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Friday, March 23, 2018

There's a Serious Problem with Christians

Why so serious? Why so many pickle faces? Why such negativity? Why discuss all the junk in the world: sadness, violence, and injustice? Why be so serious in the guise of piety?

Maybe it’s just me, but the more I see how Christians act, talk, and watch their facial expressions, I get the feeling they’re sad. Even online, they’re picking fights and giving the impression that being a Christian is miserable and cheerless. Their talk is about how bad everything is. Their faces look like dried prunes. They don’t laugh, and they certainly don’t rejoice.

Whatever happened to smiling? Besides frowns being unpleasant to look at, they're the wrong picture! A Christian has every reason to praise.

For one thing, look Who’s his God:
  • Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalm 107:8 and repeated three more times in this Psalm).
  • God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5b).
  • And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16).

God commands joy—and provides it.
  • Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).
  • Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4).
  • Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24).

God takes pleasure in people who praise Him and conduct themselves with joy.
  • I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High (Psalm 9:2).
  • Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power (Psalm 21:13).
  • When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday (Psalm 42:4).
  • Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God (Psalm 50:23).

A Christian with a smile on his face will attract others. A Christian who shows love and genuine joy will reach others. A Christian who praises—even when circumstances are far from ideal—will be joyous in his own soul. And, praise edifies (builds up) other Christians.

I am fully aware the world isn’t a pretty place. It never has been! Jesus said, In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Do you know what the first part of the same verse says? These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace (John 16:33). Jesus offers peace. He also says be of good cheer.

A long time ago, piety seemed to mean prune faces. I don’t think those people ever understood the biblical concept of joy. Maybe they weren’t even born-again Christians and were tied to religious legalism. (That would certainly sap one’s joy!) But, maybe they were Christians with the wrong perspective—like many today.

If you eat garbage, your body won’t function as it should. If you feed yourself spiritual garbage, your heart won’t show joy. The nastiness will weigh down your spirit. So, maybe the problem is that Christians are feeding their souls wrongly. I’m not sure.

Whatever the root problem, Christians need a change of focus. Look to the Lord. Ask Him to provide your joy. Rejoice in Him—always—and recover your smiling face.

You’ll be happy, and people around you will be attracted to Jesus.

Let’s become joyful Christians.

(Jesus) Whom having not seen, ye love;
in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing,
ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:8-9)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Who Gets to Sit Beside Jesus?

In the New Testament, we read a mother’s story. Zebedee’s wife goes to Jesus with her sons, James and John, and asks Jesus for a favor. She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. Then, Jesus replied that they would surely suffer for Him, but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. The other disciples were angry with James and John about this, but Jesus turned the request into a teaching moment. Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Quotes are from Matthew 20:20-28.)

In the Gospel of Mark, we read more details about this same story. James and John’s mother wasn’t the only one who asked Jesus this favor. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying … Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory (Mark 10:35a, 37).

Before we rush to condemn “the sons of thunder” or their mother, let’s look at what they’re asking in their limited understanding. First, we see their faith. In thy kingdom, and in thy glory are not “if” statements. They know Jesus will set up His heavenly kingdom. There’s no doubt in their minds. These sons want to be as close to Him as possible when it happens. What mom wouldn’t wish the same?

Would you like to be encouraged today?

The right hand in Scripture is always a symbol of favor. For example, when Jesus ascended to heaven, He sat on the right hand of God (Matthew 16:19; Ephesians 1:20, 2:5; Colossians 3:1 and many more).

But, it’s not only Christ Who sits by God in heaven. In Christ, born again Christians sit there with Him—already! But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).

Yes, I’m physically sitting on the sofa in our living room. But spiritually, I’m already in Christ and seated at God’s right hand, His place of favor.

Why? Because I placed my faith in Jesus’ payment for my sins on the cross. I cried out to Him for mercy. It is all because of His love.
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
  • For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). 
  • Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5).

Are you like James and John? Do you desire to be close to the Lord in Glory?

Are you like their mother, who wanted the best for her sons?

Are you in Christ? Have you trusted Him for your soul’s salvation? Have you repented from your sins—accepting that Jesus was crucified to pay for them and rose again from the dead?

If so, you are already sitting with Christ in heavenly places. Your seat is reserved.

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne,
even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
 (Revelation 3:21)