Monday, May 27, 2013

The Beginning Of Wisdom

Memorial Day . . . . A perfect day (like every day) to remember first and foremost JESUS!  And what He has done for us!
Then, remember the dead . . . .

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J asked:
"Where does one begin if one wishes to begin the journey? Is it really as simple as offering up a brief prayer and asking Him to come into my life? There are things that... if I dropped stone dead in 12 seconds from now... I'm pleased to report that I did not... but if I had... I'd have gone with all of the obstacles (some of which seem wholly insurmountable at this time, and have been so for a long time), all of the sins still on my head and no way to even attempt to repent or turn away from them, and... that idea is beginning to scare me, whereas not that long ago I was all but certain that it didn't matter. In other words, I'm coming to believe that I have been completely wrong in my beliefs and/or knowledge of the past few years."

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"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."  --Proverbs 1:7

This is sooooo true!  One of the most--if not the most--terrifying, exhilarating, ominous, portentous, profound, thrilling moments in a person's life . . . is that time . . . when you deeply, truly begin to grasp and appreciate the dire, awful, hopeless situation you are in (by and of yourself.)

Paramount in this moment is the dawning realization of just how serious sin is and how thoroughly hopelessly (by yourself)  bound to sin you are and have been all your life.

There are many videos of this--open air preachers on the streets engaging people asking folks, "Do you think you are a good person?" . . . and in almost every single case, the person replies "yes."

Then follows, "do you think you are going to Heaven?"  . . . with the typical reply, "I think so . . . I hope so . . . yeah, I'm a pretty good person. . . ."

The Bible teaches that NONE of us are "good persons!" 

In those preaching encounters, the evangelist then walks the person through "the law" . . . to see, if indeed, according to GOD'S standard . . . they really are a "good person."

Have you EVER lied?  Yes.  That makes you a liar.  The Bible says "all liars shall have their place in the lake of fire."

Have you EVER stolen anything, even if it was small--seemingly insignificant?  Yes.  The Bible says, no thief can enter Heaven.

And so on. . . . And, in fact, most people have broken all of the ten commandments, which are God's standard for righteousness.  But what about "murder" you might ask?

Well, the Bible teaches that to even hate--to have hateful thoughts towards another person--is a murder.  "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."  --1 John 3:15

Jesus taught that it is not enough to avoid the physical act of lust and adultery . . . but that merely the thoughts of such acts are just as bad!  And do you "love God with all your heart, soul and strength?  No.  Do you love your "neighbor" as much as yourself?  No.

Then there are the specific sins we know we have committed in our own lives, besides these more general categories. . . . And most of all, when the Holy Spirit begins to awaken your dead conscience, you start to realize how all of these things boil down to a deep, pernicious love of self and permeating pride from which you operate.  It is an awful, devastating realization . . . during what I have called "the great dressing down" . . . when God shakes you, puts a mirror up, so that finally, for once, you sincerely see just what a wretched fool and hypocrite you have been.  God's standard is absolute perfection and holiness.  And the gravity of the situation is in WHO you have offended in all this.  It is not just the neighbor, the spouse, the friend, the magistrate, the mother or father--another creature.
No, it is GOD--the One who made you, gave you life, gives you air, food, a beating heart, a brain--everything! . . . and you have ignored Him, taken Him for granted, blasphemed His Name, hated His other children created in His image . . . and so on; probably never once or maybe barely here and there giving Him some faint thanks or vague recognition.

Meanwhile, eternal life hangs in the balance.  Because He is perfectly holy . . . and perfectly JUST . . . He cannot and will not abide with sin forever.  It must be punished. Justice must be served.  We are told by Paul that: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. . . ."

So, yes . . . it SHOULD scare you!  AND . . . this is a righteous fear, appropriate . . . and the beginning of wisdom!

