Friday, January 21, 2011

Reflections for January 21, 2011

"Spiritual Checkup"

Few people look forward to their annual physical. Who wants to be poked, stuck, probed and interrogated? To make matters worse, you have to pay several hundred dollars to have it done. I do it, not because I want to do it, but because I know that it may well save me from something worse than the physical.

When it is all over, the doctor tells me what I need to do. In my case the advice given generally has something to do with food. My doctor has yet to tell me that a large plate of BBQ ribs with a large side of fries is good for me. Even worse, he has never told me that the calcium in the half a gallon (Yes, I mean a half of a gallon.) of ice cream that I would love to eat every night would help build my bones. Rarely, do I hear what I want to hear. Once I receive all the information, it belongs to me and I must choose whether I will heed it or ignore it. If I ignore it and the results are bad for me, the blame is on me.

The Apostle Paul writes about another type of examine in II Corinthians 13:5. His recommended examine is not of the physical kind but rather, of the spiritual kind. He wrote, “Test yourself to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you __ unless indeed you fail the test” (NASB)?

Paul doesn’t give specific tests to conduct but he does make clear that our examination should show evidence of the presence of Christ in our life. Rather, than giving a long list of things to observe, let me suggest three questions that would be helpful for you determine your spiritual welbeing. One, do you have an active prayer life or do you only pray when there is an emergency? Two, do you have a desire to know more about God’s Word or does it join the other coffee table books that you may have to decorate your table? Three, do you have a desire to be around others of like faith and to share in the fellowship of the body, the Church, or do you claim that you can do better going it alone? If your answer to these questions is never, rarely or only in times of great need, you may need to give more attention to your spiritual health, because God is clear that each one of these things is essential to the spiritual well-being of believers.

We can see these things prescribed plainly in God’s Word. I Thessalonians 5:17 reads, “pray without ceasing” (NASB). II Timothy 3:16 reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work ”(NASB). Hebrews 10:23-25 reads, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (NASB).

This brings us to the same point I find myself when I go for my annual physical. I am faced with a decision to heed the doctor’s directions or to ignore them. God has clearly given His directions and we face the choice of following them or ignoring them. To ignore them is to choose to go through life without the full spiritual vitality that He desires for us to have. One choice leads to frustration; the other leads to the fullness of life that God promises in His Word. The choice is ours.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reflections for January 7, 2011

"Return To Our First Love"

In chapters two and three in the Book of Revelation the Apostle John writes to the seven churches of Asia Minor. He first addresses the church in Ephesus. He commended it for carrying on its work in the face of great difficulties, for rejecting false teachers, for speaking against sin, and for not growing weary. It was loyal in its practices and doctrines and, like most or our churches today, it thought it was a church with which God would be pleased.

Following his commendations John pointed out one major complaint. It is found in Revelation 2:4. It is a complaint that all of our churches should heed. John wrote, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love" (NASB). What was John saying? He was saying that they had become so mechanical in their motions that they had lost the miraculous devotion that they had experienced when Jesus Christ first became real to them. They had become caught up in their rituals and they had lost sight of the reality of the relationship that they had experienced with the One who made it all possible.

Does this sound like any church that you know? I think we would have to agree that many churches are so caught up in budget, programs, image, and hundreds of other things that they do not have energy left to simply bask in the good news of the Gospel. It is not that churches are doing the wrong things. It is that they are too often not doing the main thing. We would be wise to learn from the Shorter Catechisms derived from the Westminster Confession of Faith. In answer to the question, what is the chief end of man, it says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

When was the last time you glorified and enjoyed the person of Jesus Christ? Most of us have been so busy doing the business of the Church that we have not had any energy left to really enjoy the blessings of the church. Consequently, we have not fully enjoyed the peace, joy and abundance that He wishes us to have.

The good news is that John gives us a solution to this dilemma in the next verse. He wrote, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first” (NASB5a). You could call this the “3R’s” of restoring the joy of our salvation. First, we need to remember the joy and excitement we felt when Christ first became real to us and we invited Him into our hearts to be our Savior and Lord. Second, we need to repent of becoming too busy to have time to spend in developing our personal relationship with Him. Third, we need to return to the things we were doing at the beginning of the relationship. We need to devote ourselves to private time for reading the Word, praising God for our blessings, and praying privately to Him about all of our needs.

Imagine if every church followed John’s instructions to remember, repent and return to the way things were spiritually in the beginning. For to happen, it must start somewhere . We may not be able to speak for our entire church, but each one of us can speak for himself or herself. If enough of us would follow John’s admonition to remember, repent and return, we could revolutionize our churches. Sounds like an exciting way to start a New Year.