OUR EXAMPLE

“He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
I John 2:6

The Bible is very clear about our responsibility to pattern our lives after the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to “walk, even as he walked.” We all have known, or known of, individuals that had such a godly walk that to be like them seems a worthy goal. Yet, the ultimate objective is not to imitate any mortal, but the Lord Himself. Paul encouraged others to follow him because he was following Christ, but the goal was to get others to follow the Lord. Our mission in life is to be like Him. Some might say, “I thought our mission was to win others to Jesus.” The simple answer is, “If we are seeking to be like Him, we will be winning others to Him.” No one ever loved or cared like Jesus did. No one ever obeyed and honored the Father like Jesus.

How might we begin to pattern ourselves after Jesus? The process begins with salvation. When we are saved, we receive the Spirit of Christ dwelling within. We should then take seriously the responsibility of obeying God’s Word. If we are going to “walk, even as he walked,” we must be committed to a life of obedience to the Word of God.

The command to follow the Lord’s example should be an incentive to take our spiritual walk very seriously. Unfortunately, we can find ourselves too casual in our spiritual growth because we have experienced a measure of progress, or because we have achieved a higher level of maturity than others. We should not compare ourselves with one another or be comforted because we seem to be doing better than they are. That kind of thinking will cause us to be complacent rather than aggressive in our spiritual development. Also, the challenge to be more like Jesus will help us realize that there is always room for growth and adjustment. None of us have nearly arrived. Only a person consumed with pride would think he is in every way walking as Jesus did. It seems that the closer we get to the Lord, the more we see the need to decrease and allow His work in us to increase. In addition, the realization that we are to walk as Jesus walked will undoubtedly motivate us to rely upon Him all the more.

We are not capable of duplicating the walk of Jesus in our own energy or ability. The only way that we can consistently improve in our daily walk is when He is living His life through us.

ALAS, MY LORD

“And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.”
Numbers 12:11

Miriam and Aaron raised their voices in protest because Moses had taken an Ethiopian wife. In doing so, they sought to justify their wrong attitudes by reasoning that God could speak to them as well as to Moses. They were way out of line as far as their conduct was concerned. God heard their words, and His anger was kindled against them. Miriam was stricken with leprosy. Aaron repented, confessing to Moses that they had sinned and acted foolishly.

In addressing Moses, Aaron referred to him as “my lord.” The word lord means “sovereign or master.” Aaron addressed Moses with the deepest respect and demonstrated a truly submissive attitude. The thing that makes this exchange even more noteworthy is when you consider how this trio was related. Aaron, Moses, and Miriam were siblings, children born to Amram and Jochebed. Aaron called his brother “lord.” This is a great example of respect for a position of authority. Although Moses, Aaron, and Miriam shared the same parents and were in every way equal as far as their family positions were concerned, God had placed Moses in a place of leadership and authority. We can assume that because they were all related by blood, Aaron and Miriam would feel that they deserved special privilege with Moses. Their comment about how God spoke to them as well as Moses makes it clear that they were having a problem with Moses’ leadership.

This scene is all too familiar for the honest Christian. Struggling with the decision or direction of those God places in authority over us is something most have experienced. We have all had those we are commanded to submit to, that we have disagreed with on some issue. It makes it even more challenging if they happen to be close friends or even related to us. There is a very natural tendency to think of them only in terms of their human relationship and forget the position that God has placed them in. Familiarity can cause us to treat them in a way that does not respect the position they occupy. Aaron understood his error and quickly adjusted his attitude and behavior. It took a moment, but he was able to recognize that his brother was also his spiritual leader. We need to do the same.

SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
I Corinthians 6:9-11

The Bible teaches the absolute necessity of the new birth. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” God is holy, and none of us are righteous within ourselves. Every person is in need of salvation. In our unregenerate and natural state, none will qualify for Heaven.

People are deceived about the seriousness of sin, the nature of salvation, and the requirement of rebirth and imputed righteousness. False teachers assure their listeners that good works or moral reform will gain an entrance into God’s holy Heaven. This is not true. That is why the text says, “Be not deceived.”

