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Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

While Scripture passages such as Romans 8:31-39 assure us that nothing can separate us from God’s love, there is always the temptation for us to accept God’s eternal salvation in which our sins are forgiven and we are assured a place in heaven, yet be reluctant to go deeper in our walk with Jesus because he might demand too much of us in this life.

We enjoy the benefits of our Christian faith and participate occasionally in church events—Sunday services, Easter and Christmas celebrations, weddings, baptisms, funerals or memorials—but often avoid commitments that demand more of us than we are willing to give.

Unwilling to move out of our comfort zone, we give minimally of our time, our resources, and ourselves to God, the church, and to others, leaving the bulk of God’s Kingdom work to the very few dedicated souls among us.

To all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus, he says, as he did to his disciples:

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:46-49; see also Matt. 7:24-27)

Jesus is not comparing Christians and unbelievers, but two types of Christians—those who listen to his teachings and obey them, and those who listen to his teachings but do not obey them.

What we do with the words of Jesus—especially his Sermon on the Mount teachings about the characteristics of being his disciples (Matthew 5-7)—determines how we respond to life’s hurricanes of crises:

• Obedience to Christ’s teachings creates a strong foundation that will withstand life’s crises.

• Disobedience to Christ’s teachings inevitably leads to major collapses amid life’s crises.

While life’s storms and hurricanes are sure to strike every one of us at some time or another, obedience leads to protection in the midst of these crises. Disobedience doesn’t.

When we read Matthew 5-7 and understand what Jesus teaches and what he calls us to become and to do as his followers, we soon realize that he is calling us to be a unique people whose values are a complete reversal of the world’s value systems.

For example:

• Jesus calls us to both care for people who are poor in spirit, heartbroken, and powerless, and be willing ourselves to be poor in spirit, heartbroken, and powerless, for to such belong the kingdom of God. However, those who are not poor in spirit—the proud, the self-assured, the powerful, the arrogant—are not in God’s kingdom.

• Jesus blesses those who are gentle, meek, and lowly. But the world rejects such qualities as weakness, and places no value on such people.

• Jesus teaches us to seek God’s praise. The world teaches to seek its praise.

• Jesus calls us to seek the Father’s eternal treasures. The world entices us with money, fame, and earthly success that soon fade.

• Jesus calls us to purity of heart and truth. The world persecutes the pure of heart and opposes the truth.

How seriously do we consider such teachings of Jesus? Do we see them as impractical in today’s fast-paced, complex, and sophisticated world? Do we see them as unrealistic? Irrelevant? Too hard?

Or do we, like Peter, consider Jesus’ teachings and respond, “Lord, you alone have the words that give eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Yes, through the love, grace, and mercy of God as expressed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior, we have eternal life—now and forever. And yes, we have Jesus’ assurance that no one can snatch us out of his hands (John 10:28).

But we must never forget that not only do the words of Jesus give eternal life, they also contain many warnings to those of us who are prone to ignore them.

There is grace in “once saved always saved,” but there is also the caveat: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

The Christian journey, therefore, involves the duality of living with both certainty and caution; assurance of eternal salvation and warnings; balancing God’s gift of grace with our individual responsibility to live obediently in response to that grace.

This duality is expressed beautifully by the New Living Translation of Philippians 2:12-13 where Paul writes:

“Dearest friends, you were always so careful to follow my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away you must be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.”

May we embrace the duality of following Jesus as today’s disciples—assured of our salvation but always careful to live obediently with deep reverence and fear.

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This video of three-year-old Johnny lying to his mother went viral on the Internet after she posted it on YouTube. “I saw this as a sweet moment,” the mother said, “something that every child goes through…where they try to push the boundaries to see how far they can go.”

While little Johnny is cute and we smile and chuckle at his denials despite the glaring evidence of red sprinkles on his face, this video reminds us not only of how children are capable of lying at an early age but how we, as adults, continue to lie.

Our lies range from little “white” lies, half-truths, exaggerations, and denials, to major falsehoods. Some lies seem harmless, with few consequences. Other lies go hidden for years, and then are suddenly exposed in a glaring public manner, destroying careers, marriages, families, reputations, and lives.

We see the effects of lies by politicians, entertainers, athletes, corporate executives, and even among the clergy—for example:

• The devastating effects of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme on thousands of investors who lost their life savings

• The hundreds of thousands of deaths and casualties as a result of the “weapons of mass destruction” lies that led to the Iraq war

• The traumatized lives of young men and women who were sexually abused as children by priests and the subsequent cover-up by church leaders

Knowing how lies can destroy relationships, lives, and organizations, the apostle Paul admonished Christians in both the Colossian and Ephesian churches:

“Don’t lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9, New living Translation, NLT)

“…put away all falsehood and tell your neighbor the truth…” (Ephesians 4: 25, NLT)

Paul points out that lying is part of our old sinful nature, along with anger, rage, malicious behavior, dirty language, sexual sin, lust, impurity, and shameful desires, all of which need to be put to death within us now that we have been raised to new life with Jesus Christ (Col. 3:1-11, NLT).

In place of our old nature, Paul reminds us,

“…you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you. In this new life…Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

“Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other… And whatever you say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father. “ (Col. 3:10-12, 16-17, NLT)

We must not only speak truth to each other and maintain the unity of fellowship within the body of Christ, but just as importantly, Paul says:

“Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” (Col. 4:5-6, NLT)

As brothers and sisters in whom Christ dwells, let us commit ourselves to being people of truth and gracious words, and where we have failed to be such, may we be willing to confess our sin and make amends where possible.

Little Johnny was unwilling to confess to his mother. But we know that if we confess our sin to our heavenly father, “he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” (1 John 1:9, NLT)

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