In Exchange

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One day I accidentally dropped a large paper clip into the crack between the seat cushion and the back of the couch in our den. In trying to retrieve it I pulled out a ballpoint pen, then another, and then another. I never did find my paper clip.

Not a bad trade-off—three pens for one paper clip! Maybe I should drop another paper clip down the crack.

Loss is bearable if we get something better in return. In everyday life we are perfectly willing to exchange our hard-earned dollars for something we really need or want, especially if it’s a real bargain.

Jesus’ offer

Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). He had just said that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (verse 24; see Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14).

We must give up ourselves (our own desires and comfortable, familiar ways of thinking and living) and instead let Christ determine our values and goals.

We let Him own us completely instead of our trying to direct our own little world.

In exchange, He promises us life that is life indeed (John 10:10). But if we’re not willing to let go of ourselves, then we’re the ultimate losers.

Our response?

If we should trust Jesus enough to do as He directs, will we be disappointed in the long run? Does Jesus offer what He can’t deliver? Can He be trusted?

The Rich Young Ruler was unwilling to make the trade—and he was sad (Matthew 19:16-22). Paul was willing—and he was glad (Philippians 3:4-14).

Are we willing to stake everything we’ve got on the conviction that His way is best for us—and that someday we will be glad we took Him up on it?

Ever so glad!

 

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.

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

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Better Than That!

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Limited benefits

Term life insurance provides benefits to the family after one’s death. But not until. Fire, auto, and health insurance are great to have. But if you have no claim, you get absolutely nothing, no matter how much you’ve paid in.

In contrast, a sound financial investment pays dividends now—and hopefully for years to come. A good investment pays back much more than you put in! And yet you can’t take it with you.

Unlimited benefits

What about our faith as Christians? Is it good in case of loss? Is it a sound investment for this life? Is it of benefit for the next life? All of the above.

The Christian life is totally comprehensive. Properly used, our faith is of value to us every moment we live—and for eternity! Could anything be better than that?

Fully guaranteed

As with investments and insurance, there is a price. Is it worth it?

Once Peter asked Jesus, “. . . we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

Jesus replied, “. . . there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life” (Matthew 19:27; Mark 10:29-30).

Any loss we experience because of our commitment to Christ He will amply compensate—both now and in eternity. He also provides us with tremendous resources such as the Holy Spirit, prayer, the Scriptures, and the fellowship of believers—all of which strengthen us now and help us toward heaven.

Comprehensive coverage

Name one thing the Christian faith does not affect. You can’t do it! It’s designed to govern the choices we make, our family life, our work, and our leisure time. It covers youth, the middle years, and old age. It helps us deal with both life and death—and it enables us to come out victors in the end.

No wonder the writer of Hebrews calls it “so great a salvation” (2:3)!

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

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What Moses Declined–And What He Chose Instead

A major test of our character is what we choose—and what we do not choose.

Moses’ choices

As an infant, Moses was adopted by the Egyptian princess and was given a first-rate Egyptian education (Acts 7:20-22). Moses had it all. But then he gave it all up. Why?

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).

Moses would appreciate John Newton’s great hymn, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” which includes these lines: “Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,/All his boasted pomp and show;/Solid joys and lasting treasure/None but Zion’s children know.”

On two separate occasions, decades later, God was so angry with Israel that He told Moses he would destroy them and make Moses the father of a great nation. Moses declined the honor and pled with God to spare Israel. And God did (Exodus 32:7-14; Numbers 14:11-20).

Like Moses

God promised to raise up an even greater Prophet like Moses—none other than Jesus Himself (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:19-24; John 5:45-47).

Moses endured because he was “looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26). Jesus endured “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

And we?

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

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Thinking Ahead

When our belongings start to crowd us

It would be interesting to know how many more storage units there are today, compared with 40 years ago.

Most of us are so abundantly blessed that we are running out of room to store all our stuff.

One of the benefits of Bible study is that it reminds us that material things are not what counts most.

A far better investment

Since possessions are so vulnerable to loss, Jesus reminds us that we can have treasures that are moth-proof, rust-proof, and theft-proof (Matthew 6:19-21). Heavenly treasure is the way to go!

The rich young ruler was unwilling to accept Jesus’ challenge to sacrifice his earthly wealth for heavenly treasure, by giving to the poor. So he walked sadly away (Matthew 19:16-22). Big mistake!

Better glad than sad

People keep making that same mistake. They can’t bring themselves to take Jesus’ word for it.

If we prudently lay aside an amount every paycheck for retirement, we are operating on the principle that we’ll benefit eventually. Someday we’ll be glad we planned ahead and made whatever sacrifice was necessary.

Small children usually don’t think very far ahead. They want it NOW! As we grow older, ideally, we mature to the point where we are willing to defer gratification.

Laying up treasure in heaven by giving to those in need is the ultimate extension of this principle. God promises us that if we’ll do His will and depend on His grace, we will be glad someday. Very glad!

If it’s wise to plan for retirement, how much wiser to plan for eternity!

Retirement lasts a few years at most. But eternity . . . .

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The God of Happy Endings

What God can do

Jacob thought his son Joseph was dead, but 22 years later they were happily reunited (Genesis 37:31-35; 46:28-30).

With Egyptian chariots in hot pursuit and the Red Sea in front of them, Israel panicked. But God opened an escape route through the sea—then brought the walls of water crashing down on their pursuers (Exodus 14-15).

After losing her husband and sons, Naomi thought God was against her—until she realized He had been working out His wonderful plan all along (Book of Ruth).

On Friday Jesus’ enemies had Him nailed to the cross. But on Sunday His tomb was empty! (Luke 23-24)

And He’s still doing it!

God’s promises to those who suffer for His sake may seem too good to be true (1 Peter 1:3-9).

But just wait!

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The Value of Perseverance

Difficult, but do-able

A golden wedding anniversary. Graduation. Crossing the finish line.

Each requires perseverance—so valuable in business, athletics, and countless endeavors.

The Christian life is an obstacle course toward heaven.

Considering what we have to gain—and lose—can we let obstacles become barriers?

God provides His word to guide us, His promises to motivate us, His Spirit to strengthen us, and His church to encourage us.

Hang in there!

One day will be our last day. May that day find us in our place and at our task.

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

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

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