A great passage that describes “salvation” is Colossians 1:13-14, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Who does God rescue, and why? The word that has been used most often over 2000 plus years is “believe”, from John 3:16, ” whoever believes will have eternal life”. The problem is that the word “believe” has been simplified to mean “the acknowledgment of existence”, and the “acknowledgment of certain theological facts to be true”. James 2:19 says this about that kind of belief, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” The Word I use now instead of believe, is love. So the question isn’t “do you believe in Jesus”, but ” do you love Jesus”. Paul makes this emphasis in 1Corinthians 16:22 “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” So what dos it mean to love Jesus, how do we know if we do truly love Him? In John 14:15 Jesus is quoted as saying, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”. He says it again a few verses later in verse 21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Obviously Jesus is not talking about being perfect, no one is perfect but Jesus, and He knows it, but it would be the attitude of wanting to serve Him, to obey Him, to please Him, to be like Him, and wanting, really wanting to do better when we mess up. Paul expresses that strong desire in Philippians 3:12-14. “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Just because a person believes they are a turtle doesn’t make them one, and just because someone believes they are going to live with God forever instead of living with the devil doesn’t mean they will. It would be good to know that for sure.
I heard somewhere a number of years ago that heresy is created by truth out of balance with another truth that is in tension with it, or put another way, majoring on one truth and ignoring another. An example would be the place that good works has in our salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So if that were the only verse in the Bible it would be easy to say, good works don’t matter. But the very next verse in Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” In Hebrews 6:9 it says, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation”. I am convinced after 42years of ministry that many who say they are Christians, who sincerely believe they are Christians are pseudo Christians, which seems apparent by their behavior, which means that some day they will stand before God and He will say to them, “depart from Me, I never knew you”. God created everything, He created hell as a place of torment, He created eternity with Him as a place of incomprehensible joy. He makes the rules, He determines truth, our opinions and beliefs, no matter how strong don’t determine reality. A person who says, “I am not going to believe in a God who would send people to Hell”, I wonder after they have been there for awhile if they will feel vindicated. Our place in eternity is so important, we should seek truth humbly, as a learner, not a know it all, we should seek God humbly, if we truly seek Him we will find Him. Don’t think that the intellectual acknowledgement to a historical fact that Jesus existed and does exist is “believing in Jesus”. You will find yourself on the wrong side of eternity some day, and then it is to late.
When I am camping at the Steen’s Mts with my boys it is easy to justify undisciplined behavior, because we are camping, after all. I can easily spend the whole day, eating, fishing, talking for hours about everything under the sun, but mostly hunting and sports, fishing some more, eating some more, and then it is time to climb into the sleeping bag, but wait – I didn’t read my Bible, I didn’t pray, I didn’t spend any time memorizing bible verses, I didn’t read in any good books, but the thought is, “It’s ok, I am camping, and fishing so I don’t need to do those things, just relax and enjoy the rest”. So when I get back home and send a report to my pastor friends who hold me accountable, I label the report, “A fishing report”, which means, “don’t give me a hard time about not praying and reading my Bible, I have an excuse.” I have done that a lot in the past, and it really messes up my momentum, and my commitment. So I decided before this trip that I was going to maintain the basic disciplines. I didn’t do well at all on Monday and Tuesday, falling into my old routine, but today I am doing much better, having repented last night laying in my sleeping bag, and this morning outlining the day and committing to keep the schedule I had made, asking God to give me His strength to be good and faithful.
I am at the Steen’s Mts with my boys, Sam and Seth. They are archery hunting for deer and elk, and I am fishing in Fish Lake where we are camped. I am catching some trout that are 24 inches long, and they fight and pull so hard they pull my little 8 foot inflatable pontoon boat around. The Steen’s is probably the most beautiful, impressive, awe inspiring place I have ever been including the Grand Canyon. There are 5 major gorges that are all amazing, and inspiring to see. It is hard to comprehend that most Oregonians have never been to the Steen’s Mts. Our family has come here almost every year for the last 40 years, usually the week before school started for the opening week of archery hunting. I am not doing any hunting this year, just fishing and listening to the hunting stories in the evening. I am getting in some extra Reading, studying, and writing in this week as I sit in camp by myself while the boys are attempting to kill something. When God created the world and the Kiger Gorges and all the rest He had no blueprint, everything came from him, from His own creativity. The creativity of God is absolutely mind boggling as you look at it. For people to believe that all this amazing beauty happened by chance is also mind boggling to me.
