Thursday, November 15, 2007

LET US GIVE THANKS


How do you respond to the many blessings of God in your life? In this season of thanksgiving, just survey the wonderful evidences of God’s grace and mercy toward you, and I know you will be surprised with all that the Lord has done. Our heavenly Father has bestowed His loving kindness on us in many different ways, though we are entirely undeserving of it. Such is the nature of our salvation: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). No matter how many times I read this passage of Scripture, I cannot fully take it in. Who am I that God should show mercy toward me, in my rebellious state, and provide a way for me to be reconciled to Him? “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Colossians 1:21-22). What a dreadful description of the human condition! Look at it more closely: We all were alienated from God, enemies of God, and intent on doing wicked things. This is not a picture of passive disobedience, but hostility to God’s holy law. All such sinners are certainly included in the category of those mentioned in Proverbs 1:29-30: “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.” Yet the aforementioned Scripture in Colossians says that the Christian has been reconciled to God by the death of Christ- not only that, but we will stand before Him holy and blameless. God is surely the greatest giver, who has given us the greatest gift – eternal life! He has done what is contrary to man’s nature. He has returned good for evil, and He has done so to the highest degree.

Once reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ, the believer lives in the sphere of God’s goodness. In other words, the wrath of God having been satisfied, God is now disposed to act with favor toward those redeemed by Christ’s blood (Revelation 5:9). We are the recipients of daily blessings from heaven which encompass every aspect of our lives, materially and spiritually. Not surprisingly, we are admonished in Psalm 100 to enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. In other words, our times of public and private worship (in the temple of our hearts) should be filled with gratitude and adoration. But how many of us take time each day to give thanks and exalt His holy name? Do you recall the story of the ten lepers that Jesus healed? They asked Jesus to have mercy on them, and He did. All ten were cleansed. I would think that this would have occasioned a spontaneous outpouring of praise from the entire group. Well, it didn’t. We read: “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16). This prompted Jesus to respond, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" (verses 17-18, NKJV). What a rebuke! Only a Samaritan, a stranger to the true knowledge of God, returned to give thanks. If Jesus noticed the lack of gratitude in the other nine, do you think He notices our lack of gratitude? Of course, the answer is Yes, He does. He also knows when an outward expression of thanks may lack true sincerity of heart. We cannot fool God with our words.

What about giving thanks when trials and unpleasant circumstances come our way? Matthew Henry, the famous Bible commentator, was robbed of his wallet once. That night, he wrote in his diary all the things for which he was thankful: first, that he had never been robbed before; second, that though they took his wallet, they did not take his life; third, because, even though they took it all, it wasn't very much; and finally, because he was the one who was robbed and not the one who was robbing. Henry certainly had a heart filled with gratitude in every situation. Thirteen years before his conversion, John Wesley had a conversation with the porter of his college that deeply impressed him and convinced him that there was more to Christianity than he knew. Wesley discovered that the man had only one coat and that nothing had passed his lips that day except a drink of water, and yet his heart was full of gratitude to God. “Wesley said, ‘You thank God when you have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and no bed to lie upon. What else do you thank him for?’ ‘I thank him,’ answered the porter, ‘that He has given me my life and being, and a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him.’[1] Should we not do likewise? The Scripture commands, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Brethren, Thanksgiving Day will soon be upon us, but every day must be the occasion for the expression of our gratefulness to God. We have all feasted upon the riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. We have filled ourselves with the manna of heaven (John 6:51) and drunk freely from the water of life (John 4:14). We enjoy sweet fellowship with the God of creation (1 John 1:3). We know the comfort of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), the presence of Christ (Hebrews 13:5), and the fellowship of the saints here on earth (Philippians 1:5). We are blessed of God; no one can argue otherwise. But though all these things are ours, we must remember that true gratitude focuses on the greatness of the giver even more than on the gift: It leads us to love God for who He is, as well as for what He has done. This is the essence of true thanksgiving, and many examples are seen in the book of Psalms, as in: “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4).

