How Will They Remember Me?

“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (I Corinthians 10:21)

If you look up the word “consistency” in a dictionary, you will find this definition: “agreement or harmony in parts of different things.” One of the words that should be used to describe our lives as Christians is the word “consistent.” Our walk and our talk ought to match. I have found that people tend to remember what we do more than what we say. Here’s an example.

Bartholomew Roberts was an old-time sea captain, but he didn’t exactly fit the image of a hard drinking, swearing old-salt.

Roberts believed in worship. Every Sunday, he held worship services on his ship. He didn’t allow drunkenness on his ship and he closely regulated the hours the men could drink alcohol. Roberts himself only drank tea. He also didn’t allow gambling on board the ship. The men were never allowed to smuggle women on board. Any member of Roberts’ crew caught in such immoral behavior would be hung. Lights were out at 8:00 PM.

I forgot to tell you one important thing about Bartholomew Roberts. He was a pirate. During his “distinguished” career, he captured over 400 ships. He was one of the most feared pirates in history. Now to be a good pirate, you need a good pirate name. Bartholomew Roberts doesn’t sound much like a pirate, but “Black Bart” sure does!

“Black Bart” is not remembered for his high moral standards. He is remembered as an outlaw, a pirate. His lifestyle was inconsistent.

I was just thinking about this last night — how will people remember me? I’m especially interested in how those people who know me the best will remember me. I want to make sure that Edna, Danielle and Dustin will be able to say that my walk matched my talk. I want what I have said to match what I have done.

FYI

Over the last few months since I began writing this blog, we have had visitors from many states and from all over the world. Our latest regular readers are Don and Mary Kumaraperu from MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA! I met this wonderful couple recently while they were visiting family here in the states. G’Day Don and Mary and welcome!

Welcome to all who are reading the blog. Your emails and comments are a wonderful source of encouragement to me and I appreciate you taking the time to read and share my thoughts with others. 

3rd Rock From the Sun

“O Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions.” (Psalm 104:24)

In a prestigious argument, a surgeon, and architect, and a politician debated over whose profession was the oldest. The surgeon boasted, “Eve was made from Adam’s rib. That was surgery!” “Maybe so,” said the architect, “but before that, order was created from chaos, and that was the work of an architect.” The politician quickly saw his cue and said, “But who do you think created the chaos?!”

Have you ever thought about just how wonderful and wise God was when He created this little ball upon which you and I live? It was, according to the Scripture, created out of NOTHING! Certainly sin has clouded even nature so we often don’t think about the marvelous design of our little planet, but let me share a little information I came across recently that reminded me of just how special earth is.

Our planet earth rotates on its axis at approximately 1000 miles per hour. If that had been 100 miles per hour, our days and nights would be 10 times longer, and our planet would alternately burn and freeze. Under those conditions there would be no living vegetation.

If the earth was as small as the moon, the power of gravity would be too weak to retain sufficient atmosphere for us to live. If the earth were as large as Jupiter or Saturn, there would be too much gravity and human movement would be practically impossible. If we were as close to the sun as Venus, the heat would be unbearable. If we were as far away as Mars, we would have snow and ice every night even in the hottest regions of the planet. If the oceans were half their present size, we would receive only one-fourth the rainfall we do now.

Water freezes at 32 degrees. Suppose the oceans were subject to that law. The amount of thawing in the polar regions would not balance out, and ice would accumulate throughout the centuries. To prevent that from happening, God put salt in the ocean to alter its freezing point.

All I can say is WOW! This place is amazing!!! Wouldn’t you agree? You can learn many more interesting facts about the earth by visiting the Institute for Creation Research (www.icr.org). There are all kinds of interesting information about our wonderful planet.

All these facts about Earth point directly to the Creator God and His wisdom in creation. That is exactly what the Bible says — “in wisdom You have made them all!” Praise the Lord today for the fact that the laws of nature are controlled by the wise God of the universe.

Have a great day.

Thy WILL Be Done…

“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

In my 30 years of ministry, one of the most common questions I get from people has been this — “How can I know the will of God for my life?” Sometimes it may be phrased, “Pastor, does God have a plan for my life?” If you have ever wondered about those things, then I KNOW what God’s will is for you right now — READ THE REST OF THIS BLOG!

First, I believe God definitely has a will for our lives. In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul said, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk — not as unwise people but as wise — making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Paul clearly says that wise walkers understand God’s will and unwise walkers (foolish) don’t understand it. So I want to be someone who “walks wisely.”

