Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Greatest Prophet

No one is greater than John the Baptist. Except everyone in the Kingdom of God.

John was a prophet. He wasn’t weak or easily swayed; he wasn’t rich or dressed in expensive clothes. He was like the Old Testament prophets who stood up to kings and told them the truth about their sin.

Samuel made King David face his adultery and murder and gave him the bad news that his baby was going to die for David’s sin.

Elijah faced a murderous King Ahab and 450 priests of Baal. In front of all the people, He dared openly asked God for a miracle and trusted Him to rain fire from heaven. 

Obadiah hid 100 prophets of the Lord in caves because Queen Jezebel wanted to kill them. They lived in the desert and depended on him to bring them food and water.

John lived in the desert too, while God was preparing him to bring the message about Jesus. He was God’s messenger sent to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. The difference between him and the other prophets is that he was the door opener. All the other prophets were pointing to the door, but he was sent to open it so we could enter. 

That’s why those of us in the Kingdom are greater than John; it’s because we’re inside.

 So what does it mean to be greater than John the Baptist? Because I’m in the Kingdom, I should do more than he did. 

He prepared the way for Jesus. I should follow Him.
He preached a message of repentance. I should repent.
He told people Jesus was coming. I should tell people Jesus has come and spread the good news about what He has done.

I should live with more passion and commitment than John the Baptist did. I should live as if I’ve not only heard the voice of God, but experienced the miracles of God’s love and presence.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Grace in the Fire

God wants His people to fear and obey Him.

To many people that doesn’t sound like the God they know. We’ve all heard the argument that the God of the Old Testament is harsh and judgmental, while the God of the New Testament is loving and gracious.

Here God says that fear and obedience to His commands will result in prosperity and long lives. It sounds like works. They could earn their reward by strictly following the laws God had just given them.

Does that mean grace was something God came up with thousands of years later? Did God change?

No. God’s grace is present in this passage. His grace put His people in a position to fear and obey Him. The Israelites needed an intermediary to tell them God’s commands. When He spoke directly to them from the heart of the fire, they should have died. God’s glory and greatness is more than any human can survive unless God Himself intervenes. They knew if it happened again, they would risk death. So they asked Moses to go stand between them and God.

That was right and necessary.

God’s awesome presence is so powerful, I die when I come into it. His fire consumes me; and only the intervention of His Son gives me life. Jesus is my intermediary. He brings me God’s message from the heart of the fire.

He brings me into a state of grace so that I can fear God and obey His commands. Without Jesus I would just wander in the wilderness of my own self-centered stubbornness and do what seems good to me, without questioning whether it is right or wrong.

Because of Jesus, I can survive the fire of God’s presence. I can fear and obey God and prosper.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

God vs. Demons

God’s name is Jealous.

That’s not the name that comes to mind when I sing praises to His name. I know He’s a jealous God; I’ve read the scriptures. But His name is Who He is. So jealousy is not just  something He feels when I wander, but goes away when I’m faithful. He’s always jealous.

Dictionary.com defines jealousy as feelings of resentment or suspicion, but it also defines it as being “solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something.”  God doesn’t have to be suspicious of me, since He knows everything I think, feel and do. And He certainly doesn’t resent me; He loves me. But I think the last definition explains His jealous character.

He’s jealous of His relationship with me. He guards it with His love, His Word, His Spirit. He always wants me to be faithful and He hates anything that turns my heart away from Him.

The Corinthian Christians lived in a pagan society where everyone worshipped some sort of false gods. Idol worship was part of everyday life. They had to figure out how to keep their hearts pure while still living among their neighbors who didn't love Him. Once they met the true God, they knew the idols were just statues, and had no significance. But they didn’t want to seem to approve of them either. Paul pointed out the evil demons behind the idols.

I’ve never had to decide whether to eat food offered to idols. But I know there are demons active in my culture too. They are behind all the things that take my heart away from God.

It’s God vs. demons.

I can’t fellowship with both. I can’t drink from the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. I need to be discriminating about what I read, what I watch, what I talk about, where I go, what I think. Sure I can do anything – I’ve been set free by Jesus. But He didn’t set me free to do things that aren’t beneficial or good for me.

He set me free to fellowship with Him. I’m glad His name is Jealous. That means He’s guarding our relationship vigilantly and keeping me free from the influence of demons.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wedding Robes

I like hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house. It’s fun to plan the menu and make special dishes. But I’m never sure how many guests I’m going to have. My daughter and her family always come, but we have a few other relatives in the area that come some years but not others. This year I’ve also invited a friend who still doesn’t know if she’ll make it.

Regardless of who’s here, I’m getting out the china and crystal and I’m going to dress up. It’s not just the food that makes it a feast. It’s a celebration of the blessings God has poured down on us, so the atmosphere is important too.

I think atmosphere is important to God too. When He planned a wedding feast for His Son, He expected the guests to dress up. The guest list included all the people of Israel. Sadly, the invited guests refused to come. Some of them ignored His invitation and others beat up and killed His messengers.

So He filled the wedding hall with uninvited guests. They weren’t exactly the kind you’d expect at a prince’s wedding. But He not only got out the china and crystal, he provided dressy robes for them all to wear. Somehow, someone got into the party without putting on a wedding robe. When the King noticed him, he was thrown out.

I’m really honored to have been invited to the banquet. I wasn’t on the original guest list; I was one of the people on the street corner. But I got to dress up in the robe of righteousness He gave me so I know I belong. I’m enjoying the feast, but I suspect there are a few people here who aren’t wearing wedding robes.

As I fill my plate with the good things on the table, I’m reminded that it’s not my job to judge the other guests. I should be welcoming them to the feast. 

“I’m glad you’re here too. Isn’t the food great? And look, He’s given us some beautiful clothes to wear. What do you think of my pure white robe? You can have one too. There’s the robing room. Why don’t you go in and let Him dress you? He’s standing at the door waiting. Then we can enjoy His bounty together. Then we can celebrate the wedding of His son. Please hurry, I don’t want you to miss anything.”

Because guess what. It turns out we’re the bride as well as the guests.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Which Side of the Door

Yesterday I wrote about legalism. Today I’ve come face to face with Jesus’ attitude about it.

Legalists are gatekeepers. They guard the way into the Kingdom of God to make sure anyone who breaks the law doesn’t get in. 

Legalists are hypocrites. They’re not interested in going in themselves because they love the law, not the Kingdom. The only way into the Kingdom is through Jesus’ grace, not through the law. 

Legalists don’t live by grace and they make sure others live by the rules too. 

Legalists are standing at the door Jesus is knocking on, making sure no one who isn’t worthy opens it.

They ask, “Have you done this? You can’t go in until you have.”
 “Have you done that? You can’t go in until you make amends.”

I’m grateful that God has shown me His grace and that I’ve accepted it. I may like rules, but I know I’m saved by grace, not by the law. I just pray that I remember that when I judge others for breaking the law. I have such a strong idea of how a Christian should live that I sometimes wonder at another person’s actions. No, to be honest, I judge others. I ask how they can act a certain way if they’re Christians. I’m afraid my judgment may block the door for them. I need to step back and be the first in line, after Jesus, to welcome them into the Kingdom. 

Jesus loves sinners. So should I.

The scary thing about legalists is that they will have such sorrow when they realize they were on the wrong side of the door.

To quote the Sunday School chorus: “One door and only one, and yet it sides are two. I’m on the inside, on which side are you?”