When It Doesn’t Make Sense

Should we obey God? Before we answer too quickly: What if we bump up against a command in the Bible that makes no apparent sense to us, or perhaps rubs us the wrong way?

Let’s consider the following interchange between Jesus and Simon Peter.

Peter’s challenge

“And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.”

What Jesus asked Peter to do here was easy. It didn’t require much effort, and it made perfect sense.

But notice what happens next: “When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.’”

Initially he states the facts: worked hard, all night, caught nothing.

“. . . but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”

After a night of hard work with only empty nets to show for it, fishing was probably the last thing Peter wanted to do at the moment. Who could blame him?

But good ole Peter! Overcoming his natural reluctance, he obeys—and is amply rewarded.

“. . . they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.” Peter and his partners “filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink” (Luke 5:1-11).

The nets that came up empty the night before are now torn by the weight of the catch!

In response to the facts Peter cited—worked hard, all night, caught nothing—Jesus provided a new set of facts—great quantity of fish, nets breaking, boats sinking.

Jesus positive facts far outweighed Peter’s negative facts.

Peter’s growth

This wouldn’t be the last time Peter would find what Jesus said extremely difficult to accept. As time went on, Peter realized increasingly that Jesus is never wrong.

To his credit, Peter moved past his initial objections: “. . . but I will do as You say . . . .”

If Peter had known all along what was about to happen, would he have objected? But since he didn’t know, he had to trust.

He was learning to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

What was Peter’s reward that day? A big catch? Something far better: a strengthened faith and a clearer understanding of just how powerful Jesus is.

What if Peter had refused to obey?

And what if we?

Christ’s power + our obedience → great results.

Makes sense.

fishermen-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Oh, to Believe It!

One of the hardest lessons each of us must learn is that it really is to our advantage to do God’s will instead of our own. Many never learn this lesson.

Using the free will God gave us, we can choose our own way in life. How easy it is to do what we want instead of what God wants!

To believe that it is truly to our advantage to do God’s will, we must believe that:

  1. God knows best. We do not. He is far wiser than we. Like a small child intent on disobedience, we fail to understand our Father’s purposes for both our immediate and ultimate welfare.
  2. God not only knows best, He asks of us only what is best for us. Doing His will may hurt (cause us pain), but doing His will can never hurt (harm) us.
  3. His way brings far greater benefits than any supposed gain we might receive from doing our own thing. “. . . whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
  4. Sin means doing my will when it runs counter to His will. Obedience means voluntarily yielding my will to His.
  5. It is so easy to focus on the cost of obedience and overlook the rewards of obedience. And yet the rewards far outweigh anything we may give up in order to obey (Mark 10:28-30; Romans 8:18). God is the Great Compensator.
  6. Satan will make sin look so attractive, so glamorous, and so alluring, that I must keep reminding myself that it is all a sham, a pretense, a lie. Satan does not deliver the goods.
  7. Sin (doing my will instead of God’s) may bring me momentary pleasure (Hebrews 11:25), but sin will destroy me if I don’t repent (Romans 6:23).
  8. To repent may sound tremendously hard and unappealing, but in view of the blessings God pours out on the truly penitent, repentance must be one of the most sensible, positive things I can do for myself (Acts 3:19).

His way may not be easy, but His way is truly best.

Now if I can just keep believing that—and act accordingly.

your-way-my-way-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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How to Personalize Your Bible

Perhaps you own a Bible with your name engraved in gold on the cover. Or maybe you received your Bible from a relative or friend who wrote a meaningful inscription to you on the flyleaf. Certainly this makes your Bible more personal than those of the same edition in boxes on the bookshelf at the store.

But there are even better ways to personalize a Bible.

We can mark it up.

Of course, scribbling in a book is disrespectful. But writing notes in a Bible for study purposes is actually a sign of great respect. It shows we care about discovering its treasures. It shows we are taking the Bible seriously and really want to learn more and more.

A Bible with a worn cover, loose pages, its words circled and underlined and its margins filled with notations from years of study—now that’s a personalized Bible! How many Bibles should a Christian wear out in a lifetime?

I heard about a woman who asked a preacher to write notes in her Bible like the ones he had in his. Valuable as those notes might be, they are not the product of the diligent studies of the one who requested the preacher’s notes.

We can live it out.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves . . . . one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22, 25).

Having a Bible is good—if we study it. Studying the Bible is good—if we obey it.

Could there be a better way to personalize our Bible than to shape our lives each day by its teachings?

woman reading Bible (2)-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Man Who Would Not Listen

In spite of . . . .

Zedekiah is one of the many lesser-knowns in the Bible, though he was the last king of the southern kingdom of Judah at the time of Jerusalem’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B. C.

Zedekiah had at least two positive influences in his life that should have prompted him to make wiser choices. His father Josiah was one of the most godly kings Judah ever had. And Jeremiah, God’s prophet, tried repeatedly to persuade Zedekiah to obey God.

