There’s an adage often attributed to a “man’s” mentality: “When all else fails, read the instructions.” Why would you read the instructions last? It boils down to the idea that I can do it on my own. I don’t need help from anybody else.
Often, in life, we take that same mentality toward the situations we face. “I’ve got this, I don’t need help.” Unfortunately, that means that we miss out on so much.
Look at the children of Israel. If you know what comes in Exodus 20 (the 10 commandments), Exodus 19 makes a lot more sense. God says, “You have seen what I’ve done for you already, so if you’ll obey me going forward, I will bless you.” The Hebrews respond, “Whatever the Lord says, we will do.”
As we consider the rest of the Old Testament, did they do it? Not at all. They often turned away from God until all else failed, then returned to the One who is always faithful.
In Luke 22, the disciples are told to go prepare the Passover feast. He provides the place, the host, and the elements of the Passover meal. He then gives them the illustration of His body and blood. How quickly do they overlook the importance of what He is telling them? About two verses later, they are arguing about how important they are! They completely neglect the importance of what Jesus has just told them! Peter says, “It’s ok, I’ll always be faithful.” Jesus tells him that before the night is even over, Peter’s faithfulness will have failed.
Job 37 finds Job giving so many facts about why God is trustworthy, and worthy of fear (respect) but the following chapters still find God having to remind Job that Job doesn’t know everything. Sometimes we too waver between knowing God is trustworthy, and thinking we can do it without Him.
Finally, 2 Corinthians 7 begins with a motivation for forsaking our own way and following God in holiness: the promises that we have received. In the light of everything we have seen – how God was faithful to the children of Israel, how God’s power proved to Job that He was worthy of trust, how Jesus demonstrated his love through the sacrifice of Himself, and the promise that if we follow God, He will be a Father to us – how can we go to God “when all else fails”? Why don’t we start at that point?
Today, evaluate your actions. Do you do what you do because you trust yourself or because you trust God? Go to Him BEFORE all else fails!
In my mind, there are few things worse than feeling unprepared. What an emotion of hopelessness that feeling brings! Just last week I attended a meeting in which one of the organizers gave me the impression I would strictly be an observer and would have no responsibilities related to the content of the meeting. Well about half-way through the meeting, my manager asked me to report on a certain subject. What?? There was about 25 people present at the meeting and I was asked to present a topic that I hadn’t taken the time to prepare for. Fortunately it was something I was familiar with and (I think!) was able to fudge my way through, at least in a respectable manner. That said, how much better I would have felt at that meeting if I had actually known to prepare.
As embarrassing as it might be to be unprepared at a meeting, it certainly doesn’t even begin to compare to not being ready for Christ’s return. In Luke 21 we read an account of Jesus speaking to His disciples about his 2nd coming to earth. And in verse 34 we read, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” Did you catch that last phrase? Don’t let that day catch you unawares.
Certainly the admonition to be ready has application to unbelievers. How many people know they are lost and know how to be saved but they plan on taking care of that someday down the road. Like Felix in the book of Acts, they look for a more convenient day. So for many unbelievers, the day of Christ’s return will catch them unawares. However, we as Christians need to be ready as well. We shouldn’t be wrapped up in sins such as drunkenness as mentioned in verse 34 or in the “the cares of this life”. Those cares could include careers, friends or hobbies- anything that prevent us from living the Christian life as we should. No, we need to live with an active anticipation of the imminent return of Christ!
“Not called!” did you say? “Not heard the call,” I think you should say.
Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Then look Christ in the face—whose mercy you have professed to obey—and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.
— William Booth
If it is God’s desire that the whole world would hear the glorious message of the gospel (and I think it is), then the only limitation of that desire is the complete surrender of God’s people. Reaching the world with the Gospel is not an option; it is our mission.
Every year, we set aside time to examine our hearts, making certain we are still aligned with that mission. We know the scripture by heart, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” but Paul asks the convicting question: “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Hearing the name Jesus Christ which is the only name “under heaven…whereby we must be saved,” is a luxury we often take for granted. Many in the world desperately need to hear the good news before they slip into eternity.
Paul’s next question is, “How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” This is the question you must answer this week. Envision the lives represented by each national flag and their need for a messenger. How will you get the message of salvation to them?
