Foremost

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.        1 Timothy 1:15-16 (ESV)

Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to stop the teaching of “any different doctrine” v. 3.  What needed to be taught was sound doctrine that would lead to love from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a sincere faith v. 5.  This could only come about through the clear proclamation of the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” v. 11.

Paul then uses himself as the ultimate example of the power of this “glorious good news of the blessed God” to transform lives.  Saul, as Paul was also known, was a very religious man, but a man consumed with arrogant pride, blasphemy, and persecution of the true children of God.  He was going down the road to Damascus breathing threats and murder against those wretched Christians who were still insisting that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah who had risen from the dead after being crucified dead and buried.  His encounter with Jesus on that road transformed his life from the greatest persecutor of Jesus and His followers, to the greatest proclaimer of Jesus.

Paul gets to the bottom line in verse 15: “Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  This trustworthy fact should give hope to every living person.  Hey, I’m a sinner.  Jesus came into the world to save me!  What glorious good news.  What a hope that we also can be transformed from our life in darkness apart from God, into a joyful walk of faith in the light.

Paul gives even more reason for hope.  He was formerly the “foremost sinner.” The absolute worst because all his energy was spent trying to keep anyone from believing in Jesus.  But he became the “foremost example” of Jesus’ perfect patience with sinners.  Jesus reached out to, and received, the worst sinner to show that no one is beyond hope.

Oh sinner, quit running.  Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  Be reconciled to God.  Believe in Jesus for eternal life.  Amen.

Come to Jesus

There are times in our lives when things get real.  We can go through long periods of time when the distractions of day to day life, or the pursuit of our desires, can keep us from facing some momentous truths.  Sometimes we can go for months or years plowing on with our heads down ignoring the looming mountain in our path.   Fundamental truths cannot be ignored forever.  Ultimately there must come a time of reckoning.

We have a phrase in our culture called having a “come-to-Jesus” moment.  A “come to Jesus” moment has several definitions, but all refer to a point in time when things get real.  The mundane and superficial are stripped away and ultimate reality is exposed.  This could be a life-changing event, or a frank, often painful discussion about something that needs to be faced which has long been avoided.

The ultimate “come-to-Jesus” moment is when a person frankly considers the person of Jesus Christ and decides what they are going to do about Him.  A Christian would describe their “come-to-Jesus” moment as the time when they came to Jesus and believed in Him as the Son of God who died for their sins and was raised from the dead, and having thus believed, were saved.

The Book of Revelation describes the time when this world will have its own “come-to-Jesus” moment, as God pours out His wrath for sin in ever escalating horrendous judgments.  It is incomprehensible how bad things will be because God hates sin so much.

In the last chapter of Revelation Jesus tells us three times that He is coming quickly.  He wants us to totally get the point that He is coming again.  Revelation 22:12 is the second of the reminders that He is coming.

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”  Revelation 22:12-13 (NKJV)

He is the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the inclusion of every letter of every word.  There will be no avoiding the necessity of facing Him.  He is the ultimate mountain looming in every man’s path. When He comes will you be friend or foe?

Two positions: Two Destinies.

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.  Revelation 22:14 (NKJV)

But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.  Revelation 22:15 (NKJV)

Inside the New Jerusalem are those who love and practice God’s righteous truth.  Outside are those who ignore or reject it.  Inside is blessing.  Outside is an awful place full of regret.

God is not hiding this truth.

He wants everyone to know it.  The problem is men hiding from it or ignoring it, not God hiding it from them.

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”  Revelation 22:16 (NKJV)

Jesus wants every one of His servants to know what is coming.  He wants us to know it so that we know that He wins, and we win with Him.  He also wants us to know so that we are powerfully motivated to let everyone else know what is coming.  It will be awful for the many people who have ignored or rejected Jesus.  But God offers blessing to all who will embrace a “come-to-Jesus” moment and believe that He is the Annointed One sent by the Father to be the Savior of all who believe.

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.  Revelation 22:17 (NKJV)

STOP!

Put your life on hold for the time it takes for you to have your “come-to-Jesus” moment.  Please, Please, Please – Believe on Him today.

Come to Jesus!

Eternity is Forever

Reflect on the title for a few moments. “Eternity is Forever.” These three words SHOULD have a profound impact on your life.

For the ungodly these words will provoke fear, denial, or a mixture of the two, depending upon how honest they are, and how well they have buried the reality of sin, righteous, and the judgment to come of which the Holy Spirit convicts them (John 16:18).