I don’t miss going to church very often, 2 or 3 times a year, in fact I went last night to the Saturday service, so technically I didn’t miss, but I really wanted to go this morning and planned on it. The only responsibilities I had was making announcements, but I planned on praying during both services for those in attendance and for Mike as he preached, and greeting people, especially visitors. But instead I stayed in bed and slept until 2:00 pm, it has been years since I have slept in that much. I am not sure what was ailing me, but I feel super now. If I had been scheduled to do the preaching or had a class to teach I would have made the effort and been there, but it was nice to have the morning off.
One of the keys to running the race, which is our life, with endurance is practicing the discipline of systematic rest. I do really good at resting emotionally by regularly working on a project at home, working on a car, building something going on a bicycle trip, or going fishing or hunting. Those activities allow me to forget about the pressures and responsibilities in my life and get renewed in my passion and enthusiasm for life and ministry. But I don’t do very well resting physically, especially sleeping. I read all kinds of articles on how important 8 hours of sleep each night is to our physical health, our mental energy, and physical energy, but I seldom sleep more than 5 or 6 hours. It is probably the most significant issue with my Parkinson’s Disease, I just have a hard time sleeping for very long at a time. I always plan on taking a nap in the day to make up for what I don’t get at night, but I get so busy that I don’t take the time.
I am thinking about and writing my goals for 2019, I like to give myself a couple of months on the goal writing project. The number one goal on my list of goals this year is to get 50 hours of sleep each week. That is a nice round number, and I am determined to pursue it along with my exercise goal and weight loss goal so as to be able to do ministry for 20 more years.
Yesterday, I wrote from Hebrews 12:1-3 “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”, the “race” being the life that God has planned for us. The “race” that is our life is hard, it was designed by God to be hard, don’t quit, don’t whine, run. The words immediately following that command in this passage are, “fixing our eyes on Jesus”, that is the key to successfully running and finishing well the marathon called “Our Life”. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus” would obviously mean an intense focus on Him, not just a casual acknowledgment of His existence. Let me suggest 5 things that “Fixing our eyes” would entail ; (1) Jesus is our example and model, we will do what He did, (2) Jesus is our Lord, master, and King and we will do what He commands, (3) Jesus is our helper, and we will ask Him for His strength constantly, (4) Jesus is our friend, and we will remember that He understands us, He got tired, and (5) Jesus is our cheerleader, He wants us to finish well, He is watching, and I will run for an audience of one, I will run to please Him.
I am going to start teaching through the book of Hebrews on October 7th at 8:00 am every Sunday morning and a duplicate lesson on each Wednesday night following at 7:00 pm. I am going to have a little worship time on Wednesday, and make it a service so that those who miss the weekend for whatever reason can have an alternate one to come to.
The key verses for the book of Hebrews is chapter 12:1-3, but we will just look at part of verse 2 for now, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”. These dozen words are the main message of the book of Hebrews, and of most of the New Testament. “The Race set before us”, is the life God has planned for us. The whole nature of these 3 verses is that this race is hard, very hard, so let’s get on with it. The key word is “Endurance”, run the race with endurance. What does that mean for us? God has set a race before us, we didn’t choose it, He did, but He is God, He can do that. We can’t change it, trade it in, make it easier, or give it away, it has been SET before us. So, Endurance, what does that mean? Three things for sure; (1) don’t quit, don’t stop, don’t slow down, one foot in front of the other, this is your race, your life, finish like a winner. (2) don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t compare your race with someone else’s, don’t doubt God’s love, endure. And (3) keep your eyes up and on the finish line, it isn’t that far away, Jesus has some cool prizes, win some.