Thursday, September 29, 2005

1 Peter 2 - Long for the pure milk...

Before part 2 of the "Have you ever heard the saying...?" post, I want to encourage you all to read 1 Peter 2 and at least think about what verses 1-3 mean and how that should apply to you and me. This is one of the areas I want to focus on this week.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Have you ever heard the saying...? (Part 1)

The saying goes something like this, "You can tell someone's heart or devotion to God by examining one simple thing...their checkbook."

I think that this is a good general idea that we should examine to see if there is any truth in it. This is not something that I would go out and harass someone else with, but it is something that I need to use on myself (likewise you should use this on yourself). There are many reasons why I am bringing this up today, and I think that this mentality of "checking" ourselves is vital for us to grow in grace and truth. I find a good model for giving is the tithing model. Now, many people have a different standard to measure their financial giving (Joy and not the amount given is the key; Old Testament tithing was closer to 30% than 10% and had various purposes; etc.), but for this little article, let's just use the tithing (10%) criteria. Just look back over the past few months and see how much you gave to your local church (first) and other ministries (2nd) compared to how much you spent on other stuff. Now, I'm not saying that you should not pay your mortgage, rent, or other bills - but how much did you spend on "fun" or extra stuff. Was that more - substantially more - than what you gave to God?

Q: What qualifies as "fun" stuff?
A: If I would be so bold, I would use a fairly lose definition with another question, "What do you need to spend your money on to provide for your family and be a good steward of what God has given you?"

The test is an easy one - just go through your credit cards and checking accounts for a few months and add up all of the things that you did that were extra - dinner out (non business), new toys (I mean big boy toys - electronics, tools, etc), monthly bills for Cable TV, high speed Internet, etc. Add these up, and then compare this total to the total that you give. These are all things that, if I stopped spending as much of our money on, my family would not notice, or hardly notice. Now, I am not saying that a family should spend no money on fun things or that we shouldn’t enjoy some of what God has given us, but I am saying that we should examine this type and amount of "fun" and relate it to how much we give to God.

My hope is that most of us have a positive result. But, how close are the two totals? My goal is not to be legalistic about this, but if I spend as much money on myself in the name of "fun" or "extra" stuff as I give to God, is that something that I need to examine more closely? Brothers and sisters, I only bring this up because it is one of the many things that the Holy Spirit is convicting me of. We need to cling to the imperishable things of God and be willing to give all of our perishable and temporary things back to the Lord.

A good quick reference for how wealth can effect my spiritual condition is to look at the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19:16-30. There are many examples of Godly men in the Bible who are very rich, but there are also many examples of those who didn’t have anything. If you doubt that, just look no further than at our Savior, he didn’t have any real property or wealth (Matthew 8:19,20), and neither did the apostles. They either gave it up before or during the time that they followed Christ.

This may not be totally accurate, but in relation to Matthew 19, think of your own financial status (rich, poor, middle class, etc) in relation to the rest of the world (6+ Billion people) and not just Americans or people in Western Europe. You'll find that you and I are among the top 1/5th (at least) wealthiest people in the world. I hope that this will, at least, cause you to ask questions and be willing to look at your money in a new way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

My first prolonged witness encounter with a stranger:

I work in the city, and I work until 9PM. Recently, I have noticed that there are more and more people walking, dining, and partaking of various adult beverages that I pass by on my way to my car. Well, about 3 months ago I took a large step – I ordered some tracts from Living Waters to use when I witness. Now it is important to note that I when I ordered these tracts I had not yet ever gone out of my way to confront a stranger with the gospel. That’s important to note because I wanted to do this, and one way to get me going was to put some money where my mouth was (as it were). All of this to say that I have (for a few months) tried to overcome fear, see and take the opportunities that are there, or make an opportunity to share the gospel with those who I may or may not ever see again. Over the last week, I have noticed more and more people out and about, so I made it a point to have some of my gospel tracts easy at hand for sharing the gospel as well.

Fast forward to last night….

As I was leaving work I passed a bunch of people socializing and waiting to enter a dining establishment. I walked right on by so many people because it just didn’t feel like the right time. Now, it is very likely that this feeling was just me not wanting to share the gospel in a way that would take me out of my comfort zone – I don’t know what it was for sure, but I know that God will break down my personal barriers the more I trust him in obedience (however small it starts out as). Well, by God’s grace I was accosted by a young man for some money to buy food. Out of habit, I told him that I didn’t have any change for him.*

I did say that I had something else for him. I said, “I don’t have any change, but do you want $1 Million?” I pulled out a million dollar bill tract and gave it to him.

Him: “I don’t want it. It’s not worth anything. I can’t buy anything with it.”

Me; “True, you can’t buy anything with it, but if you use it properly, it’s worth a whole lot more than $1 million.”

At this he was a bit intrigued, so I turned the tract over and read him the first line on the back of the tract. “The Million Dollar Question: Will you go to Heaven [when you die]?”

Him: “Oh, man – you know that when you die, you’re already in heaven.”

I was a bit confused by his response, but through some more questions (why do you think that, where did you get that information, how do you know that your idea is true) I came to understand that he just “knows” this with no real thought behind it. I asked him if he believed in the Bible and he gave me some sort of a non-committal response. So I tried to build the case in his conscience for what the Bible has to say. Basically, I said this, "Assuming the Bible is true (I know it’s true), and God judges you when you die – He sees hatred as murder, lust as adultery – will you be guilty or innocent?" Now, his response was a combination of “everybody does it,” to which I replied “You just quoted a Bible verse,” and I quoted Romans 3:23 to him. He then tried to downplay how bad an angry thought or a lustful thought really is. Well, to make this short story long, I left him with a 10 Commandment Medallion and told him to consider the Judgment of God that will come, and to really think about his guilt or innocence.