There are two possibilities and you must seriously consider both: Will you be the messenger? Will you send the messenger? The correct answer to both questions is, “Yes!” Being the messenger may be in a land oceans away, or it may be in your neighborhood. Sending the messenger may require a sacrifice of comfort and convenience. Whatever the path God leads you along, may your answer always be, “Yes, Lord!” The world has no greater need than to hear us “declare his glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people” (Psalm 96:3). Will you go?
I read recently of a couple in California who were out walking their dog when they spotted the side of a rusty can protruding out of a nearby hill. Their curiosity led them to dig out the old, dirty can and take it back home. When they opened the can, they discovered that it was stuffed with gold coins from the 1800s. Returning to the hill, they found several other cans that were also filled with gold coins. Their find was worth an estimated $10 million dollars in today’s market. Within the old, rusty can was found treasure of enormous value.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul speaks of a treasure that we find in “earthen vessels.” He says “…we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” In this passage, Paul is making a comparison between the treasures of the gospel and the container in which they are stored. When one thinks of the invaluable treasures contained in the gospel, one would expect God to store them in the strongest, most perfect, most durable, and most visually-appealing vessels that He could find. But it is evident from this verse that God does just the opposite.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul was having to defend his ministry from some false apostles who were influencing the Corinthian church. These people were saying that “his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Corinthians 10:10). Since they couldn’t attack his character, they attacked his physical weaknesses and the way he spoke. But instead of defending himself from their attacks, Paul decided to use this to establish his ministerial credibility. Paul knew he lacked persona, charm, and good looks. He said, “and I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom…” (1 Corinthians 2:3-4). Paul knew his own weakness and frailty as a man. He understood that he was not an eloquent orator. But Paul also realized that his physical weaknesses were exactly what God was using to bring glory to Himself.
Paul understood that he was just an “earthen vessel” (i.e., a clay pot). But packaged inside a fragile, weak, imperfect, unimpressive container was an invaluable treasure that God had put there. Paul realized that God doesn’t put His gospel treasures in the strongest, most perfect, most durable, and most visually appealing container; rather, God takes the treasures of the gospel and puts them in the weak, frail, base, and foolish containers.
All of God’s servants are “earthen vessels.” In ourselves, we are unimpressive, simple, easily broken, and frail. But God chooses to use the “base things of the world, and things which are despised” (1 Corinthians 1:28). Why? “That no flesh should glory in his presence” and that “the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (1 Corinthians 1:29 & 2 Corinthians 4:7).
One of the toughest messages to preach is that salvation is free. Some people cannot, or will not, accept this. For some, you can preach until the cows come home and they still look at you in disbelief. Is it because they don’t listen to the preacher? Or that they don’t care what the Bible says? Not necessarily so.
Most of us have been taught to pay our own way in life. Loving parents should continue to teach this for the good of their children. We need a large dose of this training today as there aren’t enough people pulling their weight. However, unfortunately, this mindset has become the thought toward Heaven. This theory figures if the good outweighs the bad we will have “worked” our way to Heaven.
According to the Holy Bible, there is only one thing we can do to warrant Heaven; that is, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke says in Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” That’s it! Nothing else. Believe with our hearts in His Story; not in our heads as if it were history. It is Jesus’ atoning death; plus/minus nothing.
In the reading today in Luke 18:17, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” Does this mean I am to return to my childhood? Should I become that sweet, adorable little boy again (at least my mother thought so)? This reminds me of Nicodemus, when he asked Jesus in John 3:4, “…How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” The answer is an obvious no; we cannot become little children again.
Notice carefully Luke says, “As a little child.” Let me explain. To be “as” a child means just that. Little children are like sponges when it comes to God’s Word, but they are incapable of producing good works to merit Heaven. Will they not be in Heaven? God forbid! So, following this example, we grown-ups are to be receptive to God’s teaching regarding salvation and not rely on our presumed good works.
Good works do not get us to Heaven; yet, as a Christian they are required. Jesus tells us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”(Mt. 5:16). Our works are for making others glorify God. We don’t do it to show-off or be seen, but our praises will be sung by the recipients of our good works. Let God do the horn-blowing. The only time to blow your own horn is at a job interview! Good works will get us the praise of men; but let’s strive for the praise of God!