Saturday, May 28, 2016

That Certain Feeling

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness within himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” (1 John 5:10)

I remember the days of high-pressure soul-winning, with its methods, formulas, and "roads"; when we strictly cautioned converts-in-the-making to forget how they felt and just believe the verses being shown to them. For some reason, we tended to consider the last half of this verse to be more important than the first. But if we are to take it at face value, the “witness” (the Holy Spirit) is just as significant as the “record” (the Bible). We can try to shame people into acquiescence by accusing them of calling God a liar if they refuse to acknowledge the Deity of Jesus Christ; but the truth is, unless the Spirit of God bears witness to it in their hearts, we are simply winning an argument, not witnessing a conversion.                                                              
Because of being saved at such an early age, I have been asked if I ever doubted that I am truly a child of God. (Though I think it’s safe to say that if salvation depended on how good a memory one has, lots of us would be in trouble!) However, at this stage in my life, I do remember the circumstances surrounding my conversion, mainly because conviction of sin (yes, at 9 years old) was allowed to fester naturally to a supernatural explosion of grace. But as vivid as that memory still is, it’s definitely not the place I run to for assurance of my standing before God. You see, I need only to open the pages of His Word, or lift my heart to Him in prayer, to know there is an eternal bond between us. You may call it a feeling; I know it to be the witness of the Spirit of God within me (Rom. 8:16). And I can tell you, His image within my heart is more familiar to me than even the reflection I see in the mirror.                           

With the Record before me and the Witness within me, I can sing with the songwriter, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!” Can you?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dig Them Out!

“…How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?” – Jer. 4:14

         One of the meanings of the word “lodge” is to become “firmly fixed or embedded in a particular place.” God uses these words in His accusations and pleas to His people through the prophet, Jeremiah. In the first part of the verse, He implores Israel with the words, “O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved,” followed by the question, “How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee.?”  When I read these words, it occurred to me, these are not fleeting thoughts, random woolgathering, they’re useless images that have been allowed to become fixed within our minds. And the sad thing is, they’re “vain,” not even worth a minute’s consideration, much less a permanent residence in our minds. Knowing the Holy Spirit had directed me to these words to fix something in my own life, I began to consider what kind of thinking could always be designated as vain. Here’s what came to mind immediately.

         First, over analysis of the unchangeable past will always be an exercise in futility for the obvious reason: It can’t be changed. And any bad consequences that may have resulted from it requires only acknowledgement, forgiveness (of ourselves and/or others), and resolve to live successfully with any scars. Any rumination beyond that is vain. Those thoughts should be rooted out, dislodged from our minds.

         Second, any fixation on the unaccountable present is wasted thinking, since the ultimate evaluation will always be, “It’s not really any of your business.” I haven’t lived this long not have learned that the greater part of any inward turmoil and stress I may experience comes from worrying about people and situations that God has not put under my personal control. Pray, yes; but fret, and worse yet, interfere, no! It’s a waste of thought and actions. All the time spent agonizing in our minds about other people’s choices makes us ill-prepared for the responsibilities God has given us at this stage in our own lives. Such are vain thoughts, long over due for excavation.

         Third, over speculation of the unknown future can rob you of the joy that God has promised to His children, along with His peace and rest. Everything we need to know about the future God has told us in His Word. We know it’s in His control, no matter how things may appear. If we are one of His children, anything that happens to us personally, good or bad (humanly speaking), is for our good. We know that when we leave the consciousness of this world and our loved ones, we will immediately become more conscious of the presence of Jesus Christ, in a way we could only dream of here. Anything else about the future is only incidental to this. Plan responsibly for what may happen in the meantime, but know that this all can change over night. Incessant thoughts about the when, where, and how’s of the future should be rooted out to make room for contemplation of the glory that awaits us.

         I wonder if these words of rebuke from God in Jeremiah struck a blow to your heart as they did to mine? The unchangeable past, the unaccountable present, and the unknowable future: Vain thoughts allowed to lodge, to embed themselves in our minds like unmovable rocks. It’s time to dislodge them. It’s time to dig them out!

