Come To the Light

shinning candle in dark

We all can recite John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Within the bigger context, John is drawing attention to the fact that Jesus explicitly stated that unless one be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. A person must be born of the water and Spirit and Jesus concludes that “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (vs. 15).

While keeping things in perspective, John reminds us that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (vs. 17). His judgment is that light came into the world but people loved the darkness because their works are evil. Evil people hate the light and love the darkness because light exposes their deeds (vs. 20). This is why people hated Jesus and wanted him dead.

However, “whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (vs. 21). In other words, people who do what is true naturally gravitate toward the light so that the works that are carried out in God can be seen and point others to God. The works that Christians do should always point people to God. Paul was incredibly adamant that people follow him as he followed the example of Christ. Everything he and the disciples did and said was meant to point people to God, and it was always done in the light.

Be Mature In Your Thinking

woman looking at sunset

There is a lot going on in the church today. At first glance, it looks like Christianity is all over the map. For example, there have been recent splits among the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Methodists, to name a few. These are not small splits, either. It is a sign of how radically divided the nation as a whole is, and Christians are no better. The church in Corinth really mirrored a lot of the division we see today. A lot of the same issues emerged then that are dividing the church now–issues over sexuality, spiritual gifts (or non-gifts), which Christian influencers we follow, marriage and divorce issues, and so on.

Paul needed to nip the issues in the bud while there was still a semblance of a church left. In one sentence he sums up how they should get together as the body of Christ: “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20 ESV). Paul warns them not to be children (“childish”) in their thinking. They should be infants in evil, where infants don’t even know what evil is! And they should be mature in their thinking, where they are patient with one another, compassionate, caring, and deeply rooted in the Word.

Just one chapter earlier Paul wrote about the importance of love. Love is patient. It is kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not self-seeking. These are all pointing Christians to mature thinking, something the church at Corinth really needed if it was going to survive. When we model mature thinking, it makes Christ attractive to others. We need to model the bride of Christ in a way that showcases who Jesus is. The church is the bride of Christ and nobody in their right mind wants to get near a bridezilla!

Desire Without Knowledge Is not Good

black pen on opened book beside lit taper candle

There is a proverb that says, “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Proverbs 19:2 ESV). This one verse is important, especially given our theme this year of straining toward the goal. What this proverb means is that desire itself won’t get us to the finish line, even if we desire God. A more literal translation of this verse is: “It is also not good for the soul to be without knowledge, and he who hastens with his feet sins.”

The emphasis is on the soul lacking knowledge from and about God. If the soul lacks knowledge about God, we will hastily pursue dreams and passions that will lead us off the godly path. It can’t be overemphasized how important it is to have the knowledge of God for our souls to not follow our own passions. For example, the preceding verse says, “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool” (vs. 1).

As we saw with Job, integrity matters. Job said, “As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. Far be it from me to say that you are right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me” (Job 27:2-5). Job clearly put the knowledge of God above all else. That was his guiding light, not his own desire.

Gather During Harvest Time

Remember when Jesus prayed for workers because the harvest was plentiful? The lack of workers in the kingdom is an age old problem. Specifically, the church suffers when all hands are not on deck. Proverbs 10:5 ESV says, “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.” This certainly has spiritual implications too. If we are lazy in the field we will be lazy in “God’s Field.” How can we gather up people who are ripe for the harvest if we don’t work?

To quote a dear church member, “We will only rise to the lowest level of expectations.” In other words, if we expect little of each other, nobody will rise beyond those lowest expectations. Who in their right mind will wear themselves out if nobody else is sharing the work load? This is why Jesus expected much out of his disciples. He didn’t give them the best tools to work with and he certainly didn’t line their pockets with money. But he expected them to work, and to work hard!

Paul, when addressing Christian households, says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Colossians 3:23, 24). This is very much in line with what Jesus said about storing up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal. We need to always set the bar high and gather while the harvest is ready. We should be talking to everyone we know about Jesus and gathering them in!

Jesus Came to Call Sinners

words spelled on scrabble tiles

Hosea is an interesting prophet. God told him to take a wife who was unfaithful, which he did. God said, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hosea 1:2 ESV). Throughout the book of Hosea, God shows him what it is like when the Israelites forsake God for other gods. They had turned their back on God even though he loved them as his own bride.

In a strange twist, she leaves Hosea after having children and Hosea is told to take her back and love her. Even though Israel sold herself to the Baals, God reveals His heart for his people: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Jesus quotes this passage when he was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners: “Go and learn, what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

The heart of the gospel is repentance, a theme that is dominant throughout the entire Bible. God’s plea to Israel is to return to him: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hosea 14:1). He makes a promise that he will love his people and will heal their iniquity when they repent. We need to be reminded of God’s mercy for his people. It changes the way we treat “sinner and tax collectors,” the people who God calls to righteousness!

The Gospel Among Samaritans

old building on lawn behind rocks under starry sky

The Samaritans were a very unlikely place for the gospel to be preached. Even though Christ went there in the famous story of meeting the woman at the well, there was still a lot of tension between those in the south and Samaria. There was a very long history with Samaritans where the Jews in the south wouldn’t even step foot inside Samaria. They were considered worse than heretics.

But while Saul was ravaging the church, Philip made a trip to Samaria to preach the word. Once again the Samaritans were receptive, just as they were with Jesus: “And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. . . so there was much joy in that city” (Acts 8:6, 8 ESV). Simon the magician also believed. Interestingly, he had great credibility with the gospel because people had been amazed by him in the past because of his magic.

After being baptized, Simon continued with Philip and was amazed by the signs and wonders. Things took a dramatic turn when he tried to pay Philip for spiritual gifts. Philip rebuked him and told him to repent. He, in fact, did repent and asked Philip to pray for him that God would forgive him. Luke doesn’t record the outcome, but we can assume Philip does so. What happens next speaks to what happens when respected people repent: “Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans” (vs. 25).

The Rich Man and Lazarus

photo of a homeless man sleeping near a cardboard sign

Jesus told a story of a rich man who feasted every day. At his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, who was covered with sores, and who wanted just the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. They both died and Lazarus was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man, however, was in Hades being tormented. He saw Abraham far off and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame” (Luke 16:24 ESV).

Abraham replied, saying that he received good things in his lifetime and Lazarus received bad things. He went on to explain that Lazarus was being comforted and could not pass between the chasm that was between them. Realizing the severity of his circumstance, the rich man said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house–for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (vs. 27, 28). Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”

The rich man still pleaded, saying that if they hear someone from the dead they will repent. In a rather chilling response, Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they by convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (vs. 31). This is a harsh reminder that people here on this earth need to listen to what God commands. After we are dead is too late to repent. God wants everyone to come to him but won’t give a free pass to Heaven. Paul realized the severity of eternal judgment and was determined to strain toward the goal, no matter the cost to him.