Saturday, May 19, 2018

Why Royal Weddings Are So Popular

I didn’t get up early to watch the royal wedding. In fact, I didn’t even watch a video of it. But I can understand why so many people did. It makes sense to me why huge crowds lined up to catch a glimpse of it. Every royal wedding (and for that matter, all our less-than-royal weddings) is a dim reflection of something we all long for. We long for the fulfilment of God’s plans. It will be the most glorious event in all history. I’m talking about the wedding of the Lamb.

Jesus died so that He could make us holy. Because He wants and is worthy of a spotless bride:

CSB Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her
 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.
 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.

Just like in the best fairy tales, before the wedding, the groom rescues His bride. Jesus is the hero who slays the dragon. Jesus rescues us both from our own sins and from a sinful, evil world and all the forces of evil in it.

While we cannot save ourselves, neither are we passive in preparing for the great wedding day. All of our serving, praying, giving, and going for God are righteous acts that are part of the preparation. Like every bride, we, the Church, are getting ready:

Revelation 19:7 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself.
 8 She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.

After all the struggles and warfare, all the defeats and victories, there comes a magnificent event. We will spend the rest of eternity in a perfect love relationship with our God and with our Savior. He has prepared a new home for us to share together. It will be glorious.

These truths are so moving, they are perhaps best captured in song. Here are two songs that capture some of this truth:

CSB17 Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
 2 I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.
 3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God's dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God.
 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

God’s People Lost the Bible!

Do you remember that time when God’s people lost the Bible? At least, they lost an important part of it.  The story of them finding it again is in 2 Kings:

NIV 2 Kings 22:8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD." He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.

Apparently both the king at that time and the high priest had actually lost the part of the Bible they were supposed to have at that time. This seems rather shocking, especially since all the directions for the priest’s duties were in God’s Word and since God had commanded that each king should make a copy of the His Word to read (Deuteronomy 17:18-19)!

Before we judge King Josiah and the High Priest Hilkiah too quickly, I wonder if many Christians today may be guilty of the same thing. Of course, we haven’t literally lost the Bible. Most Christian families have multiple copies laying around their homes, and anyone with a smart phone has instant access to the Bible. But there are other ways people can effectively lose the power and guidance of God’s Word in their lives. Here are six of those ways:

#1 Not reading it

A Bible that is not opened and read is worthless. Yet tragically many Christians are far more interested in the latest news or cat video than they are in reading God’s Word.  Keith Green wrote a very poignant song about this. Although the style of his music is a bit dated (late 70s/early 80s), it is even more relevant today than when he first sung it:

#2 Hearing it but not really believing it

The Bible only helps us if we believe what it says. Ever since the garden of Eden, the serpent has been trying to get us to doubt the truthfulness of God’s Word (Genesis 3:1). Today the devil has plenty of help. Even many Bible professors and pastors teach that God’s Word is not true, which is exactly what we were told would happen:

CSB17 2 Peter 2:1 There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves.

#3 Hearing it but not obeying it

Jesus didn’t say the foolish man never heard His Word. In fact, He says that the fool does hear His Word. The problem is that the foolish person does not obey it when they hear it:

CSB17 Matthew 7:26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn't act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

#4 Putting man-made traditions or opinions above it

In practice, many Christians put their traditions, traditional beliefs, preferred practices, and opinions all before the Bible. The Bible is fine as long as it doesn’t get in the way of how they like to do things! This is not a new problem. Jesus addressed it in His day:

CSB17 Matthew 15:3 He answered them, "Why do you break God's commandment because of your tradition? (Matt. 15:3 CSB17)

Paul also warned about this:

CSB17 Colossians 2:8 Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ.

#5 Twisting and distorting it

Speaking of Paul’s letters, Peter wrote:

CSB17 2 Peter 3:16b The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

It’s heartbreaking how some people who claim to represent Christ actually promote beliefs, actions, and lifestyles which are clearly and explicitly condemned in God’s Word! They call darkness light (Isaiah 5:20).

#6 Not doing the work

Some Christian teachers are just lazy when it comes to the Bible. They don’t make much effort at all to understand it. When they read it, they assume that whatever pops into their mind is the correct meaning. They take verses out of context to make them say things that God never intended. They should feel ashamed, but tragically they usually don’t.

CSB17 2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.

Getting Back to Josiah

When they brought the lost Bible to King Josiah, he took it very seriously. He read it.  He mourned over the sins it revealed. He went on a massive campaign to cleanse himself and the nation he led of everything that did not please God. He also worked hard to begin to serve and worship God according to God’s own Word. As a result, God held Josiah up as a great example for all of us:

CSB17 2 Kings 23:25 Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.

May God lead many to rediscover the wonder, beauty, and power of His Word in their lives.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .