God says He’ll complete the work He has begun in us, but we often suffer unnecessarily in the process. Like Nemo and Dorie in the movie Finding Nemo, we ignore God’s instructions and end up “swimming through schools of jellyfish.” Like the fishy pair, we survive, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain and heartache!
Philippians 1.6 is one of my favorite verses. It gives me great hope when it says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Isn’t it good to know that He is the one who will complete His work in us? And … He never gives up! But I wonder how often we make His work harder … on us!
Someone gave me a great illustration of this. I was explaining this passage and she told me it reminded her of the scene in Finding Nemo where Nemo and Dorie were told not to go around or over the gap, but through it. When they get there, that just doesn’t seem right to them; so they decide to swim over it. They end up running into a huge school of jellyfish! They survive it, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain! How like our attempts to figure things out for ourselves, often ignoring what God says, and doing what seems right to us! (Prov. 14:12)
4 For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue;
And we need to be saved.
6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
This passage speaks of the greatness of our God and our universal need for salvation. Each of us is like an “unclean thing.” All our righteousness, all our good deeds, all our attempts at trying to save ourselves or earn God’s approval are like filthy rags. We are unclean by nature, sinners from the womb.
But God …
Do you realize that the Bible is all one big “but God”? But God who is rich in mercy, who knows what we are, chose to die in our place! Continue reading →
Most of us are familiar with the proverb: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” But we all know kids who were raised in church and, yet, have walked away from God. What went wrong? Did their parents miss something? Did God fail to keep His Word? Do we have a guarantee that our children will continue to walk with God?
We’ll also read about:
As we start the book of Esther, we’ll look at what God was up to, and the un-fairy-tale like ending for the other young virgins taken as “potential queen for a night.”
Yesterday in Romans 1 we read about God’s rebuke to “wise fools” who reject God and the downward spiral of sin that follows. In today’s reading in Romans 2, God speaks to believers, warning us of the danger of self-righteously judging others.
The book of Esther takes place sometime between the time the Jews began to return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and the second return under Ezra. It’s quite an interesting book. Though the name of God is not mentioned at all, He is seen everywhere, and is in control of the events of this book in a grand way!—as He is in all the events of history and the world.
The book starts out with a party and what a party it is—7 days, free flowing wine, everyone has been invited (the men, at least!), golden goblets, entertainment … wine, women (probably the entertainment) and song, as the saying goes.
Finally, the drunken king decides to show off his wife and she refuses to come. The men were faced with a problem. If word got around that the queen didn’t obey the king, all the women would refuse to obey their husbands! So, at the other men’s urging, he strips away her crown.
But when the king sobered up and got over his fit, he realized what he had done. He missed the queen, so the men devised another plan—to bring all the beautiful women in the kingdom to the palace and let him choose the one who suited his fancy as the new queen.
As glamorous as it might sound to have a chance to be queen, this was not a good thing for these young girls. They were probably mostly very young teenagers. And notice it says, “Esther also was taken” (Esther 2.8). This was not voluntary; these girls were taken to the palace.
Each of them was to spend one night with the king and never to be with him again unless she was chosen. In the meantime, they would have lost their virginity to a lecherous king who cared little about anyone but himself. And in that society, what was left for them in the way of marriage and family? They probably would be supported afterwards, but I think it would have been a lonely existence—never to have a husband or children of their own.
But God was at work in the situation and was setting the stage to use this pagan king and Esther to do something great.
God is Always at Work
From the viewpoint of the psalmist it looked like God had forsaken his people, but we know He had not. Sometimes we feel that way, but we must know that God is at work even when we can’t figure it out.
Verse 6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This is not a guarantee that our children will always walk with God. What it does mean is that if we are faithful to train our children in God’s ways, they will never be able to get away from the truth they’ve learned. It will follow them like their shadow! So even if they make bad choices, the truth will be there to guide them back, when they repent, just like the prodigal son in Luke 15.
Our job is to be faithful: faithful to take our children to a good Bible-believing church. Faithful to teach them by example and as we go about our daily activities.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
We should also teach God’s Word to our children in a formal, systematic way. That is not, primarily, the church’s responsibility, but ours. Family devotions is one of the most neglected responsibilities in the church today. There is nothing that will impact our children and grandchildren more than to see us faithfully read and study God’s Word individually and to faithfully and formally have times where we read and study God’s Word together as a family.
“Everything in the Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ and enriches our understanding of the cross (see Luke 24.27). The drama of redemption begins in the Garden in Genesis 3 and continues to unfold throughout the Old Testament until it reaches its climax at the cross. All along the way the Divine Author prepares us for Calvary. The symbolism of the sacrificial system, the strictness of the law, the repeated failures of man, the steadfast faithfulness of God—all this and more deepens our amazement at the cross.”
Thankfully, like the Israelites, our position with God does not depend upon our own righteousness. As Paul Tripp says, in his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, we cannot boast in our righteousness because we don’t have any (Phil. 3.9)! We are all sinners saved by grace alone (Eph. 2.8-9) and have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3.21-23). His righteousness was imputed to us on the basis of His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf.
But like the Israelites we need to remind ourselves of that fact, because in our pride and self-sufficiency, we see ourselves as basically good (Prov. 20.6). If we are basically good, perhaps with some minor character flaws, then, as someone has said, the cross was “a cosmic over-reaction for a people who only had a case of spiritual sniffles.” That kind of thinking is not only wrong, but it keeps many from seeing their need for Christ.
Many people expect to spend eternity in heaven because they don’t believe they’re all that bad. They have some vague idea that God will weigh their misdeeds against all the good things they’ve done and they’ll manage to “get in.”
A friend told me last night about a quote he’d read. The writer said that Adam and Eve’s sin was basically “petty theft.” Of course, we know they weren’t condemned because they stole fruit. They were condemned because of their disobedience. They broke God’s law, His direct command. But the Apostle John said, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness (1 Jn. 3.4).
I grew up believing that pretty much everyone went to heaven. We believed “in” God, but sadly, a god of our own creation, like those in the popular book and movie The Shack, who loves everyone and who wouldn’t let anyone go to hell.
Perhaps you say, come on, Donna, it’s just a movie! That’s true. But how many of us who grew up watching the movie The 10 Commandments would admit that our conception of those events has been colored by images from the movie or that watching The Passion of the Christ impacted our understanding of the events of the crucifixion. Continue reading →