In spite of his father’s example and Jeremiah’s warnings, Zedekiah was determined to go his own way. Paying dearly for his foolish choices, he lost his home, his throne, and his freedom. At age 32 the last thing Zedekiah saw before being blinded was the slaying of his sons before his eyes. He died a prisoner in a foreign land (Jeremiah 52:7-11).

If only . . . .

And all this tragedy could have been averted if only had he been willing to obey.

His life is summed up in these sad words: “He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the LORD . . . . he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 36:12-13).

The following certainly describes Zedekiah: “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).

What he wanted but didn’t get

The following is a telling passage: “But neither he [Zedekiah] nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the LORD which He spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. Yet King Zedekiah sent . . . to Jeremiah the prophet saying, ‘Please pray to the LORD our God on our behalf” (Jeremiah 37:2-3).

Zedekiah wanted God’s protection but not His direction.

We can’t have it both ways.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“Then What Shall I Do with Jesus?”

His question/Their answer

The governor was in a dilemma, and he knew it. As Caesar’s official representative in Judea it was Pilate’s responsibility to deal with those brought to him for judgment.

Never in his career had Pilate dealt with anyone like Him. He knew this Galilean was innocent of the charges so vehemently made against Him. He also knew what lay behind the vicious accusations: It was envy.

When Pilate asked, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” The people shouted, “Crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:22).

Countless sermons been preached on the subject “What Shall I Do with Jesus?” It’s a good question, a disturbing question, one that deserves and demands an answer.

When we meet Jesus

Jesus is not simply a great Teacher who lived nearly 2,000 years ago. He lives today, reigning at the right hand of His Father.

Someday He will return. His second coming will be quite unlike His first. He came the first time to make our salvation possible. He’ll come again to bring it all to a conclusion. He will judge the world (Acts 17:30-31).

Each of us will face Him personally in Judgment. Awesome thought!

The choice we make

We can face Him prepared or unprepared. We can hear Him say, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father . . . .” Or we can hear Him say to us, “Depart from Me . . .” (Matthew 25:34; 7:23).

Do we want Him to bless us? “. . . God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26).

Do we want Him for our Friend? Jesus said to His disciples, “You are My friends if you do what I command you”: (John 15:14).

Do we want Him to save us? “. . . He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation . . .” (Hebrews 5:9).

What will you do with Jesus?

making decision-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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In Advance

Opposite outcomes

Some troubles are avoidable, some are not. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells of two builders (Matt. 7:24-27). Both build a house. A violent storm slams both houses. One house stands firm. The other falls. The difference? One had been founded on the rock, the other on sand.

Jesus’ point is that those who hear His words and do what He says are like the wise builder. Those who hear His words and don’t obey can expect disaster.

The wise builder had one problem to face: the storm. The foolish builder had two problems: 1) the storm, and 2) the collapse of his house. The storm was unavoidable, but the collapse of his house could have been prevented. Had he done what the wise builder did, there would have been two houses standing instead of one.

Which will we choose?

In this powerful parable Jesus issues both a warning and a promise. The warning is that if you don’t obey Him, you will lose everything. The promise is that if you obey Him, you will be safe and sound when the storm comes.

Preparation. What we do today or fail to do today can greatly affect our tomorrows. Each day we live we are building on the rock, or we are building on the sand. Time will test our efforts.

Those who have not become Christians need to take a hard look at this passage. Those who have fallen away from Christ need to do the same. Faithful Christians would do well to re-read this parable every once in a while to be reminded that it’s definitely worth the effort.

We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

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Exactly When Are We Saved?

 

Rescue

Noah’s Flood separated two worlds: an incredibly evil one and a brand-new world washed clean. “…the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience . . .” (1 Peter 3:20-21).

For Israel, the Red Sea separated slavery from freedom. On one side were the pursuing Egyptians. On the other side of the sea lay freedom! “. . . our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2).

Isn’t it fascinating that both the Flood and Red Sea experiences are likened to baptism?

Healing

Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy only after he had dipped seven times in the Jordan as commanded (2 Kings 5). It wasn’t, of course, the water as such that brought him healing, but could he have been cleansed without obedience?

Jesus told the blind man to go wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9). He went to the water blind but came back seeing. As with Naaman, it wasn’t the water per se, but could he have seen without obeying?

Saved by grace through obedient faith

Saul of Tarsus went into baptism a sinner; he emerged a new man in Christ (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-7; Colossians 2:12-13).

In none of these cases did they benefit until they obeyed. But did their obedience earn their blessing? People who think they earn God’s blessings simply don’t understand grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)!

Drawing the right conclusion

Noah, Israel, Naaman, the blind man, and Saul were blessed on the condition of their obedience to His commands. They received God’s good blessing by grace through obedient faith (Genesis 6:22; 7:5; Hebrews 11:7, 29). And so with us today.

Those who teach we are saved by inviting Christ into our hearts need to take a good hard look at the five cases above. How vital it is that we understand how and when we make the transition from being lost to being saved.

Water still plays a part (John 3:5; Acts 8:36-39), and our salvation is far too important for us to get this wrong!

cross and water-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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