Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's the Thought That Counts 5/18/2011 and The Apocolypse 5/25/2011

First off I have to apologize for not getting this out last week.  Things got a little crazy, so this is a combination of last week and this week.  Last week's discussion dealt with our thoughts.  This week we tackled the contraversy surrounding Saturday's failed rapture predictions.  Let's look at the battle that takes place in our mind.  The question was asked if it is a sin to think about doing something sinful.  In other words if I think about stealing something and kind of plan out how I could get away with it is that a sin?

There are too many variables in this question to give a yes or no just to the question.  I think the circumstances and the motive of the heart come into play on this one.  If we are dealing with a situation where you are tempted to do something and then pray and fight against that temptation trying to dismiss it from your mind that is not sin.  It is not sin to be tempted.  Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Lk 4).  Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted just like we are and yet He didn't sin (Heb 4:15).  Take comfort in knowing that God is on your side when you are tempted and He will help you find a way out (1 Cor 10:13).  Also know that God is not the one tempting you (Jas 1:13).

The Battle for the Mind:
Romans tells us that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Ro 12:1-2).  I believe this means that we are to daily surrender our lives and our thoughts to Christ.  We need to submit them to His will in order to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our mind on things above.  In other words we should occupy our thoughts with the things that matter to God not the things of this world.  We should definitely not occupy our minds with thoughts of sin and how we can disobey God's commands.  There is a spiritual battle (2 Cor 10:5) that takes place in the mind long before we ever commit and sin physically.  If we can win that battle we will be way ahead in that battle to stay pure and live a holy life.  From this we can see that there is a thought process that leads to sin.  It may not be sin in itself, but it will lead to destruction if we don't submit that to God.

What are you thinking?
Now onto those thoughts that are sin on their own.  I think the big one is probably thoughts and fantasies of a sexual nature.  Jesus said if you even look at a woman with lust you've commited adultery in your heart (Mt 5:28).  That applies to women looking at men too.  The Bible also tells us that if you hate your brother that is murder (1 Jn 3:15).  If we constantly dwell on thoughts of sin or impure thoughts.  Those will lead our hearts in a wrong direction and be sin to us.  The Bible also says what you think in your heart you are (Pr 23:7).  So we need to make sure to guard our minds.  The things that we think can easily be sin to us.  It is not a sin to be tempted, but we need to be careful what we immediately do with that temptation.

This past weekend the news was filled with reports of a man who predicted the rapture was going to take place at 6:00 PM on Saturday.  The term "rapture" is not actually found in the Bible.  Rapture means to be "caught up" or "carried from one place to another."  So even though the word itself isn't in the Bible the teaching behind it is there.  We definitely believe in the rapture of the Church (1 Thess 4:13-18).  We also believe that no one knows when that will happen.  We believe that Jesus could return at any moment (Mt 24:36; Mk 13:32)  I'm not going to try to figure out the motives of a man who would predict something that is clearly against scripture.  I'm also not going to try to guess at how God will judge that.  That is for God to sort out.  However let's look at what all this means for us.

Are You Ready?
The fact that the rapture is going to happen should lead us to ask the question, "am I ready?"  Jesus is coming back for a spotless bride that is prepared for His return (Rev 19:7).   The church is referred to as the "bride" in scripture.  Sorry guys you just have to live with  it.  This actually kind of fits with the whole discussion on our thoughts.  In order to be ready for Christ's return we need to be living a holy life.  That doesn't mean that we are never going to sin, but we should not be living intentionally in sin and not asking for God to forgive us of our sins.  If we do sin we should ask for forgiveness and determine to turn away from it (1 Jn 1:9; Ac 13:9)  Paul's purpose in writing the Thessalonians passage was to comfort and encourage them about what is going to happen.  If we are ready for the Lord's return we do not have to be afraid of it.

Who are you bringing with you?
We need to see the urgency of the task that Jesus gave us (Mk 16:15-16)  We don't know when the rapture will happen or when someone's life will end.  We should be sharing the gospel every chance we get.  I remember a time when I was a teenager and doing some ministry in Detroit.  The guy I was with was going up to everyone that walked by and getting their attention with an urgency.  He said he needed to talk to them right away and they needed to hear what he had to say.  It was almost as if he was warning people about a fire or some impending danger they weren't aware of.  He had a serious urgency about what he was doing.  I learned a lot from that day.  We need to have that kind of urgency in sharing the gospel.  The time is running out.  We need to give as many people as we can an opportunity to know Jesus.  I hope that when that day comes you are ready to meet Jesus.  I also hope that you have a huge crowd of people with you that are ready to meet Him because of your influence in their lives.  Let's get busy doing the work God has called us to do.  Time is running out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Giant Marshmallow and a Jedi Knight

Sorry there was no blog last week.  I was out of town.  So I walk into random tonight and a student has a giant marshmallow.  She brought it because of our discussion two weeks ago.  After sharing it with a few friends she followed up with another marshmallow question.  She asked if a giant marshmallow would get hard just as easily as the smaller one we found.  Her actual point was what if someone had given their life to Christ and grown in Him (giant marshmallow), but then decided to walk away and no longer listen to or follow God’s word.  So that led us to a discussion of backsliding.  Now let’s go a little deeper.

Is it Possible to Backslide?

Yes it is.  There are some who believe that once you give your heart to Christ you’re set for life no matter what you do.  That’s not the case.  Judas is a great example of that.  He was clearly one who had given his heart to Jesus and did not finish well.  It’s not always about how you start.  It’s about how you finish.  (Mt 24:10-13)

Can a Backslider be Forgiven?

Still yes.  God’s word says that when we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).  There is a passage that causes a lot of confusion in Hebrews 10 about this, but that is talking of a final apostasy.  It refers to an ultimate rejection of God and that you would die in that state.  Then you’re out of luck and there is no more sacrifice for sins that will save you.  As long as we are alive and the Holy Spirit is drawing us to Christ we can repent and be forgiven.

What are you doing?

So I asked the group, “What are you doing to keep from falling away?”  I said I wanted to know specifically what they were doing.  I wasn’t looking for typical Sunday School answers of pray and trust the Holy Spirit.  While that is a great answer if you’re not doing it that’s not what I wanted to hear.  I got answers like, “I try to pray each day” or, “I try to read the Bible at a certain time”.  There really weren’t a lot of concrete answers of what we are doing to actively grow in our relationship with God.  To quote the wisdom of Yoda here, “Do or do not….there is no try.”  We need to put some active faith behind what we say we believe, or we may fall away and not finish strong.

So I ask you, dear blog reader, what are you personally doing to make sure that you don’t become a giant hardened marshmallow and ultimately be lost without God?