God is also merciful.  None of us deserve anything but the fires of Hell--for our offenses against the Creator are abominable, damnable.  There is NO good in us, in our "natural" fallen selves.  "There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God."  --Rom. 3:11

But the Good Shepard seeks His lost sheep . . . and He says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. . . ." --John 10:27

Now, when you start to feel the weight of the situation . . . and understand just how far off the mark you have been, the burden of your sins against God can seem insurmountable.  And don't worry, the devil will chime in and try to convince you that they are!  "God doesn't love you.  God doesn't want someone like you!  You have done too much bad, been too neglectful . . . give up hope, you are a goner!"  he whispers (or shouts) into your mind. . . .

But listen here. . . . You can't out-sin God!  It is precisely because you are a hopeless, rebellious, unworthy, God-hating sinner . . . that you need a Godly Savior!  And why He sent One! . . . to take upon Himself ALL of the sins of the world--taking the punishment WE deserved, making Himself lowly, poor, abused, beaten, mocked, crucified--a sacrifice . . . on our behalf!

The Apostle Paul, who wrote nearly half of the whole New Testament . . . and is considered the greatest of Christian missionaries . . . started out as a strict Jew . . . who hated Christians, vowed to destroy the early church . . . hunted, tormented and participated in the killing of the first of Jesus' followers.  There are countless examples of Believers who once were murderers, rapists, blasphemers, tyrants and mockers . . . who came to faith, got saved, and became selfless, saintly preachers of the Gospel.  Indeed, one of the most powerful arguments FOR the Christian faith . . . is its ability to change lives!  To transform carnal, rebellious, prideful, lustful, cheating, lying, murderous thieves and adulterers . . . into people-loving, God-loving, honest, faithful, selfless servants of truth and righteousness!  It is an astounding thing to witness and there are many, many examples to be found all through history to current times.

First, however, a person must be convicted . . . by the law . . . and by how short they have fallen from God's standards.  You come to the point when the Spirit awakens your stone heart and dead conscience--the first signs of real life, actually . . . and the dawning knowledge that . . . you need Someone to save you, rescue you from darkness, from inevitable death . . . and damnation, which you fully deserve.

What to do next?  How to proceed from here?  Many a "false convert" is made at this point, when false teachers appear saying all you need to do is recite some formulaic prayer, as if there were a magic set of words that you only have to speak, and then the thing is done, you are saved.

No, there is more to it than that, God forbid!  And that . . . I will get to next.  But it is pointless to proceed until you have really come to that broken, contrite, humiliated place where you no longer are fooling yourself that you are a relatively "good person."  Or, on the other hand, that you continue to disbelieve that there IS a way from where you are . . . to salvation and being made whole in Christ.  Often, a subtle form of pride persists in thinking oneself BEYOND God's grace and mercy.  "I am just too far gone, too bad, God would not save me. . . ."  This too shows ongoing unbelief and stubbornness, lack of humility, though couched in self-loathing.

In Acts 16:30-31, the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas: “ . . . ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved . . . .’ ”

It really does come down to believing.  Must you be 100% sure that Jesus is Who He said He was?  No, not at this point.  Otherwise it would not be "believing" . . . it would be "knowledge."  There is bound to be a certain "leap of faith."  You have seen enough, thought enough, determined enough of the situation to believe . . . that Jesus Christ is Lord . . . and THE only way to God.

I did that.  I got the "great dressing down" where God showed me my real condition--my love of self, hypocrisy, fraudulence in claiming to love Him above all.  The preponderance of the evidence at that time I leaned on--the historicity of the Bible, it's prophetic proofs . . . and how it had always only been when I put myself under Jesus, that my character ever really, truly changed.  And so, I leapt, deciding to believe and go forward in following Him and His Word.  In time, after, the proof in my life and in the lives of others I have witnessed changing . . . my faith has grown strong . . . to where I can reasonably say I have no doubt now . . . and that early "belief" has turned into full and powerful "knowledge"! 

But more on this shortly . . . as to "how to proceed" . . . .

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