Thank God for salvation that brings forgiveness of sin and the new man of righteousness. God’s gift of eternal life produces transformed lives in those who are redeemed. Only God can create a new person through the miracle of the new birth. We can identify with Paul’s statement, “And such were some of you.” We may not be all that we should be, but thank God we are not what we once were. God can change anyone. When we are born again, we become new creatures in Christ. Our past is exactly that; it is our past.

Sometimes new believers have a hard time putting their past behind them because of guilt over past sins. It is important that we take God at His Word concerning our former lives. Our sins are under the blood; we have been justified by His grace; and we have peace with God.

Because we remember what we once were, it should help us have compassion on the unsaved and a desire to reach them with the Gospel. Nothing could have changed us like the power of salvation. We should never look, with a critical, judgmental eye, at others still bound in sin. But for the grace of God, we would still be there. The next time we get irritated or frustrated with the behavior of lost sinners, remember this: “And such were some of you.”

HE WILL GUIDE

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Proverbs 3:5, 6

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? We all have been there. The Word of God gives clear and practical direction for such moments in the life of the sincere Christian. There are many times that we cannot erase or solve our problems. If it were in our power to do so, we would make those difficulties disappear. There are occasions when we are not certain which choice would be the wisest. There are situations when more than one door appears to be open, and we are unsure which one to go through. How can we know the Lord’s will in such matters? Let’s look for a few moments to the counsel of the Holy Scriptures. The counsel of God’s Word can guide us.

We are encouraged to “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart.” Our initial step is to make sure we are trusting God completely with our situation. One might ask, “But how is that going to solve my problem?” In reality, faith itself will not solve our problem. We must keep in mind that we are not actually responsible to solve every crisis, but we are to trust God to work on our behalf. We begin from a position of complete trust, relying on God’s direction and solution.

We are also advised to “lean not unto thine own understanding.” God counsels us to look beyond our limited reasoning and understanding. The Lord sees beyond our finite vision and has perfect wisdom. We greatly limit our resources and options when we lean on our own understanding.

We are then instructed, “In all thy ways acknowledge him.” God wants to be involved in every detail of our lives. Here again, one might say, “But there is only one thing that I really need advice on.” But, God wants us to acknowledge Him in every part of our lives. We need to train ourselves to be very God-conscious in our daily lives. It would be good if our minds were acknowledging the Lord in our first few waking moments of the day, in our last conscious thoughts before going to sleep, and as many times as possible during the day.

As we learn to depend on God as our source, we are promised, “he shall direct thy paths.” This is what we need, for God to guide us. In this way, God does not just lead us to a solution; He is our solution.

IT CAME INTO HIS HEART

“And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.”
Acts 7:23

Stephen was being given the opportunity to defend himself before his religious critics. At the conclusion of his defense, he would be brutally martyred by being stoned. His powerful last words included a summary of God’s dealings with Israel. In Stephen’s testimony, he referred to the way Moses was directed from the home of his Egyptian upbringing, to his interest in Israelite relations.

The language Stephen used says much to us about the way God works, “And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” This began one of the most remarkable series of events history will ever record. Moses would eventually go before Pharaoh; the mighty plagues would be seen; Israel would be led through the Red Sea, drink water out of a rock, be fed with manna from Heaven, cross the Jordan River on dry ground, and eventually would occupy the land of Canaan. And it all began, when “it came into his heart to visit his brethren.”

This is one of the ways the Spirit of God works; He works in our hearts. This is not referring to some selfish and carnal desire or prideful ambition on the part of Moses. Rather, it is a desire that God placed in his hearts. God often works in a similar way in our lives, quietly stirring in our hearts. As with Moses, it sometimes begins with a desire in the heart. This does not imply that every idea we have is evidence of God’s leading. It does mean, however, that to the life that is surrendered and seeking God’s best, one way He communicates His will is through our desires. God can prompt our hearts in a particular direction. This is just one reason why we need to keep our hearts clean and subjected to Him. When our hearts are cluttered with sin, blinded through self will, filled with busyness, or hardened through stubbornness, it will be difficult for us to discern God’s will and hear His still small voice.

Sometimes we wonder why we have such a difficult time knowing God’s will and discerning His leading. One factor is the condition of our hearts. Let’s make sure our hearts are clean, our sins are forgiven, and our wills are surrendered to Him. God wants us to know and follow His leading, and we want the Holy Spirit to be free to lead us and guide us in our hearts.

