How To Escape The Snares Of Money Love and Fear

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

The writer of Hebrews tells us we should be content with what we have.

He says this will keep our lives free from the love of money, which is the root of all sorts of evil and brings multitudes of miseries into people’s lives: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

Contentment helps us escape this powerful temptation: “Keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have.” But how can we be content with what we have if we don’t have much?

Here’s the secret of contentment: “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

We don’t need money or possessions to satisfy us because we will always have Jesus, the fountain of life and beauty and joy and satisfaction. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us.

Here is how to find contentment – by praying, “Jesus, satisfy me with your love in the morning.  Jesus, whom have I in heaven besides you and on earth there is nothing I desire besides you.  You are my portion. You are my treasure. You are my inheritance.”

We should not only look to Jesus for contentment, but for all our needs and fears.  That’s why the writer of Hebrews goes on: “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

Not only will Jesus never leave us nor forsake us, but he is our Helper. We need not fear anything – the future, enemies – nothing.  What can man do to me?  The Lord – the King of kings who is sovereign over all things, the Creator of the universe, the One who sustains all things – is my personal Helper.

In other words, all we need is Jesus!  Turn to him.  Ask him for contentment.  Ask him to deliver you from fear of man.  Jesus is our escape from the snares of money love and fear.

 

The Best Way To Spend Your Life

Complete 1 Thessalonians 1:9:

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to…

  1. Have your best life now
  2. Become the person you were intended to be
  3. Be fulfilled
  4. Develop yourself to your full potential
  5. Make a name for yourself
  6. Find the love of your life
  7. Make a difference in the world
  8. Get your act together
  9. Do great things
  10. Serve the living and true God

If you chose number 10 you were correct.

Let me put the whole verse together:

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… 1 Thessalonians 1:9

This is what the Christian life is all about – serving the living and true God. It doesn’t matter how we serve him. We may serve him in large ways or small ways. That’s up to him. But the point is is we are to live to serve God. Whether our lives improve or not. Whether we find success in this world or not. It’s not about success. It’s not about personal fulfillment. It’s about serving the living and true God.

In fact at times our lives will not “improve”. They will get harder. We will be persecuted. We’ll suffer trials of various kinds. But that doesn’t matter as long as we are serving the living and true God.

At times it won’t seem worth it in this life (though it always is). But it will definitely be worth it in the next life.

Years ago I heard someone preach a message on this passage:

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep… Acts 13:36

The preacher said this is what it’s all about – to serve God’s purpose in our generation. Not our own purposes, not our own selfish ambitions, but God’s purpose. This really affected me as a young believer and I wanted to do this. And I wrote a song about it– the music is kind of corny now but the words are still true:

I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation
I want to serve the purpose of God while I am alive
I want to live my life for something that will last forever
Oh I delight, I delight to do your will.

Do you want to live your life for something that last forever? If we live for anything else we are living for things that will pass away.

David served the purpose of God in his own generation and fell asleep. Wouldn’t it be great if people said that about you at your funeral? “She served the purpose of God in her generation.” Wouldn’t that be great to have on your tombstone? “He served the purpose of God in his generation.”

Lord Jesus, help us live to serve the living and true God. Let us serve your purpose in our generation.

Because I’m Good Enough, Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me

Is it important that we feel good about ourselves? Is it crucial to our success or well-being that we have high self esteem?

If it is important that we feel good about ourselves, then you’d think the Bible would tell us and encourage us to pursue self-esteem, to make it our meditation and prayer.  But nowhere does the Bible say we’re to pursue feeling happy about ourselves.

The Bible does talk about joy and gladness. However, it doesn’t say these originate in us.

The Bible locates joy in the Lord. It says that in his presence there is fullness of joy.  Joy is a gift from him, and a result of salvation, a byproduct of knowing and serving him.  There’s joy in worshiping and thanking him.  But nowhere does the Bible tell us we’ll find joy in ourselves.

Scripture commands us to rejoice and be glad in the Lord – all that he is and all that he has done, not in our own accomplishments. Not to us, not to us, but to your name give glory.  Jesus said when we’ve done everything he commands, we’re to say we’re unprofitable servants who only did what we were commanded.  Like God when he created, we can look at what we’ve done and see that it is good, but we should thank God for any talents or abilities that he gave us to create.

When the Psalmist asks himself “Why are you cast down on my soul?” he doesn’t encourage himself to feel good about himself. No, he says, “Why are you cast down oh my soul? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him.”

When Paul describes the secret of contentment he’s learned, it’s not I have learned how to be happy with myself.  Instead he says I can do all things through HIM who strengthens me.  Paul never says I need to keep feeling better and better about myself, but says I want to know HIM and the power of his resurrection.

We are not to continually say to ourselves I’m good enough smart enough, and doggone it people like me. I deserve good things. I am a great person.  If anything, we should say I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior. Paul claimed the title the worst of sinners – talk about poor self esteem – yet this sinner was one of the most joyful people around because he focused on Christ and his mercy toward him.  Paul didn’t dwell on his own worth, but on Christ’s worth.