Second, we need to understand that phrase “God’s will.” Whenever you see that in the Bible, it means one of three things.

It may be referring to God’s Providential Will. You will often hear that referred to as “the sovereign will of God.” This is the will of God that is unchangeable — it overrides all human decisions. Certain things are going to happen, and nobody can change that. An example is the death of Christ on the cross. In the Gospels, you find that Jesus’ enemies often desired to kill him, but they never were successful. Why? Because God’s will was for Jesus to die on the cross and that is exactly what He did.

Other times, the phrase “the will of God” might refer to God’s Moral Will. We refer to this as the absolutes of God’s will. There are certain things that are always right or wrong — in every place on the globe, in every circumstance, at all times. The best example of this are the Ten Commandments. It is and always has been and always will be wrong to lie, steal, commit adultery or covet somebody else’s stuff. Our morality is not left to chance or popular vote — God’s Word clearly establishes what is right and what is wrong. There isn’t as much “gray” as many people would like for us to believe.

Finally, there is God’s Personal Will. This is the one we have the most questions about. What does God want ME to do? Do I take this job or not? Do I date this person or not? Do I go to this college or not? These are all things that I wish were spelled out in Scripture, but they aren’t.

“Pastor Keith — how then do I know God’s personal will for me?” First, I KNOW that it is God’s will for us to seek to be “in” His will. The unhappiest person in the world is not a lost person — it is a saved person who is living outside the will of God. The other thing I know about God’s personal will is this…God has given me definite instructions on how to make good choices in my life so that I can be confident that I am doing His will.

My “life verse” is Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not only your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” To understand God’s will for my life, I have to do two things and not do one thing.

It says I am to “trust the Lord with all my heart.” God only reveals His personal will to us when we fully trust Him. That means I must have a personal relationship with Him. And the only way I can have a personal relationship with God is through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Once I have that relationship, I can trust God completely for my life.

You see, the biggest problem I have (and I bet you are the same way) is not in FINDING God’s will — it is DOING God’s will. (Can I get an amen from the congregation?) Many times in my own life, I have said “Lord, what do You want me to do?” He says, “Keith, will you DO what I want you to do?” Then I say — “Well, tell me what it is and then I’ll answer.” He says, “Nope — you answer THEN I will tell you what it is.” God will not reveal His will to us until we are completely committed to Him. We must be willing to DO whatever He asks before He even tells us what it is. 

So, first I have to trust Him with all my heart. Next, I can’t “lean on my own understanding.” Do you know what God says to me MOST often? “Keith — STOP trying to figure out everything on your own.” The first question I often ask myself is this, “Self, what do YOU think I should do?” STOP THAT! I can’t rely on logic or how I feel in order to make decisions in my life. I can’t trust my feelings. My first plan of attack is to look to God and say, “Lord, what do YOU want me to do?”

Finally, those verses (Proverbs 3:5-6) tell me “to acknowledge Him in all our ways.” That means I am to focus on God and follow Him. When I do that — the Bible says “He will direct my path.”

I can only know God’s PERSONAL will for me if I am following His PROVIDENTIAL and MORAL will. There is enough stuff in the Bible that I do understand that I don’t have to worry about what I don’t understand. In other words — if I will just do what I know I’m supposed to be doing — God will begin to reveal other things to me that I need to do. God is never going to reveal His unknown will to me unless I am doing His KNOWN will. You find God’s KNOWN will by reading the Bible. 

God has not given me a crystal ball that I can look in to discern His will for my life. I have something better! I have His written Word.  In that Word — I have all the tools I will ever need to be able to do exactly what God wants me to do.

Remember…our problem is not KNOWING God’s will — it is DOING it! Get busy doing what you know He wants you to do today.

One Day At A Time

EXCELLENT post for anyone going through a trial in life or just going through life in general!

Unshakable Hope

At the beginning of this trial, so many people, mostly long-time Christians, would advise me to “Just take one day at a time.” I’m sure that every one of these wise people thought they were the first to give me this sage advice. Of course, I always acted as if they were the first to give me that advice and I politely thanked them. (If you are one of those that offered me this advice 16+ years ago, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that a hundred people already gave me that same advice).

To be honest, even though a hundred people repeated this “Take one day at a time” cliché to me, I really didn’t understand at that time exactly what it meant. Like so many clichés, I think people throw them out to fill dead air space in awkward moments when they have nothing else to say. But…

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Results Driven vs. Obedience Driven

“So Naaman went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, according to the command of the man of God. Then his skin was restored and became like the skin of a small boy, and he was clean.” (II Kings 5:14)

According to II Kings 5:1, Naaman (whose name means “pleasant”), was the commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was “a great man in his master’s sight and highly regarded.” But he also was a leper.