DON’T CRITICIZE

“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.”
James 4:11

God is very concerned about the way we treat each other as followers of Jesus Christ, including the words we use. We will be opposed and ridiculed in the world, but we are to be supported and encouraged in the church. The Holy Scriptures speak strongly against criticizing or speaking evil of the brethren. Words are powerful tools to edify and encourage, but can also damage and hinder.

As active and sincere Christians, we will have ample opportunities for interaction and even conflict with fellow believers. The more we know the people, the more familiar we will be with their weaknesses and shortcomings. We will not always agree, but we are warned repeatedly not to speak evil of each other. We are not to speak slanderously, maliciously, or critically of others. Critical speakers have done great damage to individual Christians, church families, and even the community at large.

Gossip and slander are powerful and destructive activities. Speaking critically, like any other sin, can become habitual. When one speaks evil of his brother, he is judging the brother and speaking evil of and judging the law. The law tells us, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). Slandering or gossiping about others is certainly not loving your neighbor. The Bible gives us clear instructions about resolving conflicts with fellow Christians. If someone has sinned against us or wronged us, or if he is overtaken in a fault, we are to go to him and seek to get the situation resolved. The wrong thing to do is to criticize or slander him. Just because someone disagrees with us does not make him a candidate for verbal assault. Our backgrounds differ as well as our spiritual gifts and burdens, and our personalities are not alike. There will be ample opportunities for disagreement, but we are forbidden to speak evil of each other.

God’s Word gives us more positive and productive options as far as our words are concerned. We are told to encourage each other, edify one another, and exhort one another. This is quite different from speaking evil of each other. Instead of criticizing, make a genuine effort to love others as God commands.

WHERE ARE THE MEN?

“And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”
I Samuel 17:10

Goliath, the Philistine champion, was blaspheming and defying the armies of Israel. The Israelite soldiers were anything but valiant. To the contrary, they were terrified of this giant of a man. This would be the defining moment for a young shepherd, the son of Jesse. Eventually, with God as his strength, David would kill the giant on the field of battle. The piercing and intimidating cry of Goliath was “give me a man.” Men of God, courageous men, were certainly in short supply in David’s day. The same has been true in many, if not all, generations. Where were the men in Israel that trusted in God and believed that He could give the victory over the best the enemy had to offer?

Jesus said in His day that the laborers were few. In Noah’s day, there were only a few righteous men that responded to the call of God. When Elijah stood on Mt. Carmel, he stood alone. Ezekiel prophesied that God sought for a man among the nation that would stand in the gap and make up the hedge, but none could be found. Jeremiah said that he wondered that there was no intercessor. Our day is no exception. We need godly men for the critical hour in which we live. Our nation is experiencing a great shortage of spiritual leaders. We need men of God in our homes. We need men who are humble, yet are men of convictions. We need men who lead by example and love sincerely.

May God help us be the men He would have us to be. We need men in our churches. Churches need men who will serve faithfully, honor the Lord consistently, and support the pastor loyally. We need men who are doctrinally sound and separated, not concerned with fitting into the mold of the world. We need men in our community. The community needs men of integrity and honesty, men who will stand up for morality and virtue and stand against indecency and perversion. We need men in the work place. We need men who are not sold out to the philosophies of the world and are willing to honor Christ before their peers, men who are not ashamed of the Word of God.

Where are the men? Thank God for the Christ-honoring men that we have the privilege of knowing and serving with, who fear God more than man and love truth more than popularity. May their number continue to grow.

THE LOVE OF MONEY

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
I Timothy 6:10

There is much in the Word of God about our relationship with money, but this statement is as powerful, pointed, and profound as any. One reason this theme is so often mentioned is because of the tendency to live more for things that are material than for things that are spiritual. For instance, Jesus said, contrary to popular opinion, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

We live in a very materialistic society, and the message of the Bible has been corrupted and perverted on the subject of money. Modern preachers have promoted the error that gain and godliness are synonymous. In another very familiar passage, the parable of the sower, Christ said that “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

Spiritual progress is regularly stifled by misplaced priorities and obsession with financial gain. The love of money can be extremely destructive and is described as the “root of all evil.” There is nothing wrong with money; all of us need it and use it. However, the danger comes when it begins to control us rather than our controlling it. The lust for material things is a snare. Because of this, personal debt is a very serious problem in our nation, and also in our churches. Most counselors will agree that the single issue that causes the most pressure on marriages and families is finances. Teenagers and young adults now deal with financial stress that would have been unthinkable a generation or two in the past.