Neither did Paul dwell morosely on all his sins and failures, despite mentioning that he considered himself the chief of sinners. Paul dwelt on Christ’s mercy and grace.  He focused on the fact that despite all his sins and failures, God justified him in Christ, and thus he was filled with joy.

We must ask the right questions.

Do I feel good about myself is not really even a biblical question. The right biblical questions are: Am I condemned for my sins or accepted in the Beloved? Am I guilty or am I justified? Am I conformed to the old man – my old sinful nature – or am I being conformed to the likeness of Christ? Am I rejected by God or welcomed by him through Jesus? Am I ungrateful for the place in life God has assigned me or do I believe he is working all things for my good? Do I fail to see and appreciate God’s mercies and blessings in my life or do thank him for them? Am I hoping in myself or my hoping in God?

Actually, we are most happy when we are not aware of ourselves. The happiest times in life are when we’re caught up in someone else – God.  Caught up in doing something like playing an instrument or reading a book or painting a painting and not even aware of ourselves.  When we’re caught up in serving God and others.

Let’s take our focus off ourselves today and focus on Christ.  He’ll make sure we feel good about the right things.

How To Motivate Others To Bear Fruit

How do we motivate others to bear fruit?

How can a parent motivate their children to be holy or care for others?  How can pastors motivate their flocks to worship God and serve others?  How can we stir others to love and good deeds?  By telling them to just do it?  By telling them to go out and put your nose to the grindstone and bear some fruit?  Come on, get your hundred pound Christian backpack on and start grinding out that hundred mile hike to heaven.

The best way to motivate others is to display Christ’s glory to them. Show them his mighty power to save and transform.  Show them his sympathy and compassion to help them in their struggles and suffering.  I love this quote by T. David Gordon in Why Johnny Can’t Preach:

I believe that as people’s confidence in Christ grows, they do, ordinarily and inevitably, bear fruit that accords with faith. Thus, there is no need for some trade-off here, or some alleged dichotomy suggesting that we need to preach morality if we are to have morality. No; preach Christ, and you will have morality. Fill the sails of your hearers’ souls with the wind of confidence in the Redeemer, and they will trust him as their Sanctifier, and long to see his fruit in their lives. Fill their minds and imaginations with a vision of the loveliness and perfection of Christ in his person, and the flock will long to be like him. Impress upon their weak and wavering hearts the utter competence of the mediation of the One who ever lives to make intercession for them, and they will long to serve and comfort others, even as Christ has served and comforted them.

I read somewhere that the best way to motivate our teens is to dazzle them with Christ.  The best way to defeat the allure of the world is to show folks something more alluring, more beautiful, more delightful – Jesus Christ in all his glory.

Not only does the glory of Christ motivate others to bear fruit – it motivates and stirs us us as well!

A Far More Glorious Song

“In Greek mythology, the Sirens would sing enchanting songs, drawing sailors irresistibly toward the rocks and certain shipwreck. Odysseus filled his crew’s ears with wax and had them tie him to the mast. This is like the approach of legalism. We bind ourselves up with laws and disciplines in a vain attempt to resist temptation. Orpheus, on the other hand, played such beautiful music on his harp that his sailors ignored the seductions of the Sirens’ song. This is the way of faith. The grace of the gospel sings a far more glorious song than the enticements of sin, if only we have the faith to hear its music.” –Tim Chester, You Can Change

This is certainly the way to conquer sin and temptation – by having a sweeter delight, a deeper joy, a richer satisfaction than the promised pleasures of sin.  This is the way to avoid the seduction of the empty cisterns of the world – by drinking deeply from the Fountain of Delights.  Lord Jesus, help us fix our eyes on your infinite beauty.

Contemplate Beauty

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I enjoy looking paintings, photos and other beautiful works of art.

I take pleasure in the way Edward Hopper paints light, the luminous bands of Mark Rothko paintings and the overlapping washes of Morris Lewis.  God has designed us to contemplate and enjoy beauty.

And nothing brings more joy than contemplating the excellence and attributes of Christ.

According to the excellence of the object that we embrace in our hearts is the degree of our happiness… according to the degree of our enjoyment of God is the true degree our happiness. — George Swinnock

Meditate on Jesus’ infinite beauty and holiness. Gaze upon the breath-taking mountain peaks of his sovereignty and greatness. Linger long upon the infinite love he displayed for you on the cross. Observe the ocean depths of his wisdom and genius of his providences. See his tender compassion toward vile sinners.  Delight in his long-suffering patience and forbearance.  Savor often the truth that he never changes.

Make a list of God’s attributes.

Once a week or so take a few minutes to praise him for his majesty, splendor, glory, compassion, mercy, goodness, faithfulness and steadfast love. Write down as many as you can.  As you dwell on the Lord’s attributes you will find that the excellence of your Object produces happiness in your heart.