Fear SHOULD be the reality in light of the fact that those who fail to measure up to God’s perfect standard, and also reject the free gift of forgiveness and mercy through Jesus, will spend forever receiving punishment for their sins. Hell will not be a place of parties, but a lake of fire. Having been briefly trapped in a fire, I can tell you that it is not a pleasant place to be. Being trapped in a fire forever should be avoided at all cost.

In fact, as Jesus speaks he offers this advice:
“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than [having] two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than [having] two eyes, to be cast into hell fire. (Matthew 18:8-9 NKJV)

The reality is that is not our hands, feet, or eyes that cause us to sin. It is the sin which has infected our hearts. Jesus is not calling for dismemberment of our extremities. This will not solve the problem. His statement does make perfectly clear just how serious our sin problem is. We should do anything necessary to avoid the everlasting fire and the associated torment.

We need a new heart! We need a heart that is free of sin. You don’t have to ascend in to heaven to find this new heart. God is wanting to give it to you. God has provided a way to give it to you, a way with which He can be both just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ.

Listen to the simplicity of how to receive the gift of life:
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8-10 NKJV)

Think back to the title again: “Eternity is Forever.” Reflect on Jesus’ illustration of just how important it is to avoid everlasting fire. You should be willing to do ANYTHING to avoid such a fate! The good news is that freedom from such a fate is a free gift for anyone who is willing to bow before Jesus and confess Him as Lord.

As imperative as it is for the ungodly to face the reality of their peril, these three words are good for all of us to reflect on. “Eternity is Forever.: This really puts the distractions of this life into perspective. The things that we often spend so much time and energy on will soon pass away. How well are you spending the precious days of your life in light of this eternal truth?

Marriage: God’s Plan from the Beginning

Even in its current fallen state we see a marvelous beauty and design in God’s creation.  When we look to the heavens, we see the artistry, the perfect timing and spacing of stars and moon hurtling through space, yet unveiling a beautiful choreograph of days, months, and seasons.  If we take a microscope we see the marvelous hand of our Creator in the smallest details of even the simplest organism.  When God does it, He does it right!

In Genesis Chapter 2, which recaps in greater detail the sixth day of creation, we find God unveiling His perfect plan for man.  We know that it is His perfect plan because this is before the world was marred by the fall.   Everything that God made was good, and this is no exception.

God provided a powerful lesson for the first man, Adam.  God first said: “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper comparable to him.”  He brought every creature before Adam and let him name them.  At the end of this process we read:

Genesis 2:20 (NKJV) So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.

Out of all the multitude of marvelous creatures that God had made, there was not one that was the perfect companion for Adam.  After revealing to Adam that none of the other creatures completed him, God then provided that missing perfect companion for Adam.

Genesis 2:21-24 (NKJV) And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

And Adam said:
"This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Here is the perfect lifelong companion for Adam.  From his very side was made woman.  She is distinct, and yet part of him.  Adam did not “leave his father and mother,” but states what God’s plan is to be for all future men.  They are to find in a woman, their perfect lifelong companion and helpmate.  They are distinct and yet would become “one flesh.”

The fall did not change this perfect initial plan of God.  Our sinful selfishness makes it harder to live out that “one flesh” relationship, but countless peoples and cultures have shown that this is the only plan that works and is blessed by God.

Here’s praying that you find that perfect person to be your lifelong soul mate as you glorify God by joining together, one man and one woman, for a lifetime “one flesh” relationship in marriage.

Say NO to Idolatry

Idolatry is the placing of anything or anyone as first place in our lives and thinking.  That place which is reserved for God alone.  He is a jealous God and will not share His glory with another.

He is jealous with a cause.  Only when He is in first place in our lives will all other things fall into their proper order.  He wants the best for us.  That best can only occur when He is on the throne, ruling as the sovereign of our lives.

No wonder the Scripture says, “… put to death your members which are on the earth … and covetousness, which is idolatry.”  Colossians 3:5  Indeed we are urged, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:14

It is for our good, indeed our very best, that we say NO to idolatry.  If as a Christian we set up anything else as the supreme object of our affection, God will remove it in order that we may more clearly see Him.

John Flavel the Puritan put it this way:  Whatsoever we have over-loved, idolized, and leaned upon, God has from time to time broken it, and made us to see the vanity of it; so that we find the readiest course to be rid of our comforts is to set our hearts inordinately upon them.

Want to enjoy the nicer things of life?  Keep them in their proper place!  Make sure God is Number One.  Give Him thanks for the many things He has given us richly to enjoy, but don’t idolize them.  Just say NO to idolatry.

That by all means we may save some