“You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” – Martin Luther

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Worship Him

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jno.4:24)

My daughter, Leah, once told me that one hair-brained theory of why women sometimes allow themselves to be abused by men is the prevailing (and by implication, false) belief that God is a man. Evidently, if God can only be emasculated, men will lose all their assumed authority. While abuse of any kind is reprehensible, laying the blame anywhere except on the individual involved is ludicrous. Of course, the whole idea smacks of Feminism, a movement (like some others) that seeks to acquire real (or assumed) rights by taking someone else’s. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad for the right to vote in an election, to find employment if I am forced or care to, and to be able to anticipate comparable pay for comparable work. But what is it about (supposed) equality that makes superiority look so inviting. And in this case, gender equality has made its way to God Himself.

As we know, God is always referred to in the masculine gender in the Bible. And, obviously, if God had been a woman, when He “became flesh and dwelt among us,” Mary would have given birth to a baby girl. I’m pointing out this absurdity because more is involved here than just rights and recognition. As verses such as the one cited in John make clear, if you’re going to worship God, you’re going to have to worship a “Him.” There’s no ambiguity or compromise here.

There is something within all of us that longs to be a god unto ourselves. It’s called the Adamic nature, but it was Eve who first took the bait (“…ye shall be as gods…” Gen.3:5). It’s a short jump from “We’re as good as men” to “We’re as good as God.” But, truth be told, all of us—men or women—are only as good as our willingness to fulfill the role God has given us to play in His great plan. Besides, no man in a living relationship with God will ever abuse or demean a woman. On the contrary, he will honor, cherish, and if need be, lay down his own life for her, as Christ did for His Bride. And mark it well: “[H]e that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb.11:6).

 End of discussion.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Grace Wherein We Stand

“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand…” Rom. 5:2; “…the true grace wherein we stand.” 1 Pet. 5:12

         Some people spend a lifetime trying to figure out who they really are. Besides all the psychological and emotional exercises that may be employed, now one may conveniently trace his or her physical lineage through their DNA. Of course, this never goes back to the obvious common ancestor, who, according to the Creator, was Adam. Too bad, because I’m fairly sure, looking at the actions of this first man and his wife will give us all the insight we need into who and what we are. We’re sinners. That is the most important clue if you truly want to know who you are. As sinners before a Holy and righteous God, we stand under judgment and condemnation. Next to that, any personal distinctive we may have is incidental. As long as a man or woman is standing under the judgment of God, he or she has no hope in this world or the next (Rom. 5:18a; Heb. 9:27).

         But wait…
         Verse one of the chapter talks about people who “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Instead of standing under judgment, they’re standing in in “grace” ­– the Grace of God. Talk about an upgrade! Now, any hostility that once stood between God and me (Did I mention I’m part of this group?) is over forever. This has nothing to do with who I am or anything I have, or will, ever do. It has everything to do with Jesus Christ. God’s acceptance of His Son is no greater now than His acceptance of me. By taking my place as a full-fledged sinner, and acknowledging His Son as my Lord and Savior by His death as the payment for my sin, God to reached down and placed me smack dab in the middle of His grace. He can no longer see me any other way. I like the way the great Bible teacher, Theodore Epp put it: Our standing before God is in the grace to which we have constant access. We do not need new credentials each time we come to God, because our standing is constant since we come by means of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us.” Constant grace guarantees constant access.

         “But,” you say, “If I’m always standing in grace, why do I sometimes feel like I’m losing ground spiritually?” There’s a good answer for that. It’s the difference between “standing and state.” Your eternal standing never varies, but your day-to-day state can vacillate, depending on your feelings and/or your obedience. Sometimes circumstances can make you feel forsaken by God; other times, disappointment in your actions can make you feel unworthy of His forgiveness. Either way, knowing that nothing can separate you from the grace of God, and that He will never forsake His own, should be an encouragement in times of trial and an incentive in times of temptation. One day, thank God, my state will be equal to my standing; my practice will match my position. Until then, I’m blessed beyond measure to know just exactly who I am: I’m Salle Sandlin, a child of God in Christ,” “accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6), standing firmly in the Grace of God!