Painting by Morris Lewis

Baby, You’re A Rich Man

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So goes one of my favorite Beatle songs.

I don’t know how it feels to be one of the beautiful people (first line in the song), but I’m a rich man.  Not monetarily, but spiritually.  And if you’re a child of God, you’re rich too.

If there’s one thing the health and wealth guys have right, it’s that God is rich.  And he’s generous.  Combine the fuel of God’s wealth with the fire of his generosity and you’ve got an explosion of blessing for us who realize we have nothing to offer the galaxy-Maker, but that he has the storehouses of heaven to shower on us.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3.8).

The whole universe can’t hold the wealth of Christ, for his riches are “unsearchable” – immeasurable, unimaginable, unfathomable.  If the whole universe were bursting with treasure, jewels, crowns and coins, we could eventually search them all out, given enough time.  But for all eternity we’ll keep discovering new troves of treasures in Christ, for they are “unsearchable.”  After 10,000 years, we won’t even have made a dent exploring the vastness of God’s glory in Jesus.

And because believers are joined to Christ, all that is Christ’s is ours!

So what do you need today?  Do you need mercy?  Ask for it and don’t expect a mere trickle – Jesus has a tsunami of mercy for you.  Need comfort?  Faith?  Wisdom?  Strength?  Jesus has unlimited supplies.  God’s not like the shopping network.  He never runs out, never has to back order.  There are no hidden shipping charges – his riches are all free!  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.  Great is his faithfulness.

Take heart today.  Jesus is a vast storehouse of joy, mercy, and help for you.  As John Bunyan said, God has bags and bags of grace stored up for you.  Baby, you’re a rich man.

photo by borman818

Centerpiece

‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ (LK 20.17)

“Jesus is the foundation stone of God’s plan. Though some may reject him, God will make him the centerpiece of his plan. Rejection by the Jewish nation is not the end of the plan. There is no replacing this precious and chosen stone.” — Darrell Bock

Jesus is the centerpiece of God’s plan.

All God’s purposes in the earth begin with Christ, are centered on Christ, and end in Christ.  And Christ is the center of all God’s purposes for us as believers as well.  Being a Christian isn’t primarily about keeping rules, but being made one with Jesus Christ, delighting in him and knowing his love.  It’s Christ living through us.  It’s enjoying fellowship with the Father through his Son.

God chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world.  We’re forgiven by the blood of Christ and clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ.  We’re blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.  We’re adopted as sons and daughters through Christ.  The Father receives our worship, prayers and works as acceptable and pleasing through the mediation of Christ.

We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ as we put on Christ and walk in Christ.  We’re to imitate Christ, pursue Christ, proclaim Christ, hope in Christ, and rest in Christ.

Christ is our Shepherd, our King, our Lord, our Lamb, our Lion, our Wisdom, our Righteousness, our Sanctification, our Deliverer, our Savior, our Great High Priest, and our Hope of glory.  Apart from Jesus we can do nothing but through him and his strength we can do all things.

To live is Christ.  And to die is gain because death ushers us into the immediate presence of Christ.  The hope of our calling is that someday we shall see our Savior face to face as he is in glory and be fully conformed to him.  The hope of heaven is unhindered perfect worship and enjoyment Christ, the Lamb of God on the throne – the centerpiece of heaven.

What other glories of Christ would you add?

photo by Daniel HurstPhotography

How to Shock Angels

Do you know that angels can be shocked and appalled?

What’s so jarring to them?  What traumatizes the seraphim?  When they see God’s children seeking to slake their thirst with the rancid waters of this world instead of Christ.

Be appalled, O heavens [angels], at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water. JE 2.12-13

It staggers the angels when I take more joy in reading a novel than God’s Word. When I crave man’s approval more than Christ’s. When I think any person or thing can fulfill me.  When I live for empty success and hollow possessions.

Why is it so jolting to the angels when they see us looking to the creation for satisfaction?  Because they dwell in God’s glory day and night. Continually standing in awe, drinking from the fountain of living waters.  Continually delighting. They know there’s nothing more rapturous than Jesus.

So when they see God’s children turn from the fountain of delights to slurp from muddy puddles, they’re appalled.  Shocked. Utterly desolate.

This hints at the Treasure Jesus is. He is beauty itself. He exudes life, pleasure and joy. He’s the fountain of soul-reviving, life-giving, thirst-quenching waters.  Someday we’ll gaze full on the face the seraphim must shield their faces from.  Then we’ll understand why the angels are so devastated to see us seeking pleasure in the gutters of the world.

C.S. Lewis says it well:

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

In his lavish grace, God has loaded the world with pleasures and delights.  He gives us all things richly to enjoy.  But compared to Jesus, the Treasure of treasures, all this world’s pleasures are mud pies.  Let’s not appall the angels.  Let’s run hard after Christ. Let’s drink deep from the Fountain of Living Waters.

Photo by Norma Desmond