In hindsight, there are many things that I could have and/or should have done differently, or questions of his that I could have answered better. However, I am thankful that God was gracious enough to give me the courage to bring the law (he had not humbled himself to the law, so I didn’t bring up the gospel because he was not agreeing that he needed the Good Knews) and I trust that the Lord will work in his life. If it be His will, this man will come face to face with his sinfulness on this side of eternity and God will save his soul.

To God be the glory.

*(Sidebar – but important) Truth be told I did have a few dollar bills in my wallet, but I didn’t have any change. I hesitated pulling out my wallet to get some money. A few minutes later I did remember that I had some of my lunch left over (1 sandwich, 1 banana, and 1 Little Debbie Nutty Bar). I offered him my lunch and he turned down everything except the Nutty Bar because he already had a banana and he didn’t like Miracle Whip (on my sandwich). So, I didn’t feel so bad about not forking out some dough for this guy to buy food with. On the other hand I am ashamed and I am afraid that I may have done harm to my witness. You see, before I had given the man my lunch (but after we had started talking), he stopped another man walking by for some money. He said something like, “I asked him (me) for some money, but he didn’t have any. And I’m only talking with him about God because it’s interesting.” The other pedestrian looked at me, then at the gentleman asking for money, looked back at me – smirked, and pulled out a few bucks. Now, I don’t know what went on in that man’s head, but my fear was something like, “Huh, a crazy religious freak wants to push his ideas on this guy, but he’s not willing to help him out.” Even though this gentleman turned down most of the food that I had, my witness was still tarnished because I appeared unconcerned with his immediate needs to the other pedestrian.

Monday, September 19, 2005

An Interesting Question...

Have you ever taken a pop quiz in life? I was at church this weekend and I asked if anyone could name me 10 pro sports teams. A brave young boy was the first to respond and he did a very good job of rattling off 10 teams. No stutters, no pauses (or very short pauses). I then asked him if he could name me the 10 commandments. He gave me 3 pretty fast, and then he started to falter. Now, I cut him off (so as not to embarrass)and asked the rest of the congregation if anyone could name me the 10 commandments.... Now, I don't know whether it was a lack of "on the spot" memory, a fear of speaking in public, or just one of the common bonds among Baptists which is an aversion to raising our hands for any reason during a church service. To be fair, I know for a fact that many of the church's members could have told me, if not all 10 in order, 9 without much problem.

Ok, why did I ask these two questions. One word - Evangelism. I did this to show how easy it can be to get someone to interact with you so that you can begin to share the truth of the Word with them. Without belaboring the point (because many others do a better job than I do), we need to be involved in evangelism. We need to go out to the world to show the light of life. The reason we need the 10 commandments is that unsaved people need to be shown how harshly God sees sin. Only then, when we understand how exceedingly wicked sin (any sin) is, are we able to understand the true love of God!

If you haven't yet, I advise you to listen to the sermon called "Hells Best Kept Secret" as given by Ray Comfort or Kirk Cameron. This is a powerful sermon that sparked a renewed commitment to repentance - true repentance - and it's role in true conversions. Also how false repentance results in false conversion.

How does all of this come together? The 10 Commandments should be the primary tool to prepare the way for the gospel message that we are called to bring (Psalm 19:7). Just look at some of Paul's writings about the law in Romans 3:20; 7:7; and Galations 3:24. Again, these are a snapshot, not the full spectrum of the Biblical argument for using the law to show us of our sinfulness.

We need to understand the gospel that we preach and have a passion for the lost. Now, this doesn't mean that all true Christians must stand on the street corner handing out tracts or standing on a park bench preaching to the passers-by. I do think that all Christians should have a burden for the lost and be equipped and willing to witness to the lost. I think that once we become equipped, we'll be more motivated by the Holy Spirit to bubble over with this information, and we'll naturally go out of our way to share this truth - Law and then the Gospel - with the lost.

10 Commandment Medallion images from

Sunday, September 18, 2005

1 Peter 1 - Keep Sober Thru Trials (they will come to you)

Peter first expounds on the fact that we were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God (1 Peter 1:2; Romans 8:28-30), and uses covenant language that the 1st century Jews would understand when he speaks of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2). In the Old Covenant, the priests would make sacrifices with the blood of animals to cover their sins and the sins of the people. See Hebrews 9 for a better foothold on this idea than I could ever give.

Then we see that God has caused us to be born again. Some translations are weaker on this point than I (in my humble opinion) think is appropriate. Contrast the language used in the NIV and the NASB, it's a very enlightening difference (see also James 1:18). I think that it is also very important to see how much Peter contrasts our hope for what is to come with the dead and dying things of this world (1 Peter 1:4,5).

The main emphasis of this study (this week) is the idea that suffering or trials for the believer are not optional. If one raises the quesiton, "If I live the Christian life, honor God, serve him faithfully, shouldn't I not experience trials?" I would answer this person a simple "No." I would also point out that a simple study of the life of Jesus Christ will show the folly of that sentiment. He was (is) the perfect man, He lead a perfect life, He loved God more purely than anyone could even dream, but yet he suffered greater. Christ suffered more than the cumulative sufferings of mankind (I heard this phrase on "the Bible Answer Man" hosted by Hank Hanegraaff, but since I don't have a direct quote, I don't want to actually use quotation marks). See also 1 Peter 3:17; 4:12-19; 5:8-10; and James 1:2-4 for other references to our suffering for Christ. That's not an exhaustive list of referencs, but it's a start.

A note to the reader: If you agree or disagree with what I've laid out as what the Bible says here, please let me know. Especially let me know if you find that I'm in error. I don't take studying or teaching the Word of God lightly, and I'd rather know my error now than at a later date (or never).

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson