Friday, February 24, 2012

Rare Choice, These Days

As the old saying goes, "Ignorance is bliss."

I smiled when I came across this insightful counterpoint from the pen of A.W. Tozer: "I long ago decided that I would rather know the truth than be happy in ignorance. If I cannot have both the truth and happiness, give me truth. We'll have a long time to be happy in heaven."

Hebrews 10:25

"... not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some..."

What an interesting peek into first-century church attendance (!)... then, as now, the flesh cooperated with the enemy to oppose gathering regularly with other believers for worship.
And the flesh is amazingly adroit when it comes to excuses & reasons for staying away---
"I don't get anything out of the sermon." "All the people down there at the church are hypocrites, anyway." "Sunday is the one day I can get everything done I couldn't do all week." "All that preacher talks about is money." "I can worship better in the privacy of my own home, with the televised service." "They don't miss me, nohow." "After what they did, I wouldn't go back there if they begged me!" "I have my radio preachers." "It's just a country club over there." "It's too big." "It's too small." "It's too far." And a multitude more beside these...
These expressions of the flesh, with its selfishness, wounded pride, laziness, and arrogance, work hand-in-glove with the enemy of our soul in his hatred of the assembled saints known as the church.
Why would he bring to bear such incessant pressure against the body of Christ, both from without and from within? Better than we, he knows the spiritual impact in the unseen realm that is unleashed when God's people meet in worship of their sovereign King. Gauging by how much opposition our enemy puts forth, we can be assured the regularly-assembled church does some rather serious damage to his kingdom, and he is not amused.

Is there spiritual warfare going on every time the body of Christ gathers in His Name for corporate worship? Absolutely. Indeed, the enemy is already at work before folks ever leave their homes, seeking to dissuade them from even coming to God's house of worship, lest his kingdom of lost souls sustain even more damage. Were we to catch but a glimpse of that realm on a morning when believers are preparing to gather, how much more diligent we would be to put on the whole armor of God in prayer, with a keener awareness of what's at stake in the heavenlies when the Word goes forth from the pulpit! May the living God of all that is, grant a genuine awakening among His people, restoring a zeal for gathering in His Name faithfully, regularly, joyfully, encouraging one another as the day of His return draws near.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Knowing Now About Then

Some say you can't know. Others say it's arrogance to say you can know. Still others believe God doesn't want you to know. Multiplied millions don't give such knowledge a second thought. And then there are those who not only affirm that it is possible to know, but declare in no uncertain terms that they do know. Now, even (!) Whether with a quiet confidence or an excited rejoicing, they declare that, if they were to die tonight, they know they would, without a shadow of a doubt, go to heaven.

Several questions come to mind when considering this issue:
(A) Does such certainty have a valid biblical basis..? Or is it just whistling in the wind, a lot of wishful thinking for incurable optimists..?
(B) Is assurance of one's salvation all that important..? Does having an inner conviction that one will be in heaven the instant death occurs make any difference in daily living?
(C) A corollary to B: How does this relate to taking God seriously..?

(A) II Cor. 5:8 Paul is expressing heavenly homesickness... he yearns to be with his Lord in all the fullness of God's presence. In the process of these thoughts, he alludes to the truth that, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

John 6:39, 40. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
In an eternal arrangement before time, the Father gave the Son those upon whom He (the Father) had set His heart in unconditional love. The certainty of their salvation is here declared by the Lord Jesus: "I lose nothing." Wonderful assurance... security and grace beyond measure.

(B) Someone has well said that you're not really ready to live unless you're ready to die. Having a God-given confidence of one's destination upon death makes an immeasurable difference in how life is faced on a daily basis. Few verses in Scripture encapsulate this better than Philippians 1:21, where Paul affirms, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Indeed, ONLY when life is Christ-centered, Christ-given, Christ-changed, is death gain. And with the solid assurance that this salvation cannot be lost, forfeited, or snatched away, the believer's daily dependence upon the promises made by the loving Lord provide ongoing joy and ever-deepening peace.

(C) The opposite of faith really isn't doubt... it's unbelief. And to be a Christian, yet refuse to accept the Lord's promises regarding instant entrance into His presence at the moment of death, is to impugn His character and slander His Name. The Lord Jesus said, "if it were not so, I would have told you..." (John 14:2). Taking Him seriously drains death of its dread. It certainly did for Paul: "...when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?' (I Corinthians 15:54, 55).

It is the Lord's desire that His children live daily in obedience to the command to make their calling and election sure. Having such assurance settled deepens the peace that passes all understanding, increases usability, and fosters the joy of the Lord! Praise to Your Name!