One of the servants of Naaman’s wife was from Israel and she knew about the ministry of Elisha the prophet. This young girl was not ashamed of her faith in Jehovah God and she shared with Naaman’s wife about Elisha. At this point in his life, Naaman was willing to try anything, so he got permission from the King of Aram and set out to find Elisha.

When Naaman arrived to meet Elisha, the prophet didn’t even bother to go out and talk to him. Naaman wasn’t impressed with that at all. Didn’t Elisha KNOW who he was? It’s not the Elisha didn’t know who he was — Elisha didn’t care who he was. Elisha wanted Naaman to understand that if a miracle was going to take place, it would because God chose to do the work. God is completely in charge of this encounter.

Elisha made sure that Naaman didn’t design his own cure. He truly wanted Naaman to understand that God would prescribe what He wanted and He could do whatever He wanted. God’s cure for Naaman was to wash seven times in the muddy Jordan river. Verse 11 says that Naaman got angry. Surely someone of his reputation and stature was not going to get in that nasty water. But that was God’s cure. Naaman protested saying that the rivers of Damascus were better than the Jordan — but God had spoken. 

You know that finally, Naaman went down to the Jordan and did as God commanded. Seven times he dipped himself into the water. The amazing miracle included not only stopping the inevitable progress of Naaman’s disease but actually restoring the flesh the disease had already eaten away and removing all the symptoms. The Bible says that Naaman’s skin became like that of a small child.

There are a couple of important lessons I want to encourage you with from this story.

First, the people that I meet in this world want to do things their way. They want salvation to come according to their prescription. And yet, God has said, “If you experience the miracle of new birth, you must come MY WAY.” The simple plan of God is for ALL sinners to wash in the blood of Jesus Christ and receive by faith the eternal life He offers. Many people refuse to do that. Many people are still lost.

Second, the simple method of Naaman’s miracle — without the prophet Elisha even present — made sure that the only credit would go to God. Naaman couldn’t go home and say that Elisha had healed him. Elisha didn’t come out and say some magical incantation over Naaman. II Kings 5:11 says that is what Naaman had expected. But this miracle came from God. Because it was so obvious, verse 15 says, “Then Naaman and his whole company went back to the man of God, stood before him and declared, ‘I know there’s no God in the whole world except in Israel.” He offered Elisha a gift, but Elisha refused. God alone got the credit for this miracle!

I’ve always been curious as to what happened to the little servant girl who first told Naaman about Elisha. I wonder if she got some kind of reward when Naaman got home. We don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that this girl did what God wanted her to do. She was faithful to her God — even in difficult circumstances.

We live in a society that is results driven. We want to know the outcome before we perform the actions. We want a detailed report on what is going to happen before we make any commitment to an action plan. God doesn’t always work that way. In fact, He works just the opposite. If you are saved, God is not results driven but obedience driven. We say, “I won’t believe it until I see it.” God says, “You won’t see it until you believe.”

This statement is written in my Bible and I quote it often. Dr. Charles Stanley says, “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.” You see, when we are obedient, God gets the glory. When I am obedient, I am submitting myself to God’s will and God’s way. And I can tell you this from experience — God’s will for me is what I would want for myself if I had sense enough to want it!

Naaman learned that lesson. Just obey God — even if He tells you to do something that seems unreasonable to you (like dipping in the nasty Jordan river). Just do it. 

 

Excusitus…

“He also brought them out with silver and gold, and there was none feeble among His tribes.” (Psalm 105:37)

I LOVE this verse of Scripture. If you go back and read all of Psalm 105, you will see that the Psalmist was talking about the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt. I have read estimates that there were over 2 million people included in the exodus of Israel from Egypt. Isn’t it interesting then that among that vast multitude of people the Bible says “there was none feeble among His tribes”? No matter how young or how old, they were all healthy enough to join that great victorious throng headed for the Promised Land.

“OK Pastor — interesting point. But what does this have to do with the new word you seemed to have invented in the title of this little message?”

Thanks for asking. I’m getting to that.

I don’t think the modern church member could be described the way the people of God in the Exodus were described. Let me explain. We spend a great majority of our time in ministry nursing church members who have what I call “chronic spiritual weaknesses.” Perhaps a better term for this malady is EXCUSITUS.

