scripture referenced above, and ask the Spirit of our God to prepare your heart and mind for the study of His work in our lives.

Next week we will begin our look at the first of the listing in Galatians 5:  Love. [Hint:  it is far more than casseroles and cards!]

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.