We must realize that material things cannot bring satisfaction. Sincere believers fall into the snare of thinking that something newer, bigger, or better can make life more enjoyable, when often the exact opposite may be true. Of course, there is nothing wrong with possessions, as long as we realize that those things in themselves cannot fulfill. We have been called to a life of contentment, yet the lack of contentment is resulting in serious financial woes for God’s people. In reality, most financial problems are not necessarily the result of management problems, or even income deficiency. Rather, it is too often the evidence of a heart problem, the love of money.

I AM READY

“So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.”
Romans 1:15

It is hard to imagine any mortal being more surrendered to Christ and His will than Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul. As soon as this persecutor of Christians comprehended who Christ was and yielded to Him, the words that flowed from his lips were, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do” (Acts 9:6)? The rest of his life was spent following the will of the Crucified One. This commitment took Paul to eager listeners and hostile environments, to major cities and lonely prison cells. There were those who wanted to deify him and others who sought to destroy him. One thing was certain about Paul: he was ready to do whatever God would lead him to do. His words testify to this readiness, “I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” It was not a boastful remark, simply a matter of fact.

What about us? Are we ready? To be ready does not necessarily mean that we are thoroughly prepared. It more so means that we are willing and available to do whatever God wants us to do. It is a willingness to obey and follow God’s will. Are you ready? One might ask, “But how can I know if I am willing to do God’s will when I am not certain of that will?” The answer is simple. God would have us to be available and willing to do His will, whatever it is. The word ready can mean to be predisposed, or inclined in advance. To be ready means that we have already surrendered and are willing to do whatever God shows us to do.

Why would we not be ready to do God’s will? In Matthew 26:41, Jesus said to the disciples, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Our flesh gets in our way. That is one more reason why we must deny ourselves and seek to be fully surrendered to Christ. God can be trusted. He is good, and whatever He wants from us will be best for us. Our hearts should be ready to follow Him wherever that might lead. I’m sure there are many who one day plan to be ready or hope to get ready, but never seem to come to the place of surrender and availability.

The need is great now, and the opportunities of the present will not wait. Why not decide now that whatever His will might be, you are willing to do it? Like the great missionary, we want to be able to sincerely say to our Lord, “I am ready.”

WHY DO YOU SHOW ME?

“Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.”
Habakkuk 1:3, 4

God allows His prophets to see things that others might not see. Habakkuk writes of what he saw around him. He saw iniquity and grievance, spoiling and violence, strife and contention. He saw the wicked compassing the righteous. What he saw greatly troubled him. Because of what he saw, he cried out to God. Habakkuk was so disturbed he asked the question, “Why dost thou shew me?” It is a good question. Why would God show us? What do you see around you? What do you see in America?

It seems that many cannot see the problems that exist in our day. They cannot see the rampant disrespect that is so obvious to most of us. They cannot see the apathy and lukewarm condition of professing Christians. They cannot see the drift toward apostasy and compromise that prevails in so many churches. They cannot see the increasing acceptance of immorality and perversion that invites God’s judgment. They cannot see the worldliness that continues to gain entrance and acceptance amongst our churches. As a matter of fact, much of the world does not see what we see. To them, nothing is too seriously wrong.

Again we ask the question, “Why dost thou shew me?” Perhaps, like Habakkuk, God shows us so that we might pray. The spiritual dearth that surrounds us should motivate us to earnest and consistent prayer. We desperately need a spiritual awakening in our day. America is in deep trouble. Another reason Habakkuk was made aware of his surroundings was so he might speak out concerning the wickedness of his day. We, too, need to lift up our voices against the ungodly direction of our society.

There will always be those who do not want to hear, cannot see, and refuse to believe that anything is seriously wrong. If God had not shown Habakkuk, he would not have been able to see. We need for God to show us the needs in our nation, and in our own hearts, that we might be burdened and seek Him for change.