“Pastor Keith, I’m so sorry I couldn’t come to church yesterday morning, but I had a scratchy throat.” “Pastor Keith, I’m sorry I just can’t join in the outreach for the church because I have this sore foot and it’s all I can do to walk up and down the aisles at Wal-Mart.” “Preacher Keith, I would just love to come to prayer meeting, but my knees are so weak that I just can’t kneel and pray any more — so I’ll just stay home.”

The devil must be shouting happy at the number of spiritual invalids in churches today. Remember this little definition. An excuse is nothing more than the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. In other words, our problem is not I CAN’T — it’s I WON’T. When I was a teenager and started dating Edna, if I couldn’t go to church on Sunday, I couldn’t go to Edna’s Sunday afternoon. Same principle should be applied today. If I can go to Wal-Mart Sunday afternoon, then I could have come to church Sunday morning. Our problem is not I can’t — it’s I won’t.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie that illustrates this point…

To make it possible for everyone to attend church next Sunday, we are going to have a special “No Excuse Sunday.”

Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep.”

We will have steel hetmets for those who say, “the roof will cave in if I ever come to church.”

Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold and fans for those who think the church is too hot.

We will have hearng aids for those who think the preacher speaks too softly and cotton for those who think he preaches too loudly.

Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present.

Some relatives will be in attendance for those who like to go visiting on Sunday.

There will be T.V. dinners for those who can’t go to church and cook dinner also.

One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to see God in nature.

Finally, the sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who have never seen the church without them.

Fortunately for all of us, there is a cure for EXCUSITUS. If you and I will simply allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives, we will not be feeble and excuses but we will live victorious lives for Jesus Christ. Commit your life to Him fully today.

Looking but not Seeing…

“So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:18)

I don’t know why I even use the phrase “Now I’ve seen it all” any more. Just when I think I have seen it all — something else comes along and causes me to once again scratch my head in wonderment.

I’m continually amazed at the things that seem to impress the American public. Oh, before I forget, congratulations to William and Kate on the birth of their new baby boy. We all wait with baited breath to hear his name, see his little hands and feet and hear him cry in that wonderful little British accent. OK, I’m being just a bit sarcastic but the media had me convinced this morning that all the news of the world absolutely stopped because of the birth of this baby. I thought we fought a war many years ago so we wouldn’t have to have a King or Queen in the colonies. Silly me…

I saw something else even more disturbing. I read about a couple who recently won one million dollars in their state lottery. To read the story in the paper, you would have thought these two had discovered the cure to cancer! It was quite interesting to hear what they planned to do with their winnings. Immediately after the press conference, they were going to Wal-Mart and buy a $1000 gift card and then they were going to Big Lots and buy another $1000 gift card.

Impressive — right?

This is not a devotion on the evils of the lottery. You know my position there. I believe that the lottery is a tax on the ignorant.

No, as I read about this man and his wife and their love for Wal-Mart and Big Lots, and as I continue to see wall-to-wall coverage of the royal baby, I am reminded how wealth and fame seem so very important to us. Ask any young person who his/her hero is and you most likely will get the name of some “famous” individual. Nine times out of ten, that fame will have been achieved through the accumulation of material wealth of some sort.

It’s sad that we have never learned the truth of today’s verse. Paul says that all the material things we hold so dear are merely temporal. They will not last. Just think about it. The very best the world has to offer is here today and gone tomorrow.

We seem to spend our entire lives accumulating more and more stuff we don’t need in an attempt to impress people we don’t even know or like! The philosophy of life for many people is “Get all you can; can all you get; then sit on the lid and poison the rest!” It seems as though we have missed the point.

Instead of focusing our attention on the temporal, Paul encourages us to focus on the eternal. The luster of earthly possessions passes away — quickly. The values of this world are inflated. Only those things that have an eternal impact will last. Those are the things that need to claim our attention.

If you truly want to impact your world, concern yourself with the souls of men, women, boys and girls instead of all the “stuff” you can acquire. Christina Onasis was quoted as having said, “Happiness is not based on money. And the best proof of that is our family.”

If you truly want to impact your world, look beyond the material and look to those things that will last forever.

 

IT’S HOT!

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)

NEWS FLASH — IT’S HOT!!!