As you continue to taste of the Lord’s goodness, I pray that you will find the time to thank God for who He is and all He has done. Don’t let the business of life keep you barren of the virtue of gratitude. If we follow the example of the righteous man Daniel, the prophet of God, we will learn the true spirit of thanksgiving: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10,NKJV). I can only hope that Daniel’s custom of thanksgiving will become ours. I hope for this among God’s people everywhere because I believe that it is the path of joy, the means to a victorious Christian life, and a tremendous testimony to the lost. Brothers and sisters, let us give thanks! May the world know us as a thankful people.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Happy Thanksgiving in Jesus’ name,

Pastor Tom

[1] A. Skevington Wood, The Inextinguishable Blaze [Eerdmans], p. 100).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

THE COMING JUDGMENT UPON AMERICA



Let me begin with a disclaimer: I am not a prophet who receives special revelation from God. Therefore, I am not predicting a date for the destruction of America in the near future. However, I do believe that this once-great nation cannot continue its present course without experiencing Divine intervention. God does not let people sin with impunity, especially those who have been the recipients of His manifold blessings, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48b). In some measure, America was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles derived from the Bible. Those principles are now considered obsolete, archaic, and irrelevant to an enlightened generation in which intolerance of evil is fast becoming the only thing that is not tolerated. Sociologist Robert Wuthnow is correct in his observation that the God Americans believe in “is a God of love, comfort, order, and security. Gone is the God of judgment, wrath, justice, mystery, and punishment.” Today, we have adopted a “new morality” which is the defiant expression of man’s autonomy. Autonomy can be defined by its component parts, auto (self) and nomos (law). In many spheres, autonomy is good and necessary; however, the autonomy of man in biblical theology is the exertion of the creature’s will against the will of the Sovereign Creator. Man becomes a law unto himself. Such autonomy manifests itself in a variety of behaviors which the Bible identifies as: wickedness (Genesis 6:5), sin (Genesis 18:20), transgression (Exodus 34:7), perverseness (Proverbs 11:3), unrighteousness (Romans 1:18), and disobedience (Romans 5:19). This godless philosophy that originated with Satan, the original rebel against God, knows no barriers or limitations. His kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13) encompasses the world of business, politics, our schools and institutions of higher learning, the religious realm, and most notably, the foundation of society, the family. It is in the latter arena that Satan has fought with a vengeance to destroy America from within. The moral absolutes that guided our founding fathers from generation to generation have long been abandoned. The America that God shed His grace upon has become like the nation of Israel in the days of Isaiah: “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isaiah 1:4-6). The wisdom of King Solomon has fallen upon deaf ears and hardened hearts: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Surely the cup of God’s wrath is filling. His consuming, fiery judgment (Hebrews 12:29) is inevitable apart from genuine, biblical repentance. This thought became very real to me as I watched the telecasts of the recent wildfires here in Southern California. Driven by the fierce Santa Ana winds, the firestorms were virtually impossible to contain. “Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them” (Jeremiah 11:11). “And the strong shall be as tow [tinder], and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them” (Isaiah 1:31). Thus will it be when the day of God’s wrath descends upon America. Israel and Judah had the prophets to warn them. America has the Word of God found in Holy Scripture to warn of the stench of her iniquity in the nostrils of a Holy God. Consider this partial list of her wicked ways: greed; gratuitous sex and violence on television and in movies; the shedding of innocent blood (abortion); the proliferation of drugs, alcohol, and pornography; the endless molestation and exploitation of our children; murder in our schools; a homosexual lobby that seeks to legalize unholy matrimony between same-sex couples; and liberal judges who will not restrain evildoers. This is why I insist that the only hope for America is not the politician, but the preacher- not just the preacher in the pulpit, moreover, but ordinary Christians who are not afraid to say, “Thus saith the Lord” whenever they have the occasion to address the sins of our day. We must get past the disinclination to pass judgment when judgment is due. America needs a holy church to proclaim the truth of a Holy God. This is no time for sleepy, silent saints who are preoccupied with their own affairs. We must redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16). While I pray for revival in the short term, I know that there is no cure for America’s moral cancer in the long term. I am decidedly not post-millennial in my eschatology. Call this pessimism if you will; I call it biblical realism. Only the return of Christ will bring righteousness to this ungodly world. “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). This is the end for which we must all pray. In the meantime, don’t be overcome with “rapture fever.” While we wait for that glorious day, we must be about our Master’s business. Jesus would have us heed the lesson of the parable of the ten pounds: “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).

Even so, Come Lord Jesus!


Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,


Pastor Tom