I guess I shouldn’t complain — it’s summer and it’s supposed to be hot, but this humidity and heat are starting to get to me! Now I’m not one who believes all this stuff about global warming, but I do think it’s hotter than it used to be. When I was a child in Potecasi, NC — we didn’t have air conditioning in our house. We slept with the windows open — even in July and August! When we rode in the car, we rode with the windows down — our hair flying in the breeze. But then, I grew up and got air conditioning! My environment changed. Now I can hardly stand to run from my air conditioned office to my air conditioned car to get to my air conditioned house.

It’s so hot out there! I truly don’t know how I ever made it without air conditioning. I can’t imagine having to sleep through the night with the windows open in July. I’d absolutely die — I just know I would.

“OK, Pastor Keith. We know — it’s hot. We are all hot. Please stop complaining.”

Keep reading my toasty little friends — I’m making a point here.

When you get accustomed to a new environment, the old way just doesn’t seem comfortable any more. When I got used to air conditioned cars and houses — I couldn’t imagine going back to the old way.

“Ohhhhhhhhh. Now I’m staring to see what you are getting at Pastor. The Christian life is like living in the air conditioning.”

Well…sort of. Keep reading. I think it’s a little deeper than that.

Before you got saved, you did all kinds of things that you thought were fun and exciting. But after you confessed your sins, repented and placed your faith in Christ, those things just weren’t fun any more. Maybe even your unsaved friends wonder why you don’t like to do the stuff you used to do. How many times have I heard somebody say, “Poor, poor Keith. He’s got religion and it won’t let him have any fun any more.” Well, that’s just not true! In reality, I live in a NEW ENVIRONMENT and my life in Christ is more fun than anything I ever did before I got saved.

In I Peter 4:4, Peter writes, “So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living — and they slander you.” That’s what happens when you get saved. Those folks who aren’t saved just don’t seem to understand how you can be so happy even though you don’t do the same stuff or go to the same places you used to go.

Here’s my question for you today. What kind of life are you enjoying? If you feel comfortable in the ungodly, profane places of the world, maybe you have never really been transformed by the grace and power of God. You see, once you experience the true fellowship of Jesus Christ and one the Holy Spirit comes to live in your heart, your environment changes. That old life just doesn’t seem to appeal to you any more. You are a new creature in Christ — the old stuff is gone! 

Let’s enjoy the sweet fellowship of a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Have FUN in Him!

 

Make Up Your Mind

“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” (Daniel 1:8)

When I read the book of Daniel, I think about how utterly frightening it would be to be taken to a completely foreign land — far from your family and everything that is familiar to you. But that is exactly what happened to Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and took God’s people to Babylon. It is likely that Daniel was just a teenaged boy when this happened.

The great thing about Daniel however is that his life remained in balance because he had a spiritual foundation that kept him on the right path. Daniel had an amazingly strong commitment to the Lord.

Regardless of your age today, think about this. Our lives are made up of a series of decisions. We live on the basis of the decisions we make every day. What you and I are today is the result of decisions we have made in the past. What we will be tomorrow will be determined by the decisions we make today.

Our verse today (Daniel 1:8) says that “Daniel made up his mind.” All REAL decisions begin right there. Daniel’s captors could change where he lived, they could change his diet, they could even change his name — but they could not change his heart and mind. What you and I are in our heart is what we are and nobody can change that unless we allow them.

I started thinking about this yesterday when I saw a “tweet” from Dr. Leo Percer, seminary professor at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, VA. Leo said, “If you want to know what is important to a leader, listen to what he talks about the most. Out of the heart the mouth speaks.”

What do you talk about? What is deep down in your heart? Whatever it is — it will manifest itself in the way you speak and the way you act. When people think about you, do they immediately think of someone who is encouraging or someone who is always complaining? When they see an email in their inbox from you, do they look forward to reading your words or do they roll their eyes because they know you have another critical comment to share? By the way — being critical of others is NOT a spiritual gift.

Daniel made a decision between himself and the Lord. He was under tremendous pressure from the culture, but Daniel made up his mind to stick with the Lord. Daniel made this decision and commitment BEFORE Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem. 

Our young people today are living in a world where there is little or no respect for the authority of God’s Word. They are under constant pressure to make decisions every day that are contrary to what the Bible teaches. We MUST pray for them — daily! Pray that God would help them make wise choices based on the teachings found in the Bible. Pray that they will remember the commitments they have made BEFORE the trouble comes. 

As adults, we are also under pressure to conform to the worldly standard. But my friend — as a Christian — we are to be ruled by a different standard. No matter what the world says, the thing that ought to matter to us is what God says. I don’t get my standards from opinion polls — I get them from God’s Word. I don’t care what the majority says — I only care what “thus saith the Lord!”

Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee said, “Our culture declares that people are expendable and disposable. We treat others with coarse and harsh contempt. And then, we act shocked at the murder rate. We don’t need a race summit. We need a Grace summit. And God is still in the Grace business.” Christians should be leading the way in this Grace Summit! When we make the decision to display grace to others and when we determine in our hearts to follow God’s way rather than the world’s way — hearts and lives will be influenced and changed for the Gospel.

The generation in which we live shows an alarming ability to blur the line between right and wrong. Recent surveys indicate that Christians and non-Christians differ very little in the way they make decisions and what they believe. That is beyond sad. It is tragic.

Perhaps you will be called upon to take a Daniel-like stand. We need to pray for Daniel-like strength. Let’s pray for one another that God will help us make up our minds AHEAD OF TIME to honor God — no matter what the world says!

Raised From the Dead…But Not Left In the Graveyard!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

When I got saved (by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone — for the record), I was raised from the dead BUT thankfully not left in the graveyard! Look at our verses for today and I’ll try to explain.

Too many people today want to focus all our attention on “sinful man.” We are horrible, low-down, dirty, rotten sinners — AMEN! We are. But salvation is not about US — it is about GOD. Jonah 2:9 says, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Understanding our condition as sinners means that we understand that we are incapable of doing anything to earn or merit our salvation — it is totally from God. I get this…I really do.

When I read Ephesians 2:4-7 — I see a distinct shift from an emphasis on what I can’t do to an emphasis on what He has DONE. (I’m about to have a shouting fit right here!) Salvation is an action performed by God on my behalf in order to save me from the consequences of my sin. And look how it begins. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…” GOD LOVES US! God’s love is demonstrated to us in mercy and grace in salvation. But it gets better.

“even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” — That’s where I see that when I was raised from the dead — I wasn’t left in the graveyard! God MADE ME ALIVE with Christ. God didn’t back away from me even when I was dead in my sins. These verses tell me that God loved me when I was dead in my transgressions. Paul almost seemed astonished by that thought — He loved us EVEN when we were dead.

What do we do with dead people? That’s right — we bury them. We have no other solution to the problem of death. You can give a corpse a bath and dress him up in nice clothes and maybe even preserve him through the embalming process. You might even decide to put that corpse in a glass case on display in your home — BUT HE IS STILL DEAD. 

These verses remind me that God is not affected by that condition. By His grace (because of His great love), He made me ALIVE because Christ paid the debt for my sin on the cross. Death no longer has any hold on my life. Grave and mercy won the victory over sin and the grave. God reached down into the corruption of my sinful life and resurrected me by His grace. (Are you shouting yet? You should be!)

Paul then says that we are “seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” “Wait a minute Pastor — I gotcha there. I’m still here on the crummy sinful earth.” Physically you are correct. But Paul says that because we are IN CHRIST, when God looks at you and me, He sees Jesus! No matter how or when God looks at us, He sees His Son. God has raised us from the dead and seated us on the throne — all because of Jesus!

Christianity is not about do — it is about DONE! You can’t DO anything because God already has DONE everything.

Let me share a story to wrap this up.

Many years ago in Paris, a young woman overheard her sisters laughing and she asked the what they were laughing about. They told her that there was a strange man who had come from England preaching what he called “the Gospel.” They said, “When he rants away in English, one of the French pastors has to interpret for him. It’s just ridiculous, but everyone is talking about it; so we’re going to hear him.” After they left, this woman felt an indescribable urge to attend the meeting. Arriving late, she found that the only vacant seat was in the front row. As the hymns were sung and prayers offered, her soul was deeply moved. Coming to the platform was a young preacher by the name of Charles Spurgeon. The woman said he looked directly at her and began to speak. In the course of his message, these words repeated by the interpreter struck like an arrow of conviction into her heart: “Poor sinner, God loves you!”

As Spurgeon preached the Gospel message, the woman said that it seemed her whole life passed before her. It was a loveless, Christ-less existence. She said, “Those words kept ringing in my ears, ‘Poor sinner, God loves you!'” She left the meeting that evening with those words still in her head and heart. When she got home, she knelt by her bed and prayed to receive Christ as her Lord and Savior. She got up a changed woman, born again and rejoicing her new-found faith in Christ.

Thanks to a “ranting English preacher” who was unashamed to preach the Gospel, this woman was brought to faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that as I continue in ministry for the remaining days God gives to me — I will remind people that through Christ, we can be raised from the dead — but we will never be left in the graveyard!